A Putin Opponent Is Doused in Green. He Makes It Work.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Photo

Alexei Navalny, a prominent Russian opposition leader, taking a selfie with supporters after an unknown assailant doused him with green liquid in Barnaul, Russia. CreditAlexei Navalny, via Associated Press

During Russia’s surreptitious invasion of Crimea, much was made of the “little green men,” soldiers without insignia who turned out to be Russian regulars.

On Monday there was a new green man — albeit one of a decidedly different political hue — the opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was doused with a bright green liquid in the Siberian city of Barnaul by an unknown assailant who had pretended to shake his hand.

Mr. Navalny wrote on his Facebook page that he initially feared an acid attack after feeling a burning sensation. But relief appears to have given way to exaltation after he realized that the bright green liquid not only would not harm him, but even made him look like a superhero — in his eyes, anyway. He can be seen mugging for the camera in a selfie taken after the fact.

Referring to masked heroes in Hollywood films in a post on Twitter, he wrote: “I will be opening a headquarters in Barnaul as if I am from the film The Mask! Cool. Even my teeth are green!”

Mr. Navalny, a charismatic critic of President Vladimir V. Putin, was a major driver of large street protests in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and has irked the Kremlin by shining a light on corruption. His bid to run for president of Russia was effectively derailed in February when a Russian court revived a four-year-old criminal conviction for defrauding a state company.

But he has continued to campaign, with his supporters saying the charges against him are politically motivated.

It turns out that being attacked with green substances is something of an occupational hazard for outspoken opponents of Mr. Putin. Late last month, Mikhail M. Kasyanov, another Putin critic, was spattered with green paint at a march in memory of the politician Boris Nemtsov, who was shot and killed on a Moscow bridge two years ago.

After the Siberia incident, some Navalny supporters showed solidarity by painting their faces green and posting on Twitter (“Alexey, Kazan headquarters is with you! We support!”), and one prominent blogger was detained after being seen on Red Square with his face and hands painted green.

“This strange assumption of the Kremlin: to pour brilliant green on me so that I don’t travel around the country and call rallies,” he wrote on Facebook. “It’s way cooler that way. Barnaul and Biysk volunteers (where we are opening two campaign headquarters these days) will get the most stylish selfies ever, and I’ll be the star of any rally.”

He did, however, seem more concerned about his new green teeth. “Lemon won’t help you remove brilliant green,” he wrote. “Formic acid is way better. But I’ll remain light-green for quite some time. What worries me is my teeth. They are also green so far, but I hope they’ll discolor.”

Whatever his new appearance, he showed little sign of backing down. “Our plans don’t change,” he wrote on Facebook. “On 26th, turn out for rallies.”

Continue reading the main story

WHAT IS LEFT OF MOSUL IRAQ FOR CITIZENS TO COME BACK TO, TO TRY TO REBUILD?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

WHAT IS LEFT OF MOSUL IRAQ FOR CITIZENS TO COME BACK TO, TO TRY TO REBUILD?

Sufian stood in the gateway of the bullet-pocked villa, sheltering from the rain. Around him were other men and teenage boys waiting to be cleared by Iraqi intelligence officers who were on the lookout for ISIS sympathizers and suspects.

Sufian was in his late teens, perhaps early twenties. When I shook his hand, it was warm and soft. The skin under his scruffy, juvenile beard had the same pallor of many people fleeing Mosul, who had spent weeks huddled indoors, often in dark basements, as the battle raged outside.
I greeted him in Arabic. He responded in English.
“Hello, how are you?” he said, smiling nervously, eying the intelligence officers nearby.
“You speak English?” I asked.
“I am capable of expressing myself adequately,” he said.
Attack helicopters clattered overhead, occasionally firing missiles and heavy machine guns into the old city. Gunfire, mortar and artillery fire boomed a few blocks away.
We were trying to convince the Iraqi soldiers to let us go forward, so I left Sufian and went back to the group of intelligence officers nearby.
Our producer, Kareem Khadder, was trying to charm them. They were a tough crowd, suspicious by profession. Kareem handed out another round of cigarettes, making jokes in the hopes they would warm to us.
I knew this would take a while, so I walked down the muddy road with camerawoman Mary Rogers to have a look around Tayaran, the battered neighborhood just north of Mosul’s equally battered airport.

Smoke rises over west Mosul's old city. Iraqi forces are fighting street-by-street, house-by-house. The Iraqi government doesn't publish casualty figures but the CNN crew saw many ambulances rushing toward the battle zone.

