AVDIYIVKA, Ukraine (Reuters) - Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists appeared to be respecting a new ceasefire attempt on Monday after international powers called for shelling to stop and for the withdrawal of banned heavy weapons.
US and China are both busy with internal power struggles so the world will have to wait. There are intense power struggles taking place in the United States and China these days meaning that big new initiatives for the planet as a whole will have to wait until the dust settles in both... [[ This is a content summary only. Visit http://FinanceArmageddon.blogspot.com or http://www.figanews.com/ or http://goldbasics.blogspot.com for full links, other content, and more! ]]
WASHINGTON ― After what may have been the largest demonstration in U.S. history, congressional Republicans don’t seem to think they need to do anything differently to address concerns of protesters at the Women’s March, literally shrugging off questions about the rallies and vowing instead to move ahead with their agenda. Republicans picked up this week right where they left off, working to advance an Obamacare repeal, confirming President Donald Trump’s nominees and even passing a bill preventing federal funding from going toward abortions. When The Huffington Post asked Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) whether she thought Republicans were taking the lessons of the march seriously, she said that Republicans had “got the message.” But asked what that message was, Jenkins shrugged before eventually answering that there were “a lot of angry, frustrated people.” Asked what Republicans were going to do to address those frustrations, Jenkins said the GOP would “continue with our agenda.” When we asked Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) what Republicans might do to address issues associated with the march, he suggested the GOP just needed to continue doing what it’s doing. “If you’re going to tell me the march is about equality, that’s already a foundational principle for Republicans to begin with,” Woodall said. “If you’re going to tell me it’s about standing up for the voiceless, we’ve been committed to giving a voice to the voiceless from day one. If you’re telling me it’s about the sheer numbers of folks who are willing to come together with us to work on solutions, listen, the only things left to work on are hard, they’re not going to get done without a lot of effort, so I’m pleased for all the man and woman power we can get to move an agenda.” If you’re going to tell me the march is about equality, that’s already a foundational principle for Republicans to begin with. If you’re going to tell me it’s about standing up for the voiceless, we’ve been committed to giving a voice to the voiceless from day one. Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) Republicans generally struggled to define what the message of the marches was, but they seemed to think if they just pushed ahead with what they were already doing, voters would reward them. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) said Republicans were focused on the issues they individually hear in their districts and had developed an agenda based on those priorities. (She ignored us when we asked if some of the frustration the protesters were expressing had been born of that agenda.) Democrats didn’t always have a clear answer on what exactly the message was from protesters either, but they at least had some ideas. “The message was we’re not going backward,” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) told HuffPost. “We’ve come too far on women’s rights, on LBGT equality, and frankly a broader set of progressive values than even that.” Huffman said he had marched in local rallies in his Northern California district, and he thought Democrats could harness some of the energy from the march. “We’re not going down without a fight. These guys will do executive orders, they’ll pass through political theater like what’s happening in the House today,” Huffman said, referring to that abortion bill passed in the House Tuesday. “But the resistance is growing. The country is awake and mobilizing, and we’re not going to let this happen.” For Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who stayed in D.C. to march with protesters over the weekend, the demonstrations seemed to be the beginning of a political movement. He mentioned that people kept asking him how they could get involved to build on the march’s momentum, and he suggested this was a movement that was just getting started. “They’re not simply going to go home,” Polis said of the protesters. “They are worried, as am I, about the kind of America that Donald Trump’s rhetoric is leading to, and we’re going to stand up and change things.” “I think there will be a whole new generation of activists that will be coming out of the depressing results of the 2016 election,” he added. Again, it was unclear for most members ― Democrats and Republicans ― exactly what people were protesting. Everyone agreed there was an anti-Trump element to it, but there seemed to be a number of alternative issues important to demonstrators: abortion rights, equal pay, racial inequality and many others. But where Democrats looked at a broad array of issues that might motivate voters as a positive, Republicans seemed to see division and a leaderless movement. On CNN on Saturday, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), raised questions about who was leading this movement ― “if this is a movement” ― and he suggested that infighting among Democrats could prevent someone emerging in that role. “Right now it’s very much a soul-search that’s going to create significant problems for the coalition that the Democrats have,” Gardner said. Not every Republican thought the marches were something their party could just dismiss, though, or spin as an internal power struggle. (Who led the tea party again?) Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), one of those Republicans who came to Congress in 2010 with the tea party wave of lawmakers, said the marches were something members of his party needed to take seriously but weren’t. “Not yet, I don’t think so,” Amash said of Republicans heeding the message. As for Amash, he suggested he was different from most of his colleagues because he reaches out to everyone in his district and has the ability to respectfully disagree with his voters. “Whether we agree on every issue or not is not really a problem for me.” In this respect, Amash was like a lot of other Republicans: He believes he can forge ahead with a conservative agenda with impunity. Time and again, members cited conservative constituencies in their carved-out districts and suggested that the conservative agenda they were advocating for was what their voters wanted. Still, there are some members who know the price of Congress and the president getting in front of a moderate district. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.), who was a victim of the 2010 wave and now (for a third time) has returned to Congress, suggested Republicans had to determine whether they would press forward with Trump’s agenda or try to differentiate themselves from the president. “They are going to have to make a decision soon,” she said. “I don’t think you can ignore so many people showing up around the country.” -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Walter Russell Mead, The American InterestNo surprise here: as it has for the last century, the United States remains the most powerful country on earth. America’s dynamic economy, its constitutional stability (even as we watch the Age of Trump unfold), its deep bench of strong allies and partners (including 5 of the 7 top powers listed below), and its overwhelming military superiority all ensure that the United States sits secure in its status on top of the greasy pole of international power politics.
