Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Marine Le Pen Wins French Parliamentary Seat, but Key Aides Miss Out

June 18, 2017

PARIS — French far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Sunday won a seat in France’s parliament, as did her partner Louis Aliot, but two of her top aides were eliminated in a night where her arch rival Emmanuel Macron’s party swept to power with a huge majority.

Florian Philippot, her righthand man in the National Front (FN), failed to win the seat he was fighting, and Gilbert Collard, another top adviser who was one of only two far-right lawmakers in the 2012-2017 parliament, lost his seat.

(Reporting by Andrew Callus; Editing by Leigh Thomas)

Steve Bannon and Scott Pruitt beat Kushner, Tillerson and Ivanka on Paris Agreement

June 2, 2017
President Trump sided Thursday with the members of his administration who wanted the U.S. to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and against influential voices who wanted him to stay or renegotitate it from within.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt had become a leading voice for withdrawing completely from the climate pact. He was the only Cabinet member to speak Thursday after Trump’s appearance in the Rose Garden.

Steve Bannon, White House chief strategist, was one of Pruitt’s top allies in the West Wing as factions battled internally over the future of the Paris accords. He sat in the front row as the president announced his decision.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had advocated for remaining in the deal, arguing the U.S. should not give up its seat at the table by exiting the deal. He was absent from the Rose Garden ceremony. Energy Secretary Rick Perry had voiced support for renegotiating the terms of the agreement, which Trump pledged to do Thursday — but in the aftermath of U.S. withdrawal, not as an alternative to it.

“So we’re getting out, but we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair,” Trump said at the White House. “And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine.”

Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter, and Jared Kushner, her husband and a top White House adviser, both reportedly pushed for Trump to remain in the deal. Neither attended Trump’s speech on Thursday, although the White House said their absence was not related to the fact that the president decided against their advice when it came to the Paris agreement.

Various White House aides and lawmakers had split themselves among the three camps as internal debates dragged on for weeks longer than initially anticipated. Twenty-two Republican senators — including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — sent Trump a letter urging him to ditch the deal last month.

Trump aligned himself with the conservative critics of the Paris Agreement in the end, consistent with his campaign promises last year. This group includes free-market activists who disapprove of resolving environmental problems through heavy-handed government regulations, Republicans from energy-producing states and climate change skeptics.

But in his remarks explaining his decision, the president said it all came down to “America first.”

“As president, I can put no other consideration before the well-being of American citizens,” Trump said. “The Paris Climate Accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States, to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers, who I love, and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories and vastly diminished economic production.”

Many of Trump’s arguments for ending U.S. participation in the deal drew heavily from the nationalist, populist wing of his administration.

“The rest of the world applauded when we signed the Paris Agreement,” he said. “They went wild. They were so happy. For the simple reason that it put our country, the United States of America, which we all love, at a very, very big economic disadvantage.”

“A cynic would say the obvious reason for economic competitors and their wish to see us remain in the agreement is so that we continue to suffer this self-inflicted major economic wound,” the president continued. “We would find it very hard to compete with other countries from other parts of the world.”

That, Trump said, was unacceptable to him.

“No responsible leader can put the workers and the people of their country at this debilitating and tremendous disadvantage,” he asserted.

“The fact that the Paris deal hamstrings the United States while empowering some of the world’s top polluting countries should dispel any doubt as to the real reason why foreign lobbyists wished to keep our magnificent country tied up and bound down by this agreement,” Trump added. “It’s to give their country an economic edge over the United States.”

Trump then told the audience to applause, “That’s not going to happen while I’m president. I’m sorry.” He tied the accord to unfair trade deals and “lax contributions to our critical military alliance” as part of a broader pattern of the United States being outmaneuvered and cheated by foreign governments.

“At what point does America get demeaned?” Trump asked. “At what point do they start laughing at us as a country? We want fair treatment for its citizens, and we want fair treatment for our taxpayers.”

The president vowed to protect the coal country states that voted for him last year, protesting, “The current agreement effectively blocks the development of clean coal in America.”

“I love the coal miners,” Trump said at one point in an aside.

“And the mines are starting to open up, having a big opening in two weeks, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, so many places,” Trump said.

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” he declared. Critics pointed out that Trump actually lost Pittsburgh in November, but his win in Pennsylvania helped seal his Electoral College majority.

Trump will likely face pressure, even from inside his administration and especially his family, to show his commitment to environmental protection in other ways. He described himself as “someone who cares deeply about the environment” on Thursday.

But on the Paris Agreement, Trump listened to administration officials who advised him to keep a campaign promise and spoke up for a critical group of his working-class voters.

“We don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore, and they won’t be,” Trump vowed. “They won’t be.”

Rich Retirees Are Hoarding Cash Out of Fear

May 17, 2017
While younger generations get poorer, older Americans can’t seem to spend it all.
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By Ben Steverman
Bloomberg
May 16, 2017, 4:00 AM EDT
 Image result for dollars, photos

There’s a time in everyone’s life to save. There’s also a time when you’re supposed to spend. That time is commonly known as retirement.

Millions of Americans aren’t doing that, however, which has put the U.S. in a perverse situation. Younger generations aren’t saving enough as their income slips further behind previous generations. Older Americans meanwhile sit atop unprecedented piles of assets built through stock market and real estate booms.

