Thursday, December 28, 2017

North Korea Is Girding For War


Deadly Speculation

Imagine North Korea obliterating Manhattan and other targets in a nuclear strike in March 2019 after a series of missteps and ill-conceived signals between Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington.
“Hundreds of thousands perished in South Korea and Japan from the combination of the blasts and fires,” wrote nonproliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis in an alarming speculative essay in the Washington Post recently.
Lewis’ dark vision increasingly appears to be a realistic scenario in light of the saber-rattling that’s been occurring over North Korea in recent months.
Writing in the Boston Globe, globalization guru Jeffrey Sachs argued the world was indeed on the brink of nuclear war.
Former US ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, recently told Republicans in North Carolina that the US might need to launch a preemptive strike against North Korea to avoid that fate, USA Today reported.
North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, thinks it’s “too early” to take steps to avoid a war, wrote Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. The 33-year-old dictator who has ruthlessly consolidated power – killing his uncle and half-brother, for example – has no sense of urgency about his apparent collision course with the world’s mightiest power, Ignatius said, citing UN officials who recently visited the country.
That’s not cause for relief. Taking war seriously – even expecting it because people and technologies are flawed – is the best way to avoid it.
“The exit ramps from this crisis appear to be narrowing in both Washington and Pyongyang, creating new worry, frustration and resolve,” said Ignatius.
But other signs say North Korea is girding for war.
The New York Times claimed that Kim has made his team of nuclear missile scientists heroes in the communist country.
Citing Japanese media, Bloomberg reported that Kim is experimenting with loading anthrax on intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs.
American, British and other officials have accused North Korea of launching the WannaCry ransomware attacks that temporarily shut down the British health system and caused other chaos in May. Slate raised doubts about those assertions, but the world has known for years that cyberattacks are as crucial to warfare today as cavalries were to fighting in the past.
The Financial Times also noted that Kim was working hard to reduce the role of China in the Hermit Kingdom’s moribund economy. That shift might hurt his citizens in the short run. But Kim has shown little regard for his people, and in the long run less dependence on China gives him more leverage in his quest to lift sanctions that have isolated his country.
One might say the writing is on the wall, but there is still time to avoid the worst.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Russians Are Getting Hit Hard By US Sanctions


Making the Most

Moscow is simultaneously leveraging its pivotal role in foreign affairs in Syria and elsewhere to fight back against Ukraine-related sanctions and making the most of those penalties to lure back money its citizens have squirreled away overseas.
President Vladimir Putin on Monday told lawmakers a new capital amnesty program should be adopted to lure back an estimated $1 trillion stashed overseas, saying greater restrictions related to European and US sanctions “should stimulate the return of capital to Russia,” Bloomberg reported.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesdaydenounced “Washington’s aggressive rhetoric” with regard to North Korea during a phone call with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the Hill reported. Tillerson and Lavrov discussed how to move forward in Syria and Ukraine amid an offer from Russia to mediate between the US and North Korea – indicating that Moscow may link these issues to gain leverage.
Bloomberg argues that the latest round of US sanctions on Russia’s oligarchs is causing more worry than previous moves.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Christmas Truce of 1914

A History Of The Poinsetta

The Christmas Shrub

The poinsettia might best be known as a holiday flower, decorating our homes and offices during the Christmas period. But in Mexico, from where it hails, it’s just another shrub.
Even so, it has been associated with Christmas in Mexico since the 16th century, where it’s called the “flor de nochebuena,” (Christmas Eve flower), the Chicago Tribune reported.
Meanwhile, in Spain, it is known as Flor de Pascua or Pascua, meaning the Easter flower, while Hungarians call it Santa Claus’ Flower.
The plant, whose English name comes from a 19th century physician and diplomat, Joel Poinsett, became part of the American Christmas tradition in the 1920s. California grower, Paul Ecke, introduced the poinsettia to the public as a potted plant, thanks to technology developed at the time which allowed the plant to grow outside of its native Mexico.
Some clever marketing decades later made the plant ubiquitous during the holiday season. The Ecke family, which had a virtual monopoly on poinsettia production, created a buzz by showering television networks with free poinsettias from Thanksgiving to Christmas, and getting them on “The Tonight Show” and Bob Hope’s holiday specials.
In the ensuing years, the plant has even earned a distinction. Dec. 12 is National Poinsettia Day.
Meanwhile, it’s a smart plant, a survivor. Though most believe the appealing red “petals” constitute a flower, they’re actually the plant’s leaves.
“The actual bloom consists of tiny yellow flowers,” said Todd Jacobson, head of horticulture at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Kindness 34 Years Ago

