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Japan facing major risk of recession this year

Donald Trump’s trade war just claimed its biggest victim – and it is not China. It is Japan, a nation run by the only world leader the US president might call a friend.

In recent days, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan all saw significant U-turns in their terms of trade at the end of 2018. News today that Japan’s exports fell 3.8% in December from a year ago demonstrates the extent of collateral damage from the trans-Pacific tariff war. It also shifts the political calculus for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s 2019.

Xi Jinping’s China is more directly in harm’s way than Abe’s Japan. But as the most powerful leader Beijing has seen in generations, Xi has myriad levers at his disposal to gin up growth and no elections about which to worry. Xi also can herd the People’s Bank of China and municipal leaders into aggressive action to safeguard growth.

Conversely, Abe’s headaches have only just begun. Here are four realities that Wednesday’s export data alter.

One: Recession watch is on


Two: The BOJ outlook


Three: The tax debate


Four: Dealing with Trump

Death Of Russiagate? Mueller Team Tied To Mifsud's Network

In April last year, Disobedient Media broke coverage of the British involvement in the Trump-Russia collusion narrative, asking why All Russiagate Roads Lead To London, via the quasi-scholar Joseph Mifsud and others.

The issue was also raised by WikiLeaks's Julian Assange, just days before the Ecuadorian government silenced him last March. Assange's Twitter thread cited research by Chris Blackburn, who spoke with Disobedient Media on multiple occasions covering Joseph Mifsud's ties to British intelligence figures and organizations, as well as his links to Hillary Clinton's Presidential campaign, the FBI, CIA and the private cyber-security firm Crowdstrike.

We return, now, to this issue and specifically the research of Chris Blackburn, to place the final nail in the coffin of the Trump-Russia collusion charade. Blackburn's insights are incredible not only because they return us to the earliest reporting on the role of British intelligence figures in manufacturing the Trump-Russia collusion narrative, but because they also implicate members of Mueller's investigation. What we are left with is an indication of collusion between factions of the US and UK intelligence community in fabricating evidence of Trump-Russia collusion: a scandal that would have rocked the legacy press to its core, if Western establishment-backed media had a spine.

Howie Carr: Even Mueller throwing BuzzFeed under the bus

If it weren’t for fake news, the elite mainstream Democrat media wouldn’t have any news at all.

This weekend it’s BuzzFeed, which is apparently on a crusade to become to the internet what the Rolling Stone is to magazines, what “60 Minutes” is to TV news and what The Boston Globe is to newspapers.

In other words, the absolute bottom of the barrel for fake news “bombshells.”

As always, this latest bombshell blew up in their soft, uncalloused hands. In case you missed it, BuzzFeed broke into its usual programming of adorable selfies of Millenial girls with kittens to breathlessly make up, er report, that President Trump had instructed his crooked, prison-bound lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a legal possible real-estate proposal in Moscow that the POTUS’s son had already testified truthfully about under oath.

It was, as they say, a story too good to check out, so nobody did. But CNN and MSNBC used it as a launching pad to mention some version of the word “impeachment” 179 times Friday, at least until 8 p.m. Champagne corks were popping in every sexual predator’s office at all the networks, and that’s a lot of offices.

Shutdown Flimflam: The media portray the partial government closure as a disaster.

In every confrontation between the press and President Trump, there comes a time when media coverage becomes so aggressively bad that it turns into a parody of itself and “jumps the shark.” I knew that moment had arrived in reporting on the federal government’s partial closure when I opened my news-of-the-day app to find the headline, “How the shutdown will affect the Super Bowl.” Having once attended a Super Bowl during a period of genuine emergency—Super Bowl XXV, played in the first days of Operation Desert Storm in January 1991—I doubted that the furloughing of nonessential federal personnel could threaten the big game. Not surprisingly, much of the story consisted of Atlanta officials assuring the public that they didn’t anticipate any problems, followed by some conjecture about things that might go wrong, anyway.

I’ve been ignoring most such stories, because I’ve seen no evidence that the shutdown will affect me and my family. I’ve heard no friend, neighbor, or relative even mention it. Virtually everyone I know outside of my professional life seems to be going about their business. Still, I’ve taken a thorough look at press coverage over the past two weeks and found nearly 500 stories on how the closure is supposed to affect our lives. Most of the coverage goes beyond the plight of federal workers themselves, who are not getting paid, and who, if they’re living from paycheck to paycheck, are facing real duress. The press seems intent on convincing the rest of us that we’re at risk, too.

Throughout the shutdown, the press has been asking readers for stories about how the situation was disrupting their lives. “Everything from airport security to some food inspections to tax refund processing may be affected,” the Richmond Times Dispatch wrote recently, trying to stoke local concerns. “Is your passport delayed? Is your research grant funding halted? Are you a business providing assistance to Richmond-area federal government workers?” Call us, the paper asked. But is it a national emergency if reporters are begging readers for stories?

Democratic members of Congress are in on the act, too, looking to highlight cases of people acutely affected by the shutdown, but they’re usually finding more mundane examples. Florida Democrat Kathy Castor sent out a press release telling, among other stories, of a woman who prepares taxes and worries that she can’t get accurate information from the IRS during the shutdown. Leaving aside the IRS’s longstanding reputation for giving out incorrect information even when the government is fully operational, the story hardly amounted to a personal tragedy, though Castor tossed in the detail that the tax preparer cared for an autistic child.

Smithsonian Map Shows US Military Operating In Over 40% Of World's Countries

Smithsonian Magazine this month published a stunning map detailing just how expansive the post-9/11 "war on terror" has become, demonstrating that contrary to the common assumption that it's "winding down" more than 17 years later, it actually continues to grow and has now spread to more than 40% of the world's countries.

