World

China’s Economy Weakens as Trade Fight Heats Up, Emboldening Xi’s Critics

China’s ability to go toe to toe with the United States in the ongoing trade dispute was cast into doubt by economic data released this week showing an economy that had slowed down by far more than expected. Fixed income investment, which includes spending on machinery and infrastructure, rose 5.5 percent compared with a year ago, down from 6.0 percent in the prior month. Economists had expected 6.0 percent. It was the lowest level of fixed income investment growth since 1999, before China ascended to the World Trade Organization. Industrial production was up 6.0 percent, below the 6.3perrcent forecast. Unemployment rose to 5.1 percent last month, up from 4.8 percent in June. Retail sales annual gains were expected to rise from June’s 9.0 percent to 9.2 percent. Instead, sales fell to 8.8 percent.

Clearly China has FAR more to lose in this trade dispute than America does.  Maybe Trump’s tariffs strategy IS working after all..  For more, click on the text above.

State Department Takes Strongest Steps Yet to Combat Human Trafficking Abroad

Human trafficking, a form of modern slavery, has existed for thousands of years and is still a serious problem in many countries throughout the world, particularly with the resurgence of extremist groups like the Islamic State (ISIS). This year’s Trafficking in Persons’ Report, released by the State Department, is arguably stronger than it has been in previous years and is providing renewed hope for non-profits that are seeking to end these heinous crimes against humanity. Kari A. Johnstone, Acting Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP) at the State Department told Breitbart News, in an email, that since the report was first published in 2001, it has been the organization’s “principal diagnostic tool to assess government efforts across what we call the three Ps of prosecuting traffickers, protecting and empowering victims, and preventing future trafficking crimes.” She noted that many countries are taking steps to address the trafficking conditions in their nations and the “TIP Report offers concrete recommendations for improvements for every country in the book. The recommendations serve as a country-specific roadmap to better combat trafficking, to make real institutional change that can put more traffickers behind bars, better find and assist victims, and prevent exploitation of the vulnerable.” Approximately 40 million people in the world today are in modern slavery. And an additional 152 million children are in child slavery. One of the most troubled countries with the human trafficking issue is Iraq, which has been on TIP’s Tier 2 watchlist for the second year in a row. While trafficking had existed in Iraq before the conflict there, the presence of ISIS has only exacerbated it. The State Department noted in its report, “The Government of Iraq does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so.” TIP also reported that Iran, which is listed as a Tier 3 country for trafficking, “is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor” and noted that “Iranian women, boys, and girls are vulnerable to trafficking in Iran, Afghanistan, the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR), Pakistan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Europe.” The Iraq government passed an anti-trafficking law in 2012. According to the State Department, “The government also established an anti-trafficking department in the interior ministry, which collected human trafficking law enforcement data and operated the newly established anti-trafficking hotline.” Currently, the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) is looking at passing its own anti-trafficking law, and the United States has been very supportive in the fight against human trafficking. One NGO (Non-Governmental Organization), based out of Iraqi-Kurdistan has been on the front lines of this effort and helping to rehabilitate victims of human and sex trafficking, particularly victims of the Islamic State. The SEED Foundation, which was started in 2015, began with a focus on Yazidi and other survivors of Daesh, or the Islamic State, including rehabilitating victims of the jihadist group’s sexual violence and exploitation and survivors of war, and child soldiers. SEED’s President and Executive Director Sherri Kraham Talabany praised this year’s TIP report…

For more, click on the text above.

