Posts Tagged ‘U.S.’

Climate change: China calls US ‘selfish’ after Trump seeks to bring back coal (Some Propaganda and Fake News Underpinning China’s Claims)

March 30, 2017

By  in Hong Kong
The Guardian

State-run tabloid says Beijing cannot fill vacuum left by US and urges west to pressure Trump on global warming

a coal mine in utah
Donald Trump has previously called climate change a hoax created by the Chinese. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images

Chinese state media has lambasted Donald Trump’s efforts to roll back many Obama-era environmental regulations, with a state-run tabloid saying that: “No matter how hard Beijing tries, it won’t be able to take on all the responsibilities that Washington refuses to take.”

In an editorial highly critical of Trump’s retreat on environmental regulation, the Global Times made it clear Beijing was uncomfortable taking over leadership of the fight against climate change and could not fill the vacuum left by the US.

“Western opinion should continue to pressure the Trump administration on climate change. Washington’s political selfishness must be discouraged,” the editorial said. “China will remain the world’s biggest developing country for a long time. How can it be expected to sacrifice its own development space for those developed western powerhouses?”

China is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases responsible for global warming, followed by the US, and Chinese leaders firmly agree climate change is a real threat. Their rhetoric has often outpaced their commitments to curb emissions and the country also consumes more coal than the rest of the world combined, although coal use has plateaued in recent years.

“China is not the kind of leader in terms of climate change that will pull other countries along,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, a senior campaigner at Greenpeace based in Beijing. “The Chinese government will only commit to targets it is very comfortable delivering and it needs to work with other major countries. China won’t strike out on its own.”

China is both the worlds largest exporter of renewable energy, and at the same time one of the leading exporters of coal-fired power plants.

Trump has also threatened to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, putting him at odds with China’s president Xi Jinping who has said the “hard-won” deal should remain in force. “All signatories should stick to it instead of walking away from it, as this is a responsibility we must assume for future generations,” Xi said at the World Economic Forum in January.

Even ExxonMobil, America’s largest oil company, has said the US should not back out of its commitments under the accord.

Read the rest:


China is suspending all imports of coal from North Korea for the remainder of 2017 (AFP Photo/GREG BAKER)

China is suspending all imports of coal from North Korea for the remainder of 2017 (AFP Photo/GREG BAKER)

China coal imports from North Korea surge in February

China coal imports from North Korea surge in February


Pyongyang issued a rare reproach of Beijing, its main diplomatic backer, for halting imports of its coal (file picture)

Pyongyang issued a rare reproach of Beijing, its main diplomatic backer, for halting imports of its coal (file picture)

 (Includes Irrational Coal Plants May Hamper China’s Climate Change Efforts)


Doubts cast over whether China can cut back huge coal and steel sectors as prices of commodities rebound

Tillerson’s delicate challenge: Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

March 30, 2017

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is meeting Turkish leaders in Ankara for talks on the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria and Turkish requests for the extradition of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused of staging a failed coup attempt last year.

Tillerson is scheduled to meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday.

Turkey is pressing the United States to mount a joint fight to retake the IS Syrian stronghold of Raqqa and wants U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters to be excluded from the operations.

Cavusoglu said Turkey would also take up the issue of the arrest in New York of a senior executive of Turkish state-owned bank Halkbank. The executive is accused of helping Iran violate U.S. sanctions against the country.


Meeting in Turkey With Erdogan May Be Tillerson’s Toughest

ANKARA, Turkey — He has already met the Mexican and Chinese presidents and hosted a conclave of 68 nations fighting the Islamic State, but no meeting in Rex W. Tillerson’s brief tenure as secretary of state will be as delicate as the one in Ankara on Thursday with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Mr. Erdogan is the leader of an important NATO ally and is crucial in the fight against the Islamic State, but he is also a prickly strongman whose campaign to change Turkey’s Constitution in a referendum has many worried that the country is on the precipice of authoritarianism.

The referendum has resulted in the worst divide between Europe and Turkey in decades, with Mr. Erdogan accusing European leaders of Nazi-like tendencies after they refused to allow officials of his government to address pro-referendum rallies.

Mr. Erdogan also has serious reservations about the American plan to attack the Syrian city of Raqqa, the declared capital of the Islamic State, and has demanded that the United States extradite a Pennsylvania cleric who the government says was the mastermind behind a failed coup attempt last July.

Navigating these difficulties would test the most seasoned of diplomats. Mr. Tillerson, though, has had a rocky start. On a recent trip to Asia, he stumbled repeatedly — disputing a South Korean explanation for his dinner plans and allowing China to crow over his use of language that American diplomats had long eschewed.


North Korea ‘to overshadow’ Trump-Xi summit with new nuclear test

March 30, 2017

A man watches a TV news programme reporting North Korea's nuclear test last year

A man watches a TV news programme reporting North Korea’s nuclear test last year. CREDIT: AP

By Julian Ryall
The Telegraph

South Korean intelligence has warned that another nuclear test by North Korea is imminent, with analysts suggesting that the leadership in Pyongyang wants to “overshadow” next week’s meeting between US President Donald Trump and Xi Jinping, the Chinese president.

