'Dump Trump': Tens of thousands join global march

'Dump Trump': Tens of thousands join global march
Demonstrators arrive on the National Mall in Washington, DC, for the 'Women's March on Washington' on January 21, 2017 (AFP Photo/Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS)

March for Science protesters hit the streets worldwide

March for Science protesters hit the streets worldwide
Thousands of people in Australia and New Zealand on Saturday kicked off the March for Science, the first of more than 500 marches around the globe in support of scienceThousands of people in Australia and New Zealand on Saturday kicked off the March for Science, the first of more than 500 marches around the globe in support of science

Bernie Sanders and the Movement Where the People Found Their Voice

"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."
"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)


.
A student holds a sign reading "Don't shoot, listen!!!" during a protest
on June 17, 2013 in Brasilia (AFP, Evaristo)

FIFA scandal engulfs Blatter and Platini

FIFA scandal engulfs Blatter and Platini
FIFA President Sepp Blatter (L) shakes hands with UEFA president Michel Platini after being re-elected following a vote in Zurich on May 29, 2015 (AFP Photo/Michael Buholzer)
"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Wall Street's 'Fearless Girl' statue to stay until 2018

Wall Street's 'Fearless Girl' statue to stay until 2018
The " Fearless Girl " statue on Wall Street is seen by many as a defiant symbol of women's rights under the new administration of President Donald Trump (AFP Photo/ TIMOTHY A. CLARY)


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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Trump isolated after Charlottesville remarks

Yahoo – AFP, Jerome CARTILLIER, August 16, 2017

US President Donald Trump's defiant and caustic statements about Charlottesville
 on Tuesday left many lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats alike, speechless
(AFP Photo/JIM WATSON)

New York (AFP) - Donald Trump found himself in the eye of a political storm Wednesday after his stunning remarks on the unrest in Charlottesville, which sparked unease within his own camp and could mark a turning point in his already chaotic presidency.

His assessment that there was "blame on both sides" for the deadly melee sparked a rare comment on current affairs from his two Republican predecessors, George Bush and George W. Bush, who called on Americans to "reject racial bigotry... in all its forms."

The violent fracas in the Virginia college town began Saturday when a rally by white supremacists over the removal of a Confederate statue turned violent, as they clashed with counter-protesters.

It ended in tragedy when a 20-year-old suspected Nazi sympathizer, James Fields, plowed his car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters, leaving one woman dead and 19 others injured.

Trump's defiant statements on Tuesday, delivered in a caustic way at Trump Tower and immediately hailed by a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan for their "courage," left many lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats alike, speechless.

The Republican billionaire seemed to have crossed a red line with his statements, just over 200 days into his presidency.

Many observers were left with the impression that the unscripted Trump of Tuesday was the real Trump -- rather than the man who delivered a more measured statement from the White House on Monday in which he firmly denounced "racist violence."

Protesters have marched outside Trump Tower since the president returned to
his New York home earlier this week (AFP Photo/Eduardo MUNOZ ALVAREZ)

'He has to fix this'

In a clear sign of embarrassment, Republican lawmakers did not line up to defend the real estate mogul-turned-president, as they have repeatedly done since he took office in January. Those who did speak criticized him.

"In Charlottesville, the blame lays squarely on the KKK and white supremacists," the leader of the Republican National Committee, Ronna Romney McDaniel, told ABC News.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a regular Trump critic, said many Republicans would "fight back against the idea that the party of Lincoln has a welcome mat out for the David Dukes of the world."

"He has to fix this and Republicans have to speak out. Plain and simple," Ohio governor John Kasich, who battled Trump for the Republican presidential nomination last year, told NBC's "Today" show.

David Axelrod, a former top aide to Barack Obama, said: "Why are we surprised that a @POTUS, who began his campaign with appeals to bigotry, would give comfort to bigots?"

Trump's remarks -- made at an impromptu press conference that was expected to focus on infrastructure reforms -- put the white supremacists and counter-demonstrators on equal moral ground.

"I think there is blame on both sides," Trump said, as his new chief of staff, former Marine general John Kelly, stood rigidly near him and looked uncomfortable.

"You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I'll say it right now," Trump continued.