Top U.S. Gen. Warns: Islamic State in Afghanistan ‘Harboring Intentions’ to Attack West

The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) branch in Afghanistan has become a significant menace against the West despite the fall of the group’s caliphate in Iraq and Syria, a top American commander warned this week. In June, Brig. Gen. Lance R. Bunch, the top U.S. air commander in Afghanistan, noted that the ISIS wing has attempted to “establish” its own “caliphate” twice this year alone in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar along the Pakistan border, considered the group’s primary stronghold in the region. U.S.-NATO-assisted Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) have so far managed to thwart the ISIS attempt to establish a caliphate in Afghanistan, Gen. Bunch declared. Gen. Joseph Votel, the chief of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), charged with overseeing the war in Afghanistan, warned Pentagon reporters on Wednesday the American military is “concerned” ISIS in Afghanistan intends to attack the West. “I think we always have to be concerned about ISIS, whether it’s ISIS-K or whether it’s any of the other branches of it, harboring intentions to operate, you know, much more globally or externally from the areas in which they’re operating. And so, you know, we do have that concern about them,” Votel said. The ISIS branch in South Asia, which primarily operates in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is known as the Khorasan Province (ISIS-K). Asked whether the U.S. military is aware any links between ISIS-K and outside groups that would potentially carry out attacks in Europe or against the United States, Gen. Votel responded: “I think in general ISIS does have that intention.” When pressed to describe any actual plots by ISIS-K on the West, the top commander added, “I think there probably has been, but I can’t cite a specific example to you.” Back in October 2016, the U.S. military acknowledged that ISIS was “very focused on trying to establish their caliphate, the Khorasan caliphate, inside Afghanistan.” ISIS officially announced its presence in Afghanistan in early 2015, less than a year after the United States declared its combat mission over at the end of 2014. The U.S. has been assisting the Afghan forces in their fight against ISIS in their stronghold of Nangarhar. “We have killed numerous ISIS-K fighters this year,” Gen. Votel told reporters Wednesday. “The military campaign against ISIS has been both continuous and effective.” The general stressed that U.S. efforts towards “reconciliation” between Kabul and the Taliban, the primary goal of American President Donald Trump’s strategy to end to the nearly 17-year-old war, are separate from the fight to annihilate ISIS. “It is important to recognize that while we apply military pressure against the Taliban to bring them to the table of reconciliation, we harbor no illusion about reconciliation with ISIS-K; our mission is to destroy this organization,” he declared. Citing U.S. officials and the latest American intelligence estimates, Voice of America (VOA) reported this week that efforts to root out and decimate ISIS-K have “so far failed to prevent the terror group from maintaining a foothold in the country.” “IS-Khorasan is thought to have more than 1,000 fighters, most of them located in Afghanistan’s southern Nangarhar province, with a small number operating in the country’s eastern Kunar province,” VOA added. The ISIS branch reportedly reached a peak of 3,000 fighters in Afghanistan. According to a report from the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), ISIS-K was behind more than 50 percent of civilian casualties in the war-ravaged country through the first half of 2018. The University of Maryland’s renowned National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) listed ISIS-K among the 10 top prolifically deadliest terrorist group’s in the world last year, separate from core Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Last year, ISIS-K carried out 197 attacks, killing 1,302 people, the study revealed.

So, we’re VERY glad to hear GEN Votel say that his mission is “to destroy this organization.”  Outstanding!!  Having spent some time in Afghanistan myself, I’m thrilled to hear that we’re going on the offense again there.  Excellent!!     🙂

North Korea Begins Dismantling Key Facilities at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station

In an important first step towards fulfilling a commitment made by Kim Jong Un at the June 12 Singapore Summit, new commercial satellite imagery of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station (North Korea’s main satellite launch facility since 2012) indicates that the North has begun dismantling key facilities. Most notably, these include the rail-mounted processing building—where space launch vehicles are assembled before moving them to the launch pad—and the nearby rocket engine test stand used to develop liquid-fuel engines for ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles. Since these facilities are believed to have played an important role in the development of technologies for the North’s intercontinental ballistic missile program, these efforts represent a significant confidence building measure on the part of North Korea. Commercial satellite imagery of the launch pad from July 20 shows that the rail-mounted processing/transfer structure has been moved to the middle of the pad, exposing the underground rail transfer point—one of the few times it has been seen in this location. The roof and supporting structure have been partially removed and numerous vehicles are present—including a large construction crane. An image from two days later shows the continued presence of the crane and vehicles. Considerable progress has been made in dismantling the rail-mounted processing/transfer structure. One corner has been completely dismantled and the parts can be seen lying on the ground. In both images the two fuel/oxidizer bunkers, main processing building and gantry tower remain untouched.

