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Mon, 27 Feb 2017
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Again? US Navy 'stealth' destroyer Zumwalt towed into Panama port after another break down

© Joel Page / Reuters
DDG 1000, the first of the U.S. Navy's Zumwalt Class of multi-mission guided missile destroyers.
Built at a cost of more than $4 billion, the high-tech USS Zumwalt only made it to the Panama Canal while on its first journey to its homeport in San Diego. A malfunction left the warship in need of tugboats so that it could reach the closest port, where it remains under maintenance.

Passing southbound through the Panama Canal on Monday evening, the USS Zumwalt crew discovered water seeping into two of the four ship's bearings connecting the port and starboard Advanced Induction Motors, or AIMs, to the drive shafts, according to US Naval Institute News citing a defense official.

The AIMs are part of what makes the Zumwalt the most high-tech, and most expensive, destroyer in the US Navy's history. They generate up to 78 megawatts, allowing the 610-foot, 15,000-ton ship's propulsion to rely entirely on electrical power.

Comment: This expensive high tech piece-of-junk warship has another problem: the cost of ammunition rounds. US Navy to cancel Zumwalt warship ammunition costing $800,000 per round.


Propaganda

Trump plays cat and mouse with NYT

© Damon Winter/The New York Times
A planned meeting on Tuesday between President-elect Donald J. Trump and The New York Times that appeared to have fallen through will take place after all, with Mr. Trump and staff members traveling to the paper's offices at midday for a session with reporters, editors and the publisher.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Trump, Hope Hicks, confirmed that Mr. Trump would attend the meeting, after he initially wrote on Twitter early Tuesday morning that the meeting was canceled. The Times released a statement saying:

"Mr. Trump's staff has told us that the president-elect's meeting with The Times is on again. He will meet with our publisher off the record and that session will be followed by an on-the-record meeting with our journalists and editorial columnists.''

In his Twitter post, the president-elect said that he had canceled the gathering because the ground rules had been changed.

A spokeswoman for The Times, Eileen Murphy, responded that the paper had not changed the arrangements for the meeting and was not aware it had been canceled until reading Mr. Trump's Twitter posts.

Comment: Groan. The NYT and others in the US media have bent over backward to get an international criminal into the White House. Now they're getting their just deserts by having to deal with Trump, who understandably and clearly isn't inclined to be responsive to them.

See: Reporters: Trump's media conference was a 'f---ing firing squad'


Bullseye

Is authoritarianism always a bad thing?

In 1944, against a groundswell of concern for the democratic process, FDR ran and won a fourth presidential term, because Americans did not want an untried leader in the midst of two wars. (Unfortunately, Roosevelt died soon after that election, leaving President Truman to formulate the disastrous American policy toward the Soviet Union that brought us Cold Wars I and II.)

Today, FDR's presidency would probably be considered 'authoritarian': he pretended not to see Japan preparing to attack Pearl Harbor, so that shocked Americans would finally be willing to declare war on both Japan and Germany. He is famous for packing the Supreme Court, and although they were milder than would have wanted the Progressive Movement, he wrung workers' rights and protections out of Congress by signaling to his advisors "Make me do it." He is still revered today, while one of the polities that ranks highest on key governance criteria is Singapore, a tiny, multi-ethnic country led by the same man for four decades.

After achieving independence from Great Britain, Lee Kuan Yew moved Singapore's Third World economy to First World affluence in a single generation. According to Wikileaks: "Lee Kuan Yew's emphasis on rapid economic growth, support for business entrepreneurship, and limitations on internal democracy shaped Singapore's policies for the next half-century. Freedom House ranks Singapore as "partly free" and The Economist ranks it as a "flawed democracy", however the ruling party gets 83 of 89 seats with 70% of the popular vote, while in the mid-eighties, Gallup reported Singaporeans' confidence in the government and judicial system among the highest in the world.

Comment: Humans, like bees or ants, are programmed to have a strong, central leader. Democracy, as practised in the anglicized West, where symbolic figureheads mask the real power behind the throne, is a poor imitation of that natural order.


Stop

International and local outrage forces Turkey to pull child rape amnesty bill

© AP
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced on Tuesday that lawmakers would be shelving the bill for now, as it requires further scrutiny.

The proposed bill would have pardoned child rapists in sexual assault cases where there was no "force, threat, trick or any other restriction of consent" and where the victim and perpetrator was married, such as with child brides allowed under Islamic law.

"If a 60-year-old man wants to marry a 10-year-old girl and convinces the family of this, will it be considered as the child's consent?" Cigdem Hacisoftaoglu, a volunteer lawyer working at a women's shelter in Istanbul, asked Deutsche Welle. "And if we talk about consent, when is the proper age for someone to give it? Nine? 11? 16? There is also no limit for the [perpetrator's age]."

Comment: Also see:


Info

Humanitarian spirit: Xi charts new course for China-Latin America community of common destiny

© Xinhua/Ju Peng
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday called on China and Latin American countries to strengthen dialogue on global issues and boost cooperation on domestic development, in a bid to better build their community of common destiny on a new starting point in history.

Xi made the remarks while addressing the Peruvian Congress on his first state visit to the country after attending the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders' Meeting in Lima.

Xi proposed that China and Latin America and the Caribbean hold high the banner of peaceful development and cooperation, seek synergy between their development strategies, speed up and upgrade practical cooperation and bring benefits to both peoples.

In his address, the president also elaborated on China-Peru relations, China's stance on international order and China's economic development.

Newspaper

UK MP Nigel Farage hits back at UK establishment in Breitbart piece

© Vincent Kessler / Reuters
Nigel Farage, United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) member and MEP
UKIP's Nigel Farage has again accused Downing Street of putting its dislike for him ahead of the national interest after the government dismissed a call from President-elect Donald Trump to make Farage the UK's ambassador to the US.

