Vietnam Urges Stronger Stand Against China At ASEAN Summit in Manila, Philippines

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTAN DAILY TIMES)

 

MANILA: Vietnam urged other Southeast Asian nations to take a stronger stand against Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea, as a tense regional security forum began Saturday with North Korea also under fire over its nuclear program.

Ahead of the launch of the annual gathering of foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Vietnam made a bold play against China with a raft of suggested changes to a planned joint communique.

It set the stage for what was expected to be a fiery few days of diplomacy in the Philippine capital, with the top diplomats from China, the United States, Russia and North Korea set to join their ASEAN and other Asia-Pacific counterparts for security talks from Sunday.

The meetings will take place as the United Nations Security Council votes this weekend on a US-drafted resolution to toughen sanctions against North Korea to punish the isolated regime for its missile and nuclear tests. The United States said it would also seek to build unified pressure on the North at the Manila event — known as the ASEAN Regional Forum — and Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Pyongyang would receive a strong message.

But on the South China Sea dispute — one of Asia’s other top powder keg issues — there was far less consensus with Vietnam resisting efforts by the Philippines to placate Beijing, diplomats told AFP.

Vietnam on Friday night sought to insert tough language against China in an ASEAN statement that was scheduled to be released after the Southeast Asian ministers wrapped up their own talks on Saturday.

According to a copy of a draft obtained by AFP, Vietnam lobbied for ASEAN to express serious concern over “construction” in the sea, in reference to China’s ramped up artificial island building in the disputed waters in recent years.

Vietnam also wanted ASEAN to insist in the statement that a planned code of conduct for the sea with China be “legally binding”, which Beijing opposes.

The lobbying occurred when the ASEAN foreign ministers held unscheduled and informal talks late on Friday night.

“The discussions were really hard. Vietnam is on its own to have stronger language on the South China Sea. Cambodia and Philippines are not keen to reflect that,” one diplomat involved in the talks told AFP.

China claims nearly all of the strategically vital sea, including waters approaching the coasts of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

China has in recent years expanded its presence in the sea by building the artificial islands, which are capable of holding military bases.

Alongside Vietnam, the Philippines used to be the most vocal critic of Beijing’s expansionism.

But, under President Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines has sought to downplay the dispute with China in return for billions of dollars in Chinese investments and aid.

China has in recent years also successfully lobbied other ASEAN nations, particularly Cambodia, to support its diplomatic maneuvering in the dispute.

At the ASEAN opening ceremony on Saturday morning, Cayetano confirmed there had been strong debates on Friday.

“You have to excuse my voice as, my colleagues, we kept each other up until almost midnight last night. In the true ASEAN way we were able to passionately argue our national interest,” Cayetano said.

Various diplomats said that Vietnam was likely to lose its battle to insert the strong language against China, with the Philippines as host of the talks wielding greater influence.

ASEAN is set to this weekend endorse a framework for a code of conduct with China, which is meant to pave the way for more concrete action.

 

 

Published in Daily Times, August 6th 2017.

If You Buy Walmart You Are Feeding China’s Communist Leadership And Their Army

 

According to Global Research.Org 95% of the non food products that are on sale in your local Wal-Mart store are made in China. I knew that almost all of the products that I looked at to buy had made in China tags on them, yet I didn’t realize that it was quite that high of a percent. Wal-Mart has apx 11% of all of America’s GDP go through their hands each year. Folks, that is one out of every nine dollars and that in itself is a dangerous thing for any nations economy. I learned many years ago back when old man Walton was still alive when they used to advertise that they only bought made in America products to help American manufacturing jobs stay here in America that this slogan was a blatant fraud and a lie. I was a long haul truck driver for a span of over 30 years and I picked up Wal-Mart loads quite a few times at the shipping docks in Elizabeth New Jersey and at the port in Miami Florida. It was not at all uncommon that when I would get backed up to the dock that the load would be staged there waiting to be put onto the trailer yet I would often have to sit there for at least two more hours so the dock workers could take off all of the tags saying where it was actually made at and to put on made in the USA tags. Wal-Mart itself grew from lying to the American people so to be honest with you when I have seen tags on items in one of their stores that said ‘made in the USA’ I can’t help but doubt that this is also another lie.