For more, and to see the relevant satellite photos, click on the text above.

Archaeologists in Egypt discover mummification workshop

Archaeologists in Egypt stumbled upon a new discovery dating back to more than 2,500 years ago near Egypt’s famed pyramids at an ancient necropolis south of Cairo. The discovery which includes a mummification workshop and a shaft, used as a communal burial place, is located at the Saqqara necropolis of Memphis, the first capital of ancient Egypt. Memphis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its vast necropolis are home to a wide range of temples and tombs as well as the three renowned Giza pyramids. The latest find, announced at a press conference Saturday, belongs to the Saite-Persian Period, from 664-404 B.C. The site, which lies south of the Unas pyramid, was last excavated more than 100 years ago, in 1900. In the mummification workshop, an embalmer’s cachette holding a large collection of pottery vessels, bowels and measuring cups were found. Archaeologists believe the findings will reveal more about the oils used in the mummification process in the 26th Dynasty. “We are in front of a goldmine of information about the chemical composition of these oils,” said Ramadan Hussein, the head of the German-Egyptian mission, at the press conference. Among the artifacts found were fragments of mummy cartonnages, canopic cylindrical jars and marl clay and faience cups. Many will be displayed in the under-construction Grand Egyptian Museum, the first phase of which is expected to be inaugurated later this year. Archaeologists also found a gilded silver mask on the face of a mummy in a badly-damaged wooden coffin. The mask, the first to be discovered since 1939, belongs to a priest. “The finding of this mask could be called a sensation,” Hussein said. “Very few masks of precious metals have been preserved to the present day, because the tombs of most Ancient Egyptian dignitaries were looted in ancient times.” Down the 30-meter-deep shaft is a host of burial chambers carved into the bedrock lining the sides of two hallways. There lie several mummies, wooden coffins and sarcophagi. “It’s only the beginning,” added Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani. He told reporters that the sites will likely yield more discoveries after further excavation. Egypt has gone to great length to revive its vital tourism industry, still reeling from the political turmoil that followed a 2011 popular uprising. The Antiquities Ministry has boosted discoveries in recent years in the hopes of bolstering tourism, a major pillar of foreign currency.

Very cool!!    🙂

Trump supporters turn out in London a day after protests

Thousands of Trump supporters and right-wing activists took to the nation’s capital on Saturday — a day after anti-Trump protesters had dominated the city. While the displays of right-wing support were nowhere near as large as the enormous anti-Trump march that demanded the international media’s attention the day before, it was still a significant show of support for Trump from those eager to counter the claim that Trump had been unanimously rejected by Britons. The day started with a small pro-Trump rally outside the U.S. Embassy, featuring numerous red “MAGA” hats and U.S. and U.K. flags — as well as a few anti-Hillary Clinton shirts. Later, approximately 3,000 people turned out near Trafalgar Square to show their backing of Trump as well as jailed right-wing and anti-Islam activist Tommy Robinson. “Oh Tommy Tommy, Tommy Tommy Tommy Tommy Robinson,” the football chant for the activist thundered throughout the event. Robinson, the ex-leader of the English Defense League, was jailed for 13 months beginning earlier in May for contempt of court after being arrested filming outside a court in Leeds. His supporters have claimed that the law was applied unevenly and have expressed concern for his safety in prison, considering his history of criticizing Islam. A number of right-wing groups were present at the march, including Generation Identity — which calls itself a “European patriotic youth movement” — as well as a number of right-wing Western politicians. Controversial Dutch MP Geert Wilders made an address by video, while Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., spoke about the importance of free speech. The speeches were a blend of support for Trump, Robinson and also concerns about the danger of mass migration and the importance of national sovereignty. U.S. flags were again in abundance, as well as pro-Trump banners and placards reading “Britain Loves Trump.” “The rubbish that was spouted about Trump yesterday, it’s complete unjustified vitriol against him,” Robert Stevens, wearing a Trump T-shirt, said…

