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Thought for the day
"There is now the capacity to make tyranny total in America." -- James Bamford
During remarks on Wednesday, the civilian head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) slammed China as a "challenge" to the alliance. In an interview with Reuters, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Beijing’s support for the war in Ukraine, its opposition to NATO expansion, and its territorial claims justify the alliance assigning China this label.
Largely in response to Washington’s increasing hostility, Moscow and Beijing have strengthened their ties for well over a decade. Prior to the invasion of Ukraine, China and Russia carried out several rounds of military exercises. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping have met several times since the war began, reaffirming the two Asian powers’ growing ties.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid met Jordan’s King Abdullah II on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York on Tuesday, and afterward issued a statement that this represented a strengthening of Israeli-Jordanian ties.
That’s the good news.
Relations with Jordan are strategically important for both Israel and Jordan, and meetings such as these can only help improve communications and foster closer ties. It is good that ties with Amman, which suffered under Benjamin Netanyahu’s tenure, are being strengthened. That is to be applauded.
White House officials have considered trying to get World Bank President David Malpass fired for not pursuing climate change policies with sufficient zeal, according to a Friday report from Axios.
Project Veritas was ordered to pay $120,000 to a Democrat consulting firm this week after a jury found the organization guilty on charges of breaking federal and Washington, D.C., wiretapping laws and fraudulent misrepresentation.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has been accused of threatening Italy as polls continue to predict a victory for the centre-right coalition of Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy (FdI), Matteo Salvini’s League, and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.
President Von der Leyen spoke on Thursday on a trip to the United States just days ahead of Italy’s national election on Sunday, saying: “My approach is that whatever democratic government is willing to work with us, we’re working together,” but added: “If things go in a difficult direction, I’ve spoken about Hungary and Poland, we have tools.”
League leader Matteo Salvini reacted with anger to the statement, saying the statement sounded like a threat: “These are disgusting words, the threatening tone is unacceptable,” he said, accusing the EU Commission chief of making an attempt to influence or even blackmail Italian voters, Il Giornale reports.
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) recently published its new Standards of Care guidelines, with a controversial chapter that seeks to include “eunuch” as part of the “transgender umbrella.” WPATH held a live-streamed session with two of the major contributors of the eunuch chapter at their annual conference on Tuesday.
Turkeys are selling for record high prices ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday as a resurgence of bird flu wipes out supplies across the US.
Avian influenza is devastating egg and turkey operations in the heartland of the country. If just one bird gets it, the entire flock is culled in order to stop the spread. Millions of hens and turkeys have been killed in recent weeks. As a result, prices for turkey hens are nearly 30% higher than a year ago and 80% above pre-pandemic costs. Just as concerning are inventories of whole turkeys, which are the lowest going into the US winter holiday season since 2006. That means there will be little relief from inflation for Thanksgiving dinner.
“There’s nothing appearing on the horizon to suggest anything new is going to surface to help ease the supply-side pain for Thanksgiving turkeys,” said Russ Whitman, senior vice president at commodity researcher Urner Barry. The new bird flu cases “are troubling and involve turkey meat birds, which will without doubt firm up an already firm scenario,” namely that there may be shortfalls during the holidays.
Webmaster addition: Phase 1 of a biological WW3?
The United Nations has been indifferent to Ukrainian attacks on the Donetsk People’s Republic as it voted Saturday on whether it should join Russia, an Italian observer from a UN-recognized nonprofit said.
“Unfortunately, we see that the UN is asleep. Not only when it comes to Donbass but also to other countries in a similar situation. The UN has not been reacting,” Vito Grittani told reporters in Donetsk.
Grittani heads the International Diplomatic Observatory (ODI-VG), which has consultative status with the UN’s Economic and Social Council. He said shelling by Ukrainian troops has been going on “despite them knowing that people are voting.”
“We will report about this in our home countries,” he said, adding that Italian observers had also received threats and “recommendations” not to go to the polls.
Powerful storm Fiona slammed into eastern Canada on Saturday with hurricane-force winds - nearly a week after devastating parts of the Caribbean - as hundreds of thousands are without power in one of the strongest storms ever to hit the country.
The National Hurricane Center said the center of the storm, now called Post-Tropical Cyclone Fiona after being downgraded from a hurricane, was crossing eastern Nova Scotia, bringing high winds - some the level of a Category 1 hurricane - and heavy rains.
The storm had weakened somewhat as it travelled north. As of 5 a.m., the storm was about 160 miles northeast of Halifax, carrying maximum winds of 90 miles per hour and barreling north at around 26 mph, the NHC said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent a message of greetings to participants, hosts and guests of an international forum on Christianity in the Caucasus marking the 1,100th anniversary of the Christianization of Alania, according to a telegram published on the Kremlin website on Saturday.
