Friday, November 17, 2017

World’s first head transplant is “imminent”

 
 
Never too far away from making headlines, the controversial neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero is back with claims that the world’s first head transplant is “imminent”, after Chinese scientists successfully carried out the first head transplant on a human corpse.
He revealed the news at a press conference in Vienna on Friday morning. Professor Canavero claims the feat was carried out during an 18-hour operation at Harbin Medical University in China, during which a team of surgeons successfully severed then reconnected the spinal cord, nerves, and blood vessels in the spine and neck.

The operation was led by Dr Xiaoping Ren, a surgeon who has previously transplanted the head of a monkey and numerous rodents. Harbin Medical University is expected to write a full report on the operation within the next few days.
“The first human transplant on human cadavers has been done," Canavero told the crowd, according to the Telegraph. "A full head swap between brain-dead organ donors is the next stage. And that is the final step for the formal head transplant for a medical condition which is imminent.”

In a phone interview today, Canavero told USA Today that the operation will take place in China because the scientific establishment and authorities of Europe and the US were unwilling to support the contentious surgery.
"The Americans did not understand,” he said. "Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to restore China to greatness. He wants to make it the sole superpower in the world. I believe he is doing it.”

The eccentric Italian's plans to pull off the first live human head transplant have been surrounded and fueled with controversy. Back in 2015, he estimated that the operation would be done and dusted by 2017, however that’s looking unlikely considering the recent rate of developments.
Even though Canavero has spent the past few year writing scientific studies on the feat, massive doubts are continuing to be cast onto the scientific legitimacy of his big promises. Arthur Caplan, head of medical ethics at Langone Medical Center of New York University, said Canavero was “out of his mind”.

Speaking about head transplant surgery, neuroscientist Dean Burnett said: “When someone makes an extreme claim, my rule of thumb is this: If they haven’t provided robust scientific evidence, but they have done a TED talk, alarm bells should be ringing.”

First head transplant successfully carried out on live monkey
WARNING: Graphic picture. 


The first head transplant on a primate has been carried out by scientists in China 

Dr Sergio Canavero  carried out the first head transplant on a monkey ahead of plans to attempt the controversial procedure on a human by the end of next year.
Professor  Canavero, Director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group and researchers at Harbin Medical University in China posted pictures of the creature whose head appears to have been grafted onto the body of another animal.
Stitches can clearly be seen surrounding the neck, which looked to be entirely severed.
"The plan for the first human head transplant is on schedule, towards its expected date of realization, Christmas 2017. “

According to Prof Canavero, the team led by Xiaoping Ren, connected the blood supply to prove that the animal could survive without suffering brain injury. They have not yet attempted to join the spinal cords so if the animal survived it would be completely paralysed.
“The monkey fully survived the procedure without any neurological injury of whatever kind,” says Prof Canavero, but said it was  kept alive for only 20 hours after the procedure for ethical reasons.


The picture claimed to be the first monkey head transplant

Ren has also tested some experiments on human corpses.
“We’ve done a pilot study testing some ideas about how to prevent injury,” he said.
The experiments are reported in a set of seven papers which are due to be published in the journals Surgery and CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics. The papers also claim to have shown that spine fusion technology developed by Canavero ‘has a strong rationale’ and works in mice allowing them to recover motor function. The team claims that crucial nerve fibers regrew.

A press release ahead of the publication said: “A full monkey head transplant has been successfully accomplished by Prof Ren’s group in China with the goal of testing cross-circulation and hypothermia as an effective neuroprotective strategy.
“The first studies on human cadavers have already begun in China and will be expanded shortly.
"The plan for the first human head transplant is on schedule, towards its expected date of realization, Christmas 2017. “
Canavero shocked the world last year when he said that he would be ready to transplant a human head within two years. He wants the first patient to be 31-year-old Russian, Valery Spriridonov, who has a genetic muscle-wasting disease.


 
Spriridonov, the Russian patient, will only be able to receive a new body in Russia, which will require a commitment from Russian authorities.
It is claimed that initial talks with Russian surgeons have already taken place and the team are hoping to approach Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for finance.
In the meantime, Vietnam has offered itself to host future head transplants.
“I would say we have plenty of data to go on,” said Prof Canavero. “It’s important that people stop thinking this is impossible. This is absolutely possible and we’re working towards it.”

Prof Sergio Canavero

However the fact that the team has press released their work before it has been published an peer reviewed has left some scientists anxious about the validity of their claims.
“It’s science through public relations,” Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University School of Medicine told New Scientist.
“When it gets published in a peer-reviewed journal I’ll be interested. I think the rest of it is BS.”