Christmas Kindness 34 Years Ago
I was living in the small town of Albany, West Australia. It was right on the Indian Ocean. It was beautiful and charming. It was a hard time for me. My marriage had broken up and my ex-wife had returned to the USA. I could not leave Australia due to a legal dispute. I was alone and very far from home at Christmas. A couple named Len and Eve Lees were my only real friends in town. They were an older couple. Len had been captured by the Germans in Italy in World War II. He spent a couple of years in a German POW camp..Eve had stood by his side and waited.
I was renting a room and in bad financial shape. Len and Eve came to see me. They brought me a nice plate of Christmas food. They also brought me a gift. In the British world it would be called "a tin of biscuits." Translated to American English it means a nice metal box full of tasty Christmas cookies. They spent a lot of time with me. They made me feel better. I was touched then and am still touched now.
Sometimes a small act of kindness can make a big difference in someone's life!!!!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

41 Years Ago My Mother Got A Surprise Visit

Everyone yesterday afternoon I was reading the latest copy of The Tulanian magazine. It was dedicated to New Orleans and its celebration of 300 years as a city. One section was devoted to the Jewish community in New Orleans and its incredible contributions to the city's cultural and economic life. A picture appeared in the article of Edith Rosenwald Stern. Her family were the founders of Sears and Roebuck Company. In the early 1930's my mother was hired to be the governess for her children. It was a happy job for her and mother made a profound and positive impression on Mrs. Stern.
In 1976, a dear friend named William Bahr had applied for a job with Mrs. Stern. I took note of my mother's great relationship with Mrs. Stern. I called Mrs. Stern. I told her that I wanted to give her a reference for Mr. Bahr. I asked permission to come to see her in person. Much to my surprise, she invited me to her home for a Saturday morning meeting.
I made the 400 mile drive from Houston to New Orleans. I drove to Mrs. Stern's mansion. It was a large brick house. As I entered the foyer, I saw two Mickey Mouse drawings from Walt Disney circa 1928. The house had a heating plant like an office building. Mrs. Stern was kind and gracious with me. We spent most of Saturday morning talking. She was impressed at my loyalty to my friend. She also talked at length about my mother.
I left the house feeling happy. My dear friend didn't get the job because he didn't have the correct engineering background. However, my mother got a big surprise. One morning around lunchtime, a limousine appeared in front of her Houston house. Mrs. Stern came to the door. She and mother had a nice visit. Mrs. Stern then invited her to lunch. They rode to a 5-star restaurant in the limousine.
My mother was touched and surprised that such a wealthy lady remembered her after 45 years.
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Monday, December 18, 2017

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Chinese Economic Melt Down Like The 2008 Melt Down In The USA?