South Korean government sources confirmed to the Korea JoongAng Daily that preparations at the North’s Punggye-ri nuclear proving grounds would be be completed before the weekend.

That assessment tallies with analysis of satellite images released by the 38 North web site, operated by the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

The images show “a heightened level of activity over the past few days”, including ongoing work to pump water out of one of the shafts excavated for previous underground tests and the removal of debris from the tunnel.

North Korea’s Nuclear History (at the link):

There are more personnel at the site than at any time since the days leading up to the 2013 nuclear test, the report points out, along with more vehicles and the installation of communication cables and equipment.

Mr Trump and Mr Xi are scheduled to meet next week and North Korea has previously used such events to carry out tests.

Last month, North Korea fired a missile into the sea off the east coast of the Korean peninsula just as Mr Trump was hosting Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida retreat.

“The timing of this is no coincidence,” said Rah Jong-yil, a former head of South Korean intelligence. “Kim Jong-un clearly wants to overshadow the China-US summit and to underline the fact that he has nuclear weapons.

About Kim Jong-un (At the Link):

“For the North, nuclear weapons provide leverage over the rest of the world and Mr Kim is demonstrating that he cannot be ignored”, Mr Rah told The Telegraph.

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Kim Jong-un

Mr Kim is also aware that there is little more that the international community can do to bring him to heel, Mr Rah added.

“As usual, the US and the West will issue condemnations and warnings, but there is a feeling that China is still not throwing its full weight behind sanctions and other pressures on the regime in Pyongyang”, he said.

Analysts say that Beijing does not want to see regime change in North Korea because it could trigger a flood of refugees into its north-east provinces, while a united Korean Peninsula heavily influenced by the US would pose an unacceptable security risk.

Shinzo Abe met Donald Trump last month in the US
Shinzo Abe met Donald Trump last month in the US CREDIT: AP

“If China really wanted to solve this problem once and for all, it could do so very easily by closing the border entirely and completely strangling all business and economic traffic beween the two countries”, Mr Rah said.

On Thursday, a spokesman for the North Korean government said the US would be held accountable for the outbreak of war on the Korean Peninsula and warned that Pyongyang is ready to conduct pre-emptive strikes.

Quoted by the state-run Korea Central News Agency, a spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry said the US would meet “a miserable end”.

People in America’s rich society worship, pray, and believe, as if they lived in a poverty-stricken nation

March 30, 2017

E. Brooks Holifield
Sacred Matters

This article first appeared in Sacred Matters housed at Emory University.

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Many Western Europeans think of Americans as hopelessly, bafflingly, and dangerously, religious. Many Americans think of Western Europeans as distressingly, inexplicably, and unrelentingly, secular. In 2009, the German sociologist Hans Joas observed that “it is widely accepted that the United States is far more religious than practically any comparable European state.” And he noted Western European puzzlement: “The more secularized large parts of Europe became, the more exotic the religiosity of the United States seemed to European observers.” So why are Americans, compared with Western Europeans, seemingly so religious? And are we as religious as we seem?

Sixty percent of Americans say that religion is “very important” to them; only 21 percent of Western Europeans say that. How did we get that way? How did they get that way? And how different are we?

Maybe everyone is religious. Maybe sports fans who live or die each week with the fortunes of Manchester United or the Pittsburgh Steelers are as religious, in their own way, as earnest participants in churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples. And maybe the Americans who look on with outrage when some mob “desecrates” the flag are as devoted to a civil religion as the Pope is to the Catholic faith. But the sixty percent of Americans who say religion is “very important” to them and the seventy-nine percent of Western Europeans who just can’t bring themselves to say that, probably mean something more traditional. They probably mean that they believe—or don’t—in God; follow—or don’t—the Torah; cherish—or don’t—the Buddha; or devote themselves—or don’t—to the teachings of Mohammed the Prophet. In other words, most of them probably think conventionally about religion when someone asks if it is “very important” to them. But whether the question is about beliefs, practices, identity, the veneration of tradition, or some other familiar view of religion, most Americans answer it one way and most Western Europeans another. Let’s leave the Eastern Europeans out of view; they complicate matters. We are talking about Western Europe and the United States. That is more than enough.

Of course it is possible that neither Americans nor Western Europeans mean what they say. After all, some forty percent of Americans have told the Gallup pollsters for half a century that they could have been found the previous week in some religious building doing something religious. A few enterprising sociologists have come up, however, with some imaginative ways of counting, and they conclude that the actual number is closer to twenty percent. A few equally enterprising scholars who study religion in Europe have argued that in some countries, people may practice more religion than they admit. The American sociologist Phil Zuckerman found that Danes and Swedes didn’t practice much, but Zuckerman also learned that one inebriated believer confessed to a friend over a round of drinks that he believed in God. “I hope,” he said, “that you don’t think I’m a bad person.” But this simply pushes the question one step further back. Why might some Americans feel obligated to exaggerate their religious practice and some Europeans to minimize theirs?

