Abe-Xi summit comes as Chinese leader looks to create united front amid U.S. trade war

October 22, 2018
Image result for Shinzo Abe, Xi Jinping, photos

With all the fanfare generated by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Beijing later this week, perhaps the most significant aspect is that it is happening at all.

Despite both taking office around the same time in 2012, Abe and his Chinese President Xi Jinping have never visited each other’s countries for a formal bilateral summit, with all of their previous encounters taking place on the sidelines of international conferences.


Japan Times

But after six years, Abe will finally make the trek, paving the way for a reciprocal visit by Xi to Japan at some point in the future.

“We want to use this opportunity to create momentum for us to map out and promote mutual cooperation and communication in various areas and to elevate Japan-China relations to a new level,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said while announcing Abe’s visit to Beijing, which is scheduled to begin Thursday.

The meeting will likely be a cordial affair, with both sides eager to showcase the image of a rekindled friendship to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship’s signing.

But among the parties, China appears to be the more desperate of the two.

China views Japan as an increasingly important partner in countering a protectionist United States led by President Donald Trump — while also realizing it could use the opportunity to alienate Tokyo from its top ally, Washington.

The Chinese government, analysts say, also seeks at least a semblance of an endorsement by Japan of Xi’s trademark — and increasingly criticized — “Belt and Road” initiative. It is looking to hammer out details on joint infrastructure projects in hopes of trumpeting Japan’s participation in the development strategy.

The upcoming summit comes amid a gradual thaw in relations between the two Asian nations that had chilled in the wake of a territorial dispute that reignited in 2012 over the Japan-controlled, China-claimed Senkaku Islands, which Beijing calls the Diaoyu.

An annual survey this year jointly conducted by Japanese think tank Genron NPO and China International Publishing Group showed that the percentage of Chinese who have a “favorable” or “rather favorable” impression of Japan hit a record 42.2 percent, topping 40 percent for the first time since the poll was initiated in 2005.

It also found the percentage of Chinese who think Sino-Japanese relations are “important” or “rather important” rose to 74.0 percent from 68.7 percent last year, in what Yasushi Kudo, head of Genron NPO, said was a testament to Beijing’s growing interest in economic relations with Tokyo amid China’s ongoing trade war with the U.S.

Those trade frictions have taken a toll on the world’s second-largest economy.

The National Bureau of Statistics said Friday that China’s economy grew 6.5 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, eking out its slowest quarterly growth level since 2009, months after the global financial crisis erupted.

Alarmed by Trump’s tougher-than-expected stance, Beijing has placed a greater emphasis on befriending Japan, scrambling to mend ties with what it views as its most important Asian neighbor, said Noriyuki Kawamura, a professor of Sino-Japanese relations at Nagoya University of Foreign Studies.

“Amid the escalating trade war with the U.S., it has become a very urgent priority for China to strengthen economic ties with Japan,” Kawamura said.

At the upcoming summit, the two Asian powerhouses will seek to reach agreements on specifics concerning the economic cooperation they discussed during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s May visit to Japan.

During that visit, Abe and Li agreed to take concrete steps toward fostering joint infrastructure projects in third countries involving public and private sector entities from the two nations. Among the projects floated by the two sides is the development of expressway systems in Thailand that would involve a joint investment by Japan and China.

The prevailing view is that Beijing wants to create the impression that these joint projects on its Belt and Road initiative are evidence that Tokyo is now participating in — or better yet — endorsing the strategy.

For Abe, this could have mixed results.

On the positive side, Japan’s participation in the Belt and Road project would allow Abe to live up to expectations from the nation’s business community, which has long pushed him to cooperate with what it believes will be a lucrative opportunity for domestic firms to expand overseas.

In fact, in response to a request from the business community, Abe had already announced at a forum in Tokyo last year that Japan can cooperate with the Chinese initiative.

But at the same time, outright support for Xi’s pet project could ignite a backlash from Abe’s core conservative support base, “many of whom are anti-China,” while also irritating the U.S. and even contributing to China’s effort to drive a wedge in the Japan-U.S. alliance, according to Kawamura.

“So I don’t think Japan can straightforwardly call these third-country infrastructure projects with China part of the Belt and Road,” he said. “They will perhaps come up with some other alternative expression to get around it.”

But even indirect support from Japan may be welcome for China, which has seen the international community grow sour on the initiative, with some countries even likening it to a modern-day incarnation of colonialism.

Criticism has arisen over what is often dubbed China’s “debt-trap diplomacy” and its apparent attempt to influence the domestic politics of foreign countries it invests in.

Sri Lanka, for example, was forced to hand over the strategic port of Hambantota to China last year after finding itself unable to repay the mammoth debts owed to Chinese state-controlled firms.In a blunt move that startled officials in Beijing in August, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad announced the cancellation of multibillion-dollar rail and gas pipeline projects funded by China to prevent his nation going bankrupt, even likening the Belt and Road to a “new version of colonialism.”