"Christianity was a powerful constructive and consolidating force for the peoples of ancient Alania that had a huge impact on the development of national script and habits and made a major contribution to the formation of high spiritual and moral ideals and values, which are carefully passed from generation to generation," Putin said in his telegram.
According to Putin, people of some 200 nationalities have inhabited Russia for centuries. "Their language and religion as well as economic structure have been our common property and have contributed to the cultural and ethnical diversity and true wealth of this country of which we are sincerely proud," the Russian leader emphasized.
Throughout 2022, Wall Street has repeatedly warned investors that a recession could be on its way.
From JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon to former Federal Reserve officials, the world’s top economic minds have pointed, practically in unison, to the storm of headwinds facing the global economy and expressed fears about the potential for a serious downturn.
In the U.S., consumers are grappling with near 40-year-high inflation and rising interest rates, all while the world struggles to cope with the war in Ukraine, the European energy crisis, China’s COVID-zero policies, and more.
And even after a more than 21% drop in the S&P 500 this year, Wall Street’s best minds still think stocks have further to fall.
Monday, Sept. 26
3:30 p.m. (approximately) – NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 arrival at the agency's Kennedy Space Center
4:30 p.m. (approximately) – NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 Flight Readiness Review media teleconference
5:30 p.m. – Watch a live feed from NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft (Streaming on NASA TV's media channel)
6 p.m. – Live coverage begins for NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) impact with the asteroid Dimorphos (Impact targeted for 7:14 p.m.)
8 p.m. – NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) post-impact press briefing
Joe and Jill Biden on Friday night hosted and delivered remarks at a musical performance by Sir Elton John on the South Lawn.
A father of seven and pro-life warrior was arrested this morning in Pennsylvania by 25-30 FBI agents for protecting his son from crude actions reportedly made against his son by an abortion escort.
For over a week now Iranian men and women have protested against the brutal regime over the death of Mahsa Amini. The 22-year-old Iranian woman passed away after being severely beaten by Iran’s “morality” police for improper veiling.
When asked about price inflation in his Sunday interview with 60 Minutes, President Biden claimed that inflation "was up just an inch...hardly at all." Biden continued the dishonest tactic of focuses on month-to-month price inflation growth as a means of obscuring the 40-year highs in year-over-year inflation. This strategy may yet work to placate the most ignorant voters, but people who are paying attention know that price inflation continues to soar.
Thus, while Biden may be pretending that it's all no big deal, the Federal Reserve knows it better do something about price inflation which even the Fed now admits shows no signs of even moderating.
Another 75 Basis Points
On Wednesday, the Fed's Federal Open Market Committee announced that it will again raise the federal funds rate by 75 basis points. According to the FOMC's press release:
Inflation remains elevated, reflecting supply and demand imbalances related to the pandemic, higher food and energy prices, and broader price pressures. ...
The Committee decided to raise the target range for the federal funds rate to 3 to 3-1/4 percent and anticipates that ongoing increases in the target range will be appropriate. In addition, the Committee will continue reducing its holdings of Treasury securities and agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities, as described in the Plans for Reducing the Size of the Federal Reserve's Balance Sheet that were issued in May. The Committee is strongly committed to returning inflation to its 2 percent objective.
We usually don’t think about the wonderful service fossil fuels provide in terms of being a store of heat energy for winter, the time when there is a greater need for heat energy. Figure 1 shows dramatically how, in the US, the residential usage of heating fuels spikes during the winter months.
Figure 1. US residential use of energy, based on EIA data. The category “Natural Gas, etc.” includes all fuels bought directly by households and burned. This is primarily natural gas, but also includes small amounts of propane and diesel burned as heating oil. Wood chips or other commercial wood purchased to be burned is also in this category.
Solar energy is most abundantly available in the May-June-July period, making it a poor candidate for fixing the problem of the need for winter heat.
In some ways, the lack of availability of fuels for winter is a canary in the coal mine regarding future energy shortages. People have been concerned about oil shortages, but winter fuel shortages are, in many ways, just as bad. They can result in people “freezing in the dark.”
In this post, I will look at some of the issues involved.
The Russian Ministry of Finance and its central bank have agreed on a draft bill allowing bitcoin and cryptocurrency payments for international trade settlements, per a report from Russian news outlet Tass.
The bill “as a whole writes out how cryptocurrency can be purchased, what can be done with it, and how cross-border settlements can or cannot be made," said Deputy Finance Minister Alexei Moiseev.
The agreement follows a previous report in which Moiseev stated it was impossible for Russia to conduct international trade without the use of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies due to current circumstances concerning sanctions.
However, the Bank of Russia still opposes the legalization of cryptocurrency exchanges and settlements in cryptocurrencies within Russia, per the report.
