19 May 2016

China says it's ready if US ‘stirs up any conflict’ in South China Sea

China says it's ready if US ‘stirs up any conflict’ in South China Sea:

BEIJING — China's attempts to claim a nearly 1.4-million-square-mile swathe of open ocean are without precedent and probably without legal merit, but Beijing continues to assert its right to the economically critical zone — and increasingly puts its claims in military terms.
Speaking to a small group of reporters in Beijing on Thursday, a high-ranking Chinese official made his warning clear: The United States should not provoke China in the South China Sea without expecting retaliation.
"The Chinese people do not want to have war, so we will be opposed to [the] U.S. if it stirs up any conflict," said Liu Zhenmin, vice minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "Of course, if the Korean War or Vietnam War are replayed, then we will have to defend ourselves."
The so-called "nine-dash line" that China has drawn over most of the South China Sea — a gargantuan territorial claim that stretches about 1,200 miles from its shores — would give Beijing control over a zone that's estimated to handle about half of global merchant shipping, a third of the planet's oil shipping, two-thirds of global liquid natural gas shipments, and more than a 10th of Earth's fish catch. The Obama administration, backed by several Asian governments and entities such as the Brookings Institution, argues that such massive ocean claims at great distance from land are "inconsistent with international law."
China has a growing military presence in the region, including the wholesale raising of islands and construction of airfields on what were once atolls. The U.S. Navy operates there as well, increasingly in concert with regional powers such as the Philippines. Two Chinese fighter jets on Tuesday intercepted and passed within 50 feet of a U.S. military reconnaissance plane.

18 May 2016

TSA cashing in on forgotten loose change at local airports - WTOP

TSA cashing in on forgotten loose change at local airports - WTOP:

WASHINGTON — You have to take change out of your pockets when you go through airport security, but you’re supposed to pick it back up when you’re done.

Turns out those forgotten coins add up to a healthy windfall for the Transportation Security Administration.
TSA collected $765,759.15 in unclaimed change in fiscal 2015, twice the amount of change left behind at airports in fiscal 2008.
Miami travelers forgot the most change, about $50,000 worth in fiscal 2015.
Travelers left behind nearly $13,000 in change at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in fiscal 2015, nearly $11,000 at Reagan National and just over $7,000 at Dulles.
The amount of unclaimed coins has steadily risen every year for the last seven years.
“TSA makes every effort to reunite passengers with items left at the checkpoint, however there are instances where loose change or other items are left behind and unclaimed,” TSA said in a statement.  “Unclaimed money is documented and turned into the TSA financial office.”
In 2005, Congress gave TSA the authority to spend unclaimed money for security operations.

More quakes rumble under a northwest volcano

More quakes rumble under a northwest volcano | KING5.com:

SEATTLE -  As of 1 p.m. Monday, Oregon's Mount Hood has seen about 40 earthquakes in close proximity over less than 18 hours.  Such clusters of earthquakes are known as a swarm. The location of the quakes is on the southern flank of the volcano, and they are small, magnitude 2.0 or less. 
Alicia Hotovec-Ellis is a volcano seismologist at the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network at the University of Washington and an expert on earthquake swarms. She says the swarms have happened in the same place before.  The quakes on Mount Hood are not seen as a warning of an eruption and are probably related to water moving through rock. 
Swarms of small quakes are used as a tool by scientists to monitor what's going on deep inside a volcano.  Mount St. Helens has seen a series of swarms involving more than 100 key quakes over the past two months, part of a larger pattern of swarm activity dating back to the late 1990s. 
Mount St. Helens last erupted in 2004. 
"The style of earthquakes and where they’re locating is consistent with what we’re calling re-charge," said Seth Moran of the Cascades Volcano Observatory. 
But he hastens to add that the next eruption is likely years, if not decades, away. 
Reporter Glenn Farley shares more tonight on KING 5 News at 5 p.m.

Copyright 2016 KING

17 May 2016

Two Presidents in the White House?

