TBR News November 26, 2017

Nov 26 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., November 26, 2017: “The media is filled with reportage about the development of electric and automatic drive small cars. The reason for the development of these vehicles is because of the looming problems with oil. The United States is the largest consumer of gasoline in the world. The United States does not produce enough oil on its own to satisfy the needs of the American driving public. As the cost of living in large cities is prohibitive, many working Americans live in outlying suburbs and must drive many miles back and forth from their jobs. America was importing most of its oil from Saudi Arabia but that country is running out of oil and the chaos we see in that country at present is a direct result of the drying up of oil and cash. The Russians, on the other hand, have enormous producing, and untapped oil fields and because of their shrewd dealings with oil-possessing Arab countries, also have strong influence over the oil production in these countries. Eventually, the United States will have to modify its anti-Russian views and by doing so, be able to keep its citizen’s mobile.”

Table of Contents

  • Automakers struggle with the future in Los Angeles
  • Will bitcoin ever be a safe investment or always a gamble?
  • Cryptocurrency bitcoin breaks $9,000 barrier
  • ‘Bitcoin bubble will CRASH’ – Experts warn of collapse as bitcoin soars to record $7,500
  • Brexit: Ireland warns Britain over hard border with North
  • Irish PM ‘doing everything he can’ to avoid election: spokesman
  • Iran could increase its missile range ‘if Europe becomes a threat’ – Revolutionary Guard commander
  • Tobacco mea culpa: companies to run ‘corrective’ ads in US on smoking’s harm
  • The long record of terror on the Sinai Peninsula
  • Churchill from another aspect
  • Modern Sense
  • China: Deadly blast hits Ningbo port city, near Shanghai


Automakers struggle with the future in Los Angeles

November 26, 2017

by Joseph White


DETROIT (Reuters) – Car manufacturers’ attempts to square what U.S. consumers want against the clean vehicles regulators and investors demand will be on display in Los Angeles this week at an auto show that has moved away from calling itself just an auto show.

Automakers on Monday will begin previewing new models for the media at an event called AutoMobility LA, reflecting an emphasis on digital technology and new ways to get around, such as self-driving cars. On Friday, the Los Angeles Auto Show will open to the public for 10 days, attracting visitors from one of the world’s most affluent and culturally influential metropolitan markets.

For now, self-driving cars are not ready for consumers, and sales of the battery-powered vehicles demanded by California regulators remain marginal and money-losing. Profits are generated by gasoline-fueled sport utility vehicles and trucks.

Automakers caught between the petroleum past and the digital future will send muddled messages.

Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) will try to replace memories of the diesel emissions cheating scandal that tarnished its image with many California customers by promoting its $40 billion wave of electric vehicles.

In the next breath, the German automaker will tout its gasoline-fueled Audi A8 large luxury sedan, which can pilot itself under limited circumstances but is out of step with a market where buyers are switching to sport utility vehicles.

Rivals overshadowed by electric vehicle pioneer Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) are in a quandary, too. Despite a booming stock market, sales for luxury brands BMW, Daimler AG’s (DAIGn.DE) Mercedes-Benz and Toyota Motor Corp’s (7203.T) Lexus are down for the first 10 months of 2017.

BMW AG (BMWG.DE) is expected to roll out new versions of its i8 plug-in hybrid sports car. But for those not interested in electrification, the company will use the show to promote a high-performance version of its 5 Series sedan.

Tata Motors (TAMO.NS) unit Jaguar Land Rover will accompany its new gasoline-powered Range Rover SVAutobiography, billed as the “pinnacle” of a lineup that already has models priced above $100,000, with its first plug-in hybrid Range Rovers.

At AutoMobility LA, auto and technology industry executives will debate how ride-sharing, self-driving vehicles and electric cars will shape the future. At the auto show itself, the stars will be gasoline-burning SUVs, such as the Subaru Ascent, a large, three-row SUV from a brand known for compact, all-wheel-drive cars.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCHA.MI) will unveil a new Jeep Wrangler with styling that still harks back to the trusty vehicles that helped the United States win World War Two.

Reporting by Joe White; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn


Will bitcoin ever be a safe investment or always a gamble?

Demand is increasing, alongside criticism, so if you want to get involved in the cryptocurrency then awareness is key.

October 1, 2017

by Shane Hickey

The Guardian

The boss of JP Morgan was unequivocal about bitcoin at a recent conference in New York: the digital currency was only fit for drug dealers and would eventually blow up. “[It] isn’t going to work,” said Jamie Dimon. “You can’t have a business where people can invent a currency out of thin air and think that the people who are buying it are really smart.”

A few days after Dimon’s comments, the value of bitcoin plunged when the Chinese authorities announced a crackdown on it. It has been an eventful month, even in the context of a currency that is less than a decade old. Since the start of the year the value of a single bitcoin has gone from $1,000 (£750) to almost $5,000.

The spiralling price of the cryptocurrency, along with the controversy it has attracted in the past few weeks, has meant that interest from buyers has peaked and more consumers are considering whether to invest – or gamble, as some commentators say – in it.