"What about the alt-left that came charging... at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? (...) There are two sides to a story."

He also said there were "very fine people, on both sides."

His remarks had led several top business executives to resign from White House advisory panels. On Wednesday, Trump simply dissolved the forums.

Map of the US state of Virginia locating Charlottesville, where hundreds of 
white supremacists held a rally on Saturday that deteriorated into violence
(AFP Photo/AFP)

"Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!" he tweeted.

Obama tweet makes history

Trump had suffered a first wave of indignation immediately after Saturday's events, when critics said his comments were too vague and did not go far enough to denounce neo-Nazis and KKK members at the Charlottesville rally.

Obama, his predecessor, had reacted by tweeting a quote from Nelson Mandela: "No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion."

The tweet is now the most "liked" ever sent on the social network, Twitter said Wednesday.

In an editorial, The New York Times said Trump's behavior "has become distressingly unsurprising."

"Washington politicians had hoped the recent appointment of John Kelly, a retired Marine general, as his chief of staff would instill some discipline in his chaotic administration," the paper said.

"But the root of the problem is not the personnel; it is the man at the top."

In St Louis, where he was mounting a competitive comeback, even chess legend Garry Kasparov weighed in, saying: "My family & I were forced out of one home by ethnic violence and another by political persecution. America must both fight hate & stay free."





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Secrets of the deep: Senegal's slave shipwreck detective


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dutch banks and insurers fined €2.15bn since 2008 crisis

DutchNews, August 15, 2017


Large Dutch banks and insurance companies have been fined a combined €2.15bn since the global credit crisis broke out 10 years ago this summer, the Financieele Dagblad revealed on Tuesday. 

But the lion’s share of the fines was awarded to foreign financial watchdogs, the FD said. Only about €100m found its way to Dutch authorities. 

The credit crisis began when US banks began packaging low-grade mortgages and selling them as blue chip products. Huge fines were placed on offenders: US Authorities alone were awarded $150bn. 

utch banks and insurers were involved in the malpractice as well, but of the fines levied on them, €1.9bn was awarded to American authorities and €141m to their British counterparts.

Related Article:

"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration LecturesGod / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once),Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) (Text version)

“… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …”

Monday, August 14, 2017

Commonwealth Bank boss to retire amid laundering claims

Yahoo – AFP, August 14, 2017

Ian Narev, the chief executive of Australia's biggest bank, the Commonwealth,
will retire, the company said on August 14, 2017, amid pressure from regulators
 over alleged breaches of money laundering and terrorism financing laws
(AFP Photo/SAEED KHAN)

Sydney (AFP) - The chief executive of Australia's biggest bank, the Commonwealth, will retire, the company said Monday, amid pressure from regulators over alleged breaches of laws on money laundering and terrorism financing.

The bank's chairwoman Catherine Livingstone said in a statement to the stock exchange that Ian Narev "will retire by the end of the 2018 financial year".

Narev faced calls to step down last week after the financial intelligence agency AUSTRAC launched a civil action against the bank alleging "serious and systemic non-compliance" with the laws more than 53,000 times.

The 50-year-old initially insisted he would stay on but Livingstone said Monday that the bank wanted to end speculation over his future.

"Succession planning is an ongoing process at all levels of the bank. In discussions with (Narev) we have also agreed it is important for the business that we deal with the speculation and questions about his tenure," she said.

"Today's statement provides that clarity and will ensure he can continue to focus, as CEO, on successfully managing the business."

Shares in CBA, Australia's biggest company by market capitalisation, rose by 1.40 percent to Aus$81.63 afternoon trade in Sydney.

"I'm not really that surprised that's happened," said TS Lim, a banking analyst at Bell Potter.

"The good thing is there's a lead time of a year or year-and-a-half, so there's continuity," he said. "I think it removes some of the volatility in the company."

New Zealand-born Narev took over the top job at the Commonwealth in late 2011.

He had previously been involved in its private banking arm and before that worked as a corporate lawyer.

His tenure has delivered bumper returns for shareholders, including a record Aus$9.93 billion (US$7.86 billion) annual net profit unveiled last week.

But it has also been marred by scandals over poor financial planning advice, insurance payouts and now allegations of money laundering.

