Category Archives: Foreign Affairs

Hondurans Return Home

Key phrase: “”organized with political purposes and low deceptions.” Yup

2,000 migrants return to Honduras, foreign ministry says

In a press release, the Honduran Foreign Ministry said 2,000 people in the migrant caravan have now returned to Honduras from the Guatemala border with Mexico.

In addition, the foreign ministry says 400 more Hondurans in the caravan will be on their way back.

The foreign ministry said in the release the “atypical and irregular mobilization… was organized with political purposes and low deceptions.”

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández also promised an offer of jobs and other type of aid to those who return to the country.

Migrant Mob Breaks into Mexico

The United States is under no moral obligation to allow this mob into our country.

Tapachula, Mexico (CNN)A chaotic scene unfolded as a massive caravan of Honduran migrants reached the Guatemala-Mexico border Friday.

A surge of migrants broke through a steel fence that had been padlocked shut. Mexican police in riot gear pushed them back, setting off smoke canisters.
Hundreds of Mexican Federal Police sealed the border as drones and helicopters hovered above the crowd, which waited on a bridge in sweltering heat.
Thousands of migrants are waiting to cross, according to CNN teams at the scene.

US Threatens Saudi Arabia over Alleged Killing

We are at a new place in our nation’s relationship with Saudi Arabia.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia warned on Sunday that it will respond to threats and political pressure with tough measures of its own after President Donald Trump said the oil-rich kingdom deserves “severe punishment” if responsible for the disappearance and suspected murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.

The apparent threat of economic retaliation from the world’s top oil exporter came after a turbulent day on the Saudi stock exchange, which plunged as much as 7 percent at one point.

The statement was issued as international concern grew over the writer who vanished on a visit to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul over a week ago. American lawmakers have threated sanctions against the Saudis, and Germany, France and Britain jointly called on Sunday for a “credible investigation” into Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Turkish officials have said they fear a Saudi hit team killed and dismembered Khashoggi, who wrote critically of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The kingdom has called such allegations “baseless” but has not offered any evidence Khashoggi ever left the consulate.

For generations, the United States and Europe would look past Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses because we needed their oil to fuel the economy. Those days are over. Thanks to American innovation and fracking, the US is now the largest producer of oil in the world and the world’s largest exporter of oil. Saudi Arabia’s importance in world affairs has diminished.

There is still risk to isolating Saudi Arabia. They have been a force of stability in an unstable region. And they are still a major oil producer whose behavior can impact the world economy. But it isn’t like it used to be.

Turkey Frees American

Great!

IZMIR, Turkey — American pastor Andrew Brunson walked out of court a free man today after 24 months of imprisonment, including house arrest.

A Turkish judge convicted Brunson on charges of “providing aid to terrorist groups without being a member,” while sentencing him to time served and lifting a ban on foreign travel, clearing the way for his return to the U.S.

Brunson hugged his wife and shed tears of joy as he left the courtroom flanked by an American delegation. Making a statement in perfect Turkish, the Evangelical Presbyterian minister, who moved to Turkey in 1993, said, “I’m an innocent man — I love Jesus, and I love this country.”

[…]

Brunson, who had maintained his innocence throughout the the trial, ran a small Evangelical Presbyterian parish in the coastal city of Izmir with about 50 members. He was active in humanitarian aid projects to serve Syrian refugees, and that’s where Turkish investigators say he came in contact with members of terrorist groups.

He was jailed in October 2016 amid accusations of having links to groups Turkey blames for a bloody coup attempt three months earlier. Several of Brunson’s parishioners testified as witnesses, both for and against him.

The final courtroom drama played out in a series of bizarre and dramatic surprises as several witnesses for the prosecution recanted their testimonies.

One woman said she did not personally know Brunson. Two men contradicted their past assertions. When the newly appointed prosecutor asked them about past statements they made asserting that a parishioner — a member of the blacklisted Kurdistan Workers Party — was building bombs, both men said that the statements were rumors they had heard from the other.

