• ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, November 6

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    Trump in Asia: What Matters about the Trip (a comment)

    The trip has three main goals, all important but in tension with each other

    • Contain or eliminate North Korean nuclear threat to US and US allies (depends on China’s cooperation)
    • Reduce China’s trade surplus with US, ideally by opening China’s domestic market to US exports
    • Deter an expanding Chinese threat in South China Sea (reinforce America’s partnership with nations surrounding China)

    Trump is also likely to meet with Putin, with North Korea, Syria, and Iran as major topics

     Texas church shooting: A crazed, well-armed guy furious with his former in-laws, who worshipped at the church he attacked

    That’s the report from local news outlets in the San Antonio area (KSAT in San Antonio)

    Comment: Some commentators will stress his beliefs (“he was an atheist”). That is not what drove him. Anger and crazed impulsiveness, not ideology, are the drivers here.

     Mueller Leaking: NBC reports he has enough evidence to charge Mike Flynn, Trump’s former National Security Adviser

    Special ZipDialog commentary here

    Another college attack on free-speech: Vassar students smear Wm. Jacobson (of Legal Insurrection blog) because he supports free speech (USA Today)

    Comment: Vassar, like so many small, elite colleges, is suffused with hard-left ideology.

    They should call these schools “Illiberal Arts Colleges.”

    Chicago nearing 600 homicides, most since 2003 (Chicago Tribune)

    How bad is it? The city has instituted a new program to show people how to stop bleeding from gunshot wounds (Chicago Tribune)

    Comment: N

    Investigators suspect US journalists were paid to spread materials from the Clinton/FusionGPS/Russian Dossier (Washington Times)

    In U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Fusion GPS, the dossier’s financier via the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign money, is fighting a House committee chairman’s bid to find out if the opposition research firm paid journalists.

    In U.S. District Court in Florida, a self-described dossier victim wants a judge to order the news website BuzzFeed, which published the dossier in full, to disclose who gave it to them. –Washington Times

    Comment: Fusion GPS is fighting so tenacious to prevent any disclosures of their receipts and expenditures, you can’t help but think they might have something to hide.

    Pleading the 5th Amendment before Congress was also a hint.

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    Hat Tip to

    ◆ Tim Favero for the Vassar, William Jacobson story

     

  • US-Russian Relations: What matters but isn’t covered in all the tabloid news

    Russia’s interference in America’s 2016 election matters. So do any possible connections to the Trump campaign

    But the media’s obsession with those issues is missing other major developments in US-Russian relations

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    The news about US-Russian-European relations goes far beyond the 2016 election interference and possible connections to the Trump campaign.

    On the international stage, Vladimir Putin has skilfully played a very weak hand, while the US misplayed its own for 8 years. Putin has taken an economy the size of Italy’s and returned it to status as an international power.

    It is Iran’s major outside supporter and a major player in Syria, where, in return for supporting the Assad regime, it has acquired major bases.

    It has used Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas for political leverage.

    And it has effectively offered to step in and assist North Korea if they want assistance beyond China’s.

    But he can only stay in power by running a corrupt kleptocracy, in close alignment with the oligarchs, with everything stage-managed from Moscow.

    That’s a good way for him to stay in power, but it is a terrible way to grow a diverse, modern economy. Over the long run, the Russian economy will continue to sputter as the US grows.

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    What has the Trump Administration done to cope with Putin internationally?

    The media focus has been entirely on US weakness, especially Trump’s mixed statements about NATO and his inexplicable reluctance to recognize the threat from Russia in clear, unambiguous language. There has been some focus on the recent cease-fire in Syria, too.

    But there is much more to the story. And all these other developments put pressure on a Kremlin ill-equipped to handle it.

    NATO

    On NATO, as I have noted, Trump is now a firm supporter but he still wants two major changes: a focus on terrorism and fair-share payments from European partners, as they promised. One reasonable interpretation of his threats to back away from NATO is that they are meant to get Europe to pay up.

    Poland

    In Poland, Trump did more than make a speech (a very good one in my opinion, a very bad one in the opinion of Democrats). He also agreed to an important arms sale the Obama Administration had refused.

