Fwd: China

'China has placed artillery pieces on one of the islands it is manufacturing in contested waters in the South China Sea, a U.S. official told CNN Friday. The story was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The official added that the artillery pieces are no longer visible -- having either been removed or concealed -- following a U.S. Navy P8-A Poseidon surveillance mission over the area. CNN was on board the flight, which took place last week. '



Fwd: Water

'The Obama administration issued a rule on Wednesday putting more small bodies of water and wetlands under federal protection to ensure clean drinking supplies, a move that has riled some lawmakers and business and farming groups.

The rule, issued jointly by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is estimated to put about 3% more waterways throughout the U.S. under new federal jurisdiction. That will require a new federal permit to pollute those waters and could restrict access altogether….

"The rule is being shoved down the throats of hardworking people with no input, and places landowners, small businesses, farmers, and manufacturers on the road to a regulatory and economic hell," House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) said in a statement Wednesday. '




Fwd: rate increase

'So the proposed 2016 Obamacare rates have been filed in many states, and in many states, the numbers are eye-popping. Market leaders are requesting double-digit increases in a lot of places. Some of the biggest are really double-digit: 51 percent in New Mexico, 36 percent in Tennessee, 30 percent in Maryland, 25 percent in Oregon. The reason? They say that with a full year of claims data under their belt for the first time since Obamacare went into effect, they're finding the insurance pool was considerably older and sicker than expected…

And in the three cases where I could see supporting data about premium revenue and losses, those losses appear to be large. Moda of Oregon says that its claims were 139 percent of revenue, making for a margin of -61 percent. If I am reading their somewhat confusing table right, Health Service Corporation of New Mexico says it lost $23 million on revenue of $121 million. CareFirst of Maryland says that claims were 120 percent of revenue, which if we add in some money to pay for overhead, amounts to ... less than or equal to what they're asking from regulators. I can't find claims experience data for Tennessee, but that state told the Wall Street Journal that it lost $141 million on exchange plans last year.

Now, this is not the whole story. These are only the biggest insurers in some states…'


Fwd: Warped

'It seems clear from this exchange that the President either doesn't understand or flatly disagrees with the point Goldberg has in mind. Goldberg's point is that serious anti-Semites (that is, people whose worldviews are shaped and informed by Jew hatred as opposed to people who have, for example, a social prejudice against associating with Jews) don't understand reality the way that other people do. They see a world dominated by Jewish plots and secret cartels, and believe that the Elders of Zion rule the world behind a screen of deception and misdirection.

This doesn't just mean that they have some quirky and unpleasant views. It means that they don't understand how politics work, why economies behave as they do, or how power is constructed in the modern world. As I wrote in an earlier post on this subject, "Jew haters don't understand how the world works; anti-Semitism is both a cause and a consequence of a basic failure to comprehend the way pluralistic and liberal societies behave. As a result, nations and political establishments warped by this hatred tend to make one dumb decision after another — starting at shadows, warding off imaginary dangers, misunderstanding the nature of the problems they face."


There are many forms of prejudice and bigotry, and they are all twisted and ugly, but Jew hatred may well be the most damaging to the hater's ability to understand the world. Jew hatred takes the form of a belief that conspiratorial groups of super-empowered Jews run the world in secret, cleverly manipulating the news media and the intelligentsia to hide the truth of their control. Someone who really believes this isn't just a heart-blighted ignorant boor; someone who believes this lives in a house of mirrors, incapable of understanding the way the world actually works.'




Fwd: China

'China has vowed to step up its presence in the South China Sea in a provocative new military white paper, amid warnings that a US-China war is "inevitable" unless Washington drops its objections to Beijing's activities.


In the new policy document published on Tuesday, China outlined its plans to shift from a defensive military posture to placing emphasis on offensive capabilities…

In an editorial in The Global Times, a tabloid owned by the Chinese Communist Party through another newspaper, the paper described the construction of runways, harbour facilities and buildings on the disputed Spratly Islands as the nation's "most important bottom line".