A Winning Trade Deal

It will take some time to ferret out all of the details in the new trade deal between America, Canada, and Mexico , but so far it looks good – especially for Wisconsin.

In a win for the United States, USMCA will open up some of Canada’s dairy market to US farmers. The issue was a big sticking point between the two negotiating teams.
Under the original NAFTA, Canada limited how much milk, cheese and other dairy products could come in from the United States.
But under the updated agreement, Canada will set new quotas for the United States. It will increase market access for US dairy, poultry and eggs. In return, the United States will allow more Canadian dairy, peanuts and peanut products, and a limited amount of sugar to cross the border, according to a document from US Trade Representative’s Office.
Canada has also agreed to end a system that had kept the price of some milk products, including milk protein, low. This change will also allow more US dairy products to enter the Canadian market.
And…
The new trade agreement aims to support American workers in several ways.
Most notably, it requires that 40% to 45% of car and truck parts be made by workers earning at least $16 an hour. The goal is to level the playing field between American and Mexican auto workers and to incentivize manufacturers to build more in the United States. One of the main criticisms of NAFTA is that it prompted American car makers to shift production south of the border, where workers earn much less than their US counterparts.
The deal also mandates that 75% of a vehicle’s parts must be made in North America, up from the current 62.5% rule. The Trump administration argues that this will help incentivize billions in new auto sector production in the US.
Also, Mexico has committed to recognize workers’ right to collectively bargain, and the three countries agreed to enforce rights recognized by the International Labor Organization.
Overall, it doesn’t look like there’s anything hugely transformational for good or bad, but the agreement moves the needle a little further in America’s favor. I’ll take it.

Trump Asserts America at U.N.

Don’t read the news reports of Trump’s speech at the U.N. today. It was a long speech that covered a lot of topics. The media will only cover small parts and will focus on the parts they didn’t like. Instead, go read the whole thing. It was an impressive speech for its clarity of vision and robust assertion of American values.

For example, here’s one part:

Each of us here today is the emissary of a distinct culture, a rich history, and a people bound together by ties of memory, tradition, and the values that make our homelands like nowhere else on Earth.

That is why America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control, and domination.

I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs, and traditions. The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship. We only ask that you honor our sovereignty in return.

Amen. And this:

I spoke before this body last year and warned that the U.N. Human Rights Council had become a grave embarrassment to this institution, shielding egregious human rights abusers while bashing America and its many friends.

Our Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, laid out a clear agenda for reform, but despite reported and repeated warnings, no action at all was taken. So the United States took the only responsible course: We withdrew from the Human Rights Council, and we will not return until real reform is enacted.

For similar reasons, the United States will provide no support in recognition to the International Criminal Court. As far as America is concerned, the ICC has no jurisdiction, no legitimacy, and no authority. The ICC claims near-universal jurisdiction over the citizens of every country, violating all principles of justice, fairness, and due process. We will never surrender America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy.

This:

I spoke before this body last year and warned that the U.N. Human Rights Council had become a grave embarrassment to this institution, shielding egregious human rights abusers while bashing America and its many friends.

Our Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, laid out a clear agenda for reform, but despite reported and repeated warnings, no action at all was taken. So the United States took the only responsible course: We withdrew from the Human Rights Council, and we will not return until real reform is enacted.

For similar reasons, the United States will provide no support in recognition to the International Criminal Court. As far as America is concerned, the ICC has no jurisdiction, no legitimacy, and no authority. The ICC claims near-universal jurisdiction over the citizens of every country, violating all principles of justice, fairness, and due process. We will never surrender America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy.

And:

In America, we believe in the majesty of freedom and the dignity of the individual. We believe in self-government and the rule of law. And we prize the culture that sustains our liberty -– a culture built on strong families, deep faith, and fierce independence. We celebrate our heroes, we treasure our traditions, and above all, we love our country.

One might not agree with all of it (I disagree with him regarding trade policies), but he has articulated a clear vision for his administration. Go read it.

Red China Balks at Sanctions Against Moscow

Remember that these are sanctions that the Democrats supported. Will they stand by Trump now?