The prevailing view in some sociological circles is that the difference goes back to the separation of church and state. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution—along with state laws and constitutions—produced a competitive religious marketplace in which scores of sects competed with one another while the stodgy Europeans stuck with their state churches, and everyone (in America) knows that the marketplace outperforms monopolies, especially state-supported monopolies. American competition meant that denominations multiplied, religious entrepreneurs flourished, immigrants imported traditions, uneducated clergy attracted uneducated followers, educated clergy attracted educated followers, and radio preachers and televangelists bought up the airwaves. Separation made possible the “democratization” of American religion—a style of religious life in which every conceivable religious inclination found its niche.

There’s obviously something to this, though colonial Americans in state establishments were about as religious as post-revolutionary generations, some American colonies offered a good number of religious options, and the majority of colonists probably “adhered” in some way to a Christian congregation. (Though historians have shared no consensus about what it meant to adhere.) True, American competition might be exaggerated. If you live in some Southern states, for example, the chances are high that you’re going to be a Baptist. The region is about as homogeneous, once you leave the cities, as Italy, though the Pentecostals threaten some trust-busting. If you dwell in Minnesota, on the other hand, you’re likely to shop at your local Lutheran or Catholic emporium.

Once upon a time, moreover, Europeans in lands with state churches were just about as religious—again, we’re talking about conventional criteria—as Americans shopping in the religious marketplace. Furthermore, a place like England, burdened or buoyed by an Anglican establishment, had about fifteen competing denominations by the mid-nineteenth century and even more after World War I. The competitors attracted about as many members as the Anglican establishment. This looks and sounds like a marketplace, but it did not produce a twenty-first century “religious England.” You can walk for blocks in some English cities without seeing a living, breathing practitioner of any Western religion. Far be it from me, however, simply to discard the marketplace hypothesis; it explains a degree of the difference, and that’s a start.

Since we are looking at trends that began in the eighteenth century, we might want to recall that the American states formed themselves as a nation during the Enlightenment—a period in which it sometimes seemed, at least to the orthodox, as if deists were to become as prominent as revivalist Christians. As a result, the clergy invested themselves in an extended polemic against deistic thought, arguing, among other things, that the deists provided an inadequate support for morality. If ever a theological argument took hold among a population, the association between religion and morality captured the American imagination. To this day, only a handful of politicians could hope to be elected to office if they did not let the voters know that they are religious—a requirement richly productive of unending irony. In Western Europe, voters seem not to see any necessary relation between morality and religious belief.

More than 80 percent of American adults call themselves Christians; more than a third of adult Americans claim to be “born-again.” Where do they get this language? It comes, of course, from the Gospel of John, and most Americans mean by it an experience resulting in a deeply felt relationship to Jesus as their Savior. But that was not exactly what sixteenth-century Catholics or even the Protestant reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin meant by the words. The current American usage of the term comes from revivalist traditions, a point that makes it abundantly clear that revivalism is one source of American religiosity. Revivalist traditions also appeared in Europe and Great Britain among puritans, pietists, Wesleyans, and evangelicals, and in Catholic missions, but Europe also had strong counterweights: state churches, sacramental views of rebirth, influential university theologians who worried about revivalist excess, and cultural suspicions of “enthusiastic” religion. American revivalists were well-attuned to the individualist dimensions of American culture. European states were, and are, more “corporate” in their self-understanding. The difference is a matter of degree, but degrees make a difference.

Nor can one forget that America has been, since the first Native Americans wandered onto the continent, an immigrant nation. The country drew a constant accession of immigrants from Germany, France, Spain, Italy, England, Scotland, and Ireland, not to speak of Sweden, Norway, Finland, Russia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, China, Mexico, and scores of other places. Of course, Europe had its own immigrants, sometimes motivated, at least in part, by religious desires. But America has received more immigrants than any other country. Between 1821 and 1934, 33 million Europeans alone came to the United States. Between 1965 and 1999, twenty million more immigrants arrived. Immigrants were not invariably religious, but the three institutions that immigrants brought with them were families, schools, and religious institutions. And the religious institutions became not only places of worship, but also of recreation, cultural preservation, social organization, and association, with people from the home country. Whatever the reasons, the multiple functions kept people close to churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques.

Before 1780, nearly 75 percent of the immigrants to America came in some condition of unfreedom: they were indentured servants, convicts, or slaves. Europe also had slaves and serfs, but for most of the eighteenth century almost half of all immigrants to America were enslaved Africans, and slavery altered Christianity. For one thing, it helped to produce a conservative white religious culture in the South. By the 1830s, the Southern planter class associated unorthodox thought with the northern movement to abolish slavery. Something of that amalgam of religion and white southern culture stuck. But the slaves themselves also helped make the South the most religious section of the United States. After 1750 the revivalists reached out to the slaves, who eventually formed their own churches. Seventy-nine percent of African Americans—84 percent of African American women—say today that religion is very important to them. Take them out of the Gallup and Pew religious polls, and the American religious statistics would look a little bit more like the Western European ones. Again, it’s only a difference of degree, but . . .