    In a move set to counter Russia’s reinforcement on NATO’s borders, Poland and the U.S. have agreed that Warsaw will purchase the American-made Patriot air defense missile, the Polish government announced Thursday.

    Although Poland is a long-term advocate for more U.S. military presence in Europe, Russia’s decision to deploy Iskander missile systems on its borders in November made the demand for assistance more urgent. The S-400 surface-to-air missiles and nuclear-capable Iskander systems are set to be delivered in Kaliningrad, Russia’s exclave bordering Poland. –Newsweek, story here

    Ukraine

    Totally missing from news coverage is the startling news that Ukraine is now openly seeking NATO membership–understandable, given the Russian threat, but an open insult to the Kremlin, which refused even to let Ukraine strike a trade deal with the EU.

    The Reuters story is headlines: “Pledging Reforms by 2020, Ukraine Seeks Route into NATO

    [Ukraine’s] President Petro Poroshenko, whose country is fighting a Kremlin-backed insurgency in eastern Ukraine, revived the prospect of NATO membership during a visit by NATO Secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg who himself used the occasion to call on Moscow to withdraw its troops from Ukraine.

    “Ukraine has clearly defined its political future and its future in the sphere of security,” Poroshenko speaking to reporters alongside Stoltenberg.

    “Today we clearly stated that we would begin a discussion about a membership action plan and our proposals for such a discussion were accepted with pleasure.”

    Russia, deeply opposed to enlargement of NATO toward its borders, weighed in quickly, saying the prospect of NATO membership for Ukraine would not promote stability and security in Europe. –Reuters

    It’s unclear how NATO will approach this or what the Trump Administration will say (or even if it will speak with one voice).

    But the very fact that Ukraine has raised the NATO issue is sure to be a major irritant in US-Russian relations.

    Energy

    The Russian economy depends on oil revenues, and so does the Kremlin to retain support from oligarchs.

    The problem is that energy prices are under permanent, long-term pressure from the US, where shale technology is getting more and more efficient. The US is now a major (and growing) energy exporter, and Trump is doing everything he can to ramp up production and ramp down prices.

    The impact on Russia is not his primary concern here. He’s more concerned with the positive impact of lower prices on the US economy. But the impact on Russia is real, nonetheless, and Trump means to exploit it.

    On his recently completed trip, the president said:

    Let me be clear about one crucial point. The United States will never use energy to coerce your nations, and we cannot allow others to do so,” Trump said at a press conference flanked by European leaders. “You don’t want to have a monopoly or a monopolistic situation. –CNBC story here

    Trump did not name Russia, but everyone understood his message. After all, Russia had cut gas supplies to Europe in 2008 over a Ukraine dispute. Trump was saying, in effect, that we intend to stop that blackmail by giving you an alternative supplier.

    Bottom Line

    The possible connections between Russia and the Trump campaign are worth a thorough investigation, as Mueller is doing.

    But don’t be mislead by Democrats’ talking tough: they did little to buttress Central European defenses during the Obama years. Pres. Obama had no intention of increasing US hydrocarbon production, if he could prevent it. (He couldn’t, thanks to new technology.) Lower energy prices it contradicted his broader concerns about fossil fuels and global warming. Fracking technology beat his regulatory onslaught, just as it beat the Saudis’ attempt to drive them out of business with low energy prices.

    For all Trump’s inexplicably warm language about Putin, his actions tell a different story. He’s selling arms to Poland, pressuring Europeans to pay up for NATO, unlocking American oil reserves to lower prices over the long-term, and working to ween Europe from Russian natural.

    Taken together, these actions put enormous pressure on a Kremlin underperforming economically, highly dependent on oil prices, and overstretched by its foreign commitment.

     

     

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, May 23

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     Britain is now on the highest terror alert, with the military deployed.

    Complex terror operations like the one in Manchester are not executed by one man in his early 20s. The race is on to find the rest of the cell before they strike again.