Thomas Cochrane, a neurologist at Harvard Medical School’s Centre for Bioethics, also told the magazine Canavero’s press release was unorthodox. “It’s frowned upon for good reason,” he said.
“It generates excitement before excitement is warranted. It distracts people from actual work that everyone can agree has a valid foundation. As far as I can tell, that operation has mostly been about publicity rather than the production of good science.”
“If the so-called head transplant works, this is going to open up a whole new science of spinal cord trauma reconstruction,” says Michael Sarr, editor of the journal Surgery and a surgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “
We are most interested in spinal cord reconstruction using head transplantation as a proof of principle. Our journal does not necessarily support head transplantation because of multiple ethical issues and multiple considerations of informed consent and the possibility of negative consequences of a head transplant.”
I can see a cornucopia of ethical problems with this process . Add to this, a certain amount of shock and awe that we can actually do this. Is it a good thing? Is it a step toward immortality? Will someone take this knowledge and use for evil purposes? Of course they will. They always do.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Exciting new exoplanet discovered ...could support life

 
Ross 128 b might be a target in the search for extra-terrestrial life  
              
Astronomers have found a cool, Earth-sized planet that's relatively close to our Solar System.
The properties of this newly discovered planet - called Ross 128 b - make it a prime target in the search for life elsewhere in the cosmos. The climate and atmosphere seem adequate to support life so it is very exciting.
At just 11 light-years away, it's the second closest exoplanet of its kind to Earth.  The closest one, known as Proxima b, looks to be less hospitable for life. Found in 2016, it orbits the star Proxima Centauri, which is known to be a rather active "red dwarf" star. This means that powerful eruptions periodically batter Proxima b with harmful radiation.
The new planet, Ross 128 b, orbits a star that's not dissimilar to Proxima Centauri (it's also a red dwarf), but is significantly less active.
Co-discoverer Nicola Astudillo-Defru from the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland told
 journalists, "Because Proxima Centauri blasts its planet with strong flares and high energy radiation, I think Ross 128 is much more comfortable for the development of life.  But we still need to know what the atmosphere of Ross 128 b is like. Depending on its composition and the reflectivity of its clouds, the exoplanet may be life friendly with liquid water as the Earth, or sterile like Venus.

La Silla Observatory
The discovery was made at the La Silla Observatory in Chile
 
Lead author of the study describing the find, Xavier Bonfils, from the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics in Grenoble (IPAG), France, said, "Ross 128 is one of the quietest stars of our sample and, although it is a little further away from us it makes for an excellent alternative target."
The new world was discovered with the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (Harps) instrument at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. The work will be published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
Dr Astudillo-Defru said the find was the result of more than a decade of "intensive monitoring" using the Harps instrument. At 1.35 times the mass of our planet, Ross 128 b is a bit heftier than Earth and orbits 20 times closer to its star than we orbit the Sun. But because the new planet's parent star is much smaller and dimmer than our yellow sun, it receives only a little more solar radiation than Earth. Consequently, it is expected to have a surface temperature close to that on our own planet.

E-ELT artwork
The Extremely Large Telescope should be able to probe the atmospheres of exoplanets like Ross 128b

JWST
The James Webb Space Telescope should launch in 2019
 
In the search for habitable worlds beyond our Solar System, astronomers generally look for low-mass, rocky and temperate planets like ours.  But these are comparatively difficult to detect; most of the 3,500 known exoplanets are so-called Hot Jupiters - huge gas giants orbiting very close to their parent stars that don't have suitable conditions for life.
Of the smaller contingent of Earth-sized planets, the vast majority orbit red dwarf stars - the most common type in the Milky Way. Because this category of star is dim, it's easier for astronomers to detect low-mass planets when they pass in front (as viewed from Earth), blocking out a portion of the light.
Red dwarfs are generally more active than G-type stars like the Sun, but there's underlying variation.
At "just" 4.2 light-years away, Proxima b may be the closest exoplanet with a mild temperature. But it receives about 30 times more extreme ultraviolet radiation than Earth. Ross 128 b, on the other hand, has the "quietest" nearby star to host a temperate exoplanet.

Artwork of Proxima b
Proxima b is in the habitable zone, but could be exposed to harmful levels of radiation
 
Astronomers often talk about the "habitable zone" around a star - it's the range of distances where temperatures allow water (essential for life as we know it) to remain liquid on the surface of a planet. Where the habitable zone lies depends on the star itself: red dwarfs are dimmer and therefore cooler than the Sun, so their habitable zones are shifted closer in than the equivalent zone in our Solar System.
There's still uncertainty about whether Ross 128 b is within its star's habitable zone, but scientists say that with temperatures of between -60 and +20°C, it can be considered temperate. But, as Dr Astudillo-Defru alluded , a lot depends on the presence of an atmosphere. An envelope of greenhouse gases can warm the surface and provide sufficient pressure to keep water in the liquid state.
Next, astronomers want to study the atmospheric composition and chemistry of suitable, nearby worlds like Ross 128 b. The detection of gases such as oxygen could potentially point to biological processes.  When the ELT ( European Southern Observatory's Extremely Large Telescope) comes online (at the middle of the next decade) it will provide both the power and  resolution to observe Ross 128 b directly. We will be able to see if it has an atmosphere and, eventually, to search for O2, water and CH4 (methane).
 An atmosphere, O2 and water would be super exciting and an important step toward the evidence of life outside our Solar System.
Although currently 11 light-years from Earth, the new planet's parent star Ross 128 is moving towards us and is expected to overtake Proxima Centauri as our nearest stellar neighbour in just 79,000 years - a heartbeat on cosmic timescales.
The search for life continues and it is no longer a question of 'if' but 'when'.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

North Korean state newspaper announces 'death sentence' for Trump

ALEX LASKER, AOL.COM          November  15th 2017 
A North Korean state newspaper has issued a death sentence for U.S. President Donald Trump after he insulted Kim Jong-Un during his recent trip to Asia, according to the Guardian. 