Writing for the alt-right news website Breitbart, the former editor of which recently became Trump's chief strategist, Farage said: "The world has changed and it's time Downing Street did too."

He added he was in a "good position, with the President-elect's support, to help."

On Monday night, Trump tweeted that Farage would do a "great job" as ambassador, and "many people" wanted to see him as the UK's senior diplomat in Washington.


Comment: Despite being possibly the most hated man in the UK among media, students and anyone who considers themselves 'more intelligent than the average person', Farage talks a whole lot of sense. And just like Trump, he and his supporters have been branded as racist thugs by the mass media. How much of this was swallowed without careful consideration?




Arrow Up

France to be at the center of the next political earthquake

© Vincent Kessler/Reuters
Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party leader and Member of the European Parliament.
After the shock of Brexit and then election of Donald Trump to the White House, anything now seems possible in the political world. Six months hence, Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's Front National (FN), will be within reach of the presidency.

It's a possibility that Le Pen is not alone in trumpeting, following Britain's surprise vote to leave the European Union and Trump's equally surprising US victory earlier this month. Last week, incumbent French Prime Minister Manuel Valls acknowledged that the FN leader could be elected the French republic's new president when the country goes to the polls during April-May next year.

The 48-year-old Le Pen, a trained lawyer, is hoping that her bid for Élysée Palace will tap into the zeitgeist of what she calls a "popular uprising against ruling elites".

Her chances of becoming head of state in the EU's second largest member after Germany has just received a further boost from the expected nomination of Francois Fillon as presidential candidate of the center-right Les Republicains party. Fillon is way ahead of his party rival Alain Juppé in the nomination process, which concludes this coming weekend.

While Fillon has adopted Le Pen's agenda of tougher immigration controls, there is a gulf of difference on economic issues, as well as on France's relation to the EU bloc.

Fillon, a prime minister under former President Nicolas Sarkozy (2007-2012), is an economic neoliberal hawk. He proudly claims the late British premier Margaret Thatcher as one of his ideological mentors. Fillon is promising to slash public service jobs and budgets, while also gutting French labor laws to remove statutory caps on maximum working hours and to increase the retirement age.

It is hard to conceive of a more politically tone-deaf candidate for the presidency. This year France has seen months of massive public protests against the very hardline austerity measures that Fillon is advocating.

So, while his tough rhetoric on clamping down on immigration and his socially conservative opposition to gay marriage might appeal to some citizens on the political right, Marine Le Pen appears to be more in tune with concerns of the broader electorate. Those concerns are motivated by economic insecurity and loss of democratic accountability in an era of seemingly implacable financial globalization.

The rise of FN in France and other eurosceptic political parties across Europe is not simply due to xenophobia and racial tensions over immigration. It is arguably much more about counteracting the excesses of a global oligarchy, which the EU and established political parties have come to embody.

Whereas Le Pen wants to follow Britain in quitting the EU altogether to reassert national control over the economy, Fillon has no such ambitions. He is a candidate for globalization and austerity, the very program that has become a totemic hate symbol driving the populist mood for revolt.

The FN has come a long way from its origins when it was considered a bete noire of French and European politics owing to perceived fascist and racist tendencies. Founded in 1993 by Jean-Marie Le Pen, father of Marine, the party would never receive mainstream media coverage. Now it does.

Stop

Please think of the children! New UK censorship bill feigns protection of minors from 'adult websites'

As expected the Government has officially announced that Mobile and fixed line broadband providers in the United Kingdom will soon be forced into the mandatory blocking of all "adult" websites; specifically those that fail to offer an adequate method of age-verification for their visitors.

The new approach, which was first hinted at last month after Claire Perry MP tabled several directly related amendments (here), will be officially introduced as part of a change to the forthcoming Digital Economy Bill 2016-17.

However the idea itself has been on the table since last year (here), which is partly because the Government need a solution to help stop the EU's new Net Neutrality rules from effectively banning network-level blocking systems (here);these are used by ISPs to censor websites, both voluntarily or following a court-order.

Comment: Don't think for a second that the UK government would do this based on a legitimate concern for children or a true accounting of the evils of porn when we know they likely all watch and participate in much worse activities themselves. This bill is rather a hurried attempt to maintain control of people's views in an age where that control is fast diminishing.


Info

The next National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn and Islam


Last year, General Flynn was invited to the anniversary party of the international television channel "Russia Today". His participation was violently criticised by the White House, for whom this channel is an "organ of propaganda for Vladimir Putin" (sic).
The next National Security Advisor of the United States, General Michael T. Flynn, has been successively lauded as one of the most brilliant intelligence officers of his generation, and then reviled as an Islamophobe and a torturer. In the meantime, he opposed President Barack Obama and joined the camp of candidate Donald Trump.

With a load of bad faith, the Clintonian Press describes Michael T. Flynn, the next National Security Advisor of the United States, as an Islamophobe and a partisan of torture. What's the truth behind all this?

Flynn is a Catholic of Irish origin, attached to the stability of his family. He is a dedicated sportsman, and practices both team and individual sports, but prefers sports of movement over sports of force.

Info

Egyptian court reverses ex-President Morsi's life sentence in espionage case

© AFP 2016/ STR
The Egyptian Court of Cassation overturned the life sentence and ordered a retrial of former President Mohamed Morsi's espionage case on Tuesday.

Morsi's life sentence and senior Muslim Brotherhood member Khairat el-Shater's death sentence were revoked in a live broadcast on Egyptian television. Retrial was ordered in the case of 20 additional Muslim Brotherhood members accused of 2005-2013 espionage in favor of the Islamist movement, as well as Hamas and Hezbollah.