Skeptical comments

Posted in: U.S. sets new lower salt target for food industry See in context

According to the [Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry], the daily average amount of salt consumed by Japanese is 10.1 grams; more than double the WHO recommendation of less than 5 grams. And is higher than the amount consumed in the United States and European countries.

https://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0007682739

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Posted in: No-nonsense masks, strict bubble: What to expect from China's Winter Olympics See in context

Let's see what Canadian opinion is. You know . . . since China kidnapped two Canadian citizens and held them as diplomatic hostages.

This is from a Columnist two weeks ago in The Peterborough Examiner in Peterborough, Ontario, in Makes no sense to allow China to host Winter Olympics:

China certainly does not deserve to host one of the world’s premier sporting events. Its incompetent handling of the COVID virus resulted in one of the worst worldwide pandemics. For Canadians, China’s kidnapping of Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor and holding them in hostage diplomacy is indefensible.

_____

If businessmen want to deal with China, and tourists want to willingly go there, so be it. They are doing so knowing the risks. But world sports organizations scheduling international events in the country is nothing more than condoning China’s inhumane ways. Since it is unfair for the athletes to have countries boycott the Olympics, the worldwide exposure of the Games should be used to condemn China.

Men’s hockey will be one of the most watched events from China. The Canadian players will have opportunities to tell the world how most fellow country people feel about the Chinese’ obviously retaliatory detention of the two Canadians.China is hoping that a successful Olympics will mask the atrocities they are committing as Hitler did with the 1936 Berlin Games.

Maybe the most effected recourse against the Chinese actions will be a subtle, well orchestrated verbal condemnation of their methods through media at their Games. Who better to deliver it than our hockey stars who will not buckle under the Chinese bullying like our politicians and bureaucrats?

https://www.thepeterboroughexaminer.com/sports/peterborough-region/2021/10/02/makes-no-sense-to-allow-china-to-host-winter-olympics.html

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Posted in: U.S. sets new lower salt target for food industry See in context

So, the United States is now trying to work at its WHO-mandated obligation to reduce intake of salt by 30% by 2025. Similar to the obligation to "halt the rise in diabetes and obesity in adults and adolescents as well as in childhood overweight by 2025."

U.S. seems to still not be in the mood to tackle intake of nitrates, nitrites, and those micro-plastics that seem to be steadly going into the food chain; at least enough to gang tackle the food industry. No, the U.S. looks to be sticking to the sugar, salt, and fat triad that the WHO keeps pestering the world about to get in line.

Apparently The U.S. Food & Drug will follow the sugar model and seek, first, to issue guidance for “Voluntary Sodium Reduction Goals" for "Sodium in Commercially Processed, Packaged, and Prepared Foods.” Here is a link:

https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/guidance-industry-voluntary-sodium-reduction-goals .

Industry has 2.5 years, "to balance the need for broad and gradual reductions in sodium and what is publicly known about technical and market constraints on sodium reduction and reformulation." Comments on the guidance can still be submitted to the FDA; see notice at https://public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2021-22453.pdf .

Since this is guidance, it doesn't even need to pretend to provide estimates of cost.  Cost to re-tool food manufacturing to comply with the "voluntary" standard. Costs contributing to down-stream inflationary impacts. None of it! They didn't have to, so why should they march into such a potential swamp of public opinion.

Salt reduction strategy has been in effect for some time now. In fact, world-wide studies have indicated measurable success in mean sodium intake. But then the pandamic hit. And everybody started to eat all the wrong things, so those gains started going away.  So much so, that public health mandate-types are tearing themselves away from virus harm and now refocusing on restoring the downward salt use trends.

And with gusto, too! In the U.K. they are tackling salt by setting even more stringent salt targets, strictly enforcing salt reduction targets, and extending salt targets to every out-of-home sector of society.

This has been long sought internationally. By the WHO, especially, but also in the U.S. in a health care cost containment context. (one of the early suggestions to member signatory states, in order to carry out salt, sugar and fat reduction goals, was that members consider enact limits and restrictions over corporate and special interest lobbying efforts, in order to achieve public health reduction goals in a timely manner).