In the latest case, the country's corporate regulator ASIC said Monday the bank was refunding some Aus$10 million in total to more than 65,000 customers after selling them "unsuitable consumer credit insurance".

The Commonwealth Bank is accused by AUSTRAC of failing to deliver on time 53,506 reports for cash transactions of Aus$10,000 or more at its cash deposit machines between November 2012 and September 2015, with a total value of Aus$624.7 million.

It also failed to report suspicious transactions on time, or at all, that totalled Aus$77 million, and did not monitor customers or manage the risk even after becoming aware of suspected money laundering, AUSTRAC claimed.

Each breach could attract Aus$18 million in fines, potentially running into the billions of dollars.

ASIC on Friday added it would also probe how the lender handled the alleged breaches.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Belgium admits it kept quiet about 'tainted' eggs probe

Yahoo – AFP, August 5, 2017

A laboratory assistant for the Dutch food safety board carries out tests on
eggs on August 1, 2017 (AFP Photo/Piroschka van de Wouw)

Brussels (AFP) - Belgian officials admitted Saturday they knew in early June there was a potential problem over insecticide-contaminated eggs but kept it secret because of an ongoing fraud investigation.

"We knew since early June there was potentially a problem with fipronil in the poultry sector," Katrien Stragier, a spokeswoman for Belgium's food safety agency (AFSCA), told Flemish television VRT.

"We immediately launched an investigation and we also informed the prosecutor because it was a matter of possible fraud," she added.

"From that point on the secrecy of the inquiry took precedent. We understand that people have questions about public health and we are trying to answer them," she added.

Contacted by AFP over the past few days, the prosecutor in Antwerp handling the case refused to give out any information on the specific orders of the investigating judge.

Belgian supermarkets have cleared eggs from the shelves of supermarkets as a precautionary measure while awaiting the results of tests.

In Germany and the Netherlands several million eggs from Dutch farms have already been recalled.

German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt pressed the authorities, particularly in Belgium and The Netherlands, to clear up the situation.

"Someone has clearly proceeded with criminal intent to contaminate (the eggs) with a banned product," Schmidt told the daily Bild.

Dutch officials closed down 180 businesses earlier in the week and after tests, the Dutch food authority (NVWA) said 138 poultry farms -- about a fifth of those in the country -- would remain closed.

One batch of eggs posing in particular posed "an acute danger to public health", the agency said.

Eggs from another 59 farms contained high enough levels of the insecticide, fipronil, for the food authority to warn against any children eating them.

Fipronil is commonly used in veterinary products to get rid of fleas, lice and ticks. It is banned from being used to treat animals destined for human consumption, such as chickens.

In large quantities, the insecticide is considered to be "moderately hazardous" according to the World Health Organization, and can have dangerous effects on people's kidneys, liver and thyroid glands.

Farmers throw eggs at a poultry farm in Onstwedde, Netherlands, on August 3, 2017
after the Dutch Food and Welfare Authority (NVWA) highlighted the contamination of
eggs by fipronil, a toxic insecticide outlawed from use in the production of food (AFP
Photo/Patrick HUISMAN)

Related Article:


Friday, August 4, 2017

Disgraced pharma CEO Martin Shkreli convicted of fraud

Shkreli, notorious for massively raising the price of a life-saving drug, has been found guilty of deceiving investors in a pair of hedge funds. He had been arrested on embezzlement charges in 2015. 

Deutsche Welle, 4 August 2017


A US court in Brooklyn on Friday convicted the former drug company executive Martin Shkreli on two counts of security fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud in a month-long, high-profile trial.


Federal prosecutors had accused Shkreli of defrauding investors in his hedge funds MSMB Capital and MSMB Healthcare and of using misappropriated money and stock from his old drug company, Retrophin Inc, to pay them back millions in losses. The charges went back to the period between 2009 and 2014, when he was Retrophin CEO.

Shkreli, 34, had told "lies upon lies," Assistant US Attorney Alixandra Smith told the court in closing arguments, while another prosecutor, Jacquelyn Kasulis, described him as "a con man who stole millions."

Notorious price-gouging

However, the court's decision was difficult to reach in view of the fact that some investors testified that they had indeed become richer through Shkreli.