Didn’t hear about this yesterday, did ya?  It was not reported on MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CNBS, or NBC.  And, it was very briefly glossed over on Fox News.  For more, and to see a few pics of this pro-Trump rally in London yesterday, click on the text above.     🙂

Fearsome Nepalese police offer security for Trump-Kim summit

To protect one of the highest-profile diplomatic events so far this century, Singapore has enlisted the help of its fearsome Nepalese fighters whose large curved knives, according to custom, must “taste blood” whenever they’re drawn. Wearing brown berets and equipped with body armor and assault rifles, the elite Gurkha police officers are a conspicuous part of the enveloping security force Singapore has deployed for Tuesday’s summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The meeting, which could prove to be a crucial moment in the global diplomatic push to resolve the nuclear standoff with Pyongyang, has sent the highly manicured city-state into security overdrive. Trump and Kim have brought their own personal security personnel and heavily armored limousines; Kim’s bodyguards have been seen running in formation alongside his massive Mercedes. Selected among young men from impoverished Nepal, Gurkhas have been part of Singapore’s police force since 1949. There are reportedly about 1,800 Gurkha officers in Singapore, and they are a regular presence at high-security events. On Monday, they were seen standing guard at the heavily fortified St. Regis Singapore, where Kim arrived Sunday afternoon. “This is a moment of pride to see the Gurkhas responsible for guarding such an important event,” said Krishna Kumar Ale, who served for 37 years in the British army before retiring back home in Nepal. “It shows that we Gurkhas have reached a point where we are trusted with the security of two of the most important people in the world.” In 2015, during the Shangri-la Dialogue, a Singapore summit that includes defense ministers and top security officials from around the world, a Gurkha officer shot and killed a driver after his car breached a series of roadblocks outside the summit’s venue. The incident turned out to be drug-related, not an attack. When asked about the scale of security operations for the summit, Singapore’s Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said Sunday that more than 5,000 police had been deployed. The Gurkha Contingent is a special police unit inside the force. “I think the fact that it had to be put together in two weeks … added tremendously to the pressure and logistics, the demands. But I think the officers have worked around the clock, we are quietly confident that they have put in place the preparations,” he said. Singapore is not new to hosting high-profile events, including International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group meetings, and Association of Southeast Asian Nations summits in 2007 and 2018. Gurkhas, whose name derives from the Nepalese hill town of Gorkha, have been deployed in major conflicts and wars since becoming part of the British army in the 19th century. More than 200,000 Gurkhas fought in the two world wars, where they won admiration for their combat skills and bravery, living up to their traditional motto “It’s better to die than to be a coward.” Gurkhas also fought in the Falklands conflict, the Gulf War, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. The British experienced Gurkhas’ fierceness firsthand after suffering heavy losses during their invasion of Nepal. A peace deal signed by the British East India Company in 1815 allowed Britain to recruit troops from Nepal. After Indian independence in 1947, Britain, Nepal and India reached an agreement to transfer four Gurkha regiments to the Indian army. Former British colonies Singapore and Malaysia have also employed Gurkhas for their police and army, respectively. In Nepal, getting picked to serve as Gurkha soldiers and officers overseas is seen as a ticket out of poverty. According to Nepal’s Gurkha Army Ex-Servicemen Organization, over 10,000 applicants try out every year for about 260 places in the British army’s Gurkha units. Many train for months for the selection process, which includes a grueling “doko” race, which involves carrying 25 kilograms (55 pounds) of sand while running a steep 4.2-kilometer (2.6-mile) uphill course. Along with their modern weapons, Gurkhas still carry the traditional “kukri,” a long curved knife which tradition says must “ragat khaikana” — taste blood — once it is drawn. “That is no longer the current practice … mostly,” said the Gurkhas Australia website.