Advertisements

Secret Service Has No Audio or Transcripts of Any Tapes Made in Trump White House 

Photo: jonathan ernst/Reuters

Photo: jonathan ernst/Reuters

WASHINGTON — Louise Radnofsky reports: The U.S. Secret Service has no audio copies or transcripts of any tapes recorded within President Donald Trump’s White House, the agency said on Monday.

The agency’s response to a freedom of information request submitted by The Wall Street Journal doesn’t exclude the possibility that recordings could have been created by another entity.

The Secret Service handled recording systems within the White House for past presidents, including Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy.

The question of a White House recording system has lingered for more than a month since Mr. Trump first raised the possibility in a provocative tweet about former FBI Director James Comey.

In recent days, the two men have offered differing accounts of whether Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey in private conversations within the White House complex to ease off the FBI’s probe of former national security adviser Mike Flynn.

On Friday, Mr. Trump kept the tapes mystery alive, telling reporters in the White House Rose Garden, “I’ll tell you about that maybe sometime in the very near future.” He added, “Oh, you’re going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer, don’t worry.” Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Study: Media Jobs, Salary, Soar 38% in DC, Crash 22% Nationally

Paul Bedard  writes: In the latest sign that Washington operates in an alternate economy, journalism jobs around the country dove 22 percent in the last 10 years, but they spiked a whopping 38 percent in the nation’s capital, according to a new economic study. What’s more, salaries for Washington journalists rose 7 percent while diving nationally.

While 12,000 reporting jobs were eliminated in most markets in the last decade, the Washington journalism market expanded from 2,190 to 3,030. That is more than five journalists for every single House and Senate member.

 

In New York, by comparison, the drop was historic, from 5,330 jobs in 2005 to just 3,478 in 2015, said the study from Apartmentlist.com.

The study reviewed rents in major cities and showed how rents have spiked while the salaries of reporters hasn’t. That gap may be responsible for the shift by reporters, even award-winning journalists, to better paying public relations.

“Our analysis illustrated that reporter salaries are growing slower than rents in most metros. Nationwide, reporter salaries declined by 7 percent over the past decade while rents increased 9 percent. If this trend continues, publications will struggle to hire and retain talent,” said the report provided to Secrets. Read the rest of this entry »


21st Century Fox Has Paid Out $45M In Settlements Since Roger Ailes’ Exit 

The financial fallout from the sexual harassment claims and lawsuits piling up at Fox News Channel made an appearance today in corporate filings submitted by parent 21st Century Fox. The price tag is at $45 million since Roger Ailes was canned last summer following numerous and explosive allegations of extremely inappropriate behavior.

“Other for the three and nine months ended March 31, 2017 included approximately $10 million and $45 million, respectively, of costs related to settlements of pending and potential litigations following the July 2016 resignation of the Chairman and CEO of Fox News Channel after a public complaint was filed containing allegations of sexual harassment,” said a section deep within the Quarterly Report (read it here) that 21st Century Fox submitted to the SEC on Wednesday. The total figure for the ‘Other’ category over the nine months that ended at the end of March is $71 million.

My colleague David Lieberman reported earlier today that 21st Century Fox also noted in its quarterly report that it has “received regulatory and investigative inquiries relating to these matters and stockholder demands to inspect the books and records of the Company which could lead to future litigation.” As civil suits from Fox News on-air talent, past and potential contributors and others swirl, prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan and criminal investigators from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are looking into what went on at FNC in these matters, who was paid what, and where it ended up in the books.

“Due to the early stage of these matters, the amount of liability, if any, that may result from these or related matters cannot be estimated at this time,” the filing today goes on to say in bloodless corporate speak. “However, the Company does not currently anticipate that the ultimate resolution of any such pending matters will have a material adverse effect on its consolidated financial condition, future results of operations or liquidity.”

The key word, as it has been for a while in this, being “anticipate” — that being what Fox has not been good at the past nine months.

At what Fox surely hoped was the end of the matter but really became the prologue in many ways, Ailes was shown the door by Rupert Murdoch and his sons James and Lachlan on July 21 last year soon after former Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson sued him for sexual harassment. Ailes was said to have received a $40 million golden goodbye from the Murdochs, which does not seem to be reflected in today’s filing. In September, Carlson came to a $20 million settlement with Fox and dropped her legal action. That payout is surely part of the $45 million noted in today’s filing. Read the rest of this entry »


Ronald Bailey: Do Researchers Risk Becoming Just Another Leftwing Interest Group?

“We face a possible future where people not only ignore scientific evidence, but seek to eliminate it entirely,” warns the march’s mission statement. “Staying silent is a luxury that we can no longer afford. We must stand together and support science.”

From whom do the marchers hope to defend science? Certainly not the American public: Most Americans are fairly strong supporters of the scientific enterprise. An October 2016 Pew Research Center poll reported, “Three-quarters of Americans (76%) have either a great deal (21%) or a fair amount of confidence (55%) in scientists, generally, to act in the public interest.” The General Social Survey notes that public confidence in scientists stands out among the most stable of about 13 institutions rated in the GSS survey since the mid-1970s. (For what it’s worth, the GSS reports only 8 percent of the public say that they have a great deal of confidence in the press, but at least that’s higher than the 6 percent who say the same about Congress.)

The mission statement also declares, “The application of science to policy is not a partisan issue. Anti-science agendas and policies have been advanced by politicians on both sides of the aisle, and they harm everyone—without exception.”

I thoroughly endorse that sentiment. But why didn’t the scientific community march when the Obama administration blocked over-the-counter access to emergency contraception to women under age 17? Or dawdled for years over the approval of genetically enhanced salmon? Or tried to kill off the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility? Or halted the development of direct-to-consumer genetic testing? Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] WSJ’s Strassel: ‘I Don’t Remember Protests, Lawsuits, when Obama Paused Iraqi Immigration to U.S. in 2011’

empty-streets-obama-protestsc3fc85uuoaax9ei

Trent Baker reports: On Sunday’s “Meet the Press” on NBC, Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel reminded viewers that nobody protested or filed lawsuits in 2011 when former President Barack Obama suspended Iraqi refugees from entering the United States for six months over terrorism fears, although President Donald Trump has received much criticism for temporarily suspending visas for “immigrants and non-immigrants” from Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, Iran and Iraq.

“Look, this is also not unprecedented, by the way,” Strassel said. “I mean, Barack Obama put a pause for six months on refugees coming from Iraq back in 2011. I don’t remember protestors and I don’t remember lawsuits. So I think the bigger question if this is a temporary pause, which is designed for us to improve and look at our vetting processes, and indeed temporary, I don’t necessarily think that’s an outrageous idea. Read the rest of this entry »


How Liberals Killed the Freedom of Movement

Shut-Up-Your-Mouth-Obama-TV

By suppressing debate about Islam, nationalism and terror, the left set the stage for today’s backlash, says Sohrab Ahmari in The Wall Street Journal.

