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Sun, 22 Jan 2017
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Turkish MPs back constitutional reform triggering referendum on sweeping powers for Erdogan

© Brendan McDermid / Reuters
Turkish MPs have approved a constitutional reform package that would place remarkable executive powers in President Erdogan's hands. Critics see the proposal as a power grab, though it is yet to be adopted, with a referendum upcoming.

339 MPs voted in favor of the 18-article law, which would make the president the head of the executive and axe the post of prime minister, state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Saturday.

A second and final round of voting on the constitutional amendments began on Wednesday after almost three weeks of heated debates in the parliament.

Eagle

Trump's speech: Promise, hope, opportunity

© Getty
Just hours ago Donald Trump was finally sworn in as the President of the United States. Considering all the threats hanging over this event, this is good news because at least for the time being, the Neocons have lost their control over the Executive Branch and Trump is now finally in a position to take action. The other good news is Trump's inauguration speech which included this historical promise "We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow". Could that really mean that the USA has given up its role of World Hegemon? The mere fact of asking the question is already an immensely positive development as nobody would have asked it had Hillary Clinton been elected.

The other interesting feature of Trump's speech is that it centered heavily on people power and on social justice. Again, the contrast with the ideological garbage from Clinton could not be greater. Still, this begs a much more puzzling question: how much can a multi-millionaire capitalist be trusted when he speaks of people power and social justice - not exactly what capitalists are known for, at least not amongst educated people. Furthermore, a Marxist reader would also remind us that "imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism" and that it makes no sense to expect a capitalist to suddenly renounce imperialism.

But what was generally true in 1916 is not necessarily true in 2017.

Clipboard

Petition reaches 100k signatures demanding Donald Trump release tax returns

© Rick Wilking / Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the "Salute to Our Armed Forces" inaugural ball during inauguration festivites in Washington, U.S. January 20, 2017.
A petition calling for US President Donald Trump to immediately release his full tax returns has reached the required 100,000 signatures to secure a response from the White House.

The petition surpassed the goal of 100,000 signatures less than 24 hours after the call to action was made, meaning the White House is obligated to give an official reply within 60 days.

Created by "A.D.," the petition calls for the White House to: "Immediately release Donald Trump's full tax returns, with all information needed to verify emoluments clause compliance."

"The unprecedented economic conflicts of this administration need to be visible to the American people, including any pertinent documentation which can reveal the foreign influences and financial interests which may put Donald Trump in conflict with the emoluments clause of the Constitution," the petition reads.

The newly sworn-in president shunned tradition by refusing to release his tax returns during the election. The exact amount of Trump's wealth is still unknown, though Forbes estimates his net worth to be $3.7 billion.

USA

The Trump presidency: A pessimist's guide

© J. Scott Applewhite / Reuters
President Donald Trump is joined by the Congressional leadership and his family as he formally signs his cabinet nominations into law, in the President's Room of the Senate, at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 20, 2017
Here's your point by point analysis of why I encourage optimism when it comes to President Donald Trump

Many people who are on the right side of the multi-polarity debate are worried about Trump's relationship to many countries and global issues.

With that in mind, here is your Pessimists Guide to Donald Trump.

China

Right now China holds the American economy by a vice for two reasons:
  1. The American market place is heavily reliant on Chinese manufacturing of Chinese products and products owned by American and European companies.
  2. American and Chinese currencies are inter-dependent.
Because of this, no amount of rhetoric can fundamentally change the fact that China and America will not go to war whether a hot war or a trade war. Both countries need each other, at least for now.

What is at stake is the nature of business relations between the two countries. America has allowed herself to be at the receiving end of poor deals, and China, like any other economic-superpower with wise political leaders, has taken advantage of that.

Trump has articulated this sentiment time and time again when praising shrewd Chinese business practices whilst insulting American negotiators.

Donald Trump's appointment of Terry Branstad as US Ambassador to China, a personal friend of President Xi Jinping, sends a clear message: the US will communicate with China in a friendly, familiar voice.

Trump's words about the One China Policy being up for negotiation is most likely rhetoric to be used as leverage in future negotiations.

Neither Beijing nor Taipei actually want conflict, and this becomes increasingly true with every passing year.

Handcuffs

South Korea's minister of culture arrest for blacklisting artists

© Str / YONHAP / AFP
South Korea's Culture Minister Cho Yoon-Sun (C) arrives to be questioned at the office of the independent counsel on a corruption scandal case that led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-Hye in Seoul on January 17, 2017.
The South Korean minister of culture has been arrested over allegations that she helped blacklist almost 10,000 Korean cultural figures critical of President Park Geun-hye, who was impeached last month.

Cho Yoon-Sun was arrested on Saturday morning on charges of abuse of authority and perjury after police obtained a warrant issued by the Seoul Central District Court, Yonhap news agency reports. In issuing the warrant, the court said that her crime had been "verified and there were concerns over the destruction of evidence."