From There to Here

China has become the full-throated defender of globalization in recent years.
At the recent Fortune Global Forum in Guangzhou, for example, Vice Premier Wang Yang reiterated China’s support for open markets and opposition to protectionism, Bloomberg reported.
Free marketeers like the editors at the Economist have responded by praising Chinese President Xi Jinping and his administration. “Fears that Xi Jinping is bad for private enterprise are overblown,” read an October headline in the British magazine.
But people worldwide still need to be watchful when their fates in the global economy are hitched to a country of more than 1.3 billion people.
The International Monetary Fund recently released a report that said Chinese local governments, businesses and individuals were accumulating alarming levels of debt that could set the stage for a crisis resembling the 2008 Wall Street meltdown.
Some of the IMF’s findings should make anyone who remembers 2008 leery. For instance, staff at the People’s Bank of China has remained the same for 10 years while the country’s financial sector has doubled in size.
Worryingly, the bank didn’t see a problem. “Our financial system has a relatively strong capability to fend off risks,” bank officials told Caixin, an English-language Chinese business news website.
Basing its findings on stress tests of Chinese banks, the IMF suggested China focus less on growth, which leads folks to borrow, and instead enact financial reforms to prevent risky lending and force banks to hold more money in case of a crisis.
But, as CNBC explained, China needs the debt to keep flowing in order to maintain its current annual growth rates of more than 6 percent. Otherwise, the prosperity that has been revolutionizing the world’s most populous country in recent decades could stall, triggering instability. Growth might fall by as much as half if Beijing orders creditors to turn off the tap, the news service said.
Xi might have a plan. At the Communist Party’s national congress in October – when members elevated him to a status previously enjoyed only by Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping – Xi stopped short of dictating a growth target, unlike his illustrious predecessors. That gives him wiggle room to cool the economy down if necessary.
A South China Morning Post columnist argued that naysayers are often wrong about the Chinese economy. The country is ably navigating the challenges of shifting from an export-driven economy to a consumerist model, he argued. For instance, China is investing heavily in clean tech to offset cuts in polluting industries.
Nobody should be staying awake at night worrying about a Chinese recession. But political debates in Washington might be the least of the world’s problems right now.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Military Intelligence Analysts Will Find A Sublte Clue That War Between The US And North Korea Is Coming

A bridge over the Tumen River marking the border between North Korea, foreground, and China.CreditEd Jones/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
BEIJING — A Chinese county along the border with North Korea is constructing refugee camps intended to house thousands of migrants fleeing a possible crisis on the Korean Peninsula, according to an internal document that appears to have been leaked from China’s main state-owned telecommunications company.
Three villages in Changbai County and two cities in the northeastern border province of Jilin, have been designated for the camps, according to the document from China Mobile. The document appeared last week on Weibo, a microblogging site.
The camps are an unusual, albeit tacit, admission by China that instability in North Korea is increasingly likely, and that refugees could swarm across the Tumen River, a narrow ribbon of water that divides the two countries.
For decades, Chinese policy on North Korea has centered on maintaining stability in a neighboring country known for its repression and volatility.
Despite international sanctions and condemnation, the North in recent months has intensified a program to test nuclear weapons and missiles, increasing the potential for internal instability or the chance of an attack by the United States.
Continue reading the main story
Lu Kang, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, told reporters on Monday that he was unaware of the plan for the refugee camps, but he did not deny their existence.
“I haven’t seen such reports,” Mr. Lu said.
Changbai County officials did not answer telephone calls on Monday, and an executive at China Mobile in Changbai declined to discuss the matter.
The China Mobile document said that a manager of the company inspected five sites on Dec. 2 at the request of the Changbai County government.
The company was asked to ensure there was viable internet service in the areas that would be used for the camps. “Because the situation on the China-North Korea border has intensified lately, Changbai County government plans to set up five refugee sites in Changbai,” China Mobile said in the document.
The areas designated for the refugee camps were on state-owned land, and temporary housing had already been constructed at several sites, according to a local businessman who requested anonymity for fear of angering the local government.
Three county villages were named in the document as locations for the camps. The cities of Tumen and Hunchun will also house refugees, according to the businessman.
Tumen and Hunchun have for 20 years received defectors, who have managed to escape from North Korea into China. Many of those defectors travel on to Southeast Asia and eventually to South Korea.
Jilin Province is about 60 miles from Punggye-ri, the main North Korean nuclear test site. Fears of a nuclear war, or disaster, just miles away have set residents of the province on edge.
Last week, the Jilin Daily, a provincial newspaper, advised residents on how to react in case of a nuclear explosion or radioactive fallout.
The advice included washing off radioactive dust from exposed body parts and shoes, and taking iodine tablets. The article noted that when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945, more than 70,000 people were killed. Modern weapons are many times more powerful.
China has refrained from imposing overly punitive sanctions on North Korea for fear of causing a collapse that would result in refugees flooding the economically vulnerable northeast. So far, China has resisted calls to cut off oil to North Korea, a move that would result in severe deprivation resulting in many people crossing the border.
Although China does not appear to have changed its basic position on maintaining stability, the increasingly hostile talk in Washington appears to be spurring contingency preparations.
Zheng Zeguang, the vice minister of foreign affairs, rushed to Washington last week to discuss what Chinese officials call the “black hole of confrontation” between the United States and North Korea.
As a result of the rising tensions, one of China’s most prominent experts on North Korea, called building the camps “absolutely reasonable.”
“It is highly possible that there is a conflict between North Korea and the United States now,” said Zhang Liangui, a professor of international strategic research at the Communist Party’s Central Party School. “What China does here is to be prepared for any kind of situation happening on the Korean Peninsula.”
In another sign of increased tensions, South Korea said on Monday that it would join the United States and Japan for a drill to practice tracking missiles launched from North Korean submarines.
Last month, North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that flew higher and longer than its previous tests. The North said that the missile could deliver nuclear warheads anywhere in the continental United States.