Two Presidents in the White House? - WSJ:

For many years, one of Bill and Hillary Clinton's closest friends, TV producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, has been fond of saying that when the Clintons "are dead and gone, each of them is going to be buried next to a president of the United States."
It is an idea that the Clintons began talking about decades ago. Back in 1974, Bill Clinton told his friend Diane Kincaid that Hillary "could be president someday." During his own presidential campaign in 1992, he said in an interview, "Eight years of Hillary Clinton? Why not?"
We now face the extraordinary possibility of having two presidents in the White House who are married to each other. That prospect is something that never occurred to our nation's founders, and is only now beginning to catch the attention of the public, with Hillary Clinton's position as front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Imagine being asked to serve as her running mate, knowing that her husband would be far more influential than any vice president. What would a potential secretary of state face now that Sen. Clinton has already said she would use her husband as ambassador to the world? As a former president, would Mr. Clinton read the daily intelligence briefing? His unofficial portfolio would potentially overlap with everyone in authority, without his being subject to Senate confirmation.
The federal anti-nepotism law enacted in December 1967 -- partly as a reaction to John F. Kennedy's appointment of his brother Robert as attorney general -- prohibits any official in the three branches of government, including the president, from appointing a relative to a job over which that official has authority or control. This means Mr. Clinton could not be a cabinet secretary or an ambassador, or White House chief of staff. His role would be necessarily ambiguous. At a time when voters are crying out for more openness in government, such an arrangement raises questions about transparency and accountability.
While Mr. Clinton's return to the West Wing wouldn't directly violate the 22nd Amendment -- designed to limit a president to two terms in office -- it has significant implications because of the unusual nature of Bill and Hillary Clinton's marriage, which is such a deeply entwined political duopoly that "it has always been hard to distinguish who played what role," according to their longtime friend Mickey Kantor.
Many voters, especially Democrats, would welcome Mr. Clinton's experience as a great asset to his wife's administration. But given the Clintons' long history of close consultation, their partnership could end up distorting the way the executive branch is supposed to function -- regardless of the talents each of them might bring to the White House.
So far the Clinton campaign has downplayed the question of Mr. Clinton's role in the administration if his wife were elected -- joking that he might be "first laddie" or "first spouse" or "first gentleman." Campaign videos showing him munching on cheeseburgers and running on a treadmill have served to further de-emphasize the prospect of his power in the White House. Mr. Clinton has said he would only sit in on cabinet meetings "if asked" to discuss "specific issues," and he has declared his intention to give his wife advice "privately most of the time."
But this is exactly the kind of hidden-hand role that caused confusion and resentment when Hillary Clinton was advising her husband in his administration. As first lady, she inhibited staff members and created what one top Clinton administration official called a "world of shadows on the wall."
Bill Clinton's mere presence in the West Wing would be intimidating and complicating. Given his unrivaled experience and huge personality, it's safe to assume that he would be no Denis Thatcher, walking two steps behind. Bill Clinton is "always evangelizing for the church of Bill," said Arkansas journalist Max Brantley. And even if the former president were to continue operating out of his office in New York City and home in Chappaqua, New York, the Clintons' ingrained habits would mean a continuing collaboration, albeit at a distance.
The concept of two presidents in the White House poses one of the biggest conundrums of this political season, and is an issue that can only grow during the general election campaign if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic candidate.

Counting Down Debt

Counting Down Debt:

And how has the US got to this point? Well, ultimately it’s the way that everyone gets into debt… outgoings are more that incomes. But in this instance there is also the joy of compound interest…

You Call That A Debt…

The US currently has $19trillion worth of national debt. Okay, admittedly that figure is a little old, but the 1st February 2016 was when the figure clicked over to the $19trillion mark. Sticklers among you should head to theDebt Clock, where you can see the debt rise in real- time [editor: at the time of writing it was around $19,262,145,950,641].

For the purposed of this article we are going to round that number down to a $19trillion even. But that still means that there is around $58,000 worth of debt for each American citizen (including the kids).

And how has the US got to this point? Well, ultimately it’s the way that everyone gets into debt… outgoings are more that incomes. But in this instance there is also the joy of compound interest…

But, some analysts believe that if nothing is done about it, the national debt will be around $30trillion in a decade. And that’s a best case scenario, based on government spending and policy as it currently stands. Arguably, with a figure like that, Presidential nominees are considering how they’ll have to tackle it if they get into the Oval Office.