Emily B. Landau, Shimon Stein Security, Middle East America must win back leverage and deterrence over Iran. One of the foremost foreign policy challenges for the Trump administration will be defining its approach toward Iran and the JCPOA—the momentous nuclear deal—and devising a comprehensive policy in this regard, taking into account the serious flaws in the deal itself, as well as Iran’s troubling behavior following the deal’s announcement and implementation. The impulse to scrap the deal—as Trump promised on the campaign trail—is understandable, but at this point renouncing the deal would be a lose-lose proposition. Iran has already pocketed over $100 billion in sanctions relief, and the decision would cause friction with the other P5+1 states. Iran would presumably be free to resume its program with no restrictions, because all UN Security Council Resolutions demanding suspension of uranium enrichment activities have been replaced by Resolution 2231, which endorses the JCPOA. In addition, all ills emanating from the flawed nuclear deal would thereafter be attributed to this decision rather than to the very real issues surrounding the deal and its implementation. Demanding renegotiation of the deal is also perilous. Even assuming that consensus among the P5+1 could be reached on this, which is doubtful, renegotiation would take years, and what leverage would the international powers have to work with to pressure Iran, after having lifted the sanctions? Indeed, at this point, making the best of the bad situation that has been created with the JCPOA would counsel against both renouncement and renegotiation of the deal. However, much can be achieved simply by changing the U.S. approach to the deal and to Iran, and by altering the rhetoric. Given the strong reservations voiced by Trump and his prospective administration toward Iran, the new president should send an unequivocal message, reminding Iran that it violated the NPT by working on a military nuclear program, while warning it against any erosion of the deal and the consequences that will follow from any violation. The next step will be to work with the P5+1 to clear up ambiguities in the JCPOA—especially regarding inspections at suspicious military facilities, and looking for unknown facilities—and set clear guidelines for responding to every type of Iranian violation. Read full article
Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has become a paid pundit for One America News Network. With close ties to the president-elect, Lewandowski brings a higher profile to the fledgling conservative cable channel, based in San Diego. The Daily Beast first reported that Lewandowski landed at OAN. .@CLewandowski_ on how Trump should handle #FakeNews moving forward: @realDonaldTrump's best resource is Twitter account. pic.twitter.com/dd30AYSxKN— One America News (@OANN) January 12, 2017 Publicity materials from OAN claim that it airs “more live news coverage than any other news network” and that it is “fast becoming the 4th rated cable news channel!” The cable channel, which launched in 2013, has begun promoting Lewandowski’s appearances. “We got a lot of help from [Corey] in the past, and he seems like very nice guy and very knowledgeable,” OAN CEO Robert Herring told The Daily Beast “You know, we’re a growing network, and we saw a chance when he quit CNN and we just grabbed it.” In December, Lewandowski announced the opening of a D.C. consulting firm with Trump campaign adviser Barry Bennett. Previously, Lewandowski had been a contributor on CNN, but he resigned days after the election in November. His short tenure at CNN began after getting fired from Trump’s campaign in June at a time when there was an internal power struggle to stabilize the campaign after a series of missteps. In March, then-Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields accused Lewandowski of assault for grabbing and bruising her wrist at a campaign event in New York. Video appeared to show him yanking her, but Trump defended Lewandowski’s actions. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Drowning the World in Oil Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com Scroll through Donald Trump’s campaign promises or listen to his speeches and you could easily conclude that his energy policy consists of little more than a wish list drawn up by the major fossil fuel companies: lift environmental restrictions on oil and natural gas extraction, build the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, open more federal lands to drilling, withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, kill Obama’s Clean Power Plan, revive the coal mining industry, and so on and so forth ad infinitum. In fact, many of his proposals have simply been lifted straight from the talking points of top energy industry officials and their lavishly financed allies in Congress. If, however, you take a closer look at this morass of pro-carbon proposals, an obvious, if as yet unnoted, contradiction quickly becomes apparent. Were all Trump’s policies to be enacted -- and the appointment of the climate-change denier and industry-friendly attorney general of Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt, to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests the attempt will be made -- not all segments of the energy industry will flourish. Instead, many fossil fuel companies will be annihilated, thanks to the rock-bottom fuel prices produced by a colossal oversupply of oil, coal, and natural gas. Indeed, stop thinking of Trump’s energy policy as primarily aimed at helping the fossil fuel companies (although some will surely benefit). Think of it instead as a nostalgic compulsion aimed at restoring a long-vanished America in which coal plants, steel mills, and gas-guzzling automobiles were the designated indicators of progress, while concern over pollution -- let alone climate change -- was yet to be an issue. If you want confirmation that such a devastating version of nostalgia makes up the heart and soul of Trump’s energy agenda, don’t focus on his specific proposals or any particular combination of them. Look instead at his choice of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state and former