"Who lost anything? Nobody," said Ben Brafman, the defense attorney, in his closing argument.

Shkreli was cleared on five other conspiracy counts.

Even before the trial, Shkreli had attained a degree of notoriety by raising the price of the anti-infection drug Daraprim by 5,000 percent in 2015 as chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals. His behavior led to his receiving the nickname "Pharma bro," with many people seeing him as the embodiment of corporate greed.

He was also known for his sometimes hours-long live streams on YouTube that often showed him engaged in mundane occupations such as petting his cat, although he also gave financial and chemistry lessons in the videos.

tj/gsw (AP, Reuters, afp)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Oil majors gushing in cash despite cheap crude

Yahoo – AFP, August 3, 2017

Oil majors are no longer getting burned by low oil prices (AFP Photo/Robyn BECK)

Paris (AFP) - The prospect of crude remaining near the current $50 level is no longer a doomsday scenario for the world's oil majors whose latest earnings announcements show that cost-cutting lets them turn a profit even at these price levels.

BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and Total have all published results in recent days, showing they pocketed $23 billion in net profit in the first half fo the year.

Either they increased their earnings or at least returned to profit compared with the same period last year.

With the exception of ExxonMobil they all benefitted from an increase in output from the same period last year, but more importantly they all profited from a rebound in crude prices as OPEC members and Russia agreed to limit production.

The price of the international benchmark Brent crude averaged $51.7 per barrel in the first half of this year, up considerably from $39.8 during the same period last year.

While the profits are still less than half of what the firms turned in during the same period three years ago when Brent was trading at over $100 per barrel, they show that the major firms can survive profitably if crude prices stay at current levels, a scenario many now foresee.

"It is a tough environment and it could remain that way for some time," said BP's chief executive Bob Dudley earlier this week.

"But we are building a business that is resilient to these changing conditions," he said.

After crude prices began their descent in 2014 the oil majors reacted quickly: cutting costs, selling off assets judged non-strategic and focusing on the projects they considered the most profitable.

"Big Oils are showing strong ability to adapt to lower oil prices through cost cutting," said analysts at US investment bank Goldman Sachs in a recent report.

Even if the oil majors have adapted to low prices for the moment, developing new 
resources affordably could pose a challenge say analysts (AFP Photo/SPENCER PLATT)

By one measure, free cash flow -- or the amount of funds a firm has left over after investments needed to maintain or expand their assets -- they may even be better off.

Goldman Sachs analysts said European oil majors had a higher cash flow in the first half of this year than in the first half of 2014, when crude prices were more than double of what they are today.

Lower, forever

"Recent results are good news and average production costs have fallen by 40 percent since 2014," said David Elmes, and energy specialist and professor at Warwick Business School.

"The important part of recent results is how firms are back to generating enough cash to cover such costs" like investment and high dividend payments that have kept many long-term investors on board, he told AFP.

While cheap oil was initially viewed as a phase that would soon pass relatively quickly as global demand continued to climb upwards, a shift has occurred and many now see lower prices as here to stay for a while.

Shell's chief Ben van Beurden said the firm is now working with a "lower forever mindset".

He said that Shell still believes there is a better than 50-50 chance that crude prices will trend higher in the coming years, but wasn't going to base its business decisions on that.

"We do not want to have the mindset that higher oil prices are around the corner to help us out," he said.

For the moment, the oil majors have shelved costly projects like extracting crude from Canadian tar sands or tapping certain Arctic fields.

However in the future they will have to face replacing their reserves at a profitable cost, something which may prove difficult in the medium term.

"The amount of affordable oil and gas big oil can access is limited," said Elmes. "Much is in the control of national oil companies keen and able to develop it themselves."

And when it comes to exploiting shale reserves in the United States, Elmes said that the smaller companies have shown themselves to be able to better control costs.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Trump's comms director Scaramucci out as new chief of staff takes reins

Yahoo - AFP, July 31, 2017

Anthony Scaramucci, named Donald Trump's new White House communications
director 10 days ago, did not last long (AFP Photo/JIM WATSON)

Washington (AFP) - White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci was forced out Monday after barely 10 days in his post, as Donald Trump's new chief of staff asserted his authority on his first day in office.