I turned around and saw Sufian again, struggling to push his mother in a wheelchair through the muck.
“A real disaster,” Sufian told me, breathless. “We lost everything: our hearts, our beliefs, our belongings. We don’t belong here any more. We want peace.”
“Will you come back?” I asked.
“No, I can’t,” he said. “No more. I can’t. I’m so scared. They will kill us.”
I stopped to let them go, saying in Arabic “khair, in sha Allah,” which roughly translates as “God willing, all will be well.”
“We have Jesus,” responded Sufian. “We are going to Jesus.”
“What did Sufian say?” interjected his grandfather in Arabic, hobbling on a cane over to me.
I didn’t respond. I couldn’t fathom why someone with the very Sunni Muslim name of Sufian would say that.
Is this what he meant when he had said we lost our beliefs?

People fleeing west Mosul.

In the meantime, Kareem’s charm bore fruit. The intelligence officers were laughing, asking us to pose for group pictures. They were ready to take us deeper into the city. This would be our second try that day.
Earlier, we had driven with members of the Rapid Response Unit of the Iraqi Federal Police to a park next to the Mosul museum. But as we were driving up, our car shook with a massive blast. The shock wave rattled the shutters on the shops lining the road.
When we exited our car, we saw a cloud of black smoke rising about 150 meters (492 feet) away.
One by one, ambulances were going forward. The soldiers were on edge. A pickup truck rushed by in the opposite direction, several wounded soldiers in the back.
We later learned an armored ISIS suicide earthmover had exploded, killing and wounding many of the soldiers.

With the little they could carry west Mosul residents are streaming out of the city. "It's a catastrophe," one young man told the CNN crew.

Our escort, a man named Captain Firas, decided we had seen enough. He barked for us and the other journalists to get back in our cars. Protests fell on deaf ears.
We drove back to the ruins of Mosul airport, losing Captain Firas along the way.
There we saw hundreds of Mosul residents walking out of the city. Leading the group was Saleh Jassim, a man in his early thirties, a white calf draped over his shoulders, other cows following him.

Saleh Jassim, seen above, braved ISIS snipers and mortar fire to get his family and his herd, his only livelihood, out of harms way in western Mosul.

While others appeared exhausted and disoriented, Saleh was smiling broadly, waving, giving a V-for-victory sign with his fingers.
“Thank God for your safety,” I told him in Arabic. In response, he kissed my cheeks.
Saleh and his family had walked for two hours from their home in the Bab Al-Baidh district of Mosul’s old city.
“The shelling was violent,” he told me. “I haven’t slept in two days.”
The cows, he added, belonged to a neighbor.

Families fleeing the fighting in western mosul carrying the few belongings and their herds as it is their only livelihood. Many residents of Mosul flee the violence under mortar and sniper fire.

While Mary and I were talking to Saleh, Kareem had stopped a Federal Police pick up truck and convinced the men inside to take us back into the city. That’s where we met Sufian.
If this story is starting to sound disjointed, that’s how our days in Mosul usually are. Plan A quickly becomes Plan B, then Plan C, until we get half-way through the alphabet.
After speaking with Sufian and his family, we followed our new-found friends, the intelligence officers, deeper into the city by car where they promised to take us to their commander. He wasn’t there. As we waited, seven soldiers came down the street. There were pulling two men with their shirts pulled over their faces.
“They’re da’eshis,” a soldier next to us said. ISIS.
“How do you know they’re ISIS suspects?” I asked one of the intelligence officers.
“They’re not suspects. They are ISIS,” he shot back.
“How do you know?”
“We have informers,” he said.
“I hope you let them have it,” shouted a soldier by the side of the road.
As the group ran past, I saw red marks, and two black boot marks on one of the captive’s exposed back. They had already “let them have it.” Or to be more precise, had started to let them have it.

Rasoul, a year and a month old, hid out with his family and other relatives -- 23 people in all -- for 12 days in their basement, while the battle raged around them in the Jawsaq neighborhood of west Mosul. As they were in the basement, the house caught on fire after being hit by mortar rounds, says his grandmother, Khadija.