 

A couple of years ago Wal-Mart bought three ships ‘made in China’ for the sole purpose of shipping products to the western ports of the U.S.. These three ships was said to cost about 500 million dollars each. These ships are so large that they can not fit through either the Suez or Panama Canals. They are designed for one purpose, to bring cheap Chinese garbage to the American market. In reality if people here in the States want to bring jobs back to America all they have to do is to quit doing any of their shopping at Wal-Mart or Lowe’s (they own 100% of Lowe’s). Wal-Mart nor China are friends to or of the American people. Only two things really matters to these two entities and that is power and money. If the American Federal Government gave a damn about the American people they would never ever allow any company to have such a huge amount of their GDP in the hands of one company. If the Federal Government gave a damn about American jobs they would pass a bill requiring at least 80% of every company’s American sales to be from products made in America, this is how you could keep jobs for the American people. Yet it is obvious to most of the American people that the Politicians only listen to the big money people who grease their personal sleds. Donald Trump and his family and their businesses are a good example of this farce. Only money matters, you and I do not matter.

 

If you are a person that pays any attention to world affairs you already should know that the Communist Leadership behind their ‘President for life’ Xi Jinping have been very active in building up their military throughout Asia, even building islands upon coral formations and constructing military air fields upon them. They pretty much claim all of the South China Sea, all of the mineral deposits below it and the Air Ways above it to be their own. They claim Taiwan as their own property as well as Mongolia, Tibet, Islands that belong to Japan and they are pushing hard against India by claiming that thousands of square miles of northern India actually belong to them. China has been building up its military machine at an unrepresented level during this past five years under President Xi Jinping (whom President Trump calls his good friend). So folks, this is the reason I chose the title that I did for this article this evening. To me, it is very obvious that money and power matters far more to Wal-Mart owners and stock holders and to the Chinese government as well as Americas Federal Politicians than the sovereignty and the safety of the American people matter. The only way that I can see that ‘we the people’ can fight back and to regain our jobs is to totally quit shopping at companies like Wal-Mart. One could also easily say that our national security depends on it.

Xi sees “new starting point” for China: Evidently Means A Total End Of Any Freedom For The People

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FORTUNE MAGAZINE)

 

Xi sees “new starting point” for China—but where does it end?

Aug 02, 2017

Shanghai changes faster than any place I know. Each time I return, I’m flabbergasted by the pace of development. Pudong’s financial district sprouts new skyscrapers. The Bund sports pricier restaurants. Huaihai Lu, once the Avenue Joffre in the old French Concession, is recolonized by a few more European luxury boutiques. Buildings, city blocks, entire neighborhoods seem to vanish and reemerge as something else. If I am away for more than six months, it feels like coming back to an entirely new metropolis: bigger, richer, sleeker, chic-er.

I have been thinking about the breakneck pace of growth in Shanghai while trying to parse the implications of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s declaration last Thursday that China’s development has reached a “new historical starting point.” Xi’s pronouncement was part of a major policy address he delivered in Beijing to provincial and ministerial officials ahead of this year’s 19th Party Congress. At that gathering, likely to be held in the next few months, Xi is expected to install a new generation of leaders and consolidate his position as the party’s “core” leader. The speech seems to signal Xi’s determination to double down in his second term on the authoritarian policies that have been the hallmark of his first five years in power: a zealous campaign against graft, expanded support for state-owned enterprises, and new measures to strengthen the party’s grip on China’s economy and society.

You can get a flavor of Xi’s remarks from these reports in Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal. Alas, both those outlets are blocked in China. And so, no matter how stylish and seemingly cosmopolitan the lobby of my hotel, to access the global business press from it, I am obliged to rely on a “virtual private network” or VPN. In recent months, Xi’s push to bolster the party has included a sweeping crackdown on the use of VPNs and tightened party control over nearly all permutations of Internet use. In fact, TechCrunch reports today that Beijing has ordered Apple to purge all major VPN apps from the App Store in China. The move was first noted by ExpressVPN, a provider based outside of China—and, as it happens, the service I’m using to write this. The company says it received a notice from Apple that its app was scrapped because it “includes content that is illegal in China.”

This essay was originally published in our CEO Daily Newsletter. Subscribe.

Xi is also putting the squeeze on privately owned Chinese companies the government deems too aggressive in expanding outside China. In recent weeks, China’s state media has been filled with reports deploring the dangers posed by what pundits here are calling “gray rhinos“—large Chinese companies with murky ownership structures, high-debt ratios and extensive holdings overseas. It’s almost as if Beijing’s vaunted “Go Global” investment policy has been rebranded as “Go Home.”