There are studies showing estimated down-stream (mid-to-long-term) benefit analysis that are available: Last U.S. study available for review shows quantifiable ten-year U.S. Savings from averted disease costs are expected to total almost 37 billion UDS -most of which would be attributed to Medicare (18.4 billion USD) and private insurers (13.4 billion USD). Non-quantifiable 10-year savings are roughly estimated at about the same amount (18.2billion USD). But no reliable estimates over how much this will cost industry and consumers to get there over the ten year goals implemented by the US CDC. Really because they don't have to.

And this will be monitored closely, to see if any of it is working.

And if it doesn't? Well, the US CDC posted this article on their own website: Hodge JG Jr, Barraza LF. Legal Regulation of Sodium Consumption to Reduce Chronic Conditions. Prev. Chronic Dis. 2016;13:150545. https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2016/15_0545.htm . For being published five years ago, its looks timely and authoritative. Professor Hodge in particular is well known and respected in international health law. And it provides insight over what steps are open to take next.

Not just the U.S., either. In Japan the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is establishing a working group between industry, academia and the government, to encourage the public to reduce their salt intake, work with food makers and retailers on food development and display methods. According to the ministry, the daily average amount of salt consumed by Japanese is 10.1 grams; more than double the WHO recommendation of less than 5 grams. And is higher than the amount consumed in the United States and European countries. Big mountain to climb in Japan, too: a government survey showed more than half the people in Japan who were deemed to have high salt intake replied that they did not intend to change their diet. Japan may have to go the way of the U.S.

https://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0007682739

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Posted in: Climate justice: Rich nations dodge finance pledge See in context

"The $100 billion target therefore needs to be seen as a floor and not as a ceiling," the added.

That's a big floor!

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Posted in: Japanese businesses urge active policy debate in run-up to election See in context

"I would like each political party to firmly present major differences (in their policies) and make clear how to finance and shoulder the burden" of implementing such policies.

Wouldn't we all!

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Posted in: Nuclear option: Earth's climate panacea or poison? See in context

While this article well served its purpose in reviewing the state of nuclear reactor energy, it could have mentioned the promise that current research gives us in other nuclear technologies.

Research coming from NASA's Glenn Research Center, for instance, is interesting. Specifically, they are looking into Lattice Confinement Fusion - a method for triggering nuclear fusion in the space between the atoms of a metal solid - for future potential applications for power / propulsion systems in space exploration, and on Earth for electrical power or creating medical isotopes.

Early, but interesting.

https://www1.grc.nasa.gov/space/science/lattice-confinement-fusion/

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Posted in: Pandemic-hit voters hope for brighter days as general election looms See in context

People whose lives have been upended by the coronavirus . . .

So much impact.

White petals afloat

On a winding woodland stream –

What else is life’s dream!

Sadakichi Hartmann

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Posted in: China's factory inflation hits 25-year high in September See in context

A little more was reported.

As officially reported by the National Bureau of Statistics of China, about 20 hours ago:

China's producer prices increased by 10.7% YOY in September 2021, beating market expectations of a 10.5% rise and August's figure of a 9.5% gain. This was the ninth straight month of increase in factory gate prices and the strongest growth at least since the data began to be reported in October 1996, amid surging cost of raw materials. Prices of means of production rose faster (14.2% vs 12.7% in August), led by extraction (49.4% vs 41.8%), raw materials (20.4% vs 18.3 %), and processing (8.9% vs 8%). At the same time, prices of consumer goods also advance more (0.4% vs 0.3%), with cost accelerating for both daily use goods (0.4% vs 0.1%) and clothing (0.4% after being flat in August) while recovering for consumer durables (0.2% vs -0.1%). Meantime, prices of food production continued to increase (0.7% vs 0.9%). On a monthly basis, producer prices went up 1.2 percent.

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Posted in: IMF, G20 focus over supply chain bottlenecks, inflation fears See in context

OK, just one more important fiscal policy read, for such a lovely fall day!

From I & I's Editorial Board, October 13, 2021: Let’s Go Brandon! Looks Like Stagflation Is Already Here.

Relevant excerpts:

On the same day the International Monetary Fund cut its growth forecast for the U.S. economy, Atlanta Federal Reserve President Raphael Bostic warned that the “transitory” bout of inflation “won’t be brief.” . . . The IMF report, released Tuesday, has the international organization lowering growth globally by a 10th of a percentage point and for the U.S. by a full percentage point.