     Crocodile tears from Europe’s clueless politicians. That’s what Bruce Bawer sees in the aftermath of Manchester. He’s furious about a political class that has casually invited a jihad into Europe

    His commentary on the Manchester slaughter is entitled: “Enabling Murder: Western politicians worry more about being called “Islamophobic” than they do about stopping jihadist slaughter” (City Journal)

    He quotes some of the European pols saying how sad they were and then blows them away:

    Meaningless words, all of them. But Angela Merkel takes the cake: “People in the UK can rest assured that Germany stands shoulder to shoulder with them.” Well, isn’t that . . . reassuring. In what way do such words help anybody to “rest assured” of anything? In any case, how dare she? This, after all, is the woman who opened the floodgates—the woman who, out of some twisted sense of German historical guilt, put European children in danger by inviting into the continent masses of unvetted people from the very part of the world where this monstrous evil has its roots. –Bruce Bawer in City Journal

    He concludes with a fierce, dead-on criticism:

    Today, British leaders refuse to deport imams who preach murder but ban from their shores respected writers and knowledgeable critics of Islam who dare to take on those imams and their theology.

    Strength? Don’t you dare speak of strength. You have the blood of innocent children on your hands.

    Comment: Bawer knows it all first-hand. A cultural critic and poet, he moved from America to Europe two decades ago and soon began writing about the hostility he and his gay partner faced from Muslims there, as well as their intolerance toward Westernized women, Jews, and secular law. He has become a vigorous and much-published critic of multiculturalism, which he sees as a disastrously failed experiment. He now lives in Norway. 

     “Obama intel agency secretly conducted illegal searches on Americans for years” That’s the story from Circa, where John Solomon and Sara Carter’s reporting has run circles around the somnolent MSM. To quote Solomon and Carter, who have seen the classified internal reports:

    The National Security Agency under former President Barack Obama routinely violated American privacy protections while scouring through overseas intercepts and failed to disclose the extent of the problems until the final days before Donald Trump was elected president last fall, according to once top-secret documents that chronicle some of the most serious constitutional abuses to date by the U.S. intelligence community.

    More than 5 percent, or one out of every 20 searches seeking upstream Internet data on Americans inside the NSA’s so-called Section 702 database violated the safeguards Obama and his intelligence chiefs vowed to follow in 2011, according to one classified internal report reviewed by Circa. . . .

    The normally supportive [FISA] court excoriated Obama administration officials. –Circa

    Comment: Why did the Obama administration reveal it at all? My guess: less CYA than telling the FISA Court about it to prevent the Trump Administration from doing the same illegal spying, perhaps on their political enemies. This whole thing is a very nasty piece of work.

     Why the “secular stagnation” of the economy? Nobel economist Robert Schiller, who predicted the housing bubble, has an idea (Here

    His thoughts center on two fears: that jobs are being replaced by technology and that the deep recession of 2008 could recur. Schiller writes:

    My own theory about today’s stagnation focuses on growing angst about rapid advances in technologies that could eventually replace many or most of our jobs, possibly fueling massive economic inequality. People might be increasingly reluctant to spend today because they have vague fears about their long-term employability – fears that may not be uppermost in their minds when they answer consumer-confidence surveys. If that is the case, they might increasingly need stimulus in the form of low interest rates to keep them spending.

    A perennial swirl of good news after a crisis might instill a sort of bland optimism, without actually eliminating the fear of another crisis in the future. –Robert Schiller

     Israel and the Palestinians: Is there any possibility for a settlement?

    One of the most interesting analyses I’ve read comes from Israeli Col. Eran Lerman, writing at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He situates the Israel-Palestinian problem within the larger diplomatic alignment against Iran, led by Trump and the Saudis (reversing Obama’s tilt toward Iran).

    President Trump’s efforts to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table are taking place against the background of a broader effort to recast US policy in the region. The memory of Secretary of State Alexander Haig’s failed effort, back in 1981, to put together a regional “strategic consensus” against the Soviets may have faded, but the idea behind it is making a comeback. Facing the Iranian revolutionary regime and its proxies on the one hand and radical Sunni versions of Islamist totalitarianism on the other, key regional players are now more open than ever to an informal US-led alliance against their common enemies. The semblance, perhaps even the substance, of progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front can facilitate this; but even more important would be a firm policy on Iran.

