Boots & Sabers

The blogging will continue until morale improves...

Category: Foreign Affairs

Argentina Uses Pandemic to Pass “One time” Wealth Confiscation

Heh

One of the law’s authors said it would only affect about 0.8% of taxpayers. Those affected will pay a progressive rate of up to 3.5% on wealth in Argentina and up to 5.25% on that outside the country.

AFP news agency reports that of the money raised, 20% will go to medical supplies, 20% to relief for small and medium-sized businesses, 20% to scholarships for students, 15% to social developments, and the remaining 25% to natural gas ventures.

They aren’t even pretending that this is for the Rona. Only 40% is going to something that could reasonably be claimed to be related to the virus. And if you think this will be a one time tax, I have a bridge to sell you. Once the tyrants find a new well of money, they will keep going back to it.

What the leftists in Argentina don’t understand (just like the leftists in America) is that people – particularly wealthy people – will react. They will hide their money, shift it overseas, move their businesses overseas, bury their money in the yard… whatever. They will find ways to avoid the tax. And in doing so, the government will not collect as much money as they thought and they will force all sorts of negative economic aftershocks and fuel illegal trade. And how will the little tyrants react? By onerous enforcement and extending the tax to more people. Then there will be more unrest and instability. This cycle has happened a thousand times.

Chief Iranian Nuclear Scientist Killed

Some good news.

Iran’s most senior nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh has been assassinated near the capital Tehran, the country’s defence ministry has confirmed.

Fakhrizadeh died in hospital after an attack in Absard, in Damavand county.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, has condemned the killing “as an act of state terror”.

Western intelligence agencies believe Fakhrizadeh was behind a covert Iranian nuclear weapons programme.

“If Iran ever chose to weaponise (enrichment), Fakhrizadeh would be known as the father of the Iranian bomb,” one Western diplomat told Reuters news agency in 2014.

[…]

In a statement on Friday, Iran’s defence ministry said: “Armed terrorists targeted a vehicle carrying Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, head of the ministry’s research and innovation organisation.

“After a clash between the terrorists and his bodyguards, Mr Fakhrizadeh was severely injured and rushed to hospital.

“Unfortunately, the medical team’s efforts to save him were unsuccessful and minutes ago he passed away.”

Biden Advocates for Open Border

Between Ireland and the U.K.

(REUTERS) -U.S. President-elect Joe Biden said on Tuesday he did not want to see a guarded border between Ireland and the United Kingdom, adding that he had previously discussed the matter with the British and Irish prime ministers and other European leaders.

Biden had stressed the importance of protecting Northern Ireland’s peace deal in the Brexit process in a call with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier in the month, after Biden won the Nov. 3 U.S. election against President Donald Trump.

Johnson’s government is seeking a trade deal with the European Union but says it is willing to leave without one. That could complicate the situation at the sensitive Northern Irish border with Ireland – the UK’s only land border with the EU.

Biden told journalists in Wilmington, Delaware, that the border must be open.

“We do not want a guarded border,” he said, answering a question from a reporter on what he would say to Brexit negotiators.

I seem to remember the Left getting all in a tizzy about the Trump team talking to foreign leaders in 2016… but here we are.

Should Insurance Cover COVID Business Losses?

Interesting case in the UK.

A hotly-contested case about insurance payouts for small businesses who were unable to trade owing to lockdown heads to the Supreme Court on Monday.

A host of businesses closed or faced significant losses, so made claims on their business interruption insurance.

But many insurers disputed the claims, arguing policies were never meant to cover such unprecedented restrictions.

Supreme Court judges will make a final judgement after the hearing, which is expected to last four days.

The issue will have had implications for 370,000 – mostly small – businesses, and involves potential payouts of £1.2bn.

High Court judges earlier found mostly in favour of insurers having to pay out to policyholders regarding a selection of policy types. Some of these decisions are now being appealed against at the Supreme Court.

This should be a relatively simple case. The contract is the contract and it says what it says. If there is language in the contract that excludes something like a government shutdown due to pandemic, or if there is language that says that “everything not covered is considered NOT covered” then the insurers are off the hook. It would be inappropriate to hold insurers to cover losses for a circumstance that they didn’t agree to cover and for an action that they didn’t cause.

The only question should be, “what is the language of the contract?” If the language is ambiguous and the business owners had a reasonable expectation of the insurers covering their losses, then perhaps the court will rule in the business owner’s favor.