China has told the US to withdraw sanctions on its military over purchases of Russian jets and missiles or “bear the consequences”.

The US says China has contravened US sanctions on Moscow introduced over Russian actions in Ukraine and alleged interference in US politics.

China recently bought 10 Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 missiles.

Beijing has not joined in the sanctions imposed on Moscow by the US and its Western allies since 2014.

Its forces took part in giant Russian war games held earlier this month.

Korean Leaders Meet

We can hope.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has agreed to shut one of the country’s main missile testing and launch sites, says the South’s President Moon Jae-in.

After meeting in Pyongyang, the two leaders “agreed on a way to achieve denuclearisation,” said Mr Moon.

The agreement was described by Mr Kim as a “leap forward” towards military peace on the peninsula.

Mr Kim also said he hoped to “visit Seoul in the near future” – he would be the first North Korean leader to do so.

Kingdom Invests in Tesla Rival

Whoa.

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund invested over $1 billion Monday in American electric car manufacturer, Lucid Motors.

That’s bad news for Tesla, as it signals that the kingdom may be moving in a different direction, just weeks after CEO Elon Musk claimed the fund would help his own firm go private.

The Public Investment Fund (PIF), which invests on behalf of the Saudi government, said the infusion would go toward launching the Lucid Air electric sedan by 2020.

Communists Likely Attacked American Diplomats with Microwaves

These are intentional, repeated attacks. They have to be stopped.

(CNN)They’ve been described as “sonic attacks” — bizarre, unexplained head injuries that spurred the United States to bring home diplomatic staff from China and Cuba. Now scientists are saying the ailments could have been caused by microwave weapons.

Though a March report based on the examinations of 21 diplomats who served in Cuba didn’t link the attacks to microwaves, the study’s lead author, Douglas Smith, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Brain Injury and Repair, told The New York Times that the diplomats likely suffered brain injuries and that microwaves are considered the culprit.
“Everybody was relatively skeptical at first,” he told the newspaper, “and everyone now agrees there’s something there.”
In a Sunday interview with CNN, Smith said microwaves are “a main suspect” in causing the diplomats’ injuries, but ultrasound and infrasound were being studied as potential causes as well.
[…]
In a statement, the US State Department on Sunday neither confirmed nor denied the possibility that microwaves were behind the diplomatic injuries.
“The health and well-being of our personnel remains our top priority,” the statement said. “The investigation into the origin of these symptoms continues. The inter-agency community is working diligently to determine the cause of the symptoms, as well as to develop mitigation strategies.”

Trump Moves to Cancel $300 Million to Pakistan

Good.

The US military says it is cancelling $300m (£230m) in aid to Pakistan over what it calls Islamabad’s failure to take action against militant groups.

President Donald Trump has previously accused Pakistan of deceiving the US while receiving billions of dollars.

Pentagon spokesman Lt Col Koné Faulkner said the US military would aim to spend the money on other “urgent priorities”.

The move, which needs to be approved by the US Congress, is part of a broader suspension announced in January.

The US state department has criticised Pakistan, a key ally, for failing to deal with terrorist networks operating on its soil, including the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban.

“We continue to press Pakistan to indiscriminately target all terrorist groups,” Col Faulkner said in a statement on Saturday, adding that the $300m aid – which had earlier been suspended – should be used elsewhere due to “a lack of Pakistani decisive actions” in tackling the issue.

Foreign aid is a foreign policy tool like any other. It is to be used as leverage to advance America’s interests. If it’s not working, then look for another place to place the fulcrum.

Battle in the Channel

Britain is going to have to strengthen its defenses if the French are going to be this belligerent after Brexit.

30A_SCALLOP WARS 2ed

Rocks, smoke bombs and other projectiles are reported to have been hurled at English and Scottish vessels during the confrontation in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

French fisherman are angry about a domestic ban preventing them from harvesting the scallop-rich region while British boats are free fish.