Yet these retirees, or at least the affluent ones, aren’t spending it. It turns out they’re afraid of the unknown.

A new study finds many U.S. retirees keep saving even after they’ve retired. The average American over the age of 60 cuts spending 2.5 percent per year, or about 20 percent over a 10-year period, according to an analysis of University of Michigan survey data by financial planning software company United Income. As a result, millions of Americans are living too frugally, said Matt Fellowes, United Income’s CEO 1 . On average and adjusting for inflation, retirees are entering their 80s richer than they were in their 60s and 70s.

Unsurprisingly, given the data, Americans are dying with more money than they used to, adding to the increasing inequality that flows from inherited wealth. United Income analyzed the estates of people who died between 2000 to 2002, and compared them with those who died between 2010 to 2012. Although the later group had just lived through a financial crisis and worldwide recession, their estate values were 130 percent higher.

“We have to get people comfortable with enjoying their retirement and spending their money,” Fellowes said.

Other studies have found affluent older Americans hoarding money. Last year, a studyin the Journal of Financial Planning found that the wealthiest fifth of U.S. retirees were spending 53 percent less than they could have. Meanwhile, the poorest 40 percent generally spend more than they safely should; the median retiree spent about 8 percent less than the safe amount.

Researchers looked at all the logical reasons why affluent retirees might be so tight-fisted, including the desire to leave an inheritance or worries about future medical needs. The big motivator turned out to be some version of fear they would run out of cash too early.

“We found that even in a worst-case scenario, they could have spent more,” said Texas Tech University Professor Christopher Browning, one of the study’s authors. “There have to be other explanations,” he said–reasons that aren’t rational.

One of those irrational reasons may be simple habit. Something strange happens when people retire, Browning says. All of a sudden, they’re not getting a regular paycheck, and that makes them scared to spend. Goals set before retirement are abandoned, along with pre-determined spending plans, because retirees are terrified see the balances on their retirement accounts drop even a tiny bit.

In all, American households and nonprofits were worth $93 trillion at the end of last year, according the U.S. Federal Reserve. That’s almost $300,000 for every man, woman, and child in the country. Of that, Americans held $25.3 trillion as retirement assets, according to the Investment Company Institute. That includes $8.4 trillion in defined-benefit pensions and $14.9 trillion in individual retirement accounts and 401(k)-style plans.

If the bulk of that money never gets spent, that’s a big problem. Set aside that the U.S. economy could use the boost. Studies show that active retirees live longer, happier lives. There are cheap ways to get out of the house, of course, but a little spending money gives retirees far more options for exercising, socializing, and traveling.

The situation for wealthier older Americans couldn’t be more different than that facing younger generations. A study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research last month found the typical American man who entered the workforce in 1983 earned up to 19 percent less over his lifetime compared with one who started working in 1967. (Women’s incomes rose over that period, but that’s because earlier generations of women earned very little money.) Based on more recent data for younger people who are still in the workforce, the authors wrote, “the stagnation of median lifetime income seems likely to continue.”

What can get rich elderly Americans spending more? One way is to reassure them they’re not going to run out of cash. Tools such as annuities and bond-ladders can turn a retirement account into a regular stream of income, mimicking a paycheck. Insurance products could also protect retirees against huge, late-in-life expenses from medical care—a dominant fear. Browning likes longevity insurance, an annuity that kicks in only if you live to 80 or 85. Other options are reverse mortgages or long-term care insurance.

Maybe the problem requires more creative solutions. Financial planners need to help retirees realize they have a “cognitive bias” that makes them too gloomy about the future, said United Income’s Fellowes. Survey data often show older Americans are less optimistic about financial matters then younger people. Fellowes analyzed the data further and found this optimism gap has been widening over the last four decades.

Even as retirees live longer, healthier lives, they’ve become more pessimistic about the economy, the stock market, and their own financial situation.

After a lifetime of saving, it requires some psychological gymnastics to start spending your nest egg. Browning’s suggestion is that financial planners urge their thriftiest clients to make big purchases–like a second home or a fancy car–before they retire, out of their pot of savings. The idea, he said, is “training people to spend.”

Have personal finance questions or lessons to share? Join Money Talks, the new Facebook community from Bloomberg News.

Includes videos:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-05-16/rich-retirees-are-hoarding-cash-out-of-fear

Play Video

The Biggest Retirement Mistake People Make
The Biggest Retirement Mistake People Make

US House to vote on Obamacare repeal bill on Thursday

May 4, 2017

The Republican majority of the House of Representatives believes it has enough votes to pass the repeal to the Senate. The bill allows states to opt out of a requirement to charge the healthy and sick the same rates.

USA Kapitol in Washington (Getty Images/AFP/S. Loeb)

Republicans in the US House of Representatives believe they have enough votes to pass a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, through to the Senate. A vote in the House is expected on Thursday.

“We will be voting on the health care bill tomorrow (Thursday) because we have enough votes,” said Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday, adding: “It’s a good bill.”

An earlier version of an attempted repeal died in the House in March after moderates and conservatives did not approve of the provisions that would do away with the Affordable Care Act of 2010. The big change with this new repeal is it allows states to opt out of forcing insurers to charge healthy and sick patients the same rate for health coverage.

The vote is expected to fall along party lines. No Democrats support the measure.

