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American-made Javelin and Stinger missiles are heading to Ukraine. At least 20 members of Congress personally invest in the defense contractors behind them.

War is "big business to our leaders," says Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of 19 lawmakers Insider identified with defense industry investments. In this image taken from footage provided by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry Press Service, a Ukrainian soldiers use a launcher with US Javelin missiles during military exercises in Donetsk region, Ukraine, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022.Ukrainian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP Defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Raytheon manufacture weapons that are heading to Ukraine.  At least 19 members of Congress or their spouses hold stock in these companies.  Some lawmakers sit on congressional committees that regulate defense policy. Some members of Congress stand to personally profit off Russia's war on Ukraine.At least 19 federal lawmakers or their spouses hold stock in Raytheon Technologies and Lockheed Martin, which manufacture the weapons Western allies are sending Ukraine to fight Russian invaders, according to an Insider analysis of federal financial records.The stock holdings by members of Congress come as the US is preparing to send billions of dollars in defense aid to Ukraine. Both companies' stock — especially that of Lockheed Martin — have risen since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.Among the weapons the US and NATO members have dispatched to Ukraine are the so-called "fire and forget" Javelin and Stinger missiles that troops carry on their shoulders during battle. The joint Raytheon/Lockheed Martin-made Javelin missile is touted as "the world's premier shoulder-fired anti-armor system" capable of destroying battle tanks. Raytheon's Stinger missiles are designed to shoot down helicopters and other low-flying aircraft. Raytheon advertises the Stinger as "rapidly deployed by ground troops" and credited with "more than 270 fixed- and rotary-wing intercepts."Among those investing in the defense contractors is Republican Rep. John Rutherford of Florida who purchased between $1,001 and $15,000 worth of Raytheon stock on February 24 — the day Russia invaded Ukraine.Rutherford sits on the House Appropriations Committee that's in charge of federal government spending. In that role he serves on the subcommittee for Homeland Security as well as the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies subcommittee. "What we're seeing in Ukraine is the tragic consequence of an evil & aggressive dictatorship," Rutherford tweeted on February 24. "Putin invaded a sovereign nation for no legitimate reason, & he must be held accountable. The U.S. and our allies must impose the maximum possible sanctions & leave nothing off the table."Rutherford's office did not return Insider's requests for comment. Rutherford's office previously said the congressman's stocks are managed by a third party.Another Republican, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, bought between $1,001 and $15,000 in Lockheed Martin shares on February 22. Two days after her purchase, Greene wrote in a Twitter thread: "War is big business to our leaders."In a statement to Insider, Greene said her investment advisor made the purchase and noted it was only one among several other new purchases. But her critics seized on the trade as emblematic of what they consider an endemic problem in Congress: lawmakers personally buying and selling stock in ways that could conflict with their official responsibilities and position of public trust. —Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) March 7, 2022 "Add this to the list of why members of Congress should never be allowed to trade stocks," quipped Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota on Twitter, sharing a subtweet that showed Greene's financial disclosure document. Rep. Lois Frankel, Democrat of Florida, holds stock in health insurance company Cigna.Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty ImagesSome members long held stock in the companies, others traded recentlyOther federal lawmakers have traded stock in the defense contractors in recent weeks. Republican Rep. Diana Harshbarger of Tennessee and her husband made three separate Raytheon trades worth up to $15,000 and Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel of Florida sold up to $15,000 in Lockheed Martin stock but retained shares in the company.  All trades happened in January — close to when the Wall Street Journal reported that the United States permitted Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to dispatch the Javelin and Stinger missiles to Ukraine. Representatives for Frankel and Harshbarger did not respond to Insider's request for comment. Harshbarger has previously violated the 2012 Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, or STOCK Act, by reporting trades made by her financial advisor past a federally mandated deadline.More than a dozen other members of Congress or their families hold similar investments at a time when President Joe Biden approved a $350 million Ukraine military aid package last week. The US government is also poised to deliver another $6.5 billion for defense purposes in Ukraine as part of a new spending package heading to the president's desk.CNN reported that the US and other NATO members have so far sent Ukraine 17,000  anti-tank missiles and 2,000 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.Most lawmakers who hold shares in Raytheon and Lockheed Martin did not reply to Insider's request for comment. The list includes: Sen. Deb Fischer, a Republican of Nebraska, inherited between $50,001 to $100,000 in Lockheed Martin stock from her mother after she died on December 26, 2021. Fischer is the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces.Sen. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat of Colorado, held between $100,001 and $250,000 in Raytheon shares, according to his most recent annual disclosure. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat of Rhode Island, held $15,001 to $50,000 in Lockheed Martin stock. He also held between $50,001 and $100,000 in stock in United Technologies, which was acquired by Raytheon.Thomas Daffron, a former longtime Hill chief of staff and the husband of Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, held between $15,000 and $50,000 in stock United Technologies, which was acquired by Raytheon. Annie Clark, Collins' spokeswoman, said he first acquired United Technologies at least as far back as 2014, before the Raytheon acquisition. "Tom Daffron has no involvement in the purchase or sale of any of the stocks in his diversified portfolio," she said. "These investment decisions are made solely by a third-party advisor." Clark also added that the senator herself does not own any stocks. Abigail Perlman Blunt, a lobbyist for Kraft Heinz who is also the wife of retiring Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, held between $100,001 and $250,000 in Lockheed Martin shares.Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican of West Virginia, held between $1,001 and $15,000 in Lockheed Martin stock, her annual disclosures indicate. Her husband, Charlie Capito, who previously worked in finance, held between $1,001 and $15,000 in United Technologies, now acquired by Raytheon.Sen. Gary Peters, a Democrat of Michigan, held between $1,001 and $15,000 in Raytheon stock. Peters chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee as well as the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Martha Stacy, the wife of Democratic Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, held between $1,001 and $15,000 in Raytheon stocks and between $1,001 and $15,000 in Lockheed Martin stocks. Carper serves on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. His spokeswoman, Rachel Levitan, said the couple has "always been careful to ensure that their financial investments are handled separately by a financial advisor who makes decisions and transactions independently." She added that Carper "fully supports ongoing conversations in Congress on how to strengthen the legislation and improve transparency and accountability for our elected officials." John Axne, the husband of Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne of Iowa who operates a digital design firm, sold between $1,001 and $15,000 in Lockheed Martin shares twice in February but still appears to hold stock in the company. Axne previously violated the STOCK Act through failing to properly report trades. Rep. Kevin Hern, a Republican of Oklahoma who built his wealth through McDonald's franchises, traded both Raytheon and Lockheed Martin stock throughout 2021. He most recently purchased shares of between $1,001 and $15,000 in both Raytheon and Lockheed Martin in December, documents show. Representatives for Hern, who has past STOCK Act violations, didn't reply to Insider's most recent inquiry but previously said a financial advisor manages the trades and that Hern "does not have any input or control over stock purchases." Rep. Fred Upton, a Republican of Michigan who is retiring after his term ends in 2022, held between $1,001 and $15,000 in Raytheon shares. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat of Tennessee, held between $15,001 to $50,000 in Raytheon stock. Rep. John Curtis, a Republican of Utah, purchased between $1,001 and $15,000 in Raytheon shares in June 2021. He also held Lockheed Martin stock but public disclosures appear to show that he sold it in November 2021. His office did not reply to questions over whether he still held shares in the company. Rep. David Price, a Democrat of North Carolina, held between $15,001 and $50,000 in United Technologies which was then acquired by Raytheon.Rep. Dwight Evans, a Democrat of Pennsylvania, held between $1,001 and $15,000 in United Technologies which was acquired by Raytheon stock and in May 2021 he purchased between $1,001 and $15,000 in Lockheed Martin stock. Margaret Kirkpatrick, who is married to Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and retired from her role as general counsel for NW Natural Gas, held up to $15,000 in Raytheon shares as part of her retirement portfolio. Additional members of Congress appear to have shed their shares in recent months. They include Rep. Rob Wittman of Virginia, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee's Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee. Documents appear to show Wittman sold his shares in Lockheed Martin in January of this year. His office did not respond to Insider's most recent inquiry but previously said that a financial advisor has "all control" of his investments. Insider previously reported that Wittman was among at least 15 lawmakers who both invest in the stock of defense contractors and hold powerful positions on a pair of House and Senate committees that control US military policy. Together, these 15 lawmakers' defense contractor investments were worth up to nearly $1 million at the end of 2020. Another lawmaker who appears to have sold stock in defense contractors this year was Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a Republican of Alabama. It wasn't immediately clear from available financial filings whether he still retained any stock in the companies. His office didn't respond to Insider's request for comment on whether he still holds the shares but previously said outside advisors manage the senator's investments.Tuberville, who sits on the armed services committee, violated the federal STOCK Act last year by disclosing nearly 130 stock trades weeks or months late. Tuberville isn't alone in violating the STOCK Act — more than 1 in 10 members of Congress have done so, Insider's Conflicted Congress investigation found.In March alone, Insider found Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi of New York, Republican Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, and Whitehouse to each be in violation of the STOCK Act's disclosure provisions.Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat of Virginia, introduced the bipartisan TRUST in Congress Act, which would require all members of Congress put certain investment assets in a blind trust.Win McNamee/Getty ImagesCongress is considering a stock trading ban No law prohibits lawmakers from sitting on congressional committees, writing legislation, or voting on bills that might affect them financially. But momentum is growing for banning lawmakers from trading stocks altogether. A House hearing was set for March 16 to explore the matter, although it didn't take place as scheduled because Committee on House Administration Chairperson Zoe Lofgren contracted COVID-19. A new date hasn't yet been set. Numerous federal policymakers have defense contractors in their states and districts, who call up lawmakers as the defense spending bills are being drafted to warn that people will lose jobs if defense funding decreases. The latest spending bill making its way through Congress represents another victory for the industry as it includes $782 billion in defense spending, a 5.6% increase over last year.Government watchdog organizations say investments like those in defense contractors muddle lawmakers' decision making abilities and reduce public trust in government officials. Political action committees linked to defense contractors are among the largest political donors in the United States. Defense contractors likewise spend millions of dollars lobbying the federal government to prod elected officials, shape policy, and win lucrative government contracts. During 2021, Raytheon spent nearly $15.4 million on federal lobbying efforts while Lockheed Martin spent more than $14.4 million, according to federal records compiled by nonpartisan research organization OpenSecrets."This is a case study in why there is a lot of concern around congressional stock trading," said Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, government affairs manager at the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight. The investments indicate that war isn't only profitable for defense contractors "but members of congress who invest," he added. POGO supports a ban on members' trading individual stocks. "The easiest way to clear all this up and make the scandal not exist is to have clear, straightforward restrictions and have them apply to everybody," Hedtler-Gaudette said. This article was originally published March 11, 2022, and updated to include new information made available about members of Congress purchasing or otherwise acquiring defense contractor stock.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 13th, 2022

American-made Javelin and Stinger missiles are heading to Ukraine. At least 20 members of Congress personally invest in the defense contractors behind them.