Immigrant traditions helped influence older American congregations to turn themselves into centers for girls’ guilds, boys’ brigades, women’s associations, men’s clubs, picnics, and parties. European congregations did some of the same things, but the Americans continued long after the Europeans put the brakes on: cooking instruction, bowling alleys, church parlors, diet groups, exercise sessions, yoga classes, skating parties, hayrides, sports teams—in short, a never-ending array of social activities designed to keep people coming back. In the late-nineteenth century, “institutional” churches offered such services largely to immigrant populations, but the activities also reflected innovations in the American economy. When the culture popularized efficiency, so did religious institutions. When businesses elevated marketing, religious groups began to “brand” themselves with distinctive symbols and identifiable signage. In some small towns, the only sources of public face-to-face social events outside the religious institutions are the holy trinity of American entertainment: baseball, basketball, and football.

Religion has also reflected the American class system. Almost anyone familiar with religious groups in America can do a hasty class analysis of denominations and congregations. Two sociologists, Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart, recently correlated the prominence of religiosity and the sense of economic vulnerability in the nations of the world. Their conclusion: the more self-perceived vulnerability, the greater the importance of religion. America seems an anomaly: a rich society in which people worship, pray, and believe, as if they lived in a poverty-stricken nation. Norris and Inglehart believe that the solution lies in the distinctive form of American capitalism, a system with a sadly porous safety net. One need not adopt a flat economic determinism in order to wonder why four of the five states with the lowest median income have the highest percentage of people who say that their religion is very important to them, while three of the five states with the highest median income have the highest percentage of people who say that is only moderately important.

And finally—at least for now—is the long tradition of association between religion and nationalism. Europeans could be as religiously nationalistic and nationalistically religious as any American ever dreamed of being. But Western Europeans watched as their cultures collapsed after they invested their nineteenth and twentieth-century wars with religious meaning, and it is rare now to see a national flag in a Western European religious building. It is this American sanctifying of national adventures with religious rhetoric that most worries Western Europeans. But this worries many Americans, as well, including some of the most religious among us.

Why do Americans seem so religious? Many reasons.

India’s chief economic adviser sounds warning bell on China

March 30, 2017

Calls the country a ‘big source of systemic risk’

By KENJI KAWASE, Nikkei deputy editor

Arvind Subramanian, the Indian Finance Ministry’s chief economic adviser, shared his views on China. (Photo by Kenji Kawase)

HONG KONG — The rivalry between Asia’s two powerhouses — China and India — could be one of the most hotly debated topics of our time, one that grows still more interesting through the lens of a senior government official.

When asked for his view on China, Arvind Subramanian, the Indian Finance Ministry’s chief economic adviser, said the country is a “big source of systemic risk.” His wariness over the northern neighbor comes from the medium-term risks stemming from a rapid accumulation of credit. “How do you resolve this credit surge that is associated with [various] events?” he said in an interview with a few media outlets, including the Nikkei Asian Review, on Wednesday at an investment forum here sponsored by Credit Suisse. Before taking the job as government adviser in 2014, Subramanian, an economist, authored a widely read book on China’s rise.

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For him, the mounting leverage in the world’s second-largest economy is “probably the biggest issue confronting the global economy, apart from [U.S. President Donald] Trump’s retreat from globalization and all that.” He recognizes both optimistic and pessimistic sides of the debate and refrained from giving his own prediction. “Nobody knows how it’s going to pan out,” he said, drawing a parallel with how political reform in China has not materialized even after economic development. “At some point, politics has to catch up with economics, except that we waited and waited and waited and [it] hasn’t happened.”

Different from China

Subramanian also drew a line between his country and China on the issue of the credibility of economic data. India’s sudden change in calculation methodology for gross domestic product in 2015 has invited suspicion by some, but Subramanian staunchly defended the move, saying the “notion that Indian GDP data is under political influence is complete nonsense.” Even though his position as chief adviser does not represent the administration, he stressed the country has a “completely independent, technically staffed statistical agency.”

During a session at the forum, he rejected a question aligning India with China on this issue. “I want to assure you that it’s not the case,” he said. “I don’t know what China does, [but] certainly their GDP is much less volatile than ours,” using sarcasm to refer to the stable and predictable figures Beijing has reported in recent years.

The unreliability of Chinese GDP has been widely acknowledged even by Premier Li Keqiang, as head of Liaoning Province 10 years ago. Li, an economist by training with a doctorate degree in economics from prestigious Peking University, reportedly told American guests that he distrusts his country’s GDP and uses three proxy indicators — railway cargo volume, electricity consumption and bank loans — instead. The so-called Li Keqiang index, a mix of the three indicators, is widely accepted in the investment community.

In terms of financial market liberalization, Subramanian recognizes both countries are taking a “very gradual, steady, calibrated approach.” But here again, he mentioned how the Indian equity market is “far more open than [the] Chinese [one]” in accepting foreign investment. Indeed, channels of investing in mainland Chinese equity markets are still limited to specially-sanctioned institutional investors tied to a quota or using a special trading arrangement through the Hong Kong bourse.

Lessons to learn

Subramanian, however, praised the rival as well. When referring to India’s so-called demographic bonus, which is mostly happening in states that are “less well-governed [and where] economic prospects are weaker,” he turned to China for lessons.