___

Take a look at the GDPNow estimate produced by [Atlanta Federal Reserve President Raphael Bostic's] Atlanta Fed. Basically, GDPNow tries to calculate the current quarter’s GDP in real time by tracking data that the Commerce Department uses to compile the official GDP number — which won’t come out until a month after the quarter has ended.

As a result, the “nowcast” can change as new data emerge. Look what’s happened in the third quarter. The first GDPNow estimate, produced in late July, had growth topping 6%. That’s where it stayed until late August. But then a flood of new data came out showing the economy had sharply decelerated. The “nowcast” suddenly dropped to below 3% growth.

The latest “nowcast” has GDP growth for Q3 at a mere 1.3%. If that turns out to be correct, which is fairly likely given GDPNow’s track record, it will mark the slowest quarterly growth in years. And it would come despite Biden’s $2 trillion stimulus, passed earlier in the year, which was supposed to “rescue” an economy that had shown consecutive quarterly growth since the spring 2020 COVID lockdowns of 33.8%, 4.5%, 6.3%, and 6.7%.

___

Meanwhile, the latest jobs report, which came out Friday, was an enormous disappointment — Barron’s called it “ugly” — showing just 194,000 jobs being added in September, despite predictions of 500,000. That came after the August report, described then as a “shocker,” which showed 235,000 jobs (later revised to 366,000) created where economists were forecasting 720,000.

Biden rushed out to praise the September report, pointing to the drop in the unemployment rate, which in this case reflected the fact that so many people have dropped out of the labor force (and don’t get counted as unemployed). That’s despite the more than 11 million job openings at the moment.

As Jason Fruman, who headed President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, noted in a tweet: “Job openings: 11.7m Unemployed: 7.7m The 1.5 openings per unemployed is the highest ever recorded.”

There’s an attempt to blame all this on the Delta variant. But that can’t explain everything. The economy isn’t shutting down like it did last year, and this version is far less deadly than in the past.

_____

The Atlanta Fed’s Bostic said he no longer refers to inflation as “transitory” because the current bout could last well into next year. “The real danger,” he said, is that the longer price hikes go on, “the more likely they will shape the expectations of consumers and businesspeople, shifting their views on pricing and wages in particular.”

That danger is already upon us. A survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York finds that inflation expectations are higher than they’ve been since 2013.

Those of us here who weren’t born yesterday — unlike most pundits on TV and everyone commenting on Twitter — remember that the last time we saw sluggish growth and high inflation, along with energy crises and foreign policy crises. It was called stagflation and it crippled the economy.

https://issuesinsights.com/2021/10/13/lets-go-brandon-looks-like-stagflation-is-already-here/

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Posted in: Biden to meet Kenya president as war roils nearby Ethiopia See in context

@ Blacklabel: no way at all that this meeting could go really wrong or end up costing the USA billions of dollars. Right?

This item eluded wide spread notice this past summer, but can help bring more focus and public awareness to a volatile and fluid situation.

From the Jamestown Foundation's Global Research & Analysis Division's Terrorism Monitor, Volume: 19 Issue: 15, July 30, 2021 11:07 AM: U.S. Troops to Combat al-Shabaab in Kenya Amid Mandera County’s Security Crisis

Kenya’s battle against al-Shabaab will receive a boost from U.S. forces after President Joseph R. Biden approved the deployment of special operation troops to the country. The soldiers are expected to join forces with Kenyan forces in countering al-Qaeda’s affiliate in East Africa, al-Shabaab, which continues to threaten the country’s peace and security.

In Kenya, the troops will conduct counterterrorism operations, as well as advise, assist, and accompany Kenyan troops on their operations. Current President Biden has announced that the United States has already conducted a small number of airstrikes against al-Shabaab in Somalia under his presidency and is prepared to carry out more, but whether any will target the militant group in Kenyan territory remains uncertain

https://jamestown.org/program/u-s-troops-to-combat-al-shabaab-in-kenya-amid-mandera-countys-security-crisis/

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Posted in: IMF, G20 focus over supply chain bottlenecks, inflation fears See in context

Food for thought in the United States / and beyond, this fine autumn day, and for the rest of the season / And beyond . . .