The article – which appeared just days after a US aircraft ignored repeated warnings from the Chinese military to fly a reconnaissance mission over the islands – said Beijing does not want a conflict with the US, "but if it were to come, we have to accept it."

"If the United States' bottom line is that China has to halt its activities, then a US-China war is inevitable in the South China Sea", said the paper, which is often seen as a mouthpiece of the government in Beijing.'


Fwd: Balance Sheet

'The exact timing of the Federal Reserve's first interest rate rise is uncertain, but even less clear is what will happen to the $4tn pile of bonds the central bank amassed during the financial crisis.

Optimists take the view that, like a skilled pilot, Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen will be able to bring the size of the balance sheet down smoothly and steadily without hitting too much turbulence.

Pessimists, however, believe the pilot is flying blindly through dense clouds with a faulty radar and constant risk of storms, making the policy normalisation process particularly risky.

"For me the new thing to look out for is what they do to the portfolio," says Robert Michele, chief investment officer at JPMorgan Asset Management. "We know about moving the [interest rate] corridor. What we should be worried about is what they do with the balance sheet."

The Fed's strategy for reducing its bloated balance sheet has evolved over time, but in September policy makers said the Fed will cease or start phasing out reinvestments only after it first begins increasing short-term interest rates. The balance sheet would shrink in a "gradual and predictable manner", but the details were left unclear — as well as the timing, which will depend on how economic and financial conditions evolve.

One market concern is that allowing assets to roll off automatically as they mature could lead to a jagged path of balance-sheet reduction. BlackRock's Investment Institute pointed out in a recent report that a third of the Fed's entire Treasury portfolio, about $785bn, comes due by the end of 2018. Allowing the balance sheet to deflate that quickly could spook markets.'



Fwd: Chatter

'The list of "observable behaviors" also points to so-called insider threats, and warns about individuals asking "unusual questions" about building maintenance or security procedures. 

Importantly, it speaks to the sheer volume of social media activity by pro-ISIS users, and the challenge that poses for analysts and investigators. 

"The large number of social media postings by US-based ISIL supporters is challenging for investigators in differentiating those supporters focused only on promoting pro-ISIL rhetoric, which may be protected speech, vice [versus] detecting those prepared to engage in violence on the group's behalf," the bulletin said. 

The bulletin warned the "reach and popularity" of social media platforms has made it easier for U.S.-based extremists to "identify and connect" with foreign terrorist organizations, which can "potentially direct" them. It said the FBI estimates there are "hundreds, possibly thousands" of people in the U.S. getting "recruitment overtures or directives to attack the United States," and ISIS is using social media in "unprecedented ways" to send messages advocating attacks in the U.S. '



Fwd: Senkaku

'President Obama on Tuesday invoked U.S. military defense guarantees for Japan's disputed East China Sea islands that have been the target of coordinated Chinese military provocations since 2012.


During a Rose Garden press conference with visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Obama repeated a promise to defend the Senkaku Islands, a statement that is likely to anger China, which claims the uninhabited islands as its own, calling them the Diaoyu Islands.


"I want to reiterate that our treaty commitment to Japan's security is absolute, and that Article 5 covers all territories under Japan's administration, including Senkaku Islands," Obama said in a carefully crafted statement…



Fwd: Libya

'From 2011 to 2012, Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime friend and confidant who was a senior adviser to Mrs. Clinton during her 2008 presidential campaign, sent her at least 25 memos about Libya, including several about the Benghazi attacks. Mrs. Clinton forwarded most of them to Jake Sullivan, her trusted foreign policy adviser. Mr. Sullivan would then send the memos along to other senior State Department officials, asking for their feedback. There is no evidence those officials were told that the memos were from Mr. Blumenthal. In April 2012, J. Christopher Stevens, the ambassador who died in the Benghazi attacks, was asked by Mr. Sullivan to provide his thoughts on the latest information "from HRC friend." (Pages 127-128) Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, said that Mr. Blumenthal had not been working for the government in any official capacity at the time and that his emails to Mrs. Clinton had not been solicited…