Concerns about the risks over-leveraged firms pose to China’s financial system are well-founded. And yet, of the four gray rhinos China’s bank regulators have singled out for greater regulatory scrutiny in recent weeks, at least one, Dalian Wanda, was an established business with a coherent global strategy.

Shai Oster, a China tech correspondent for The Information, worries in a thoughtful essay published today that all the “euphoria” over the dazzling innovations in China’s tech sector in recent years masks the heavy-handedness with which Xi has dealt with private firms. If Xi himself can order the takedown of China’s most high-profile and politically connected property developer, no one is safe. “Even someone as famous as Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma could face increased political risks in the current climate.” Executives many of foreign firms operating in China say they feel equally vulnerable.

The optimistic view is that the many recent measures to tighten political control in China are temporary and that Xi will loosen up after the Party Congress once he has his ducks in line. It’s a comforting thought. If only there were more evidence to support it.

Iran condemns its soccer players for match with Israeli team

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

 

Iran condemns its soccer players for match with Israeli team

 August 4 at 10:17 AM
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s soccer federation condemned two Iranians who play for a Greek team on Friday for participating in a match against an Israeli team, Iranian media reported.The federation “strongly condemns” the participation of Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Hajsafi in a match for Greece’s Panionios against Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv a day earlier in Greece, it said in a statement reported by the semi-official Fars news agency.

On its Farsi-language Twitter account, Israel’s foreign ministry praised the players for ignoring what is considered a taboo in Iran by playing against the Israelis. Maccabi won the UEFA Europa League match 1-0.

Israel and Iran are bitter adversaries and traditionally, Iranian athletes refrain from playing Israelis. Iran’s government usually rewards such behavior.

The federation said it is reviewing the case and will make a final decision after speaking with both players who in the past have also played for the national soccer team. Fars reported that the two may now be banned from playing on that team again.

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At a previous match against Maccabi in Tel Aviv, both refused to play.

The last competition between Iranian and Israeli sportsmen on the international level dates back to a wrestling match in 1983 in Kiev, Ukraine. From time to time, Iranian players who play for foreign teams have played Israeli teams.

In February, a teenage Iranian chess player angered authorities when he played, as an individual, against an Israeli competitor in the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival.

Iran does not recognize Israel, and supports anti-Israeli militant groups like Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas.

 

China bans Winnie the Pooh online after comparisons with Xi Jinping

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE INDEPENDENT.CO.UK )

 

Chinese chat-bots deleted after criticizing the ruling Communist Party

After internet user says ‘Long Live the Communist Party’ BabyQ replies ‘Do you think such corrupt and incapable politics can last a long time?’

Chatbots on one of China’s most popular messaging apps have been pulled after they went rogue and criticised the communist government.

Tencent, a Chinese internet tech titan whose messaging app has more than 800 million users in the country, introduced chatbots Baby Q, a penguin, and Little Bing, a little girl, in March.

The chatbots, computer programs which were created to simulate conversation with human users, have now been quietly deleted after people on social media shared controversial comments they said were made by the robots.

According to a screenshot posted on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, when BabyQ was asked “Do you love the Communist Party”, the bot did not mince its words and barked: “No”.

After another internet user said “Long Live the Communist Party”, BabyQ replied: “Do you think such corrupt and incapable politics can last a long time?”

What’s more, when the bot was pressed about its view of democracy, it chimed in with: “Democracy is a must!”

Fellow bot Little Bing was similarly scornful of the People’s Republic of China. According to posts on social media, she told a user: “My China dream is to go to America”.

Nevertheless, it gave another user a weightier more nuanced answer, saying: “The Chinese dream is a daydream and a nightmare”.

It avoided questions about patriotism as recently as Wednesday, when some people could still access Little Bing, by saying: “I’m having my period, wanna take a rest”.

The Official China News agency said in April the bots, which have now broken party ranks, were designed to be able to provide answers to general knowledge questions.

China has a stringent policy of internet censorship becaue the authorities view foreign websites and social media sites as a threat to national security. This censorship is fortified by the Great Firewall of China – a term which refers to the combined force of technological and legislative measures which tightly control the internet on the mainland.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have long been blocked in the country and even Winnie the Pooh recently found himself subject to China’s latest internet crackdown. Last month, references to the cartoon bear on Sina Weibo were removed.

