Friday, March 17, 2017

Today's links

1--US Secretary of State threatens to attack North Korea

"Let me be very clear: the policy of strategic patience has ended. We are exploring a new range of security and diplomatic measures. All options are on the table," Tillerson told a news conference in Seoul.

2--US secretary of state ramps up pressure on China over North Korea

Before Tillerson’s departure from Washington, a Trump administration official underscored the White House’s rejection of China’s objections to the deployment, currently underway, of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile battery in South Korea. “THAAD is non-negotiable,” the official told Reuters. “This is one of those things where Beijing is just going to have to adapt to or live in a perpetual cycle of outrage.”....

While Tillerson is couching his public comments in language about responding to North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear weapons tests, the thrust of his tour is to escalate the US pressure on China over its alleged failure to do more to rein in North Korea.
According to US officials, Tillerson will threaten punishing sanctions against Chinese companies accused of trading with North Korea, and categorically reject Chinese calls not to proceed with stationing a US anti-missile system and attack drones in South Korea that could be used in any nuclear war with China

3---Neocons appeal to Trump for attack on Russia in Syria

In Syria, the report adds, the US should “seize and secure a base in southern Syria ... and create a de facto safe zone” where US forces can “recruit, train, equip, and partner with” local Sunni militias.
It also states that Washington must prepare for direct military confrontation with Russia over control of Syria. “The US must be prepared to conduct a full suppression of enemy air defense if necessary and to use alternative sources of leverage over Putin to deter him from attacking US forces. The US must position a joint package of strike and air defense assets in theater before beginning this course of action to strengthen this deterrence. The package must be obviously able to attain air supremacy throughout the theater and maritime supremacy in the Mediterranean if required.”

Such an increase would formally abrogate caps imposed on US deployments in Iraq and Syria by the Obama administration, 5,000 in the first country and 500 in the second. These limits have already been breached with “temporary” deployments continuously rotating more US troops in and out of the region. Meanwhile, earlier this month the Pentagon dispatched 250 US Army Rangers and 200 Marines into Syria....

The Institute for the Study of War, which is funded by major military contractors, including Raytheon, GeneralDynamics and DynCorp, issued a report entitled “America’s Way Ahead in Syria.” Its principal authors are Kimberly and Frederick Kagan, a husband-and-wife team of neo-conservative advocates of global US military escalation who acted as advisors to US commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The report criticizes the current plans for escalation as an attempt to “supersize the Obama administration’s strategy by lifting constraints on US forces and adding a few additional resources.”
Instead, they advocate, “President Trump and his team must change the strategy fundamentally. They should orient their new plan on American interests rather starting from what the US had been doing.”
The strategy advocated by the Kagans points toward a US confrontation with both Iran and Russia for hegemony over the Middle East.

“The Russo-Iranian military buildup and attempt to dominate the regional system and resources constrain and weaken the United States,” the report states. “Russia and Iran are building a regional order based on their shared near-term interests, which will not diverge any time soon. This developing system denies America the freedom to protect its own interests. The Russo-Iranian coalition will make it more difficult for the US to respond to terror threats against it, defend key allies such as Israel, and ensure unfettered access to trade routes the US economy depends on.”
The report states that “the US must maintain and likely increase its military presence in Iraq even after Mosul’s recapture.” It calls for the building up of forces in Iraq to confront and defeat Iranian influence.

“We must show once again that we are wiling to fight and die with Sunni Arabs against their enemies and ours--Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Iran,” it insists

4--The Trump Budget--Promoting death over life

The Trump budget proposes the outright elimination of 19 government agencies, most of them long targeted for destruction by ultra-right ideologues and Christian fundamentalists. These include the National Endowment for the Arts; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Legal Services Corporation, which provides legal services for the poor; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; AmeriCorps; and the Chemical Safety Board, which investigates industrial disasters in chemical production and transport, including oil-well blowouts like the 2010 disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Destroying all these agencies saves only $3 billion, less than the cost of US military aid to Israel alone.

This is a budget that promotes death and destroys life. It pours billions into the Pentagon killing machine, at the cost of programs that provide food, shelter, heating, health care and other vital services for the population of the United States

5--Trump's Budget Vision Would Transform America Into War-Obsessed, Survival-of-the-Fittest Dystopia

Meanwhile, if you know someone who works in city or state government, they’re quick to tell you that the bonanza for defense contractors is actually crippling their ability to respond to emergencies. A quarter of the money to plan for any emergency, from natural disasters to terrorism, is gone. For cities, ports, public transit systems—rail, subway, bus—it’s all been cut, along with money to upgrade most of those facilities. Funding for food and shelter for the homeless is completely gone. Money for community policing, cops on the streets, has been cut back by a quarter. Meals on wheels for seniors has been similarly cut. And no more legal services for poor people, even if they are domestic violence victims, elderly, veterans... anyone.

Almost anybody who is out of work is also out of luck. Job training programs have been rolled back by more than a third, affecting people laid off, low-skill workers and troubled youths. Meanwhile, if you’re in business, a whole bunch of federal programs that tried to help small and medium sized firms find export markets abroad are gone. Also completely gone are the fed’s community-based lenders, which made loans to areas ignored by commercial banks—like inner cities and Indian reservations, or financed affordable housing projects. Minority business programs have also been zeroed out.

Local government and counties that depended on federal support for a slew of programs to improve living conditions for the poor are gone. No more money for helping to insulate homes. No more block grants to spruce up downtowns or for housing. No more grants to put in water and sewer systems. Funds to maintain existing public housing have also been cut by two-thirds. New money for big public transit projects, even with major local contributions, is frozen.

6--These 80 Programs Would Lose Federal Funding Under Trump’s Proposed Budget

7--Trump budget takes aim at his own base

8--USAF bombs Mosque in Aleppo

9--LIAR-- Trump's budget cuts infrastructure spending. It does not increase it.

Trump's anti-stimulus plan--The Trump budget will reduce government spending and slow growth

10-- All roads lead to Raqqa

All roads lead to Raqqa—and as the Syrian conflict enters its sixth year, the outcome of the scramble for Islamic State’s de facto capital will shape the balance of power in the Middle East for the foreseeable future.

With the self-styled caliphate rapidly shrinking in Iraq after the loss of much of Mosul, the fall of Raqqa and Islamic State’s remaining territories in Syria has become just a matter of time. The contest over who gets these spoils, however, threatens to unleash a new spiral of violence that could draw regional and global powers deeper into the conflict.

The three forces aiming for Raqqa—Sunni Arab rebels, the Syrian regime and Kurdish-led militias—all view control over that area as giving them crucial leverage in any political settlement of the war.

11--Kashkari--Let's deal with the balance sheet first

Even after the data support tightening, Kashkari said in a statement, the Fed should wait on raising interest rates until it publishes a detailed plan for how and when it will reduce its $4.5 trillion balance sheet.
"The announcement of our balance sheet plan could trigger somewhat tighter monetary conditions," Kashkari said, resulting in the equivalent of a rate hike of unknown size. "After it has been published and the market response is understood, we can return to using the federal funds rate as our primary policy tool, with the balance sheet normalization under way in the background."...

Kashkari said in his statement that because inflation is still short of the Fed's 2-percent target and the labor market is still showing signs of slack, the Fed's prior level of rates was appropriate

12--Top Ex-White House Economist Admits 94% Of All New Jobs Under Obama Were Part-Time

13--4th anniversary of the beloved leader--Hugo Chavez

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