War is "big business to our leaders," says Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of 19 lawmakers Insider identified with defense industry investments. In this image taken from footage provided by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry Press Service, a Ukrainian soldiers use a launcher with US Javelin missiles during military exercises in Donetsk region, Ukraine, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022.Ukrainian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP Defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Raytheon manufacture weapons that are heading to Ukraine.  At least 19 members of Congress or their spouses hold stock in these companies.  Some lawmakers sit on congressional committees that regulate defense policy. Some members of Congress stand to personally profit off Russia's war on Ukraine.At least 19 federal lawmakers or their spouses hold stock in Raytheon Technologies and Lockheed Martin, which manufacture the weapons Western allies are sending Ukraine to fight Russian invaders, according to an Insider analysis of federal financial records.The stock holdings by members of Congress come as the US is preparing to send billions of dollars in defense aid to Ukraine. Both companies' stock — especially that of Lockheed Martin — have risen since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.Among the weapons the US and NATO members have dispatched to Ukraine are the so-called "fire and forget" Javelin and Stinger missiles that troops carry on their shoulders during battle. The joint Raytheon/Lockheed Martin-made Javelin missile is touted as "the world's premier shoulder-fired anti-armor system" capable of destroying battle tanks. Raytheon's Stinger missiles are designed to shoot down helicopters and other low-flying aircraft. Raytheon advertises the Stinger as "rapidly deployed by ground troops" and credited with "more than 270 fixed- and rotary-wing intercepts."Among those investing in the defense contractors is Republican Rep. John Rutherford of Florida who purchased between $1,001 and $15,000 worth of Raytheon stock on February 24 — the day Russia invaded Ukraine.Rutherford sits on the House Appropriations Committee that's in charge of federal government spending. In that role he serves on the subcommittee for Homeland Security as well as the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies subcommittee. "What we're seeing in Ukraine is the tragic consequence of an evil & aggressive dictatorship," Rutherford tweeted on February 24. "Putin invaded a sovereign nation for no legitimate reason, & he must be held accountable. The U.S. and our allies must impose the maximum possible sanctions & leave nothing off the table."Rutherford's office did not return Insider's requests for comment. Rutherford's office previously said the congressman's stocks are managed by a third party.Another Republican, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, bought between $1,001 and $15,000 in Lockheed Martin shares on February 22. Two days after her purchase, Greene wrote in a Twitter thread: "War is big business to our leaders."In a statement to Insider, Greene said her investment advisor made the purchase and noted it was only one among several other new purchases. But her critics seized on the trade as emblematic of what they consider an endemic problem in Congress: lawmakers personally buying and selling stock in ways that could conflict with their official responsibilities and position of public trust. —Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) March 7, 2022 "Add this to the list of why members of Congress should never be allowed to trade stocks," quipped Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota on Twitter, sharing a subtweet that showed Greene's financial disclosure document. Rep. Lois Frankel, Democrat of Florida, holds stock in health insurance company Cigna.Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty ImagesSome members long held stock in the companies, others traded recentlyOther federal lawmakers have traded stock in the defense contractors in recent weeks. Republican Rep. Diana Harshbarger of Tennessee and her husband made three separate Raytheon trades worth up to $15,000 and Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel of Florida sold up to $15,000 in Lockheed Martin stock but retained shares in the company.  All trades happened in January — close to when the Wall Street Journal reported that the United States permitted Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to dispatch the Javelin and Stinger missiles to Ukraine. Representatives for Frankel and Harshbarger did not respond to Insider's request for comment. Harshbarger has previously violated the 2012 Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, or STOCK Act, by reporting trades made by her financial advisor past a federally mandated deadline.More than a dozen other members of Congress or their families hold similar investments at a time when President Joe Biden approved a $350 million Ukraine military aid package last week. The US government is also poised to deliver another $6.5 billion for defense purposes in Ukraine as part of a new spending package heading to the president's desk.CNN reported that the US and other NATO members have so far sent Ukraine 17,000  anti-tank missiles and 2,000 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.Most lawmakers who hold shares in Raytheon and Lockheed Martin did not reply to Insider's request for comment. The list includes: Sen. Deb Fischer, a Republican of Nebraska, inherited between $50,001 to $100,000 in Lockheed Martin stock from her mother after she died on December 26, 2021. Fischer is the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces.Sen. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat of Colorado, held between $100,001 and $250,000 in Raytheon shares, according to his most recent annual disclosure. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat of Rhode Island, held $15,001 to $50,000 in Lockheed Martin stock. He also held between $50,001 and $100,000 in stock in United Technologies, which was acquired by Raytheon.Thomas Daffron, a former longtime Hill chief of staff and the husband of Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, held between $15,000 and $50,000 in stock United Technologies, which was acquired by Raytheon. Annie Clark, Collins' spokeswoman, said he first acquired United Technologies at least as far back as 2014, before the Raytheon acquisition. "Tom Daffron has no involvement in the purchase or sale of any of the stocks in his diversified portfolio," she said. "These investment decisions are made solely by a third-party advisor." Clark also added that the senator herself does not own any stocks. Abigail Perlman Blunt, a lobbyist for Kraft Heinz who is also the wife of retiring Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, held between $100,001 and $250,000 in Lockheed Martin shares.Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican of West Virginia, held between $1,001 and $15,000 in Lockheed Martin stock, her annual disclosures indicate. Her husband, Charlie Capito, who previously worked in finance, held between $1,001 and $15,000 in United Technologies, now acquired by Raytheon.Sen. Gary Peters, a Democrat of Michigan, held between $1,001 and $15,000 in Raytheon stock. Peters chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee as well as the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Martha Stacy, the wife of Democratic Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, held between $1,001 and $15,000 in Raytheon stocks and between $1,001 and $15,000 in Lockheed Martin stocks. Carper serves on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. His spokeswoman, Rachel Levitan, said the couple has "always been careful to ensure that their financial investments are handled separately by a financial advisor who makes decisions and transactions independently." She added that Carper "fully supports ongoing conversations in Congress on how to strengthen the legislation and improve transparency and accountability for our elected officials." John Axne, the husband of Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne of Iowa who operates a digital design firm, sold between $1,001 and $15,000 in Lockheed Martin shares twice in February but still appears to hold stock in the company. Axne previously violated the STOCK Act through failing to properly report trades. Rep. Kevin Hern, a Republican of Oklahoma who built his wealth through McDonald's franchises, traded both Raytheon and Lockheed Martin stock throughout 2021. He most recently purchased shares of between $1,001 and $15,000 in both Raytheon and Lockheed Martin in December, documents show. Representatives for Hern, who has past STOCK Act violations, didn't reply to Insider's most recent inquiry but previously said a financial advisor manages the trades and that Hern "does not have any input or control over stock purchases." Rep. Fred Upton, a Republican of Michigan who is retiring after his term ends in 2022, held between $1,001 and $15,000 in Raytheon shares. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat of Tennessee, held between $15,001 to $50,000 in Raytheon stock. Rep. John Curtis, a Republican of Utah, purchased between $1,001 and $15,000 in Raytheon shares in June 2021. He also held Lockheed Martin stock but public disclosures appear to show that he sold it in November 2021. His office did not reply to questions over whether he still held shares in the company. Rep. David Price, a Democrat of North Carolina, held between $15,001 and $50,000 in United Technologies which was then acquired by Raytheon.Rep. Dwight Evans, a Democrat of Pennsylvania, held between $1,001 and $15,000 in United Technologies which was acquired by Raytheon stock and in May 2021 he purchased between $1,001 and $15,000 in Lockheed Martin stock. Margaret Kirkpatrick, who is married to Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and retired from her role as general counsel for NW Natural Gas, held up to $15,000 in Raytheon shares as part of her retirement portfolio. Additional members of Congress appear to have shed their shares in recent months. They include Rep. Rob Wittman of Virginia, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee's Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee. Documents appear to show Wittman sold his shares in Lockheed Martin in January of this year. His office did not respond to Insider's most recent inquiry but previously said that a financial advisor has "all control" of his investments. Insider previously reported that Wittman was among at least 15 lawmakers who both invest in the stock of defense contractors and hold powerful positions on a pair of House and Senate committees that control US military policy. Together, these 15 lawmakers' defense contractor investments were worth up to nearly $1 million at the end of 2020. Another lawmaker who appears to have sold stock in defense contractors this year was Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a Republican of Alabama. It wasn't immediately clear from available financial filings whether he still retained any stock in the companies. His office didn't respond to Insider's request for comment on whether he still holds the shares but previously said outside advisors manage the senator's investments.Tuberville, who sits on the armed services committee, violated the federal STOCK Act last year by disclosing nearly 130 stock trades weeks or months late. Tuberville isn't alone in violating the STOCK Act — more than 1 in 10 members of Congress have done so, Insider's Conflicted Congress investigation found.In March alone, Insider found Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi of New York, Republican Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, and Whitehouse to each be in violation of the STOCK Act's disclosure provisions.Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat of Virginia, introduced the bipartisan TRUST in Congress Act, which would require all members of Congress put certain investment assets in a blind trust.Win McNamee/Getty ImagesCongress is considering a stock trading ban No law prohibits lawmakers from sitting on congressional committees, writing legislation, or voting on bills that might affect them financially. But momentum is growing for banning lawmakers from trading stocks altogether. A House hearing was set for March 16 to explore the matter, although it didn't take place as scheduled because Committee on House Administration Chairperson Zoe Lofgren contracted COVID-19. A new date hasn't yet been set. Numerous federal policymakers have defense contractors in their states and districts, who call up lawmakers as the defense spending bills are being drafted to warn that people will lose jobs if defense funding decreases. The latest spending bill making its way through Congress represents another victory for the industry as it includes $782 billion in defense spending, a 5.6% increase over last year.Government watchdog organizations say investments like those in defense contractors muddle lawmakers' decision making abilities and reduce public trust in government officials. Political action committees linked to defense contractors are among the largest political donors in the United States. Defense contractors likewise spend millions of dollars lobbying the federal government to prod elected officials, shape policy, and win lucrative government contracts. During 2021, Raytheon spent nearly $15.4 million on federal lobbying efforts while Lockheed Martin spent more than $14.4 million, according to federal records compiled by nonpartisan research organization OpenSecrets."This is a case study in why there is a lot of concern around congressional stock trading," said Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, government affairs manager at the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight. The investments indicate that war isn't only profitable for defense contractors "but members of congress who invest," he added. POGO supports a ban on members' trading individual stocks. "The easiest way to clear all this up and make the scandal not exist is to have clear, straightforward restrictions and have them apply to everybody," Hedtler-Gaudette said. This article was originally published March 11, 2022, and updated to include new information made available about members of Congress purchasing or otherwise acquiring defense contractor stock.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 13th, 2022

Republican Sen. Deb Fischer holds up to $100,000 in defense contractor Lockheed Martin stock while helping lead a Senate Armed Services subcommittee

The Senate is preparing to vote on a bill Monday that will send $40 billion in aid to Ukraine as it defends against Russia's invasion. Sen. Deb Fischer, a Republican of Nebraska, owns up to $100,000 in stock of defense contractor Lockheed Martin. Fischer is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images Sen. Deb Fischer inherited up to $100,000 in Lockheed Martin stock from her mother in December 2021. Fischer is the top Republican on a subcommittee that oversees missile defense.  Lockheed Martin is a defense contractor that manufactures the Javelin missile system. The top Republican on a subcommittee that oversees missile defense has inherited up to $100,000 in stocks from leading defense contractor and missile manufacturer Lockheed Martin. A financial disclosure made public on Thursday shows Republican Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska owns between $50,001 and $100,000 in Lockheed Martin stock that she inherited on December 26, 2021, upon her mother's death.   Fischer serves as counsel to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — a Republican Senate leadership position — and is the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, which has responsibilities that include overseeing arms control, nuclear program, and ballistic missile defense policy. The subcommittee also has oversight of the Department of Defense's Missile Defense Agency and the Nebraska-based US Strategic Command.The two-term senator joins at least 12 other members of Congress this year who have either traded or currently own stock in Lockheed Martin as Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.Since the start of Russia's war on Ukraine, US and NATO members have dispatched so-called "fire and forget" missiles to Ukraine. One of the missiles, called the Javelin missile, is co-manufactured by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. It's touted as "the world's premier shoulder-fired anti-armor system" capable of destroying battle tanks. Lockheed Martin makes a variety of other missile and missile defense systems, as well.Lawmakers who own Lockheed Martin stock stand to personally profit from the war as the Senate tees up a vote for an additional $40 billion in Ukraine aid on Monday. The legislation already passed the House and then will head to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it given that it exceeds the $33 billion he'd requested. On December 27, the day after Fischer inherited her Lockheed Martin stock, the stock closed at $350.28 per share. Since then, it's steadily trended upward, closing at $435.17 per share on Friday.Fischer's office did not respond to questions about whether she plans to keep the Lockheed Martin shares or whether holding the stock presents a real or perceived conflict of interest. Past financial disclosures show that Fischer doesn't trade individual stocks, and most of her personal finances appear to be tied in Sunny Slope Ranch, a ranching company in Valentine, Nebraska, that she owns with her husband, Bruce. Her biography on her official congressional page says Fischer "believes the first duty of Congress is to defend the nation." She also has urged her colleagues to look "at any and all options that are out there to assist Ukraine, in particular the more sophisticated anti-air systems, to counter that Russian bombing."The 2012 federal Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, or STOCK Act, allows members of Congress to buy, sell, and inherit individual stocks so long as they publicly disclose trades and holdings. No law prohibits lawmakers from sitting on congressional committees, writing legislation, or voting on bills that might affect them financially. But in recent months Congress has been debating whether to make the rules more strict — or to ban congressional stock trading altogether. "Lawmakers who own individual stocks can create the perception that their official decisions are influenced by their personal interest instead of the public interest," said Kedric Payne, an ethics expert and vice president at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. "This potential conflict exists even with inherited stock. Congress can pass pending legislation to ban stock ownership and increase the public's confidence in the institution." Fischer's inheritance also included several mutual funds as well as up to $15,000 in Coca-Cola shares and less than $1,001 in Cisco Systems. Members of Congress are required to report their trades only in broad ranges, making an exact investment amount difficult to pinpoint. Insider previously reported that at least 15 lawmaker invest in the stock of defense contractors while holding powerful positions on a pair of House and Senate committees that control US military policy. Defense contractors, for their part, spend millions of dollars lobbying the federal government to prod elected officials, shape policy, and win lucrative government contracts.During 2021, Lockheed Martin spent more than $14.4 million on federal lobbying, according to federal records compiled by nonpartisan research organization OpenSecrets. It also spent more than $3.3 million on federal-level lobbying efforts during the first three months of 2022.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 13th, 2022

AOC pushed back on Nancy Pelosi"s stance against banning congressional stock-trading: "We write major policy and have access to sensitive information"