Governor Rick Perry from oil-soaked Texas as his secretary of energy, not to mention the carbon-embracing fervor that ran through his campaign statements and positions. According to his election campaign website, his top priority will be to “unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves.” In doing so, it affirmed, Trump would “open onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands, eliminate [the] moratorium on coal leasing, and open shale energy deposits.” In the process, any rule or regulation that stands in the way of exploiting these reserves will be obliterated. If all of Trump’s proposals are enacted, U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will soar, wiping out the declines of recent years and significantly increasing the pace of global warming. Given that other major GHG emitters, especially India and China, will feel less obliged to abide by their Paris commitments if the U.S. heads down that path, it’s almost certain that atmospheric warming will soar beyond the 2 degree Celsius rise over pre-industrial levels that scientists consider the maximum the planet can absorb without suffering catastrophic repercussions. And if, as promised, Trump also repeals a whole raft of environmental regulations and essentially dismantles the Environmental Protection Agency, much of the progress made over recent years in improving our air and water quality will simply be wiped away, and the skies over our cities and suburbs will once again turn gray with smog and toxic pollutants of all sorts. Eliminating All Constraints on Carbon Extraction To fully appreciate the dark, essentially delusional nature of Trump’s energy nostalgia, let’s start by reviewing his proposals. Aside from assorted tweets and one-liners, two speeches before energy groups represent the most elaborate expression of his views: the first was given on May 26th at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck, North Dakota, to groups largely focused on extracting oil from shale through hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the Bakken shale oil formation; the second on September 22nd addressed the Marcellus Shale Coalition in Pittsburgh, a group of Pennsylvania gas frackers. At both events, Trump’s comments were designed to curry favor with this segment of the industry by promising the repeal of any regulations that stood in the way of accelerated drilling. But that was just a start for the then-candidate. He went on to lay out an “America-first energy plan” designed to eliminate virtually every impediment to the exploitation of oil, gas, and coal anywhere in the country or in its surrounding waters, ensuring America’s abiding status as the world’s leading producer of fossil fuels. Much of this, Trump promised in Bismarck, would be set in motion in the first 100 days of his presidency. Among other steps, he pledged to: * Cancel America's commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs * Lift any existing moratoriums on energy production in federal areas * Ask TransCanada to renew its permit application to build the Keystone Pipeline * Revoke policies that impose unwarranted restrictions on new drilling technologies * Save the coal industry The specifics of how all this might happen were not provided either by the candidate or, later, by his transition team. Nevertheless, the main thrust of his approach couldn’t be clearer: abolish all regulations and presidential directives that stand in the way of unrestrained fossil fuel extraction, including commitments made by President Obama in December 2015 under the Paris Climate Agreement. These would include, in particular, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, with its promise to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired plants, along with mandated improvements in automotive fuel efficiency standards, requiring major manufacturers to achieve an average of 54.5 miles per gallon in all new cars by 2025. As these constitute the heart of America’s “intended nationally determined contributions” to the 2015 accord, they will undoubtedly be early targets for a Trump presidency and will represent a functional withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, even if an actual withdrawal isn’t instantly possible. Just how quickly Trump will move on such promises, and with what degree of success, cannot be foreseen. However, because so many of the measures adopted by the Obama administration to address climate change were enacted as presidential directives or rules promulgated by the EPA -- a strategy adopted to circumvent opposition from climate skeptics in the Republican-controlled House and Senate -- Trump will be in a position to impose a number of his own priorities simply by issuing new executive orders nullifying Obama’s. Some of his goals will, however, be far harder to achieve. In particular, it will prove difficult indeed to “save” the coal industry if America’s electrical utilities retain their preference for cheap natural gas. Ignoring Market Realities This last point speaks to a major contradiction in the Trump energy plan. Seeking to boost the extraction of every carbon-based energy source inevitably spells doom for segments of the industry incapable of competing in the low-price environment of a supply-dominated Trumpian energy marketplace. Take the competition between coal and natural gas in powering America’s electrical plants. As a result of the widespread deployment of fracking technology in the nation’s prolific shale fields, the U.S. gas output has skyrocketed in recent years, jumping from 18.1 trillion cubic feet in 2005 to 27.1 trillion in 2015. With so much additional gas on the market, prices have naturally declined -- a boon for the electrical utility companies, which have converted many of their plants from coal to gas-combustion in order to benefit from the low prices. More than anything else, this is responsible for the decline of coal use, with total consumption dropping by 10% in 2015 alone. In his speech to the Marcellus Coalition, Trump promised to facilitate the expanded output of both fuels. In particular, he pledged to eliminate federal regulations that, he claimed, “remain a major restriction to shale production.” (Presumably, this