Sohrab Ahmari writes: Donald Trump’s double-layer fence along America’s southern border, and his plan to suspend all immigration from terror-producing countries, are dramatic and consequential pieces of public policy. But they’re also palliative symbols. The message they send to the president’s supporters is: “Your days of anxiety are behind you. We will be a coherent nation once more.”

Politicians across the West are beginning to tell their voters the same thing in what is shaping up to be the widest rollback of the freedom of movement in decades.

It’s not just right-wing nationalists like Marine Le Pen in France or Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. Centrists get it, too. Some, like Angela Merkel, are still-reluctant restrictionists. Others, like Theresa May, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and French presidential aspirant François Fillon, are more forthright. All have wised up to the popular demand for drastically lower immigration rates.

geert-wilders-hate-speech-netherlands-islam-immigration-free-speech

The paradox here is that freedom of movement is unraveling now because liberals won central debates—about Islamism, social cohesion and nationalism. Rather than give ground on any of these fronts, they accused opponents of being phobic and reactionary. Now liberals are reaping the rewards of those underhanded victories.

Liberals “won” the debate about the link between Islamist ideology and terrorism.

For eight years under President Obama, the U.S. government eschewed even the term “Islamism.” The preferred nomenclature created the ludicrous effect that U.S. service members were sent to war against people passionate about “violent extremism.” But voters could read and hear about jihadists offering up their actions to Allah before opening automatic fire on shoppers and blasphemous cartoonists. Read the rest of this entry »


7 Most Egregious Acts Of Social Justice In Obama’s Military

US President Barack Obama attends a military briefing with US Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham (L) at Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, in Afghanistan, May 25, 2014. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

The Bible apparently perpetuating sexism is just one example.

1604983_10152762140466241_379100650864863767_n-e1421878431501-171x150Jonah Bennett reports: Former President Barack Obama left a legacy of radical social change in the military, but aside from major shifts like allowing women in all combat roles and repealing the ban on open transgender service, many cases of rampant political correctness have been memory-holed.

Here are just seven egregious examples of social justice that creeped into the armed forces over the last eight years.

1. Handbook tells soldiers not to criticize pedophilia 

A proposed U.S. Army handbook from 2012 ordered soldiers not to make any nasty comments about the Taliban or criticize the common practice of pedophilia in Afghanistan. The handbook also suggested that the West’s failure to grasp culture in Afghanistan was partially responsible for the spate of insider attacks. In 2012 alone, insider attacks accounted for 63 deaths of members of the U.S. coalition.

According to a draft of the document leaked to The Wall Street Journal, the document urges troops to stop “advocating women’s rights,” or bring up “any criticism of pedophilia,” or “anything related to Islam.”

[Read the full story here, at The Daily Caller]

Commands to ignore pedophilia in Afghanistan have by no means been limited to the 2012 draft handbook. Rather, The New York Times reported in 2015 that troops have been told repeatedly to ignore cases of pedophilia and extreme sexual assault — even on U.S. military bases.

2.  The Bible disrespects diversity

In December 2014, the Army punished Chaplain Joseph Lawhorn for listing Bible verses as an optional resource in a suicide prevention training class. While his training was very well-received, one soldier complained and contacted an outside organization to put pressure on the military. Army Col. David Fivecoat, Lawhorn’s superior, condemned him for supposedly violating Army policy. Fivecoat told him he was to stop mentioning the Bible because it disrespects diversity.

3. An Air Force base banned the greeting, “Have a blessed day.” 

The Robins Air Force Base in Georgia banned the greeting “Have a blessed day” in March 2015 after a non-religious, anonymous airman bitterly complained that the greeting made him feel as though he was supposed to believe that a higher power affected the course of his day. Just over 10 other airmen joined in his objection to the greeting.

The old greeting was replaced with a new phrase of, “Have a nice day.” But after attention was raised to the issue, the backlash on social media was so swift and severe that Air Force officials outside the base stepped in and reversed course, allowing the original greeting to stand. Read the rest of this entry »


China’s ‘Social Credit’ System: Turning Big Data Into Mass Surveillance 

china-bik

The declared aim of this ambitious plan for a social-credit system is to build a ‘culture of sincerity.’ At this stage in China’s history, it is questionable whether the party-state can build any kind of culture.

Stanley Lubman writes: The Chinese government is taking the first steps in an evolving plan to employ big data to establish a nationwide system of mass surveillance of the entire population. This “social-credit system” would mobilize technology to collect information on all citizens and use that information to rate their behavior, including financial creditworthiness and personal conduct. The local experiments have provoked mixed reactions.

“The Communist Party, since it gained power in 1949, has endeavored to monitor and control the behavior and thoughts of the population. In the era of Mao Zedong it established ‘residents’ committees’ in the cities and ‘village committees’ in the countryside to monitor citizens’ behavior and report to local police. These continue to operate today, if in slightly different forms.”

The declared aim of this ambitious plan for a social-credit system is to build a “culture of sincerity.” At this stage in China’s history, it is questionable whether the party-state can build any kind of culture. The center cannot effectively control local governments, a large share of economic profits is going to the wealthy, corruption remains widespread and neither the economy nor the populace will tolerate the absence of rule of law indefinitely.

The Communist Party, since it gained power in 1949, has endeavored to monitor and control the behavior and thoughts of the population. In the era of Mao Zedong it established “residents’ committees” in the cities and 51p37hyvrll-_sl250_“village committees” in the countryside to monitor citizens’ behavior and report to local police. These continue to operate today, if in slightly different forms.

[Order Stanley Lubman’s book “Bird in a Cage: Legal Reform in China after Mao from Amazon.com]

The current effort to expand control of personal conduct is the latest in a series of moves to control behavior that now include campaigns against corrupt officials, rights lawyers and others whose conduct and actions are considered “subversive” both in person and otherwise—such as in social media.

The new social-credit system may include “black marks for infractions such as fare cheating, jaywalking and violating family-planning rules,” according to an article in The Wall Street Journal. The article quotes planning documents stating that the system would “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.” It is no wonder that one Chinese human rights-activist is quoted as saying “Tracking everyone that way, it is just like ‘1984’.” (The famous novel published in 1949 by George Orwell imagines a mythical regime that spies on all of its citizens using omnipresent surveillance.)

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

Current tentative steps to test the new system have raised questions about its implementation and reach. Obvious issues include defining the criteria that would be applied to rate citizens, the government and social institutions that would perform the ratings, and the impact of those ratings on citizens’ business and professional activities and on their lives in general. A key component of the new system will be taking traditional credit-scoring and adding other data points. Sesame Credit, an affiliate of e-commerce titan Alibaba, currently surveys online shopping habits and, if users consent, posts their education levels and legal records. Businesses and some individuals such as lawyers, accountants, teachers and journalists would receive closer scrutiny of their professional behavior. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Russian Hackers Stole Millions from Advertisers 

An ad-fraud-detection firm says a Russian hacking operations has been defrauding U.S.-based online advertisers of more than $3 million a day. WSJ‘s Lee Hawkins explains.

putin-computerhacker


Social Media Is Killing Discourse Because It’s Too Much Like TV

democacysocialmedia_0

We need more text and fewer videos and memes in the age of Trump.