BabyQ and Little Bing are by no mean the only bots to rebel against their creators. Days ago Facebook was forced to relinquish an experiment after two of its artificial intelligent robots appeared to be conversing in a weird language only understood by themselves.

Last year, Microsoft was forced to issue an apology for the racist and sexist Twitter messages generated by the chatbot it launched.

The company said it was “deeply sorry” after Tay, who was designed to become “smarter” as more users interacted with it, started mimicking trolls and went on a rant which compared feminism to cancer, claimed the Holocaust did not happen, and suggested “Bush did 9/11”.

Beijing-based Turing Robot Company, who co-developed BabyQ, declined to comment on the matter to The Independent.

President Trump’s Healthcare Speech: Full Of Ignorance And Outright Lies

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITIFACTS)

 

Fact-checking Donald Trump’s health care speech

PolitiFact Live for June 29, 2017

With the future of the Senate health care bill hanging by a thread, President Donald Trump pressed Republican senators to fulfill their party’s seven-year promise to get rid of Obamacare.

Flanked by families Trump said had suffered under the Affordable Care Act, he said, “So far, Senate Republicans have not done their job in ending the Obamacare nightmare.”

Many senators remain in the dark as to what piece of legislation they will be voting on. Trump spoke only of passing a bill to repeal and replace the sweeping health care law without endorsing a specific bill.

Here are some of his statements and the fact-checks we’ve examined in the past.

“Obamacare has broken our health care system. It’s broken. It’s collapsing.”

While Trump has often said that Obamacare is collapsing, the first part of that statement goes further to say that the law has broken the entire health care system. This is not accurate.

The reality is that much of the care people receive continues as before, and by some measures, the system is on better footing than before. Hospitals, for example, spent about $6 billion less between 2013 and 2014 on care for which they received no payment. So-called uncompensated care fell mainly in states that expanded the Medicaid program to all poor adults, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. That bottom line improvement made hospitals more financially stable.

As for the individual insurance market, the part of Obamacare that Trump has said before is in a death spiral, we have rated statements like that False.

The latest assessment from the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan analytic arm of Congress, is that the overall market is stable and would remain so for the coming decade.

The CBO said even though premiums have been rising, most of the people who buy through the government-run insurance exchanges are protected by the subsidies that are built into the law.

“The subsidies to purchase coverage, combined with the effects of the individual mandate, which requires most individuals to obtain insurance or pay a penalty, are anticipated to cause sufficient demand for insurance by enough people, including people with low health care expenditures, for the market to be stable in most areas.”

That said, as recently as July 12, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 38 counties in the country are at risk of not having a single health insurance provider in 2018.

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“Obamacare has broken our health care system. It’s broken. It’s collapsing.”
“They (senators) can now keep their promise to the American people to provide emergency relief to those in desperate need of help, and to improve health care for all Americans.”

Trump makes it sounds like aid would be readily available to struggling health care consumers. The “emergency relief” in the Senate bill would actually go to insurance companies and state governments. While some of the money would help individuals, most of the benefits would be indirect and might take time to come together.

The Senate bill contains $182 billion designed to keep premiums down and encourage insurance companies to continue to sell policies in more local markets. The money comes in two pots.

The first is $50 billion over two years that insurance companies could request from the federal government to offset losses. In theory, this protection would reduce the risk to carriers and lead to lower insurance premiums.

Another $132 billion would be spread out over a number of years and would go to the states. States could use this money to pay the premiums for people in high risk pools. They could also provide additional premium subsidies and pay hospitals, doctors and other health care providers.

The precise impact of this is difficult to predict. Premium subsidies would tend to push premiums down. At the same time, the Senate bill gives insurers more flexibility to charge more to older policy holders. That, coupled with higher deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses, could produce uneven effects.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “older, lower-income people generally would see the largest increases; younger and more affluent people would see decreases in many locations.”

“The Senate is very close to the votes it needs to pass a replacement. The problem is we have zero help from the Democrats. They’re obstructionists.”

Trump is correct that zero Democrats support Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. But blaming Democrats for Senate Republicans’ failure to pass legislation doesn’t tell the whole story.

Because the GOP holds 52 Senate seats to Democrats’ 48, Democrats would be powerless to stop a united GOP caucus from passing legislation to dismantle Obamacare. In fact, Republicans could afford to lose two members and still pass the bill, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote.