“China wants to make it look like it now has Japan’s support for the Belt and Road and use it as momentum” for the project, Kawamura said.

Although Suga said that the upcoming Abe-Xi talks will also focus on “candid discussions on regional affairs, including North Korea,” any breakthrough on security and the long-simmering territorial dispute over the Senkakus is unlikely.

“The sanctions against Pyongyang and tensions over the Senkakus will come up — most likely in private, so we won’t hear about them,” said June Teufel Dreyer, a professor and Asia expert at the University of Miami. “I don’t think that either Abe or Xi will want to push hard on them.”

While the two nations have agreed on the goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, Beijing has taken a far more lenient approach to the issue, urging the incremental lifting of sanctions against the North Korean regime.

So, in terms of actual tangibles that may arise from this meeting, experts say expectations should be kept at a minimum.

“The purpose of this meeting is to symbolize warming Sino-Japanese relations,” Dreyer said.

A case in point: Abe may ask for the first loan of a Chinese panda in seven years when he sits down with Xi.

Negotiations have been underway between some Japanese municipalities and the Chinese government for some time over the loan — long a symbol of the bilateral friendship — which last materialized in February 2011 before ties turned chilly.

“We believe a panda’s new arrival would make Japanese people happy, given how popular they are here,” Suga said, adding that the government would “promote the efforts by municipalities.”

Taking advantage of the thaw, Abe is also reportedly considering asking China to lift a ban it has imposed on food imports from Fukushima and other prefectures since the nuclear crisis erupted in 2011.



Chicago Public Schools’ massive sex abuse scandal needs to be investigated

October 22, 2018

Yes, the Justice Department’s just-announced investigation into clergy sex abuse in the Pennsylvania Catholic Church is long overdue. It is the first statewide investigation of its kind by federal authorities.

However, if these cases, which date back to the 1940s, justify a federal probe, then the 520 cases of child rape and sex abuse in the Chicago Public Schools since 2008 should move President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to take swift action as well.

Back in June, a Chicago Tribune investigation uncovered 523 credible cases of rape and sexual abuse of students in CPS over the last ten years. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat, has been in office eight of those years. No federal action was taken by President Barack Obama during his eight years in office either.

By William J. Kelly

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The Tribune’s report was horrific. The investigation found CPS routinely ignored prior criminal histories and failed to warn out-of-state schools about teacher misconduct. In one case, a 16-year-old track star was raped 40 times by her coach, a convicted felon. In another, CPS failed to warn a Florida school district about a serial groper who taught disabled kids how to access hardcore pornography. The Chicago Tribune’s initial report did not include the older case of Marvin Lovett, a social worker at Johnson Elementary School. Lovett allegedly abused at least 19 other children until he was shot dead in 2000 by a boy he had abused since he was 12.

Mayor Emanuel should be held accountable for this scandal. He appointed the heads of the Chicago Board of Education and the Chicago Public Schools, who knew about these cases. CPS lawyers interrogated student sexual abuse survivors and reported back to CPS. All of this was hidden from the public.

Emanuel should fire the CPS leaders involved in these cover-ups and resign — but he won’t. In fact, he hinted he may run for the U.S. Senate if Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., calls it quits.

The media covered this scandal for a few days and in the time since, nothing. It’s as if it never happened. All of this raises the question: Is this the same media that dedicated round-the-clock coverage to the salacious and uncorroborated abuse allegations against Justice Brett Kavanaugh? Where are national Democrats and Code Pink activists who stalked, harassed, and screamed at senators on Capitol Hill during the Kavanaugh nomination? Why aren’t they shrieking outside of Mayor Emanuel’s fifth-floor office at City Hall?

At a recent Chicago press conference, I posed this question to Durbin: Would he call for a federal criminal investigation into the scandal? He refused.

The question to Durbin was more than fair. After all, wasn’t it Durbin who demanded that Kavanaugh request a seventh FBI investigation on himself? The Chicago Tribune has also criticized Sen. Durbin for giving Mayor Emanuel “a pass” on the scandal.

Democrats have ignored this scandal in advance of the midterm elections, and they do so at their peril.

Thankfully, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has taken some action by denying millions of dollars in federal grants to the Chicago Public Schools, citing its failure to protect students from sexual violence. Unfortunately, that’s not enough.

The Emanuel administration has buried this scandal, failed to warn school districts of sexual predators sent their way, and enabled dangerous sexual predators to have access to children. How many cases of abuse in Chicago Public Schools have there been dating back to the 1940s?

If President Trump and Attorney General Sessions take action, Republicans could be the unlikely heroes of this story — and heroes are exactly what these Chicago survivors need.

A native of Chicago’s South Side, William J. Kelly (@Williamjkelly) is the host of the Citizen Kelly Show and the founder of RevDigital.