“We continue to see a rise in demand for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies,” says Obi Nwosu of Coinfloor, an exchange where people can buy and trade bitcoin. “When senior leaders in the financial community, regulators and government bodies share their views about bitcoin, it further raises interest and awareness in the market.”

So amid the warnings, should investors see the spiralling price as reason enough to buy?

How it began

Established in 2009 after the financial crash, bitcoin is a digital currency that has no central bank or regulatory authority backing it up. The coins don’t exist in a tangible form but are made by computers and stored in a digital wallet or on the cloud. They can then be exchanged and used in transactions.

There is a finite number of bitcoin that can be supplied – 21m – and there are currently 15m in circulation. Its price has fluctuated wildly since it was launched. Seven years ago, two pizzas were bought for 10,000 bitcoin. At its peak at the beginning of September this year each bitcoin was worth almost $5,000. As it can be used as an anonymous way to carry out cross-border money transfers, it has been linked to drug dealing and money laundering.

There are bitcoin ATMs that allow the cryptocurrency to be exchanged for cash, and an increasing number of businesses accept it. Lady Mone, co-founder of underwear brand Ultimo, launched a property development in Dubai with prices in bitcoin, while a London property developer is to allow its tenants to pay their deposits using it.

Growing interest

The renewed attention on bitcoin has led to a spike in interest from people wanting to invest. “BTC [bitcoin] and crypto[currency] more broadly have hit the mainstream consciousness,” says Lex Deak, chief executive of alternative investment aggregator Off3r. “I am getting an increasing number of enquiries from late adopters who want to learn more about accessing investment opportunities in the space. It has matured rapidly since the beginning of the year, courtesy of the jump from $1,000 to over $4,000, with a feeling that there is now a little less volatility.”

Guy Halford-Thompson, the founder of brokerage Quickbitcoin, says he would not be surprised if mainstream brokers and investors started to invest heavily in the near future. At the same time, the financial regulator has warned against a speculative frenzy over initial coin offerings (ICOs) – a digital way of raising funds from the public using cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin – because of their unregulated nature and lack of investor protection.

While some investors may be attracted by the massive rises this year, others will be wary of the volatility. In mid-January one bitcoin was valued at $800. By June this had gone to $3,000. One month later, it was at less than $2,000 and then almost $5,000 by the start of September. Two weeks later, it was at $3,200.

“Whether it is suitable or not is down to individual circumstances,” says Deak. “If you are an experienced investor with a balanced portfolio and relatively small exposure, then BTC is an exciting and potentially lucrative investment. It needs to come with a clear warning that there is potential for significant losses and investors need to carefully consider the method of investing.”

Electronic payments expert Dave Birch has said in the past that “one doesn’t invest in bitcoin, one gambles on bitcoin”. Those working in the area advise anyone planning on buying the currency to only invest as much as they are prepared to lose.

“The general sensible view is that the more volatile the investment, the smaller proportion of your wealth you should consider storing in it,” says Marc Warne, founder of bitcoin exchange Bittylicious. “I have heard of people moving their life investments into bitcoin and this is a bad idea.

“The flipside is simple – why not give it a try? If you have £20 to spare, for instance, buy a tiny amount and track its price. If something goes hideously wrong the £20 can be written off and it can be considered a learning experience. If you can, spend it somewhere like at a few pubs that accept it.”

Because the typical protections surrounding investment are not present with bitcoin, prospective investors should ask for help from those who have traded in them already, says Halford-Thompson. “My advice to anyone thinking about investing in bitcoin is to do their own research, but also to speak to people who have already gone through the experience of investing in it,” he says.

“Most of the dangers are because the protection that investors would normally enjoy on a stock market are not present. If you own bitcoin, you need to make sure you know how to buy, sell and store it properly or you risk losing your entire investment.”

Is it secure?

Concerns about the security of the cryptocurrency have continued to shadow it. Last year, almost 120,000 bitcoin worth around $78m (£58m)were stolen from Hong Kong-based Bitfinex, one of the most popular cryptocurrency exchanges, which resulted in a 20% drop in the value of the currency at the time.

“Similar to online banking, people need to take care with their bitcoin account credentials,” says Nwosu. “Whether you secure your bitcoin yourself or with a third party like Coinfloor, we recommend the safest way to go is to keep your security credentials offline.”

Daniel Scott of Coincorner says the currency itself is secure, but the problem surrounds businesses in the industry and the wallets where the bitcoin are stored. “Unfortunately, IT security is a real-world issue, not just for bitcoin but within any industry that uses technology. You only have to do a quick Google search for recent hackings of large global companies to see that any company is open to security issues regardless of size or industry.”


When Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan, dismissed bitcoin as a currency for drug dealers and murders that would end up imploding, he compared its rise to an infamous bubble from the 1600s. “It is worse than tulip bulbs,” he said.

Dimon was referring to one of the most notorious periods of speculation in history when the value of tulip bulbs rocketed amid a mania for the flowers. The popularity of the bulbs hit its peak in the 1630s.

They were traded “frantically”, according to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and some people even put their homes down as collateral. However, the market crashed in February 1637, leaving many investors penniless.