John Kelly, who had served as Trump's secretary of homeland security for six months, has been brought in as chief of staff to bring order and discipline to a White House beset by scandal, infighting, low approval ratings and legislative defeats.

After an Oval Office swearing-in ceremony, Trump confidently predicted the 67-year-old combat veteran -- one of a group Trump has dubbed "my generals" -- will do a "spectacular job."

And Kelly got straight to work, as reports emerged that Trump dismissed Scaramucci -- the fast-talking New York financier -- at Kelly's request.

"Mr Scaramucci felt it was best to give Chief of Staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team. We wish him all the best," the White House said in a terse statement.

Scaramucci had courted controversy with an expletive-laden attack on his colleagues -- then chief of staff Reince Priebus, who was forced out last week, and chief White House strategist Steve Bannon.

'Record-shattering'

Kelly inherits the day-to-day running of a White House staff that -- far from marching in lockstep -- look like a regiment pinned down by heavy fire, getting conflicting orders from their commander and squabbling over the way forward.

US President Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with newly sworn-in White House 
Chief of Staff John Kelly (AFP Photo/JIM WATSON)

"I predict that General Kelly will go down as, in terms of the position of chief of staff, one of the great(est) ever," Trump said.

"What he has done in terms of homeland security is record-shattering, if you look at the border, if you look at the tremendous results we've had."

Kelly replaces Priebus, a Republican Party operative who was ousted last week after the spectacular failure of Trump's bid to repeal Obamacare and as his ugly feud with Scaramucci spilled into the open.

The chief of staff is the highest ranking White House employee -- a chief operating officer who organizes staff, manages the president's schedule and decides who gets access to him and when.

That is no small mission in Trump's White House, where a rotating cast of family and staff with unclear roles and opaque job titles walk into the Oval Office seemingly at will.

Many question whether anyone can rein in the mercurial, Twitter-happy Trump, who has appeared to encourage the infighting among various factions vying for influence in his administration.

No chaos

Trump -- ever determined to project success -- insisted Monday that there was no "chaos" at the White House, which was instead running as a finely tuned machine.

"I think we’re doing incredibly well. The economy is doing incredibly well, and many other things. So we're starting from a really good base," he told a cabinet meeting.

"We have the highest stock market in history," Trump said, adding that US economic growth in the last quarter stood at 2.6 percent and was approaching the three percent target he once set.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in a red tie, has been one of President Donald 
Trump's many targets in recent weeks (AFP Photo/JIM WATSON)

"Unemployment is the lowest it's been in 17 years. Business enthusiasm is about as high as they've ever seen it."

But aside from the economy, there has been little reason for Trump to cheer.

Under pressure from a widening probe into his campaign's contacts with Russia last year, Trump last week attacked his own attorney general Jeff Sessions for disloyalty, alarming his conservative base, before turning on Priebus.

In another tweet Monday, Trump hinted that Congress's own health insurance plan should be replaced for its failure to repeal Obamacare, his predecessor's signature reform of the US health care system.

"If Obamacare is hurting people & it is, why shouldn't it hurt the insurance companies and why should Congress not be paying what public pays?"

Since taking office six months ago, Trump's tumultuous administration has seen a succession of negative headlines and brewing scandals.

Fueling the fire, the billionaire Republican has parted with a number of top officials including his national security advisor, deputy national security advisor and FBI director, among others -- an unparalleled turnover for such a young presidency.

On the global stage, Trump faces the stark challenge of a North Korea that could be on the verge of marrying nuclear and ballistic missile technology.

"We'll handle North Korea. We're going to be able to handle them. It will be handled. We handle everything. Thank you very much," Trump said.

Kelly's arrival is likely to signal a renewed focus on border security and immigration.

"As the coils of the Russia investigation grow tighter, as his failures in Congress mount, Trump reaches for what he knows -—demagoguery of the rawest sort," predicted Eliot Cohen, a former State Department official once tipped to join the Trump White House.