“House Republicans are going to tattoo this moral monstrosity to their foreheads, and the American people will hold them accountable,” said Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

While Republicans (GOP) hold a majority of the seats in the House, there are some who are unsure as to whether they should support the measure or not. The GOP can afford 22 defectors. An AP report said 19 Republicans opposed the bill.

Make or break for Republicans

US President Donald Trump, a Republican who railed against the Affordable Care Act during his presidential campaign, worked with House Republicans over the previous days to sway undecided representatives to vote for the measure. Republicans have urged the repeal of Obamacare since it became law. It is considered a make-or-break vote for Republicans.

Billy Long, a Republican representative from Missouri, was initially apprehensive about the bill, even while speaking with Trump, who is looking for his first major legislative victory since taking office in January.

“The president said, ‘Billy we really need you. We need you, man.’ I said, ‘you don’t have me,'” said Long, who eventually agreed to vote for the repeal after Trump promised to add a supplemental $8 billion (7.3 billion euros) that covers health costs for people in “high-risk pools.”

Uncertainty for insurance companies, patients

It is not clear whether the repeal will pass through the Senate, should the bill make it through the House.

Insurance companies such as Anthem Inc. and Aetna are uncertain about the future of their companies with the vote hanging in the balance. Aetna announced Wednesday said it would leave the Affordable Care Act individual insurance market in Virginia next year due to “growing uncertainty” and expected losses this year.

Congressional analysts said 24 million Americans would lose health insurance under the GOP-backed bill by 2026. The American Medical Association (AMA), AARP and other consumer groups oppose the measure. The AMA said in a statement the changes sought by Long and other uncertain Republicans “tinker at the edges without remedying the fundamental failing of the bill – that millions of Americans will lose their health insurance as a direct result.”

kbd/bw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

 http://www.dw.com/en/us-house-to-vote-on-obamacare-repeal-bill-on-thursday/a-38685571

So much for President Steve Bannon: Did Jared and Ivanka orchestrate the downfall of Trump’s key adviser?

April 6, 2017

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With Jivanka’s rise and Bannon’s ouster from the National Security Council, maybe the apocalypse can be delayed

So much for President Steve Bannon: Did Jared and Ivanka orchestrate the downfall of Trump's key adviser?
(Credit: AP/Andrew Harrer/Evan Vucci/Gerald Herbert)

A week or so ago I noted that Jared Kushner, the son Donald Trump never had, seemed to be taking on a lot of new projects. Since then there has been a flurry of reporting on his burgeoning portfolio, including the news that Kushner is the administration’s new point man on China in anticipation of the important visit from Chinese leader Xi Jinping this week. But just as he weirdly decided to take a ski vacation during the administration’s most important legislative battle a couple of weeks ago, Kushner inexplicably decided to take a trip to Iraq this week with the chairman of the joint chiefs and Keith Schiller.

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Wait — who’s Keith Schiller? I can tell you:

View image on Twitter

Joining Jared Kushner in mtgs w/ Iraqi officials: @KeithSchiller45, a renowned Middle East expert (JK! he’s actually Trump’s ex-bodyguard).

Meanwhile, Trump has installed his daughter Ivanka in an official government position that allows her to participate in all the meetings with foreign leaders — the ones in which she’s already been participating since the transition. According to reports from the meetings, unlike her father the president of the United States, Ivanka even does some advance preparation. Foreign delegations are grateful to learn that someone in the president’s confidence can skim a briefing paper.

On Wednesday the White House announced that Steve Bannon, the president’s other right hand man, would be stepping down from his outrageously inappropriate membership as a principal on the National Security Council. Bannon tried to spin it as a normal event, even even the right’s designated distraction-goblin of the moment, Susan Rice. From the New York Times:

 

Video Here’s what Trump could mean for the nonprofit sector
 http://www.salon.com/2017/04/06/so-much-for-president-steve-bannon-did-jared-and-ivanka-orchestrate-the-downfall-of-trumps-key-adviser/

“Susan Rice operationalized the N.S.C. during the last administration,” Mr. Bannon said in a statement, referring to President Barack Obama’s national security adviser. “I was put on the N.S.C. with General [Michael] Flynn to ensure that it was de-operationalized. General [H.R.] McMaster has returned the N.S.C. to its proper function.”

Image result for susan rice, photos

Mr. Bannon did not explain what he meant by “operationalized” or how his presence on the committee had ensured it would not be.

His allies put out a different story: He’d actually been put on the principals committee to keep an eye on Flynn, and now that the latter is gone it was no longer necessary. There was no explanation as to why this took so long: Flynn’s been gone for nearly two months. In any case, the Times also reported that Bannon had threatened to quit over the demotion, so all these self-serving explanations ring more than a little bit hollow.

Bannon had been running a shadow NSC called the Strategic Initiatives Group, described as an internal White House “think tank,” that had been put together as an alternative to the traditional structures within the executive branch. It was seen as a terrible management idea, giving a back channel to a president who has no idea what he’s doing and exacerbating his already chaotic decision making. Evidently, that project has also been tabled, supplanted by Kushner’s shiny new “Office of American Innovation.”