“The number that always strikes me is on [Lunar] New Year’s when 300 million people board the train to go back to their towns,” he said. To his eyes, the mobilization of the population in the past few decades from underdeveloped rural areas to urban centers, where demand for cheap labor is high, has brought about the “dynamism” of the Chinese economy. Although this policy was based on a household registration system that discriminates against rural citizens and has created serious social issues such as separated families and rural children growing up without proper parental care, Subramanian said he wishes something like that could be done in India for the sake of economic development.

On the hotly debated issue at home of how to deal with banks burdened with substantial amounts of bad loans, Subramanian raised a Chinese example from the 2000s, when asset management companies were set up for each of the four largest state-owned commercial banks in an effort to strip away nonperforming loans. After clearing their balance sheets, all four banks, starting with China Construction Bank, were deemed to be resilient enough to list their shares, and eventually, some of the asset management companies were also able to go public.

This option seems open to India, but as Subramanian confesses, bailing out so-called bad banks requires taxpayer money and “that is very difficult for any democratic political system.”

North Korea could kill 90 percent of Americans

March 30, 2017

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The mainstream media, and some officials who should know better, continue to allege North Korea  does not yet have capability to deliver on its repeated threats to strike the U.S. with nuclear weapons. False reassurance is given to the American people that North Korea has not “demonstrated” that it can miniaturize a nuclear warhead small enough for missile delivery, or build a reentry vehicle for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of penetrating the atmosphere to blast a U.S. city.

Yet any nation that has built nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, as North Korea has done, can easily overcome the relatively much simpler technological challenge of warhead miniaturization and reentry vehicle design.

Indeed, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un has been photographed posing with what appears to be a genuine miniaturized nuclear warhead for ballistic missiles. And North Korea does, in fact, have two classes of ICBMs—the road mobile KN-08 and KN-14—which both appear to be equipped with sophisticated reentry vehicles.No automatic alt text available.

Even if it were true that North Korea does not yet have nuclear missiles, their “Dear Leader” could deliver an atomic bomb hidden on a freighter sailing under a false flag into a U.S. port, or hire their terrorist allies to fly a nuclear 9/11 suicide mission across the unprotected border with Mexico. In this scenario, populous port cities like New York, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, or big cities nearest the Mexican border, like San Diego, Phoenix, Austin, and Santa Fe, would be most at risk.

hwasongA test launch of a Hwasong-10, a ground-to-ground intermediate-range ballistic missile, in an undated photo released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency on June 23, 2016.KCNA via Reuters

A Hiroshima-type A-Bomb having a yield of 10-kilotons detonated in a major city would cause about 200,000 casualties from blast, thermal, and radiation effects. North Korea has tested a nuclear weapon having an estimated yield of 20-30 kilotons. The Defense Department assesses that on January 6, 2016, North Korea may have tested components of an H-Bomb. H-Bombs are much more powerful than A-Bombs and can produce much greater casualties—millions of casualties in a big city like New York.

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South Korea — People watch TV coverage of a North Korean missile test.


The notion that North Korea is testing A-Bombs and H-Bomb components, but does not yet have the sophistication to miniaturize warheads and make reentry vehicles for missile delivery is absurd.

Eight years ago, in 2008, the CIA’s top East Asia analyst publicly stated North Korea successfully miniaturized nuclear warheads for delivery on its Nodong medium-range missile. The Nodong is able to strike South Korea and Japan or, if launched off a freighter, even the United States.

In 2011, the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Lt. General Ronald Burgess, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that North Korea has weaponized its nuclear devices into warheads for arming ballistic missiles.

On April 7, 2015, at a Pentagon press conference, Admiral William Gortney, then Commander of North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD), responsible for protecting the U.S. from long-range missiles, warned that the intelligence community assesses North Korea’s KN-08 mobile ICBM could strike the U.S. with a nuclear warhead.

And on October 7, 2015, Gortney again warned the Atlantic Council: “I agree with the intelligence community that we assess that they [North Koreans] have the ability, they have the weapons, and they have the ability to miniaturize those weapons, and they have the ability to put them on a rocket that can range the [U.S.] homeland.”

In February and March of 2015, former senior national security officials of the Reagan and Clinton administrations warned that North Korea should be regarded as capable of delivering by satellite a small nuclear warhead, specially designed to make a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack against the United States. According to the Congressional EMP Commission, a single warhead delivered by North Korean satellite could blackout the national electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures for over a year—killing 9 of 10 Americans by starvation and societal collapse.

Two North Korean satellites, the KMS-3 and KMS-4, presently orbit over the U.S. on trajectories consistent with surprise EMP attack.

Why do the press and public officials ignore or under-report these facts? Perhaps no administration wants to acknowledge that North Korea is an existential threat on their watch.

Whatever the motives for obfuscating the North Korean nuclear threat, the need to protect the American people is immediate and urgent:

The U.S. must be prepared to preempt North Korea by any means necessary—including nuclear weapons.

Launch a crash program to harden against EMP attack the U.S. electric grid to preserve American civilization and hundreds of millions of lives. This could be part of President Trump’s infrastructure modernization project.

Beef up national missile defenses. Revive President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), the unfairly derided “Star Wars.” Space-based missile defenses could still render nuclear missiles obsolete and offer a permanent, peaceful, solution to problems like North Korea.