The commander we had come to meet never showed up. Instead, we followed another group of federal policemen into a half-finished building where they said we could see Al-Hadba, the leaning minaret of Mosul next to the Great Mosque of al-Nuri.
It was there that Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi made his first and only confirmed public appearance on July 4, 2014, days after the announcement of the establishment of his so-called caliphate.
From the third floor of the building, we had a panoramic view of the old city.
“Be careful,” a policeman warned us. “There are snipers.”
Al-Hadba was just about two kilometers, just over a mile away. To its left, a large column of black smoke rose to the heavens. More gunfire, more blasts.
On the broad boulevard below, a family of eight — two boys, four men and two women — scurried by. One of the women, in a green headscarf, clutched a stick with a piece of white cloth to signal they were not combatants.
“Come,” offered one of the soldiers, “I’ll show you a dead da’eshi.”
We followed him down the stairs, though a courtyard, over an earth rampart to the side of a street.
“We have to run across this street, one by one,” he said. “There’s a sniper.”
Once we gathered on the other side of the street, we heard the whoosh of an incoming mortar round.
Everyone hit the dirt.
It landed with a crash somewhere nearby.
“Quickly, we need to go,” said the soldier. “There might be another mortar.”
Before us was a charred, mangled Federal Police Humvee. Next to it, the burned, twisted wreckage of a car. Probably a car bomb. To its right lay a corpse in combat fatigues and boots, leg splayed. By the stench, it had been there for days.
A black rooster strutted by the body, crowing triumphantly.
All around, there is destruction.
Masonry, glass shards, twisted metal, scraps of clothing, and bullet casings litter the ground.
Machine gun fire rattles down the street.
Another boom.
This is what is left of the great city of Mosul.

US Jobless Claims Fall To Lowest Rate Ever – At Least Since Records Began

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FORBES)

US Jobless Claims Fall To Lowest Rate Ever – At Least Since Records Began

Jobless claims are the number of people who have made a first claim for unemployment insurance in the particular week under discussion. They’re thus a useful proxy for layoffs and a slightly not so good one for firings. Those fired for cause may well not be able to claim unemployment benefits and so on. The number of people claiming these benefits in any one week has been low for some time now. The number is in fact back down to the sort of numbers we have in the early 1970s. However, a point I’ve made before, while the number is down to that of 45 years ago (actually, 44), the rate, a slightly different statistical construct, is the lowest it has ever been. Or at least the lowest it has been since we started collecting this particular statistic.

The news itself:

The fewest Americans in almost 44 years filed applications to collect unemployment benefits last week, indicating the job market continues to power forward.

Ah, no, that’s not quite what it means. The “jobs market” is a measure of how many people are being hired, jobs being created. This here is a measure of how many jobs are not being eliminate. Sure, a closely related phenomenon but not quite the same thing:

Just 223,000 Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, fewest in nearly 44 years.

THE NUMBERS: The Labor Department says unemployment claims dropped by 19,000 from 242,000 the previous week to the lowest level since March 1973 when Richard Nixon was president. The four-week average, which is less volatile, fell by 6,250 to 234,250, lowest since April 1973.

This is not just some weekly blip either:

Jobless claims have remained below 300,000 for 104 consecutive weeks, the longest such streak since 1970–when the U.S. workforce and population were much smaller than they are today.

It’s that last bit that is my argument here. For we shouldn’t really be using the number of claims but instead should be using the rate. Think about unemployment itself. Saying that there are 2 million unemployed doesn’t tell us all that much. In the US 2 million would be around the rate of frictional unemployment (just due to the time it takes to get interviewed, decide which job you’d like, fill out the paperwork and start) and in my native Britain it would be large enough to be a cause of concern, in Portugal it would be a disaster of depression era size and Luxembourg couldn’t do that at all, that’s a number larger than the entire population of the place. So, we report unemployment as a rate.

And we should probably report jobless claims as a rate. And over time the population–and the size of the labour force–has changed considerably. The labour force:

From Fred database, public domain

From Fred database, public domain

Call that 160 million people now, 83 million back in the early 1970s. And the jobless claims numbers:

From Fred database, public domain

From Fred database, public domain

Same number as the mid-70’s but in a labour force twice the size? That’s therefore half the rate, isn’t it? And the series only starts in the late 60s so the rate is in fact lower than it ever has been, even as the number is higher than it was right back then.

I think we probably should change the way we report upon, and thus think about, this jobless claims data. A rate would be more informative therefore we should use a rate.

China Shows Off Domestic Innovation When It Comes To The ‘Ball Point Ink Pen’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

China has grown by leaps and bounds during its quest for greater domestic innovation, becoming a world leader in sectors like robotics-based manufacturing and consumer software. But one of its most recent accomplishments is in an area that’s considerably more basic: ballpoint pens.

Today Chinese steel maker Taiyuan Iron and Steel Co., also known as Taigang, formally announced (link in Chinese) that it had developed technology to manufacture the stainless steel tip cases found at the end of high-quality ballpoint pens. The feat shows how the Chinese government remains insecure about the country’s continued reliance on foreign technology, and the lengths it’s willing to go to overcome it.

China produces an estimated 40 billion ballpoint pens annually, but many of them work poorly. Domestic manufacturers wanting to make higher-quality pens must import tip cases from Japan and Germany made of a specialized stainless steel. According to Taigang, an 83-year-old state-owned enterprise based in the Shanxi province, that’s because in better pens the cone-shaped case that holds the ball requires both special raw material and special machinery (link in Chinese). To fulfill demand, Chinese pen makers have been importing more than 1,000 tons (link in Chinese) of the needed steel annually.