Trump’s Targets

Donald Trump, arguably one of America’s best known business men and almost certainly the Republican representative for the Presidency, has been outspoken about the ways in which he would tackle the national debt. Firstly, Trump went on the record to say that, given the right tools, he would be able to eradicate the debt in eight years. Citing his business acumen and his experience, he deemed that it was a reasonable expectation.

In response, there was a furor from the left who said that it wasn’t possible. There was a furor from the right, who agreed (most notable Ted Cruz who claimed Trump’s calculator ‘is missing a few keys’). Eventually the noise was such that Trump had to reconsider his position. He suggested that instead of removing the national debt in a period of eight years, he would in fact be able to pay off a “percentage of it” in ten.

Most recently, however, Trump caused more questioning of his policy towards government debt and rocking the bonds market in the process. Last week Trump initially said, “I would borrow, knowing that if the economy crashed, you could make a deal” to pay bondholders less than full value on the debt owed to them. After the bonds markets went up in arms (and down in price), Trump again clarified his position, and stated that “bonds [are] sacred” and he won’t be using them to move the mountain of government debt.

Berning Money…?

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders, (who looks like he isn’t going to be the Democratic nominee but certainly isn’t going down without a fight) has a very different approach to the national debt. His proposals are some of the most ambitious and sweeping of all the presidential candidates, but they are also some of the most expensive.

When you crunch the numbers, the senator from Vermont could end up adding $18trillion to the national debt, with a further $3trillion being tacked on as interest costs.

But unlike Trump, Sander’s isn’t backing up. He knows that it is expensive, but still plans to unleash a single-payer health care system, bump up Social Security, and also introduce paid maternity leave in his “revolution”. Sure these things would be beneficial to some sectors of the population, but they are also going to increase national debt significantly which you simply can’t ignore.

Clinton’s Two Cents…

The former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, sees a rising debt liability as a national security issue, limiting the capabilities of the US and causing it to appear weak internationally. But, unfortunately, that’s about all she’s said on the subject. The likely Democratic candidate hasn’t offered much in the way of solutions to getting down the debt, in fact she is fairly tight lipped on the matter. However, despite this, analysts have suggested that her policies, if implemented, would add another $1.9trillion to the already escalating national figure.

Although many think her policies are sound, critics have been quick to point out that Clinton’s ideas make her an “old-fashioned tax-and-spend Democrat”, that is to say that most of her proposals are going to be financed by higher taxes, with other policy proposals like enacting immigration reform making up most of the remaining difference.

But Why Are People Even Bothering?

Maybe Trump’s plan to eradicate the $19trillion through renegotiating debt is going to win out; perhaps Sanders will go from being the under-dog to the top-dog, wracking up an additional $21trillion in the process; or maybe President Clinton mark II is going to add a little to the escalating debt as she takes office. Either way, why bother?

The IMF suggested last year that the best course of action for some countries – the US included – is to do nothing about their debt burdens. Not one thing. Nothing. Nada.

Their bottom line: the wisest course for some countries would be to stop distorting economies to deliberately pay down national debt, as this only adds to the burden of the debt, rather than reducing it.

So maybe, whoever wins out, it doesn’t matter what they do with the government debt, just so long as the clock keeps ticking.

16 May 2016

Nassim Taleb's "Shillary vs The Donald" Cheat Sheet | Zero Hedge

Nassim Taleb's "Shillary vs The Donald" Cheat Sheet | Zero Hedge:

The press, it appears, is a bit lost in their own lurid presentations of reality in the projected battle of good vs evil that the 2016 election has become. By way of public service, Nassim Taleb has created a simple "cheat sheet" to clarify in his words "with more rigor" what reality is, instead of "through the eyes of idiots."

h/t @nntaleb

11 May 2016

Best Explanation Ever! To A Fascinatingly Disturbing Thought! Dr.Neil ...



Need a photographer? Visit my website!

I own I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive. - Thomas Jefferson