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Oct-Nov-Dec 2018

Oct 2 ... Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi's provocative journalism and his ties to Qatar and Turkey has offended crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. Khashoggi is murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Oct 5 ... The US Senate votes 51–49 to advance the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as Supreme Court Justice. A chorus of women in the Senate’s public galleries repeatedly interrupt the proceedings with cries of "Shame."

Oct 6 ... Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court, giving the court what is being described as a conservative majority. President Trump is please, telling reporters, "He’s going to go down as a totally brilliant Supreme Court justice for many years."

Oct 22 ... Anti-Brexit protesters march through central London calling for a second referendum on the Brexit deal. It's the second most attended protest of the 21st century in the United Kingdom after the "Stop the War" anti-Iraq War march in 2003.

Oct 27 ... A shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue by Robert Gregory Bowers kills eleven. Bowers is 46. He is reported as having criticized Trump for being "globalist" and not "nationalist."

Oct 28 ... Jair Bolsonaro, who has compared himself with Donald Trump, is elected President of Brazil. The "fiery" former paratrooper captain has attracted support across Brazil’s farm belt. He favors easing gun control laws, is opposed to environmental protections and native land claims and is a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, homosexuality, abortion, and secularism. He is scheduled to take office on January 1st.

Nov 1 ... The Guardian writes: "The corruption-busting Brazilian judge who helped pave the way for Jair Bolsonaro’s stunning electoral win on Sunday by jailing his main rival has accepted a position in the far-right president’s government."

Nov 7 ... At a bar and grill in Thousand Oaks, California, 9 men and 3 women were killed and many more wounded by a 28-year-old gunman, Ian David Long, using a 45-caliber handgun, who then killed shot himself. He had been a customer on numerous occasions accompanied by a woman and appeared to get along with the crowd of dancing revelers. He was a combat veteran described as having had issues before he joined the Marine Corps (in 2008) — an intense kid who didn't smile. He was in Afghanistan for seven months. He left the corps after 4.5 years of service (2013) looking forward to civilian life and going back to school. He was attending Cal-state Northridge. A neighbor says his mother "lived in fear" of what he might do. While in the Marines he had been married a couple of years before a separation in 2011. At the time of the shooting he was living with his mother. (I have doubt about blame for his behavior being put on his combat experience, having known well fellow Marines stressed by combat and service in Korea in 1952.)

Nov 7 ... midterm election results: Republicans lose control of the House of Representatives but hold on to the Senate.

Nov 21 ... The NY Times reports that "China is using construction to build ties around the world, from soccer stadium in Zambia to dams that rival the Hoover Dam."

Nov 22 ... President Trump has declared that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s culpability for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi might never be known. He says that "maybe the world" should be held accountable for the murder (ignoring the individual responsibility emphasized at Nuremberg after World War II.)

Nov 23 ... The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is in possession of a phone call recording of the Crown Prince giving an instruction to "silence Jamal Khashoggi as soon as possible." Turkish journalist Abdulkadir Selvi reported the recording's existence on November 16.

Nov 24 ... Hillary Clinton tells European leaders that they must get a handle on immigration. She says she admires leaders like Angela Merkel for their "very generous and compassionate approaches" but that they are "not going to be able to continue to provide refuge and support – because if we don’t deal with the migration issue it will continue to roil the body politic."

Nov 26 ... The clash between Russia and Ukraine on the 24th in the Krech Strait is described by the columnist Anne Applebaum as Russia's "carefully arranged provocation." Ukraine's ships were heading for Ukraine's port of Mariupol — a normal operation. Russia ships fired on and seized three of the ships. Applebaum describes Russia's new "military escapade" as coming in the wake of protests against changes to Russian pension laws, accompanied by frustration with a slow economy. Recent polls showed a drop in Putin's popularity. Putin's actions expected to add support for Putin. Meanwhile, a Crimean court has ordered that 12 of the 24 the seized Ukrainians be detained for 60 days.

Nov 26 ... In China an announcement has been made by the scientist He Jiankui that twin girls were born this month and that they were the product of his embryo gene-editing. The NY Times reports Dr Alexander Marson, a gene-editing expert in the US as describing it as "scary." "It’s scary," said Dr. Alexander Marson, a gene-editing expert at the University of California in San Francisco.

Nov 26 ... At the Washington Post, Catherine Rampell complains that some Republicans are saying that the planet may be warming but that the private sector will fix the problem for us, if only we leave markets alone to innovate.

Nov 27 ... The United Nations describes the first rise in carbon dioxide emissions in four years and claims that global efforts to tackle climate change are way off track.

