ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, June 17

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

 Sailors missing after US destroyer collides with container ship off Japan  (Washington Post)

The cause of the collision is not yet know. The US ship is not in danger of sinking but needs to be towed back to port. The container ship is safe, as well.

Comment: Somebody screwed up big-time.

 Obituary: Helmut Kohl, Chancellor who reunited Germany after fall of Berlin Wall (New York Times)

Comment: Kohl knew that integrating East Germany would be difficult and costly, but he also knew that the chance for a reunited Germany might not come again. With US support (from George H. W. Bush), he overcame behind-the-scenes objections from France and England. The US brushed aside Soviet objections to integrating all Germany in NATO. Actually, the Soviets were ambivalent because they did not want a rich, powerful, united Germany to have an independent military. In short, Kohl presided over a world-historical change.

 Lawsuit threatened to recover records Comey “unlawfully removed” from the FBI (Fox News)

Conservative watchdog Judicial Watch is calling on Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to recover and release federal records and memos it claims were “unlawfully” removed by former Director James Comey, threatening the FBI with a lawsuit should the bureau not comply. –Fox News

Comment: To me, these records are unambiguously US public documents and ought to be returned and released unless they contain classified materials–in which case the FBI will simply leak them to the New York Times or Washington Post.

 Amazon to buy Whole Foods, which will continue to operate under its name  (Wall Street Journal, subscription)

Analysts said they expect Amazon eventually to use the stores to promote private-label products, integrate and grow its artificial-intelligence-powered Echo speakers, boost Prime membership and entice more customers into the fold. . . .

Whole Foods has come under fire as traditional grocers offer more natural and organic items, which are Whole Foods’ mainstay. Its shares had lost nearly half their value since a 2013 peak, and sales at stores open at least a year had slumped. –WSJ

Comment: I think the key here is going to be home delivery.

Amazon’s goal is to provide us every good and service without our leaving home.

 Speaker Paul Ryan: Stand back and let Robert Mueller do his job  (Washington Examiner)

Comment: He’s smart and Donald Trump would do well to follow it unless there is concrete evidence of malfeasance or vast overreach by Mueller’s office. That’s also Rod Rosenstein’s job at the Justice Department

But there is a problem in the potential scope of Mueller’s inquiry, which blends counter-intelligence (no limits) with possible US criminal violations.

 Miami Herald: Trump’s new Cuba policy is too much for some, not enough for others  (Miami Herald)

Neither side in the emotional debate — those who favor a more hardline approach and those who favor the former Obama administration approach — got exactly what they wanted from Trump, although those who favor a middle ground that aims at sanctioning the Cuban military while not hampering Cuban Americans’ ability to travel and send money to relatives on the island may be most pleased. –Miami Herald

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ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, June 8

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

 What to expect when you’re expecting Comey: A brief comment 

Comment: It will be extremely difficult for Comey to drop a bombshell that is not a suicide bomb.

He was legally obligated to report obstruction and would likely have resigned. He mentioned some concerns to colleagues, but nothing approaching obstruction.

His prepared remarks do not allege obstruction, either. They simply say Trump demanded “loyalty.”

That could be interpreted as pressure, or not, but it’s not obstruction. And the intel agency chiefs testified Wednesday they had not been interfered with for political or personal reasons.

Second, it is hard to question witnesses seriously in the rotating format of public committees. If you really wanted information, you would turn it over to a skilled lawyer for each side, who would question and follow up.

Third, the two parties are now painted into corners on this. The Republicans, though cautious about Trump, will defend him against Comey unless the evidence is overwhelming. It isn’t. The Democrats are now all obstruction, all the time, and their base loves it.

Neither side is searching for evidence. They are searching for talking points.

They will treat the testimony like a Rorschach test, seeing in it whatever preconceived mental images they have.

Comey is out for revenge, and he’ll do his best to bloody-up Trump (while trying to appear calm, restrained and judicial). He may do some damage, but only Maxine Waters and her ilk will think its enough.

The biggest damage to Trump always comes from the guy in the mirror.

 Speaking of the FBI: Trump will nominate Christopher Wray as the Bureau’s next Director  (Washington Post)

He comes with plenty of experience. Currently in private practice, the graduate of Yale and Yale Law headed the DOJ’s Criminal Division during the George W. Bush administration.

A retired FBI agent, with 28 years service in the Bureau, emailed me to endorse the appointment:

Although I’ve favored the selection of someone from inside the FBI as a succeeding Director in the past, that was not an option in the current selection process.

I’ve never been sold on that idea and preferred to open the appointment process to the best man . . . for the job, and in the cases of Judge William Webster and Robert Mueller I think they served the FBI very effectively, respectfully and professionally as “outsiders” during their tenures as Director of the FBI. Both stayed out of the limelight, projected a positive image and never embarrassed the FBI.