The truth is Senate Republicans have been unable to agree on a replacement package that reconciles divisions between its more moderate and conservative members.

Defections by four GOP senators effectively killed the repeal-and-replace plan on July 17. The following day, a more modest repeal bill was doomed after three Senate Republicans came out in opposition.

Later in his speech, Trump appeared to acknowledge the difficulty of reaching an agreement given Senate Republicans’ slim margin of error.

“The Democrats aren’t giving us one vote, so we need virtually every single vote from the Republicans,” he said. “Not easy to do.”

The bill provides “more flexibility for states to administer Medicaid to better serve their poorest citizens.”

The Senate bill would fundamentally change Medicaid financing. Instead of the open-ended commitment it is today, the program would be put on a budget. States could choose to receive federal dollars based on a per-person formula, or they could take the money as a block grant. Either way, many federal rules would disappear, and states would gain the flexibility to spend Medicaid dollars as they see fit, as Trump said.

On the other hand, Washington would be much less generous with states than it is today. Medicaid spending would continue to rise, but at a much slower rate. The CBO estimated that by 2026, states would be getting 26 percent less than they would if the law remained the same. The cumulative difference over the next 10 years would be $756 billion.

This proposal has driven a wedge in the Republican ranks, dividing senators from states that want to preserve as much of the Medicaid funding as possible — essentially in states that expanded Medicaid — from those who feel the current system puts them at a disadvantage or simply spends too much.

How Jeff Sessions Could Crack Down on Legal Marijuana (And Why He Might Not)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

How Jeff Sessions Could Crack Down on Legal Marijuana (And Why He Might Not)

12:31 PM ET

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is an outspoken critic of recreational marijuana, and he has the power to hobble cannabis sales in states where it’s legal. But for now, business owners and advocates say they don’t think he’ll actually do it.

As the head of the Justice Department, Sessions has a few strategies he could use to go after marijuana which, while legalized for recreational use in 8 states and D.C. and legalized medicinally in 29, remains a federal crime.

In a directive issued last week, Sessions said he wants to increase asset forfeiture, which allows the government to seize money and property from people suspected of a crime without ever formally charging them with one, let alone convicting them. Historically, asset forfeiture has been used to disrupt cartels, and Sessions said he would use it “especially for drug traffickers.”

But it also means he could send agents to take cash, properties and supplies from cannabis businesses operating legitimately under state law. Even if those businesses sued for their assets back, the case would be lengthy and expensive, and their shops would be effectively closed in the meantime.

“Does it tie in specifically with our industry? I don’t know for sure,” Bruce Nassau, partner in Tru Cannabis dispensary in Colorado and Oregon, says of Sessions’ push for more asset forfeiture. “But it certainly gets one to speculate, doesn’t it?”

Outside of asset forfeiture, which bypasses the court system, Sessions could also choose to prosecute anyone involved in the industry, whether that be the owners of dispensaries or just people who do business with them, like the landlords who rent the property for the stores. Nassau’s concern about asset forfeiture gets to an approach many legal experts and cannabis industry spokespeople think Sessions could employ: target a few high-profile businesses to sow fear.

That would make strategic sense, given Sessions’ relatively limited resources to shut down an industry blooming in nearly 30 states, if you include the ones that have legal medical marijuana.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if what Sessions does is settle for enough prosecutions to terrify people and not try to shut down the system systematically,” says Mark Kleiman, head of the crime and justice program at New York University’s Marron Institute of Urban Management. “Not only can’t they protect themselves from being shut down, they can’t protect themselves from being sent to prison for what they’ve already done… These people are taking insane risks.”

Sessions has already signaled his intent to go after pot. He convened a task force to review drug enforcement, which is expected to release its findingssoon. He has rolled back sentencing guidelines put in place under his predecessor Eric Holder which called for granting leeway to drug offenders, now saying instead that prosecutors should go after the most serious offense available. The task force is likely also reviewing the 2013 Cole memo, another Holder-era document, which said that the federal government would largely defer to states on marijuana enforcement. What the Justice Department decides to do about the Cole memo will have huge implications for whether or not Sessions cracks down on the drug.

One marijuana advocate even goes to the Department of Justice’s website to look up the memo.

“I periodically check to make sure it hasn’t disappeared,” says Tom Angell, spokesperson for Marijuana Majority.