    Comment: Peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is still a very long shot, partly because Hamas and Iran would do everything possible to undermine it, partly because any Palestinian political leaders who made the concessions essential to peace would have great difficulty surviving it, much less implementing it effectively.  

     Does good news ever come from Iran? No. Bloomberg’s Eli Lake reports:

    Iranians Re-Elect a Fake Reformer in a Fake Election

    Rouhani was the lesser of two evils, but Westerners vastly overestimate what an Iranian president can do. –Bloomberg

     Moody’s downgrades China, warning of mounting debts, weakening finances  (Reuters)

    It’s the first time China has been downgraded in 30 years.

    The one-notch downgrade in long-term local and foreign currency issuer ratings, to A1 from Aa3, comes as the Chinese government grapples with the challenges of rising financial risks stemming from years of credit-fueled stimulus.

    “The downgrade reflects Moody’s expectation that China’s financial strength will erode somewhat over the coming years, with economy-wide debt continuing to rise as potential growth slows,” the rating agency said in a statement, changing its outlook for China to stable from negative. –Reuters

    Comment: If China’s economy continues to slow, the global ramifications will be vast. And the regime will worry more about hanging on to power.

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Richard Baehr
     for the Bruce Bawer article
    ◆ Tom Elia for the Circa article on spying
    ◆ BESA for Lerman article on Israel-Palestine

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, April 5

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     The big news day this week will be Thursday, when

    • Pres. Trump meets with China’s Xi for two days in Florida, and
    • Senate decides how to move forward on Supreme Court nominee Gorsuch

    Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has said that Gorsuch will get an up-or-down vote, which he will win, and I have no reason to doubt him. By Monday, Justice Gorsuch.

     There are three big issues in the Trump-Xi talks, but I suspect they will focus on only 2.

    • Will China stop North Korea’s nuclear/missile program (done in close cooperation with Iran)?
    • What happens to US-China’s bilateral economic ties?
    • Will China stop its territorial aggression in the South China Sea?  (I suspect this will get less attention)

    Comment: Trump will likely tell Xi that the US intends to sanction Chinese banks and companies doing business with North Korea and that the US will work toward regime change in North Korea. China can go along, and have a say, or do nothing.

    On economic issues, China’s economy has slowed and is vulnerable to US pressure, which Trump will apply. He will also highlight China’s systematic, state-sponsored theft of US intellectual property. These are high-stakes issues and Trump’s nationalist position on trade makes his threats credible. So far, no word on what he is proposing or how flexible Xi will be.

     Huge jobs increase in March  Over 260k, compared to 180k estimate. Widespread gains in private payrolls. (CNBC)

    Comment: Optimism about US growth taking root.

     That red line Pres. Obama drew in Syria? It is a Code Red Line after another deadly chemical attack. Russia denies the Assad regime is involved, naturally (CNN)

    A chemical weapons expert, Col. Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, told the BBC’s Radio 4 that all signs showed the chemical used was sarin gas and that Russia’s versions of events was “completely unsustainable.”
    “I think this is pretty fanciful and no doubt the Russians trying to protect their allies. Axiomatically, if you blow up sarin you destroy it,” he said. –CNN

    Comment: A vast human tragedy in Syria unfolding over years, with perhaps 500,000 civilians dead.

    Pressure is building to get a full explanation of what Susan Rice did, why she needed the unmasked names of US citizens, and who she shared that information with. Her record of public dissembling does not help her.

    Senate intel committee says Ms. Rice “may be of interest” to us.  (Washington Post)

    Comment: Well, duh.