was a reference to Obama administration measures aimed at reducing the excessive leakage of methane, a major greenhouse gas, from fracking operations on federal lands.) At the same time, he vowed to “end the war on coal and the war on miners.” As Trump imagines the situation, that “war on coal” is a White House-orchestrated drive to suppress its production and consumption through excessive regulation, especially the Clean Power Plan. But while that plan, if ever fully put into operation, would result in the accelerated decommissioning of existing coal plants, the real war against coal is being conducted by the very frackers Trump seeks to unleash. By encouraging the unrestrained production of natural gas, he will ensure continued low gas prices and so a depressed market for coal. A similar contradiction lies at the heart of Trump’s approach to oil: rather than seeking to bolster core segments of the industry, he favors a supersaturated market approach that will end up hurting many domestic producers. Right now, in fact, the single biggest impediment to oil company growth and profitability is the low price environment brought on by a global glut of crude -- itself largely a consequence of the explosion of shale oil production in the United States. With more petroleum entering the market all the time and insufficient world demand to soak it up, prices have remained at depressed levels for more than two years, severely affecting fracking operations as well. Many U.S. frackers, including some in the Bakken formation, have found themselves forced to suspend operations or declare bankruptcy because each new barrel of fracked oil costs more to produce than it can be sold for. Trump’s approach to this predicament -- pump out as much oil as possible here and in Canada -- is potentially disastrous, even in energy industry terms. He has, for instance, threatened to open up yet more federal lands, onshore and off, for yet more oil drilling, including presumably areas previously protected on environmental grounds like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the seabeds off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. In addition, the construction of pipelines like the embattled one in North Dakota and other infrastructure needed to bring these added resources to market will clearly be approved and facilitated. In theory, this drown-us-in-oil approach should help achieve a much-trumpeted energy “independence” for the United States, but under the circumstances, it will surely prove a calamity of the first order. And such a fantasy version of a future energy market will only grow yet more tumultuous thanks to Trump’s urge to help ensure the survival of that particularly carbon-dirty form of oil production, Canada’s tar sands industry. Not surprisingly, that industry, too, is under enormous pressure from low oil prices, as tar sands are far more costly to produce than conventional oil. At the moment, adequate pipeline capacity is also lacking for the delivery of their thick, carbon-heavy crude to refineries on the American Gulf Coast where they can be processed into gasoline and other commercial products. So here’s yet one more Trumpian irony to come: by favoring construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, Trump would throw yet another monkey wrench into his own planning. Sending such a life preserver to the Canadian industry -- allowing it to better compete with American crude -- would be another strike against his own “America-first energy plan.” Seeking the Underlying Rationale In other words, Trump’s plan will undoubtedly prove to be an enigma wrapped in a conundrum inside a roiling set of contradictions. Although it appears to offer boom times for every segment of the fossil fuel industry, only carbon as a whole will benefit, while many individual companies and sectors of the market will suffer. What could possibly be the motivation for such a bizarre and planet-enflaming outcome? To some degree, no doubt, it comes, at least in part, from the president-elect’s deep and abiding nostalgia for the fast-growing (and largely regulation-free) America of the 1950s. When Trump was growing up, the United States was on an extraordinary expansionist drive and its output of basic goods, including oil, coal, and steel, was swelling by the day. The country’s major industries were heavily unionized; the suburbs were booming; apartment buildings were going up all over the borough of Queens in New York City where Trump got his start; cars were rolling off the assembly lines in what was then anything but the “Rust Belt”; and refineries and coal plants were pouring out the massive amounts of energy needed to make it all happen. Having grown up in the Bronx, just across Long Island Sound from Trump’s home borough, I can still remember the New York of that era: giant smokestacks belching out thick smoke on every horizon and highways jammed with cars adding to the miasma, but also to that sense of explosive growth. Builders and automobile manufacturers didn’t have to seriously worry about regulations back then, and certainly not about environmental ones, which made life -- for them -- so much simpler. It’s that carbon-drenched era to which Trump dreams of returning, even if it’s already clear enough that the only conceivable kind of dream that can ever come from his set of policies will be a nightmare of the first order, with temperatures exceeding all records, coastal cities regularly under water, our forests in flame and our farmlands turned to dust. And don’t forget one other factor: Trump’s vindictiveness -- in this case, not just toward his Democratic opponent in the recent election campaign but toward those who voted against him. The Donald is well aware that most Americans who care about climate change and are in favor of a rapid transformation to a green energy America did not vote for him, including prominent figures in Hollywood and Silicon Valley who contributed lavishly to Hillary Clinton’s coffers on the promise that the country would be transformed into a “clean energy superpower.” Given his well-known penchant for attacking anyone who frustrates his ambitions or speaks negatively of him, and his urge to punish greens