Monday, December 11, 2017

1950's Email

I have no idea who put this together, but it is wonderful!

Long ago and far away, in a land that time forgot,
Before the days of Dylan , or the dawn of Camelot.
There lived a race of innocents, and they were you and me,

For Menzies was in the Parliament in that land where we were born,
Where navels were for oranges, and Peyton Place was porn.

We longed for love and romance, and waited for our Prince,
Eddie Fisher married Liz, and no one's seen him since.

We danced to 'Little Darlin,' and sang to 'Stagger Lee'
And cried for Buddy Holly in the Land That Made Me, Me.

Only girls wore earrings then, and 3 was one too many,
And only boys wore flat-top cuts, except for Jean McKinney.

And only in our wildest dreams did we expect to see
A boy named George with Lipstick, in the Land That Made Me,Me.

We fell for Frankie Avalon, Annette was oh, so nice,
And when they made a movie, they never made it twice.

We didn't have a Star Trek Five, or Psycho Two and Three,
Or Rocky-Rambo Twenty in the Land That Made Me, Me.

Miss Kitty had a heart of gold, and Chester had a limp,
And Tarzan was a loner whose co-star was a chimp.

We had a Mr. Wizard, but not a Mr. T,
And Oprah couldn't talk yet, in the Land That Made Me, Me.
We had our share of heroes, we never thought they'd go,
At least not Bobby Darin, or Marilyn Monroe.

For youth was still eternal, and life was yet to be,
And Elvis was forever in the Land That Made Me, Me.

We'd never seen the rock band that was Grateful to be Dead,
And Aeroplanes weren't named Jefferson , and Zeppelins were not Led.
And Beatles lived in gardens then, and Monkees lived in trees,
Madonna was Mary in the Land That Made Me, Me.

We'd never heard of microwaves, or telephones in cars,
And babies might be bottle-fed, but they were not grown in jars.

And pumping iron got wrinkles out, and 'gay' meant fancy-free,
And dorms were never co-Ed in the Land That Made Me, Me.
We hadn't seen enough of jets to talk about the lag,
And microchips were what was left at the bottom of the bag.

And hardware was a box of nails, and bytes came from a flea,
And rocket ships were fiction in the Land That Made Me, Me.

T-Birds came with portholes, and side shows came with freaks,
And bathing suits came big enough to cover both your cheeks.

And Coke came just in bottles, and skirts below the knee,
And Castro came to power near the Land That Made Me, Me.
We had no Crest with Fluoride, we had no Hill Street Blues,
We had no patterned pantyhose or Lipton herbal tea
Or prime-time ads for those dysfunctions in the Land That Made Me,Me.

There were no golden arches, no Perrier to chill,
And fish were not called Wanda, and cats were not called Bill.

And middle-aged was 35 and old was forty-three,
And ancients were our parents in the Land That Made Me, Me.

But all things have a season, or so we've heard them say,
And now instead of Maybelline we swear by Retin-A.
They send us invitations to join AARP,
We've come a long way, baby, from the Land That Made Me, Me. 
So now we face a brave new world in slightly larger jeans, 
And wonder why they're using smaller print in magazines.
And we tell our children's children of the way it used to be,
Long ago and far away in the Land That Made Me, Me.

Those who didn't grow up in the fifties, have missed the greatest time in history,
Hope you enjoyed this read as much as I did If So, PLEASE FORWARD to someone who might appreciate