     

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, February 22

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     Two fascinating articles by Paul Roderick Gregory investigating Russian hacking (Forbes.com)

    The media’s focus on Trump’s Russian connections ignores the much more extensive and lucrative business relationships of top Democrats with Kremlin-associated oligarchs and companies. Thanks to the Panama Papers, we know that the Podesta Group (founded by John Podesta’s brother, Tony) lobbied for Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank. “Sberbank is the Kremlin, they don’t do anything major without Putin’s go-ahead, and they don’t tell him ‘no’ either,” explained a retired senior U.S. intelligence official. According to a Reuters report, Tony Podesta was “among the high-profile lobbyists registered to represent organizations backing Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.”  …

    That’s not all: The busy Podesta Group also represented Uranium One, a uranium company acquired by the Russian government which received approval from Hillary Clinton’s State Department to mine for uranium in the U.S. and gave Russia twenty percent control of US uranium. –Paul Roderick Gregory for Forbes

    Gregory is a professor of economics at the University of Houston, specializing in Russia, and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution

     “Actually, Sweden is having big trouble with Mideast refugees,” writes Rich Lowry, who focuses on economic issues rather than crime  (New York Post)

    By welcoming a historic number of asylum-seekers proportionate to its population, Sweden has indeed embarked on a vast social experiment that wasn’t well thought-out and isn’t going very well. The unrest in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby after police made an arrest the other night underscored the problems inherent in Sweden’s immigration surge.

    Sweden’s admirable humanitarianism is outstripping its capacity to absorb newcomers. …

    There’s a stark gap in the labor-force-participation rate between the native-born (82 percent) and the foreign-born (57 percent). As the Migration Policy Institute points out, Sweden is an advanced economy with relatively few low-skills jobs to begin with. …

    The fiscal cost is high. According to Swedish economist Tino Sanandaji, the country spends 1.5 percent of its GDP on the asylum-seekers, more than on its defense budget. Sweden is spending twice the entire budget of the United Nations high commissioner responsible for refugees worldwide. Pressed for housing, Sweden spends as much on sheltering 3,000 people in tents as it would cost to care for 100,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan. –Rich Lowry for New York Post

    ◆ There is better news from Sweden: “Confused Randy Elk Mounts Wooden Elk in Swede’s Garden” (The Local, Sweden)

    Actual quote from the article:

    “I shouted at him ‘get lost’, but he didn’t give a toss,” [79-year-old Ove] Lindqvist said, explaining that the elk only left once it was content. –The Local

    Apple iPhones working for real-time facial recognition to log in  (Fox Tech)

    Amid rumors that the iPhone 8 will incorporate advanced facial recognition features, the Hebrew-language website Calcalist (via Times of Israel) is reporting that Apple recently acquired Realface, an up-and-coming Israeli startup with impressive real-time facial recognition software.

    Lending credence to rumors that the iPhone 8 may forgo the use of Touch ID in favor of facial recognition, Realface’s software is said to be sophisticated enough such that it can reliably be used as a foundation for mobile-based biometric authentication. –Fox Tech 

    The Times of Israel story on the buy-out is here.

    Israel is a high-tech powerhouse, and Apple has moved to capitalize on those capabilities, purchasing four Israeli high-tech firms in recent years.

     Kenneth Arrow, a Nobel Prize economist and a true great, has died, aged 95  N (New York Times)

    When Professor Arrow received the award in 1972, [Paul] Samuelson wrote, “The economics of insurance, medical care, prescription drug testing — to say nothing of bingo and the stock market — will never be the same after Arrow.”

    Professor Arrow — a member of an extended family of distinguished economists, including Professor Samuelson and Lawrence H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary and adviser to President Barack Obama — generated work that was technically forbidding even to mathematically oriented colleagues.

    But over the decades, economists have learned to apply his ideas to the modern design of insurance products, financial securities, employment contracts and much more. –New York Times

    The extended obituary concludes with a wonderful story about his prodigious, wide-ranging learning:

    Eric Maskin, a Harvard economist and fellow Nobel winner, told of a good-natured conspiracy waged by junior faculty to get the better of Professor Arrow, even if artificially. They all agreed to study the breeding habits of gray whales — a suitably abstruse topic — and gathered at an appointed date at a place where Professor Arrow would be sure to visit.

    When, as expected, he showed up, they were talking out loud about the theory by a marine biologist — last name, Turner — which purported to explain how gray whales found the same breeding spot year after year. As Professor Maskin recounted the story, “Ken was silent,” and his junior colleagues amused themselves that they had for once bested their formidable professor.