Ambassador R. James Woolsey was the Director of Central Intelligence from 1993-95. Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is chief of staff of the Congressional EMP Commission, served in the House Armed Services Committee and the CIA.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Brexit: Three ways Article 50 is likely to change the world — Brexit will strengthen the U.K, unify Europe, and swing the power over to the Pacific

March 29, 2017
Brexit Divorce Process Begins

Mar 29, 2017 3:13 a.m. ET

Brexit will strengthen the U.K, unify Europe, and swing the power over to the Pacific


Soon, the Union Jack won’t be flying at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels. Reuters

LONDON (MarketWatch) — It will be a quiet, low-key moment, with little drama or fanfare. At 12:30 today, Sir Tim Barrow, Britain’s permanent representative to the European Union, will leave a routine meeting of EU ambassadors to personally deliver a letter on behalf of the British government to Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council.

Article 50, which will begin the two-year process of leaving the EU, will have been finally triggered.

But the lack of ceremony should not obscure the importance of the moment. In truth, triggering Article 50 will change both Britain and the European Union profoundly. It will strengthen the U.K. economy, while also accelerating its decoupling from the rest of Europe. It will make the EU work better, and perhaps even rescue the euro EURUSD, -0.2219%  , yet also make it as lesser force in the world.

And it will accelerate the shift of power away from the Atlantic towards the Pacific. The final verdict of history remains to be seen, of course — but after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, it may turn to be the second major geopolitical event of the 21st century.

In the months ahead, there will be a huge amount of attention devoted to the minute details of the divorce settlement. How much will Britain have to pay before it can leave, and what kind of share will it get of the assets it has built up over the 40 years of its membership? What kind of access will it have to the Single Market, and on what terms? Will European companies still be able to sell their products tariff-free in Britain?.

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist on why the GOP’s failed health-care reform makes tax reform harder. Photo credit: Getty Images.

At times, there will be bitter and unpleasant rows. In the end, the chances are that no deal will be reached, at least within the two-year time frame, and Britain will end up trading with Europe on the same basis as South Korea or Japan.

In time, however, as with any divorce, all that will be forgotten, and both sides to the separation will go their separate ways, and forge their own future. So, measured over decades rather than months or years, what difference will the U.K. leaving make?

Here are three big trends to watch.

First, the British economy will be stronger — but different. The consensus among the economic establishment that Brexit would fatally weaken the U.K. has turned out to be as misguided as most elite opinion. In fact, Britain seems to have emerged so far in slightly better shape. A major currency devaluation has helped its struggling export industries. Companies are still investing — only this week, Qatar sunk another £5 billion into the country.

The economy is still growing. Some jobs and industries will be lost, but others will be gained — and net-net, Britain will come out slightly ahead.

What will happen is that the economy will change. There are many reasons why the U.K. is leaving the EU, but one of them is that its economy has been drifting away from the rest of the continent for a long time already. The EU accounts for 44% of its exports, down from 55% a decade ago — an incredibly rapid decline, given the normally glacial pace at which trade flows change.

Leaving the EU is going to accelerate that. Expect that trade share to go down to 30% or less in the decade ahead. Expect as well for Britain to become a lower tax, lighter regulation commercial hub. The U.K. will never be the Singapore of Europe that some of the Brexit champions hope for. Even leaving aside the greyer skies, it is too big for that. But it will be something a lot closer to it.

Second, the EU will be more unified — but also diminished. In the wake of the vote, many thought it might just be the first country to leave. Unless there is a surprise victory for Marine Le Pen in France, that does not look very likely now — and the likely winner of that election, Emmanuel Macron, is a strong champion of closer integration.

In fact, the U.K.’s departure appears to have made the rest of the continent appreciate the Union even more. And with the U.K. gone, it will lose a truculent opponent of deeper sovereignty. The EU is likely to stride forward to something far closer to a single state — which, as it happens, is exactly what the euro needs if it is to survive. In that sense, the EU will be stronger.

That said, it will also be a smaller entity. Keep in mind that Britian, on current trends, will overtake Germany as Europe’s biggest economy by the 2030s. An EU that doesn’t include the continent’s biggest nation — and its most powerful military capability — can’t really claim to speak for the whole of Europe. It will just represent one part of it — and that is smaller claim.

Finally, real power will now be negotiated between the United States and China. For much of the last 60 years, the EU has aspired to be a genuine superpower. At least some of its champions explicitly saw it as rivalling and indeed replacing the U.S. as the major force in the world — that was part of the thinking behind creating a single currency that could rival the dollar.

Without the U.K., that is not going to happen now. Instead, it will left to the U.S. and China to vie with one another for global dominance. That will be the only genuine geopolitical conflict of any real importance. A small, less important EU will ensure that the story of the 21st century will be determined by what happens in the Pacific.

Europe and the Atlantic will be a sideshow — an interesting sideshow, to be sure, but a sideshow all the same.

What happens over two-year divorce negotiations does not matter that much. The rows will be forgotten fairly quickly. Over the medium term, both the U.K. and the EU will be very different after this week — and that process has a long, long way to run.