by, among other things, obliterating every measure adopted by President Obama to speed the utilization of renewable energy, expect him to rip the EPA apart and do his best to shred any obstacles to fossil fuel exploitation. If that means hastening the incineration of the planet, so be it. He either doesn’t care (since at 70 he won’t live to see it happen), truly doesn’t believe in the science, or doesn’t think it will hurt his company’s business interests over the next few decades. One other factor has to be added into this witch’s brew: magical thinking. Like so many leaders of recent times, he seems to equate mastery over oil in particular, and fossil fuels in general, with mastery over the world. In this, he shares a common outlook with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, who wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on harnessing Russia’s oil and gas reserves in order to restore the country’s global power, and with ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, said to be Trump’s top choice for Secretary of State and a long-term business partner of the Putin regime. For these and other politicians and tycoons -- and, of course, we’re talking almost exclusively about men here -- the possession of giant oil reserves is thought to bestow a kind of manly vigor. Think of it as the national equivalent of Viagra. Back in 2002, Robert Ebel of the Center for Strategic and International Studies put the matter succinctly: “Oil fuels more than automobiles and airplanes. Oil fuels military power, national treasuries, and international politics... [It is] a determinant of well being, national security, and international power for those who possess [it] and the converse for those who do not.” Trump seems to have fully absorbed this line of thinking. “American energy dominance will be declared a strategic economic and foreign policy goal of the United States,” he declared at the Williston forum in May. “We will become, and stay, totally independent of any need to import energy from the OPEC cartel or any nations hostile to our interests.” He seems firmly convinced that the accelerated extraction of oil and other carbon-based fuels will “make America great again.” This is delusional, but as president he will undoubtedly be able to make enough of his energy program happen to achieve both short term and long term energy mayhem. He won’t actually be able to reverse the global shift to renewable energy now under way or leverage increased American fossil fuel production to achieve significant foreign policy advantages. What his efforts are, however, likely to ensure is the surrender of American technological leadership in green energy to countries like China and Germany, already racing ahead in the development of renewable systems. And in the process, he will also guarantee that all of us are going to experience yet more extreme climate events. He will never recreate the dreamy America of his memory or return us to the steamy economic cauldron of the post-World War II period, but he may succeed in restoring the smoggy skies and poisoned rivers that so characterized that era and, as an added bonus, bring planetary climate disaster in his wake. His slogan should be: Make America Smoggy Again. Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left. A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil is available from the Media Education Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @mklare1. Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Separatists pushing to split up Bosnia along ethnic lines could endanger its bid to join the European Union and force international powers to intervene, the peace envoy for Bosnia has told Reuters.
WASHINGTON ― Within the Republican rat race to shift core principles and cozy up to the Trump administration, there’s one Republican in the House who seems totally uninterested in running the maze. When Donald Trump proposed a year of jail or loss of citizenship for burning the flag, this congressman said no president should be allowed to “burn the First Amendment.” When Trump said only the media thinks his potential conflicts of interest are “a big deal,” he quote tweeted the president-elect to say that it was indeed a big deal, affixing Trump’s hashtag, #draintheswamp. And when Trump indicated he would nominate Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to be attorney general, he said he was “deeply concerned” by the pick. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) says it’s not difficult for him to criticize Trump. He’s just being consistent. “I’m not here to represent a particular political party; I’m here to represent all of my constituents and to follow the Constitution,” Amash told The Huffington Post earlier this week. Amash, a 36-year-old lawyer entering his fourth term in Congress, has quite a bit of experience in breaking with his party. If there’s a bill that passes on the House floor with one member in opposition, there’s a good chance it’s Amash. He’s perhaps the most hated Republican in some orbits of the GOP conference ― Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) once called Amash “Al Qaeda’s best friend in Congress” ― just as he’s perhaps the most respected lawmaker in Libertarian circles. He’s partnered with Democrats to lead the charge against detention at Guantanamo Bay and the National Security Agency’s blanket collection of telephone metadata, and he’s been an outspoken critic of Trump from the very beginning to the very end, when he wrote in Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on his ballot. I’m not here to represent a particular political party; I’m here to represent all of my constituents and to follow the Constitution. At no point in the 2016 election did Amash ever flirt with supporting Trump ― and not because he thought the real estate mogul couldn’t win. He, in fact, said he wouldn’t support Trump because he feared he could win. And now that Trump has done just that, Amash isn’t letting up with the criticism, even as other Republicans trip over themselves to shift positions they’ve espoused for years. Take, for instance, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Ryan ― a pro-trade, pro-immigration