Bannon stepping away from a national security role is undoubtedly a big relief to the rest of the planet, since he is an apocalyptic fruitcake who believes in a theory called the “fourth turnings” in which history happens in four-stage cycles of awakening and crisis. He claims that previous cycles in America were the Revolution, the Civil War, the Great Depression and World War II, and he believes we’re now in another one that started with the bank bailout in 2008. As the Huffington Post reported:

In Bannon’s view, we are in the midst of an existential war, and everything is a part of that conflict. Treaties must be torn up, enemies named, culture changed. Global conflagration, should it occur, would only prove the theory correct. For Bannon, the Fourth Turning has arrived. The Grey Champion, a messianic strongman figure, may have already emerged. The apocalypse is now.

“What we are witnessing,” Bannon told The Washington Post … “is the birth of a new political order.”

It’s unknown how much Donald Trump  bought into this daft worldview, or if he even understood it. We do know that he considered Bannon one of his most important advisers. This is a recent relationship born of the excitement of the campaign and the thrill of winning, however, so it’s not surprising that Trump might turn on Bannon when the going got tough. Now that the administration is suffering one humiliating defeat and embarrassment after another — and blaming the previous president or Hillary Clinton or even the GOP Congress isn’t working — Trump’s circle is narrowing to the only people he’s ever truly trusted: his family.

This turn of events was foretold by the people who know Trump better than anyone: his biographers. The late journalist Wayne Barrett, who wrote “Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth,” predicted that Bannon wouldn’t last. As Barrett told the New Republic:

A guy like Steve Bannon …  I don’t know much about the guy, so I could be completely misunderstanding him, but I think that’s a guy Trump uses up quickly. That’ll be a body he steps over.

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Timothy O’Brien, who wrote “TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald,” pointed out that Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani both lost favor for having high profiles. In that light, Bannon’s appearance on the cover of Time magazine may have sealed his fate. O’Brien told CNN’s Anderson Cooper:

Trump likes advocates and loyalists and people who advocate his viewpoint, but not people who get more air time and attention than he does. That’s been the kiss of death for anybody who is an adviser to him who’s not a family member.

Image result for Bannon’s on the cover of Time magazine, photos

‘Daily Show’s’ Trevor Noah: Steve Bannon Is the ‘Real President,’ Not Trump

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/02/07/daily-show-s-trevor-noah-steve-bannon-is-the-real-president-not-trump.html

O’Brien also had the Kushner rise pegged in January, when he participated in a Politico roundtable of Trump biographers:

O’Brien: At the end of the day, the two most powerful people in his White House, other than him, are going to be Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, and they’re going to have the final say on everything. And whatever Gary Cohn or Rex Tillerson or Gen. Mattis or Jeff Sessions or Steve Bannon has to say, it will all end up getting filtered through Javanka.

Michael Kruse: Did you just say “Javanka”?

O’Brien: Yeah. Other than those two, he won’t listen to anyone in a meaningful way, and he never has listened to anyone outside of his core group and family at the Trump Organization for decades, and that’s not going to change.

All the palace intrigue around this White House is so thick you never really know what’s happening or who has Trump’s ear. But all signs point to Javanka ordering the hit. The question now is: Who’s next?

 

Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as “Digby,” is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

American Civil War: One Hundred Fifty Years Ago Today, April 5, 1863: “English Pirate Ship” Seized in Liverpool (Picture)

March 29, 2017

Image may contain: ocean and outdoor

On April 5, 1863, Britain seized the Confederate Raider “Alexandra” in Liverpool.  She had been built at Liverpool with funding from the American Confederate States and was seized while fitting out. U.S. government officials representing President Lincoln in Britain worked hard to convince the government there not to side with the southern cause which supported slavery, something already abolished in England. She was not released until the following year.    She was again seized late in 1864 at Nassau, Bahamas, under the name Mary and held until the end of the Civil War.

“The English Pirate ‘Alexandra,’ Seized by the British Government at Liverpool”

Art:  Line engraving published in “Harper’s Weekly”, Volume    7 (January-June 1863), page 364.U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph

https://www.loc.gov/resource/cph.3b21812/

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Marauders of the Sea, Confederate Merchant Raiders During the American Civil War

This is part three of a trilogy “Marauders of the Sea.”  Part one “Marauders of the Sea WW1” is here and Part three, “Marauders of the Sea WW2” is here.

Introduction
07 October 2002

USS Kearsarge vs. CSS Alabama. 19 June 1864Long before Germany in both WW1 and WW2 turned the Armed Merchant Raider into an art form, eight Confederate warships aided by four tenders decimated the Union Merchant Fleet. Over a four year period commencing with CSS Sumter in 1861, they sank 110,000 tons of Union shipping. Fearful of losing their ships to these Marauders, US Ship Owners sold off another 800,000 tons of their ships to foreign interests, often at bargain basement prices, but the limited money in hand, was better than waiting for their ship to become another statistic, sunk by these Confederate Raiders.

The Blockade and Leaders
07 October 2002

Rear Admiral Raphael Semmes, Confederate Navy. ( 1809-1877 ) When the Civil War started, the North had but 35  Naval ships to cover 3000 miles of  Southern coastline. Only 6 days after Fort Sumter had fallen on the 13th. of April 1861, President Lincoln issued his declaration blockading Southern States from South Carolina to Texas, and then extended this blockade to Virginia and North Carolina.

 

CSS Sumter. 1861-1862. Captain Raphael Semmes
07 October 2002

[Image]This ship was a barque rigged steamer of but 437 tons, having a length of 184 feet, her beam, 30 feet, and she drew only 12 feet of water. In trials she made about 9 knots, and coal bunkers were fitted to enable her to steam for 8 days.