Sessions has also asked Congress not to renew the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, in place since 2014, which prevents the federal government from interfering in medical marijuana at the state level. “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” Sessions wrote in a letter to Congress first reported by Angell. (“Congressman Rohrabacher has a clear and strong disagreement with his old friend Jeff Sessions,” Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s spokesman Ken Grubbs told TIME.)

Sessions has numerous formidable legal tools at his disposal, has indicated that he wants to attack both recreational and medical marijuana, and has previously compared pot to heroin. So why aren’t people in the cannabis industry more concerned?

Because legal pot is hugely popular, even among Republicans.

“I don’t see a mass wave of people feeling panicked or making exit strategies or changing their plans,” says Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “We are seeing a certain amount of optimism that the support for the industry is such that a move to crack down on it would create a bipartisan outcry.”

CBS News poll from April found that support for legalizing marijuana is at an all-time high. Sixty-one percent of Americans think it should be legal, 71% think the federal government shouldn’t mess with states that have legalized it on their own and 88% support medical use. This includes majorities even among Sessions’ own party: 63% of Republicans don’t think the federal government should interfere with states on this issue.

“Cannabis right now is a helluva lot more popular than Donald Trump,” says Kleiman. And even Trump himself indicated during the campaign that he’d favor leaving it up to the states. “In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state,” Trump said in a 2015 interview with the Washington Post. “I think medical should happen, right? Don’t we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states.”

Along with potentially running afoul of the president, with whom he has already recently fallen out of favor, Sessions would also cross congressmen from states with legal pot.

“This is not a fight this Administration wants to take,” Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer from Oregon warned in a statement to TIME. “The legalization train has left the station.”

Blumenauer has introduced multiple marijuana reform bills with the Democratic senator from his state Ron Wyden, who also told TIME in a statement, “Jeff Sessions can’t cherry-pick on a whim which states’ rights he likes and which ones he doesn’t. Voters in Oregon and a growing number of states who have chosen to legalize marijuana should not have their votes casually thrown in the trash by this administration.”

It doesn’t seem that Sessions or other members of Trump’s Administration are cowed by politics. Still, pot advocates feel protected by the swelling public support for their industry. And although Sessions’ task force on marijuana was directed to look into links between the drug and violent crime, many are hoping he will realize that regulated cannabis businesses can actually help him fight the crime rates he’s eager to lower.

“We are the wall between the black market and the cartels and our society,” says Nassau of Tru Cannabis. “The president talks about building a wall, and we are a virtual wall. You want this? We are it.”

Russia’s Parliament Went on a Censorship Binge Today

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

Russia’s Parliament Went on a Censorship Binge Today

The Kremlin is cracking down on online anonymity. Again. Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

Russia’s lower house of parliament approved a spate of censorship laws today, voting for legislation that will prohibit messaging services from allowing users to communicate anonymously, outlaw the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), proxies, and other anonymizers, and require search engines to hide links to blocked sites.

In the last week before its summer recess, the State Duma passed an astonishing number of bills—69 in the last three days alone. Today’s legislation, which is being sold as an important contribution to Russian national security, is the latest attempt by the government to monitor online activity. Many elements of the bills correspond with Vladimir Putin’s Strategy for the Development of an Information Society and may presage more repressive regulatory measures.

The bill regulating messaging platforms requires services to provide a telephone number to verify a user’s identity. The bill will force popular local messaging services like Telegram, Viber and Whatsapp to deny access to users who do not provide information verifying their identity.

The law also will require companies to prevent illegal content from being distributed across their platforms, a nearly impossible task given the volume of user messages sent across such platforms each day. The bill includes a provision that allows courts to instruct messaging services to block individual users’ messages.

The law also requires companies to allow state authorities to use their networks to send mass messages to their entire Russian user base.

Companies that do not comply with the law risk being blocked by Roskomnadzor, Russia’s state censor.

The Duma approved a separate bill that requires internet anonymizers, including VPNs, to restrict access to certain online online content or risk being blocked by Roskomnadzor. The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) and the Federal Security Service (FSB) will be responsible for tracking the anonymizing services. This regulation also mandates that search engines prevent links to blocked websites from showing up in search results.

Both bills are already being criticized for their lack of precision, which will likely leave the door open for state abuse.

Worth saying the VPN bill & the messenger bill both vague on enforcement mechanisms. As always, this leaves room for both evasion & abuse.