China Still Committed to Paris Climate Change Deal: Take That Donald Trump

March 29, 2017

BEIJING — China is still committed to the Paris climate change accord agreed in 2015, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Wednesday after U.S. President Donald Trump signed overnight an order to dismantle Obama-era climate change regulations.

Image may contain: 1 person

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang (File photo)

“We still uphold that all sides should move with the times, grasp the opportunities, fulfill their promises and earnestly take proactive steps to jointly push the enforcement of (the Paris) agreement,” he said at a briefing.

“No matter how other countries’ policies on climate change, as a responsible large developing country China’s resolve, aims and policy moves in dealing with climate change will not change.”

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; writing by Josephine Mason; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Silk roads and chilled beef: how China is trying to fill a Trump vacuum in Australia — Australian cattlemen eager for business in post-Brexit Europe

March 29, 2017


FILE PHOTO: Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull stands with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang before the start of an official signing ceremony at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, March 24, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray/File photo
By Jane Wardell and Jonathan Barrett | SYDNEY

It was almost a major faux pas in sports-mad Australia – Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived at an Australian Rules football match in Sydney wearing the blue, black and white scarf of interstate rival Port Adelaide Power.

But Li quickly donned a red and white scarf of the hometown Sydney Swans to match that of his host, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Li later confessed wearing both team scarves on a balmy autumn evening made him “really hot”, but the broad smiles of the two leaders provided a telling contrast to a bad-tempered telephone call between Turnbull and a freshly-elected Donald Trump that made international headlines.

Australia and China found unprecedented common ground on trade during Li’s recent five-day visit Down Under, with a clear agenda of rejecting the “America First” protectionism touted by the new U.S. president.

“The cooperation between China and Australia showcases to the region and the world our determination to defend trade liberalization and advocate the benefits of free trade,” Turnbull told business leaders and politicians at a forum in Sydney, in comments closely echoed by Li.

But growing trade ties are only one side of a delicate super-power balancing act for Australia, whose unshakeable security relationship with the United States and Western democratic values have limited how cozy it gets with China.

Li, well aware of Australia’s reliance on China for its economic future, used his visit to caution Australia against “taking sides, as happened during the Cold War.”

And while Turnbull was quick to say “the idea that Australia has to choose between China and the United States is not correct”, some analysts disagree.

“The problem Australia faces is the growing tensions from China’s desire for influence and that is going to mean Australia may have to choose between its two allies,” said Nick Bisley, professor of international relations at Melbourne’s La Trobe University.


After decades of relative peace and economic growth, the Australian public appears to be slowly shifting its allegiance to China. Asked whether China or the United States was more important to Australia, respondents to a Lowy Institute poll were deadlocked – a shift from responses in favor of the United States when the same question was asked two years earlier.

Trump pulled down the U.S. shutters on trade early in his presidency, withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-member trade agreement that excluded China and was instrumental in the U.S. “pivot to Asia”.

Li came to Australia bearing a valuable gift to help fill that vacuum; the removal of restrictions on chilled beef exports.

“We’ve made it a priority to get access for agricultural products into China,” an Australian government source told Reuters. “Getting access to China for agricultural products can take years but as they get hold of more and more produce and they appreciate the quality, that opens the door for access for additional products.”

China bought A$150 billion ($114 billion) of Australian goods and services last year – easily its biggest trade partner.

But juggling its trade and security interests will be no easy feat for Australia.

The country’s military and economic priorities collide in the under-developed but strategically important north. A new rotation of U.S. marines is due to arrive shortly at a joint Australia-U.S. base in Darwin that is a jump-off point for surveillance of the contested South China Sea.

While Australia has so far resisted calls to participate in U.S.-led freedom of navigation exercises in the strategic waterway, it has firmly reinforced its security alliance with the United States as part of the Five Eyes intelligence network.

But the north is also where Australia is seeking major infrastructure and industry investment, potentially through pulling the region into China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative.

China has been pressing Australia to sign up for OBOR, its signature foreign and economic policy, and while the pair did not reach agreement during Li’s visit, industry experts believe that won’t be too far away.

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia chief executive Brendan Lyon said tapping into OBOR projects would be provide a significant financial boost for Australia.

“We want to be part of that supply chain,” said Lyon, referring to Australian companies pitching for construction, finance and engineering contracts on the Silk Road.


There are other roadblocks in the way of deepening Sino-Australia relations.

Just two days after Li had left Australia and facing an embarrassing defeat, Turnbull pulled a vote in parliament to finally ratify an extradition treaty with China, 10 years after it was signed.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop held an emergency meeting with the Chinese ambassador to try smooth over Australia’s failure to join France and Spain as the only Western countries to enter into such a pact, but no revised date has been set for the vote.

“High-level visits are measured by deliverables so there would have been interest from the Chinese in having the extradition treaty ratified around the time of the visit,” said Euan Graham, director of the national security program at the Lowy Institute, an Australian think-tank.

“The visit seems to have been very successful on the economic merits but this inability to ratify the extradition treaty will inevitably lead to a sense of deflation.”

And delegates at a large China-Australia business forum said much of the discussion on the sidelines was about Australia’s conflicted approach on Chinese investment.