Nov 29 ... In China the Vice Minister of Science and Technology, Xu Nanping, describes embryo gene editing involved in the birth of twin girls earlier this month as illegal and unacceptable. He says an investigation has been ordered. The Associated Press headlines: "China Halts Work by Team on Gene-Edited Babies."

Dec 1 ... Economic growth has given the French a substantial rise in living standards (more ownership of homes, automobiles, computers, a reduction in the workweek, longer vacations). But prices rise with prosperity, and Paris today had its third weekend of protests concerning the high costs of living, energized by a fuel tax. According to the BBC, nearly 190 fires were put out and six buildings were set ablaze.

Dec 7 ... Rex Tillerson (Trump's Secretary of State from February 2017 to the end of March 2018) on the CBS television show "This Morning" calls Trump "a man who is pretty undisciplined, doesn't like to read, doesn't read briefing reports, doesn't like to get into the details of a lot of things, but rather just kind of says, 'This is what I believe.'" On Twitter, Trump responds that Tillerson "didn't have the mental capacity needed. He was dumb as a rock and I couldn't get rid of him fast enough." Trump isn't explaining how he could have made the mistake of choosing Tillerson or why he described him as "one of the truly great business leaders of the world."

Dec 9 ... In France demonstrations against a fuel tax have morphed into anger over the cost of living (prices) and inequality. Protesters have flocked from rural regions to Paris by the thousands, with riot police blocking off roads and monuments, firing tear gas and water cannons and arresting people, and the protesters breaking windows, setting cars afire and looting. The protests are described as an "anti-political" movement hostile toward President Macron (who, like the Tea Party in the US was an anti-politics politician.) The movement came together through social media rather than traditional political party devotions, and like the poor who hit the streets in Paris in 1789 (during an economic crisis), their ideas on how to improve the nation's economy are unclear.

Dec 12 ... The Afghan National Army abandons the western Shib Koh District after the government failed to resupply troops stationed there. The district, which borders Iran, is now effectively under Taliban control.

Dec 12 ... Soldiers from North Korea and South Korea peacefully cross the Korean Demilitarized Zone for the first time since it was created in 1953.

Dec 16 ... Predident Macron has canceled his fuel tax hike, promised protesters a minimum wage raise of $114 per month and has scrapped a planned tax on pensions under 2,000 euro ($2,272) per month. Demonstrations continued yesterday (Saturday) in Paris and other cities, for the fifth consecutive weekend, in weather that was bitter cold, crowd sizes that were a bit reduced and dozens of arrests. Police estimate the yesterday's turnout across the country was 33,500. (It has been said recently that Macron won his election against Le Pen back in May, 2017 by people having voted less for him than against the established political parties.)

Dec 17 ... The 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poland (Dec 4-15) agreed on rules to implement the Paris Agreement (to become effective in 2020.) According to Time magazine the US, Russian, and Saudi delegations questioned the validity of climate science, and the US delegation stated that the US "is not taking on any burdens or financial pledges in support of the Paris Agreement and will not allow climate agreements to be used as a vehicle to redistribute wealth."

Dec 18 ... China's President Xi calls for revitalizing Marxism-Leninism and describes China's Communist Party as having given all of China's ethnic groups unprecedented well-being. (He accepts China as a one-political-party state, believing that honest, patriotic citizens interested in political service can join the Party and add his or her voice to the nation's politics.) He holds to Lenin's anti-imperialism, saying that China will "never seek global hegemony." China, he says is a "defender of international order" and peace and that it takes "a leading role in dealing with climate change." "No one," he says, is in a position to dictate to the Chinese people what should or should not be done." He describes China's billionaires as doing their thing within Communist Party oversight. (Billionaire Jack Ma is a Communist Party member.) The party, says Xi, "leads everything." He describes the last 40 years as a "quantum leap for socialism with Chinese characteristics," driving China's "great rejuvenation in modern times".

Dec 21 ... The moronic tradition of revenge has appeared among Morocco's less culturally advanced. Four men are arrested for killing two young women tourists, one woman from Norway, the other from Denmark. Morocco's police have arrested four men, supporters of the Islamic State, who say they were taking revenge for events in Syria. The killers appear unaware that the killings will do nothing for their cause. According to the BBC, a vigil for the victims is expected in Morocco tomorrow.