reform, anti-cronyism Republican ― has gone out of his way to praise Trump whenever he can. On Thursday, Ryan applauded a deal with Carrier that would offer the company tax breaks in exchange for not moving an Indiana furnace plant to Mexico. “I think it’s pretty darn good that people are keeping their jobs in Indiana instead of going to Mexico,” Ryan said, after years of crying out that the government “shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers.” Amash had a different take. More corporate welfare and cronyism. Equal protection is denied when one company receives favors at the expense of everyone else in Indiana. https://t.co/gPVLLyYQOS— Justin Amash (@justinamash) December 1, 2016 Again, Amash believes he’s just being consistent. “I ran on a set of principles, and it doesn’t really matter which party is in charge or who the president is; I’m going to stick by my principles,” he told HuffPost. He seems unworried by a potential backlash from standing up to Trump. In his congressional district, Amash noted, Mitt Romney did better than Trump ― and Amash did better than all of them. As for Trump going after him, Amash is characteristically unflinching. “Let’s see it happen,” he said. “It’s up to him how he takes it. I’m going to stand by my beliefs and stand up for my constituents and stand up for the Constitution.” Amash says his quote tweets criticizing Trump aren’t personal ― “these are critiques on policy” ― and that he’ll continue calling out his disagreements. One of the biggest areas of discord is national security and surveillance. Trump has taken a number of authoritarian positions, going as far as advocating torture and calling for a Muslim registry. And as much as Trump has tried to bring in every corner of the Republican Party into his transition team, one branch of the GOP has systematically been excluded: Libertarians. Nunes ― the member who tied Amash to Al Qaeda ― serves on Trump’s transition national security team, as does another former intelligence committee chairman: Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), who was instrumental in trying to unseat Amash during a heated 2014 primary. (Amash delivered a scathing victory speech that year where he called Hoekstra a disgrace. “I’m glad we could hand you one more loss before you fade into total obscurity and irrelevance,” he said.) Yet another former intelligence chairman who shares bad blood with Amash, former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), was also on Trump’s national security transition team, before internal power struggles cost him his spot. Which is all to say it would be difficult to find three Republicans more ideologically split with Amash on national security and surveillance than the last three Republican chairmen of the intelligence committee. Asked if it was alarming that those were the types of people Trump wanted picking a national security team, Amash was Amash. “Those names are consistent with the positions he laid out during the campaign. It’s not alarming in that sense,” he said. Trump “believes strongly in the surveillance state,” Amash noted, saying those names were “not inconsistent with what he said he would do.” I ran on a set of principles, and it doesn’t really matter which party is in charge or who the president is; I’m going to stick by my principles. As for other Trump team selections, Amash has repeatedly expressed concern over Sessions becoming attorney general, citing his Senate voting record on civil rights and surveillance issues. “The attorney general has a lot of independent authority, so it’s a position we need to be really careful about,” Amash said. On Twitter (apparently the preferred method of communication for both Amash and Trump), the congressman said Sessions supports indefinite detention, mass surveillance, and civil asset forfeiture. “If a Dem nominee held these views, [Republicans] would be screaming for Senate to reject him. We should be consistent with our constitutional concerns,” he said. Regarding Trump’s financial conflicts of interest, Amash noted that many Republicans were just sort of waiting to see what Trump does. But he also indicated that the president-elect’s current plans of action don’t seem adequate. “He has to explain better how he’s handling conflicts of interest,” Amash said. “It’s not enough to say, ‘I’m the president, the president can’t have conflicts of interest.’” Of course, as comfortable as Amash seems criticizing Trump, there are some topics where he just won’t go. When asked about the prospect of impeaching Trump, should he not solve his conflicts of interest or increase the surveillance that he already believes is unlawful, the Michigan Republican, who already chooses his words carefully, spent some extra time coming up with a response. He thought about what he wanted say, pausing for a few moments over and over again, and then, three times, said: “I’m not going there.” -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
STRONG HORSE: French Election Hints at a European Shift Toward Russia. Since the end of World War II, European leaders have maintained their ever-growing alliance as a bulwark against Russian power. Through decades of ups and downs in Russian-European relations, in periods of estrangement or reconciliation, their balance of power has kept the continent stable. […]