Cryptocurrency bitcoin breaks $9,000 barrier

November 26, 2017


The world’s most valuable digital currency has smashed another all-time high. Bitcoin has surpassed the $9,000 level on Sunday on growing signs of mainstream adoption.

The latest rise has been attributed to increased investor interest around the US Thanksgiving holiday and Black Friday shopping. “The move appears to be retail driven,” said Brian Kelly, CEO of BKCM, which runs a digital assets strategy.

The largest US bitcoin exchange, Coinbase, added about 100,000 accounts before the weekend — to a total of 13.1 million, according to public data available on its website.

The price of bitcoin has jumped nearly nine times in value this year amid increased interest from institutional investors. The world’s largest futures exchange, CME, is planning to list bitcoin futures in December.

The world’s most popular virtual currency was trading at $9,522 as of 19:00 GMT on Sunday. Bitcoin’s market capitalization has now surpassed $155 billion.


‘Bitcoin bubble will CRASH’ – Experts warn of collapse as bitcoin soars to record $7,500

BITCOIN traders riding high on the wave of the cryptocurrency’s recent surge are being warned that the bubble is dangerously close to bursting.

November 6, 2017

by Sebastian Kettley

The Express/UK

Bitcoin broke the $7,500 (£5724) barrier on Sunday November 5, peaking at an astounding $7,583.04 (£5787.38), according to CoinDesk.

The surge comes less than a week after Chicago-based CME approved the cryptocurrency for its futures market, boosting confidence in the token.

But not everyone is confident that bitcoin has any long-term viability and experts are concerned it is headed for imminent collapse.

Joe Pindar, director of product strategy at digital security firm Gemalto, thinks that the cryptocurrency market could be a ticking time bomb.

He told Express.co.uk: “With so many new cryptocurrencies being launched on almost a daily basis, there is no doubt that the cryptocurrency bubble is going to burst.

“But like all bubbles calling the exact time it will go pop is extremely hard.

“It reminds me a lot of the DotCom bubble in 1999, which companies like Amazon and Google survived and became essential to our daily lives.

“Similarly the convenience and international nature of cryptocurrencies provide so many benefits, once the hype has been removed, we will be left with the serious players, and the true value will be established.

“My advice is not to jump in head first, but don’t expect cryptocurrencies just to be an overnight sensation.”

The cryptocurrency market is also being approached with a great dose of apprehension by the world’s leading bankers.

JP Morgan chief executive Jamie Dimon, laid into digital currencies earlier in September, calling them a concerning “novelty”.

Severin Cabannes, CEO of French banking giant Société Générale, also said that his bank will be steering clear of the bitcoin craze.

Speaking to Bloomberg, he said: “We are very interested not in bitcoin, but in blockchain, and the underlying technology.

“It is fair to say that today bitcoin is, in my view, clearly in a bubble – very clearly. But we don’t know very well what are the market drivers behind this price evolution.

“We are not very keen to invest in bitcoin. But we are very keen to invest in the blockchain technology.”

Some analysts however are not swayed by the gloom outlook shared by the moguls of the financial world.The Fintech group at law firm Gowling WLG thinks that bitcoin’s growing mainstream appeal could see a “bright future” for the token.

Penny Sanders, director of Gowling WLG’s Fintech team, said: “The value of Bitcoin has been on a rollercoaster ride of late.

“We saw a decline in its value after China and South Korea announced bans for all initial coin offerings – notionally to enhance security against money laundering and other legal risks.

“These steps and others, from the likes of Israel and Australia, to deter users by making the cost and operation of exchanges onerous are part of a trend that risks devaluing mainstream cryptocurrencies.



Brexit: Ireland warns Britain over hard border with North

After decades of strife and violence, the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, part of the UK, was finally nixed in 1998. The process of Brexit may put that in jeopardy.

November 26, 2017

by Elizabeth Schumacher


Tensions were heating up between the Irish and British governments on Sunday, with Dublin warning that London’s proposed Brexit plans could lead to a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Such an arrangement, it is feared, could threaten decades of arduous work to establish a relative peace in Northern Ireland.

Speaking to UK Sunday newspaper the Observer, Irish EU Commissioner Phil Hogan warned that Ireland would “continue to play tough to the end” over the border, and advised British Prime Minister Theresa May to try and remain in the European single market and customs union rather than seeking a separate free trade agreement (FTA).

“I continue to be amazed at the blind faith that some in London place in theoretical future fair trade agreements,” Hogan said, accusing May’s government of not considering the cost of cross-border business to both Ireland and the UK.

“The best possible FTA with the EU will fall far short of the benefits of being in a single market,” he added.

‘An accident waiting to happen’

Dublin has demanded promises from London that there will be no hard border with the North, and they firmly believe that remaining in the single market is the only way to guarantee that.

The Observer reported that, at the same time, the UK’s former ambassador to the EU had called May’s Brexit strategy “an accident waiting to happen,” as there is not much time to renegotiate the 59 trade deals Britain has through the EU.