Morning Prayer for Monday, October 22, 2018 — Seeking Unshakable Faith

October 22, 2018

Day by day we should slowly build up an unshakable faith in a Higher Power and in that Power’s ability to give us all the help we need. By having these quiet times each morning, we start each day with a renewing of our faith, until it becomes almost a part of us and is a strong habit. We should keep furnishing the quiet places of our souls with all the furniture of faith. We should try to fill our thoughts each day with all that is harmonious and good, beautiful and enduring.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may build a house in my soul for the spirit of God to dwell in. I pray that I may come at last to an unshakable faith.

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The truth is that none of us are worthy before God.  We cannot save ourselves by our own merits.  It is not the good works we do or anything we could do to earn our salvation.  Rather, St Paul wrote, “it is by grace that you have been saved through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit.  We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.”   God saved us in Christ.  Through Christ, we know that we are loved and forgiven.  Through Christ, we know we are God’s masterpiece.  Through Christ, we know that the way to fullness of life is through death to sin.  Through Christ, we are given the capacity to live the authentic life He has shown to us.

We could do this only because God has shown “for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how infinitely rich he is in grace.”  If we live a good life now, it is not because we can earn our salvation but because we are grateful for the grace, we have received.  When we realize how unworthy we are and how undeserving we are of His mercy and love, we will desire to show our love in return by loving Him and loving our brothers and sisters.  This is true not just of God’s mercy in forgiving us our sins but also in every area of life.  If only we are grateful for the gifts we have received, our wealth, talents and health, we would not abuse them but use them for the good of our fellowmen and for the greater glory of God.  We will not keep them for ourselves, since we have received from God freely.    As Jesus in the gospel says, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without pay, give without pay.”  (Mt 10:8)

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore



8 Traits to Help You Build an Unshakeable Faith

Unshakeable FaithIs our faith prepared to withstand whatever comes our way? Difficulties and trials bombard us constantly. Everything, from the normal stresses of daily life to the grief of loss, threatens to shake our faith, leaving us and our families resembling a pile of rubble. But an unshakeable faith will keep us standing firm through all the storms of life.

We can learn a lot about unshakeable faith from the Apostle Peter. God actually allows us to watch Peter’s faith grow as we read the Gospels, the book of Acts, and Peter’s two letters. As I studied Peter’s life, I particularly noticed eight characteristics God instilled in his faith as Peter walked with Jesus. As these faith traits developed, Peter’s faith transformed from shaky to unshakeable!

We cannot grow our own faith. That is solely the work of the Holy Spirit. However, we can position ourselves to cooperate with His activity! Check your faith against the eight characteristics below.

  1. Secure in the God Who Loves and Chooses You – If you are a Christian you are a child of God! Have you ever seriously contemplated the implications of that truth? God choose you for Himself. He picked you out and said, “She is mine!” He loves you with an unfailing love that reaches to the heavens. Truly accepting this truth can sustain you through those times when you feel lonely, rejected, unloved, or betrayed. No matter who else may turn away from you, God never will.
  2. Confident in Your AllPowerful, All-Knowing, Sovereign God – God is bigger than any trial or problem life may throw at you. Nothing touches your life that He doesn’t know about. He is able to use whatever trial He allows into your life to strengthen your faith and shape your character. He has the power and authority to remove it or use it, and walk with you through it. Just hang on tightly to Him!
  3. Submitted to the One Who Knows the Future and Has a Plan – Why do we argue with and resist the One who knows everything our future holds? Our all-knowing God has a plan for your life and mine. Our pain and trials do not surprise Him. But we still want to try to do things our way and control our own lives. Seems a little silly when we stop and consider who God really is. When we submit every area of our lives to God – even the heartache – He will work His plan in His way.
  4. Determined to Stay Alert and Guard Against Temptation – In the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus told Peter to “watch and pray,” Peter did not heed his warning. Shortly afterwards, Peter denied even knowing Jesus. We will always be tempted to turn away from Jesus. We must identify our areas of vulnerability and ask God to help us protect those weaknesses.
  5. Live by the Power of the Indwelling Holy Spirit – If you are a Christian you have the Spirit of God living inside you! His presence not only enables us to hear and obey God, He also comforts our grief, gives us peace in times of difficulty, guides our steps, and strengthens our weaknesses. Unfortunately, many Christians try to live their lives their way, in their own power and never submit themselves to the Holy Spirit’s authority. Believer, the same power that raised Christ from the dead is living inside you. Submit to His authority and let His power work in you!
  6. Pursues Holiness with Eyes Focused on the Father – “Without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). When we allow our lives to become cluttered and messy with the stuff of this world, we ruin the intimate fellowship with our heavenly Father. But a holy life fosters intimacy with God. Ask God to show you what “clutter” fills your life. Then do a little spring cleaning. Learn what pleases God and do it!
  7. Prepared to Endure Persecution for the Sake of Christ – About the only thing not tolerated in our tolerant society these days is Christianity. Jesus warned us that persecution would come. It may be difficult, but God promises unique blessings for those who endure it. Suffering persecution because you belong to God will result in a fuller, richer knowledge of Christ. Decide now that you will not deny your Lord!
  8. Connected to a Local Church Body with Love and Service – When God saved you, He saved you into His family. We can never be all God intends for us to be outside of a vital connection to a local church. That’s the way He designed it. If you do not have a church home, find one. If you attend but are not serving, find your place of service. God has a specific place reserved just for you!