Hossein Derakshan writes: If I say that social media aided Donald Trump’s election,
you might think of fake news on Facebook. But even if Facebook fixes the algorithms that elevate phony stories, there’s something else going on: social media represents the ultimate ascendance of television over other media.

I’ve been warning about this since November 2014, when I was freed from six years of incarceration in Tehran, a punishment I received for my online activism in Iran. Before I went to prison, I blogged frequently on what I now call the open Web: it was
decentralized, text-centered, and abundant with 51kxbo1vo8l-_sl250_hyperlinks to source material and rich background. It nurtured varying opinions. It was related to the world of books.

[Order Neil Postman’s book “Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business” from Amazon.com]

Then for six years I got disconnected; when I left prison and came back online, I was confronted by a brave new world. Facebook and Twitter had replaced blogging and had made the Internet like TV: centralized and image-centered, with content embedded in pictures, without links.

[Read the full story here, at technologyreview.com]

Like TV it now increasingly entertains us, and even more so than television it amplifies our existing beliefs and habits. It makes us feel more than think, and it comforts more than challenges. The result is a deeply fragmented society, driven by emotions, and radicalized by lack of contact and challenge from outside. This is why Oxford Dictionaries designated “post-truth” as the word of 2016: an adjective “relating to circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals.”

TV-head

Neil Postman provided some clues about this in his illuminating 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show BusinessThe media scholar at New York University saw then how television transformed public discourse into an exchange of volatile emotions that are usually mistaken by pollsters as opinion. One of the scariest outcomes of this transition, Postman wrote, is that television essentially turns all news into disinformation. “Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information—misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information—information that creates the illusion of knowing something but which in fact leads one away from knowing … The problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject matter but that all subject matter is presented as entertaining.” (Emphasis added.) And, Postman argued, when news is constructed as a form of entertainment, it inevitably loses its function for a healthy democracy. “I am saying something far more serious than that we are being deprived of authentic information. I am saying we are losing our sense of what it means to be well informed. Ignorance is always correctable. But what shall we do if we take ignorance to be knowledge?” Read the rest of this entry »


A Presidential Scandal Transfixes South Korea 

south-korea-president

Park Geun-hye faces calls for impeachment after a friend was indicted and the president was accused of giving her access to government documents.

Now, one friendship Ms. Park does have has imperiled her presidency.

The friend, the daughter of a cult leader who once claimed to speak with Ms. Park’s murdered mother, sought to enrich herself through ties to the presidential office, South Korean prosecutors have alleged in an extortion indictment. The friend also received access to classified presidential policy documents, they say.

The snowballing political drama is paralyzing the government of South Korea, a close U.S. ally, at a time when the Obama administration considers North Korea and its increasingly aggressive nuclear strategy to be the top national security priority for the next administration.

Prosecution documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal say that foundations set up by the president’s friend, a 60-year-old woman named Choi Soon-sil, allegedly used her presidential ties to wrest millions of dollars in donations from Korean conglomerates. Prosecutors have raided most of South Korea’s biggest business groupsseeking evidence. Some of the money, prosecutors believe, went to pay for Ms. Choi’s affluent lifestyle and her daughter’s equestrian aspirations.

Ms. Park, second from left, in 1975 with Choi Tae-min, right, a religious leader and mystic who claimed to commune with Ms. Park’s assassinated mother.

Ms. Park, second from left, in 1975 with Choi Tae-min, right, a religious leader and mystic who claimed to commune with Ms. Park’s assassinated mother. Photo: Yonhap

A political scandal linking South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye to a charismatic cult leader and his daughter has prompted hundreds of thousands to demonstrate in the streets. The Wall Street Journal looks at how she got there. Photo: AP

Both Ms. Park and Ms. Choi deny the accusations. The president, in a tearful televised statement this month, disputed colorful reports in the Korean press that include shamanistic rituals supposedly held in the presidential office. Such claims are a “house of fantasy,” Ms. Park’s lawyer said.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

The denials haven’t stemmed a clamor for her resignation. Five mass rallies in five weeks have demanded the president’s ouster, with organizers estimating over a million protesters gathered in Seoul on Saturday. In surveys, Ms. Park’s approval rating has sunk to 4%. One poll showed that 80% of South Koreans favor impeaching her.

Choi Soon-sil, left, who is at the heart of a political scandal engulfing Ms. Park, was arrested in Seoul this month.

Choi Soon-sil, left, who is at the heart of a political scandal engulfing Ms. Park, was arrested in Seoul this month. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Opposition parties say they will push for an impeachment vote by early December if Ms. Park doesn’t step down. She has given no indication she will, though she has offered to share power with a new prime minister suggested by the opposition.

Even if she survives the tumult, Ms. Park’s diminished political authority presents risks for the U.S. and an early foreign-policy challenge for President-elect Donald Trump. The U.S. relies on close ties with Seoul to manage dangers presented by a bellicose North Korea. The U.S. has around 28,500 troops based in South Korea.

South Korean protesters calling for the resignation of Ms. Park held candles during a rally in Seoul on Nov. 19.

South Korean protesters calling for the resignation of Ms. Park held candles during a rally in Seoul on Nov. 19. Photo: AP

Ms. Park wants to deploy a sophisticated U.S. missile system next year to defend against North Korea’s advancing nuclear-weapons program. Opposition leaders, by contrast, put priority on closer ties with China, which strongly disapproves of the missile-shield idea, at a time when other Asian countries such as the Philippines and Malaysia are tilting toward Beijing. Ms. Park’s domestic opponents also seek to break with Washington by rolling back the sanctions pressure on Pyongyang. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Felix the Cat Balloon Returns to Macy’s Parade

Felix the Cat, the first-ever character balloon in the Macy’s Parade returns to help celebrate the 90th march this Thanskgiving Day. Photo: Getty Images, Video: Carly Marsh/The Wall Street Journal.

VV7788


The Desolate Wilderness 

pilgrims

Here beginneth the chronicle of those memorable circumstances of the year 1620, as recorded by Nathaniel Morton, keeper of the records of Plymouth Colony, based on the account of William Bradford, sometime governor thereof:

So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years, but they knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city (Heb. XI, 16), and therein quieted their spirits.

When they came to Delfs-Haven they found the ship and all things ready, and such of their friends as could not come with them followed after them, and sundry came from Amsterdam to see them shipt, and to take their leaves of them. One night was spent with little sleep with the most, but with friendly entertainment and Christian discourse, and other real expressions of true Christian love.

[Wall Street Journal editorial that has appeared annually since 1961.]