In 2011 Taigang and government bureaus allocated 60 million yuan ($8.6 million) toward researching the technology needed to develop the part independently. The company says trials began in earnest in 2014 (link in Chinese) and finally finished last year, when a set of 2.3-mm-tipped pens with the superior tip cases passed the ultimate test—the ability to write for 800 meters (875 yards) without interruption. The company will supply the tip cases to Beifa, a pen maker based in the city of Ningbo in the Zhejiang province. It’s unclear when the resulting pens will officially hit the market, or why Taigang is announcing the news now.

Taigang’s efforts didn’t come out of nowhere. A year ago in China a minor media frenzy erupted (link in Chinese) when premier Li Keqiang, a vocal proponent of bolstering technological innovation, lamented how China was producing 800 million tons of steel annually but still importing the specialized type of stainless steel needed to make the better tip cases.

He reiterated this point frequently during public appearances, adding that pens using domestically produced parts felt inferior to foreign ones. The ballpoint pen became a potent symbol for perceived flaws in China’s economy and technological capabilities. “That’s the real situation facing us,” Li said at a meeting with economists in December 2015. “We cannot make ballpoint pens with a smooth writing function.”

At one point last year, state-media outlet CCTV broadcast an hour-long program examining why China couldn’t make quality tip casings for ballpoint pens on its own.

News of Taigang’s pen-tip “innovation” has made waves on China’s internet in the past few days. An article about the company from state media outlet People’s Daily has so far attracted over 10,000 comments and 20,000 shares on Weibo, China’s Twitter-esque social media platform. “Wow, it had never occurred to me that I had been using ballpoint pens relying on foreign technology!” wrote one user (link in Chinese).

The Chinese government has repeatedly stressed the importance of keeping its domestic technology competitive with foreign alternatives. While that has typically manifested itself in R&D funding for the internet and semiconductor industries, the ballpoint pen has proven to be a more useful symbol for capturing the imaginations of ordinary Chinese.

But that’s not the only pedestrian product public figures have held up in the name of bolstering innovation. Last March Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun appeared at China’s annual “Two Meetings” political gathering to lament how Japan’s rice cookers were superior to those made domestically. Weeks later, his company announced a wifi-enabled rice cooker.

Beifa and Taigang say that making the quality tip casings in China will save about $15 million annually. But even comments from Beifa suggest that the decision was more political than financial.

“Frankly speaking, it’s not that China was incapable of developing the technology,” Beifa CEO Zhang Xuelian told Beijing News (link in Chinese). “This type of steel part requires a special type of steel [to make]. The market for it is not big. Only companies that make pen tips will need it.”

Additional reporting by Echo Huang.

Remittances to Mexico jump by most in 10 years after Trump win

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Remittances to Mexico jump by most in 10 years after Trump win

Remittances to Mexico posted their biggest jump in over ten years in November in a possible reaction to the U.S. election victory of Donald Trump, who threatened to block the transfers and eroded confidence in the peso currency during the campaign.

Mexicans abroad sent home nearly $2.4 billion in transfers in November, 24.7 percent higher than a year earlier, marking their fastest pace of expansion since March 2006, according to Mexican central bank data on Monday.

President-elect Trump ran a campaign steeped in anti-Mexican rhetoric and threatened to halt transfers from Mexican nationals unless Mexico agreed to pay for the massive wall he has vowed to build on the U.S. southern border to keep out illegal immigrants.

Trump’s surprise Nov. 8 election triumph also sent the Mexican currency to record lows in a sell-off fueled by his threats to scrap a trade deal between Mexico and the United States, and to levy punitive tariffs on Mexican-made goods.

Goldman Sachs economist Alberto Ramos said in a client note the weak peso fanned the remittance surge, noting workers could be “strategically front-loading” transfers to avoid potential taxes or restrictions from the incoming U.S. administration.

The value of the remittances considerably exceeds that of Mexico’s oil exports, Ramos noted.

The payments from Mexicans living in the United States are a key source of income for many families in Mexico, where around half the population lives in poverty.

Bank BBVA Bancomer has forecast that those Mexicans will have sent a record $27 billion in remittances into Mexico in 2016, an increase of more than $2 billion over 2015.

Mexico’s central bank governor Agustin Carstens said last month that a rise in remittances was due to a weak exchange rate, more U.S. jobs and fears over Trump’s policies.