“When it comes to trying to negotiate new FTAs with the rest of the world, Britain will be pushed around the way the EU – with currently more than eight times the UK population – will never be,” said Ivan Rogers.

The political situation in Ireland is already tenuous ahead of an important December 14-15 EU summit on Britain’s exit from the bloc. A recent vote of no confidence in Deputy Prime Minister Frances Fitzgerald means that the republic could be heading for fresh elections in the coming weeks as the country’s minority government crumbles.

Fresh elections would leave Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in an extremely weak position during the summit, increasing the threat of a hard border with Northern Ireland.

Irish PM ‘doing everything he can’ to avoid election: spokesman

November 26, 2017

by Padraic Halpin


DUBLIN (Reuters) – Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar “is doing everything he can” to avoid a snap general election, his spokesman said, but the crisis that has brought his minority government to the brink showed no obvious sign of resolution on Sunday.

Varadkar has two days to end the standoff with the party propping up his government before it submits a motion of no confidence in his deputy prime minister, a move that Varadkar says will force him to call a snap election before Christmas.

The crisis has erupted less than three weeks before a summit on Britain’s plans to leave the European Union, where Ireland will play a major role in deciding whether the negotiations can move onto the next phase.

Talks between Varadkar and Micheal Martin, the leader of the main opposition party, Fianna Fail, will continue on Sunday ahead of Martin bringing the motion of no confidence in Deputy Prime Minister Frances Fitzgerald before parliament on Tuesday.

“The Taoiseach (prime minister) is doing everything he can to avoid an election, and hopes it will be possible to reach agreement with Micheal Martin,” Varadkar’s spokesman said in a statement on Sunday.

The spokesman added that there was no question of Fitzgerald being asked to resign over her handling of a legal case involving a police whistleblower. Fianna Fail say this is the only way to avoid an election.

The Sunday Times newspaper reported that the leaders agreed the outline of a deal that would allow an ongoing judge-led tribunal to investigate the issue but that sources in Varadkar’s Fine Gael party said an election was unavoidable if Fianna Fail continued to call for Fitzgerald to step down. Varadkar is due to play a major role in the Dec. 14-15 EU summit on Brexit, telling fellow leaders whether Dublin believes sufficient progress has been made on the future border between EU-member Ireland and Britain’s province of Northern Ireland.

The government has said enough progress has not been made to date and Ireland’s EU Commissioner Phil Hogan said on Sunday that Dublin would “continue to play tough” over its threat to veto talks.

The border is one of three issues Brussels wants broadly resolved before it decides whether to move the talks on to a second phase about trade and EU officials have said a snap election in Ireland would complicate that task.

Bosses at a number of Ireland’s top companies were quoted by the Sunday Business Post as telling the parties to step back from the brink.

“This thing of bringing the country to a standstill at a critical time is just unacceptable,” Dalata Hotel Group chief executive Pat McCann told the newspaper.

Politicians say they also know there is no appetite among voters for an election just 18 months after the last one and an opinion poll on Saturday suggested there would be little change with another minority administration the most likely outcome.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle


Iran could increase its missile range ‘if Europe becomes a threat’ – Revolutionary Guard commander

November 26, 2017


Europe is not a threat to Iran, but just in case it allies itself with the US and Israel and becomes one, Tehran has enough technical capabilities to increase the range of its missiles, the commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps has warned.

“Both the United States and the European Union and the Zionist regime are keen to disarm us,” Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, the second-in-command of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said on Saturday. “If we have kept the range of our missiles to 2,000 kilometers, it’s not due to lack of technology… We are following a strategic doctrine.”

“So far, we have felt that Europe is not a threat, so we did not increase the range of our missiles. But if Europe wants to turn into a threat, we will increase the range of our missiles,” he added, according to a Reuters translation of the Fars report.

In October, the chief of the Revolutionary Guards, Ali Jafari, revealed that the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has imposed limits on the country’s ballistic missile program to 2,000 kilometers, adding that the range can potentially be increased.

Iran’s threat against Europe on Saturday came in response to comments made by the French President Emmanuel Macron, who earlier this month proposed to amend the nuclear deal with Iran to cover ballistic missile development.

The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed between Tehran and six major world powers covers Iran’s nuclear program, but not its increasingly-sophisticated ballistic missile arsenal. That is what concerns Israel, the US and France. Paris is allegedly worried about the Soumar long-range missile which reportedly can strike 3,000 kilometers away, placing Europe and Israel within range.

The issue of Iran’s missile program has been in the crosshairs of the American administration ever since President Donald Trump took office. Trump announced in October that Washington would not certify Iranian compliance with the JCPOA, giving the US Congress 60 days to reevaluate the nuclear deal.

Tensions over Iran missile program were exacerbated further this month when Saudi Arabia lashed out at Iran for supplying missile technology to countries in the region, and after Houthi rebels in Yemen fired a ballistic missile towards Riyadh at the beginning of November. Tehran has denied supplying weapons to Yemen and has also repeatedly said that revising the UN-backed JCPOA is out of the question.