Canberra has talked up the need for offshore funding, but described China-led bids for privatized assets as a security risk. The rejection of high profile bids from Chinese state-owned investors in electricity network Ausgrid and cattle empire S. Kidman and Co still rankle in Beijing.

“There will come a day when the Chinese investors ask why we’re to going to Australia in the first place,” said Zha Daojiong, an international studies professor at Peking University. “Australia are making a judgment on politics not economic or technical factors.”

(Additional reporting by Colin Packham in SYDNEY and Philip Wen in BEIJING; Editing by Lincoln Feast)



Australian cattlemen eager for business in post-Brexit Europe

Australia is hoping to boost exports of meat to Britain's vote to leave the EU last year

Sydney (AFP) – As Britain’s divorce from the European Union begins Wednesday, Australia’s meat industry is licking its lips at the prospect of a boost in exports as London scrambles to sign free-trade deals across the globe.

Pro-leave politicians promised before last year’s referendum that an exit would allow them to hammer out a series of pacts around the world, free from what they called the shackles of EU quotas and giving the country better deals.

Now, as they prepare for two years of divorce talks that could see Britain completely cut off from Europe’s gigantic free-trade bloc, officials in Westminster are keen to start work on agreements elsewhere.

And that, says Josh Anderson of industry research group Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), could be a big benefit to the meat industry Down Under, while a rotten meat crisis in Brazil might also provide an opening.

“Brexit provides a unique opportunity for Australia to enhance its trading relationship with the UK,” he said.

Australia and Britain will have to redefine their commercial relationship outside of the EU, with Canberra saying shortly after the Brexit referendum that it wanted a free-trade agreement with London.

The biggest buyers of Australian beef are Japan, the United States, South Korea and China, with Europe trailing far behind with exports limited by quotas and taxes. Sales of beef and mutton to the EU account for just two percent of its overseas shipments — but in 2015, more than half the of those sales headed for Britain.

“We have a very limited EU access,” said Geoff Pearson of the Cattle Council, which represents breeders.

“If quotas and tariffs are changed, then yes, potentially, this market will be more attractive,” he said, adding that it could be particularly beneficial for high-end products.

– Huge potential –

“Australia and the UK have a rich trading history,” the MLA said in a note after June’s Brexit vote.

In the 1950s, between 50 and 80 percent of Australian beef and veal headed to Britain but this dropped off significantly when Britain become joined the EU’s forerunner in 1973, it said.

After Brexit, London vowed to boost its trade ties with the Commonwealth.

However, Australia is also hoping for better access to Britain’s former European partners. “EU market potential is extremely positive,” with 500 million inhabitants, said the MLA’s Anderson.

The European Union is a small market in terms of volume but it buys quality meat from Australia, meaning the price per tonne is nearly double that of other markets, the MLA says.

A free-trade agreement is therefore “a priority” for the organisation, with Canberra and Brussels having already signed an accord agreeing to initiate a process, and with negotiations set to begin this year.

Meanwhile, the huge scandal over tainted meat exports from Brazil — the main seller of beef to Europe outside European producers — has come at the right time for Australia.

The scandal broke when an investigation revealed that some packers had paid crooked inspectors to pass off rotten and adulterated meat as safe.

About 20 countries, including the EU, have since fully or partially closed their doors to Brazilian meat imports.

While negotiations with Britain and Brussels will likely take years, Australia is making great strides in China where a free-trade deal has been in place since 2015.

Last week, Canberra and Beijing signed an agreement to extend access for Australian meat producers to China.

“Australia’s beef exports to China have grown from less than $100 million in 2011 to exceed $600 million in 2016,” according to Australian minister of commerce Steven Ciobo.

US Fed’s Fischer worried by possible rise of protectionism

March 28, 2017


© AFP/File | On monetary policy, Fischer confirmed that he is expecting to see two more interest rate hikes this year, in line with the forecast of most Fed policymakers
WASHINGTON (AFP) –  Federal Reserve Vice President Stanley Fischer said Tuesday he would be worried by any return to protectionism in the global economy.In an interview on CNBC, Fischer said the economic policies following World War II were beneficial to the global economy, notably for China’s development, but also for the United States, which was able to buy goods that were not accessible previously.

“I’d be concerned if that basic model is overturned,” he said. “On average, the way to grow was to integrate the world economy and that worked spectacularly for China.”

The Trump administration’s “America first” focus has tilted toward protectionism to reduce the large US trade deficit, including threatening tariffs on imports from trading partners like Mexico and China.

On monetary policy, Fischer confirmed that he is expecting to see two more interest rate hikes this year, in line with the forecast of most Fed policymakers.

“That seems to be about right. That’s my forecast as well,” he said.

The Fed has raised the benchmark lending rate twice in the last four months as job creation has remained solid, bringing down interest rates, and inflation has begun to creep up.

He also said the US central bank was closely monitoring the Trump administration’s promised fiscal stimulus plans, and had included a small fiscal expansion in its forecast.

While his term as vice chair comes to an end in June 2018, Fischer can remain at the Fed as a governor through January 2020, but he said he had not yet decided whether or not to remain beyond next year.