Mexico’s government said in November that it is ready to lobby the U.S. Congress and use all legal means possible to stop Trump blocking remittances.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper, editing by W Simon)

PM Modi rings in new year with mini-budget of sops, focuses on poor

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

PM Modi rings in new year with mini-budget of sops, focuses on poor

INDIA Updated: Dec 31, 2016 23:57 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Highlight Story

People watching live telecast of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at an electronic shop in Patna on Saturday. (PTI)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a slew of schemes on Saturday evening to herald a prosperous 2017 for the urban and rural poor, farmers, small businessmen, senior citizens and pregnant women.Modi started on a sombre note. For the first 23 minutes, he mainly thanked his countrymen for braving the cash crunch, iterated why demonetisation was a necessary weapon in his fight against black money and corruption and warned of more action against the dishonest.

“The law will take its course with full force. The government will help the honest, protect them, and see that their difficulties are eased,” he said.

Read: Full transcript of PM Narendra Modi’s New Year’s eve speech

In his address made to the nation on the very day the demonetisation exercise ended, the Prime Minister did not say much about curbs on withdrawals. He only said everyone in the government has been told that banking operations must return to normal as soon as possible.

Then he switched to announcement mode, rattling out enough measures to make his speech sound like a mini-budget.

The first in his list for 2017 were two housing schemes under the Prime Minister Awas Yojana (PMAY). For the urban poor, home loans up to Rs 9 lakh will get 4% interest exemption, and loans up to Rs 12 lakh will get 3%. In villages, home loans up to Rs 2 lakh will get 3% interest exemption. This would apply not only to loans for building new houses but also those taken for renovating or expanding an existing one.

In all, Modi said 33% more homes will be built in rural areas under the PMAY.

There was more for the rural poor, who got the lion’s share of the announcements. The govt will pay interest for 60 days on loans taken by farmers for Rabi farming from district cooperative banks and societies. It will give the National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (Nabard) Rs 20,000 crore, which the bank will use for giving loans to cooperatives at low interest rates. Some 30 million kisan credit cards will be converted to RuPay cards, so their holders can make non-cash transactions at a large number of places.

Read: Focus on poor, small businesses: 5 highlights from PM Modi’s New Year’s eve speech

There was also a fair bit for small businessmen, generally referred to as MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises). In a scheme under which the government guarantees loans raised by them, the limit has been doubled to Rs 2 crore. This will also cover loans from NBFCs. Banks have been told to raise the cash credit limit to small businesses from 20% to 25%.

Banks, the Prime Minister noted, tend to decrease interest payable on deposits when they are flush with funds – as they are now. The government will not allow them to pay senior citizens anything less than 8% on deposits up to Rs 7.5 lakh made for 10 years.

To reduce deaths during child birth, the government will deposit Rs 6,000 into the accounts of pregnant women. It can be used for registration and vaccination, among other things.

Modi also packed a punch for his political rivals. “The time has come for all political parties and leaders to respect the feelings of honest citizens and understand their anger. I urge them to move away from their holier-than-thou approach, and take actual steps towards reforming the system and getting rid of black money and corruption,” he said.

Read: BJP compliments, rivals criticise PM Modi’s New Year’s eve address

Mainland China To Hong Kong Trade Drops 7.1% In First 11 Months Of 216

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Mainland-HK trade drops 7.1% in first 11 months

THE Chinese mainland’s trade with Hong Kong totaled US$274 billion in the first 11 months of 2016, down 7.1 percent year on year, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

The value accounted for 8.3 percent of the mainland’s total overseas trade in the January-November period.

Mainland exports to Hong Kong hit US$258 billion, a decrease of 9.3 percent year on year, while the mainland’s imports from the region saw an increase of 51.9 percent to US$16.1 billion.

Hong Kong is the mainland’s fourth-largest trading partner and third-largest export market, according to the ministry.

The mainland approved 11,309 Hong Kong-invested projects from January to November, with the actual use of Hong Kong capital reaching US$72.8 billion, down 6.8 percent from the same period of last year.

By the end of November, the mainland had approved 397,522 Hong Kong-invested projects, with the actual use of Hong Kong capital reaching US$906 billion, accounting for 51.6 percent of the mainland’s actual use of overseas capital.

I Hope I Am Wrong, But Here Is What President Trump Is Going To Do ‘To’ The Working Class Americans

 

I hope that I am wrong about this belief but I am writing this article, this note, to you today because I don’t think I am wrong. So that you won’t go off on the wrong thought direction I will tell you that I voted for Gary Johnson in the Presidential election last month. I am a registered Independent but that is not the reason I voted for Mr. Johnson. I voted for him because I knew he would not win, you see I just couldn’t get myself to vote for Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton. To me, both of those folks just had too much negative baggage about them in regards to what I believed they would bring to the Presidency for me to be able to vote for them. Mrs. Clinton had a track record of negatives while working in D.C., Mr. Trump had a lot of bad baggage but we the people could at least hope that everything coming out of his mouth wasn’t a lie. Now both of these candidates had some good ideas as does each of their Parties, but they also have some huge negatives.