President Park is accused of allowing a friend to meddle in state affairsKorea experts in Russia do not believe that Choi Soon-sil, who has been termed the ‘female Rasputin’ by the Korean media, had any influence on President Park Geun-hye's Russia policy. Choi, who has been a friend of the South Korean President since 1974, has been accused of using her friendship with Park to influence state affairs. The 60-year-old daughter of a South Korean religious leader, Choi, has no government post, but is alleged to have a ‘Rasputin-like grip’ on the president's trust and affections. Roadblocks hamper Russia-South Korea economic ties - expert “Investigations will reveal what specific decisions Choi Soon-sil did take part in,” says George Toloraya, Director of Asian strategy Center at the Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences. “The Korean press speculates that her influence is visible in the closing of the Kaesong techno park. She may have been behind the decision to deploy the American THAAD missile defense system in Korea.” The THAAD deployment is a highly sensitive issue both for Russia and China. Even if the suspicion that Choi was influencing Park’s foreign policy will be proved, it does not mean that Russia-South Korea relations will improve in her absence, says Andrei Lankov, professor of Korean Studies at Kookmin University. “Russia-Korea relations are in relatively good shape and are not even close to being in crisis mode,” Lankov says. “But let there be no illusions. It doesn’t matter who the president of South Korea is. The country will always feel comfortable in the U.S.'s orbit.” North Korea policy Experts agree that Choi's influence may be blamed for an extremely tough stance that Seoul has taken on North Korea. “Park's North Korea policy was highly unreasonable, but I would not limit this to Choi's influence,” Lankov says. “Many South Korean right wingers share the same attitude towards North Korea." “It was Seoul's inflexibility, that led to a growing number of provocations from the North Korean side,” Toloraya says. “In the past two years, Park repeatedly stated that North Korea would inevitably collapse. Experts were in doubt and could not understand where this inside information may have come from. The answer proved to be surprising,” he adds. “Park's North Korea policy was highly unreasonable, but I would not limit this to Choi's influence,” Lankov says. “Many South Korean right wingers share the same attitude towards North Korea." According to Lankov, such a policy could have led to a major conflict. “However, I would not exaggerate this risk. Both South and North tend to saber-rattle but don't want a war. They panic over the possibility of a war.” Domestic squabbles Konstantin Asmolov, a researcher at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies, says that the scandal around president Park and her long-time friend is huge, but the real reason behind the hype could be internal power politics within the South Korean governing party (the conservative Saenuri Party). “When sanctions that Seoul imposes on Pyongyang are not working and North Korea is not falling apart, but continues its nuclear program, it becomes clear that this policy leads to nothing, and the South Korean right wing have only one exit strategy: to put the blame on Park and Choi,” Asmolov says. South Korea is scheduled to have elections in December 2017, but there is growing pressure on Park to resign.
A conservative super PAC is out with a new ad against Democratic Wisconsin Senate candidate Russ Feingold, implying that his support for President Barack Obama’s diplomatic deal with Iran threatens to throw the world into a nuclear holocaust. The ad will air statewide and was put out by Reform America Fund, a group that backs Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Feingold’s opponent. It starts with children counting down from 10 in different languages, but before they can finish, a mushroom cloud fills the screen and a message says, “A nuclear Iran is a threat to the world. Russ Feingold supports the Iran nuclear deal.” The ad evokes President Lyndon B. Johnson’s controversial “Daisy” ad, which featured a young girl in a field, counting the petals on a daisy before she’s interrupted by a man counting down and a nuclear explosion. It was meant to frighten voters about the candidacy of Republican Barry Goldwater. Last summer, Obama explained that the Iran nuclear deal ― negotiated by the United States and five other world powers ― was “our best means of assuring that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon.” Iran promised to cap and downsize its nuclear program in exchange for some relief from economic sanctions. Once the deal is implemented, Iran will have disposed of much of its stockpile of uranium and slashed the number of centrifuges it spins. Iran is still bound to United Nations inspections and the reintroduction of sanctions if it reneges on the agreement. Feingold, who is running to retake his old seat from Johnson, stressed in August 2015 that the Iran deal kept military options on the table while working toward a diplomatic solution. “We’re not giving anything up, really,” Feingold said. “We could attack them tomorrow. If they violate these rules, the sanctions can go back into place almost immediately if the United States doesn’t object. And so here’s a chance to actually prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon. The alternative is nothing ... and we’ll be stuck with one choice: a war, which I think would be unwise.’” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Republicans in Congress ― including Johnson ― opposed the deal, but nonproliferation experts and others in the international community widely supported it. The claim that the nuclear deal will help Iran get a nuclear weapon is just wrong, Matthew Bunn, a nuclear specialist at the Harvard Kennedy School, told PolitiFact last year. “The terms of the deal require Iran to reduce its installed centrifuges by two-thirds, eliminate almost all of its stock of enriched uranium, modify its Arak reactor to drastically reduce its ability to produce plutonium, and to accept much broader inspections,” Bunn said. “Those actions would slow and impede any nuclear weapons effort, not facilitate and accelerate it.” Johnson has claimed that Iran’s frozen assets, which will be freed up when sanctions are lifted, will go “directly to terrorism.” Secretary of State John Kerry has conceded that some of the money could ultimately end up with groups involved in terrorism, but PolitiFact concluded it was not the direct pipeline that Johnson suggested. “Although Iran has more than $100 billion in available frozen assets — most of it in banks in China, Japan and South Korea — slightly less than half will more or less automatically go to preexisting debts,” The Washington Post reported in January. “How the rest is spent will reveal the direction of internal power struggles between Iranian hard-liners and pragmatists.” Reform America Fund, which started in the summer of 2015, initially said “every single penny” it raises will go toward helping