Tobacco mea culpa: companies to run ‘corrective’ ads in US on smoking’s harm

Tobacco companies have delayed correcting false statements for eleven years since a federal court ordered them to do so

November 26, 2017

by Jessica Glenza in New York

The Guardian

Eleven years after a federal court found tobacco companies conspired to deceive the American public, the companies will air television and newspaper ads to correct lies they told over the course of the 20th century.

The “corrective statements” to be aired beginning 26 November are part of a 2006 judgment against tobacco companies, which found companies such as RJ Reynolds and Philip Morris broke anti-racketeering laws, lied about how cigarettes harmed health and denied their efforts to market cigarettes to children.

After the judgment, tobacco companies appealed over details of the statements for more than a decade, and delayed correcting false statements into a new media era.

Four in 10 Americans now regularly get news online, where tobacco companies will not have to publish any corrective statements.

“The tobacco companies’ basic strategy for everything, whether it’s science or regulation or litigation, is delay,” said Stan Glantz, an expert on tobacco company strategy at the University of California San Francisco. The school is also home to one of the world’s largest libraries of tobacco company documents, a cache collected from lawsuits like the one decided in federal court in 2006.

“They have used a lot of arguing about what in terms of the real world are trivial issues, to delay having to make these statements for 11 years – but it is what the tobacco companies do,” said Glantz.

“The problem is the technology has moved on, and the statements are not in social media because it didn’t really exist back then. But better late than never.”

Tobacco companies were first ordered to make the statements by US district judge Gladys Kessler, who wrote in a 1,683-page opinion in 2006 that the companies caused, “a staggering number of deaths per year, an immeasurable amount of human suffering and economic loss, and a profound burden on our national health care system”.

About 480,000 Americans still die each year from tobacco-related disease, and lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both American men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than die of breast, colon and prostate cancer combined.

In appealing against publication of corrective statements, tobacco companies argued against specific words in statements, fonts and even the phrase “here is the truth”.

The ads will run in more than 50 newspapers across the country and on major broadcasting networks, including ABC, CBS and NBC. Companies will have to buy full-page ads in the first section of each Sunday newspaper, and a total of 260 television ads will be run for one year.

To promote their products, tobacco companies still spend roughly $1m per hour in America, or $8.2bn per year, on advertisements in convenience stores, discounts, coupons, at adult entertainment venues and through wholesalers.

Additionally, unlike in much of Europe, American cigarettes do not display graphic warnings on packs following appeals by tobacco companies and delays from the US Food and Drug Administration.


The long record of terror on the Sinai Peninsula

Friday’s attack on worshipers attending prayers at a mosque was the most brutal so far amid escalating violence in Sinai. The troubles there have a long history, with both religious and social factors playing a role.

November 26, 2017

by Kersten Knipp (with AP)


More than 300 dead, along with some 120 injured, all of them people taking part in Friday prayers. Just as the worshipers were leaving the mosque, terrorists detonated the bombs they had previously laid around the building, and then opened fire on those who fled.

So far, no one has taken responsibility for the attack in Bir al-Abed, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of the provincial capital, Arish. But according to media reports, the Egyptian state prosecutor entrusted with the investigation into the attack has said that the assailants were carrying the flag of the jihadi organization “Islamic State” (IS).

The Egyptian air force responded by carrying out strikes in Sinai, bombing suspected terrorist hideouts. The spokesman for the Egyptian armed forces, Tamer al-Rifai, wrote on his official Facebook page that warplanes destroyed several vehicles overnight that had been used in the attack on the mosque in Bir al-Abed.

It is widely believed in Egypt that the mosque was targeted because Sufi Muslims worshipped there. The Egyptian Supreme Council for Sufi Orders announced late on Saturday that they plan to proceed with an annual celebration in Cairo to mark the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed, despite the attack.

Bedouins as second-class citizens

The Sinai Peninsula has been the scene of jihadi attacks for a number of years now. In 2014, a suicide attack there killed 33 soldiers. In response, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi imposed martial law on the region. During the following years, the conflict between the army and terrorists grew in intensity; both sides suffered major losses in clashes.

According to the political scientist and journalist Asiem El Difraoui, a major cause of the violence in northern Sinai is the economic and cultural situation of the Bedouins who live there. He says that their difficult position gives IS ideological leverage.

“The Bedouins have always been seen as second-class citizens. They live under difficult economic conditions and are disparaged as criminals and smugglers,” Difraoui told DW. “They receive no benefit from the wealth generated in Sinai from oil and tourism.”

Golden memories of Israeli occupation

The social geographer Günter Meyer, who heads the Center for Research into the Arabic World at Mainz University in Germany, has been conducting field studies on the Bedouins’ situation in northern Sinai. He says that although things have become worse for them since the start of the “Arab Spring” in 2011, their troubles go back much further. Even today, Meyer told DW, older Bedouins remember — of all things — the years of the Israeli occupation of the Sinai Peninsula after the Six-Day War in 1967 as a “golden era.”