 

With Mr. Trump after he won the election what I have been looking toward was whom were the people he was going to put into his Cabinet. We now know exactly where Mr. Trump’s mindset is as far as his campaign rhetoric about “making America great again.” Mr. Trump chose a Congressman from South Carolina to oversee the National Budget and how the Government’s  revenues will be spent. He just like the Republican Leadership in the House and the Senate are against Mr. Trump’s plan to rebuild the Nation’s infrastructure which has a preliminary estimate price tag of one trillion dollars. From being an over the road truck driver for thirty plus years I know first hand that this has been needed to be done for at least the past thirty years, of that I have no doubt. His new budget man though says no to this program, unless the Federal Government cuts a trillion dollars in ‘waste’ that it is now spending. The issue though is that to the Republicans ‘waste’ is things like the food stamp program, Social Security retirement and disability programs, Military retirement and VA disability programs, I believe you get the idea. Yet, you know that there is something that I have never once heard these Congressmen, Senators, or former Presidents talk about cutting and that is their lavish ‘amenities’ they are getting right now, or the lavish retirement packages they get when they retire or are voted out of office. Back when “war hero” George H.W.Bush was President he tried to turn over all of the Nation’s road systems to the States so that they could make every road in America a “toll” road. He wanted to do this to lessen the burden on the Federal Government. This has always puzzled me since the Federal Government receives billions of dollars in road use fuel taxes, I have always wondered where all those billions go every year since they are not being spent on the roads and bridges. Yet the biggest “show” of his support for wounded American Veterans was that while he was in Office he tried to save money by cutting the cost of the VA. The issue is, that he wanted to make it to where for a Service Connected Veteran to be able to get care at the VA they had to be a minimum of %50 Service Connected, wait for it, he also was trying to get it to where for a wounded Veteran to get %50 they had to be at the very least a quadriplegic (no working arms or legs). Sorry about being sidetracked there, it just disgusts me how pathetic these pariah can be.

 

Now, back to our current President Elect, Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump has made it no secret that he believes that the Federal minimum wage is too high. This is the reason why he has had and is having everything with his name on it, not counting buildings obviously, he has made in ‘offshore’ countries where slave wages are the norm. Plus these countries do not have the EPA regulations for their companies to worry about. The reality is the richer the people the less they give a flip about the poorest of the poor, it is always all about how much profit they can put into their own pocket. Besides, there are billions of dirt poor starving people, why should they care if billions of them die? You will know that in public statements they will say they do, but in the closed-door boardrooms of these international companies, do you really believe that is their opinion there? Think about it, as soon as a company that is on the open market boards says they are laying off workers, their stock values go up at once. When a company on the Stock Market says they are closing a factory in the U.S. and moving it to Mexico, Honduras, or China, the value of their stock goes up. Even the soon to be ‘First Daughter’ learned this from her Daddy, look at where her products are all made, hint, it’s not in the U.S..

 

Mr. Trump says that he is going to cut the Corporate tax rate from its current %35 to %15 to help stimulate companies profits. He also says he is going to punish companies that move their jobs ‘offshore’ by putting a huge tariff like %35 on all the products they then try to bring back into the States to sell here. As an Independent, I do not have a problem with either of these programs, I believe that Companies need to be strong financially for them to expand and to create new jobs. My issue is that Mr. Trump is very anti-Union and he is in favor of lowering the minimum wage. So, if his policies are designed to cut the welfare programs and put people back to work, are these jobs really actually going to pay a livable wage? Remember, Mr. Trump thinks that the folks at Carrier in Indianapolis are losing their jobs because they are making too much money and that Carrier was needing to move their factories to Mexico because of cheaper wages and benefits there. Mr. Trump has also told the workers in the American Auto Industry that they are making too much money that they need to take pay cuts. Mr. Trump talks about how a former steelworker who lost their job because of unfair labor laws in China and is now flipping burgers knows about the good jobs disappearing here in America. Well, my question to Mr. Trump is if you help bring back the steelworkers job to America but he has to work for 6 or 7 dollars per hour with no benefits, no overtime pay and no OSHA or EPA regulations to help keep them safe and alive how are they any better off than flipping burgers for at McDonald’s or working a register at Wal-Mart?