So, how did your faith measure up? Mine still has some growing to do, but the Holy Spirit is working! If you want to dig deeper into these eight faith traits consider doing the study “Unshakeable Faith: 8 Traits for Rock-Solid Living.” God work the same kind of miracle in your faith that He did in Peter.


MBS finally tries damage control to escape Khashoggi killing

October 22, 2018

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (or MBS, as he is known) is struggling to salvage his reputation in the aftermath of the Khashoggi affair, with Riyadh seeking to shift blame onto more junior figures in the government.

On Friday, Riyadh admitted what many had long ago inferred: that Saudi journalist and commentator Jamal Khashoggi is indeed “dead”. However, they explained his demise by saying that he was killed in a “fight” – without giving any reason as to why there was no sign of his body after a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

© Bandar al-Jaloud, Saudi royal palace, AFP | Official photo of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Nevertheless, a little-noted but perhaps more significant Saudi government announcement was that several close advisers to MBS – many of whom work in Saudi intelligence – were fired amid the fallout from Khashoggi’s killing.

This about-turn from Riyadh’s first official line – that Khashoggi had left the consulate alive – suggests that the Saudi government is all too aware of the initial outcry over this atrocity, and that it is seeking to respond accordingly.

“The monarchy’s case for the defence is a clumsy attempt to save the Crown Prince’s skin by playing down his involvement in the killing,” said Karim Sader, a professor of political science at St. Joseph University in Beirut, in an interview with FRANCE 24.

But the likely scapegoats are both relatives of MBS and his subordinates in the Saudi government. For instance, how could General Al-Assiri, the chief of intelligence, have been able to act on his own, without orders from the Crown Prince?

‘Crisis of unprecedented magnitude’

“This is a crisis of unprecedented magnitude for Saudi Arabia, the consequences of which will be felt for a long time,” David Rigoulet-Roze, a Middle East specialist at the IFAS think-tank in Paris, told FRANCE 24. “MBS wanted to embody a transformation of Saudi Arabia, but an exclusively economic one – with no change to the absolute monarchy’s political system,” he continued.

Since Khashoggi’s disappearance on October 2, the American press – and The New York Times in particular – have not shied away from highlighting the Saudi regime’s ruthlessness, revealing how Saudi intelligence is relentlessly pursuing dissidents.

However, Ali Shihabi, a founder of the Arabia Foundation in Washington D.C., who is close to the Saudi monarchy, suggested that MBS will ride the crisis out. “To expect Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), a young leader with only a few years of experience, to have handled such a political calamity with the virtuoso performance of a seasoned, wise, experienced Western politician is unfair and malicious,” Shihabi wrote on Twitter.

Shihabi followed that up with a tweet stating that “MBS probably authorized a rendition, which, if so, was ill-advised”, before relativising it: “leaders and governments make mistakes, sometimes horrible ones (e.g., the US invasion of Iraq, which killed, maimed, and orphaned tens of thousands)”.

He then added: “Many of MBS’s key advisors have been fired, and the government has learned a hard lesson, but if anybody thinks that the whole line of succession should be altered because of one horrible crime carried out by Saudi intelligence, they are crazy.” In other words, the bad apples are gone, so MBS can be forgiven.

Shihabi argued that Khashoggi would have endorsed this analysis: “I have known him for decades and believe even he would not have wanted his country’s safety and security to be put at risk from this […] Even in death, Jamal has served his country, in that this horrible event will bring a level of political maturity and caution to Saudi Arabia that is clearly needed.”

It seems a stretch – to put it mildly – to believe that Khashoggi would have subscribed to this analysis. In his last interview, posthumously published by Newsweek, Khashoggi dismissed MBS as “an old-fashioned tribal leader”.


Saudi Arabia calls Jamal Khashoggi killing a ‘grave mistake’ — but said the crown prince had not been aware of the murder.

October 22, 2018

Saudi Arabia has called the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi a “huge and grave mistake,” but said the crown prince had not been aware of the murder. Turkey has said it will give a full account of Khashoggi’s death.

Protesters hold posters of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Sunday the Saudi government did not know how journalist Jamal Khashoggi had died, or where his body was.

When asked whether the body had been cut up — and where it was — al-Jubeir said his government was working with Turkey to find out.

He added that the killing was a “rogue operation” and an “aberration,” and promised that those responsible would be punished. He also said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — of whom Khashoggi has been highly critical — had not been aware of any assassination plot.

“We are determined to uncover every stone. We are determined to find out all the facts and we are determined to punish those who are responsible for this murder,” al-Jubeir said in an interview with Fox News.

“There obviously was a tremendous mistake made and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up. That is unacceptable in any government. These things unfortunately happen,” al-Jubeir said.