Dec 22 ... A partial government shutdown takes effect with the failure of a bill to fund the government. The bill passed on December 19 without the funding that President Trump wants for his wall. Then came criticism from the president's supporters (including Rush Limbaugh) and members of the House Freedom Caucus warning Trump that if he did not veto the bill and fight for funding the wall he would lose his base and his chance of re-election in 2020. Confusion about the wall remains: Trump's wall is being done in sections supplemented by natural barriers (desert) with electronic surveillance – not a solid wall along the 2000 miles of border with Mexico. Back on December 11 Trump boasted "tremendous amounts of wall have already been built. Pelosi spoke of border security from added technology and personnel. "We are going to have border security," she said. But Democrats are saying "no money for Trump's 'beautiful' wall."

Dec 23 ... On the Sunday TV talk shows today, much about the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis having resigned on Thursday. Mattis is displeased regarding Trump's decision to pull US troops out of Syria. Many complain that it wasn't done in consultation with our allies and that it leaves our Kurdish friends in Syria vulnerable. President Trump says we have won in Syria — having defeated ISIS there. Mattis is being described as the last of what Trump called "my genrals" and as a grown-up who was offering foreign policy stability.

Dec 23 ... In Morocco, nine more have been arrested for links to the murders (and beheadings) of the two Scandinavian tourists (see Dec 21). Today, hundreds of Moroccans attended a vigil in Morocco's capital, and, according to the BBC, "Hundreds more people attended a vigil in the southern village of Imlil, near where the women's bodies were found, and flowers were also laid in the city of Marrakesh." The killers described themselves as having allegiance to the Islamic State — more politics by futile violence and the losing strategy of indifference regarding public support.

Dec 24 ... When the stockmarket rose to new highs, the Dow index above 26,793, in early November, and President Trump used it as a bragging point, although in general other analysts with economic training failed to make that connection. Today the stockmarket continued its decline, the Dow falling to 21,792, erasing all its gains since mid-2017. And the President postures his expertise by blaming the Federal Reserve Board for ruining his success by raising interest rates. "The only problem our economy has is the Fed," he tweeted. Someone else sees "the Rothchilds ... the Goldman's, the Clinton's and the Bush's" (sic) as "bent on taking Trump down at any cost."

Dec 25 ... in the Business section of the Los Angeles Times an analyst says that "investors are becoming increasingly concerned about the effect of the administration’s trade battles with China and Europe. And there is concern regarding the partial government shutdown over Trump's demand for billions of dollars for his border wall. (Market analysts do a lot of guess-timating.) Stocks are "pieces of paper" that rise or fall in value depending upon anticipation of companies gaining or losing their ability to make money — with price bubbles sometimes involved. Credit and blame can easily be politically motivated wild talk. The Fed (Federal Reserve Board) was created for the sake of economic stability and was made independent in order to keep monetary policy, including interest rates, out of the hands of politicians.

Dec 27 ... The volatile Dow index gained 4.98 percent yesterday — 1,086 points. The turn around is not attributed to any fundamental change in whatever has been targeted recently for blame. Those "fundamentals" have not changed. It seems that some investors (or gamblers?) jumped into the market yesterday looking for the bottom in falling prices. But who knows what will happen in the weeks ahead.

Dec 30 ... Trump-wall absolutists — Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Ben Shapiro, and Freedom Caucus Republicans — are fuming about President Trump compromising with the Democrats. They are saying little or nothing about border security improvements other than the Wall, and they see "the Wall" as an entity that will work properly with the $5 billion that Trump as been asking for. They oppose Trump's idea of meeting the Democrats half way by demanding only $2.5 billion. Meanwhile the partial government shutdown enters its ninth day, with Trump blaming the Democrats.

Dec 31 ... The NY Times reports that Customs and Border Protection officials early in 2017 told the head of Homeland Security, John F Kelly, "we need a physical barrier in certain places, we need technology across the board, and we need more people." Back on 18 Jan 2018, Trump tweeted: "The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it." Kelly, leaving today as the White House Chief of Staff, is saying that a solid concrete was abandoned "early on in the administration." It continued as a promise and rhetoric from the election campaign. (Scroll down here to "What has Mr Trump said?")

Dec 31 ... Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (image) has won with a landslide victory and a third in Bangladesh's national election. She described as an enemy of Islamist extremism, as having presided over a buoyant economy and as having made significant progress in reducing poverty. The BBC writes that her political party and its allies won almost all of the 300 parliamentary seats contested, in its best ever result. Her opposition won only seven seats and have described the elections as "farcical." There were some irregularities. At least 17 people were killed yesterday, according to a police spokesman. Hasina says her conscience is clear. Bangladesh is being described as a democracy and in effect a one-party democracy. China and India and have congratulated Hasina on her party's win.


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