CSS Nashville. 1861-1862. Captain Robert B. Pegram
13 November 2002

CSS NashvilleThis Confederate Raider was constructed in 1853, to be a coastal trader and carry passengers, she was a fast 1,200 ton side wheeler, but like most side wheelers did not shine as a sailing ship.

CSS Florida. 1862-1863. Captain John Newland Maffitt. CSS Florida. 1864. Captain Charles M. Morris
18 October 2002

CSS FloridaThis ship was built by William C. Miller and Sons of Liverpool, and was the first contract negotiated by Captain James Bulloch as Naval Agent of the Confederate States. She carried the dockyard name of Oreto, by March 1862, the ship was ready for sea, an English crew was signed on to sail her as an unarmed ship, this arrangement was necessary to avoid any conflict with the neutrality regulations that obtained.   Captain John Newland Maffitt achieved much in only 8 months, captured 25 prizes, destroying another 19 ships and bonding a further 6. To this total must be added, another 22 vessels as the result of the activity of Lapwing, Clarence, Tacony and Archer, a remarkable 47 ships in all.

Alexandra. 1862-1863
18 October 2002

[Image]The impounding of the Alexandra and the trial were part of the change in attitude of Britain to the South, plus of course the Rebels were starting to also lose the land battles.

 

CSS Alabama. 1862-1864. Captain Raphael Semmes
03 November 2002

CSS AlabamaThe most powerful of all the Confederate Raiders, Alabama started her life at the Birkenhead shipyard of John Laird and Sons, known as keel No 290. 

CSS Georgia. 1863. Captain William Lewis Maury
14 November 2002

CSS GeorgiaOn the 1st. of April 1863, she cleared the Clyde, a very ordinary merchant ship, inspected, and cleared by British Customs. The Alar, a small ship usually engaged trading to the Channel Islands was used for transporting arms, ammunition, and after five days of hard work, Lieutenant William Maury commissioned CSS Georgia off the French port of Brest.

CSS Tallahassee. 1864. Captain John Taylor Wood
15 November 2002

CSS TallahasseeGiven her speed and low profile, broken up by two funnels and two sparsely rigged masts, the ship was ideal for running blockades, but left a lot to be desired as a raiding cruiser. Coal was necessary to drive the ship, and her design suitable for journeys of only 1,000 miles, hardly condusive to the role of long days/weeks at sea demanded from a commerce raider.

CSS Rappahannock 1863-1865. Captains. William P.A.Campbell. Charles M. Fauntleroy.
14 November 2002

CSS RappahannockMaury sent Lieutenant William F. Carter off to seek out suitable ships to purchase and convert, he quickly came up with a former British vessel, HMA Victor, retired as a gunboat by the British, and now used as a dispatch ship.  This ship carried six, 24 pounders, all mounted forward of her twin funnels, she had 350 horse power engine, was fast under steam, and her three square rigged masts only carried single top sails, again, essentially this ship was a steamship, not designed as a sailing vessel.

CSS Chickamauga. 1864. Captain John Wilkinson.
15 November 2002

CSS ChickamaugaNow, the sister ship to Tallahassee, Edith, became the new Confederate cruiser, CSS Chickamauga, with Lieutenant John Wilkinson being given command. He ran into all the same problems experienced by Woods, the ship had been a successful blockade runner, but did not have the qualities needed for success as a Raider, she was fast, but could only stay at sea as long as the coal supply held up.

CSS Stonewall. 1865. Captain T.J.Page.
16 November 2002

CSS StonewallAt the time of this sale, Denmark was at war with Prussia, by the time this ship was delivered, the war was over, and the Danes wanted to be rid of her. The Confederates did a deal, and on the 6th. of January 1865 she sailed out of Copenhagen with Captain T.J.Page in command, and met up with a steamer, City of Richmond off the French coast, she carried the remainder of the officers and crew, plus necessary supplies, up went the Confederate flag, and she was named CSS Stonewall.

CSS Shenandoah. 1864-1865. Captain James I. Waddell
13 November 2002

CSS ShenandoahWith Alabama sunk, Mallory again turned to Bulloch in England, on the 16th. of July 1864 he ordered him to find a suitable replacement for the most successful Raider ever operated by the Confederates, a tall order indeed.

Selected Bibliography

http://ahoy.tk-jk.net/macslog/ConfederateArmedRaidersof.html

FDA Approves Drug for Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis

March 29, 2017

Genentech’s Ocrevus is first treatment for most severe type of MS

Genentech’s Ocrevus has been approved as a treatment for primary progressive MS, which affects about 15% of the estimated 2.3 million MS patients globally.

Genentech’s Ocrevus has been approved as a treatment for primary progressive MS, which affects about 15% of the estimated 2.3 million MS patients globally. PHOTO: PAUL SAKUMA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Food and Drug Administration approved a multiple-sclerosis drug called Ocrevus, the first treatment for the most severe type of the disease, known as primary progressive MS.

The medicine, from Genentech Inc., is generically called ocrelizumab. Primary progressive MS affects about 15% of the estimated 2.3 million MS patients in the world. The patients with this severe type have watched for years as more than a dozen other treatments have emerged for other MS patients. The FDA also approved the drug for the more common type of MS.