    Well, not so fast.

    Before leaving, Professor Arrow muttered, “But I thought that Turner’s theory was entirely discredited by Spencer, who showed that the hypothesized homing mechanism couldn’t possibly work.” –New York Times

     

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  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Monday, February 6

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     “Trump and Staff Rethink Tactics After Stumbles” (New York Times)

    The bungled rollout of his executive order barring immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, a flurry of other miscues and embarrassments, and an approval rating lower than that of any comparable first-term president in the history of polling have Mr. Trump and his top staff rethinking an improvisational approach to governing that mirrors his chaotic presidential campaign, administration officials and Trump insiders said.

    This account of the early days of the Trump White House is based on interviews with dozens of government officials . . . At the center of the story, according to these sources, is a president determined to go big but increasingly frustrated by the efforts of his small team to contain the backlash. –New York Times

    Comment: Some of the new administration’s problems are the policies themselves. Others are the failure to vet them carefully before rolling them out. Still others are failures to think through the details of implementation.

    Some, such as communications, vetting, and implementation, should improve as the administration learns the ropes, assuming Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is given scope to fix these issues. 

    Initial reports were that Trump dismissed the early problems as minor glitches that were overblown by a hostile media. Recent reports are that he now sees the problems as more serious–and more damaging. The media is hostile, of course, but the Trump administration’s serious mistakes have given reporters plenty of grist.

    I assume the President is getting candid feedback from VP Pence, as well as Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. They will surely tell Trump that massive screwups, like the immigration mess and thin-skinned tweets, can imperil his big initiatives on taxes, regulations, and health care. If the President doesn’t know that already, he will learn it soon . . . the hard way. (Charles Lipson comment)

     Republicans and Trump supporters attack news reporting as biased

    One scorching, well-documented attack on media coverage is Clarice Feldman’s column: The Press Eunuchs Ratting Their Cups (American Thinker)

     “Trump’s Continued Defense of Putin Confounds Republicans(Washington Post)

    He seemed to equate the United States with its adversary when pressed by host Bill O’Reilly, who said: “But he’s a killer, though. Putin’s a killer.”

    “There are a lot of killers,” Trump said in the interview, which aired Sunday before the Super Bowl. “We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?”

    Trump’s comments came even as his U.N. envoy, ­Nikki Haley, on Thursday condemned Russia’s “aggressive actions” in eastern Ukraine and as both the Senate and House intelligence committees launched investigations into alleged hacking by Russia of the U.S. election that the intelligence community believes was intended to benefit Trump.–Washington Post

     Good economic news from Germany: Factory orders surge, due to demand for capital goods (Bloomberg)

    Comment: The German economy is Europe’s driver. Strong performance there not only helps Germany, it helps all its trading partners. Good economic news is particularly welcome for Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose popularity has plummeted because of her immigration policies.

     Google “Home” apparently doesn’t like being talked about on TV  (USA Today)

    Google used the Super Bowl to plug its Google Home connectivity service, but the TV commercial apparently confused the systems in homes of those who already have it. For them, Google Home went whacko.

    Those who already have Google Home took to Twitter to complain that it interfered with their units. Apparently, the home systems heard the TV broadcasts calling its name, and it became befuddled. –USA Today

     China is now the world’s largest producer of solar power  The smog problems in Beijing are legendary. And the country is constantly building more coal-fired power plants. But it is also adding solar capacity. Non-fossil fuels currently account for 11% of Chinese energy–and solar only 1%–but Beijing planners hope to triple renewables over the next 15 years.

     Congratulations to NFL players, Eli Manning and Larry Fitzgerald, honored with the league’s Walter Payton Award for their charity work. Manning, who starred at Ole Miss, is the NY Giants’ Quarterback. Fitzgerald is wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals. The generosity of these players–and many others–sets a standard for the rest of us.

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  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Friday, January 26

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     Four top State Department officials, all political appointees, fired (NBC) New administration will appoint its own people.

    Comment: Lots of my friends, who know a great deal about foreign affairs, are deeply concern about the resulting loss of experience. I am not.