 

I know this is not going to happen, but here is a solution to some semblance of income equality. Right now there is no cap on how much the top end of a company’s executives can earn, the limits are only on the working class and those limits are put into place by the top end. So, Congress should pass a federal law where there can not be more than a 100 times income difference law on all companies and this would have to include total packages, stocks, bonds, benefits, insurances ect. This is where whatever the lowest paid person in the company makes, no one in the company can make more than 100 times that amount. As I said, it will never happen because it is those same top end folks that bribe the Congressmen and Senators to make sure that it never happens. This is a humanity issue, yes it is an income equality issue also, but for any Country to survive then there must be a vibrant middle class and a system where the lowest end of the financial scale has an honest chance to work their way up into that middle class. If we do not correct the current trends of only the wealthiest being able to afford a humane life style we are seeing the signs now where America is going to fall apart from the inside. By the choices Mr. Trump is making for his Cabinet I don’t believe he gives a flip about the American working class, his picks are showing that he only cares about the top 1/10 of 1%. I believe that to put it in layman’s terms, for the next two years there may begin to be more jobs but they are not likely to be livable wage jobs. The reason I said two years is because if I am correct and this is what happens, in two years the Republicans will lose the House and the Senate and in four years Mr. Trump will go back to his vacation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shopping in Australia, while in China

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC NEWS NETWORK AND THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Shopping in Australia, while in China

  • 24 October 2016
  • From the section Business
Media caption Phil Mercer reports from Sydney on the booming business of “freelance exporting”

In Sydney, a multi-million dollar export industry starts with a simple trip to the shops.

Laden with plastic bags that are almost too heavy to carry, we meet Rika Wenjing, a 24-year-old accountancy graduate from Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province.

She labours with tins of infant food, supplements and skin lotions from a discount chemist to sell to customers back home in China.

Rika has worked part-time for the past two years as a daigou, a freelance retail consultant.

Rika Wenjing in a vineyardImage copyright RIKA WENJING
Image caption  Wenjing started working as a daigou while she was a student

She is glued to her phone and tablet, using the messaging app WeChat to build a network of 300 clients who aren’t afraid to pay premium prices for trustworthy Australian goods.

“In the beginning I just had my friends and my aunty to buy baby formula or unique brands from Australia, like Ugg boots. Then I wanted to build a platform to show more products to them,” she told the BBC. “I don’t want just to earn money, I want to provide products to my friends.”

A display of ugg bootsImage copyright  IMAGES
Image caption  boots are popular with Chinese shoppers

In Australia, it’s estimated there are 40,000 daigou, which means “on behalf of” in Mandarin.

The online shopping agents are almost exclusively from mainland China, and are young migrants or international students looking for flexible ways to help cover their rent and university fees.

The epicentre of the trade is in Sydney, a city with a growing Chinese community and frequent direct flights to China, which makes doing business quicker and smoother.

Earlier this year, Beijing tightened regulations on cross-border online shopping, but there is still money to be made, especially in baby milk formula, known as “white gold”.
Shoppers in China cannot always find the brands of baby milk formula they want locally

In 2008, at least half a dozen children died and as many as 300,000 fell ill in China after consuming milk products contaminated by melamine, a chemical used in plastics and adhesives. Since then, imported milk has become highly prized by sections of China’s affluent and health-conscious middle classes.

“Everyone cannot buy the good quality or the reliable formula in China, so they want to buy from Australia. Maybe it is more expensive, they don’t care [about] the price but they do care about the quality,” Rika explains.

At the height of a boom last year in demand in China for milk formula, a buying surge from daigou attracted criticism in sections of the Australian media for leaving domestic shoppers empty-handed. As demand peaked last year some shops limited the amount of formula customers could buy

Daigou came to prominence in Europe by shipping luxury goods such as Gucci handbags to China. In Australia, the trade revolves around everyday items including food, beauty products, wine and clothes.

“There are smaller daigou, so mum doing a home business and ship the product to China. There are also those which open up their own shop and try to do a bigger-scale business,” says Benjamin Sun, the co-founder of Think China, a digital marketing company in Sydney.

“Some of the daigou… establish their own logistics, own e-commerce website and try to formally distribute the products. It is all about trust, that is what daigou is doing – building trust between their clients. They are small but they are a lot of people. If you add them together, they are huge.”

Benjamin SunImage copyright BENJAMIN SUN
Image caption Benjamin Sun says the work of a daigou is all about building trust with clients

Daigou typically charge premiums of about 50% above the retail price in Australia. But even allowing for transport fees, buyers in China invariably pay much less for the same product in a local shop – assuming it is available.

The industry with its home-spun roots does have its challenges. Customers must be convinced the goods they receive are genuine, and not fake, and that the supplier is reliable.

Consultants often live stream their visits to supermarkets and chemists to prove the authenticity of the goods they send. It is an industry founded on trust.

In the Sydney suburb of Yagoona, Bob Sun, originally from the city of Dalian but now studying accountancy at Macquarie University, is renting a warehouse with three Chinese friends for their expanding business.