Genentech plans to charge $65,000 a year for the treatment, likely adding fuel to the debate over drug prices.

“This is an historic day for the MS community with the approval of the first-ever treatment for people living with primary progressive MS. This is a real game-changer,” said Cyndi Zagieboylo, president and chief executive of the National MS Society. “The National MS Society hopes this is just the beginning of the development of the next generation of treatments for MS.”

MS typically strikes people between the ages of 20 and 50, though it can begin far earlier, or as late as 75. Its course is highly unpredictable, hence the name of the more common form called relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, for which the drug also was approved. It can cause a wide range of symptoms, like loss of balance and poor coordination, fatigue and weakness. As the name suggests, it can go away and then flare up with little predictability.

The majority of MS sufferers do not become severely disabled or paralyzed, but many will need a cane or crutches, or even a scooter or wheelchair, to aid in mobility. There now are 14 different medicines that are generally called disease-modifying, because they aren’t cures. They include Avonex, Copaxone, Tysabri and others. These help to reduce central-nervous-system inflammation and reduce the number and severity of flare-ups.

However, as the name suggests, primary progressive MS follows a fairly constant course, either by sudden onset of symptoms and rapid decline, or through several years’ advance. “It’s just a steady worsening,” said Ms. Zagieboylo.

Ocrelizumab was developed for MS based upon many years of basic scientific work in the lab of Stephen L. Hauser, chief of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco and director of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences. Dr. Hauser also was the principal investigator in pivotal studies of the drug published in the New England Journal of Medicine in December.

The drug was a product of collaboration between Dr. Hauser’s team, other academic partners and scientists at Genentech, part of the Roche Group of Switzerland. Ocrelizumab interferes with a type of white blood cells that can course from the bloodstream into the brain, leading to inflammation in the myelin covering of nerve cells. Damage to the myelin sheath and to the underlying nerve fiber are key facets of the disease.

Write to Thomas M. Burton at tom.burton@wsj.com

Appeared in the Mar. 29, 2017, print edition as ‘FDA Clears Drug To Treat Severe MS.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/fda-approves-drug-for-primary-progressive-multiple-sclerosis-1490752999

Related:

 — Includes Funding For Multiple Sclerosis Research Needed

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China’s ZTE pleads guilty to violating US sanctions on Iran, N.Korea — Fined $1.2 billion — the largest criminal penalty in US history

March 23, 2017

AFP


© AFP/File | ZTE has pleaded guilty to conspiring to unlawfully export, obstruction of justice and making a false statement

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WASHINGTON (AFP) – Chinese telecom giant ZTE has pleaded guilty in a US court to violating US export controls by selling goods to Iran and North Korea over several years.

The move is the final step in the case’s resolution which the US government announced March 7 in which it slapped $1.2 billion in fines on the company, the largest criminal penalty in US history in an export control case, although there have been larger fines involving financial firms.

ZTE pleaded guilty to conspiring to unlawfully export, obstruction of justice and making a false statement, the US Justice Department said Wednesday.

The company will immediately pay $892 million, while another $300 million in penalties are suspended for seven years.

From January 2010 to March 2016, the company shipped $32 million in US cellular network equipment to Iran, and made 283 shipments of cell phones to North Korea, with the full knowledge of the highest levels of company management, officials said.

© AFP/File

ZTE used third-party companies to hide the export of US components to the sanctioned countries, and then hid the information by “sanitizing databases” with information on the sales; deleting of emails of those employees involved in the scrubbing of records; and requiring employees with information about the illegal exports to sign non-disclosure agreements.

The five-year US government investigation into ZTE’s actions violating restrictions on exports to sanctioned countries was first revealed in March 2016.

Export privileges for ZTE — China’s largest publicly traded telecom company, and the fourth largest in the world — are subject to denial for seven years if any aspect of this deal is not met.

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FBI investigating ties between Russia and Trump campaign

March 20, 2017

AFP and The Associated Press

© Nicholas Kamm, AFP | FBI Director James Comey (pictured left) and NSA Director Mike Rogers on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on March 20, 2017

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-03-20

FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday that the bureau is investigating possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump as part of a probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.

The extraordinary revelation came at the outset of Comey’s opening statement in a congressional hearing examining Russian meddling and possible connections between Moscow and Trump‘s campaign. He acknowledged that the FBI does not ordinarily discuss ongoing investigations, but said he’d been authorized to do so given the extreme public interest in this case.

“This work is very complex, and there is no way for me to give you a timetable for when it will be done,” Comey told the House Intelligence Committee.

Earlier in the hearing, the chairman of the committee contradicted an assertion from Trump by saying that there had been no wiretap of Trump Tower. But Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican whose committee is one of several investigating, said that other forms of surveillance of Trump and his associates have not been ruled out.

Comey was testifying at Monday’s hearing along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.

Trump, who recently accused President Barack Obama of wiretapping his New York skyscraper during the campaign, took to Twitter before the hearing began, accusing Democrats of making up allegations about his campaign associates’ contact with Russia during the election. He said Congress and the FBI should be going after media leaks and maybe even Hillary Clinton instead.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” Trump tweeted early Monday as news coverage on the Russia allegations dominated the morning’s cable news.