Johnson get elected. However, it recently launched a $1.2 million ad campaign targeting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. The super PAC’s biggest donor appears to be Diane Hendricks, a Wisconsin billionaire and Trump supporter who backs the Koch brothers’ political network. HUFFPOST READERS: What’s happening in your state or district? The Huffington Post wants to know about all the campaign ads, mailers, robocalls, candidate appearances and other interesting campaign news happening by you. Email any tips, videos, audio files or photos [email protected] Want more updates from Amanda? Sign up for her newsletter, Piping Hot Truth. Enter your email address: -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Vladimir Putin lives by the power of disinformation and misdirection. Putin stole billions. He is ruthless and unchallenged in Russia. Donald Trump has the inclination of a dictator. His net worth is questionable. His use of misdirection -- throwing every single claim of his opponent back in her face -- is without nuance. Trump has an eye for weakness but is clueless about diplomacy, history, and context. Putin has no respect for rule of law. Trump doesn't understand the US Constitution. He would be, in a word, Putin's patsy. Vladimir Putin can read the US polls. Why would he push so hard from Trump's corner with such a small chance of Trump winning in November? Already the international nervousness and turmoil the Trump camp created has served Russia's interests. For Putin, stirring the pot is its own reward. Since the end of World War II, the Soviet Union/ Russia has had a single objective: to erode US power wherever possible. With international turmoil, its possibilities increase. Trump -- with pledges to upset NATO and other signposts of international cooperation -- is Putin's way in: his Trojan Horse. As a historical matter Russia has never operated from the center of international power, because its aims are so clearly transparent and hostile to the Western world and industrialized nations. Trump threatens to upend the cardinal rule of post-war diplomacy: contain Russia. The chip on Putin's shoulder is Russia's eternal grievance: that it always operates from the margins toward the center. In the era of globalization and technology, Russia is still a minor partner even compared to China, the behemoth at its border. Putin detests Obama exactly for this reason: a minority has more power and influence than he has. With Trump, Putin sees how the tables could turn. The volatile non-politician Trump, who lacks the character and stability to be a leader, would be an easy trophy. Hillary, on the other hand, stands for diplomatic centeredness and cultural diversity that is an anathema to Putin. Putin has already taken clear advantage of US policy disasters in the Syria, where Russia can wage war on behalf of another dictator, Assad, without a single concern in the world. American voters are right to worry there is something in Donald Trump's tax returns that show indebtedness to Russia. By withholding his tax returns, Trump wins. If he loses the election, with Russian businessmen and with Putin, he still wins. As for Russia meddling in US elections, why wouldn't it if the means were available and its opportunity in Donald Trump so near at hand. (This OPED was also published at the daily blog, Eye On Miami.) -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Dynegy Inc. (DYN) announced the public offering of $750 million aggregate principal amount of senior notes. The notes carry an interest rate of 8.0% and are slated for maturity in 2025.
Gerald F. Hyman Security, Eurasia The United States should pursue confrontation where necessary and mutual interests without illusions where possible. However therapeutic and tempting, especially during election season and after Russia’s direct complicity in the Syria horror, the understandable impulse to confront and isolate President Vladamir Putin’s Russia is not wise policy. Notwithstanding the many areas of altercation as well as the doomed attempt by President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to “reset” U.S.-Russia relations after the George W. Bush administration, the next president should pursue a dual strategy designed both to challenge Putin where U.S. national interests demand it but find areas of collaboration where interests coincide. The United States should pursue confrontation where necessary and mutual interests without illusions where possible. Wisdom begins by recognizing Putin’s assumptions, interests, and personal style since he is now the sole author of Russia’s policy. At best, deeply suspicious of and at worst resentful of and adversarial toward the United States, Putin will lose few opportunities for provocation, even belligerence. He blames the West in general but particularly the United States for the dissolution of the Soviet Union and for belittling its heir, Russia. The subsequent expansion of NATO and the EU into Central Europe and the Baltics to the borders of Russia’s immediate neighbors presents to him both a security and a psychological assault, a demeaning of and affront to Russia during its weakness. He holds U.S. support, especially by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, responsible for domestic dissidents and the demonstrations against the legitimacy of the 2011 Duma elections and his own election in 2012, prompting his crackdown on domestic NGOs, media, and critics. Until the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the East German regime, he spent five years in Dresden as a KGB agent trained to probe and then exploit weaknesses in Western political elites. He begrudges the United States and (to a lesser extent) Europe even as he once apparently contemplated an affinity with both. He now has two overriding personal objectives: first to reassert Russian international power, to see Russia great again, to resume its rightful place as a respected or at least feared world power; and second to secure his domestic power, initially through a network of cronies from St. Petersburg but now apparently via utterly dependent and therefore obedient aparatchiks from the siloviki, the security services. Read full article