Professor / dean emeritus / economist Bruce Yandle, writing in Reason Magazine: High Inflation Is Here To Stay, 10.13.2021 2:30 PM:

News that the September Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by 5.4 percent on a year-over-year basis should be evidence enough for Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, White House economists, and even the president to admit that we have more than a temporary inflation uptick on our hands.

Avoiding the hard truth or waiting before countering inflationary forces carries a cost. In this case, delays could mean harsher action later when, for example, the Fed hits the money brakes harder to cool the economy. In such a case we might see interest rates head to the ceiling, construction activity and high-tech investment plummet, and the economy roll into a recession.

Needless to say, Washington leaders have long been reluctant to call a spade a spade. But today, the no-no isn't depression or even recession. It's referring to unqualified inflation. No one in authority wants to admit that the dollars we hold are systematically losing their purchasing power. We are being quietly robbed by Washington's dollar-printing press, with politicians calling the shots. The presses are not operating without drivers.

So, what should our esteemed political leaders do? Gazing into a crystal ball and talking about things that may be transitory is what soothsayers and fortunetellers do. Just give the public the unvarnished story.

https://reason.com/2021/10/13/high-inflation-is-here-to-stay/

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Posted in: IMF, G20 focus over supply chain bottlenecks, inflation fears See in context

@ Desert Tortoise

With respect, if your most apparant worry is based largely upon perceptions towards the steady decline in velocity of money, being deflationary trending instead of inflationary, combined with pandemic-induced temporary bottlenecks that - politicians assure - only cause "short-term" inflation, you likely need not fear the politician-shrivelling double-digit inflation of olden days that kills house-hold budgets of us mere mortals. Most reasonable economists don't see that. But most will tell you that inflation in the 4 to 8 percent range in G20 economies is likely - even probable - over the next few years. But what happens if it isn't as short? As the politicos insist it will be? What if the world waits too long and inflation doesn't prove itself soothingly “transitory”? Then it will need to tighten policy more aggressively than advertised, which could trigger steep rise in yields and / or a drop in riskier asset prices. Feeling the squeeze yet again, with bond yields moving up sharply, but real inflation-adjusted yields are still negative? Most serious investors see it. But the rich won't be the risk receivers, will they? No, they will just keep buying up more landin all the best places. Losers for the next two to three years will, as usual, be the bottom half of the income distribution slide; low income and what ever is left of the middle class, feeling the pain of real painful declines in real earnings against that “transitory” inflation. Not the wealthy friends-of-politicians-everywhere. I don't know about your neighborhood, but politics - being a blood sport over most of the globe - will want to hold someone responsible for this mess. Unless, of course, bread and circuses (panem et circenses, for you fans of the wreckage of the Roman Empire) can mollify the masses.

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Posted in: Taiwan tensions raise fears of U.S.-China conflict in Asia See in context

Right now the best strategy is to bolster Taiwan’s defenses with modern and effective weapons. While maintaining with absolute certainty that Xi's militaristic expansionist ambitions to annex the island - much like Mao did to Tibet - are totally unacceptable to the global community. The cost for eating a porcupine Taiwan must be too high militarily, and the cost of enslaving Taiwan must be nothing short of total rejection by the international community, regardless of economic cost.

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Posted in: I made an inappropriate remark. I retract the remark and offer an apology to all family members of the abduction victims as well as related people. See in context

He retracted the remark and apologized.

And time will tell if he means it.

Some time back, I remember a politician who said something nasty that most of us just cringed at. But he didn't retract it. Later on, during an interview, he disavowed feeling the way he originally sounded, but he still wouldn't apologize. But the journalist persisted, by repeating over and over, “Just say sorry. Just say sorry. Just say sorry.” Finally he did: mumbling "obviously, I’m very sorry for everything that’s happened.”

I think that this guy did a little better.

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Posted in: Major Hollywood crew strike looms as union sets deadline See in context

Think anyone outside of Hollywood will notice? At least for awhile?

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Posted in: Rolling Stones drop hit 'Brown Sugar' from U.S. tour See in context

"You picked up on that, huh?"