The congresswoman also offered that the lack of adequate congressional pay could incentivize members to engage in questionable stock trading practices. Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a news conference at the US Capitol on June 16, 2021.Alex Wong/Getty Images AOC pushed back on Pelosi after she rejected the idea of banning members of congress from owning stock. AOC says it should be banned because members "write major policy and have access to sensitive information." Insider recently found that 52 members of congress and 182 senior staffers have violated the STOCK Act. Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pushed back against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's rejection of a ban on members of Congress from trading and holding individual stock while in office.In a series of tweets on Friday evening, Ocasio-Cortez reiterated her prior opposition to members trading individual stock while in office, writing that the practice is inappropriate when members "write major policy and have access to sensitive information."—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 18, 2021Earlier this week, Insider's "Conflicted Congress" investigation identified the myriad ways members of the US House and Senate have undermined their own ethical standards, skirted consequences, and, as Insider's Dave Levinthal reported, blinded Americans to the many moments when lawmakers' personal finances clash with their public duties.  The investigation revealed that 15 lawmakers tasked with shaping US defense policy actively invest in military contractors, over a dozen environmentally-minded Democrats invest in fossil fuel companies or other corporations with concerning environmental track records, and many members regularly chide "the media" but personally pour their money into at least one of the nation's largest news media or social media companies, including Facebook, Twitter, Comcast, Disney, and the New York Times Co.Ocasio-Cortez pointed to other ways in which members could still invest without running into conflicts of interest, including thrift savings plans or index funds. Ocasio-Cortez has previously co-sponsored a bill to ban the practice, while several members of Congress have touted "blind trusts" as another avenue to avoid ethical quandaries.The New York lawmaker went on to tie congressional stock-trading to the issue of inadequate compensation for members of Congress, writing that they will vote against increasing pay for members and staffers alike in the name of "fiscal responsibility" only to "compensate by engaging in this highly questionable trading.""It incentivizes this bad behavior," she added.—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 18, 2021 While members of Congress aren't exactly strapped — both senators and House members make at least $174,000 per year — Ocasio-Cortez pointed out that the job comes with unique burdens as well."Many don't know it requires paying 2 rents," she wrote. She went on to say that members of congress are "trading stock to make up for" not being compensated enough to do the job without engaging in ethically dubious practices.—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 18, 2021That same logic also applies to high-level congressional staffers, who are often privy to the same sensitive, privileged information as their bosses. Earlier this year, Insider examined the issue of inadequate pay for congressional staffers, including how many are forced into taking second jobs to make up for it.All of this comes in the wake of Insider's own five-month "Conflicted Congress" investigation, which has found that dozens of members of congress have violated the insider-trading prevention law known as the "Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge" (STOCK) Act, which requires timely disclosure of these stock trades.Insider also found that at least 182 senior congressional staffers violated that law. And just this week, Insider identified 2 more Democrats in Congress who have failed to properly comply with the STOCK Act.'It cannot be a perk of the job' Speaker Pelosi at her weekly news conference on December 15.Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesPelosi made headlines on Wednesday after Insider asked her whether she would support banning members of Congress and their spouses from trading individual stock while serving in Congress."We are a free-market economy. They should be able to participate in that," she responded, rejecting the idea. She also said that she had not heard of Insider's investigation.Pelosi's husband, investor Paul Pelosi, frequently trades significant numbers of stocks. With her husband's assets considered, Pelosi ranks among the wealthiest members of Congress, an Insider analysis found."The speaker does not own any stocks," spokesman Drew Hamill told Insider on Wednesday. "As you can see from the required disclosures, with which the speaker fully cooperates, these transactions are marked 'SP' for spouse. The speaker has no prior knowledge or subsequent involvement in any transactions."In addition to Ocasio-Cortez, Pelosi's remarks caught the ire of several members of her own caucus. Rep. Andy Kim of New Jersey said that he "strongly" disagreed with the speaker, writing that "we need to show we serve the people, not our personal/political self-interest." Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia said that "it cannot be a perk of the job for Members to trade on access to information."Ocasio-Cortez's fellow "Squad" member, Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York, said that members holding stock "fuels corporate interests" in congress.—Jamaal Bowman (@JamaalBowmanNY) December 16, 2021 Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who has also introduced bills to ban stock-trading by members of Congress, told Insider on Tuesday that "the American people should never have to guess whether or not an elected official is advancing an issue or voting on a bill based on what's good for the country or what's good for their own personal financial interests." Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytDec 18th, 2021