‘It is clear that we have insufficient ships to patrol the United Kingdom’s territorial seas and our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ),’ Lord West wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

‘Co-ordination of the few ships we do have is fragmented. In theory, co-ordination is exercised by the co-located Joint Maritime Operations Command Centre.

‘But this command centre lacks a single commander with authority to order government departments to take action, and therefore is unable to exercise proper command. After Brexit, this will be disastrous.’

When Britain leaves the EU it will be responsible for patrolling its EEZ, rather than being part of a shared EEZ for the whole of the bloc.

EU members’ access to British fishing waters will then need to be negotiated as part of a Brexit deal.

French authorities try to preserve scallop stocks by banning their ships from fishing in the region over the summer, a measure that ends on October 1.

This law does not apply to the British, however – who anger the French mariners by harvesting scallops during this window.

Public “Pissiors” Under Attack

What to do?

Feminist protesters have begun vandalising the new open-air street urinalsin Paris, labelling them sexist and discriminatory.

Several of the eco-friendly urinals have been placed in public spots in recent months as an experiment to counter Paris’s problem of urine-soaked pavements.

But protesters in recent days targeted two on the Île Saint-Louis and near Gare de Lyon station – plastering them with stained sanitary towels and tampons, then blocking them with concrete.

Notes left behind attacked Paris authorities for encouraging men to unzip and relieve themselves without cover in open public spaces – even though public breastfeeding still elicits scorn.

[…]

“These urinals are designed to comfort men and reinforce the idea that women aren’t welcome in the public space. It is discrimination and reinforces the stereotypical, sexist idea that men can’t control themselves in any way, including their bladders.”

[…]

Police handed out 5,000 fines to people caught urinating against walls or on pavements in Paris in the first half of 2018 – almost all men. But with 450 self-cleaning public toilets across the city, many open 24 hours a day, feminists said the extra public urinals specifically for men were sexist and unnecessary.

It is an interesting dilemma. It is a legitimate issue that people – almost all men – are pissing all over the city. So city officials try something that it targeting the problem: men. But that’s viewed as sexist. Because it is. Because men are the problem.

Greece Emerges From Bailout Plan

Be careful out there, folks. The Greeks can borrow again.

Greece has successfully completed a three-year eurozone emergency loan programme worth €61.9bn (£55bn; $70.8bn) to tackle its debt crisis.

It was part of the biggest bailout in global financial history, totalling some €289bn, which will take the country decades to repay.

Deeply unpopular cuts to public spending, a condition of the bailout, are set to continue.

But for the first time in eight years, Greece can borrow at market rates.

[…]

The economy has grown slowly in recent years and is still 25% smaller than when the crisis began.

[…]

While Greece’s economy has stabilised, its accumulated debt pile stands at about 180% of GDP.

As an American in a country with a $21 trillion national debt, I should really resist the urge to cast stones. Glass houses and whatnot.

As a side note in relation to the post below about the upcoming school referendum in West Bend, the district currently spends about $70.5 million per year from the general fund and another $26.5 million per year from other funds. Total, that’s about $97 million per year. If we equate the school spending budget (economic output) to GDP, then the current debt load for the district is about 134% of annual budget. If the referendum passes, the total debt load for the district will be about 222% of annual budget. Smart? No.

Imam Preached Jihad to Manchester Suicide Bomber

One might be concerned with this

An imam at the mosque where Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi and his family prayed was delivered a sermon calling for jihad.

Mustafa Graf encouraged followers to ‘take action’ at the Didsbury Mosque in Manchester on December 16, 2016.

That was just six months before Salman Abedi detonated a suicide bomb killing 22 at an Ariana Grande concert in the city.

Muslim Woman Wins Judgement for Not Shaking Hands

It really annoys me when stuff like this has to go to a court when common decency and understanding should prevail.

A Muslim woman in Sweden has won compensation after her job interview was ended when she refused a handshake.

Farah Alhajeh was applying for a job as an interpreter when she declined to shake the hand of a male interviewer for religious reasons.

She placed her hand over her heart in greeting instead.

The Swedish labour court ruled the company had discriminated against her and ordered it to pay 40,000 kronor ($4,350; £3,420) in compensation.