[Turning to the selection of Christopher Wray, who I do not know] I think he will be an excellent fit for the FBI. He appears to be a Director who will be committed to focusing on the primary mission of the FBI and avoiding the kind of issues and faulty judgment that resulted in James Comey’s shortened tenure. –Jack Keller, retired FBI special agent

Comment: I am grateful to Mr. Keller for his comments and his service.

 Britain votes today. Polls are notoriously bad there, but, as the locals say, “the punters favour Theresa May”

All 650 Members of Parliament are up for election as well. So, the question is not only whether May wins, but whether she retains a majority big enough to govern.

Her final appeal was to “patriotic Labour” voters. (Guardian)

Comment: Here’s hoping. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is everything execrable about the Europe left, cozying up to terrorists, proposing ever-larger governments, and, in Corbyn’s case, even talking about renationalizing some industries. If the Brits vote for him, they will be mostly voting against the status quo. Bad as things are, they could always get worse. And with Corbyn, they would.

 North Korea keeps launching missiles; even the new leftist government of South Korea complains (ABC)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a liberal who has expressed a desire to reach out to Pyongyang, said during a National Security Council meeting he “won’t back off even a single step and make any compromise” on the issue of national security. He warned that North Korea could only face further international isolation and more economic difficulties.

The North’s missile tests present a difficult challenge to Moon.North Korea, which could have a working nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile in the next several years, may also be the most urgent foreign policy concern for the Trump administration. –ABC

Comment: South Korea’s Moon has said that the US cannot install new anti-missile systems there (a concession to China), but can keep the ones already there.

 In more amusing news, North Korea has criticized Donald Trump for pulling out of the Paris Climate deal  (Huffington Post)

Instead of ridiculing the gall of Pyongyang’s statement, the HuffPo headlines it positively, sayings “Even North Korea Thinks Donald Trump’s Decision to Quit Paris Deal ‘Short-Sighted'”

Comment: Whether Trump’s decision is short-sighted or not, the HuffPo should never dignify any statement by North Korea’s murderous regime with such a headline.

 Amazon offers a discounted version of Prime to attract low-income shoppers  It will be half-price for people with government benefit cards. (Business Insider)

Amazon doesn’t necessarily need a huge swell of lower-income shoppers to join Prime for the effort to pay off. Even if Amazon were to get a tiny fraction of them hooked on Prime, which offers free two-day shipping on millions of items, it could pay off in the long run because Prime customers are highly loyal. –Business Insider

 

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ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, April 28

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

 Trump Warns That ‘Major, Major Conflict’ With North Korea Is Possible  (New York Times) The interview was with Reuters and everyone is reporting the same lede.

Comment: The policy is to make the US threat credible, including the real possibility of war, since that is the only way to get China to move away from their long-standing policy of unflinching support for the Kim Family Enterprise. China has not been happy with young Kim, but they have feared a regime collapse even more. Now, they realize that an even worse outcome–war–could happen if they don’t use leverage.

Trump has been very careful to say the right things about Beijing and hasn’t gratuitously insulted Kim. Plus, there are steady hands on the security side, even though it would be much better if the State Dept. had its top Asia appointments in place. 

 Government Shutdown? Ryan makes that less likely by postponing healthcare vote until the shutdown issue is resolved (Washington Post)

 South Carolina acts against campus anti-Semitism, despite opposition by pro-Palestinian groups  (The State, SC) The state House bill

which requires S.C. colleges to use a U.S. State Department definition of anti-Semitism when investigating alleged civil rights violations on campus, was OK’d Thursday by a Senate panel. –The State (South Carolina)

The governor has said he will sign it into law.

Comment: EVERY campus has well-organized, single-minded, virulently anti-Israel groups. They sprang up simultaneously on all campuses a few years ago and troll every pro-Israel event. 

 Eliz. Warren “troubled” by Obama’s $400k fee from Wall Street firm for one-hour speech (ABC News)

Irony alert: She said so in a radio talk promoting her book.

 Amazon, Google release great corporate results, buoy markets Reuters report on Amazon here. Their report on Alphabet (Google) here.

 Trump orders Sec. of Ed. Betsy DeVos to end federal government’s “top-down mandates” and restore local control of schools (USA Today) Devos’ top adviser, Rob Goad, explain the logic

Since our founding, education was intended to be under state and local control. In recent years, however, too many in Washington have advanced top-down mandates that take away autonomy and limit the options available to educators, administrators, and parents. –USA Today

According to Goad, Trump’s Executive Order gives the Dept. of Education the power “to modify anything that is inconsistent with federal law.”

Comment: Good idea, but this is just posing–so far. The Sec. of Education already has the power to “modify anything that is inconsistent with federal law.”