The 50-year-old is accused of drafting a list that blacklisted cultural figures such as actors, painters, poets, and musicians. Once on the list, the individuals were denied government subsidies.

In October, South Korean daily newspaper Hankook Ilbo revealed that the South Korean government blacklisted 9,473 artists, including the winner of the Man Booker International Prize (2016), author Han Kang, and director Park Chan-wook, who won the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2004.

Chess

State Dept.: US won't send special delegation to Syria talks in Kazakhstan

© AP
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, meeting in Moscow Jan. 16, 2017.
The US will not send a special delegation to the Syria talks, which are due to be held in the Kazakhstan capital, Astana on January 23, according to the US State Department. Instead, the US will be represented by its ambassador to Kazakhstan.

"Given our presidential inauguration and the immediate demands of the transition, a delegation from Washington will not be attending the Astana conference," the US State Department acting spokesman, Mark Toner said in a statement, cited by Reuters.

On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced Russia's invitation to the US to take part in the upcoming talks on Syria.

Propaganda

The Economist can't handle the facts about RT

© Evgeny Biyatov / Sputnik
Most economists are good with numbers. It is, after all, a prerequisite skill for the profession. Thus, it's somewhat ironic that a publication called The Economist would be so inept with figures.

However, it's likely the numerical errors in their latest RT demolition piece are more the result of a determination to prove a desired point rather than it being down to an actual mathematical deficiency amongst staff.

To bring you up to speed, just a few days ago, a reporter from the Economist reached out to the RT press office with a few questions. This of course is very much in line with basic journalistic practices of fact-checking and due diligence. Answers were readily provided, in good faith.

Jet1

Russian long-range bombers target ISIS positions in Deir ez-Zor, Syria

© Evgeny Biyatov / Sputnik
Russia deployed six long-range supersonic Tupolev Tu-22M3 bombers from Russian territory to strike Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) targets in the Syrian governorate of Deir ez-Zor, the Russian Defense Ministry reported on Saturday.

The bombers hit militant base camps, weapon stockpiles, and armored vehicles, the report said.

Russian fighter jets scrambled from the Khmeimim Air Base in Syria, providing air cover for the bombing sortie, it added.

The report comes amid intensive fighting in Deir ez-Zor between government forces and IS, which apparently seeks to capture the provincial capital.

Chart Pie

Mark Zuckerberg is suing native Hawaiians for his 'piece of paradise'

Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg ended 2016 by suing hundreds of people native to Hawaii, apparently so that he can have 700 acres of land all to himself.

The billionaire's lawsuit, filed on December 30th, was the culmination of a three year effort by Zuckerberg to acquire a list of names of the people who also have rights to pieces of a 700 acre tract of land on the island of Kauai - for which Zuckerberg spent $100 million back in 2014.

Hawaiian property laws are tricky, largely the result of inheritance policies put in place back when it was still a kingdom in the 1800's. Put simply, hundreds of Hawaiians often own a part of the same land.

Comment: Read more about billionaire tech entrepreneurs buying their piece of paradise: A billionaire's Hawaii could displace longtime Lanai residents
This is Larry Ellison's Lanai: 140 square miles of personal paradise, save for 3,000 deep-rooted residents. Ellison, a tech entrepreneur and the fifth richest person in the world, owns 97 percent of the island, the sixth-largest Hawaiian island, including a third of the housing, the water utility and a pair of resorts that are Lanai's economic engine. He bought the land and properties in a single real estate deal in 2012.



Hourglass

Eight of the most unhinged inaugural media meltdowns

© ABC News
Press used historic moment to wish ill on Trump's supporters, whine about Hillary and more...

Donald Trump is now the 45th president of the United States, having been sworn in by John Roberts, chief justice of the United States. At least the hysterical denial and anger from his detractors and the media is over. Maybe.

But as the moment approached, many in the mainstream media could not help themselves and disgraced journalism and themselves with over-the-top pronouncements of alarm and bitterness. They fretted. They sweated. They worried. And, of course, they made outrageous comments about Trump as the sand in the hourglass ran out.

'I Wish You Pain, Trumpers'

Chauncey DeVega of Salon wrote of Trump supporters, "They made a decision that loyalty to whiteness took precedence to a shared sense of humanity and the Common Good." Therefore, they almost deserve to suffer, he wrote.

"The butcher's bill has come due: President Donald Trump is about to victimize his own voters," Salon titled his essay.

"Our new president's supporters are likely to suffer from his regressive policies. My compassion is limited," DeVega wrote. "This is my version of liberal Schadenfreude — with slightly more hostile intent."

Comment: Pathetic. It was these sorts of media outlets that primed the pump and supported the climate of corruption and disintegration seen in the last couple of decades in American politics, policy and actions. They helped sow what they refuse to see.