“The Bedouins benefited not only from Israeli tourists but also from improvements in infrastructure, especially with regard to medical care, as well as from the job possibilities that the military administration offered them,” he said. At the same time, according to Meyer, they earned money by cultivating drugs — an activity that was officially sanctioned — and smuggling them into the Egyptian heartland.

Political failure

Asiem El Difraoui sees the fact that the attacks are inspired by a militant form of Islam as being a result of the spread of Salafist ideas, which already took hold in the region decades ago. He said these ideas had taken an increasingly radical turn over the years, eventually turning into militant jihadism.

Günter Meyer feels that this radicalization has been fueled in part by the failure of attempts by the Bedouins to express their demands at a political level, with the leadership in Cairo turning a deaf ear to their needs. In addition, he said, the situation of the Bedouins has continually deteriorated since 1982, the year in which the Israelis withdrew from Sinai. According to him, the Bedouins had been particularly badly affected by the start of construction work on the as-Salam Canal Project.

The Bedouins lost some of their fertile tracts of land during the building of the irrigation canals, he says. “When the project area was redivided, these (tracts) went to settler families from the Nile Delta, while the original residents were allocated sandy territories in peripheral areas,” Meyer said. When resistance by the Bedouins became more radical, the Egyptian authorities arrested a lot of women so that their husbands would turn themselves in, he added.

The roots of a disease

In 2014, barely a year after the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, some Bedouins joined the ranks of IS. The jihadists provided them with weapons from Libya. Since then, according to Meyer, violence has escalated even further. He said Egyptian armed forces had even bombed settlements and fired at them with tank shells in the course of the confrontation. “This reached its peak in the destruction of hundreds of houses to establish a buffer zone along the border to the Gaza Strip for security reasons,” he said.

How can the terrorist violence in Sinai best be countered? According to Asiem El Difraoui, any purely military response is counterproductive. He said that Egypt has to return to dialogue.

“And the government of el-Sissi must go back to a more peaceable strategy. It is concerned only with the symptoms and not the roots of this disease,” he said.

The alliance between some Bedouins and IS meant that, up to now, violence has been mostly directed against Egypt’s Coptic Christians. But now, Sufis have also become a target for the terrorists, who see them as apostates disloyal to the radical interpretation of Sunni Islam propagated by the jihadis.

Günter Meyer suspects that the jihadis were also targeting non-Bedouin workers from the saltworks located near the site of the attack. This, he says, would indicate that the jihadis are waging not just an ideological conflict, but also a social one, conducted using the most brutal of means.


Churchill from another aspect

November 26, 2017

by Christian Jürs


The personality of Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill could very well be a subject of interest to an alienist who, by definition, is a physician who treats mental disorders. There is a saying that the world is governed with very little sense and there are times when one could add to this statement that it often has been governed by lunatics.

Churchill was born in 1874 and died in 1965. His father was Randolph Spencer-Churchill, a son of the Duke of Marlborough. The first Duke was John Churchill, one of England’s most capable military commanders, who died without male issue in 1722 and the title was given to one of his nephews, a Spencer. As a courtesy, the Spencer family was allowed to add Churchill to its name, separated by a hyphen.

Winston always wanted to believe that he was a gifted military leader in the mold of the first Duke but his efforts at generalship were always unqualified disasters that he generally blamed on other people. This chronic refusal to accept responsibility for his own incompetent actions is one of Churchill’s less endearing qualities.

Randolph Churchill died early as the result of rampant syphilis that turned him from an interesting minor politician to a pathetic madman who had to be kept away from the public, in the final years of his life. His mother was the former Jennie Jerome, an American. The Jerome family had seen better days when Jennie met Randolph. Her father, Leonard, was a stock-market manipulator who had lost his money and the marriage was more one of convenience than of affection.

The Jeromes were by background very typically American. On her father’s side, Jennie was mostly Irish and on her mother’s American Indian and Jewish. The union produced two children, Winston and Jack. The parents lived separate lives, both seeking the company of other men. Winston’s psyche suffered accordingly and throughout his life, his frantic desire for attention obviously had its roots in his abandonment as a child.

As a member of the 4th (Queen’s Own) Hussars, in 1896 Churchill became embroiled in a lawsuit wherein he was publicly accused of having engaged in the commission of “acts of gross immorality of the Oscar Wilde type.” This case was duly settled out of court for a payment of money and the charges were withdrawn. Also a determinant factor was the interference by the Prince of Wales with whom his mother was having an affair.

In 1905, Churchill hired a young man, Edward Marsh (later Sir Edward) as his private secretary. His mother, always concerned about her son’s political career, was concerned because Marsh was a very well-known homosexual who later became one of Winston’s most intimate lifelong friends. Personal correspondence of March, now in private hands, attests to the nature and duration of their friendship.

Churchill, as Asquith once said, was consumed with vanity and his belief that he was a brilliant military leader led him from the terrible disaster of Gallipoli through the campaigns of the Second World War. He meddled constantly in military matters to the despair and eventual fury of his professional military advisors but his political excursions were even more disastrous.

Churchill was a man who was incapable of love but could certainly hate. He was viciously vindictive towards anyone who thwarted him and a number of these perceived enemies died sudden deaths during the war when such activities were much easier to order and conceal.