2 German volunteers went to Ukraine to fight the Russians. Confusion, chaos, and then COVID-19, defeated them instead.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy called on foreign fighters to help defend against Russian attacks. Many weren't what the Ministry of Defense had in mind. Lukas and Tobias, two German volunteers, arrive in the western city of Lviv, just over a week after Russia's invasion of Ukraine began.Alan Chin for Insider To help defend against Russian attacks, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy called on foreign fighters.  Volunteers poured in, but many were perhaps not what the Ministry of Defense had in mind. On March 2, two German volunteers arrived in Lviv, ready to become war heroes. Chaos ensued. The two Germans burst into the hostel in Lviv, Ukraine, at 2 a.m., bumping into the door frame and shouting questions about where the beds were and how to find the bathroom. It was March 2, a week into Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and the hostel was mostly filled with shell-shocked women and children escaping war to the east. The Germans were starkly out of place. Marie and Etterem, the Ukrainian-Turkish couple who ran the place, had been sleeping on the kitchen floor down in the basement—now doubling as an air raid bunker—to leave more room for guests. They got up to prepare tea for the newcomers, giving the men a chance to explain themselves."We are volunteer soldiers for the International Legion of the Ukrainian military," Lukas, the younger of the two men, said. His companion, Tobias, twitched with excitement as he interrupted with, "We're here to fight the Russians."Marie and Etterem thanked the men for their bravery and headed back to bed. The Germans stepped out onto the balcony for a smoke, inviting me—a jet-lagged journalist who had been staying at the hostel since the war began—to join their late-night conversation. Sharply dressed in pristine blue-and-white tennis shoes, with a nose piercing and studded ears, Lukas, 33, had been living in Montenegro for the last six months while working at his father's IT company. He had come with a small backpack containing little that might come in handy for a soldier, and just enough money to pay for a few nights at a hostel.As he would tell me later, Lukas was bored with his tech job and was looking for something "real." Ukraine seemed as real as it could get. When he told his family and his girlfriend that he planned to join the International Legion, they tried to hide his passport. He slipped out in the middle of the night. "It was my decision and no one could stop me," Lukas said.Tobias—a decade older, at 44—was a luxury watchmaker by trade and spent weekends DJ-ing at techno clubs. Tall and lanky, with gauged earlobes and an uneven buzz cut, he carried only a small, overstuffed suitcase on two wheels, a well-worn black backpack, and a khaki shoulder bag that he seemed unwilling to part with. A simple black watch hung on his wrist. Tobias had been watching the news from his home in Fulda, outside Frankfurt, and was moved by a striking image of a Ukrainian girl carrying a Kaloshnikov in Kyiv. She looked to be around the same age as his daughter, Luna. "What if that were my Luna?" he remembers thinking. "How could I let her do this fight alone?"  Over the last year, Tobias had fallen out with his father and sister, lost ownership of the business he'd spent years building, and relapsed into binge drinking and drugs. He hadn't seen either of his two kids in more than six months. "My family is everything, and I don't have them anymore," he said. So, why not go to Ukraine, he figured."Were we supposed to just stand by and watch?" Tobias asked, digging into his pocket for his lighter. "We are from Germany," he said, halting his incessant fidgeting to emphasize his words and allude to his country's WWII history. "Not again."Neither man had any military experience or combat training, or even a connection to Ukraine. Lukas, smoking a joint, pulled his jacket more tightly around himself. He had brought rolling papers, but not a scarf or gloves. It was just 26 degrees that night in Lviv, and snowing.'Please come, we will give you weapons'On February 26—two days after the start of the Russian bombardment—Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy invited foreign nationals who considered themselves friends of Ukraine to join the fight, saying, "Please come. We will give you weapons."A day after that, Ukraine's Ministry of Defense provided more details: "Anyone who wants to join the defense of Ukraine, Europe, and the world can come and fight side by side with the Ukrainians against the Russian war criminals." Practically unprecedented in modern times, it brought to mind the call for anti-fascist volunteers to Spain in the 1930s, when over 60,000 volunteers from 50 countries (George Orwell among them) rushed to the Republicans' side in the Spanish civil war.These foreign fighters would be incorporated into the military under a voluntary contract with the same rights and responsibilities as the 100,000 or more Ukrainian militiamen already organized within 25 Territorial Defense Force brigades around the country.The International Legion added to Ukraine's 200,000-plus active-duty troops and 900,000 reservists—Europe's second largest military force, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Only Russia oversees a bigger military in the region, dwarfing the forces of its neighbors, with over 900,000 active-duty soldiers and two million reservists.Formed at breakneck speed, many of the recruits were perhaps not who the Ministry of Defense had hoped to attract or was prepared to train. And, although legislation already existed to recruit foreigners, the military infrastructure that is needed to prepare inexperienced volunteers for war was still developing.On March 2, Ukraine updated its guidelines, and specified that recruits must sign up at the nearest Ukrainian embassy, complete a background check, and pass a health screening before presenting for service. (By March 7, Ukraine said 20,000 foreign recruits from 52 countries had applied to join the International Legion. Some estimates suggest the number has grown to 40,000.)But by that time, Tobias and Lukas were already in Ukraine—heading to training in their sneakers and jeans. The Georgian LegionTobias and Lukas had met at the train station in Przemysl, a small town on the Polish-Ukrainian border, during the long wait for the next train to Lviv—40 miles to the east. Tobias had overheard Lukas chatting with another man in German and, happy to hear his mother tongue, introduced himself. Lukas had been telling people that he was heading to Ukraine as a humanitarian volunteer. But when Tobias mentioned that he already had a military contact inside Ukraine, Lukas came clean. Tobias (left) and Lukas at the train station in Lviv.Alan Chin for InsiderA few days earlier, back in Germany, Tobias had reached out to the Ukrainian embassy in Frankfurt and learned that Ukraine's borders were open for volunteer fighters from anywhere in the world. No visa was required, so travel wouldn't be a problem. Tobias went on Facebook in search of a contact for the International Legion. He discovered instead the Georgian Legion—a battalion of volunteer soldiers mostly from the ex-Soviet country, many of whom carried anger towards Russia from when President Putin attacked their country in 2008. Tobias was given an email address and instructed to reach out once he crossed into Ukraine. While Tobias might have thought he had nothing to lose, his family saw things differently. "It was like a rollercoaster," Tobias' daughter, Luna, told me when I reached her by phone. "Always waiting for messages to know if he was okay."Lukas had done even less research, jumping on a train without any plans, instructions, or contacts. Once in Ukraine, he figured, it wouldn't be difficult to connect with a recruiter for the Legion. And then, he met Tobias, who seemed to have all the information Lukas needed. The Germans decided to continue the journey together. On that first frigid night in Lviv, they arrived too late to meet their Georgian contact. Instead, they were told they should find a place to sleep, and a car would come for them the next morning to take them to the training center.  The hostel was the only place their taxi driver could find with two open beds in the packed city, which had become a transit hub for hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the bombardments of Kyiv, Kharkiv, and other cities.  Lukas (left) helps Tobias repack his bags as they prepare to meet their Georgian Legion escort at the hostel in Lviv, Ukraine.Katie Livingstone for InsiderThe next morning, after just a few hours of sleep, the Germans showered and repacked their bags. Lukas finished first and watched as Tobias struggled to stuff all his things into his two bags. After a while, Lukas gamely plopped onto Tobias' suitcase so that his companion could more easily zip it up.Sure enough, later that morning a dark blue skoda with two armed soldiers pulled up in front of the hostel. The car was unmarked, but the soldiers wore the telltale yellow armband meant to differentiate Ukrainian troops from Russian soldiers. Making their way to the car, the Germans promised me they would stay in touch. (Over the next three weeks, I would hear from them almost daily, and meet them for several more interviews. They asked that Insider use only their first names.)  Tobias and Lukas climbed into the back seat and off they sped to some unknown location to begin their service to Ukraine. 'Katastrophe'In a hushed phone call that first night, Tobias explained that he and Lukas had been taken to the Georgian Legion's barracks, just outside Lviv. The place was barren and disorganized. They had expected to receive gear and start training right away. Instead, they spent most of that day and night drinking and smoking with their new brothers-in-arms while trying to communicate in whatever lingua-franca passed for the moment. (Most of the soldiers were Georgian, and about a third were from other places.) "Katastrophe," Tobias repeated over and over again. "There's no organization, no organized training. Everyone just wants to kill the Russians." Lukas and Tobias depart the Lviv hostel for training with the Georgian Legion.Katie Livingstone for InsiderThe next morning, Tobias and Lukas were told the Georgians were evacuating the base after getting a report that Russians were heading their way. They should take a train to Kyiv, they were told.But the details were foggy. Still without any military gear, they told me they were instructed to pose as Red Cross volunteers and prepare reports on any suspicious activity that they observed en route. "They want us to spy on the people on the train," Tobias said. Once in the capital, they would meet up with another squadron at a safe-house. After that, they'd go to the front, they were told.When asked why the Legion would make such a request of two foreigners with no experience in the country who couldn't speak the local languages, Lukas said simply: "They asked, so we are going." Out of Lukas' earshot, Tobias offered another explanation. "The Georgian officer asked Lukas to stop smoking in the room twice last night. And he didn't want to. He's not thinking. Then, the officer asked us to go to Kyiv, and Lukas agreed. Katastrophe," Tobias lamented. He had agreed to accompany Lukas because he didn't want the younger man to go alone, he said.Fissures in the brotherhood were already becoming apparent.Meanwhile, since the war began, no Russian troops have been reported in Lviv by any media outlets. Instead, across Lviv, paranoia about Russian saboteurs was palpable. At the hostel where Tobias and Lukas stayed, Marie and Etterem said they received almost nightly calls from an intelligence officer asking if any of their guests seemed dubious. One night, prior to the Germans' arrival, police had burst into the small lodge and interrogated all of the male foreigners staying there, and then left without another word. Hundreds of check-points have gone up around greater Lviv and residents are told to call a hotline to report anything suspicious."I remember two crazy Germans," Mamuka Mamulashvili, the commander of the Georgian Legion, told me when I reached him over Skype. I showed him a picture of Tobias and Lukas, just to be sure, and Mamulashvili burst out laughing, explaining that he tries to personally interview every recruit. "That's them.""My officers told me there were these two guys trying to party in the barracks, and they had to go. They were gone the next day," Mamulashvili said. Mamulashvili said the Georgian Legion is a Special Forces battalion made up of combat-ready fighters, and that it has been repeatedly confused with Ukraine's newly-organized International Legion, which has training capacity for less experienced soldiers."I don't know anything about the 'spy story,' though," he added with a smirk, after I summarized what the Germans had told me.'Ukraine must know its heroes'Unlike the packed trains carrying mostly women and children toward the Polish border, the trains heading east had plenty of seats. Tobias and Lukas' trip to Kyiv was uneventful, even as their excitement grew. "We have gone past some blown-up buildings, and I think I saw an unexploded missile in a field," Tobias texted from the train."This isn't what I signed up for," Lukas admitted in an audio message, adding, "But we are ready." Tobias and Lukas arrived at Kyiv's central train station that evening, still wearing their civilian clothes. As instructed, they called their Georgian commander back in Lviv. The phone rang and rang. No one answered. Now at the war's doorstep, they had no plan and no idea where they would spend the night.By this point in the war—ten days after Kyiv was first hit—Russian missile assaults had driven over a million people to the west and into neighboring countries. That day, Russian troops had occupied the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia, stirring up decades-old fears of nuclear war. Incessant bombing had started in Mariupol, southeast from Kyiv—the start of one of the worst civilian disasters in Ukraine since the war began.Tobias on the train from Lviv to Kyiv, where he and Lukas hoped to finally reach the front line.TobiasBut Ukrainian forces had stalled the 40-mile-long line of Russian troops heading into the capital from Belarus, repelling forces from the capital through a stunningly successful combination of air defense tactics and street combat. Zelenkskyy continued to speak to the Ukrainian people from Kyiv's iconic city squares, proving to the world that the capital was still in Ukrainian hands. Still, shelling was heard nightly and many residents of the capital took refuge in the city's subway stations, which had been built during the Cold War to withstand a nuclear attack. Without a better idea, Tobias and Lukas began approaching uniformed soldiers to ask if they could join their squads. They eventually found two friendly Ukrainian reservists in fatigues and, with the help of a translation app on their phones, introduced themselves. The reservists said their squadron had not yet been mobilized. They invited the Germans back to their makeshift barracks, in the back of a storefront, to sleep for the night. "Only civilians are protecting the train station! There's a ring of Russians around Kyiv! We don't know how to get out!" Tobias exclaimed on the phone that night. I checked the news and, in fact, trains were still leaving daily to the east. With their Georgian commander still not picking up their calls, the Germans passed the hours drinking the reservists' alcohol and smoking the last of the marijuana Lukas had brought—bonding over their united mission against Russia. Tobias (second from left) and Lukas (right) hang out with the Ukrainian reservists they met at the Kyiv train station. The Ukrainians invited them to stay at their makeshift barracks.TobiasThe next morning, the reservists drove Tobias and Lukas around Kyiv to search for a new group to join, the Germans told me. But no one would have them. "They told us to leave because the war is lost and it is too dangerous," Tobias said later. (In fact, the steadfast resolve of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians alike has been well documented. Insider was unable to speak to the reservists by phone to confirm details of the visit.)Their best bet was to return to Lviv and try to reconnect with the International Legion there, Tobias and Lukas decided.  