An editorial in the ruling party's newspaper Rodong Sinmun declared Trump a "criminal" and said their nation's people had sentenced him to death because of the unflattering way he talks about their country and their supreme leader. 

"The worst crime for which he can never be pardoned is that he dared [to] malignantly hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership," the editorial read. "He should know that he is just a hideous criminal sentenced to death by the Korean people."

The scathing article was in response to comments Trump made during his recent visit to South Korea, where he condemned the North's "cruel dictatorship" in a speech to South Korea’s National Assembly.

During his address, Trump called North Korea, "a hell that no person deserves," and warned that "the weapons you are acquiring are not making you safer. They are putting your regime in grave danger. Every step you take down this dark path increases the peril you face."

"Do not underestimate us, and do not try us," the U.S. President added. "We will defend our common security, our shared prosperity, and our sacred liberty."

The editorial also took aim at the fact that Trump skipped a planned visit to the demilitarized border zone between North and South Korea due to inclement weather.

"It wasn’t the weather. He was just too scared to face the glaring eyes of our troops," the article said. 

Days after his South Korea visit, Trump again insulted Kim Jong-Un, calling the dictator "short and fat" in a controversial tweet.



A glimpse of Witchy in her human form :

Okay, so let me get this straight----It's okay for Kim Jung Un to continually threaten the US mainland, South Korea and Japan and constantly insult Trump, but Trump is a "criminal" with a "death sentence" for insulting him?!?  Give me a break!  I'm not a Trump fan and abhor him constantly tweeting insults, no matter who they are directed to--his comments are childish and unprofessional bullying.  However, I think his statements shown above are thoughtful and well-reasoned, and some of the best he has made during his presidency.  He showed constraint and tempered his rhetoric---    I  was very surprise . Good move-Kudos.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Skin cancer-detecting device invented by 4 students wins award

The skin cancer detecting device being used on a man's arm

 Courtesy James Dyson Award  The sKan, a skin cancer detecting device

A low cost and non-invasive device that can detect skin cancer has won this year's international James Dyson Award.
The sKan was invented by four Canadian engineering graduates from Ontario's McMaster University.
The handheld device is made from widely available and inexpensive components and could make detection of the disease more accessible.
The World Health Organization says one in every three cancer cases diagnosed worldwide is a skin cancer.
Dyson company founder James Dyson said the sKan received the award because it is "a very clever device with the potential to save lives around the world".
The James Dyson Award has been open to university or recent design graduates across the world since 2002 and celebrates significant, practical and commercially viable designs.
 
The four Canadian students behind the award winning design

The sKan began as final year engineering class project for four medical and bioengineering undergraduates: Michael Takla, Rotimi Fadiya, Prateek Mathur and Shivad Bhavsar.
They were awarded C$50,000 to develop the device, which uses temperature sensors to help in the early detection of melanoma, the mostly deadly form of skin cancer. Because cancerous cells have a higher metabolic rate than normal tissue cells, cancerous tissue warms at a faster rate than non-cancerous tissue when the tissue - in this case skin - is cooled.
The goal is to select patients who should be sent for a biopsy as early detection is key for the treatment of melanoma.
The team plans to use the funds to build a new prototype that can be used in pre-clinical testing.
In Canada, more than 80,000 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year. Of those, more than 5,000 are melanoma.
In the US, there are over 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer treated each year, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Around 87,000 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed this year, the organization says.
We should keep supporting and funding research by brilliant young students. They are our brighter future.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Former top intel officials say Trump is getting 'played' by Putin

New York Daily News       ERIN DURKIN
Two former top intelligence officials said President Trump is getting “played” by Russian President Vladimir Putin with his denials of interference in the 2016 election.

“I think he's giving Putin a pass. And I think it demonstrates to Mr. Putin that Donald Trump can be played by foreign leaders who are going to appeal to his ego and to try to play upon his insecurities,” former CIA director John Brennan said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The manipulation, he said, is “very, very worrisome from a national security standpoint.”

On Air Force One Saturday, Trump said he believes Putin is sincere in his denials that Russia meddled with the presidential election. “Every time he sees me, he said, ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I believe, I really believe that when he tells me that he means it,” he said.

In the same remarks, he called Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper “political hacks.”

Trump later sought to clarify, saying at a press conference hours later that while he thinks Putin means what he says, he doesn’t necessarily believe him. He said he trusts U.S. intelligence assessments, which found that Russia did interfere.

Clapper, appearing on CNN with Brennan Sunday, agreed that the President is getting played by the Russian leader.

“Putin is committed to undermining our system, our democracy and our whole process. And to try to paint it in any other way is, I think, astounding and, in fact, poses a peril to this country,” he said.

“I do think both the Chinese and Russians think they can play him.”

Brennan said he wasn’t bothered by Trump’s insult. “Considering the source of the criticism, I consider that criticism a badge of honor,” he said.

“Mr. Trump is, for whatever reason, either intimidated by Mr. Putin, afraid of what he could do or what might come out as a result of these investigations. So it's very worrisome,” he said. “It's either naivete, ignorance or fear.”

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, appearing later on the same show, slammed the former intelligence leaders.

“Those were the most ridiculous statements. President Trump is not getting played by anybody,” he said.

He suggested downplaying the Russian misdeeds was a tactic meant to encourage Russian cooperation in North Korea and Syria. “Those are areas we need to work together with Russia and get them on board with our strategy,” he said.

Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, stressed that the President does believe a January 2017 intelligence assessment that concluded Russia had interfered with the vote, though he downplayed the Russian actions as merely “buying Facebook ads” and said the election outcome was not affected.

Intelligence agencies found Russia was behind hacking of Democratic officials’ e-mails, as well as creating fake social media accounts posing as Americans commenting on the election.

“The President does not overlook that. He signed the proclamation that said that there was meddling. We’re not denying that or saying it’s not important,” Short said. “There is zero evidence of any ballot being impacted by Russian interference.”

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Twitter/@realDonaldTrump

Screenshot of Trump's Twitter account

After US President Donald Trump's Twitter account was briefly deactivated last week by a Twitter employee, many people started wondering if there would be a similar period of silence this week.
After all, Mr Trump is currently in China, known for its "great firewall" that blocks access to many foreign websites, including Twitter.
As it happens, the president has kept up his tweeting in China, thanking his hosts for their hospitality, firing a warning at North Korea, and even changing his Twitter header image to one of him, Chinese president Xi Jinping, and the two first ladies, surrounded by dozens of Chinese performers.
So what's going on? There's two sides to this - a technical aspect, and a political one.

Twitter is blocked on China - but not for the privileged or tech-savvy.
Thousands of websites and social media platforms are blocked in mainland China. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp are all blocked or disrupted, as are websites the authorities consider sensitive. (The BBC News website has been blocked in the past, as have the New York Times and the Economist). Many people circumvent China's firewall by using virtual private networks (VPNs), although the government is now cracking down on VPN vendors.
But the Chinese authorities aren't beyond making exceptions to the rules.
Officials briefly contemplated relaxing its censorship laws in a Shanghai Free Trade Zone back in 2013. And the official news agency, Xinhua, uses Twitter to promote its articles - to the consternation of many Chinese social media users who have accused the government of double standards.
Ahead of Mr Trump's arrival, China's Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang assured reporters he would be able to tweet as much as he wants, saying: "We take everything into account on receiving foreign heads of state, so you should have no reservations about Mr President's ability to keep in touch with the outside."
It's an approach that's been criticized by rights groups. Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, told Bloomberg: "If President Trump is able to tweet from China it's because he enjoys privileges President Xi systematically denies to people across that country."

So how is Mr Trump accessing Twitter?Journalists travelling with Mr Trump have found they can access Twitter on their mobile phones, as long as they are using 3G or 4G roaming networks on a foreign sim card. In practice, foreign officials visiting China are told to follow strict security guidelines, and have sometimes been advised against using their own phones or laptops in the country.
So Mr Trump probably isn't just tweeting off his usual mobile phone.

Mr Trump is a prolific tweeter - while Mr Xi is not
For obvious reasons, the US hasn't given the full details of their arrangements to ensure Mr Trump can go online securely.
But, while en route to Beijing, a White House official did assure reporters that Mr Trump would keep up his tweeting from China, saying "I'm sure we've got the gear aboard this airplane to make it happen."

 Twitter is a political tool
Don't forget that tweeting is also a political act for Mr Trump - he's used it to announce policies, lambast political rivals, and criticise other countries - including China.
If Mr Trump had decided to stay off Twitter in China, it could have been perceived as him being silenced, albeit virtually, by Chinese censorship.
That could explain why the White House official emphasized to reporters that "the president will tweet whatever he wants [while in China]. That's his way of communicating directly with the American people."
However, observers have also picked up on the contrast in tone between Mr Trump's tweets in Beijing, and some of his previous posts.
Although Mr Trump's Wednesday tweets focused on thanking his hosts for the "beautiful welcome", adding "Melania and I will never forget it!", he has previously used Twitter to criticize China's currency devaluation, and argue that China has not done enough to deter North Korea from its nuclear ambitions.
Meanwhile, Chinese state media outlets have enthusiastically picked up on Mr Trump's latest China tweets, and the fact he has changed his header image to one of him with Mr Xi.
"Mr Trump was full of feeling after visiting the Forbidden Palace - and even changed his Twitter header photo!" TV station iFeng reported on Chinese microblog weibo, with a thumbs up emoji.
Of course, there was no mention of the fact that Twitter is not officially accessible in China.


Donald J. TrumpVerified account @realDonaldTrump Nov 9
 My meetings with President Xi Jinping were very productive on both trade and the subject of  North Korea. He is a highly respected and powerful representative of his people. It was great being with him and Madame Peng Liyuan!

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump ‘in a world of s**t’ after moving to DC

President Donald Trump’s tenure in office has reportedly been a rocky time for daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, whom one family insider has said are “in a world of s**t.” 

“He may seem cool, but he’s sweating, and she’s like her father," a source close to the family told  Vanity Fair in a new story looking back at the couple's first year in D.C. "She’ll never acknowledge it and [will] blame the media. But she’s been working on her reputation forever, and now it’s going to suffer horrifically. And for what?” 

As the piece points out, their initial ascent in Washington was marked by a hope that they would provide a moderating perspective within the administration, but they have since been dogged by a lack of big victories, constant criticisms, and legal woes.

In fact, Ivanka has spoken about the backlash she has experienced.

“Some people have created unrealistic expectations of what they expect from me,”  she told the Financial Times in September. “That my presence in and of itself would carry so much weight with my father that he would abandon his core values and the agenda that the American people voted for when they elected him…It’s not going to happen.”