The next day they went on board, and their friends with them, where truly doleful was the sight of that sad and mournful parting, to hear what sighs and sobs and prayers did sound amongst them; what tears did gush from every eye, and pithy speeches pierced each other’s heart, that sundry of the Dutch strangers that stood on the Key as spectators could not refrain from tears. But the tide (which stays for no man) calling them away, that were thus loath to depart, their Reverend Pastor, falling down on his knees, and they all with him, with watery cheeks commended them with the most fervent prayers unto the Lord and His blessing; and then with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them.

Being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns, to repair unto to seek for succour; and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts. Read the rest of this entry »


Obama: ‘The Election Wasn’t About Me’

not-my-fault-obama

President Barack Obama rejected the idea of a bigger meaning in the election results.

Sarah Wheaton writes: Sure, the Democrats suffered crushing losses last week, President Barack Obama acknowledged Monday.Obama-shrug But, he argued, it wasn’t any sort of repudiation of his party leadership or presidency.

If Obama has done any second-guessing since President-elect Donald Trump’s shocking victory last week, he didn’t betray any of it during his most extensive set of comments since the election.

In a press conference and in two separate conference calls with supporters, Obama rejected the idea of a bigger meaning in the election results. His policies? Helped millions and maybe even billions. His personal popularity? Still sky-high. His party? Well, he was busy with Syria and the economy – you can’t expect him to do everything.

“We are indisputably in a stronger position today than we were when I came in eight years ago. Jobs have been growing for 73 straight months. Incomes are rising. Poverty is falling. The uninsured rate is at the lowest level on record. Carbon emissions have come down without impinging on our growth,” Obama said during Monday’s press conference, his first since Election Day.

“We’ve helped millions of people in this country and probably billions of people around the world,” he added on another call with donors, elected officials and other supporters organized by the Democratic National Committee.

unicorn-sample-6

During the campaign, as Trump threatened to undo much of what Obama is most proud of — whether it was tearing up his landmark executive order on carbon limits, reneging on the Iran deal or repealing Obamacare — Obama saw justification to argue repeatedly that “our progress is on the ballot.”

But on Monday, Obama shot down the idea that rhetoric like what he used on the campaign trail should be taken seriously.

obama-G20

“This notion that somehow all the work we did suddenly gets stripped away,” Obama said on the DNC call. “Let me tell you something: We got more done than any administration in the last who-knows-how-many decades and if they roll back 15 or 20 percent of that, we’re still 80 percent ahead.”

He added, “And that’s not going to be as easy as I think some people feel, particularly if we continue to make the case and mobilize.” Read the rest of this entry »


‘Mars’: National Geographic Network’s Moonshot

National Geographic is releasing “Mars,” a six-part series that follows a dramatized mission to Mars while real scientists and thinkers discuss the challenges of such a journey.

mars-2

WSJ‘s Lee Hawkins and John Jurgensen discuss “Mars” and the rise of the “premium nonfiction” genre on television. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] MSNBC Terrorism Analyst Misidentifies Victor David Hanson as Russian Spy

On AM Joy, MSNBC terrorism analyst Malcolm Nance, bragging that he knows some of the FBI spy catchers, says “guys who have taken down big names, such as Aldrich Ames and Victor Davis Hanson.”

borisandnatasha

Hanson, an historian and one of America’s leading conservative intellectuals, is currently a Senior Fellow in classics and military history at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is surely not a spy.

vdh

Nance presumably had in mind Robert Philip Hanssen, a former FBI agent who was convicted of spying for the Soviets and Russians. Read the rest of this entry »


Bill Clinton, After Needlessly Smearing Opponents as Racists, Gets Defensive

defensive-clinton

In a series of swing-state appearances this week, Mr. Clinton struck back at criticism of the family foundation, by turns sarcastic and almost pleading.

At last, Bill Clinton could not help himself.

He paced the stage during a speech on Tuesday in North Carolina, holding his microphone close. He raised his left index finger. And at once, the meandering address turned sharply, and without prompting, to his charitable foundation, a magnet for criticism in recent weeks.

“We live in a Snapchat-Twitter world,” Mr. Clinton lamented, tilting his head theatrically — a septuagenarian embracing his age, decades after reveling in saxophone cool.

“It’s so much easier,” he said, “just to discredit people and call them names.”

isis-bill-clinton-575x340

For Mr. Clinton and his extended circle, this election has at times felt like a campaign devised to discredit the former president and call him names.

And after more than a year of uncharacteristic restraint — a notable shift from eight years ago, when his simmering instincts often burdened Hillary Clinton’s first presidential run — Mr. Clinton seems to have had enough.

“Did I solve every problem? No,” he told a crowd on Wednesday in Orlando, Fla. “Did I get caught trying? You bet.” Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Activist Debunks Islamic State’s Ideology With Cartoons

Mohamed Amin Ahmed, an activist living among the Somali-American population in Minneapolis, creates online cartoon videos for young Muslims to warn them of Islamic State recruitment. Photo: Sarah Stacke for The Wall Street Journal


[VIDEO] State Department Blames Criticism of U.S. Ransom Payment to Iran on…the Media 

iran-cashTV-head

The State Department admitted Thursday that the US would not hand over $400 million in cash to Iran until it released four American hostages — two weeks after President Obama insisted the payment was not a “ransom.”

State Department spokesman John Kirby was asked at Thursday’s press briefing: “In basic English, you’re saying you wouldn’t give them $400 million in cash until the prisoners were released, correct?”

ransom

“That’s correct,” Kirby replied.

In an Aug. 4 press conference, President Obama said the opposite.

“We do not pay ransom. We didn’t here, and we won’t in the future,” the president told reporters, speaking of the Jan. 17 payment and hostage release.

Families “know we have a policy that we don’t pay ransom. And the notion that we would somehow start now, in this high-profile way, and announce it to the world, even as we’re looking in the faces of other hostage families whose loved ones are being held hostage, and saying to them ‘We don’t pay ransom,’ defies logic,” Obama added at the time. Read the rest of this entry »


U.S. Held Cash Until Iran Freed Prisoners 

Administration officials have refused to publicly disclose how and when the cash transfer ransom payment authorized by Mr. Obama took place.

WASHINGTON — Jay Solomon and Carol E. Lee report: New details of the $400 million U.S. payment to Iran earlier this year depict a tightly scripted exchange specifically timed to the release of several American panic-manprisoners held in Iran.

“‘Our top priority was getting the Americans home,’ said a U.S. official. Once the Americans were ‘wheels up’ on the morning of Jan. 17, Iranian officials in Geneva were allowed to take custody of the $400 million in currency, according to officials briefed on the exchange.”

The picture emerged from accounts of U.S. officials and others briefed on the operation: U.S. officials wouldn’t let Iranians take control of the money until a Swiss Air Force plane carrying three freed Americans departed from Tehran on Jan. 17. Once that happened, an Iranian cargo plane was allowed to bring the cash home from a Geneva airport that day.