Back at Kyiv's train station, they found, for the first time, they were heading in the same direction as throngs of other people. Children still in their pajamas from hasty escapes, elderly people with blank stares and almost no luggage. When a Lviv-bound train pulled up at the platform, the scene was chaotic, as hundreds of people tried to push their way onto the already crowded train. The Germans noticed a shell-shocked woman standing nearby, who seemed unable to jostle her things onto the train. They sprung into action, securing the woman a seat on the next train out and, as her escorts, finding just enough space to squeeze themselves into the train's corridor. The woman, named Yulia, was 38 and had fled the besieged northeastern city of Kharkiv. She carried just one small suitcase and said she wasn't sure if her apartment had been bombed. She said she thought it had.  On the long ride west, Tobias and Lukas hatched a plan to escort Yulia to Germany. "It's too dangerous for a woman to travel on her own," Tobias told me later that night, with conviction and satisfaction in his voice. But the next morning, after another night spent in the bunk-beds of the Lviv hostel, they changed their minds about leaving Ukraine so quickly. They accompanied Yulia to the bus station, and waved as she headed towards Poland, where she had family waiting for her."I am very grateful to these guys who literally dragged me onto the train to Lviv," she later posted on Facebook. (She also confirmed the details of Tobias and Lukas' story to Insider.) "I can't tell you how I felt at that moment, only tears of joy and gratitude. Ukraine must know its heroes—Sláva Ukrayíni! (Glory to Ukraine!)"Reinvigorated by their brief visit to Kyiv, Tobias and Lukas finally gave up on the Georgians and decided to focus on the International Legion. But it still wasn't clear how they would do that. So, once again, they began approaching men in uniform.Soon, a friendly man in fatigues was leading them to a small building that had just been repurposed into a military post for the International Legion. Inside, they were led past the long line of Ukrainian men presenting for service with the Territorial Defense Forces, to the much shorter line reserved for foreigners.Tobias and Lukas were asked a few questions and then heard the words they had been waiting for: The International Legion of the Ukrainian armed forces would welcome them at its training center. The Yavoriv training center was located at a former NATO base, 15 miles from the Polish border. Tobias and Lukas would spend the night at a way-station in Novoyavorivsk, not far from the base. Finally, it seemed, Tobias and Lukas were on the right course.'Drive as fast as the rockets!'The first day at the Yavoriv training center of the International Legion was a blur of activity. There were recruits from the US, Canada, Israel, and several other countries. Taking pictures at the base was forbidden and the recruits were told to switch their phones to airplane mode to avoid detection.As Tobias and Lukas would later tell me, Ukrainian soldiers took their passport details and had them sign documents, which they said they couldn't understand because they were written in Ukrainian. No copies were provided. Every recruit was given pants with a digital camouflage pattern (too thin for the winter, they said), several button-down shirts, some undershirts and underwear (several sizes too big, they said), boots, and a duffle bag. They were offered a Kalashnikov, but no ammunition since foreign recruits were not allowed to carry loaded weapons on the base.Days on the base started every day at 6 a.m. with breakfast in the mess hall, followed by marches in formation and combat exercises. They were taught about Russian weaponry and field tactics via PowerPoint presentations. Recruits sat shoulder to shoulder in packed rooms, often without enough chairs.Tobias in uniform during training at Yavoriv.LukasTo verify what the men were telling me, I went to one of the International Legion's offices in Lviv and interviewed Col. Anton Myronovych, a public affairs officer for the Ukrainian military.He told me the contracts he's seen are translated into English—it's the same contract as Ukrainian volunteers for the Territorial Defense Forces—and trainees receive copies of everything they sign. Foreign fighters are also entitled to the same pay and benefits as Ukrainians. "There's no difference between Ukrainians and foreigners in this situation," he said. Col. Myronovych said that troops in the International Legion are initially trained in separate groups according to their skill level, and later put into squadrons with skilled soldiers. When international battalions are sent to the front, he said, they are paired with Ukrainian battalions already on the battlefield to face the enemy as a united force. At Yavoriv, Lukas had grown tight-lipped. He said he couldn't talk while on the base. But Tobias was in high spirits. "They're crazy happy I have a license to drive trucks," Tobias said in a WhatsApp message after the first day of training. He imagined they might assign him to transport goods to the front since there were so few available drivers. "But this is also very dangerous," he said. "So I'll have to drive as fast as the rockets!"'Someone watching your back'One of the first people Tobias and Lukas met in Novoyavorivsk was Kevin, a sturdy, 58-year-old Irishman with bright white hair. Unlike most of the other recruits, Kevin had arrived in Ukraine with a bullet-proof vest and a helmet, and seemed well versed in modern weaponry and tactics. As a young man, he had served in the Irish special forces, and had later worked as a security contractor in some of the world's hotspots. (Kevin would later show me dog-eared pictures of from his military days, which he'd brought with him to Ukraine.) With high blood pressure and persistent pain from, he said, a crushed vertebra from a parachuting accident years ago, he was no longer in top form, but he thought he could still be useful in a fight.Like the Germans, Kevin had hoped to join a small squadron and get out to the front line as soon as possible. "When you see the suffering, the killing of women and children and the elderly, it's pretty hard to just sit back and watch it happen," Kevin told me later. Kevin displays two photographs from his younger days as a soldier.Katie Livingstone for InsiderWhen Kevin contacted the Ukrainian embassy in Ireland, they only insisted on recruits having some military experience, according to an email reviewed by Insider. After Kevin crossed the border, he found a military representative, who directed him to the training center at Yavoriv. In Tobias and Lukas, Kevin saw men with "good hearts." "We all agreed that we would help and look out for each other," Kevin told me when I first interviewed him. "In situations like this, it is essential to have someone watching your back and vice versa." Meanwhile, three other recruits had also joined the Germans' unofficial crew. There was William, a moody, 25-year-old Frenchman, who cited his hundreds of hours playing Call of Duty when asked about his military experience; Misha, 42 and Czech, who admitted he didn't know how to handle a gun but said he could survive off the land for months at a time if needed; and Erik, a 20-year-old medic from Germany, had brought along a well-stocked first aid kit and flak jacket from his time training (but not fighting) with the military back home.'I came to fight for Ukraine, not to die for Ukraine'Within about three days, doubt once again had set in. There wasn't any time for questions, or enough equipment for hands-on practice. Many of the recruits weren't taking the training seriously, and were smoking cigarettes during drills. Then, there was the constant clamor of air raid sirens—day and night—and the furious rush to take cover in case they signaled a true threat. And all over the base, the men noticed that fellow recruits were getting sick. On around the third day of training, Tobias started feeling unwell. A high fever kept him up at night. Kevin wouldn't admit it, but others noticed something wrong in him, too. William fainted twice during their morning exercises. The three men started skipping training to rest—which was fine, since no one required them to attend. There was no COVID-19 testing available on the base, but all three suspected they'd come down with the virus. With a hint of hyperbole, the men said that half of the recruits appeared to be sick, and some were giving up on training entirely and leaving the camp. (Col. Myronovych denied any large-scale Covid outbreak, or shortage of medical care.) "I am wondering if I made the right decision to come," Tobias wrote in a WhatsApp message.  "But it is too late to turn back now." At around the same time, Neumann, a German field medic who was helping to lead some of their drills, started showing signs of mounting stress, the men said. He had begun shouting during their lessons, they said, losing his patience more often with both the recruits and the Ukrainian officers. That afternoon, Neumann pulled Tobias, Kevin and a few others aside. He whispered urgently that he had overheard some of the Ukrainian officers talking. Behind their backs, officers were referring to recruits like them—those without combat training but with a will to fight—as "cannon fodder" and "mine meat." They'd be used to open up the battlefield and test their enemy's capabilities before risking more valuable, better-trained troops, he said. With tears streaming down his face, he urged the men to leave. Insider was unable to reach Neumann, and the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine did not respond to requests for comments on these accusations. When I asked Col. Myronovych about this, he said he didn't recognize the name Neumann, and denied that such an attitude existed.Foreign recruits have access to the same training resources and safety measures as Ukrainian members of the Territorial Defense Forces, Col. Myronovych said, adding that the Legion was doing the best they could to quickly and effectively train these rookie troops alongside veteran soldiers. "They cannot only fight and die in the first day. They have to survive. They have to stay safe. It's one of our goals—they have to come back alive." Back at Yavoriv, Neumann's warning terrified Tobias, Lukas, and the others. Erik's tactical first aid vest, which he brought with him from Germany.Used with permission"I came to fight for Ukraine, not to die for Ukraine," Erik told me later. "Being in these legions is like holding a loaded gun to your head and pulling the trigger." The six men decided it was time to leave, and went to their commanding officer to report their decision. After that, things moved quickly. They were immediately separated from the other troops, and forbidden from reentering the barracks or other communal areas unaccompanied. They were ushered back into the registration area to sign more forms and then into the storerooms to return their gear. Within a couple hours of their announcement, they were waiting for a taxi back to Novoyavorivsk, hoping to make it back to Lviv before the 10 p.m. curfew. Thanks to a last-minute cancellation on Booking.com, they ended up lucking out and finding an apartment in downtown Lviv that could house all six of them for the next week. It only had 2 double beds, but seemed warm and safe. At around midnight, the six soldiers arrived at the apartment, and promptly fell asleep on couches, floors, and beds. Close callThe next morning, at about 5:50 am — as the six men slept in their rented apartment in Lviv — 30 high-precision missiles hit the Yavoriv training center.Initial estimates said that 35 people had been killed and another 134 were wounded, making it one of the most devastating attacks on a military facility since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began. A Russian spokesman later said that the strike had targeted "foreign mercenaries" and a large shipment of weapons from the west. The six men, safe in Lviv, only learned of the bombing when they awoke hours later. They had slept through the sirens that had blared across the region to announce the danger. Groggy and still incredulous from the many false alarms they had endured in the last week, they pulled up shaky videos of the base on social media. They saw smoke rising from courtyards they recognized, strewn with debris, and heard victims crying for help in the background. They tried calling a few of the fellow trainees, who's numbers they'd collected. For hours, no one picked up. It seemed that the horrible reality of war had finally started to sink in, and they didn't yet seem to have the words to describe the mix of relief and guilt they were feeling at having narrowly escaped the carnage."If I was there, I could have at least tied a tourniquet," Erik said later. The men spent the rest of the day arguing about what to do next. The three youngest – Lukas, William, and Erik – talked about going to the front to join the unofficial squadrons they'd heard about. But at this point, Tobias and Kevin had been paying everyone's way, and they announced they were tired of it. The next day, Kevin told Lukas, William, and Erik they had to go. "Wake up. This isn't a game and we're not your parents," Kevin told them as his parting words, handing them bus money and a spare iPhone since Erik's had disappeared at the base.  From left to right, Kevin, William, and Eric at the apartment in Lviv.Katie Livingstone for InsiderEleven days after arriving in Ukraine with Tobias, Lukas left without saying goodbye. He was out of the war zone by later that afternoon. "I am dead," Lukas told me later over WhatsApp.Back in Montenegro, Lukas vowed to return to Ukraine soon, better prepared, to finish his mission. Maybe he hadn't understood how easily it would be to die in a war that had already claimed thousands of Ukrainian and Russian lives. William ultimately stayed in Ukraine for a few more weeks to volunteer with the Cross of Malta, and has since returned to his IT job in France. Erik is gone too. Back home, he told me he was having nightmares about the people he didn't help. Misha was the next to left Ukraine. Only Tobias and Kevin remained.They had come to "kill some Russians," as they often said, and still weren't ready to give up on that. They went to the train station to volunteer, but were turned away because, they were told, each group already had enough help. Tobias thought about trying to link up with the reservists in Kyiv, who had been mobilized since their first meeting. In truth, Tobias was too sick to do much of anything. On top of the fever, headaches and racing hearts, Kevin had also run out of his blood pressure medicine, and Tobias was out of the pills he took to manage his anxiety.On Wednesday, March 16, both men tested positive for COVID-19.Tobias' positive COVID-19 test.Tobias On Friday, Tobias sat outside their apartment under the glare of a full moon, whispering because it was after curfew and he didn't want the neighbors to call the police. "I don't want my kids to grow up without a father," he said emotionally, finally realizing he didn't want to die in this war."I am too sick to fight. I am useless, I must go home," Tobias said. He left Ukraine on March 21.A week later, while trying out tricks on a bike he had bought for his son, Tobias fell—breaking his shoulder. He sent me a picture, displaying his wounded body. "Unbelievable," Tobias texted. "Back from Ukraine and totally injured in Germany." Kevin made the same concession and returned to Ireland—though he, like Lukas, plans to return to Ukraine soon. Less than three weeks after valiantly trekking across Europe to join a fight more visceral and complicated than any of them had imagined, Tobias, Lukas, and the others had returned home without ever meeting a Russian soldier. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderApr 29th, 2022