Her father has since defended her, saying earlier this month that “Ivanka has been treated very unfairly.” 

Ivanka and Jared’s path into politics has also reportedly affected many of their prior relationships. 

Kushner appears to have even cut ties with some friends who expressed their dismay about the election. He told Forbes late last year, “I call it an exfoliation. Anyone who was willing to change a friendship or not do business because of who somebody supports in politics is not somebody who has a lot of character.”

But an earlier Vanity Fair piece from October suggested he and Ivanka may be the ones getting snubbed by the D.C. elite and their former New York associates. 

Despite the challenges both of their brands have faced since joining the administration, and the Russia investigation which looms over Kushner, they are reportedly continuing to work on key issues like child tax credits and others. 

Mr . Humble our in house expert :
Jared's got that backwards...  the people who decided to not do business with him are showing they DO have character....  he says it's because they don't  .   They 'do'  which is why they don't want to do business with him.   And Ivanka........ 'Cry me a river' .....
They have no business in the WH.   They are there as protection for her father which has been said to  have  a mental disability which the family had to constantly hide and delude people in their business sphere from finding out.  They moved there to run interference and it has backfired on all of them tremendously.
It' is being said that  he (Trump)  also has a learning disability that was never addressed.  He is 71 years old and can't read, can't think on his feet, can't carry on a conversation about anything.
This could not happen to a nicer couple. I hope they both end up in prison with the so-called president.
 I've got news for him (Kucher).  He may think that if people drop him because of his political beliefs and his choice of politician he supports shows lack of character, that there are OTHERS who believe that if you support someone who is a KNOWN crook, mentally ill bottom feeder who is a compulsive liar interested in only himself and not the good of the country, YOU'RE showing lack of character...not to mention judgment.  Looks to me like his life has got steadily worse since Crazy Crooked Comrade Chump took office.  I wonder how he will feel when he sees the looks on his children's faces when they march HIM out in handcuffs and they have to visit him in jail--just like HIS felonious father did before him?  You'd think he'd have learned from that experience.  He deserves what he gets. 
Just my humble opinion

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Trump warns North Korea's Kim Jong-un: 'Don't try us'

Trump warns North Korea not to underestimate America
 
In a speech in South Korea, President  Trump told Pyongyang it will face disaster unless Kim Jong un abandons his nuclear
ambitions
Donald Trump delivered a stark personal message to Kim Jong-un, saying North Korea will face disaster unless he gives up his nuclear ambitions.
Speaking in front of lawmakers at South Korea’s national assembly, the US president offered a “brighter path” if Pyongyang abandoned its weapons programme, leaving the door open to diplomacy, but also warned that the US was prepared to use military means if necessary. “The weapons that you are acquiring are not making you safer, they are putting your regime in grave danger,” he said. “Every step you take down this dark path increases the peril you face.”
Trump spent two days in South Korea as part of his 12-day tour of east Asia. Addressing Kim directly, he said “despite every crime you have committed against God and man”, the US was prepared to resolve the crisis diplomatically.




“We will offer a path to a much better future,” he said. “It begins with an end to the aggression of your regime, a stop to your development of ballistic missiles, and complete, verifiable and total denuclearisation.”
But Trump also issued a warning to the regime, saying: “Do not underestimate us. Do not try us.”
He said the US would not tolerate threats to its cities and “would not be intimidated”.
“North Korea is not the paradise your grandfather envisioned, it is a hell that no person deserves,” he told Pyongyang.
Trump gave a blistering assessment of life inside the reclusive dictatorship, highlighting a host of human rights abuses including forced labour, arbitrary detentions and famine.
Trump said the world would not tolerate “the menace of a rogue regime” and further nuclear provocations. He also called on China and Russia to help resolve the nuclear crisis by downgrading diplomatic relations with Pyongyang and severing all trade ties.China is North Korea’s most important diplomatic ally and largest trading partner, and Trump has long said Beijing holds the key to controlling Kim’s regime. After speaking in Seoul, Trump flew to Beijing, where he will meet Xi Jinping on Thursday on the next leg of his tour.
“It is our responsibility and our duty to confront this danger together,” he said. “The longer we wait, the greater the danger grows and the fewer the options become.”

Park Ju-min, a lawmaker who attended the speech, said: “It’s good that he didn’t make any comments that will enrage North Korea.
“Of course, North Korea will feel offended because of Trump’s focus on human rights abuses, but he did not make any specific threats against Kim.”
Park added that he was hoping to hear more about improving communication between South Korea and the US, saying he was worried about the US acting unilaterally in dealing with North Korea.
Trump said the world would not tolerate “the menace of a rogue regime” and further nuclear provocations. He also called on China and Russia to help resolve the nuclear crisis by downgrading diplomatic relations with Pyongyang and severing all trade ties.
China is North Korea’s most important diplomatic ally and largest trading partner, and Trump has long said Beijing holds the key to controlling Kim’s regime. After speaking in Seoul, Trump flew to Beijing, where he will meet Xi Jinping on Thursday on the next leg of his tour.