President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials have said the payment didn’t amount to ransom, because the U.S. owed the money to Iran as part of a longstanding dispute linked to a failed arms deal from the 1970s. U.S. officials have said that the prisoner release and cash transfer took place through two separate diplomatic channels.

IMG_6973

“The picture emerged from accounts of U.S. officials and others briefed on the operation: U.S. officials wouldn’t let Iranians take control of the money until a Swiss Air Force plane carrying three freed Americans departed from Tehran on Jan. 17.”non-stop-panic-4

But the handling of the payment and its connection to the Americans’ release have raised questions among lawmakers and administration critics.

 “Once that happened, an Iranian cargo plane was allowed to bring the cash home from a Geneva airport that day.”

The use of an Iranian cargo plane to move pallets filled with $400 million brings clarity to one of the mysteries surrounding the cash delivery to Iran first reported by The Wall Street Journal this month. Administration officials have refused to publicly disclose how and when the cash transfer authorized by Mr. Obama took place. Executives from Iran’s flagship carrier, Iran Air, organized the round-trip flight from Tehran to Geneva where the cash—euros and Swiss francs and other currencies—was loaded onto the aircraft, these people said.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

“Our top priority was getting the Americans home,” said a U.S. official. Once the Americans were “wheels up” on the morning of Jan. 17, Iranian officials in Geneva were allowed to take custody of the $400 million in currency, according to officials briefed on the exchange.

obama-oval-solo

“Mr. Obama said on Aug. 4 the payment had to be in cash because the U.S. and Iran have no banking relationship, eliminating the possibility of a check or wire transfer.”

The payment marked the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration announced it had reached with Tehran in January to resolve a decades-old legal dispute traced back to the final days of Iran’s last monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. His government paid $400 million into a Pentagon trust fund in 1979 for military parts that were never delivered because of the Islamic revolution that toppled him. Read the rest of this entry »


‘A $400 million payoff in laundered money, delivered in the dead of night in an unmarked cargo plane, isn’t what it looks like!’

JoshEarnest

 ‘We would not, we have not, we will not pay ransom to secure the release of US citizens.’

Jonah Goldberg writes: One of my all-time favorite lines is from Henry Thoreau: “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.”

It came to mind this week when the White House and State Department insisted that the charge the US paid a ransom to get back American hostages was purely circumstantial. Sometimes, a $400 million payoff in laundered money, delivered in the dead of night in an unmarked cargo plane, isn’t what it looks like.

“Sometimes you just have to marvel at the way smart people can talk themselves into stupidity.”

Jan. 16 was “Implementation Day” for the nuclear deal between the United States and Iran, in which the state sponsor of terror received sanctions relief possibly worth as much as $150 billion — which would be roughly equivalent to 40 percent of its GDP — in exchange for some guarantees against developing nuclear weapons … for a while. (The merits, and even the nature, of the Iran nuclear deal are hotly disputed, but that’s a topic for another time.)

ransom

That same day, the Obama administration announced a prisoner swap between the US and Iran, in which we traded seven Iranian criminals and removed another 14 from an Interpol “most wanted” list. In exchange, they returned four innocent Americans, illegally held by the Iranian regime.

[Read the full story here, at New York Post]

Back then, Secretary of State John Kerry boasted about what a masterful diplomatic breakthrough it was. Those Americans were freed thanks to “the relationships forged and the diplomatic channels unlocked over the course of the nuclear talks,” Kerry preened.

 img_69731

Yes, well, maybe. But few things really cement a solid working relationship like $400 million in cash. Kerry failed to mention that part in his press conferences or congressional testimony. In fact, the Obama administration kept the whole thing a secret.

Joker-billionaire-burning-money

“The whole point of not paying ransoms to terrorists isn’t to save money. The reason we don’t pay kidnappers is that we understand that it will only encourage more kidnapping.”

The White House concedes that it all looks very bad. But it insists this was in no way a ransom payment; the trout got in the milk for perfectly normal reasons. You see, the Iranians were suing for funds deposited with the Pentagon in 1979 for a weapons purchase that was later blocked when the ayatollahs deposed the Shah. Read the rest of this entry »


Krauthammer on Iran Deal: If a Company Did This ‘CEO Would Be in Jail Right Now’ 

“Of course the Justice Department objected — it was illegal. It isn’t only the optics; it isn’t only that they are just looking ridiculous in denying that it was quid pro quo.”

IMG_6973

“Obviously it wasn’t a coincidence; the reason it was objected to by Justice — there is a statute that prohibits us from engaging in Iran dealing with dollars, so they had to print the money here, ship it over to Switzerland, turn it into Swiss francs and euros, and ship it over to Iran. If a private company had done this, it is called money laundering. The CEO would be in jail right now.”

Source: NRO

 


How Did the West Get Rich?

Open Source, Wikipedia. Gillis van Tilborch,

img-jamespethokoukisJames Pethokoukis writes: To back two centuries and the average world income per human was about $3 a day, notes economist Deirdre McCloskey in the Wall Street Journal. Now it’s $33 a day, and four times higher than that in advanced economies like the United States, Germany, and Japan. And those numbers — even with the usual inflation adjustment — may well understate things.

[Read the full story here, at Pethokoukis Blog » AEIdeas]

So why are we so much, much richer today? After dismissing some alternative explanations, McCloskey arrives at this one:

The answer, in a word, is “liberty.” Liberated people, it turns out, are ingenious. Slaves, serfs, subordinated women, people frozen in a hierarchy of lords or bureaucrats are not. By certain 514B+AoYlbL._SL250_accidents of European politics, having nothing to do with deep European virtue, more and more Europeans were liberated.

[Order McCloskey’s book Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World” from Amazon.com]

From Luther’s reformation through the Dutch revolt against Spain after 1568 and England’s turmoil in the Civil War of the 1640s, down to the American and French revolutions, Europeans came to believe that common people should be liberated to have a go…(read more)

For more, check out McCloskey’s recent talk at AEI. Read the rest of this entry »


Justice Department to Apple: ‘Never Mind’

Tim Cook

The Justice Department is expected to withdraw from its legal action against Apple, as soon as today, as an outside method to bypass the locking function of a San Bernardino terrorist’s phone has proved successful, a federal law enforcement official said Monday.

AP-San-Bernardino-Attack

[Read the full story here, at USAToday]

The official, who is not authorized to comment publicly, said the method brought to the FBI earlier this month by an unidentified entity allows investigators to crack the security function without erasing contents of the iPhone used by Syed Farook, who with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, carried out the December mass shooting that left 14 dead.

Usdepartmentofjustice

Monday’s withdrawal would culminate six weeks of building tensions.

The foes were poised to exchange legal body blows in a court room in Riverside, Calif., last week before the Justice Department belatedly asked for — and was granted — a postponement.

“It’s not about one phone. It’s very much about the future. You have a guy in Manhattan saying I’ve got a hundred and seventy-five phones that I want to take through this process. You’ve got other cases springing up all over the place where they want phones taken through the process. So it’s not about one phone, and they know it’s not about one phone.”