Something about a septuagenarian trying to sound modern . . .

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Posted in: Humans enjoyed blue cheese and beer 2,700 years ago: study See in context

What! No pretzels! Oh, the Cenozoic humanity of it all!

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Posted in: U.S. rules out normalizing ties with Syria's Assad See in context

I wondered about the timing of this article.

From Paul R. Pillar at The National Interest:

Arab states have been gradually restoring or expanding relations with the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, and some commentators in the United States are very unhappy

about that . . . Each writer reviews and excoriates the Assad regime’s record of brutality— about which there can be no dispute— and criticizes the Biden administration for quietly acquiescing in the business that regional states have been doing with Syria, even though the United States is making no move of its own toward restoring relations with Damascus.

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/paul-pillar/unfounded-alarm-about-relations-syria-195026

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Posted in: IMF, G20 focus over supply chain bottlenecks, inflation fears See in context

So, according to this article, "supply chain bottlenecks" are the root cause of inflation, threatening to derail the global economic recovery.

Check.

[D]emand has spiked, suppliers have not been able to keep up.

Check.

Pandemic restrictions shuttered manufacturing and trade routes while suppliers, who are facing shortages of workers and truck drivers, have not been able to keep up.

Check

[B]ottlenecks on raw materials, semiconductors and hiring difficulties on the labor market" will weigh on the growth dynamic "in the months and years to come.

Check.

[B]ottlenecks are driving sharp increases in shipping fees and the final cost of goods.

Check.

[L]ag in vaccination rates to contain the pandemic in developing nations is contributing to the supply constraints, and "as long as it widens this risk of interruptions in global supply chains is going to be higher.

Check.

Is that the list?  At least according to this article?

Are we sure?  Is this really an inclusive list of the inflationary situation (rampant, at least to anyone visiting the grocer or buying petrol over the past ten month)? 

Are we sure that soaring rates of global inflation that are being realized today are NOT just those mentioned above? 

Maybe it can also be . . .  maybe . . . a result of other factors? 

Such as . . . perhaps . . . the irresponsible fiscal and monetary policies being practiced by a select number of nations? That have used shutdowns, mandates and death counts as a opportunity to advance a particular political economic agenda? That have exacerbated an already toxic blend of economic uncertanty with trade, currency, labor, imimigration, climate change, and unrealized promises of globalization?

Nah!  It must be those flamin' bottlenecks.  Pesky thing about bottlenecks!  You never CAN predict when and where, can you?  Come on, certainly this whole inflationary and no-turkey-for-holiday thing CAN'T be any reason to point the finger of blame at any one politician or party, right? 

Bottlenecks? What can you do!

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Posted in: Embattled Facebook releases new curbs on harassment See in context

So what does this really show?

That FB acknowledges wide-spread harm on its platform, and is doing the best it can to stop the abuses, with the tools that it already has?

Or that they are making it ALL up as they go, scrambling to avoid the unbearable and unprofitable spotlight of regulatory and public scrutiny?

Perhaps we need more public hearings by regulators around the world. Just to finally get some real answers, from a company that has shown little inclination in the past to take a self-initiative to do the right thing.

Can we trust FB to do the right thing?

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Posted in: Olympics VP says China human rights 'not within' IOC mandate See in context

When asked about the treatment of the Uyghur minority in China, IOC Vice President John Coates said the body has no mandate to act.

Under their charter, likely not.

But it IS within the purview of each and every nation to collectively ask itself what it wants to do with China.

Whether the conduct of the host country - that sufficient and persuasive evidence points to active, serious and on-going violations of clearly established international law and treaty that describes and prohibits the most heinous of crimes that the international community can recognize - is legally, ethically, and morally disturbing enough to merit modern society foregoing the event altogether.

Or for the nations to converse and establish a method to only celebrate the athletes and the competition, without rewarding the potentially felonious attitude of the host nation's leadership. Responsibility where it belongs: at the party and its leadership, without blame towards the Chinese people and their athletes?

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Posted in: Man arrested for throwing Molotov cocktail onto balcony of hospital employee See in context

[A] pharmacist, is accused of throwing the Molotov cocktail . . . the bottle filled with flammable liquid onto the second-floor balcony of the apartment where a 24-year-old hospital employee lives.