But in a briefing onboard Air Force One, senior US officials admitted efforts to open a dialogue with North Korea had been “discouraging”. Any discussions where it was not open to giving up its nuclear weapons were “a non-starter”, a White House official said, adding that any agreement must include inspections.
Before the speech, Trump was forced to abandon a surprise visit to the demilitarized zone separating South Korea and North Korea. A heavy fog prevented the president’s helicopter from landing on a trip that was meant to show support for US allies in the region and has been a tradition of past presidents.
Min Pyung-doo, a lawmaker in the ruling Democratic party, said of Trump’s speech: “He had some tough words, but the real message is that there is a path to peace through dialogue.
“He reassured us and the world that the alliance with South Korea is strong and that will go a long way to calming the people’s fears here.”
The US president has struck a more conciliatory tone during his two days in South Korea, placing greater emphasis on diplomatic efforts. He said there was “progress” in resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis during a press conference on Tuesday, but declined to give details.
The same day, North Korea showed little sign of giving up its nuclear programme. A commentary in the mouthpiece of the ruling Workers’ party said “we will further bolster our nuclear, treasured sword of justice” if the US continues “hostile acts”.
 
Trump suggested Kim Jong-un should come to the negotiating table to try to thrash out a deal on its weapons programme at a press conference during his 12-day tour of Asia.
But there is little to suggest the reclusive regime is keen on taking up the US offer of talks.
The White House official said: "I think that our administration has made clear from the start that the door is open to dialogue and efforts to sort of probe have been rather discouraging.
"They have shown very little sign that they're interested in talking."
 In fact Kim Jong un responded  to the president's speech by calling Trump "a lunatic old man' who may 'start nuclear war'."

The idea of diplomatic talks was first floated in September when US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Washington was "probing" to see if Pyongyang was interested in talks on denuclearisation.
With tensions at boiling point and rhetoric between the two sides running high, Mr Trump said Mr Tillerson was "wasting his time" trying to instigate talks with Kim.
But the US President struck a much softer tone in Seoul on Tuesday when he reigned in the incendiary language and instead said he believed Pyongyang should "make a deal" on its nuclear weapons programme for its people and all of humanity.
The White House official said Mr Trump believed North Korea should first reduce the threats and end provocations before moving towards sincere steps to ultimately denuclearise
But he added: “I think North Korea has shown that they are the ones that are putting forward preconditions.
"They are the ones who have been saying they're unwilling to talk about nuclear weapons - that that's not on the table.
“Well that's a nonstarter for us."
Mr Trump, who is now in China, plans to enlist Beijing's commitment to enforce economic sanctions against Pyongyang. If successful Mr Trump will have influenced North Korea's only ally.
The official said: “I think that if you look at the activity across that border, certainly there is still some trade taking place.
"There is still some financial links that exist that should not under the Security Council resolutions.
"China is doing much more than it's ever done in the past but it's not the time for complacency or for allowing people to slip through loopholes and for a lot of that residual activity to continue.
"We know that some of that activity is continuing, and we're going to work closely with the Chinese to identify that activity and end it.”
 
On a lighter note,
Mexicans love Mr Trump 
 
 

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Paradise Papers: Commerce chief Wilbur Ross's links with sanctioned Russians



First of all; what are the Paradise Papers??
The papers are a huge batch of leaked documents mostly from offshore law firm Appleby, along with corporate registries in 19 tax jurisdictions, which reveal the financial dealings of politicians, celebrities, corporate giants and business leaders.
The 13.4 million records were passed to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and then shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists as part of a global investigation involving nearly 100 other media organizations in 67 countries.


Wilbur Ross has played a key part in Donald Trump's business and political careers

A top member of Donald Trump's administration has business links with Russian allies of President Vladimir Putin who are under US sanctions, the Paradise Papers have revealed.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has an interest in Navigator Holdings, which earns millions a year transporting oil and gas for Russian energy firm Sibur. Two major Sibur shareholders are under some form of US sanctions. A commerce department spokesman did not dispute the revelations.
"Secretary Ross recuses himself from any matters focused on transoceanic shipping vessels," the spokesman said, adding that the secretary "works closely with Commerce Department ethics officials to ensure the highest ethical standards".

Another Sibur shareholder is President Putin's son in law, Kirill Shamalov. He holds a 3.9% stake in the firm. Gennady Timchenko, who has been individually sanctioned by the United States, as have at least 12 companies connected to him, and Leonid Mikhelson, whose main company, Novatek, is also sanctioned, are major shareholders. Sibur itself and Mr Shamalov are not under sanctions, although Mr Shamalov's father, Nikolai, is.


The commerce department spokesman said Mr Ross had never met the three Russian shareholders.
The US imposed some sanctions after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. Others were imposed last year for alleged interference in the US presidential election.

The revelations will again raise questions about the Russian connections of Donald Trump's team. His presidency has been dogged by allegations that Russians colluded to try to influence the outcome of the election. He has called the allegations "fake news". A special counsel is investigating the matter.

Wilbur Ross and Donald Trump have known each other for more than a quarter of a century. Mr Ross played a key part in a prepackaged bankruptcy deal - deal agreed between a company and its creditors - for Mr Trump's Atlantic City casino, the Taj Mahal, in the 1990s.

Trump biographer David Cay Johnston reported, "If it hadn't been for Wilbur Ross, Donald Trump would not be in the White House. WL Ross & Co, which was founded by Wilbur Ross, first invested in Navigator Holdings in 2011.