This includes American military and support personnel engaged in ongoing missions in 80 nations on six continents, according to Brown University’s Costs of War Project at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, which has recently calculated that since 2001 the US has spent $5,900,000,000,000 on war, mostly in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, and Yemen — where US military operations have become more or less permanent, with no consideration of ending them under any circumstances.

The map creators for The Smithsonian culled information from foreign government sources, published and unpublished reports, military websites and geographical databases, as well as foreign embassies and interviews with journalists and academics, according to

And the authors of the study even note they were "conservative" in their numbers concerning US military and State Dept. personnel engaged in the "terror war" throughout the globe as of 2019.

The news has reported that the shutdown means that members of the Coast Guard "all around the globe" are not being paid. WTF is the Coast Guard doing outside the US' Exclusive Economic Zone waters?

From trade war to a clash of civilisations: how China and the West can avoid major confrontation


The disputes, however, run deeper than trade imbalances and tech rivalry. Many in the West remain sceptical, if not downright critical, of China’s political system and practices. American scholars, journalists and sundry “China experts”, who study contemporary China, take a far more adversarial view than historians of China’s failure to launch political reform as part of its “reform and opening up”.

Distinguished Western academics argue that there is a correlation between the level of economic development and the expansion of freedom. They hypothesise that once a country has reached the “middle-income country threshold” of US$12,000 per capita, it would become increasingly free. China’s continued tight grip on its people’s rights and freedoms is lambasted as “a great leap backward”, while the expansion of Chinese influence in the West, allegedly in ways that are “covert, coercive or corrupting”, is viewed as a direct affront on the legitimacy of American democracy.

Better understanding of China’s checkered history would put contemporary Chinese trade practices and influence mechanisms in a broader perspective. Fact No 1 is that China, historically termed the “Middle Kingdom”, had preferred to be left alone. In 1757, Emperor Qianlong decreed that only the southern port of Guangzhou should be open for foreign trade. It did not open up its ports on its eastern seaboard until almost 100 years later, when an alliance of imperial invaders from the West forced open its gates.

Fact No 2 is that China still remains inept at selling itself to the West. Its projection of soft power through its global network of Confucius Institutes is a sorry tale of missed opportunity. Confucianism, with its strong emphasis on discipline, self-sacrifice, subservience to familial values and hierarchy, is a very hard act to sell to younger Chinese people, let alone to the West. China’s most successful export to the US (other than pandas) was basketball player Yao Ming, who was able to play in accordance with American rules while remaining Chinese to the core.

Thirdly, because of its long history of periodic civil wars, disunion and frequent famines, China is obsessed with unity and unification, and prioritises keeping stomachs full and society in good order. It is also acutely aware of the variation in the “quality” of its multitudinous population, including many from the countryside who have yet to be gentrified. For centuries, Chinese governments have had to resort to control to maintain order and peace.

China has much to learn in dealing with and presenting itself to the West. Equally, the West should recognise that China is not an ordinary national state. It is a civilisational state. If Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations prognosis is anything to go by, Sinic civilisation is not one which lends itself easily to Western-style democratisation. It is equally, if not even more important in the long run, to avoid a clash of civilisations between China and the West, in addition to avoiding a prolonged trade spat or tech ban which inhibits the free flow of ideas and, by extension, human progress.

Extremely Disturbing Footage Of Deadly Mexico Pipeline Explosion Surfaces

Extremely disturbing footage of the aftermath of a giant fireball that burst from an illegal gasoline pipeline tap near a small town north of Mexico City has surfaced online.

As we reported earlier, at least 66 people have been confirmed dead after a geyser of gasoline ignited at the site of the illegal tap, instantly engulfing the surrounding area in flames.

Reports from the scene described piles of charred bodies so badly burned that responders struggled to separate and identify the individuals.

Singapore sounds an early economic warning for Japan

Economic news out of Singapore rarely drives decision-making in Japan. Unless, of course, we’re talking about a sudden 8.5% plunge in exports that spooks Tokyo’s policymakers.

The worry is the predictive quality that often comes with U-turns in Singapore’s terms of trade. Japan’s nearly US$5 trillion, trade-reliant economy doesn’t turn on a dime. Singapore’s smaller $350 billion engine often works like an early-warning device for where Japan is soon headed, good or bad.

Hence the unwelcome harbinger of gloom from the south.

Singapore’s year-on-year export nosedive in December followed a 2.8% drop in November. The breakdown of the numbers suggests two things: One, this is no aberration as US President Donald Trump’s trade war against China bites far and wide. Two, the collateral damage is deepening.

Six civilians dead in US-led strike on IS in Syria: monitor

Four children were among at least six civilians killed in a US-led air strike on the Islamic State group's embattled enclave in eastern Syria, a monitor said on Saturday.

The Friday strike on the Euphrates Valley village of Baghouz killed 10 IS fighters as well as the six civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

There was no immediate comment from the US-led coalition.

Baghouz is part of an enclave of less than 15 square kilometres (less than six square miles) that is all that is left of IS territory in Syria following a gruelling Kurdish-led offensive launched with coalition support last May.

If they are down to 15 square kilometers, finish the job.

Can Apple Watch Prevent Strokes? New Study Aims to Find Out

Apple Watch has already been credited with saving lives by alerting wearers about heart conditions. But can the smartwatch prevent strokes? A new Johnson & Johnson study aims to find out.

The pharmaceutical company is partnering with Apple to study whether the wearable's irregular rhythm notifications and ECG app on the Apple Watch Series 4 can help accelerate the diagnosis of atrial fibrillation (AFib)—a heart condition that can lead to stroke—and improve health outcomes for those living with it.

Or you can use the far less expensive Fitbit and Garmin bands with heart rate monitoring.
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