Saudi King Salman and the crown prince have offered their condolences in a phone call to the journalist’s son, Salah Khashoggi, who “expressed his sincere thanks” to the royals, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Read more: Saudi Arabia: Powerful, but not omnipotent after Khashoggi affair

Turkey promises ‘naked truth’

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to provide a full account of Khashoggi’s death in a speech slated for Tuesday.

“We are looking for justice here and this will be revealed in all its naked truth, not through some ordinary steps but in all its naked truth,” Erdogan told a rally in Istanbul.

Turkish officials have already said Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered by a 15-man squad sent from Saudi Arabia. They say they are in possession of audio and video evidence to back up the claim, but have not released any proof.

Turkish media on Sunday said 18 Saudi nationals had been arrested in connection with the case and that some 45 people in total had been summoned for investigation.

Erdogan and US President Donald Trump had agreed in telephone talks that the circumstances leading to Khashoggi’s death “should be clarified in all its aspects.”

Saudi officials have said Khashoggi was killed in a “fistfight” at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, having previously insisted he had left the building. Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, had entered the consulate to seek the necessary paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancee.

Read more: ‘Saudis will find a scapegoat’ for Khashoggi, says exiled prince

Pressure mounts for clarification

Earlier Sunday, Germany, France and Britain urged Saudi Arabia to explain how Khashoggi had died at the country’s consulate.

Read more: Could Khashoggi case spell end for Saudi crown prince?

In a joint statement, the three countries said there was an “urgent need for clarification of exactly what happened.” They added that the Saudi explanation needed to be backed by facts to be considered credible.

Echoing similar comments from other Western leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the Saudi explanation was insufficient and that the people responsible for Khashoggi’s death “must be held accountable.”

rc, nm/cmk (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)


Pakistan: Former President calls Imran Khan Government ‘Incompetent’

October 22, 2018

Terming the present government “incompetent”, former president and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has called upon all political parties to unite on one platform to declare that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government cannot run the country.

Govt ‘incompetent’ to run country, says Zardari. — Dawn

“Political forces will have to be united and pass a resolution that the present government cannot last long and is not capable of running the country,” Mr Zardari said in a vague term while speaking at a brief news conference after attending a lawyers’ convention organised by the Peoples Lawyers Forum (PLF) here on Sunday.

Responding to a question about the possibility of his meeting with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, he said that presently he was facing cases that had been initiated during the previous government of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). However, he did not rule out the possibility of such a meeting. “The case which I am facing today was initiated by Nawaz Sharif. But it does not mean that a meeting cannot take place,” he said.

Mr Zardari, who did not appear to be in good health, evaded a response to the reported statement of Prime Minister Imran Khan in which he had alleged that conspiracies were being hatched against his government. “Islamabad is always a centre of conspiracies,” he said with a meaningful smile.

Peoples Lawyers’ convention seeks right of appeal in suo motu cases, change in process for judges’ appointment; condemns NAB for ‘targeting’ opposition

Asked if the PPP would become part of any move to dislodge the government, he simply said: “We will decide when the time will come.”

The PPP leader said that when his party had acquired power in 2008, the country was facing a similar economic situation, but they neither depreciated the currency nor allowed price hike. He said the PPP government had introduced a number of “futuristic policies”, but these were stopped by the PML-N government. Calling Imran Khan “prime minister-select”, he said they had no expectations from the government.

Flanked by PPP secretary general Nayyar Bokhari and former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, Mr Zardari said talks about deals like the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), which had been offered by then military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf, were nothing but political stunt. Moreover, he said he had never benefited from any NRO and got himself acquitted after facing all the cases in courts.

In reply to a question, the PPP leader said he had never criticised National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal, though he objected to his policies and the manner of work. Agreeing that his party was involved in the appointment of the NAB chairman, he said: “Sometimes people with low mentality occupy big positions. When they get powers, they cannot handle it.”

Mr Zardari said that when he had become the country’s president, he transferred all the powers to parliament.

PLF resolution

Earlier, Nayyar Bokhari read out a 10-point resolution which was unanimously adopted by the participants of the lawyers convention presided over by PLF president Latif Khosa and attended by Asif Zardari as chief guest.

“The lawyers’ community as a whole and PLF feel that exercise of direct jurisdiction under Article 184(3) by the Supreme Court should be subjected to an appeal and, therefore, demands that the apex court in the Supreme Court Rules 1980 and the Parliament provide the right of appeal under Article 184(3) of the Constitution so as to comprehensively safeguard the rights of the people of Pakistan,” said the resolution.

Through the resolution, the PLF reiterated and reaffirmed “the principles of democracy, empowerment of the people of Pakistan through the provincial autonomy as enforced through the unanimously passed 18th Amendment in the Constitution and demands its implementation in letter and spirit”.

“Whereas justice delayed is justice denied it is a matter of grave concern that the pendency of cases for over decades has assumed an alarming proportion and hence the need of a regular judicial system in the hierarchy headed by the Supreme Court and a constitutional court has become imminent and appropriate legislation as envisaged by the PPP manifesto be promulgated to ensure expeditious justice to the people,” read the resolution.