The central bank’s sentiment continues to illustrate the divergence of opinion between regulators and government officials in Russia.
The House of Representatives on Sept. 21 passed an election law bill designed to address President Donald Trump’s legal efforts to decertify some electoral slates in 2021.
The bill, dubbed the Presidential Election Reform Act, passed in a mostly-party line vote with a handful of GOP defections. The final vote, coming in at 229–203, included the support of 221 Democrats and nine Republicans.
During the aftermath of the 2020 election, when Trump was trying to determine how to move forward on his claims of widespread election fraud, lawyer John Eastman was among the attorneys in Trump’s inner circle who supported an effort to refuse to certify electoral slates from states where concerns of election fraud were most prevalent.
In the 1992 campaign, the always colorful James Carville hung a sign in Bill Clinton’s Little Rock headquarters with three key messages. And if “It’s the Economy, Stupid” became the iconic election-cycle takeaway, Carville’s third dictate bears a 30th anniversary reminder: “Don’t Forget Health Care.”
The Conference Board’s closely watched gauge of consumer sentiment released on August 30th found that consumer expectations for the next 6 months were 75.1. While the data showed month-over-month improvement, the index remained well below 80, suggesting as the Conference Board wrote last week that “a recession risk persists.”
Rising inflation has been at the heart of declining consumer expectations. Over the course of election-year 2022, it also has been a tactical focus for both political parties ranging from the Democratic push to pass the Inflation Reduction Act earlier this month to a flood of Republican advertisements in key swing districts blaming President Biden and Congressional leaders for fueling inflation.
If this political posturing is unsurprising, a surprising election-year consensus in both parties is: health care is only a modest concern for voters this fall. Nothing arguably tells that story more than the most recent CBS News survey. The nonpartisan poll conducted July 27-29 did not even ask voters about health care as a top issue. It was missing from the “most important issue facing the country” list altogether. But alas, as Carville admonished, “Don’t Forget Health Care.”
Declining health care affordability will be a defining political issue this decade. It is hiding in plain sight —and very few in Washington are positioning to solve it.
At ten past five in the morning on Election Day in 2021, retired construction company owner Warren Jenkins slid into his business-casual attire in a panic, knowing he had to get to the polling station in 20 minutes. He was the only Republican poll watcher at an important precinct.
Jenkin’s wife, prescient, pre-made lunch for her husband, who then arrived at the polls to begin his 15-hour shift—from 5:30 a.m. to about 9 p.m.—just in time.
As a volunteer poll watcher in Virginia, Jenkins would run back and forth between the outdoor ballot box and the in-door voting place, observe the conduct of the election, and report irregularities and violations of the Election Code, if any, to election officials.
For his entire life, Jenkins has been somewhat of a model American man: he served in the army, built houses, and loves spending his weekends at church and with family and friends—and wasn’t into politics, at all.
But as the battleground blaze simmered at the conclusion of the 2020 election lawsuits, Jenkins still had in his mind the lingering silhouette of Zuckerbucks (private funding in election administration that was allowed in 2020 and now banned in some states), whispers of faulty mail-in ballots, and alleged—later court-confirmed—election law-flaunting. He then thought he could do more for the country as an American.
President Trump on Friday evening spoke at a packed rally in Wilmington, North Carolina.
U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie presides over his first public hearing since his appointment as special master to review documents seized last month by the FBI from former President Donald Trump's Florida home, at a courtroom in New York on Sept. 20, 2022. (Jane Rosenberg/Reuters)
The judge designated as the special master in former President Donald Trump’s records case has proposed that a government official swear that the government properly listed items taken from Trump’s home in August.
U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie, the special master, also left open the possibility of recommending the government be ordered to return some of the seized materials.
Dearie outlined the plan on Sept. 22, following an order that blocks him and Trump’s lawyers from accessing materials with classified markings that were taken from Trump’s home in Palm Beach, Florida.
Dearie, a George W. Bush appointee, was chosen by Trump attorneys and Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers and put into place by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee. Trump and the DOJ can object to components of the plan; Cannon would adjudicate any objections.
On Friday, a judge ruled that police officers who were fired for refusing to get vaccinated against the coronavirus must be reinstated.
After battering Puerto Rico earlier this week with torrential rain and strong winds, Hurricane Fiona is now a Category 3 storm barreling towards northeastern Canada. There's also a new tropical storm developing in the Caribbean and forecasted to become a threat to Southeast US next week.
As of Friday morning, Fiona's center was passing northwest of Bermuda with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. The storm was downgraded from a Category 4 hurricane.
Now Fiona sets sights on northeastern Canada, where hurricane warnings are in effect for Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, the Magdalen Islands, and the coast of Newfoundland.