Pharmacist and a hospital employee? Yes, it does sound like they know each other. Motive is there somewhere!

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Posted in: Norway PM to step down; Labor leader expected to take over See in context

Corrrected:

@ Desert Tortoise: Thank you for your information, insofar as helping to clarify Stoere's versus Norway's stance towards Hamas.

Yet, when asked, And btw, when did it become some irretrievable crime to criticize the government of Israel for their continued illegal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank?

Really? At least as directed towards my comment and question? My memory of his support of Hamas. Versus Fatah, which are the two major competing political parties in that strife-torn country. And the question, about his own current stance towards Palestine and Israel? Considering Norway's past - and likely, current - self-proclaimed interest in the conflict and the region, my comment and question are topical, and has no stated or implied criticism of either political party. Or of Norway, Palestine, or Israel whatsoever. I'll leave any and all of that for a later time of my own choosing.

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Posted in: Norway PM to step down; Labor leader expected to take over See in context

@ Desert Tortoise: Thank you for your information, insofar as helping to clarify Hamas versus Norway's stance towards Hamas.

Yet, when asked, And btw, when did it become some irretrievable crime to criticize the government of Israel for their continued illegal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank?

Really? At least as directed towards my comment and question? My memory of his support of Hamas. Versus Fatah, which are the two major competing political parties in that strife-torn country. And the question, about his own current stance towards Palestine and Israel? Considering Norway's past - and likely, current - self-proclaimed interest in the conflict and the region, my comment and question are topical, and has no stated or implied criticism of either political party. Or of Norway, Palestine, or Israel whatsoever. I'll leave any and all of that for a later time of my own choosing.

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Posted in: China pledges $233 million to global biodiversity fund See in context

Beijing . . . has sought to play a more prominent role internationally on biodiversity conservation in recent years.

KInd of ironic, isn't it? Acting all high and mighty. 'We are all in for biodiversity.' Ooh! Money!

All the while acting like a twisted love-match between a gargoyle and a dalek when it comes to Taiwan and almost every country in your time zone!

Oops, sorry! I forgot . . . you are the victim, aren't you? Well, bricks in the wall, just carry on, then!

Repeat after me: 'We are all in for biodiversity.' Louder and in synch this time!

You! Yes, you! Behind the bike sheds, stand still, laddy!

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Posted in: Biden to meet Kenya president as war roils nearby Ethiopia See in context

This is a real smoking mess, that even the most prudent world leader should pause and think (and re-think) before interjecting oneself into.

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Posted in: China pledges $233 million to global biodiversity fund See in context

Assuming it will even exist in the first place. . . Their fund . . . Spent any time they want . . . For anything they want. With absolutely NO one in-country (like a responsible journalist) to hold them to . . . Anything?

Why is this even a story?

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Posted in: There has been no change even after the law to promote efforts to prevent school bullying was established in 2013 after my son's suicide. See in context

How much more suffering is necessary before real change occurs?

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Posted in: Finance chief defends bureaucrat warning against Kishida's stimulus plan See in context

Yano said in the article that stimulus plans "including their costs and adverse effects should be thoroughly examined," comparing Japan's current fiscal situation to "the Titanic rushing toward an iceberg."

A voice of fiscal prudence and reason? Get that many away from here!

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Posted in: Can the Taliban suppress the potent IS threat? See in context

The IS threat? As opposed to the al-Qaeda threat? As opposed to the Taliban threat? Or any of the other Kalashnikov-bearing threats walking around the region right now?

You can't kick a rock over in Afghanistan without finding a threat to humanity.

The question becomes, how can the world deal with the many heavily armed factions in this most violent and unstable neighborhood?

Betting windows are now open, and the smart money seems to be riding on the world's diplomats buying off / bribing the threats, at least for awhile. Hoping beyond hope that the violence-addicted True Believers will learn just enough humanity in the interim to learn how to play nice in the international playground.

Safe money that the same diplomats will believe the token words of the Taliban just long enough to start shoveling in lots and lots of money. Just to keep the threats quiet and at bay, mind you. And to throw the women and girls of Afghanistan and the region into the most dire peril, at the hands of the True Believers.

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