It said: “The appointment in the judiciary has noticeably not brought about the desired results which requires a competitive and transparent induction of the best legal brains in the administration of justice and hence necessary amendments in law and Constitution be made by the appropriate authorities/legislatures to ensure a competitive, merit-based mechanism to ensure the best of the best judges are entrusted with the sacred duty of administering justice.”

The PLF convention expressed “grave concern” over the working of NAB, stating that “NAB has been acting in a very arbitrary, whimsical, capricious, discriminatory and autocratic manner. Even the Supreme Court time and again has noticed that NAB has no right to disgrace, humiliate and scandalise any person as compliant verification, inquiry or investigation and even trial don’t warrant any inference of guilt unless so judicially determined”.

The resolution said that “warrants of arrest by NAB are issued only against leaders of opposition while the ruling elite are exempted obviously leading to the inference that NAB is partisan which this house condemns”.

The participants of the convention declared that “the present government resulting out of a dubious electoral process has in the very short span of time exposed its complete incapacity to regulate the affairs of the state. The policies so far initiated have resulted in a colossal mess up and aggravated the economic crises. The price spiral has unprecedentedly depreciated the currency and resulted in price hike inflicting a bombshell on the people of Pakistan throwing not only the have-nots but the people into the abysmal dismay of poverty”.

“It is high time that the government in power resorts to consultative process of the issues in the Parliament taking the entire nation into confidence and taking decisions with consensus instead of the blame-game and the immaturity reflected so far from top to bottom in the government hierarchy,” the resolution said.

The participants urged the chief justice of Pakistan to ensure early hearing of the reference filed by Mr Zardari seeking to revisit the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto case.

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2018


Merkel says Germany won’t export arms to Saudi ‘in current situation’

October 22, 2018

Germany last month approved 416 million euros ($480 million) worth of arms exports to Saudi Arabia for 2018

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is received by Saudi King Salman on her arrival to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, April 30, 2017. (Saudi Press Agency via AP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is received by Saudi King Salman on her arrival to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, April 30, 2017. (Saudi Press Agency via AP)

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday that Berlin would not export arms to Saudi Arabia for now in the wake of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s violent death.

“I agree with all those who say when it comes to our already limited arms exports (to Saudi Arabia) that they cannot take place in the current situation,” she told reporters at her party headquarters.

Her foreign minister, Heiko Maas, had already said on Saturday that he currently saw “no basis for decisions in favour of arms exports to Saudi Arabia”.

Germany last month approved 416 million euros ($480 million) worth of arms exports to Saudi Arabia for 2018. In the past, military exports by Berlin to Saudi have mostly consisted of patrol boats.

Merkel reiterated that she condemned Khashoggi’s killing “in the strongest terms” and saw an “urgent need to clear up” the case.

Jamal Khasoggi in 2017 (YouTube screenshot)

“We are far from seeing everything on the table and the perpetrators being brought to justice,” she said.

Merkel added that she would continue to consult with international partners about a coordinated reaction to the case.

Germany and Saudi Arabia only returned their ambassadors in September after 10 months of frosty relations following criticism from Berlin of what it said was Saudi interference in Lebanese affairs.

The Khashoggi case has opened a serious new rift with European partners Britain, France and Germany saying in a joint statement earlier that Saudi Arabia must clarify how Khashoggi died inside its Istanbul consulate, and its account must “be backed by facts to be considered credible”.

After a fortnight of denials, Saudi authorities admitted Saturday that Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and prominent critic of powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed after entering the consulate in Turkey on October 2.

But it has faced a growing chorus of incredulity over its belated explanation that he died in a “brawl”, as world powers demand answers and the whereabouts of his body.




Trade War: Chinese experts working not to offend Chinese leaders — Will this allow Xi Jinping to escape criticism?

October 22, 2018

Harmful Communist Party Thinking: Chinese experts ‘filtered’ trade war advice to Beijing policymakers

  • Experts that Beijing has called on for advice in the trade battle with the US have largely avoided offending their supervisors
  • Some experts did insufficient research, or gave responses to serve their backers’ interests
South China Morning Post
PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 October, 2018, 11:49am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 October, 2018, 12:39pm
Image result for china, flag, map, pictures

Chinese policymakers have been left searching for answers to the trade war with the US because the domestic think tanks Beijing has called on for guidance have provided “filtered information” to avoid offending supervisors, sources close to the Chinese government and diplomatic observers said.

Beijing’s researchers also have been hamstrung by government restrictions on foreign travel that have limited the ability to devise a suitable response to the aggressive trade moves made by the administration of US President Donald Trump, the sources said.

In the six months since the US slapped punitive 25 per cent tariffs on US$50 billion of goods imported from mainland China, Beijing officials have been frustrated as the think tank experts being consulted for advice on a response only serve their backers’ interests, people involved in the consultations told the South China Morning Post.

In some cases, the experts had done insufficient research on the matter, the people said.

“Although the think tanks are all government-affiliated, their stances vary sharply,” a source said.