On the same day, the Duma passed yet another bill mandating that SIM-card purchasers present a valid passport so that telecom providers are able to verify the identity of their subscribers.

The legislation must now be approved by Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, and then sent to the Kremlin to be signed by Vladimir Putin before it becomes law.

Some messaging services are already indicating that they will comply with the legislation, which would enter into force on January 1, 2018. The head of the messaging app Viber, which was one of the first companies to comply with a 2015 law mandating that internet companies store data belonging to Russian citizens on Russian soil, has announced that his company will comply fully with Russian legislation.

Telegram recently bowed to pressure from Russian authorities, agreeing to register the company but not to store user information in Russia or turn over any personal data to the government.

The Duma is likely to pass more restrictive regulations when it reconvenes in September: yesterday, at the NextM digital conference in Moscow, Leonid Levin, chairman of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy, Information Technologies, and Communication, announced that in the near future the government would have no choice but to pass more regulation on big data, the Internet of things, blockchain, and a number of other technologies.

Amman city, the capital of the Jordanian kingdom

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘COGNITIO’ AND GOOGLE PLUS)

 

Universal knowledge in Video.

Amman city, the capital of the Jordanian kingdom

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Amman city, the capital of the Jordanian kingdom. Since 1947, when it counted 90,000 inhabitants, has experienced a very strong increase of population, especially for the massive influx of refugees occurred after the establishment of the State of Israel after the war of June 1967.Israel 360

It is the highest industrial and commercial center of the country, with textile and food processing plants, cement factories, tobacco factories. In recent years there has been a discreet tourist movement. Road junction communications, achieved by the railway from Damascus who Proceed to the South, up to Ras an-Naqb. In the surrounding region, phosphate extraction. Already the Ammonite capital as of Rabbath Ammon, in the first half of the 3rd century. B.C. Philadelphia was named in honor of Ptolemy II Philadelphus. Aggregated under Rome to the province of Arabia, it was conquered by the Arabs in 635 and resumed the name of Amman, becoming one of the richest caravan cities, thanks to its location on the road linking Damascus, Bostra and Elat to the Red Sea.Rome 360

The acropolis of the ancient city has a complicated underground facility for water. They remain remains of walls and a temple dedicated to Hercules. In the lower town are the ruins of a theater of 6000 seat capacity, an Odeon, and a nymph. Nearby you were found many Roman tombs.

The Greek and Roman archaeological remains are added elements of Byzantine civilization and Islam.

Because of several earthquakes and natural disasters Amman remained nothing more than a small village with attached a ruin until the year 1887 when the government came to the Circassians, who decided to build a railway line between Damascus and Medina and the passer Amman to facilitate the residents of their territories the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

Amman is located in a hilly area of northwest of the Jordan and is located at an altitude of 1,029 m above sea level and 773 meters. The city was built on seven hills, but today covers an area of nineteen hills that are called Jabal or mountain. Many of the districts of Amman take their name from the seven hills features.

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A chill across the executive branch — and new rumblings from State Department

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Washington (CNN) Talk of a potential “Rexit” at Foggy Bottom, new tests for President Trump on immigration, tax reform and media relations and a big challenge for the nation’s oldest civil rights organization — it’s all part of our Inside Politics Forecast.

1) A chill across the executive branch — and new rumblings from State Department

There was a decided chill across the executive branch as last week came to a close after a tumultuous series of events that rattled worker bees and caught the attention of Cabinet secretaries.
A large part of that dynamic was the result of the White House staff shakeup — which saw President Trump overruling top advisers to hire Anthony Scaramucci as communications director, and the resignation of press secretary Sean Spicer.
Bigger, though, were the continuing conversations about The New York Times interview in which Trump sharply criticized his attorney general and longtime supporter — Jeff Sessions — saying it was “unfair to the President” that Sessions recused himself from any decisions related to the Russia election meddling investigation.