An investigation has revealed details of how Mr Ross retains a financial interest in Navigator Holdings via a number of companies in the Cayman Islands. Some of these Cayman companies were disclosed by Mr Ross when he became commerce secretary, but under the disclosure rules he did not have to declare his interest in Navigator Holdings.
Its annual report in 2016 showed 31.5% was still held by entities in which Mr Ross has a stake, although the value of Mr Ross's personal holding remains unclear.

When Trump met Ross
Donald Trump at the Taj Mahal casino in 1990

Back in 1990, after a high-profile financial battle, Donald Trump opened his third casino in Atlantic City - the Taj Mahal, dubbed the "eighth wonder of the world".
It didn't go well. Mr Trump financed it with $675m raised through junk bonds at an interest rate of 14%. He struggled to make the payments.

Step in Wilbur Ross. Then at Rothschild Inc, he was representing the angry bondholders but liked Donald Trump's style.
Trump biographer David Cay Johnston said: "Wilbur Ross was a key negotiator in Donald Trump not having to go through bankruptcy and not being swept into the dustbin of history because he saw the value in the Trump name."

Mr Ross said at this year's Concordia Annual Summit: "When you meet people who are under tremendous financial pressure... you really get to see what they are made of, and he was made of much stronger stuff than a lot of owners of troubled businesses." One prepackaged bankruptcy later and The Donald was on his way out of debt and heading up the Forbes rich list.

Wilbur Ross became a board member of Navigator in 2012 but the commerce department said he was not on the board when Navigator signed its charter deal with Sibur that year.
But Mr Ross was still a board member during the period from March to November 2014, when the US was sanctioning Russians over the annexation of Crimea, including Mr Timchenko and Mr Mikhelson's company, Novatek.

During that period Navigator continued to increase its business with Sibur. The energy firm accounted for 9.1% of Navigator's total revenues in 2015, compared with 5.3% in 2014, Navigator's own filings show.
Mr Ross left Navigator's board in November 2014 but his seat was taken by Ross group partner Wendy Teramoto, who served on it until 2017.

Figures from 2016 showed Sibur was still among Navigator's top five clients, predominantly exporting Russian gas to Europe and potentially providing significant income to sanctioned Putin allies.
This year, Navigator doubled the fleet it is using on Sibur exports to four. Sibur has provided Navigator with $68m in revenue since 2014.


Ex-US sanctions policy co-ordinator Daniel Fried


There is no suggestion Mr Ross has violated any rules. But Daniel Fried, who oversaw the introduction of US sanctions against Russia under President Barack Obama, said  that it would be a mistake for any American official to do business with Sibur.

"I would advise any client who came to me to stay well away from Sibur or anybody else who has been sanctioned or has a relationship with sanctioned individuals... on the grounds, at least, of reputational risk."

But Mr Ross appears to have maintained a close relationship with the shipping company. On the night that he was nominated as commerce secretary by President Trump, Mr Ross went to a restaurant in New York where he was congratulated on his promotion by the senior management of Navigator Holdings, Bloomberg reported.
Mr Ross reportedly told the CEO of Navigator: "Your interest is aligned to mine. The US economy will grow, and Navigator will be a beneficiary."

Another key Navigator customer has been PDVSA, the Venezuelan state oil company. It was targeted by US sanctions this year. The commerce department said Mr Ross had "been generally supportive of the Administration's sanctions of Russian and other entities".
 Mr Ross seems to be playing both sides against the middle. A very precarious position at best.
 

 

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Trump’s year of anger, disruption and scandal

On Election Night last year, Trump ripped up his speech and made a personal appeal for national unity. It was a glimpse of a presidency that might have been.
By ANNIE KARNI and ELIANA JOHNSON 11/04/2017 
It was after midnight on Nov. 9, 2016, and Donald Trump was sitting at the kitchen table of his Trump Tower penthouse.

His win in the presidential race was so unexpected that his chief speechwriter, Stephen Miller, had only begun writing the victory remarks the president-elect would deliver to supporters gathered at the Hilton Midtown Hotel in the middle of the night.


Surrounded by a handful of campaign advisers, Trump started editing the speech by hand, striking some of the most belligerent lines, and inserting notes of unity. He read aloud softly to himself.

“Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division.” He paused. “To bind? To heal? Which is better?” he asked his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, who was hovering close by. It was the mirror image of the scene unfolding in Hillary Clinton’s hotel room, where the Democratic nominee had a victory speech ready to go, but no concession to deliver.

Trump had been glued to the television, watching what was supposed to be Clinton’s Javits Center victory party — and taking note of the shocked faces in the crowd. “I think he was aware of how unexpected this was,” said his longtime aide, Hope Hicks, now the White House communications director, explaining the un-Trumpian unity rallying cry. “He wanted to give a speech that would de-escalate everything and, while the whole world was watching, be a leader for all.”

Onstage, Trump would say: “To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. It’s time.”

It was a glimpse of a presidency that could have been.

Instead, in the year since that night, Trump has relished personal fights and nursed grudges; continued to vilify Clinton and defend his own legitimacy amid the expanding Russia probes; stirred racial tensions while measuring his success by the strength of his base; and taken more interest in throwing elbows on cultural issues than on the matters of policy that preoccupy Republican leaders in Congress.

The shock win also meant that the first six months of his tenure were hobbled by infighting among a band of government first-timers recruited to the White House on the basis of loyalty rather than merit.

