January 2019

Jan 3 ... The island now called Taiwan was, in the 1700s, dominated by Dutch and Spanish imperialists, and they opened the island to immigration from China. China's Qing Dynasty was the nominal ruler in Taiwan until 1895, when the Empire of Japan took over. After Japan's defeat in 1945 and China's civil war, Chiang Kai-shek's anti-communist regime fled to Taiwan, in 1949, and established power there. Many in Taiwan identified themselves as Taiwanese and opposed what to them appeared to be invasion from China. In keeping with the Cold War, Taiwan was recognized as independent by the United States — the "two Chinas" policy never accepted by China's Communist regimes. And yesterday China's leader, Xi Jinping, in effect proclaimed that Taiwan is still Chinese and that he plans on getting it back — somewhat slowly. He said that if Taiwan were to agree to unification, its rights would be ensured by the same "one country, two systems" framework that Beijing promised Hong Kong (when British colonial control ended there in 1997). It's a promise many do not expect will win a lot of support among the people of Taiwan.

Jan 4 ... Many fear that a poorly performing economy in China will slow down the world economy. Stock indexes fell big on January 2, including those on the Shanghai exchange, and on the 3rd, in New York, the Dow tumbled 2.38% (680 points). The market was down big in Tokyo today, the 4th. An economic slowdown in China will hurt those looking to export to China and slow the world economy. President Trump's tariffs and his looking to punish China and to force that country to reduce its trade deficit with the United States is viewed as contributing to the problem. The Shanghai exchange is down from around 5200 points in the year 2015 to around 3600 today, and this includes more than a 24% loss during the year 2018. China's economy grew something like 6.3% in 2018 (a number beyond US dreams). But consumer confidence in China is low right now, China's job market is tougher, and there are declining car sales and faltering retail sales. A lot of people see China doing well economically as a benefit for the world in general — something unrelated to China yesterday having landed equipment on the other side of the moon and its growing military capability.

Jan 5 ... President Trump says he will not sign a bill to reopen government that doesn't include money for his wall — one of his election promises. Trump tweeted early Saturday that "...we need a WALL." He has also said we have a wall. We can see a video of people dropping into the US side from an 18-foot wall. What there is of a wall no doubt slows down the illegal migrants. Nancy Pelosi says she is indeed concerned about border security and is looking forward to spending government money to that end, but not on Trump's wall — additions to the wall described as impractical and a waste of money. President Trump says that Capitol Hill Democrats are trying to stop him from fulfilling a top campaign promise. Trump supporters are buying the accusation that Pelosi is opposing border security. For at least some of them The Wall has an uncomplicated appeal. The barriers that Pelosi is described as willing to support — faceted and programmatic — have less appeal. Some are looking forward to compromise: Pelosi giving a little funding for The Wall so that Trump can describe himself as having won something.

Jan 7 ... A young Saudi woman, age 18, Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, was trying to flee from her family during a flight to Kuwait. She escaped and was headed for Australia on a flight with a connection in Bangkok. There, a Saudi met her coming of her flight and seized her Australian visa and her passport — the Saudi's perhaps having dropped some cash on Thai authorities. The young Saudi woman told the BBC that she has renounced Islam and is afraid that her faily will kill her.

Jan 8 ... Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun barricaded herself in her airport hotel room. She has her passport back and is described by the BBC as under the care of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. Her father is flying to Bangkok, and she is asking for asylum in Canada, the United States, Australia or the UK. Within a day, Australia will say that the UN declares her a legitimate refugee.

Jan 10 ... In Venezuela, President Madura is sworn in for his second term. The crowds celebrating the event are smaller than those that greeted him after his first inauguration almost six years ago (5 March 2013). In his speech, Maduro says he wants "a new beginning" and "to fix the mistakes, the many mistakes that have been made." The US, Canada and others do not recognize the legitimacy of Madura's new term.

Jan 11 ... The BBC reports that African migration to Europe has declined to 'a trickle' thanks to a trafficking ban across the Sahara. In Niger "many traffickers have been jailed and hundreds of their vehicles confiscated."

Jan 13 ... France has its ninth week-end of anti-Macron protests. In Paris, 5,000 were in the street, and a total of 8,000 across France, a little more than last week — compared to the 300,000 when the protests began. A high cost of living is described as behind the anger, and protesters accuse the government of favoring the urban elite. One sign was fantasy, demanding that President Macron resign or there will be revolution. One reporter, John Lichfield, describes yesterday's protesters, taunting the police and throwing rocks, as looking different from the "provincials" who made up most of the marchers back in November.

Jan 16 ... Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union on March 29, and Britain's trade and economy are suffering. Prime Minister May's compromise exit plan was voted down on the 15th, 432 to 202. The United Kingdom is functioning despite the division between those who want the economic advantages that accompany staying in the EU and, on the other hand, those described as "xenophobes" who want tougher borders against immigration, freedom from the EU's Court of Justice and no EU participation in Britain's governance. The prime minister, Theresa May, might be replaced soon by voting (no coup, no impeachment attempt, no waiting for November 2020 elections). Someone asks, "Who wants Brexit, the olds, the deplorable and the right wind plutocrats and crooks." Someone else writes: "Brexit is another triumph for Putin and his social media trolls." Now comes this: news that Britain's currency, the pound, has spiked. Someone thinks this means that markets expect a second referendum and this time a vote against Brexit. (Britain has not been on the euro and no-brexit is better for British banking.)

Jan 17 ... Britain dithers. Theresa May has survived a No-Confidence vote in Parliament: 325-306. Reports are that no majority exists in the country for anything other than a second referendum on whether to leave or stay in the EU. (The first one was held in June 2016). Those in favor of this are saying this time the people will be paying attention, that they have learned something and will reject the make-Britain great (sovereign and independent) again appeal of those politicians who favor leaving the EU. Prime Minister May (who originally sided with those for remaining in the EU) rejects a second referendum and is submitting a new leave-the-EU plan, one that Parliament will accept. May's conservative party is split on the Brexit issue and might break up with other than some kind of compromise plan that May is trying to offer.

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