 Signs outside a store selling foreign goods in Qingdao in China’s eastern Shandong province. Photo: AFP

As the trade war ratchets up, it has triggered a wave of reflections on China’s policies among domestic elites – and criticism of the body of experts who have provided advice and ideas to the government.

Coming under scrutiny is the Belt and Road Initiative, President Xi Jinping’s ambitious infrastructure plan aimed at helping China to better connect with Asia, Europe and Africa.

The undertaking – representing a sharp departure from former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s diplomacy maxim of “hiding capacities and biding time” – is blamed by some critics for triggering confrontational anti-China sentiment in the US.

China’s focus on fostering bigger and stronger state owned enterprises also is accused of fostering discrimination against the country across the global marketplace.

“Some think tanks took the chance to press for reforms, while some maintained China should adopt a tough stance,” a source said. “Opinions vary and divergence is big, which is OK. The biggest disappointment came from some think tanks who did not tell the truth.”

When Beijing attempted to understand the thinking of foreign businessmen, some government ministry-affiliated think tanks were found filtering the information they gathered through the communication channels between foreign chambers of business and their ministries, according to the sources.

Since the think tanks serve their direct supervisors’ interests, top leaders relying on those experts for an accurate analysis of what foreign businesspeople were thinking and feeling about the rising China-US trade tensions were inevitably frustrated, the sources said.

China has more than 500 registered think tanks, compared with America’s 1,800. Most Chinese think tanks are government-backed.

The Chinese government has boosted funding support to think tanks in recent years.

Seven times, China made the list of the world’s top think tanks in the 2017 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report, published by the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania early this year. The top Chinese think tank was ranked 29th out of 170 globally.

The Trump administration is continuing to step up its attacks on China ahead of US midterm elections in three weeks. Pictured: Chinese employees working on bicycle parts in Jinhua in China’s eastern Zhejiang province. Photo: AFP

To bolster its US research and improve its ability to devise effective policies to blunt Trump’s assault on China, the Ministry of Finance, for the first time, set up an alliance of 20 Chinese think tanks in July.

The move brought together think tanks belonging to the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Commerce, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and several tier-1 universities.

“Segmented, isolated and serving their direct bosses have been a chronic problem of China’s think tanks,” said Li Zhongshang, a Renmin University professor who once worked with the People’s Bank of China and the Chinese embassy in Australia.

“While it has been easier to get funded in recent years, many researchers still attach more importance to securing funding and pleasing their supervisors,” Li said.

“They care less about research quality, because they know it is hard to influence decision-makers with their findings – unlike in the US, where advisers could even send actors, businessmen or other unprofessional politicians to the epicentre of politics.”

Li Guoqiang, a research fellow with the Development Research Centre of the State Council, said, “Some researchers just stay in front of computers. They never bother to pay field visits. No one can rely on such research to tackle problems in reality.”

Researchers in the Finance Ministry’s think-tank alliance said China’s research on US affairs did not go deep enough to prepare Beijing adequately for the impending trade tussle being driven by the US president, who promised voters in the 2016 election campaign that he would crack down on alleged Chinese trade violations.

The Trump administration is continuing to step up its attacks on China ahead of US midterm elections in three weeks.

Wang Huiyao, founder and president of the Centre for China and Globalisation, an alliance member, said China-US communication is crucial at this moment, but efforts to understand the trade battle have been hampered by Beijing’s visa limitations.

Researchers have told the Post that Beijing has only allowed China’s policy specialists to make brief visits to the US, some as short as one week. The limitation makes thorough investigation and quality communication with American contacts impossible, the researchers said.

US President Donald Trump promised during the 2016 election campaign to crack down on alleged Chinese trade violations. Photo: AP

“Other than bilateral diplomatic ties, China must do more research on China-US trade numbers, on US laws and US industries, areas where research is significantly insufficient,” Wang said.

Beijing remains undecided on its next moves in the trade war, sources said. “For the imminent future, China will probably maintain a wait-and-see stance when Trump is playing a leading role in the trade war,” a source said.

Speaking at a Group of 30 international banking seminar held on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank’s annual meetings in Bali on Sunday, China’s central bank governor Yi Gang said the nation is seeking to solve trade tensions with the US “constructively”.

Additional reporting by Wendy Wu, Laura Zhou and Frank Tang



Elon Musk says first tunnel for proposed Hyperloop underground transportation network will open in December

October 22, 2018
A video posted on Instagram by the Boring Co. shows a sped-up trip through the Hawthorne tunnel on a narrow railway track. (The Boring Co.)

Elon Musk announced Sunday that the first tunnel of a proposed underground transportation network across Los Angeles County would open Dec. 10.

“The first tunnel is almost done,” Musk wrote to his 23.1 million followers shortly after 5 p.m.

OCT 21, 2018 | 8:00 PM
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Musk’s Boring Co. is building the tunnel beneath the city of Hawthorne, part of his grand vision for a transportation network that whisks commuters across the county.