They pack their products – again mostly milk powder, vitamins and skin creams – with Australian magazines to help prove their provenance.

“The income from daigou is reasonable compared to other working opportunities like working in a restaurant and that sort of thing. The profit is really enough to cover your rent. It is easy to do that,” the 24-year-old student told the BBC.

“The biggest reason for me to do daigou is to not work in some company or to work in a restaurant. It is flexible.”

These freelance exporters have created thousands of trading routes both small and big into China, a market that can be almost impenetrable for some Australian companies, and others from New Zealand. Increasingly firms are collaborating with specialist consultants to harness their contacts and expertise.

“We think daigou are good for both the local economy… and they are very good for our business,” says Peter Nathan, chief executive of A2 Milk, a New Zealand baby formula manufacturer that also operates in Australia.

“We clearly believe they are a positive force and it’s fair to say that it is something we are accessing.”

Lebanon Agrees On New Covenant To Form A New Government

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘LEBANON NEWS’)

“The Covenant” Althelatinih materialized

After a month and a half of negotiations and consultations between the political parties, the Secretary General of the Council of Ministers Fouad Fleifel announced the completion of the new line-up headed by Saad Hariri from Baabda Palace. Issued on Sunday evening, December 18, 2016, three decrees relating to accepting the resignation of the government of President Tammam Salam and the designation of Hariri as Prime Minister, and the lineup of the new government. The first two decrees signed by President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, while the third decree signed Aoun and Hariri.

The decree accepting the resignation

The broadcast decrees Fulayfel, it came in the text of the decree accepting the resignation of Tammam Salam government, which holds the number 1, as follows: “The President of the Republic, based on the Constitution, especially Section 5 of Article 53 thereof, and paragraph (d) of article 69, item one thereof, upon the resignation submitted by Prime Minister Mr. Tammam Salam, paints the following:

Article I: considered the government headed by Mr. Tammam Salam resigned.

Article Two: The decree of where needed and shall immediately upon its release. “

Baabda the president of the Republic, General Michel Aoun

Decree naming Hariri

According to the Decree No. 2 to nominate Mr. Saad Hariri as Prime Minister: “The President of the Republic, based on the Constitution, particularly Section 3 of Article 53 thereof, based on the Decree No. 1 date of December 18, 2016 included the government headed by Mr. Tammam Salam resigned considered, Decrees the following:

Article I called Mr. Saad Hariri as Prime Minister.

Article Two: The decree of where needed and shall immediately upon its release. “

Baabda, December 18, 2016

President of the Republic General Michel Aoun

Forming a government decree

The decree forming the government, which bears the number 3, the text of the following: “The President of the Republic based on the constitution, especially item 4 of Article 53 thereof, based on the Decree No. 2 of 18 December 2016 containing the designation of Mr. Saad Hariri, head of the Council of Ministers, on the proposal Prime Minister, paints the following:

Saad Hariri as Prime Minister

Ghassan Hasbani as deputy prime minister and minister of health

Marwan Hamadeh, Minister of Education

Talal Arslan, Minister for the Displaced

Ghazi Zaiter minister of agriculture

Michel Pharaon, Minister of State for Planning Affairs

Ali Qanso Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs

Ali Hassan Khalil and Minister of Finance

Mohammed Fneish and Minister of Youth and Sports

Jean Oghassabian Minister of State for Women’s Affairs

Yacoub Sarraf, Minister of National Defense

Gebran Bassil and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates

Hussein Haj Hassan, Minister of Industry

Salim Jreissati justice minister

Nihad Hanged Minister of Interior and Municipalities

Mohammed Kabbara Minister of Labour

Ayman Shakir and Minister of State for Human Rights

Jamal Jarrah and communications minister

Certain Almrobei and Minister of State for displaced

Ghattas Khoury, Minister of Culture

Pierre Raffoul and Minister of State for Aiash Republic

Nicola Tueni and Minister of State for fight against corruption

Tariq al-Khatib and Minister of the Environment

Care Izz al-Din, Minister of State for Administrative Reform

Joseph Fenianos minister Oachgal

Melhem Riachy Minister of Information

Pierre Abi Assi, Minister of Social Affairs

Ous Kadeneian Minister of Tourism

Cesar Abi Khalil and Minister of Energy and Water

Raed Khoury, Minister of Economy and Trade

According to the constitution issued a decree forming the government signed by the President and the Prime Minister, as the Constitution in its Article 64 provides that the government offer within a period of 30 days from the date of issuance of the decree forming, ministerial statement to the House of Representatives for a vote of confidence in order to direct its powers.

It is scheduled to take Minister commemorative photo with the president on Wednesday, to be followed by a session of the government headed by Aoun in Baabda Palace.

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