STOCK Act at 10: Members of Congress reflect on what worked — and what needs fixing

Congress is actively debating whether to overhaul the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012. A congressional hearing is scheduled for April 7. President Barack Obama signed the STOCK Act in 2012 to increase transparency of lawmakers' trades. But the enforcement system is a mess.AP/Charles Dharapak President Barack Obama signed the STOCK Act into law a decade ago. It was intended to increase transparency and curb personal financial conflicts of interest. But news investigations, including by Insider, reveal the law often fails to live up to its promise. President Barack Obama signed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act into law 10 years ago today, in a ceremony that marked a rare moment of bipartisanship during a midterm election year. "It shows that when an idea is right that we can still accomplish something on behalf of the American people and to make our government and our country stronger," Obama said before taking up his presidential pen. The law created new financial disclosure requirements and enforcement rules for members of Congress, their immediate families, and staff who decide to trade stocks. It clarified that insider trading was illegal on Capitol Hill. It defined how members of Congress could personally invest their money — and could not. But in the months since Insider published "Conflicted Congress," an investigation into the personal finances of federal lawmakers, Congress is considering whether the STOCK Act went far enough.While current law allows members of Congress to trade individual stocks, Insider's "Conflicted Congress" investigation found that more than 1 in 10 lawmakers have recently violated the STOCK Act's disclosure provisions, which requires members of Congress to publicly report their trades shortly after making them.The Insider investigation also exposed numerous conflicts of interest and instances where members of Congress' financial investments ran afoul of their policy positions.For instance, members who hold stock in defense contractors also work on committees that have jurisdiction over military policy. Others who craft anti-tobacco policy have invested in tobacco giants. In the weeks immediately before and after the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the nation in March 2020, dozens of lawmakers bought or sold stock in companies that manufacture COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, tests, and personal protective equipment.A House panel is set to conduct a public hearing Thursday to explore the issue of congressional stock trading, including a possible ban on the practice. And Senate Democrats have been meeting on the issue.Meanwhile, to mark the anniversary of the law's passage, current and former members of Congress, all of whom pushed for or voted on the original bill, told Insider how they thought the law lived up to its promises — but also how it could be improved. Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, independent of ConnecticutJoe Lieberman, a former Independent senator of Connecticut, praised Insider's reporting for bringing new attention to the law's shortcomings.Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP PhotoLieberman pushed hard for passage of the STOCK Act. At a press conference months before it passed, in 2012, he said the bill he sponsored was "an attempt to take a step, a significant step, to rebuild the lost trust that the American people feel today in members of Congress."Lieberman, who was Al Gore's running mate for the 2000 presidential election, told Insider that at the time he was motivated by a "60 Minutes" investigation "that raised serious questions about whether members of Congress were benefiting in personal stock trading from non-public information they had access to because they were in Congress." "Now 10 years later, Insider has done extensive investigative work that indicates that the Stock Act is being violated too often by members of Congress," he continued, though a statement provided by the law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres where he works as a lobbyist.He said that today, new legislation is needed. "In the interest of protecting the already diminished credibility of Congress and upholding the personal honor of members of Congress, I appeal to my former colleagues to fix this real and corrosive problem as soon as possible," Lieberman said. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Republican of AlaskaRepublican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is the only remaining Republican senator that voted to ban members of Congress from trading stocks in 2012.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty ImagesRepublican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is best known for being an unconventional member of her party.She's co-sponsored Democratic-led voting rights bills, voted against her own party's Supreme Court nominees, and helped tank the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act — a priority her party had run on for nearly a decade by then — in 2017.But she also stands out in another way — she's the only incumbent Republican senator that has actually cast a vote to ban members of Congress from trading stocks.In 2012, she was one of just 26 senators that voted for an amendment — it did not pass — that aimed to ban lawmakers from holding individual stocks altogether.Four other Republican senators who are no longer in office — Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Dean Heller of Nevada, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, and Olympia Snowe of Maine — also supported the measure.Murkowski herself holds some individual stock — she reported owning between $100,000 and $250,000 in Wells Fargo — and earned a "Borderline" rating from Insider's Conflicted Congress project in part for filing two amendments to her personal financial disclosures due to errors.When asked by Insider what she thought of the STOCK Act's performance over time, she demurred."You're kind of catching me off guard," Murkowski said as she walked to vote in the US Capitol. "I really, in earnest, have not thought about the STOCK Act and in quite some time, and whether or not it is doing the job that we need it to do."Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New YorkSen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat of New York, co-sponsored the STOCK Act in the Senate a decade ago and has sponsored several other measures to make it stronger.Paul Morigi/Getty ImagesGillibrand pushed for passage of the STOCK Act a decade ago, and today, she said, its disclosure rules had created "oversight and accountability through transparency." "That disclosure alone put a number of members of Congress into the spotlight where they could then be held accountable by regulators, by voters, and by their own ethics committees," she told Insider in an interview.  "Sunlight is always the best disinfectant," she added, "and it brought to light where members of Congress really are. Some members of Congress resigned, some members of Congress lost committee membership, some members lost their next election — and I think that is real accountability."  But Gillibrand said she thinks the work on the issue is far from done.In February, she re-introduced the STOCK Act 2.0, which would make the disclosure database easier to use and search. It would also mandate that members of Congress report when they apply for, or receive, a benefit from the government. She supports banning all stock ownership while serving in Congress, and co-sponsored the Ban Congressional Stock Trading Act and the Ban Conflicted Trading Act. She also wants more financial regulations on the executive and judicial branches, and said that creating higher fines or increasing ethics training wasn't sufficient in addressing the problems with current law.  "People are still creating an appearance of impropriety," she said. Four bills are currently being considered among Senate Democrats. Together, they'll decide which measure to push for this year, she said.  She also said it was "pretty shocking" to learn through Insider's reporting "how careless members of Congress were in actually doing their disclosure, whether it was by mistake or intentional."It made her think, as she said, "Maybe Congress isn't serious enough and they just need it to be banned." Rep. Vicky Hartzler, Republican of MissouriRepublican Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri has co-sponsored a bill with Sen. Josh Hawley, another Republican from Missouri, to ban members of Congress and their spouses from trading stocks.Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty imagesWhile it's been mostly Democrats leading the charge to ban members of Congress from trading stocks, Hartzler — a Republican — is just as vocal about her belief that it's time for lawmakers to lose the ability to trade entirely.The STOCK Act "put members of Congress on notice to make sure that there's not a conflict of interest," she told Insider at the Capitol.But in the years that followed its passage, "we've seen that it clearly hasn't worked," said Hartzler, citing Insider's own reporting that 59 members of Congress and nearly 200 senior congressional staffers have violated the law. "There really isn't a strong enough penalty, to really be a strong deterrent," she added.Hartzler introduced the House version of a stock trading ban put forward by Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri in January. The Missouri congresswoman, who's running to replace retiring Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, later earned Hawley's endorsement in the hotly-contested Senate race in February."I didn't think that there was a large problem with people using their information for personal gain, but I just thought it would be a good safeguard," she said of the STOCK ACt. "Now we're seeing individuals not complying with the transparency requirements, and so I think the next step is necessary: just to ban it completely while they're in office."She also took the opportunity to ding House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose husband has frequently made eyebrow-raising trades."What Nancy Pelosi and her husband have done has raised a lot of question marks," she said, noting Paul Pelosi's frequent investments in tech stocks. "Nancy Pelosi is overseeing a lot of legislation that would rein in Big Tech, and it just seems like a conflict of interest."Rep. Pete Sessions, Republican of TexasRep. Pete Sessions, a Republican of Texas, speaks with reporters as he leaves the House Republican Conference meeting in the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.Bill Clark/CQ Roll CallSessions has been open about opposing a congressional stock trade ban. The 11-term congressman has violated the STOCK Act twice in the last two years by failing to report his trades on time. When asked about it in January on MSNBC's "Stephanie Ruhle Reports," he said the push for a ban from his colleagues was part of a "populist move" in Congress."I think we have enough rules and regulations," he said. He told Insider that Congress should instead push for transparency and accountability."Listen, if your eggs are fresh, then open them up," he said in a statement sent through his office. "Said another way, if you have nothing to hide, then transparency is your friend. I am for Congress deliberating and developing more mechanisms that will uphold integrity and instill confidence in the minds of Americans."He also stressed to Insider that he thought during a midterm year voters were more concerned about economic issues, including inflation, supply chain problems, gas prices, crime, and immigration. "Just over a year with President Biden and the Democratic Party at the helm, we have seen chaos and crisis," he said. "They own these issues and deserve all the credit."  Polling shows voters favor a congressional stock trade ban, and many campaigns are weaponizing the issue during the election season. Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of MarylandHouse Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat of Maryland, said he was waiting on the Committee on House Administration to release its findings.Alex Wong/Getty ImagesTo Hoyer, there is one clear example of a member of Congress being held accountable for clear violation of insider trading law, even if that law wasn't the STOCK Act.While Hoyer didn't cite the congressman by name when Insider asked, it was clear from his context that he was talking about Rep. Chris Collins, a Republican of New York, who was convicted of insider trading related to his illegal activity as a corporate board director."In that instance, obviously, we have accountability," Hoyer said. (Collins did go to federal prison but was pardoned by former President Donald Trump.)But Hoyer also said he didn't have enough information to take a stance yet on how the STOCK Act might become stronger. He noted that the Committee on House Administration was holding a hearing April 7 about the issue. In January, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked the chair of the committee, Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, to look into how well members were abiding by the disclosure provisions in the STOCK Act and whether penalties should be tighter. Peter Whippy, the spokeswoman for the committee, told Insider that the April 7 hearing was part of that review. "I expect them to have recommendations in the not-too-distant future," Hoyer said. "There is a lot of interest in this, clearly nobody wants to have members of Congress using information they get as members of Congress — which may not be available to others — to profit. "Whether that precludes, therefore, any ownership of stocks, whether they are traded or not, I think the committee is looking at that question and looking at others," he continued. "But I don't have the substance of their work yet. We are working on it."  Former Rep. Brian Baird, Democrat of WashingtonBrian Baird, a former Democratic congressman who represented Washington state, credited the STOCK Act for helping Democrats secure a majority in the Senate.Mark F. Sypher/Roll Call/Getty Images"STOCK's my baby," Baird told Insider in a phone interview.Therefore, even though he left Congress in 2011, Baird has closely followed its progress. "People don't realize it," he said, "But the STOCK Act is why the Democrats have the Senate right now."Baird was referring to the Senate runoffs in Georgia in 2020, where Democratic victories there resulted in the party controlling the Senate.Democratic Sens. Jon Ossoff and Rafael Warnock won their seats after they repeatedly skewered their Republican opponents, then-Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, over their personal stock portfolios. Financial disclosures showed Loeffler and Perdue dumped millions of dollars in stocks after receiving private briefings about the coronavirus pandemic. None of those traders would have come to light if it weren't for the reporting requirement in the STOCK Act, Baird said.Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican of North Carolina who will be retiring when his term ends in 2022, also stepped down from his perch at the top of the Intelligence Committee but the Department of Justice didn't charge him with wrongdoing after he, too, dumped his stocks.  "I dont know of any other ethics measure in recent memory that has led to the defeat of two US senators and the removal of the Intelligence Committee chair," Baird said. "That's a pretty significant impact. That led to the control of the US senate." Today, Baird said he's still angry that lawmakers — led by former GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor — quietly went back in 2013 and weakened the STOCK Act so that the disclosures were more difficult to search.Now, he said, it's time for the law to be strengthened. Some people should face jail time if they willfully pass the reporting deadline, he said, and congressional stock trading should be banned from the time politicians announce their candidacies until six months after they leave office. "The people who have tried to defend this on policy grounds have been tone deaf to the politics of this," he said. "The American people think this stinks – and they're right."Rep. Bob Gibbs, Republican of OhioRepublican Rep. Bob Gibbs of Ohio does not believe members of Congress should be banned from trading stocks, but he thinks they should have to report all trades within 24 hours.Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty ImagesThose who oppose the movement to ban congressional stock trading have mostly stayed silent, with a handful of notable exceptions.But not Bob Gibbs."I only do maybe 12 trades a year," he told Insider at the Capitol, adding that banning stock trading "causes lots of problems."He argued that banning the practice would discourage potential candidates from running for office. He also pointed out that setting up qualified blind trusts — a financial vehicle Congress itself considers the best way for lawmakers to avoid conflicts of interest — can be an expensive process."In my case, I would have to resign, because I couldn't afford to do a blind trust," he said.Gibbs has introduced the Transparency in Government Officials Trading Act, which would require members of Congress to disclose their trades within just 24 hours of making them — the current disclosure window is 30- to 45-days, depending on the trade —  and fine them for the value of the trade if they fail to do so.The bill has 4 Republican cosponsors."So if you buy $20,000 worth of stock, your penalty is $20,000," said Gibbs. "There's no reason why you can't report it in 24 hours. I mean, I pretty much do it all the time anyways."Gibbs emphasized that he believes sunlight to be the best disinfectant, and claimed that rank and file members don't really have access to privileged information."I guess maybe I'm not on the right committees or something, because I literally can't think of an example where I had insider information," he said. "With leadership, you could make that argument because the speaker controls the agenda, controls what comes to the floor."Sen. Sherrod Brown, Democrat of OhioDemocratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio tried to ban all members of Congress from trading stocks in 2012. He may soon get another chance.Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty ImagesInsider caught up with Brown at the Capitol just as he was leaving a meeting with Schumer and several other Senate Democrats on hammering out a common proposal on banning stock trades.Asked about the STOCK Act as it currently stands, Brown indicated that he wasn't that impressed with it. After all, he put forward an amendment to ban lawmakers from stock trading entirely in 2012."Well, it's a little more disclosure," he said of the existing STOCK Act. "But the benefits didn't stop David Perdue from being a full time day trader in the Senate."Brown added: "Let's just say it diffused some public anger, but subsequently, it really wasn't very impressive."The New York Times reported in 2020 that Perdue — who ultimately lost his re-election to Ossoff — made nearly 3,000 individual stock trades during his first term in office, including nearly 20 in a single day. Perdue's successor, Ossoff, is now a leader in the movement to ban stock trading for lawmakers entirely.Brown was relatively tight-lipped when Insider asked how present talks on banning stock trading were going."I don't have much comment about that," he said. "It's internal, inner machinations and you can make anything of it."Brown did offer that Democratic senators were "getting closer" to a common proposal."That's why you have talks, right?" he said.Sen. Jeff Merkley, Democrat of OregonSen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon is working to get all of his fellow Democratic senators behind a single bill that would ban members of Congress from trading stocks.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty ImagesJeff Merkley is the author of the Ban Conflicted Trading Act, among the most co-sponsored bills to ban members of Congress from trading stocks.Asked about the impact of the 2012 law during a phone interview, Merkley praised Gillibrand for helping to clarify that members of Congress are subject to insider trading prohibitions and for creating the reporting requirements that have allowed the public to scrutinize trades.He then noted his and Brown's amendment from a decade ago to ban lawmakers from holding individual stocks."Sherrod Brown and I put forward an amendment to say it's not enough; insider trading is very hard to demonstrate," Merkley said. "Senators shouldn't be holding individual stocks at all."But the Senate defeated that amendment, with 26 in favor and 73 against."We've been reintroducing the bill through the last three legislative cycles, and with each scandal it gets a little more attention," Merkley said.He also offered further details of the progress of ongoing talks between several Democratic senators aimed at finding a common stock trading ban proposal that transcends the differences between the myriad different stock trading ban proposals that have come forward."I've had my staff bring together what we've called the Unity Team," Merkley said. "Let's have a bill we can all sign on to and really try to get this on the floor and get it passed.""There's some complicated pieces we're still trying to understand the details of," he said, adding that members are still discussing the timing of the implementation of a ban, as well as whether that ban should apply to lawmakers' spouses.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytApr 4th, 2022