One of Churchill’s less attractive personality traits, aside from his refusal to accept the responsibility for the failure of his actions, was his ability to change his opinions at a moment’s notice.

Once anti-American, he did a complete about-face when confronted with a war he escalated and could not fight, and from a supporter of Hitler’s rebuilding of Germany, he turned into a bitter enemy after a Jewish political action association composed of wealthy businessmen hired him to be their spokesman.

Churchill lavishly praised Roosevelt to his face and defamed him with the ugliest of accusations behind his back. The American President was a far more astute politician than Churchill and certainly far saner.

In order to support his war of vengeance, Churchill had to buy weapons from the United States and Roosevelt stripped England of all of her assets to pay for these. Only when England was bankrupt did Roosevelt consent to the Lend-Lease project, and in a moment of malicious humor, titled the bill “1776” when it was sent to Congress.

Hitler’s bombing of England was not a prelude to invasion, but a retaliation for Churchill’s instigation of the bombing of German cities and Churchill used the threat of a German invasion to whip up pro-British feelings in the United States.

Threats of invasion by the Germans, in this case of the United States, have been cited by such writers as Weinberg as the reason why Roosevelt had to get into the war.

Neither the Germans nor the Japanese had even the slightest intention to invade the continental United States and exhaustive research in the military and political archives of both countries has been unable to locate a shred of evidence to support these theories.


Modern Sense

by Edgar J. Steele

Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by  reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.

—Thomas Paine, “Common Sense” (Feb 1776)

There are a remarkable number of parallels between prerevolutionary America and the America of today.  It is downright spooky how, in their writings of that time, our founding fathers might have been speaking directly to this generation of Americans.  Then again, I do not believe in coincidence so perhaps, in a sense, they were.

How appropriate that those of us who advocate a return to the ideals of those days are called “patriots,” a word which has taken on as derisive a meaning when mouthed by government agents today as those uttered about our forebears by King George’s men during the first American revolution.

Nor is it coincidence that those of us labeled as “patriots” wear the mark with respect and honor.  I count myself proudly among their number and pray only that my work be worthy of inclusion.

It takes a little work to update the founding fathers’ works to modern forms of language and phrasing, but the result is nothing short of amazing, particularly when we replace “England” with “Federal Government” and “King George” with “The President.”

I have presumed to do just that with Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” in this series, a four-part work written and published in early 1776 as part of a broad effort to convince the American settlers to declare independence from England.

In several places, I have retained Paine’s wording intact, where it has particular impact in its original form.  In others, I have edited and rephrased mercilessly, while trying to hew to the apparent intent of his argument.

I do not suggest that this is an improvement upon what Thomas Paine had to say.  I believe only that this is how he might have said it, were he alive today and speaking of the grotesquerie that our government has become.

As you read this section, you might find it useful to compare it with its counterpart in the original “Common Sense.”  One of many on-line sources for Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense”:   http://www.bartleby.com/133/  .

I have maintained the original’s organization and structure in this rewrite, in order to facilitate direct comparison.



Part I:  Of the origin and design of government in general, with concise remarks on the American Constitution.

Virtually all Americans have so confused society with government, as to leave little distinction between them, though they are different and have different origins.

Society is produced by our wants; government by our wantonness.  Society promotes our happiness; government restrains our vices.  Society is our patron; government is our punisher.

Society is our blessing, while government is but a necessary evil.  At its worst, a government is intolerable because we provide it the very means by which it oppresses us.

Since man is not guided always by the finer dictates of conscience, some form of government is necessary.  Thus, we choose to give up a portion of our wealth to sustain government, though that decision must involve selection of the least among evils.

Security being the purpose of government, we prefer that which provides it at the least cost, with the greatest benefit.

To gain a clear idea of the purpose of government, imagine a small number of people settling in a distant land, with no connection to any others.  In this natural state, society will be their first thought, since a division of labor among them will produce the greatest common and individual good. Each member of the society will do that for which he or she is best suited, with the whole providing protection and producing far more than the sum of its parts.

But, as the base necessities of life are ensured, human nature being what it is, a group discussion of problems will ensue.  Initially, rules will be informal and their violation met with mere group disapproval.  Each member of society, naturally, will be heard at first.

As the group’s members increase, so will the problems, as will the distance members must travel to discuss the problems.  It will become convenient to select a few of the group’s members, who have the same concerns as those selecting them, and who will act as the whole group would, if assembled.  As the society grows ever larger, it will be necessary to add to the select governing group, so as to ensure representation of all the interests present in the burgeoning society.

To ensure that the members elected to the governing body not form interests separate from those electing them, prudence dictates frequent elections, with the members elected returning to general society.  Because the elected return in a short time to become a part of the governed, the fidelity of the government is assured and the support of the people guaranteed.  This is the basis for the strength of government and the happiness of the governed.

Thus, government is seen to be necessary due to the failure of moral virtue to govern.  The purpose of government also is clear:  freedom and security.

Clear reason shows all else concerning government merely to be contrived.