"Trump will remain Trump, and the various denizens of the White House are unlikely to treat Kelly with much more deference than they treat one another," he wrote in the Atlantic magazine. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Trump says transgender people barred from US military

Yahoo – AFP, Thomas WATKINS, July 26, 2017

Trump's announcement banning transgender people from serving in the US
military was a stunning reversal from Obama-era policies (AFP Photo/
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI)

Washington (AFP) - President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that transgender people may not serve "in any capacity" in the US military, citing the "tremendous medical costs and disruption" their presence would cause.

The announcement served as a stunning reversal for the US military, which has been working with the heads of service branches to implement a plan put in place under Barack Obama's administration to start accepting transgender recruits.

"After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US Military," Trump tweeted.

"Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you."

Pentagon officials appeared blindsided by Trump's tweets, with spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis referring questions to the White House.

"We will provide revised guidance to the Department in the near future," Davis said.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is currently on vacation. When pressed on the extent to which Trump consulted with him or the Pentagon, Davis said only: "This was something that was the product of consultation."

Last month, Mattis said the five armed service branches could delay accepting transgender recruits until January 1 because the different services were not in agreement on when to accept transgender recruits.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was on vacation as Trump made his announcement, but 
the Pentagon said the decision was the result of "consultation" (AFP Photo/JOHN THYS)

Unanswered questions

Trump's announcement left unanswered a slew of questions, including whether transgender personnel currently serving could soon face getting booted from the military.

Estimates of the number of transgender troops vary widely. A much-cited study by the Rand Corporation in June 2016 found there are between 1,320 and 6,630 among the 1.3 million active duty service members.

But the Human Rights Campaign civil rights organization said there are currently about 15,000 active transgender troops.

The RAND study noted that only a small portion of service members would ever seek gender transition that would affect their deployability or health costs, adding between $2.4 million and $8.4 million to the Pentagon's vast budget.

Republican Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler called the study "very flawed" and said Trump's announcement would improve military readiness.

We need to be "focused on ... those who are able to fight tonight. When you have this (gender reassignment) surgery, you can't be deployed for almost 300 days and somebody else has to go in your place," Hartzler told CNN.

Transgender rights in America have increasingly been in the spotlight in recent months, especially over how states regulate the use of public restrooms.

The Trump administration faced protests earlier this year after it reversed Obama-era federal protections urging schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity, not the gender on their birth certificate.

Mattis's predecessor Ash Carter (L), the last defense secretary of US President 
Barack Obama (R), said the decision would "send the wrong signal" (AFP Photo/
JIM WATSON)

'Every patriotic American'

Trump's announcement drew swift condemnation from critics and rights groups.

"Every patriotic American who is qualified to serve in our military should be able to serve. Full stop," former vice president Joe Biden said on Twitter.

Ash Carter, who was Obama's last defense secretary and oversaw the policy shift allowing transgender troops to sign up and serve openly, said the decision would send "the wrong signal" to potential new recruits.

"What matters in choosing those who serve is that they are best qualified. To choose service members on other grounds than military qualifications is social policy and has no place in our military," Carter said in a statement.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the move "outrageous and desperate," and Republican Senator John McCain blasted Trump for announcing a major policy shift on Twitter.

"Any American who meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving," he said.

Transgender former soldier Chelsea Manning is one of many activists speaking
 out about President Donald Trump's decision to bar trans people from serving
in the US military (AFP Photo/HO)

'Cowardice'

Perhaps the most famous transgender US soldier is former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who served seven years in prison for one of the largest dumps of classified documents in US history.

During her incarceration at the Fort Leavenworth military prison, Manning battled for -- and won -- the right to begin hormone treatment to begin transitioning toward her female identity.

Manning, who is still employed by the Army and retains its insurance coverage, has become an icon for transgender activists.

"So, biggest baddest most $$ military on earth cries about a few trans people but funds the F-35? Sounds like cowardice," Manning tweeted after Trump's announcement, referring to the US military's most expensive, state-of-the-art warplane.

Retired Navy SEAL Kristin Beck, who came out as transgender after spending 20 years with the elite commandos, challenged Trump.