It’s an important case because some judges in the U.S. have shown that they will look to foreign rulings to inform their decisions. Our judges shouldn’t do that, but they do. Watch this case in the U.K. If the High Court forces insurers to pay, there will be a slew of additional lawsuits in the U.S.

Terror Attack in France

We have seen less of this in recent years thanks to the destruction of ISIS and pressure on Iran, but this is still a poisonous, violent ideology. I would also point out to the folks in Philly that you can do a lot of damage with a knife.

France has been struck by two terror attacks within hours of each other as three people were killed – two of them beheaded – in an attack in Nice before a gunman was shot dead by police in Avignon.

The first attack began around 9am at the Notre Dame cathedral in Nice where a knifeman beheaded an elderly female parishioner and a male church warden, fatally stabbed a second woman, wounded several others, and was then shot and arrested by police.

Two hours later, a gunman threatened people on the streets of Avignon – 120 miles from Nice – while shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ before he was fatally shot by police.

Europe Locking Down Again

Trump’s fault (or something).

French President Emmanuel Macron has announced a second national lockdown until at least the end of November.

Mr Macron said that under the new measures, starting on Friday, people would only be allowed to leave home for essential work or medical reasons.

Non-essential businesses, such as restaurants and bars, will close, but schools and factories will remain open.

Covid daily deaths in France are at the highest level since April. On Tuesday, 33,000 new cases were confirmed.

Mr Macron said the country risked being “overwhelmed by a second wave that no doubt will be harder than the first”.

Meanwhile, Germany will impose an emergency lockdown that is less severe but includes the closure of restaurants, gyms and theatres.

We have reached this false paradigm where politicians think that shutting down the economy and sequestering citizens is the correct policy response to an increase in COVID19 cases despite very little evidence that it is the correct policy prescription.

“Dallas” Brought Down the USSR

Huh.

TV show Dallas was the main reason behind the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union, it has been claimed.

Eurythmics co-founder Dave Stewart said that former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev told him that the 1980s soap opera ‘had more effect’ in ending the Cold War than anything else.

Mr Stewart, 68, said the Gorbachev admitted an illicit broadcast of the US show in Russia had opened his people’s eyes to Western life, and the Texas-based show ‘brought down’ the communist superpower.

[…]

Mr Stewart said it had taken place in the early 1990s just as the Soviet Union was starting to open up. Before then, the Russians had been stopped by the government from listening to Western music or watching TV shows.

He said: ‘He was saying what brought Russia down was they weren’t allowed to see any shows from anywhere and they had in the churches they had giant blockers of signals so they’d only get fed the information from the government.

[…]

‘What Gorbachev was saying it was Dallas the TV show, somebody managed to get a VHS to work and broadcast it to part of Russia and they thought, ”Hang on, that’s how people live in America?”

‘He said that had more effect, that half an hour, than anything else.’

Jews Flee Europe

Interesting 

Between the end of the 18th and 19th centuries, the number of Jews in the world rose to more than 10 million, and climbed further to 16.5 million on the eve of the second world war. Most of the growth was in eastern Europe, then America and then Palestine and Israel.

The murder of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust reduced the global population to around 11 million, “radically disrupt[ing] what had been up to that moment the continuous build-up and transformation of European Jewry”.

In 1880, 88% of the world’s Jews lived in Europe. By 1945, this share had fallen to 35%, then to 26% in 1970 and to 9% in 2020. Most of this decline happened in eastern Europe, where the share of the global total fell from 26% in 1945 to 2% in 2020.

In the latter decades of the 20th century, the “opening of the doors of the Soviet Union” meant that more than 1.8 million Jews left eastern Europe between 1969 and 2020, resulting in “a drastic shift in the Jewish population’s centre of gravity from the east to the west of the continent”.

al-Qaida Leader Killed in Afghanistan

Excellent.

Afghan security forces have killed Abu Muhsin al-Masri, a senior al-Qaida leader who was on the FBI’s most-wanted list, Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) said in a tweet late on Saturday.

Al-Masri has been charged in the United States with having provided material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organisation, and conspiracy to kill US nationals.

Al-Masri, believed to be al-Qaida’s second-in-command, was killed during a special operation in Ghazni province, the NDS said.

UK Calls off Trade Talks with EU

It’s hard to tell if this is a negotiating ploy or more substantive.

“There is only any point in Michel Barnier coming to London next week if he’s prepared to address all the issues on the basis of a legal text in an accelerated way, without the UK required to make all the moves or to discuss the practicalities of travel and haulage,” the prime minister’s official spokesman said.

“If not there is no point in coming.”