Trump also suggested, without evidence, that Clinton’s campaign was in contact with Russia and had possibly thwarted a federal investigation. U.S. intelligence officials have not publicly raised the possibility of contacts between the Clintons and Moscow. Officials investigating the matter have said they believe Moscow had hacked into Democrats’ computers in a bid to help Trump’s election bid.

The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!

Monday’s hearing, one of several by congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

The top two lawmakers on the committee said Sunday that documents the Justice Department and FBI delivered late last week offered no evidence that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower, the president’s New York City headquarters. But the panel’s ranking Democrat said the material offered circumstantial evidence that American citizens colluded with Russians in Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election.

“There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”There’s certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.”

The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!

Nunes said: “For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses.”

“We know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades. They’re also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a similar hearing for later in the month.

It is not clear how much new information will emerge Monday, and the hearing’s open setting unquestionably puts Comey in a difficult situation if he’s asked to discuss an ongoing investigation tied to the campaign of the president.

At a hearing in January, Comey refused to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation exploring possible connections between Trump associates and Russia, consistent with the FBI’s longstanding policy of not publicly discussing its work. His appearances on Capitol Hill since then have occurred in classified settings, often with small groups of lawmakers, and he has made no public statements connected to the Trump campaign or Russia.

Any lack of detail from Comey on Monday would likely be contrasted with public comments he made last year when closing out an investigation into Clinton’s email practices and then, shortly before Election Day, announcing that the probe would be revived following the discovery of additional emails.

(AP)

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FBI Director Comey: Justice Dept. has no information that supports President Trump’s tweets alleging he was wiretapped by Obama

March 20, 2017

James Comey. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images (File Photo)

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The Washington Post
March 20 at 11:27 AM
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FBI Director James B. Comey acknowledged on Monday the existence of a counterintelligence investigation into the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, and said that probe extends to the nature of any links between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government.
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Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, Comey said the investigation is also exploring whether there was any coordination between the campaign and the Kremlin, and “whether any crimes were committed.”
.The acknowledgment was an unusual move, given that the FBI’s practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations. “But in unusual circumstances, where it is in the public interest,” Comey said, “it may be appropriate to do so.”

Comey said he had been authorized by the Justice Department to confirm the wide-ranging probe’s existence.

He spoke at the first intelligence committee public hearing on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, along with National Security Agency head Michael S. Rogers.

Comey: No information to support Trump’s wiretapping tweets

FBI Director James B. Comey said at a House Intelligence Committee hearing that he has no information that Trump Tower was wiretapped by former president Barack Obama. (Reuters)

The hearing comes amid the controversy fired up by President Trump two weeks ago when he tweeted, without providing evidence, that President Barack Obama ordered his phones tapped at Trump Tower.

Comey says there is “no information’’ that supports Trump’s claims that his predecessor Barack Obama ordered surveillance of Trump Tower during the election campaign.

“I have no information that supports those tweets,’’ said Comey. “We have looked carefully inside the FBI,’’ and agents found nothing to support those claims, he said. He added the Justice Department had asked him to also tell the committee that that agency has no such information, either.

Under questioning from the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif,), Comey said no president could order such surveillance.

Committee chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said in his opening statement, “The fact that Russia hacked U.S. election-related databases comes as no shock to this committee. We have been closely monitoring Russia’s aggressions for years…However, while the indications of Russian measures targeting the U.S. presidential election are deeply troubling, one benefit is already clear – it has focused wide attention on the pressing threats posed by the Russian autocrat. In recent years, Committee members have issued repeated and forceful pleas for stronger action against Russian belligerence. But the Obama administration was committed to the notion, against all evidence, that we could ‘reset’ relations with Putin, and it routinely ignored our warnings.”

Nunes said he hoped the hearing would focus on several key questions, including what actions Russia undertook against the United States during the 2016 election and did anyone from a political campaign conspire in these activities? He also wants to know if the communications of any campaign officials or associates were subject to any improper surveillance.

“Let me be clear,” he said. “We know there was not a wiretap on Trump Tower. However, it’s still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates.”

Finally, Nunes said he is focused on leaks of classified information to the media. “We aim to determine who has leaked or facilitated leaks of classified information so these individuals can be brought to justice,” he said.

In his opening statement, Schiff said, “We will never know whether the Russian intervention was determinative in such a close election. Indeed it is unknowable in a campaign in which so many small changes could have dictated a different result. More importantly, and for the purposes of our investigation, it simply does not matter. What does matter is this: the Russians successfully meddled in our democracy, and our intelligence agencies have concluded that they will do so again.”

He added: “Most important, we do not yet know whether the Russians had the help of U.S. citizens, including people associated with the Trump campaign. Many of Trump’s campaign personnel, including the president himself, have ties to Russia and Russian interests. This is, of course, no crime. On the other hand, if the Trump campaign, or anybody associated with it, aided or abetted the Russians, it would not only be a serious crime, it would also represent one of the most shocking betrayals of our democracy in history.”

Just hours before the start of the hearing, Trump posted a series of tweets claiming Democrats “made up” the allegations of Russian contacts in an attempt to discredit the GOP during the presidential campaign. Trump also urged federal investigators to shift their focus to probe disclosures of classified material.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information,” Trump wrote early Monday. “Must find leaker now!”

Republican members pressed hard on the subject of leaks to the media that resulted in news stories about contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign or administration officials. Nunes sought an admission from the officials that the leaks were illegal under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court act, the law that governs foreign intelligence-gathering on U.S. soil or of U.S. persons overseas.