The day after the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on American outposts in Benghazi that killed Mr. Stevens and three other Americans, Mr. Blumenthal sent Mrs. Clinton a memo with his intelligence about what had occurred. The memo said the attacks were by "demonstrators" who "were inspired by what many devout Libyan viewed as a sacrilegious internet video on the prophet Mohammed originating in America." Mrs. Clinton forwarded the memo to Mr. Sullivan, saying "More info." (Pages 193-195)

The next day, Mr. Blumenthal sent Mrs. Clinton a more thorough account of what had occurred. Citing "sensitive sources" in Libya, the memo provided extensive detail about the episode, saying that the siege had been set off by members of Ansar al-Shariah, the Libyan terrorist group. Those militants had ties to Al Qaeda, had planned the attacks for a month and had used a nearby protest as cover for the siege, the memo said. "We should get this around asap" Mrs. Clinton said in an email to Mr. Sullivan. "Will do," he responded. That information contradicted the Obama administration's narrative at the time about what had spawned the attacks.'




Fwd: Iran

'Iran's Supreme Leader has said the country will not allow any inspections of its military facilities, the official state news agency reported Wednesday.

The announcement might set back international efforts to reach an agreement that would assure the world that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons. Any such agreement would rely on international inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities.'


John McCain plan upends Pentagon contracting rules

Fwd: Italy

'A Moroccan man has been arrested in Italy over the Tunisia museum massacre that left 21 tourists dead after fleeing across the Mediterranean on a migrant boat.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the March attack on the Bardo Museum in the capital Tunis which killed British mother Sally Adey.

Abdel Majid Touil, 22, was arrested at the house where he lives with his mother and brothers in Gaggiano, near Milan last night.

The accusations listed in the Tunisian arrest warrant include premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit attacks against the internal security of the state, belonging to a terrorist group and recruiting and training others to commit terrorist attacks, police said.'


'The news fueled criticism of Italy's migrant rescue operations by anti-immigrant politicians, who have warned that Islamic extremists could slip into Italy among the thousands of would-be refugees fleeing Libya aboard smugglers' boats.'


Fwd: China

'After exercising restraint in its nuclear weapons program for decades, China has made the poor choice of upgrading its arsenal in a way that raises concerns about its intentions, introduces new uncertainty in Asia and could add more fuel to a regional arms race.

The unsettling development is China's decision to equip its most powerful missile — the DF-5 for Dong Feng or East Wind, which can reach the United States — with multiple warheads instead of just one. The information was reported publicly for the first time earlier this month in the annual Pentagon report on China's military and security programs.



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Fwd: ISS

'International Space Station may get laser cannon to vaporize orbital debris'

Fwd: Airbus

'The maker of the Airbus A400M military transport plane that crashed in Spain this month is warning air forces flying the plane to carry out checks on the aircraft's electronic systems before the next flights.

Airbus Defence & Space says it sent the so-called Alert Operator Transmission notice to all operators of the giant turboprop airlifter on Tuesday.

The cause of the crash that killed two pilots and two flight test engineers on May 9 near the city of Seville remains under investigation.

Four of the five countries that already have A400Ms — Britain, Germany, Malaysia and Turkey — grounded the plane after the crash. France, which has six, says it will only use the aircraft in urgent operations.'



Christianity Declines Sharply in US, Agnostics Growing: Pew

Fwd: Iran

'Two top Iranian generals on Thursday had taunted the United States, saying the much-discussed military option to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities is "ridiculous," that Washington knows it can't be done, and that their country "welcomes war with the US."

Brigadier General Hossein Salami, the deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, said in an interview on state-run television that a battle with the US would only serve to highlight Iran's strengths.

"We welcome war with the US as we do believe that it will be the scene for our success to display the real potentials of our power," he said, according to a report by the semi-official Fars news agency. "We have prepared ourselves for the most dangerous scenarios and this is no big deal."