He added: “Trade talks are over. The EU have effectively ended them by saying they do not want to change their negotiating position.”

Speaking in Downing Street earlier, Mr Johnson suggested the EU was unwilling to seriously consider the UK’s preferred option of a comprehensive free trade agreement based on the bloc’s existing arrangement with Canada.

The UK, he added, must look at the “alternative” – which he suggested was Australia’s much-more limited set of agreements with the EU.

[…]

Boris Johnson’s public declaration that the UK should prepare for No Deal did not cause great concern within EU circles.

The immediate response came in a tweet from Commission President Ursula von der Leyen who said it was full steam ahead for trade talks next week and that EU negotiators would be getting on their Eurostar to London as planned.

But the subsequent statement from the prime minister’s official spokesman – off-camera, but on-the-record – that the “trade talks are over” has left senior diplomats “deeply unimpressed”, as one put it to me.

Although “we’re getting used to being part of Johnson’s pantomime”, they added.

Some EU figures fear Boris Johnson still doesn’t know if he actually wants a deal and is trying to buy time while be grapples with the Covid crisis.

Following the hardening the British position by Number 10, France’s President Macron called on the prime minister to make up his mind, while there was still time.

Many in Brussels remain “cautiously optimistic” some sort of deal can be agreed but any route there is now even harder to see.

American Prestige Hurt by Trump Illness?

Really?

President Trump’s positive test for COVID-19 may not spark any sudden moves by foreign adversaries, but the news will be another blow to U.S. prestige on the global stage, according to national security experts.

“It’s certainly embarrassing when the president has scoffed about taking precautions and then comes down with the disease,” said Jon Alterman, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

That’s idiotic. Several world leaders have already had Covid and I’m sure others will too. The only people who would look at America as lesser because Trump got Coronavirus are those who already hate Trump… or America.

Court Rules that Subway’s Bread Isn’t Actually Bread

Never get between a government and their tax.

The rolls used in Subway’s hot sandwiches contain too much sugar to be considered bread, according to Ireland’s Supreme Court.

Ireland’s highest court made the ruling in a case about how the bread is taxed.

An Irish franchisee of the US company had claimed it should not pay VAT on the rolls it uses in heated sandwiches.

But the court ruled that because of the level of sugar in the rolls they cannot be taxed as bread, which is classed as a “staple product” with zero VAT.

Under Ireland’s VAT Act of 1972, ingredients in bread such as sugar and fat should not exceed 2% of the weight of flour in the dough.

China Increasingly Oppressive and Genocidal

Horrific.

Over the past four years, the Chinese government has detained more than 1 million Uighurs in reeducation camps designed to strip them of their culture, language and religion. They’ve had to shave their beards and uncover their hair. They’ve been made to pledge allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party. Children have been taken from their parents and put into orphanages.

Returning to Kashgar, I was struck by how, at first glance, it seemed relatively normal. In the Old City, families were out at the night market, eating piles of meat and bread. Kids could be heard laughing through open upstairs windows. There were even young men — prime targets for the detention campaign, which was ostensibly about deradicalization — on the streets again.

Walking around, I was overcome by the same sense of sadness mixed with rage that I felt when reporting in Pyongyang. I knew it was a kind of “Truman Show,” but I couldn’t see the edges of the set. I could see a blankness in people’s eyes and feel a palpable heaviness in the air.

[…]

The Kims of North Korea may have learned from Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and Communist China founder Mao Zedong when they built their own personality cult, but Xi has stoked a level of personal adoration unseen in China for decades.

[…]

Not just in Xinjiang but across China, it has become extremely difficult to have conversations with ordinary folk. People are afraid to speak at all, critically or otherwise. Students and professors, supermarket workers and taxi drivers, parents and motorists have all waved me away this year.

Foreign Interference in Election

It’s been a long time since we took governance advice from the British royal family. I’m not about to start now.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle faced a backlash today for speaking out about the upcoming U.S. election and ‘effectively telling Americans to vote against Trump’ despite the British royal family’s strict political neutrality.

The Duke of Sussex told voters to ‘reject hate speech, misinformation and online negativity’ while the Duchess called the presidential race the ‘most important election of our lifetime’ as the couple urged Americans to use their right to vote.

Speaking in a Time 100 video message, apparently filmed from the couple’s California home, Harry admitted he was not eligible to vote in the November 3 election – adding that he had never voted in the UK either where convention dictates that royals should keep well clear of politics.

UAE and Bahrain Normalize Relations With Israel

This is kind of a big deal.