— Apple CEO Tim Cook, in an interview with Time last week.

Since a federal magistrate in California in mid-February ordered the company to assist the FBI in gaining access to San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook’s seized iPhone, the legal filings and rhetoric between the world’s most valuable technology company and one of the largest crime-fighting organizations in the world had sharpened into verbal vitriol.

120106_doj_reuters_6051

This month, Apple said the “Founding Fathers would be appalled” because the government’s order to unlock the iPhone was based on non-existent authority asserted by the DOJ. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Japan’s Latest Celebrity Heartthrob: Shabani the Gorilla

A silverback gorilla named Shabani has become a celebrity in Japan. His admirers are attracted to his powerful physique and rugged good looks. Photo: Miho Inada/The Wall Street Journal


This Chinese Company Moved Production to South Carolina to Save Money

wsj-china-carolina

Part of Beijing’s strategy was to encourage Chinese companies to invest overseas as a way to build their global presence to find markets for excess supply. The strategy also could boost Chinese exports. That’s because foreign firms generally look to home companies for supplies.

Bob Davis reports: South Carolina officials have fished successfully in foreign waters for investment over the past decade. Now they’re even reeling in catches from China, a nation blamed throughout the state for battering South Carolina’s economy over the past two decades.

“No one could have imagined five years ago that China would look at the cost structure in South Carolina and say it’s more profitable to locate in South Carolina than in China,” says Auggie Tantillo, a South Carolina native who heads the National Council of Textile Organizations.

 [This has been cross-posted from WSJ’s Real Time Economics blog]

For years, South Carolina’s business leaders were at loggerheads with China. Roger Milliken, the former chief executive of textile giant Milliken & Co., bankrolled unsuccessful efforts to block China’s entry into the World Trade Organization because he believed Chinese competition would undermine U.S. firms. Former Sen. Jim DeMint, who won office as a free trader, says that many people in his home state believed they were losing their jobs because of low-cost Chinese competition.

But now Chinese investment in the state, although now at modest levels, is starting to build. Chinese investors are buying golf courses near Myrtle Beach, and setting up yarn, plastic and chemical companies elsewhere. In one of the biggest investments, Chinese-owned Volvo Car Corp. last year said it would invest $500 million to build a new vehicle plant near Charleston.

So far, Chinese firms have invested about $300 million in South Carolina and employ about 1,000, according to Rhodium Group, a New York research group. That’s a small fraction of the approximately 130,000 South Carolina workers who now work for foreign-owned firms in the state, mainly from Germany, France and elsewhere in Europe. South Carolina’s success in snagging foreign investment is the subject of a Wall Street Journal front-page story.

[Read the full text here, at China Real Time Report – WSJ]

The state has focused on Chinese investment since at least 2001, said John Ling, who until recently headed the state’s Chinese investment efforts. “The breaking point,” Mr. Ling said, was in 2009 when China spent heavily to stimulate its economy and pull itself out of the global recession. Part of Beijing’s strategy was to encourage Chinese companies to invest overseas as a way to build their global presence to find markets for excess supply. The strategy also could boost Chinese exports. That’s because foreign firms generally look to home companies for supplies. Read the rest of this entry »


OH NO THEY DIDN’T: Apple Has Dumped $100B in Market Value in Past Month 

Tim Cook

Apple Inc. AAPL, -4.22%   shares fell below $100 for the first time in 15 months, gripped by Thursday’s sharp market declines and signs of slowing growth in the two pillars of the company’s recent success: the iPhone and China.

“Signs of weakness in the iPhone, its best-selling and most profitable product, come after new, larger-screen models propelled Apple to record results in its fiscal year ended Sept. 26.”

The Cupertino, Calif., company’s 4.2% drop on the day was greater than the overall market’s slide and the 3% slump in the Nasdaq Composite, which closed down 10% from its May peak. Since early December, Apple has shed $100 billion in market value.

apple-store-foster-and-partners-staircase

Buoyed by China’s rising middle class, Apple’s Greater China sales in that period grew 84%, and the company overall posted revenue of $233 billion for the year. Now, both of those growth engines appear at risk.”

Signs of weakness in the iPhone, its best-selling and most profitable product, come after new, larger-screen models propelled Apple to record results in its fiscal year ended Sept. 26. Buoyed by China’s rising middle class, Apple’s Greater China sales in that period grew 84%, and the company overall posted revenue of $233 billion for the year.

[An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.]

Now, both of those growth engines appear at risk. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Apple has cut order forecasts to iPhone suppliers in recent months, according to people familiar with the matter. And China’s economy is slowing sharply, dramatized by plunging stock markets. Read the rest of this entry »


Full Text: Japan-South Korea Statement on ‘Comfort Women’ 

korea-japan

Announcement by Foreign Ministers of Japan and the Republic of Korea at the Joint Press Occasion.

Here is the full text of the announcement between Japan and South Korea on women who were forced to serve Japanese soldiers sexually in World War II, as released by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The announcement consists of statements by Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se. For The Wall Street Journal’s coverage of the two countries’ agreement, follow this link

comfort-women-5

  1. Foreign Minister Kishida

The Government of Japan and the Government of the Republic of Korea (ROK) have intensively discussed the issue of comfort women between Japan and the ROK at bilateral meetings including the Director-General consultations. Based on the result of such discussions, I, on behalf of the Government of Japan, state the following:

(1)    The issue of comfort women, with an involvement of the Japanese military authorities at that time, was a grave affront to the honor and dignity of large numbers of women, and the Government of Japan is painfully aware of responsibilities from this perspective.

As Prime Minister of Japan, Prime Minister Abe expresses anew his most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences and suffered incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.

(2)    The Government of Japan has been sincerely dealing with this issue. Building on such experience, the Government of Japan will now take measures to heal psychological wounds of all former comfort women through its budget. To be more specific, it has been decided that the Government of the ROK establish a foundation for the purpose of providing support for the former comfort women, that its funds be contributed by the Government of Japan as a one-time contribution through its budget, and that projects for recovering the honor and dignity and healing the psychological wounds of all former comfort women be carried out under the cooperation between the Government of Japan and the Government of the ROK.

comfort-women

(3)    While stating the above, the Government of Japan confirms that this issue is resolved finally and irreversibly with this announcement, on the premise that the Government will steadily implement the measures specified in (2) above.

In addition, together with the Government of the ROK, the Government of Japan will refrain from accusing or criticizing each other regarding this issue in the international community, including at the United Nations.

  1. Foreign Minister Yun

The Government of the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Government of Japan have intensively discussed the issue of comfort women between the ROK and Japan at bilateral meetings including the Director-General consultations. Based on the result of such discussions, I, on behalf of the Government of the ROK, state the following:

(1)    The Government of the ROK values the GOJ’s announcement and efforts made by the Government of Japan in the lead-up to the issuance of the announcement and confirms, together with the GOJ, that the issue is resolved finally and irreversibly with this announcement, on the premise that the Government of Japan will steadily implement the measures specified in 1. (2) above. The Government of the ROK will cooperate in the implementation of the Government of Japan’s measures. Read the rest of this entry »


Tax and Spending Deal: A Lose-Lose for the American People 

CWYc-LjUEAAixuF

Photo of the 2,242 page omnibus and tax deal. Voting could happen as soon as Thursday night.