The company has said its technology could move drivers, as well as pods carrying passengers and bicyclists, through tunnels at speeds of up to 130 mph.

video simulation released by the company last year shows a driver steering onto a car-sized platform on the street, parallel to the curb. The platform, called a skate, sinks like an elevator, then carries the car through the tunnel.

In subsequent tweets Musk said there would be an opening event on the night of the 10th and free rides for the public the next day.

When asked if the Dec. 10 date represented real time or “Elon time,” the entrepreneur wrote, “I think real.”

In April, the Los Angeles City Council’s public works committee unanimously approved an environmental review exemption for a Boring Co. tunnel that could run 2.7 miles through West Los Angeles.

The proposed route would be parallel to Sepulveda Boulevard, starting at Pico Boulevard and running down to Washington Boulevard in Culver City.

The tunnel entrance would be located in what is currently a lumber yard and welding area, the company has said.

However, just a few weeks later, two neighborhood groups sued L.A. over the waiver, blocking the tunnel’s progress.

In August, Musk announced a proposal to build a 3.6-mile tunnel that would carry fans between Dodger Stadium and a nearby Metro subway station.

But this plan is expected to face a thicket of requirements and approvals from regulators in California and Washington, D.C., before construction could even begin.

Single-payer would be death on NY’s best hospitals

October 22, 2018

The debate about a proposed single-payer health plan for New York has mostly focused on what it would cost (between $92 billion and $226 billion per year, according to various projections) and where the money would come from (massive, unprecedented tax hikes).

Less discussed, but just as important, is how single-payer would compensate providers — doctors, nurses, hospitals, pharmacies, etc. At stake is not only the quality of care for 20 million New Yorkers, but also the fate of a fifth of the economy and the livelihoods of 1.2 million health workers.

Disconcertingly, the single-payer bill pending in the state Legislature, the New York Health Act, says almost nothing about reimbursement — other than a vague promise that fees will be “reasonably related to the cost of efficiently providing the health care service.” To fill in the blanks, our forthcoming report explores how single-payer reimbursement methodologies would affect hospital revenues.

It finds that such systems would dramatically change the financial outlook for many institutions — both for the better and the worse — with some of state’s best-known and best-regarded hospitals paying an especially heavy price.

By Bill Hammond and Chris Pope

New York Post

Hospitals now collect their revenue from dozens of health plans, each of which pays different amounts. The fees from Medicare and Medicaid are generally lower and determined by government officials, while fees from private insurers are generally higher and subject to negotiation.

Under this system, hospitals with reputations for top quality or dominant market positions can attract more privately-insured patients and command higher rates. This is how flagships such as New York-Presbyterian and Memorial Sloan Kettering can afford top-notch personnel and cutting-edge equipment.

Under single-payer, by contrast, patients in all walks of life would be covered by the same plan, at the same level of reimbursement. This would likely therefore radically redistribute resources: Hospitals now serving poorer patients with government-funded coverage would generally gain revenue, while ones now serving wealthier, better-insured patients would generally see their revenue diminished.

To approximate this shift, our study assumed a state-run system would resemble Medicare rates — which are designed to account for variation in the cost of delivering services across the state. Drawing from financial reports for 2015, we estimated how a switch to a Medicare-based reimbursement system would affect hospital revenues.

In one scenario, we assumed hospitals would be reimbursed for all patients at current Medicare levels. (This is how Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” bill would work.) The result: 77 percent of the state’s hospitals would lose money; 23 percent would gain. Overall statewide hospital funding would be slashed by 17 percent, or $10 billion a year.

In New York City, the city-owned Lincoln Medical Center would see a revenue boost of $122 million, but New York-Presbyterian and NYU Langone, two of the state’s best-regarded hospitals, would lose about $730 million each.

In a second scenario, we assumed the state would boost Medicare rates enough to keep total hospital funding level — a spending-neutral variation on Medicare for All. The result: Two-thirds of hospitals come out ahead. But a third of hospitals would still be worse off, including 22 institutions that would lose more than 15 percent of revenue.

In New York City, losers in this scenario include NYU Langone ($537 million), Kings County ($339 million) and the Hospital for Special Surgery ($284 million).

In either scenario, hospitals taking the largest losses would face significant layoffs, reduced quality of care and the possibility of closing completely.

Lawmakers could try to cushion these cuts by sending extra money to the hardest-hit providers. But that would raise costs by billions, atop already-mammoth tax hikes.

These gains and losses are approximations based on hypotheticals. But they highlight a very real fact: By its nature, single-payer would redistribute resources in wrenching ways.

Single-payer wouldn’t just flatten reimbursement, but flatten quality — which would be good for some hospitals but bad for others. Could New York’s best hospitals maintain their high standards of quality? Could the state continue to recruit and retain the best doctors?

These are questions that state lawmakers must think through before they take such a giant and costly gamble with New Yorkers’ health care.

Bill Hammond is the health policy director at the Empire Center for Public Policy. Chris Pope is a Manhattan Institute senior fellow.