US President Donald Trump has hailed the “dawn of a new Middle East”, amid landmark deals between Israel and Gulf states Bahrain and the UAE.

Mr Trump spoke as the UAE and Bahrain signed agreements fully normalising their relations with Israel.

The three countries hailed the deals as historic, as did Mr Trump, whose administration helped broker them.

The Gulf states are just the third and fourth Arab countries to recognise Israel since its founding in 1948.

The agreements are also likely to usher in new security ties in a region where many of the Gulf Arab states share with the Israelis a common adversary in Iran.

This is a big deal for a couple of reasons.

First, the two big powers in the Middle East are Iran and Saudi Arabia. Both are horrible totalitarian regimes, but of the two, Iran is more of a threat to the U.S. than Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally. Both the UAE and Bahrain are aligned with Saudi Arabia and they would not have normalized relations with Israel, another U.S. ally, without a nod from the Kingdom. This is a significant move in the formation of a regional coalition to balance Iran.

Second, although there are not military alliances between the Arab nations and Israel, the establishment of cultural and commercial relationships help to cement a motive for peace. The threat of an Arab attack on Israel as a catalyst for U.S. involvement has been reduced.

Treaties in the Middle East are traditionally unstable. We have gone through these cycles of hope and disappointment for my entire life. Perhaps this is another short-lived success. Perhaps it is a permanent shift in a positive direction. Time will tell.

Trump Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

As much as the Nobel committee has beclowned itself over the last several years, I doubt there is any way that he will win in. Given the multiple, historic peace agreements brokered by the Trump Administration, he certainly deserves it.

President Donald Trump has been nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, just weeks after helping to broker peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

He was nominated by Christian Tybring-Gjedde, a member of the Norwegian Parliament, who praised Trump for his efforts towards resolving conflicts worldwide.

‘For his merit, I think he has done more trying to create peace between nations than most other Peace Prize nominees,’ Tybring-Gjedde said to Fox News.

Tybring-Gjedde, who is a four-term member of Parliament who also serves as chairman of the Norwegian delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, said the Trump administration played a key role in the establishment of relations between The UAE and Israel.

The deal was first announced by the President on August 13, with Trump saying that the United Arab Emirates and Israel have agreed to establish full diplomatic ties as part of a deal to halt the Israeli annexation of occupied land sought by the Palestinians for their future state.

China Using Covid As Cover for Genocide

Horrific.

Even as Wuhan and the rest of China has mostly returned to ordinary life, Xinjiang’s lockdown is backed by a vast surveillance apparatus that has turned the region into a digital police state. Over the past three years, Xinjiang authorities have swept a million or more Uighurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic minorities into various forms of detention, including extrajudicial internment camps, under a widespread security crackdown.

After being detained for over a month, the Uighur woman was released and locked into her home. Conditions are now better, she told the AP, but she is still under lockdown, despite regular tests showing she is free of the virus.

Once a day, she says, community workers force traditional medicine in white unmarked bottles on her, saying she’ll be detained if she doesn’t drink them. The AP saw photos of the bottles, which match those in images from another Xinjiang resident and others circulating on Chinese social media.

Authorities say the measures taken are for the well-being of all residents, though they haven’t commented on why they are harsher than those taken elsewhere. The Chinese government has struggled for decades to control Xinjiang, at times clashing violently with many of the region’s native Uighurs, who resent Beijing’s heavy-handed rule.

Calling for Peace

Awesome.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Telephone calls began ringing Sunday between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, marking the first concrete step of a U.S.-brokered diplomatic deal between the nations that required Israel to halt plans to annex land sought by the Palestinians.

Anger over the deal however continued as well, with protesters in Pakistan criticizing the UAE and Iran making new threats about the accord, which will see the Emirates become only the third Arab nation to currently recognize Israel. The UAE responded by summoning Iran’s chargé d’affairs to criticize earlier comments by Iran’s president it described as threatening.

But for Dubai’s small expatriate Jewish community, which has worshipped for years at an unmarked villa in this city-state, the calls represented so much more than just the convenience of being able to directly dial loved ones in Israel.

“There’s a sense of a miracle upon a miracle upon a miracle, as all of these hurdles fall away and people at last can come together and start talking,” Ross Kriel, the president of the Jewish Council of the Emirates, told The Associated Press.

Direct telephone calls have been blocked in the Emirates, a U.S.-allied federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula, since its founding in 1971. That backed the standing position of Arab nations at the time, that Israel must first grant concessions to the Palestinians before being recognized — one of their few points of leverage.

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