 

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zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Robert May
for the South Carolina bill on anti-Semitism

 

ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Tuesday, January 31

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

 United Nations will hold urgent meeting, requested by US, to deal with Iran’s test of medium-range missile (AP)

Iran is the subject of a United Nations Security Council resolution prohibiting tests of ballistic missiles designed to deliver a nuclear warhead. As part of the 2015 nuclear deal, the U.N. ban was prolonged by eight years, although Iran has flaunted the restriction. …

Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, condemned Iran for the missile test.

“No longer will Iran be given a pass for its repeated ballistic missile violations, continued support of terrorism, human rights abuses and other hostile activities that threaten international peace and security,” Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, said in a written statement.

Comment: During the campaign, Trump promised to get tough on Iran and, at the very least, make them adhere to the nuclear agreement they signed. This will be his first test of that promise, and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s debut in her new post. They face two problems. First, the agreement is multilateral and the other parties to it want to do business with Iran, not force them to live up to the agreement. Second, Pres. Obama and John Kerry negotiated a deal that front-loaded Iran’s benefits, significantly undercutting US leverage going forward. Obama and Kerry, master negotiators and strategists, paid full sticker price plus a heft tip for that “little beauty of a used car.”

Still, I expect Trump and his national security team to pursue a hard line and signal America’s nervous allies in the region that Obama is well and truly gone.

 Facebook is pulling every string to get back into China . . . and failing (Wall Street Journal)

Since regulators blocked the service in 2009, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has hired well-connected executives, developed censorship tools and taken a ‘smog jog’ in Beijing—but the company has made no visible headway.

And as time passes, Facebook is watching from the outside as Chinese social-media giants mop up the market that might have been its own.  –WSJ

Comment: Remember when China’s leader, Xi, told the World Economic Forum at Davos that he was a free-trading globalist?

That wasn’t spin. It was straight-out deceit.

 Good tech news: Honda, GM partner to develop next-generation hydrogen fuel cells for cars  The companies will also partner in building fueling stations. Production will begin in three years and could have military, aerospace, and residential uses, as well. (Fox News)

Executives said costs have come down dramatically since [2013] and the new fuel cell system has become smaller, lighter, less complex and more durable.

The fuel cell producing part of the system has been reduced to the size of a box that would come close to fitting onto an airplane as carry-on luggage. A first-generation system from GM took up the entire floor space in a van, executives said. –Fox News

 Well, that was fast. Obama criticizes Trump on immigration after less than two weeks’ silence. The Chicago Tribune calls it “a rare move for an ex-President.”

 AP says “US Military Botches Online Fight against Islamic State

Several current and former WebOps employees cited multiple examples of civilian Arabic specialists who have little experience in counter-propaganda, cannot speak Arabic fluently and have so little understanding of Islam they are no match for the Islamic State online recruiters.

It’s hard to establish rapport with a potential terror recruit when — as one former worker told the AP — translators repeatedly mix up the Arabic words for “salad” and “authority.” That’s led to open ridicule on social media about references to the “Palestinian salad.” –Desmond Butler and Richard Larnder for AP

 Competition does wonders: Walmart offers free 2-day shipping to compete with Amazon  (Reuters)

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ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Sunday, January 22

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

 The huge marches around the country will undoubtedly energize the anti-Trump movement for months to come.

Comment: Some pro-Trump publications have emphasized minor violence, either around the marches or the inauguration. Yes, that happened, but that misses the larger point. These were massive demonstrations, organized quickly, and they had virtually no violence. 

 This is an actual NBC headline: “Analysis: Russia’s Mideast Actions Show Bid for Superpower Status”

 A more serious report in the NYT: “Russia Signs Deal for Syria Bases”

 China’s consumer sector is sluggish and likely to get worse, says Gordon Chang in Forbes.

Chinese consumption grew in absolute terms in 2016 but fell as a percentage of gross domestic product.–Gordon Chang

Comment: Chang offers interesting, critical comments. To them, I would add one obvious problem: Chinese statistics are not trustworthy. They are tilted toward what the regime wants. So, when they show bad news, the news is really bad.

 Tesla putting second-generation autopilot into Model S and Model X cars  It says it has done so since October. It also says it will limit “autosteer” to 45 mph. (The Verge)

Comment: The pace of AI in automobiles is staggering and, over the next 5-10 years, will lead to major changes in passenger transportation, public transit, and trucking.

 Tech giants Amazon and Google battle to be first in voice recognition  Google Home versus Amazon Echo, which launched two years earlier.

Why should Google care about Amazon? Because voice is seen as the next big field for computer interaction, and the home is a far better environment for voice detection than the great outdoors. Research company Gartner reckons that by 2018, 30% of all interactions with devices will be voice-based, because people can speak up to four times faster than they can type, and the technology behind voice interaction is improving all the time. –The Guardian

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