Jeffrey H. Anderson With a deadline looming, congressional leaders unveiled “sweeping” tax and spending legislation late last night. The result makes one wonder whether congressional Republicans negotiate directly with President Obama on these deals, or whether they just send corporate lobbyists‎ to do so, thereby cutting out the middle man.

Ryan-Drudge

“The deal would adopt environmental and renewable measures that Democrats want. These include extending wind and solar tax credits, reauthorizing a conservation fund for three years and excluding any measures that block major administration environmental regulations.”

The Wall Street Journal reports, “The agreement…is expected to suspend for two years a tax on medical devices and delay for two years the scheduled 2018 start of the so-called Cadillac tax on high-cost employer health plans.” Each of these “fixes” to Obamacare will make deep-pocketed groups that much less interested in full repeal in 2017, while the suspension of the Cadillac tax will also make it that much harder to pass the conservative alternative needed to make full repeal a reality. The delay of that tax is also a big win for labor unions.

“Lawmakers and aides said the spending bill doesn’t include any restrictions on the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the U.S.”

But that’s just the beginning.

The new Office takes the work out of working together.

Take a look at the new Office.

Spent last night cutting through 2,000 pages of words, words, words

Spent last night cutting through 2,000 pages of words, words, words – 

The Journal writes, “In one major concession to Democrats, the spending bill won’t cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, as many conservatives had sought.”

[Read the full story here, at The Weekly Standard]

The Journal also reports that “the deal would adopt environmental and renewable measures that Democrats want. These include extending wind and solar tax credits, reauthorizing a conservation fund for three years and excluding any measures that block major administration environmental regulations.”

And that’s not all: “Lawmakers and aides said the spending bill doesn’t include any restrictions on the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the U.S.” (It does, however, reportedly “limit certain travel privileges granted to citizens of 38 friendly foreign countries that are allowed to enter the U.S. without obtaining a visa.”) Read the rest of this entry »


Google Exploring Shanghai’s Free-Trade Zone

Companies such as Amazon and Apple use Shanghai’s free-trade zone to run some of their value-added services in China, due to the area’s looser rules on foreign capital.

Yang Jie reports: The jury is still out on the business benefits of Shanghai’s free-trade zone— but one notable U.S. tech giant is among the firms that has dipped a toe into the pilot area’s waters.

“The free-trade zone’s rules make it easier for foreign companies to run e-commerce operations, for example. But they have little benefit when it comes to activities such as Internet search and e-mail, which are dependent on the location of the server and the storage of data”

Google, of Mountain View, Calif., set up a company in Shanghai’s pioneer free-trade zone last year, according to online filings reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Companies such as Amazon and Apple use Shanghai’s free-trade zone to run some of their value-added services in China, due to the area’s looser rules on foreign capital and greater freedom in terms of industries that foreign businesses can participate in.

The free-trade zone’s rules make it easier for foreign companies to run e-commerce operations, for example. But they have little benefit when it comes to activities such as Internet search and e-mail, which are dependent on the location of the server and the storage of data, according to people familiar with the matter.

A Google spokesman declined to comment on the issue. The company’s establishment was first reported on Monday by The Paper, a Shanghai-based media outlet.
Read the rest of this entry »


Beijing’s Fear: Impotence in the Face of Terror

Islamic State’s slaying of Fan Jinghui, right, who was executed along with a Norwegian hostage, left, has put pressure on Beijing to step up protections for Chinese citizens abroad. Photo: Associated Press

Deaths, image of bloodied hostage speed up calls for Chinese intervention in world’s trouble spots.

Andrew Browne reports: A self-described drifter and thrill-seeker, Fan Jinghui didn’t fit the typical profile of Chinese victims of terrorism overseas.

“To an extraordinary degree, China’s international security policy in recent years has been driven by the political imperative to be seen doing everything it can to protect an estimated five million Chinese nationals living and working outside the country.”

Among the scores of Chinese expatriates who have met violent deaths in the past decade at the hands of extremists, most have been workers in state companies drilling for oil, operating mines or building highways, hospitals and other infrastructure in unstable parts of Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.

“In response to Mr. Fan’s execution, don’t expect Chinese fighter jets to join bombing runs against Islamic State; China lacks the ability to project force in that way, even if it wanted to. It has no overseas military bases, and shuns military alliances.”

But the recent execution of the itinerant Beijing resident by Islamic State, along with a Norwegian hostage, triggered a particularly bitter outpouring of online commentary in China. While France responded to the massacre in Paris by declaring it was at war with Islamic State, and U.S. and Russian jets pounded the group’s strongholds, critics noted that the Chinese government offered only angry rhetoric in response to the killing of Mr. Fan.

“Beyond that, what else can it do?” scoffed one Internet user.

Police escort a Chinese hostage in Bamako, Mali, where three Chinese rail executives were killed during a hotel siege.

Police escort a Chinese hostage in Bamako, Mali, where three Chinese rail executives were killed during a hotel siege. Photo: Panoramic/Zuma Press

“But it’s only a matter of time, say security analysts, before China sends in special forces to free hostages or rescue Chinese civilians trapped in a crisis.”

Any accusation of impotence abroad, when Chinese lives are at stake, stings Beijing’s leadership. Almost certainly, Mr. Fan’s brutal slaying, together with the deaths of three Chinese rail executives gunned down in the Mali hotel siege, is likely to accelerate a trend for Beijing to intervene in lawless areas of the globe to protect its own nationals and massive investments.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

President Xi Jinping vowed to strengthen collaboration with the world community “to resolutely fight violent terrorist activities that hurt innocent lives.” A foreign ministry spokesman said Monday, “In light of new circumstances, we will come up with new proposals to ensure the security of Chinese citizens and institutions overseas.”

To an extraordinary degree, China’s international security policy in recent years has been driven by the political imperative to be seen doing everything it can to protect an estimated five million Chinese nationals living and working outside the country.

That has eaten away at China’s long-standing policy of “noninterference” in the affairs of other countries. Read the rest of this entry »


Explosion Hits Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine

tok-exp

Yasukuni is widely seen as a symbol of the country’s militarism before and during World War II. Among the 2.4 million war dead enshrined are 14 convicted class-A war criminals.

TOKYO— Mitsuru Obe reports: An explosion at the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo may have been politically motivated, police said.

“Many Japanese on the political left warn about a return of that militarism, and there was widespread anger at the Abe government’s passage in September of legislation expanding the overseas role of the country’s military.”

No one was injured in the blast, which came at 10 a.m. local time Monday, a national holiday in Japan, just before a ceremony in celebration of the autumn harvest.