"Let's meet face to face and you tell me I'm not worthy," Beck told Business Insider.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Rise and fall of General Manas: Thailand's top trafficker

Yahoo – AFP, Aidan JONES, Sally MAIRS, 23 July 2017

Rise and fall of General Manas: Thailand's top trafficker

Bangkok (AFP) - An army 'Big Shot' whose influence seeped across the south, Lieutenant-General Manas Kongpan sat at the apex of Thailand's grisly trade in humans, raking in an untold fortune to keep prying eyes off the trafficking route.

As the number of desperate Rohingya and Bangladeshis shuttled through the trafficking operation shot up, so did Manas' rank in the Thai military.

But the silver-haired general was condemned to 27 years in prison on Wednesday for profiting from the trade, an extraordinarily rare conviction of a senior member of an army that dominates the kingdom.

The 61-year-old's downfall was hastened in 2015 after investigators uncovered secret jungle prisons in the south where traffickers starved and tortured migrants while holding them for ransom.

The discovery exposed Thailand's horrifying role in a criminal operation that shifted victims from Myanmar to Malaysia, and forced the ruling junta to launch a belated crackdown.

Police followed a money trail that lead straight to Manas, an army hardliner with a passion for bullfighting.

"He was involved in such an obvious way...at a time when the junta was really trying to show themselves to be clean," said Paul Chambers, an expert on Thailand's military.

"He is going down because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time."

Money trail

Manas was first highlighted as a suspect in early 2015 after 98 famished Rohingya were found in trucks in Nakhon Si Thammarat, stopped by a random police checkpoint.

Provincial police -- aided by anti-trafficking NGO Freeland -- used the drivers' cell phones to trace their regular route.

The trail carved through Thailand's southern neck from coastal Ranong, where boatloads of migrants arrived from Myanmar, to malaria-infested camps near the Malaysian border, where they were held in appalling conditions.

Phone and e-banking records from the drivers led to key trafficker Sunan Saengthong, a Ranong politician and businessman who had deposited nearly $600,000 in accounts belonging to Manas.

In May 2015 police found more bank slips revealing that Sunan's nephew had also transferred huge sums to Manas, including some $400,000 in just over a month.

Sunan was jailed for 35 years in a separate trial but his nephew Nattaphat Saengthong and others remain at large.


Around the time of the money transfers, Manas served as a top commander of Thailand's southern security arm.

His job was to enforce its controversial "push-back" policy -- which meant turning around boats of stateless Rohingya who were trying to flee persecution in Myanmar.

But he used this position to do just the opposite, according to last week's verdict, which exposed a matrix of collusion between state officials and businessmen who profited from trafficking.

Witnesses said Manas instructed officers to force back a boat of 265 Rohingya in 2012 -- only to covertly re-route the ship to shore and truck the human cargo south to the jungle prisons.

Manas "had direct responsiblity in the push-back mission and must have been part of this human trafficking network, otherwise the Rohingya would not have been able to return to Thailand so quickly," the verdict read.

Southern 'Big Shot'

The trafficking operation flourished until the 2015 crackdown, with tens of thousands of victims funnelled through a trade worth an estimated $250 million dollars.

Many were lured from the Myanmar-Bangladesh border by brokers who promised jobs, while others were violently kidnapped and forced onto the boats.

The big money was made in Thailand, where jungle camp wardens phoned relatives of the weakest migrants and threatened to kill them if they didn't send more cash.

The young and strong were sold off as labour to Malaysian palm oil plantations or fishing boats, according to Freeland.

All the while, Manas' seemingly inexorable rise up the army ranks continued, with his command stretching over increasingly large chunks of the south.

Months before his arrest in 2015, he was promoted to Lt-General and given the sweeping role of "military advisor".

It wasn't the first time the hawkish officer had hurdled controversy.

He was linked to a 2004 raid on a mosque that left more than 30 Muslim rebels dead in Thailand's far south, one of the early sparks of an insurgency still burning today.

"He had a reputation for often going beyond the law," said Chambers, adding that he was known as a "big shot" in the region.

Manas was the only military man convicted in last week's trafficking trial, which saw more than 60 people sent to jail.

Rights groups welcomed the verdict but warned that many perpetrators remain at large.

"We know not everyone has been accounted for in this trial," said Amy Smith from Fortify Rights, which closely tracked the investigation.

"More needs to be done to account for the horrific crimes that took place... and to ensure this never happens again."