“Yes,” Comey answered. “In addition to being a breach of our trust with the FISA court.”

One story in particular that apparently upset the Republicans was a Feb. 9 story by The Washington Post reporting that Trump’s national security advisor, Michael Flynn, discussed the subject of sanctions with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in the month before Trump took office. The Post reported that the discussions were monitored under routine, court-approved monitoring of Kislyak’s calls.

Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) pressed Rogers to clarify under what circumstances it would be legitimate for Americans caught on tape speaking with people under surveillance to have their identities disclosed publicly, and whether leaking those identities would “hurt or help” intelligence collection.

“Hurt,” Rogers noted.

Rogers stressed that the identities of U.S. persons picked up through “incidental collection” – that being the way intelligence officials picked up on Flynn’s phone calls with Kislyak – are disclosed only on a “valid, need to know” basis, and usually only when there is a criminal activity or potential threat to the United States at play.

Rogers added that there are a total of 20 people in the NSA he has delegated to make decisions about when someone’s identity can be unmasked.

The FBI probe combines an investigation into hacking operations by Russian spy agencies with efforts to understand how the Kremlin sought to manipulate public opinion and influence the election’s outcome.

In January, the intelligence community released a report concluding that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin wanted to not only undermine the legitimacy of the election process but also harm the campaign of Hillary Clinton and boost Trump’s chances of winning.

Hackers working for Russian spy agencies penetrated the computers of the Democratic National Committee in 2015 and 2016 as well as the email accounts of Democratic officials, intelligence official said in the report. The material was relayed to WikiLeaks, the officials said, and the anti-secrecy group began a series of damaging email releases just before the Democratic National Convention that continued through the fall.

On Friday, the Justice Department delivered documents to the committee in response to a request for copies of intelligence and criminal wiretap orders and applications. Nunes, speaking Sunday, said the material provided “no evidence of collusion” to sway the election toward Trump and repeated previous statements that there is no credible proof of any active coordination.

But Schiff, also speaking Sunday, said there was “circumstantial evidence of collusion” at the outset of the congressional investigations into purported Russian election meddling, as well as “direct evidence” that Trump campaign figures sought to deceive the public about their interactions with Russian figures.

The concerns about Moscow’s meddling are also being felt in Europe, where France and Germany hold elections this year. “Our allies,” Schiff said, “are facing the same Russian onslaught.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/fbi-director-to-testify-on-russian-interference-in-the-presidential-election/2017/03/20/cdea86ca-0ce2-11e7-9d5a-a83e627dc120_story.html?utm_term=.2b44421224ec

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

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday that the bureau is investigating possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump as part of a broader probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.

The extraordinary revelation came at the outset of Comey’s opening statement in a congressional hearing examining Russian meddling and possible connections between Moscow and Trump’s campaign. He acknowledged that the FBI does not ordinarily discuss ongoing investigations, but said he’d been authorized to do so given the extreme public interest in this case.

“This work is very complex, and there is no way for me to give you a timetable for when it will be done,” Comey told the House Intelligence Committee.

Earlier in the hearing, the chairman of the committee contradicted an assertion from Trump by saying that there had been no wiretap of Trump Tower. But Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican whose committee is one of several investigating, said that other forms of surveillance of Trump and his associates have not been ruled out.

Comey was testifying at Monday’s hearing along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.

Trump, who recently accused President Barack Obama of wiretapping his New York skyscraper during the campaign, took to Twitter before the hearing began, accusing Democrats of making up allegations about his campaign associates’ contact with Russia during the election. He said Congress and the FBI should be going after media leaks and maybe even Hillary Clinton instead.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” Trump tweeted early Monday as news coverage on the Russia allegations dominated the morning’s cable news.

Trump also suggested, without evidence, that Clinton’s campaign was in contact with Russia and had possibly thwarted a federal investigation. U.S. intelligence officials have not publicly raised the possibility of contacts between the Clintons and Moscow. Officials investigating the matter have said they believe Moscow had hacked into Democrats’ computers in a bid to help Trump’s election bid.

Monday’s hearing, one of several by congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

The top two lawmakers on the committee said Sunday that documents the Justice Department and FBI delivered late last week offered no evidence that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower, the president’s New York City headquarters. But the panel’s ranking Democrat said the material offered circumstantial evidence that American citizens colluded with Russians in Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election.

“There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” `’There’s certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.”

Nunes said: “For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses.”

“We know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades. They’re also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a similar hearing for later in the month.

It is not clear how much new information will emerge Monday, and the hearing’s open setting unquestionably puts Comey in a difficult situation if he’s asked to discuss an ongoing investigation tied to the campaign of the president.

At a hearing in January, Comey refused to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation exploring possible connections between Trump associates and Russia, consistent with the FBI’s longstanding policy of not publicly discussing its work. His appearances on Capitol Hill since then have occurred in classified settings, often with small groups of lawmakers, and he has made no public statements connected to the Trump campaign or Russia.

Any lack of detail from Comey on Monday would likely be contrasted with public comments he made last year when closing out an investigation into Clinton’s email practices and then, shortly before Election Day, announcing that the probe would be revived following the discovery of additional emails.


PUBLISHED: MARCH 20, 2017, 8:01 A.M.