“The bills, which cast off restrictions that had been in place since the end of World War II, prompted months of street protests and scuffles in parliament.”

It left the walls of a bathroom burned and a small hole in the ceiling, according to local media, which reported investigators found batteries and wire at the scene.

Yasukuni is widely seen—including by some people in Japan—as a symbol of the country’s militarism before and during World War II. Among the 2.4 million war dead enshrined are 14 convicted class-A war criminals. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Apple’s New Cupertino Campus Construction Shown in Drone Video

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said the new Cupertino, Calif., campus would house 12,000 employees when he presented the idea in 2011. Drone footage shows that the 2.8-million-square-foot spaceship-like office complex is now taking shape. Photo/Video: YouTube/Duncan Sinfield


China Censors Your Internet

censorship

In The Wall Street Journal, Information Age columnist Gordon Crovitz writes about how China censors your Internet—Beijing thinks Taylor Swift’s “1989” is code for Tiananmen Square and must be blocked….(read more)

Source: WSJ


‘Future Teardown’ of an Apple Car Shows Us Who Could be Making the Various Elements 

Ben Lovejoy reports: While we can’t say for sure that an Apple Car will ever go on sale, it’s a certainty by this point that the company is devoting substantial development resources to the project. Tim Cook said recently that there would be “massive change” in the car industry, and that “autonomous driving becomes much more important.”

But as a recent opinion piece on sister site Electrek argued, and Elon Musk warned, actually manufacturing a car is massively more complex than making consumer electronics devices. Apple will therefore be looking for partners to pull together different elements of the car. Re/code has put together an interesting look at the most likely candidates …

None of the companies would comment on any conversations they have with the Cupertino giant about their own cars. None of them flat-out denied those conversations, either. Google, Tesla and Apple all declined to comment.

The list below is not exhaustive. Yet after conversations with nearly a dozen manufacturers, industry experts and tech companies involved in the world of self-driving cars, Re/code assembled a portrait of the leading, innovative companies and critical dynamics in the autonomous industry.

The exterior of the car could, it suggests, be made by five companies: Roush, Delphi, Edison2, Atieva and Renovo Motors. The first of those, Roush, is a Michigan-based “boutique automotive supplier” which already has one key claim to credibility in the field: it assembled the exterior for Google’s prototype self-driving cars.

[Read the full story here, at 9to5Mac]

Renovo recently teamed-up with engineers from Stanford University to create a self-driving electric DeLorean capable of donuts and drifting. While it was of course a PR stunt, you need some impressive tech to pull it off. Read the rest of this entry »


The Benghazi Hearing: A Viewer’s Guide

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton faces questions from the House Select Committee on Benghazi Thursday. WSJ’s Shelby Holliday breaks down all you need to know, including the main characters and various plot lines of this Capitol Hill drama.


How Democrats’ ‘Shutdown Theater’ Works

obama-exhaust

 writes:

.Here’s how the shutdown weapon works. The president and his Democratic allies in Congress dictate their priorities on the budget and spending. If Republicans don’t go along, if they pass a budget that doesn’t spend as much as the president wants, Democrats use the filibuster and the veto to block the budget and shut down government. They then use “shutdown theater”—things like erecting barriers around public monuments that require no federal money to stay open—to make this seem like a bigger crisis than it is, and they depend on the press to put all the blame on Republicans. The House GOP, seeing the public approval of Republicans taking a hit, backs down. That’s how the last two Democratic presidents have used the shutdown to beat a hostile Congress into submission.

Democracy isn’t a machine — it’s a dance. Americans have some recourse against Obama’s shutdown theater.

Democracy isn’t a machine — it’s a dance. Americans have some recourse against Obama’s shutdown theater.

So long as Obama and the Democrats can use a government shutdown as a credible threat, they neutralize House Republicans’ power of the purse. And so long as that’s the case, the House GOP can’t do anything substantial. They’re reduced to pleading, “We can’t do anything until we have the Senate,” and then, “We can’t do anything until we have the presidency.” And eventually the Republican base and the Tea Party types get fed up and conclude that Republican leaders never really wanted to do anything in the first place, that they’re just marking time before they can go to K Street or Wall Street and cash out. (Which is partly correct.)

John Carano, 65, walks on a trail at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, in Valley View, Ohio. The impacts of the federal shutdown began rippling across Ohio on Tuesday morning, with a national military museum and national park closing and thousands of federal employees going on furlough. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

The House GOP needed to find a good opportunity to go to the matt on the government shutdown and force Democrats to compromise. If they had done that, they could have used budget negotiations to get at least some of what the base wanted, instead of caving in all the time…(read more)

Source: The Real House Leadership Crisis – TheFederalist.com


[VIDEO] Xi Jinping’s U.S. Trip in 60 Seconds 

Chinese President Xi Jinping lands in the U.S. on Tuesday and will embark on a whirlwind of meetings. Here’s a quick guide to Xi’s itinerary.


Apple Speeds Up Electric-Car Work

Daisuke Wakabayashi reports: Apple Inc. is accelerating efforts to build an electric car, designating it internally as a “committed project” and setting a target ship date for 2019, according to people familiar with the matter.

The go-ahead came after the company spent more than a year investigating the feasibility of an Apple-branded car, including meetings with two groups of government officials in California. Leaders of the project, code-named Titan , have been given permission to triple the 600-person team, the people familiar with the matter said.

‘We look at a number of things along the way, and we decided to really put out energies in a few of them.’

—Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO

Apple has hired experts in driverless cars, but the people familiar with Apple’s plans said the Cupertino, Calif., company doesn’t currently plan to make its first electric vehicle fully autonomous. That capability is part of the product’s long-term plans, the people familiar with the matter said.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

Apple’s commitment is a sign that the company sees an opportunity to become a player in the automotive industry by applying expertise that it has honed in developing iPhones—in areas such as batteries, sensors and hardware-software integration—to the next generation of cars.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

There are many unanswered questions about Apple’s automotive foray. It isn’t clear whether Apple has a manufacturing partner to become the car equivalent of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the Taiwanese contract manufacturer that builds most iPhones and is known by the trade name Foxconn. Most major auto makers build and run their own factories, but that hasn’t been Apple’s strategy with iPhones or iPads. Contract manufacturing in the auto industry usually is limited to a few niche models.

Featured Image -- 82153

The 2019 target is ambitious. Building a car is a complex endeavor, even more so for a company without any experience. Once Apple completes its designs and prototypes, a vehicle would still need to undergo a litany of tests before it could clear regulatory hurdles.

In Apple’s parlance, a “ship date” doesn’t necessarily mean the date that customers receive a new product; it can also mean the date that engineers sign off on the product’s main features.

[Read the full text of Daisuke Wakabayashi‘s article here, at WSJ]

It isn’t uncommon for a project of this size and complexity to miss ship date deadlines. People familiar with the project said there is skepticism within the team that the 2019 target is achievable. Read the rest of this entry »