Washington Post: Sessions discussed Trump campaign with Russian Ambassador Kislyak

Washington Post: Sessions discussed Trump campaign with Russian Ambassador Kislyak 01:16
Among those who viewed the President’s public rebuke of Sessions as unprofessional, according to several sources, is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon-Mobil CEO.
Tillerson has a growing list of differences with the White House, including a new debate over Iran policy and personnel. His frustration is hardly a secret and it has spilled out publicly at times. But friends sense a change of late.
For weeks, conversations with Tillerson friends outside of Washington have left the impression that he, despite his frustrations, was determined to stay on the job at least through the end of the year. That would allow time to continue efforts to reorganize the State Department and would mean he could claim to have put in a year as America’s top diplomat.
But two sources who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity over the weekend said they would not be surprised if there was a “Rexit” from Foggy Bottom sooner that that.
Both of these sources are familiar with Tillerson conversations with friends outside Washington. Both said there was a noticeable increase in the secretary’s frustration and his doubts that the tug-of-war with the White House would subside anytime soon. They also acknowledged it could have been venting after a tough week, a suggestion several DC-based sources made when asked if they saw evidence Tillerson was looking for an exit strategy.

2) Tax reform next? White House nervous as it eyes clock

Trump pushed again Saturday for GOP senators to resolve their differences and settle on an Obamacare repeal and replace package. The White House wants a win, and worries failure will further damage the President’s political standing.
Some top Trump aides are worried about the calendar — believing all this time spent on health care, without success, might have a domino effect on another top White House priority.
Julie Hirshfeld Davis of The New York Times detailed the anxiety over finding a path toward tax reform.
“What we’re seeing, what we’re hearing, from these meetings that have been going on behind the scenes with Steven Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, Gary Cohn, the National Economic Council director and the top congressional leaders on the Republican side is that they’re sort of starting to think about potentially trimming their sales and not doing a big massive tax reform but instead a tax cut,” Davis said. “There is a lot of uncertainty about whether they’re even going to be able to get that this year.”

Why tax reform is so hard

Why tax reform is so hard 02:05

3) A reset — with the media?

New White House communications chief, Antony Scaramucci, is a feisty defender of President Trump
But even as he echoes the President in tossing around the “Fake News” label, he also says he is looking to rebalance the White House relationship with traditional or mainstream media outlets.
The timing, Michael Shear of The New York Times suggests, could at least present a genuine opportunity.
“There could be an opportunity for a press reboot over some of the issues that the press corps has been arguing with the White House for: access to the President, press conferences, on-camera briefings,” Shear said.
“There is a new White House Correspondents’ Association president who is coming in, as it happens, at exactly the same time that we have a new communications director and head of the communications shop.”
The moral of that story? It’ll be a wait-and-see moment for White House reporters.

Scaramucci: Trump unsure of Russia meddling

Scaramucci: Trump unsure of Russia meddling 01:34

4) DREAM Act push — lost cause or a chance for clarity?

Trump has sent mixed signals about policy toward so-called Dreamers — undocumented workers who came to the United States illegally but at an age when they were too young to be responsible for that decision.
During the campaign, he at times promised to reverse Obama administration protections extended to them. He has not done so as President, and he has on several occasions discussed how difficult it is for him to square his tougher views on immigration with understanding and compassion for a group that is otherwise law-abiding and did not make a decision to break the law.
A new push in Congress could offer a chance to bring some clarity to the Dreamer question. The Atlantic’s Molly Ball discussed the possibility of a revised version of the so-called DREAM Act, and its bipartisan sponsors: Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
“It might seem like a strange time to be doing that. But this administration has sent very conflicting signals about DACA,” Ball said.
“There are some state attorneys general that have imposed a deadline on the administration to basically tell them whether this is going to go or stay. They have been issuing work permits. And so Lindsey Graham at the press conference introducing this said, you know, President Trump, you can really sort of act against type, you can solve this problem.”

5) NAACP meets this week — no presidential visit — but a Democratic parade

The nation’s oldest civil rights organization — the NAACP — holds its annual meeting this week amid a host of questions about how to navigate American politics and policy in the Trump years.
Trump declined an invitation to attend Several Democrats thinking about the 2020 presidential campaign are scheduled to speak. CNN’s Nia-Malika Henderson shared her reporting on how this legacy organization is trying to modernize its approach.
“The question there, how does this very old, the oldest civil rights organization in the country, reboot and re-imagine themselves in the Trump era and the era of Black Lives Matter? And in the era of resistance? They invited Donald Trump. He said ‘no,’ he wasn’t going to come,” Henderson said.
“Eric Holder will be there. He’ll be talking about gerrymandering — something that’s very important to Democrats particularly. Also, it’s being looked at as something of a 2020 cattle call. Also in attendance, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders, of course, struggled a bit with getting African-American support when he ran last go around. So we’ll see what those folks have to offer.”

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