Some Muslims avoid physical contact with members of the opposite sex, except for those in their immediate family.

[…]

The interpreting company in the town of Uppsala had argued that its staff were required to treat men and women equally and could not allow a staff member to refuse a handshake based on gender.

But the discrimination ombudsman said she had tried to avoid upsetting anyone by placing her hand over her heart when greeting both men and women.

Sweden’s labour court found the company was justified in demanding equal treatment for both sexes – but not in demanding that it be in the form of a handshake only.

The Muslim tradition of avoiding physical contact with strangers of the opposite sex is well-known and perfectly fine. Some Christian, Jewish, and other religions have the same cultural quirk. And it’s fine… who cares? She woman in the case didn’t make a big deal about it and offered a perfectly reasonable alternative greeting. How many thousands of kronors were wasted to tell everyone in the case to “just don’t be a jerk”?

Strange Russian Satellite

Hmmm

But now the U.S. is voicing concerns and claiming that threat is very real — pointing in particular to a Russian satellite’s “very abnormal behavior.”

The satellite, launched in October 2017, has displayed behavior “inconsistent with anything seen before from” the kind of satellite Russia has said it is, according to Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance Yleem D.S. Poblete.

Instead, without saying it outright, Poblete implied that the object could be a weapon, but said the U.S. cannot know for sure.

“We don’t know for certain what it is, and there is no way to verify it,” Poblete said yesterday in Geneva, Switzerland, at the Conference on Disarmament. Poblete was speaking before the international body for negotiating arms control to express the U.S.’s “serious concerns” about Russia’s push to launch weapons in space, especially anti-satellite weapons that can target satellites that the U.S. relies on for business, scientific and military purposes.

New Zealand Bans Foreigners From Buying Most Real Estate

Interesting.

The country’s parliament on Wednesday passed a law banning foreigners from buying into most parts of its residential property market as the government seeks to cool red-hot house prices.

The Overseas Investment Amendment Bill will prevent overseas investors from purchasing existing properties in New Zealand, but they will still be able to buy into new apartment complexes and certain other parts of the housing market.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern campaigned on a promise to clamp down on foreign buyers, blaming them for soaring prices that have left many New Zealanders unable to enter the property market.

[…]

Most foreign buyers in New Zealand don’t state where they’re from, official data shows, but the majority of those who do are from China.

New Zealand has also proved to be a popular retreat for the rich and famous. Billionaire investor Peter Thiel and disgraced former NBC host Matt Lauer both own properties in the country.

The Chinese, in particular, are buying property all over the world – especially in America.

Why?

Thanks to their booming economy, there are a lot of Chinese people who have a lot of money. But they still live in a totalitarian regime where their assets can be seized or they can be cast out at any time. There is no real protection for private property in China. So what do you do if you are a wealthy Chinese businessman and you don’t want your assets to evaporate by the whim of a dictator? You buy property in other countries that protect private property. That way, if something happens in China, at least you still have a pot of gold buried somewhere for your family.

Drone Attack on Venezuelan President

Watch for the inevitable crackdown on his opponents.

Venezuelan officials say explosive drones went off as President Nicolás Maduro was giving a live televised speech in Caracas, but he is unharmed.

Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez said this was an attempt on Mr Maduro’s life, and seven soldiers were injured.

Mr Maduro was seen speaking at an outdoor military event when he and others suddenly looked upwards – startled. The audio then went.

Dozens of soldiers were seen running away before the broadcast was cut off.

Venezuela’s NTN24 TV channel later posted footage which showed the moment Mr Marudo’s speech was cut short and the ensuing chaos.

Russia Appoints Steven Segal

Wait… what?

Washington (CNN)Russia appointed actor Steven Seagal as a “special representative” on US-Russian humanitarian ties, the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in statement on its official Facebook page Saturday.

According to the statement, the action star’s role will be to promote US-Russia relations “in the humanitarian sphere,” adding that the role will include collaboration “in the sphere of culture, public and youth exchanges.”