    Although I have many concerns about Trump’s foreign policy, reorganizing the State Department is not among them. First, these were political appointees, even though they had begun as foreign service officers. A new administration has every right to bring in its own people in top positions. Second, I have real concerns about several of these fired employees, some of whom were enmeshed in Hillary’s email scandals and other policy fiascos. Third, if there is one thing Rex Tillerson, the next Sec. of State knows, it is how to build and control a bureaucracy.

    Bottom line: I am concerned about US policies and several of Trump’s major initiatives, but cleaning house in Foggy Bottom is good news, not bad.

     British Prime Minister Theresa May to meet with Trump on Friday (BBC) The meeting follows May’s very positive speech in Philadelphia urging a renewal of the “special relationship” between the US and UK.

    Comment: Theresa May has proved herself very adroit so far and willing to listen to voters. She opposed Brexit, but, after it was approved by the voters and she entered office (replacing David Cameron), she has moved strongly to implement it. In short, she listens to voters. Second, as Britain leaves the European Union, it needs to renegotiate all its trade treaties (since they are now done through the EU). A strong trade relationship with the US is crucial.

     The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moves its Doomsday Clock closer to midnight “thanks to Trump” (Washington Post)

    The full, thoughtful statement from the Bulletin’s scientists is here. They have now set the clock at 2 and 1/2 minutes til midnight.

     Google Pixel: onward and upward Pixel 2 said to be faster, stronger, water-resistant,says C|Net, and may be complemented by a new, budget version.

     This is news! Scientists say they have discovered how to put the flavor back in tomatoes  (Business Insider)

    Comment: Today’s tomatoes have been bred for long shelf-life and long-distance transportation. They taste nothing like summertime tomatoes from the backyard. Any tech that can improve this unhappy result will be most welcome.

    ◆ Comment: The US-Mexico relationship is in deep trouble over two big issues, trade and immigration, and is likely to worsen as the rhetoric ramps up.

    The US has tremendous negotiating leverage because Mexico depends on the US market for its goods. But pushing that advantage will surely bring anti-American politicians to the fore in Mexico, pushing left-wing populism. And it may become politically difficult for Mexico’s centrist leaders to push compromise solution.

    In the US, the risk for Republicans is continued alienation of Hispanic voters, a growing segment of the population. Although they generally vote Democratic, some state parties, like Texas Republicans, have won significant Hispanic support and will be very edgy about a deteriorating relationship.

     

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  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Wed., Dec. 14

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Abortion laws and court cases have moved back to the front burner. They will be a prominent issues in vetting a Supreme Court nominee, and they have been prominent recently in Ohio, where a lame-duck GOP legislature put two bills on Gov. John Kasich’s desk. He signed one, which bans abortions after 20 weeks except to save the mother’s life. He vetoed one that would have banned abortions once a fetal heartbeat was heard. The Columbus Dispatch reports, noting that 21,000 abortions were performed in Ohio last year, but only 145 after 20 weeks gestation.

    ◆ Congress cannot agree on how to investigate Russian hacking. (Washington Post)

    ⇒ A blue-ribbon commission could avoid such wrangling and think about how to protect future elections. My article making that argument is here at Real Clear Politics.

    ◆ A Saudi woman tweeted a photo of herself without a hijab. Now, the police have arrested her.  (Washington Post)

    ◆ Asian markets expect the US Federal Reserve to raise interests, which will raise the dollar, as well. (Reuters)

    ◆ China warns Trump over Taiwan. (AP) 

    Comment: My sense is that threatening Trump doesn’t work well.

    ◆ Reed College (Oregon) dean “ashamed” after gay leftists shout down and shut down a speech by the director of a sympathetic film about a transgender boy. The bullies’ objections: (1) a non-transgender person was cast in the lead and (2) the director hoped to make money from the film.  (Legal Insurrection blog)

    Comment: First, the dean’s state is a solid one. Kudos. Second, if the college does not impose serious punishments on these bullies, then the statement is hot air. Third, Reed has spent years fostering this climate of “social justice vigilantes,” and the adults there should reflect on the toxic sense of moral entitlement it has wrought.

     

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