Campaign-trail promises of a bipartisan, trillion-dollar infrastructure bill haven’t materialized in office. Republican lawmakers, who campaigned for seven years on promises to repeal Obamacare, failed even to pull together behind advancing a partial rollback before abandoning that effort in favor of another top priority: tax reform.

But Trump has nonetheless brought about an astonishing transformation of his party – and of American politics – over the last year.

His election marked the end of the conservative movement that controlled the GOP since Barry Goldwater’s campaign in 1964 and the rise of a nationalist-populist movement that is, for the time being, characterized by warring factions with different views on Trump himself as well as the issues of immigration, trade, and elitism that he has raised.

“Trump’s presidency could be the usual model in reverse,” said Yuval Levin, the editor of National Affairs, a leading conservative policy journal. “The general pattern is a productive first year and then a steady decline toward exhaustion, incompetence, and scandal. Trump’s first year has felt like the eighth year of recent presidents, but the beginning was likely worse than the end.”

Trump was on an island even after he won the nomination.

He had run a skeletal campaign in part because few mainstream political operatives were willing to associate themselves with him. Most assumed Trump was headed for a historic loss and railed against him publicly – and thereby disqualified themselves for positions in the future administration, where the man at the top prized loyalty.

That solidified the ascent of Trump’s novice team in the White House, and in the federal government. Rather than bringing in bureaucrats with Washington experience, he brought family members and longtime characters from his old life in Trump Tower to the West Wing — Hicks, daughter Ivanka Trump, son-in-law Jared Kushner, social media guru Dan Scavino, former ‘Apprentice’ star Omarosa Manigault and security chief Keith Schiller, familiar characters from his previous life.

The first six months of his administration were largely consumed by a war between the campaign loyalists —a group led by Steve Bannon, the White House chief strategist who had for many years been waging war against GOP leadership—and the party establishment figures led by former Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, who Trump hired as his first chief of staff.

Bannon brought on Breitbart acolytes, like Julia Hahn and Sebastian Gorka, who were dismissive of Washington norms as well as of a group they dubbed the ‘New York Democrats’—people like economic adviser Gary Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs trader.

Priebus brought in his own team from the RNC, people like deputy Katie Walsh and press secretary Sean Spicer who had no deep relationship with the commander-in-chief. One senior administration official brought to the White House by Priebus, but who had not worked with him at the RNC, recalls Priebus pressing him to “like, give him a blood oath.”

The White House's official line was that Trump entered office with access to an array of views – one of the things that helped get him elected in the first place. But the tension between the rival clans played out in personal turf wars that slowed down the real work of governing.

In early June, four months into the administration, senior White House aides went to war over whether a junior press aide, Michael Short, would fly to Bedminster, N.J., for the weekend with the president and his team. Short, a Priebus loyalist who followed his old boss from the RNC to the campaign to the White House communications department, was placed on the flight manifest by the communications team, according to two people involved in the trip. Spicer and Priebus wanted him there to solidify his relationships with other senior administration officials, a grooming exercise of sorts.

But 45 minutes before Air Force One was set to take off from Andrews Air Force Base on June 9, Short’s name was abruptly removed from the manifest with no explanation. Short’s bags made the journey to Bedminster, while their owner had to buy all new toiletries rather than suffer a deodorant-less weekend in Washington – an outcome that his former RNC colleagues interpreted as an act of sabotage. (Short eventually resigned after Anthony Scaramucci stepped in briefly as communications director.)

Meanwhile, Kushner, who had advocated for Priebus to be chief of staff because of his relationships on the Hill, steadily lost faith in the weak chief and his team. Kushner viewed the White House communications team as a particular disaster, and laid the blame for that department's dysfunction on Priebus. He also brought on his own communications aide and would not let Spicer handle media inquiries related to him or his wife.

Some thought that pinning all the blame on Priebus was unfair. In the lead-up to Trump’s first foreign trip last May, for example, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis were resistant to making the rounds on the Sunday shows. At one point, while Kushner was conducting a trip prep meeting in his office, Priebus interrupted to announce he had finally convinced Tillerson to appear on television that weekend, as a surrogate for the administration.

“Thanks, Reince, you did your job,” Kushner said to him. Some White House aides in the meeting were dismayed by the dismissive comment, given that Priebus’ job was neither communications director nor director of cabinet affairs. Others in the room said the comment was meant good-naturedly.

But the general middle school cafeteria behavior crippled the president’s legislative agenda. Throughout Trump’s first stab at an Obamacare repeal bill, senior aides on the Hill saw that there were different messages being pushed from the White House. Paul Teller, a special assistant to the president for legislative affairs, was sent to the Hill to work exclusively with members of the Freedom Caucus, encouraging them to hold out for a better deal.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

The life and times of Teeny Tiny Trump

 

T Tiny Trump Meets Justin Trudeau


       

T Tiny Trump and Putin

T Tiny Trump Throws a Tantrum

 

T Tiny Trump on Vacation with Obama



T Tiny Trump at Oval Office Desk
 
 
 
T Tiny Grumpy Trump
 

T Tiny Trump says goodbye to Justin Trudeau

 

T Tiny Trump out for the day with friends

 
 T Tiny Trump Selfie
    

T Tiny Trump and Melania

 

T Tiny Trump as Dr. Evil

 

T Tiny Trump at Work

       

T Tiny Trump on CNN

 

T Tiny Trump Coloring


 

T Tiny Trump and the Secret Service