Nature shows us that the simplest things are least likely to fail, yet are easily repaired when they do fail.  This maxim illustrates my idea of government and provides the basis for a few remarks on the American Constitution.

The American Constitution was noble for its time, and provided much-needed respite from a world overrun with tyranny and disorder.  But, that it is imperfect, subject to misinterpretation and incapable of producing what it seems to promise, is easy to see.

Totalitarian governments have the advantage of simplicity; if the people suffer, they know who to blame, what to do and are not confused by discussions of causes and cures.

But the American Constitution has brought forth a body of federal and state laws so complex that the nation has suffered for years with nobody able to say in which part the fault lies.  Some say in one portion and some in another, and every political physician prescribes a different medicine.

Though it may be difficult to get over old prejudices, if we examine the component parts of the American Constitution, we shall find it to contain the remains of two ancient tyrannies, together with some new republican ills.

First, the remains of monarchical tyranny in the person of the President.

Second, the remains of aristocratical tyranny in the persons of the judiciary.

Third, the new republican ills in the persons of the legislatures, at all levels of government.

The first two, though originally derived from popular support and selected from the people, now have become independent of the people.  In a constitutional sense, they contribute nothing toward the freedom of America.

To say that the Constitution is a union of three branches, reciprocally checking one another, is nonsense.

To say that the Congress is a check upon the President presupposes two things:  First, that the President is not to be trusted or, in other words, that a thirst for absolute power is the natural disease of those elected President.  Second, that Congressmen, being elected to check upon the President, are either wiser or more worthy of confidence than the President.

But, as the same Constitution gives Congress power to stymie the President by withholding spending power, it gives the President power to stymie Congress by empowering him to veto their bills.  Thus, the Constitution supposes the President wiser than those it has already supposed to be wiser than he, a patent absurdity.

There is something ridiculous about the composition of the Presidency:  the man is excluded from information concerning common society, yet empowered to act in cases requiring the highest judgment.  The state of the office shuts its occupant off from the world, yet its business requires him to know it thoroughly.

How did the Presidency come by a power which the people are afraid to trust and always obliged to check?  Such a power could not be the gift of a wise people; neither can any power which needs checking be from God.  Yet the Constitution supposes such a power to exist.

But the Constitution is unequal to the task; the means will not accomplish the end.  As all the wheels of a machine are put in motion by one, it only remains to know which power in the Constitution has the most weight, for that will govern.  Though the other powers may slow its motion, so long as they cannot stop it, they will be ineffectual.  The first moving power will at last have its way, and what it wants in speed will be supplied by time.

That the Presidency is the overbearing part in the American Constitution needs not be mentioned, and that it derives its power from being the giver of positions and wager of war is self-evident.  Though we have been wise enough to lock the door against absolute monarchy, we have been foolish enough to deliver the key to the President.

The prejudice of Americans, in favor of their own government by executive, legislative and judicial branches, arises as much or more from national pride than reason.  Individuals are undoubtedly safer in America than in some other countries, but the will of the President is as much the law of the land in America as was the King’s in old England, with but one difference:  Instead of always proceeding directly from his mouth by fiat or Executive Order,  it is handed to the people under the guise of an act of Congress.  The fate of kings of old has made their modern counterparts only more subtle – not more just.

Laying aside all national pride and prejudice, the plain truth is that, wholly owing to the constitution of the people, and not to the Constitution of America, the Presidency is not as oppressive in America as in, say, Iraq or Zimbabwe.

An inquiry into the constitutional errors in the American form of government is necessary.  As we are incapable of meting out justice to others while we labor under the influence of partiality, neither are we capable of critiquing ourselves while our judgment is clouded by prejudice. As a man taken with a mistress is unfit to judge his wife, so any predilection for a rotten constitution will disable us from discerning a good one.


China: Deadly blast hits Ningbo port city, near Shanghai

A major explosion in a Chinese port city south of Shanghai has killed at least two people and injured more than 30 others. Authorities say they are investigating the cause of the incident.

November 26, 2017


The blast ripped through a factory site in the eastern harbor city of Ningbo early Sunday, filling the sky with gray smoke, Chinese state media reported.

Local officials said at least two people died and more than 30 others were wounded.

Later on Sunday, the People’s Daily newspaper posted aerial images of the blast site on Twitter, showing wrecked buildings and an area filled with concrete debris. The group also noted that 14 people were still being treated in hospital for their injuries.

Footage broadcast on state television showed mangled cars, debris-littered streets and a number of collapsed buildings surrounding the site of the explosion. According to media reports, windows had been shattered in streets several hundred meters away from the blast.

Police said the residential buildings knocked down by the impact were vacant at the time because they were slated for demolition, adding that an investigation into the cause of the incident was underway

Explosions, fires and other industrial accidents are not uncommon in China, where safety rules often are not strictly enforced. The government has embarked on a campaign in an attempt to improve conditions, but many companies still flout the regulations.

In 2015, an explosion triggered by improperly stored chemicals killed more than 170 people in the northern port city of Tianjin, east of Beijing. A 2016 government inquiry into the accident recommended 123 people face punishment.



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