China"s Belt-And-Road Comes To America"s Heartland, Part 2: This Is Not The End

China's Belt-And-Road Comes To America's Heartland, Part 2: This Is Not The End Authored by Fortis Analysis via Human Terrain, Earlier this year, Fortis Analysis released details on the proposal by Fufeng Group, a CCP-connected company, to build a wet corn mill and amino acid production facility in Grand Forks, ND. In conducting further research, interviewing local residents, and working with recognized experts in national security and United States trade law, it is more and more clear that the Grand Forks city council and mayor Brandon Bochenski are both economically and constitutionally illiterate. Pictured: Fufeng USA Chief Operating Officer Eric Chutorash, speaking to Grand Forks City Council A single line of inquiry into this project is impossible, so we will work to highlight a range of domains where this project falls short of both good sense and the law of the land. To that end, let’s first explore the FAQ on this project released by the Grand Forks Regional Economic Development Council. There are numerous claims so easily rebutted that making them is either knowingly spreading false information, or an inexcusable lack of attention (or ability) to performing due diligence. A selection: CLAIM: ”Fufeng USA is a global leading bio-fermentation company manufacturing products that serve fast-growing animal nutrition. Their headquarters is in Chicago, Ill. Fufeng USA has chosen to invest in Grand Forks to establish a wet corn mill processing plant in the United States.” FACT: Fufeng USA Incorporated was established in the United States at the address of a private residence in Wheaton, IL. As of this writing, Fufeng USA Incorporated imports to the United States using the same Wheaton location as its official consignee address registered with US Customs and Border Protection. Another Fufeng USA corporate address noted on the Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce website (under the “Manufacturers” section) is located inside a multi-tenant office building in Oak Brook, IL. This entity is wholly-owned by Fufeng USA Holdings Limited, which is domiciled in Hong Kong, and is itself wholly-owned by Trans-Asia Capital Resources Ltd., also domiciled in Hong Kong. Trans-Asia Capital Resources Ltd. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fufeng Group, which has its principal place of business in Junan in the Shandong Province of China. It is beyond a stretch to say that Fufeng USA is anything more than a shell company to facilitate Fufeng Group’s ability to do business in the United States. This information comes directly from Fufeng Group’s annual report for 2020, published in 2021. CLAIM: “The North Dakota Trade Office has done a search for illegal import/export activity for Fufeng USA and its principles. No red flags or areas of concern were found. NDTO resources include access to 30 federal databases. Fufeng USA has been operating in the United States since 2020. Also, First Biotech, Inc., a Fufeng USA subsidiary, has been doing business in the US for over 10 years. Both have filed federal taxes in the US and have established international banking accounts with large financial institutions that have significant federal oversight. The company will be subject to all the same US laws, regulations, and oversight and any US company. Fufeng USA Group is publicly traded on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The US Securities and Exchange Commission has a supervisory oversight relationship with the Exchange. Fufeng USA Group has many US and European institutional investors including TreeTop Management, Vanguard, Fidelity, Mellon, and Blackrock, all heavily regulated.” FACT: This is, quite simply, a word salad intended to obscure the real issue at stake here - the absence of correct and proper due diligence. The United States has multiple layers of regulatory oversight beyond basic financial oversight, few if any of which have been notified by GFREDC, the city, or Fufeng, let alone conducted formal inquiries. One other point that must be noted is that “Fufeng USA Group” is not a real entity, nor is any Fufeng USA entity “publicly traded on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange”. The publicly-traded entity is the ultimate parent company, Fufeng Group Limited. More detailed explorations of these points follow further in this analysis. In short, the absurd and incorrect statement that a cursory review of trade databases and some correctly-filed taxes is sufficient proof of Fufeng’s safety to national security should embarrass all involved in this process. CLAIM: “The development of the Fufeng USA plant will create a local market for corn and improve pricing. Regional farmers will have the option to sell to elevators or Fufeng USA. The North Dakota Corn Growers Association, a farmer led membership organization focused on policy that impacts North Dakota corn producers, were pleased with the announcement that Fufeng USA will establish a wet corn mill in Grand Forks. They issued a press release indicating the project will have tremendous value to regional farmers.” FACT: The claim made elsewhere by the city about the economic impact to farmers betrays a startling ignorance about the mechanisms of grain production and sales. The estimate of $.20 to $.40 per bushel of corn in premium versus current market conditions was not derived from careful analysis conducted by third-party experts. When pressed on the matter by Shaun Beauclair, himself a farmer and former board member of a regional corn processing facility, the GFREDC admitted that the premium assumption was given by a single farmer. In a February interview with AgWeek about the Fufeng project, Dr. Frayne Olson of North Dakota State University said that he believes the $.40 per bushel claim is only realistic for the first year or two to incentivize sales to the corn mill. Once the market settles back in future years, the realistic premium is closer to $.10 to $.20 per bushel. In practice, the grain elevators in the area who do not have direct interest in a value-added market for their purchased corn will quickly be faced with the choice of becoming a de facto origination and storage facility for Fufeng, or closing their doors. As one can see from this selection of “facts”, the Grand Forks Regional Economic Development Council has not done its best work to provide complete or accurate information to its stakeholders. Now, if this was the only vector of misinformation and all others involved were honest brokers, one might understand how an economic development group would choose to shade the truth a bit in order to bring a splashy, high-revenue project to town. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Multiple other individuals in positions of city leadership have also willingly promoted dishonest talking points, or chosen unscrupulous partners for the city, all in the interest of pushing the project forward. Let’s examine a few of these. Fufeng Group Has No Financial Connection to the Chinese Government On November 17, 2021, in a publicly-posted comment on his official Facebook account, Grand Forks mayor Brandon Bochenski stated that: “…the company is an American subsidiary of a publicly traded company that has zero govt. ownership. They are investing in an American facility built by American contractors, using American corn stock to produce products sold in America and manufactured by American workers. The company is more American than Apple, Nike and Amazon quite frankly in the global economy of today.” Members of the city council have used similar talking points in publicly-available council discussions. Now, this particular formulation of the zero-affiliation claim is intended to reassure listeners that as Fufeng Group Limited is a publicly-traded company on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (a subsidiary of HKEx, or Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing), it is not reasonable to believe that the firm or any of its subsidiaries would choose (or be forced) to act in any way outside the direct fiduciary interests of its global shareholders. A complete overview of the complicated (and compromised) relationship between the HKEx and the Chinese Communist Party is beyond the scope of this piece, but for now, the following data will more than suffice to rebut this talking point. HKEx’s largest single shareholder is the Hong Kong Government, which also has the right to appoint six of thirteen directors to HKEx’s board. This matters for a number of reasons, but perhaps the most important is the Hong Kong national security law unanimously passed by China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on 30 June 2020 in the wake of widespread pro-democracy protests throughout Hong Kong. Among the various deeply anti-democratic provisions of the law are the requirement that companies listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange act in accordance with the security directives of a secret body called the Committee for Safeguarding National Security. This entity has the ability to at any time investigate, indict, prosecute, or ruin any non-compliant company who has any business interest in Hong Kong - and extend these enforcement protocols anywhere in the world in violation of sovereign law and international norms. It is impossible to believe that HKEx will push back in any way if the Chinese Communist Party directs Fufeng Group to perform certain actions or disclose confidential business, community, or employee information in any of its subsidiaries - including Fufeng USA Incorporated. In simplified form, if the secret national security entity in mainland China or Hong Kong creates any pretext whatsoever, it will be able to force Fufeng USA to reveal all personal details of any employee, contractor, or even guests of the corn mill, regardless of the laws of the United States. This is an extremely important detail that as of yet, has not been properly addressed by Fufeng or city officials. Moreover, it is not even accurate to say that Fufeng Group does not have a financial connection to the Chinese government. In the same annual report referenced earlier, Fufeng Group Limited lists an interesting disclosure: a 30% ownership stake in Jilin COFCO Biomaterial Co Ltd. This joint venture between Fufeng Group and China Oil and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO) is notable because COFCO is the largest agribusiness in China, and is a 100% state-owned enterprise under the management of the hyperpowerful State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC). Note that SASAC manages numerous entities that are currently sanctioned by the United States for espionage activities, use of forced labor in Xinjiang and elsewhere, and violation of international treaties or laws. Though COFCO has as yet not been similarly sanctioned, it is important to note that its sister companies under SASAC were penalized for carrying out the will of the Chinese Communist Party, and that COFCO can at any time be similarly leveraged by the CCP to perform illegal activities against the United States. As with numerous other claims made by the North Dakota Trade Office, Mayor Bochenski, GFREDC, and the Grand Forks city council, one cannot help but wonder how much due diligence has actually been put into this project. The City Is Taking All Appropriate Steps to Examine the Impact on U.S. National Security Interests This omnibus talking point, used repeatedly by city officials, is also completely inaccurate. There are numerous checks and balances that exist at the federal level concerning real estate acquisitions and foreign investments into the U.S. economy. The most well-known of these, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), is a multi-agency group under the Executive Branch that has the mandate of reviewing transactions by foreign entities into companies or technologies designated as “critical” to national security, and/or real estate transactions located within 100 miles of designated military installations. An examination of the facts shows that the Fufeng project may fall into the category of a “covered real estate transaction”, which means CFIUS expects voluntary disclosure of the project’s details. The risk is that if stakeholders do not disclose and CFIUS chooses to open an inquiry at some point, then an adverse finding from CFIUS will result in significant penalties for all involved, up to and including the forced sale of the property and assets to an approved third party. That the city and county have been courting Fufeng Group since mid-2020 and as of yet have not sought out independent legal review for compliance with FIRRMA (the law governing CFIUS’ activities), or submitted for a free voluntary review with CFIUS since the public reveal of this project in November 2021, does not argue well for the city council’s competence or motives in continuing to ignore public outcry and push the process forward at a breakneck pace. Another talking point used by the city and GFREDC is that the county and city’s “base retention” consultant, retired USAF General David Deptula, has reviewed the proposal and discussed it with the leadership at Grand Forks Air Force Base. The claim is that no one has issued an objection to the Fufeng proposal. There are a few things about this, however, that raise red flags. First, Deptula was the subject of a multi-year investigation by Department of Defense into illicit contracting activities and fraud while he was in uniform. In February 2015, Deptula agreed with the Department of Justice to pay a fine of $125,000, and was barred by the Air Force from conducting business with the federal government from November 2014 to February 2016. Despite this, the Grand Forks city council continues to authorize a $5,000 per month direct payment to The Deptula Group (Deptula’s lobbying and consulting firm) for base retention activities. When questioned about this, city council president Dana Sande initially insisted that Grand Forks County employs Deptula, not the city. After being reminded of the monthly expense approved by Sande and the rest of the city council, Sande admitted that the city pays a portion of the funding for base retention activities, but the county is in charge of selecting and coordinating with Deptula. However, a review of the county’s 2021 budget does not show a request or approval for funding to be allocated under the Base Retention line item, nor do county minutes throughout 2021 show approvals to remit any funds to Deptula, his company, or for base retention activities. It is possible that the county has allocated funding under a different line item to pay for Deptula’s services, but such is not noted. However, if the county is indeed not contributing to paying Deptula, then the city of Grand Forks appears to be willingly carrying the cost of Mr. Deptula for “base retention” activities, even as the Air Force already publicly committed in 2021 to expanding the base’s role and increasing its footprint in Grand Forks. Regardless, the ongoing payment of Deptula for at least $5,000 per month from city funds reflects the council’s comfort with employing fixers who have a questionable at best code of ethics when it comes to personal enrichment at the expense of taxpayers. Moreover, it is not for the leadership of the local military installation to make a determination on if a particular project is compliant with national security regulations. Thus, the constant talking points by city officials that Grand Forks Air Force Base has reviewed the project and not issued a complaint is misleading and wholly incorrect. The base leadership cannot review and rule on the Fufeng project, or any other potential commercial investment by foreign entities in the area of the base. The fact that city officials have continuously asserted that the Grand Forks Air Force Base commander has done so is incorrect, and jeopardizes the careers of both the commanding officer and any active duty personnel so connected to the claim. It also opens the door to civilian law enforcement involvement, as active duty military personnel allegedly issuing inappropriate and unauthorized statements in support of foreign investment may also entangle the civilians making such claims into criminal or civil charges. This is a tightrope for city officials to publicly walk, and it would seem from the outside that they have created a fiasco in the making in their haste to justify a lack of responsible and legal due diligence. There Are No Other Conflicts of Interest on the City Council with This Project Before each City Council vote on this project, the council brings up councilmember Jeannie Mock’s conflict of interest in the project and votes to force her to abstain. Mock’s company, AE2S, was involved in the preparation of land-use and infrastructure data before the project was publicly revealed, as can be seen on Slide 12 of the city’s pitch deck for the project. It is not known for certain how Mock would vote on the project, but it is proper for her to abstain on the basis of conflicts of interests and good ethics. However, there are other potential future conflicts of interest on the council not discussed or considered as exclusionary by the council. Kyle Kvamme is employed by ICON Architectural Group, a regional commercial project design firm headquartered in Grand Forks. Kvamme is the Director of Community Engagement and Project Development. He also recently became an owner in the firm. ICON is an obvious potential beneficiary of such a massive development as Fufeng’s, being a prominent local firm specializing in the design of buildings and layouts for large-scope projects. Bret Weber, who has been one of the most supportive voices on the council for the Fufeng project, is employed by the University of North Dakota as Department Chair and Professor of Social Work. Also employed by UND is Danny Weigel, who is the Investigations Commander and Public Information Officer for the UND Police force. Both have disclaimed any conflicts of interest. However, neither has disclosed that Fufeng USA is a tenant of the UND Center for Innovation, the university’s on-campus “entrepreneurial incubator”. Nor has Weigel shared if he has conducted any background checks on Fufeng Group or its representatives prior to them establishing occupancy in campus facilities. It is currently unknown if Fufeng USA is simply paying rent for part of the Center’s co-working office space in order to have a local presence, or if the company is a more integrated user of Center resources, such as the wet lab. The Center touts the wet lab as such: “High tech, bioscience, and scientific companies are all welcome at the UND Center for Innovation. Our state of the art wet lab makes innovations happen.” Given that Fufeng USA is, fundamentally, a biotech company that must cultivate and maintain various strains of bacteria to manufacture amino acids, it is not unreasonable to assume that the company has been, or will be, a major stakeholder in the Center. As the university already financially benefits from Fufeng’s presence in Grand Forks, the full scope of UND’s interest in current and future projects involving Fufeng should be disclosed. So, too, should it be considered a potential conflict of interest for university employees to vote as city council members on favorable considerations for a company that is an active revenue stream for the entity that cuts their paychecks. The obvious rebuttal of “it’s a drop in the bucket in the university’s overall revenue stream” is beside the point, and frankly, is an inappropriate attitude for a public official to hold. Just as with the city utilizing a disgraced former general to help gain Department of Defense approval for the project, or Weber indicating in the March 7th city council meeting that he feels public concerns about the project’s impact to national security are overblown, it seems that a number of city officials involved with this project are willing to excuse impropriety and ethical lapses as the cost of doing business with Chinese companies. Fufeng USA and Its Parent Companies Have No Known Connection to Forced Labor or Human Rights Crimes In China This is the murkiest and most troubling of all the accusations Fortis Analysis and other groups have leveled against Fufeng, yet has been hand-waived away by project proponents as unfounded innuendo because the firm has not been sanctioned specifically by U.S. authorities. But like most of the complex issues involved with this project, such casual dismissals betray a malignant ignorance of how and why sanctions law functions as it does in our nation. Fortunately for the Grand Forks city officials, we are here to provide accurate and detailed information that can help those officials make informed decisions in line with their sworn duty to their offices. The United States takes very seriously the issue of China’s human rights abuses, particularly in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of western China. In fact, the devastating suppression of non-Han ethnic groups in Xinjiang has been so intense that on 13 July 2021, the U.S. State Department issued its “Xinjiang Supply Chain Business Advisory”, with the summary reading as such: The People’s Republic of China (PRC) government continues to carry out genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang), China. The PRC’s crimes against humanity include imprisonment, torture, rape, forced sterilization, and persecution, including through forced labor and the imposition of draconian restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement. Businesses, individuals, and other persons, including but not limited to investors, consultants, labor brokers, academic institutions, and research service providers (hereafter “businesses and individuals”) with potential exposure to or connection with operations, supply chains, or laborers from the Xinjiang-region, should be aware of the significant reputational, economic, and legal risks of involvement with entities or individuals in or linked to Xinjiang that engage in human rights abuses, including but not limited to forced labor and intrusive surveillance. Given the severity and extent of these abuses, including widespread, state-sponsored forced labor and intrusive surveillance taking place amid ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, businesses and individuals that do not exit supply chains, ventures, and/or investments connected to Xinjiang could run a high risk of violating U.S. law. Potential legal risks include: violation of statutes criminalizing forced labor including knowingly benefitting from participation in a venture, while knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the venture has engaged in forced labor; sanctions violations if dealing with designated persons; export control violations; and violation of the prohibition of importations of goods produced in whole or in part with forced labor or convict labor. Now, given how adept Chinese companies are at masking their participation in, or benefit derived in part from, these evil activities, the U.S. will utilize a standard called “rebuttable presumption” when investigating abuses and issuing sanctions under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act and future similar laws. What this means is that a company accused of connection to human rights abuses in Xinjiang (or other provinces) in China are treated by U.S. authorities as essentially being guilty until proven innocent. Importantly, this does not just mean that the company in question is directly employing forced laborers. Any company that uses raw materials, goods, or labor at any point in its supply chain where forced labor is involved is considered just as guilty of the abuse - a presumption of illegal benefit that extends to every single subsidiary, wherever it may be located. As just one example of the new risk to American stakeholders from this expanded enforcement against China’s human rights abuse, Fufeng Group lists in its annual report that coal is the primary energy feedstock for its corn mills in China. Coal is one of the sectors most heavily targeted for enforcement and sanctions due to Chinese coal mining companies making extensive use of forced labor to keep production costs low. Fufeng Group specifically notes that it strategically locates its facilities close to coal-fired power plants, and that such practice is “instrumental in strengthening the Group’s pricing power.” Even more so than coal, Fufeng consumes corn at enormous rates. Thus, it makes sense that Fufeng tends to locate its operations not only close to coal power production, but also major agriculture regions. Here, too, Fufeng should be assumed to benefit substantially from lower raw material prices derived from the involvement of forced labor. In Heilongjiang province, Fufeng’s subsidiary Qiqihar Fufeng is located less than 50 miles from the sprawling Liusan Prison farm, managed by the Communist Party Committee Deputy Secretary of Liusan. Only a few miles further southwest from Liusan inside Inner Mongolia, there are numerous other farms at Wutaqi, Ulan, and the notorious Bao’anzhao Prison. Hulunbeier Northeast Fufeng Biotechnologies is located approximately 200 miles from the large prison farm at “Genghis Kahn Ranch” in Zalantun City. One of Fufeng’s largest plants, Neimenggu Fufeng Biotechnologies, is located in Hohhot City in Inner Mongolia. The entire administrative apparatus for the corporation that sells forced prison labor goods to Chinese and international consumers is called Inner Mongolia Hengzheng Industrial Group Co., Ltd., and also happens to be located in Hohhot City. As of October 2019, the company was run by Xu Hongguang, a CCP member and the Deputy Director of the Ministry of Justice of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Among the company’s primary goods produced in the prisons and sold to companies in China are grains, processed agriculture commodities, and food ingredients. Notably, the company was sanctioned by the United States in October of 2020 for use of forced labor in manufacturing stevia sweetener, which like Fufeng’s products, are a derivative of biological processing. [Edit, 21 March 2022 - The original comment that stevia sweetener is a derivative of corn processing is not correct. The author has corrected the article.] It would require an absurd leap of faith to state that Fufeng has no plausible connections to, or benefit from, the expansive use of forced labor in agriculture production so logistically close to Fufeng’s major corn- and coal-consuming plants in Xingang, Heilongjiang, and Inner Mongolia. Should an investigation be raised by Commerce, State, or Treasury into the activities of any Fufeng Group subsidiary in connection to forced labor, it is highly likely that Fufeng would be unable to satisfy the rebuttable presumption of participation in the forced labor and abusive regimes in place in China. This would trigger automatic sanctions not only against Fufeng Group in China, but also their international subsidiaries such as First Biotech and Fufeng USA. Such sanctions would make it impossible for banks to lend to any of the affected entities in the United States or conduct normal business operations, shutting down the entire project in Grand Forks and invalidating the letter of credit the city proclaims as providing a no-risk guarantee to local taxpayers the city has not wasted money chasing a pot of gold at the end of the CCP’s genocidal rainbow. This Is Not the End As one can see, there is not much more that needs to be said about the Fufeng Group’s bid to purchase 370 acres of land in Grand Forks and build its wet corn mill. Nearly every single major talking point used by city officials and Fufeng USA is provably false or shaded with just enough truth to pass scrutiny of low-information voters. This is how it works when one chooses to do business with CCP-aligned entities who deliberately target local and state officials to circumvent the United States’ federal national security countermeasures. The officials, craving a big win to build their next campaign on, or perhaps finding some compelling self-interest in the economic aspects of the project, suspend all good sense and dive headfirst into extreme legal and moral hazard at the expense of their communities, their state, and their nation. Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski, City Council president Dana Sande, and their grasping enablers have (to this point) made the choice to do just that. And at least for now, we know that the most powerful weapon in the CCP’s gray zone war against the United States is not hypersonic missiles, cyberespionage, or theft of intellectual property. It’s 30 pieces of silver wrapped in a box of false promises to our elected officials. Addendum A number of Grand Forks residents and concerned stakeholders around the nation have expressed to this author their alarm and despair at the ease with which the Chinese Communist Party continues to corrupt and undermine the United States. That it all feels hopeless, and that our collapse as a nation is both certain and imminent. I will share this, then - Winston Churchill’s words to the Harrow School on 29 October 1941, in the midst of the darkest hours of Great Britain’s seemingly hopeless defense against the mighty Nazi war machine. “…Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy… Do not let us speak of darker days: let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days; these are great days - the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.” Dum spiro spero. Subscribe to Human Terrain Tyler Durden Fri, 03/25/2022 - 23:00.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytMar 25th, 2022

Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse violated a conflict-of-interest law with 2 late stock purchase disclosures

Whitehouse supports a recent push to ban members of Congress from buying and selling stocks. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, is the latest member of Congress to violate the disclosure requirements of the federal Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012, a law meant to defend against conflicts of interest and enhance public transparency.Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Images The senator from Rhode Island bought stock in late January but didn't report it until mid-March, a couple days late. Congress is debating whether to ban federal lawmakers from trading stocks at all. 58 members of Congress have now been found in violation of the STOCK Act since 2021. Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island has violated a conflicts-of-interest law by disclosing two personal stock purchases past a federal deadline, according to financial records reviewed by Insider.On January 28, Whitehouse purchased between $15,000 and $50,000 worth of shares in both Target Corporation and Tesla Inc.Whitehouse's office acknowledged that the senator disclosed his trades on March 16 — after a federally mandated 45-day filing deadline. "The filing came two days late due to a staff transition in the office," Whitehouse spokesman Rich Davidson told Insider.US Senate financial trade disclosure for Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat of Rhode Island.US SenateWhitehouse, in his third term, is a member of the Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works, which has jurisdiction over air pollution and environmental policy matters, among others. Davidson did not reply to a question about whether Whitehouse's investment in Tesla, which manufactures electric vehicles and solar panels, represents a conflict of interest. Lawmakers who are late disclosing their stock trades — dozens have been tardy in recent months — face a $200 fine for an initial offense.But Whitehouse won't pay a penalty because the US Senate Select Committee on Ethics, which administers financial disclosure fines, allows violators a fine-free "grace period" so long as they disclose their stock trades no more than 30-days late. The committee may also choose to waive even later disclosures, although it's unclear how often they do this because the committee does not report this information publicly.Other members of the US Senate that Insider and other news organizations have found in violation of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act's disclosure requirements include Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California, Republican Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, Republican Roger Marshall of Kansas, Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky, Democrat Mark Kelly of Arizona, and Republican Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming."First and foremost, it is critical for lawmakers to comply with these reporting deadlines because it is the law," said Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, government affairs manager for nonpartisan watchdog group Project on Government Oversight. "In other words, by not fully complying, they are breaking the law. And this is, to put it mildly, not a good look."Some US lawmakers have personal investments in the defense contractor that manufactures the Javelin anti-tank missile, which has become a sought-after weapon by Ukrainian forces defending against Russian invaders.Volodymyr Tarasov/ Ukrinform/Barcroft Media via Getty ImagesMovement to ban congressional stock tradingWhitehouse's late disclosures come at a time when Congress is debating whether to ban federal lawmakers, and potentially their immediate family members, from trading individual stocks. A Committee on House Administration hearing on the matter — delayed because Chairperson Zoe Lofgren contracted COVID-19 — is imminent, and dozens of lawmakers have sponsored or co-sponsored any of several similar stock-ban bills.Lawmakers' interest in pursuing stock trading reforms deepened after Insider's "Conflicted Congress" project in December found that dozens of lawmakers, and at least 182 senior congressional staffers, had failed to comply with the reporting requirements of the STOCK Act."Conflicted Congress" also found numerous examples of conflicts of interest, including that four members of Congress or their spouses have either currently or recently invested money in Russian companies at a time when Russia has invaded Ukraine.At least 18 members of Congress — Whitehouse among them — have investments in at least one of two defense contractors, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, who manufacture missiles Western nations are shipping to Ukraine's military.Whitehouse "supports a ban and is working with proponents of multiple bills to reach a unified caucus position," Davidson said, adding that the senator does not personally trade stocks, but has a financial account manager do so on his behalf without the senator's consultation."I don't decide on, neither am I even informed of, trades that are made in my account," Whitehouse told Politico in 2017.Whitehouse has not, however, created what's known as a "qualified blind trust" — a formal, publicly disclosed arrangement, requiring congressional approval, in which a lawmaker officially transfers management of their financial assets to an independent trustee. Senate guidance says these trusts provide the "most comprehensive approach" to avoiding "potential conflicts of interest or the appearance of such conflicts," although they can be expensive and time-consuming to establish.No matter who does the stock trading, members of Congress are personally responsible for publicly disclosing their stock trades on time. All members of Congress also undergo ethics training about federal reporting requirements. "By continually giving the finger to reporting requirements related to their stock transactions, members are telling the public — their constituents — that they don't care about what the public thinks," Hedtler-Gaudette said. "That is both deeply cynical and deeply troubling since members of Congress are, at the end of the day, public servants."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytMar 19th, 2022

Live updates: Russian forces "frustrated," Zelensky refuses evacuation help, Germany sends weapons and missiles to "friends in Ukraine"

Zelensky called for allies to send help. In a major "turning point," Germany will send 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger missiles. Ukrainian servicemen walk by fragments of a downed aircraft in Kyiv on February 25, 2022.AP Photo/Oleksandr Ratushniak President Zelensky said during a briefing on Saturday morning that Ukraine "survived" the night. He said that government forces still control Kyiv and called for allies to send help. Germany is planning to send 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger missiles to Ukraine. Germany to send anti-tank weapons and missiles to Ukraine in a major policy reversalGermany is planning to send 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger missiles to Ukraine, according to a statement made by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Saturday. "The Russian attack marks a turning point," Scholz wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. "It is our duty to do our best to help Ukraine defend against the invading army of Putin. That's why we're supplying 1000 anti-tank weapons and 500 stinger missiles to our friends in Ukraine."The announcement marks a significant shift of Germany's restrictive arms export policy. The country has previously said it held "historical responsibilities" that prevented it from sending weapons and arms to conflict areas, often citing guilt for crimes committed against the Soviet Union during World War II. Read Full StoryRussian forces are 'frustrated' with lack of progress, US official saysAn unexploded Grad rocket is seen at a kindergarten playground in Kharkiv, Ukraine, February 26, 2022, in this still image obtained from a videoReuters TV via REUTERSAccording to a Reuters report, the US official, who was not named by the outlet, said Russian forces had not planned to bring enough fuel or for other basic logistics. "We know that they have not made the progress that they have wanted to make, particularly in the north. They have been frustrated by what they have seen is a very determined resistance," the official told Reuters, adding: "It has slowed them down." An unnamed US official told Fox News: "We continue to believe, based on what we've observed, that this resistance is greater than what the Russians expected." The British Defense Ministry on Saturday made similar claims, saying: "The speed of the Russian advance has temporarily slowed likely as a result of acute logistical difficulties and strong Ukrainian resistance," according to the Associated Press.Read Full StoryZelensky called on 'every friend of Ukraine' to 'please come over' and help defend against Russian invasionUkraine President Volodymyr ZelenskyUkraine President Volodymyr ZelenskyUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday remained defiant in the face of Russia's invasion, confirming that government forces continued to control Kyiv and "key points around the city.""Please stop those who are lying, or trying to lie to you, or lying to us. We need to stop this war," he said during a morning briefing, The Guardian reported, lambasting disinformation about the state of the country. "We can live in peace together, globally, as humans."He continued: "Our military, our national guard, our national police, our territory defense, special service, nationals of Ukraine, please carry on. We will win. Glory to Ukraine."Read Full StoryBiden's administration is reportedly working to set up a hotline with Russia to avoid an unintended clash between their military forces in Eastern EuropeU.S. soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division and military vehicles are seen at the temporary military base for U.S. troops established at the Arlamow Airport.Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty ImagesSources told NBC News that the United States is working to set up backchannel communications with the Russian military to prevent a clash between the two forces near Ukraine's border.The hotline would help both parties to avoid clashing as US forces are operating near Eastern Europe, according to the report.The open line of communication would also help US and Russian aircraft and ships remain in different areas and communicate the risk of missile strikes. However, it is not yet clear if Russia will subscribe to the potential plan. Mayor of Kyiv sets curfew amid battle to hold capital, says anyone on the street after curfew will be considered an enemyKyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko on Saturday announced a curfew from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. to ensure a "more effective defense of the capital" and its residents, according to reports. "This curfew is introduced until the morning of February 28," Klitschko said in the translated announcement. "All civilians who will be on the street during the curfew will be considered members of the enemy's sabotage and reconnaissance groups." —Alex Ward (@alexbward) February 26, 2022The mayor added: "Please treat the situation with understanding and do not go outside."Read Full StoryUkrainian President Zelensky says Ukraine 'survived' the nightUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses nation in Kyiv, Ukraine on February 25, 2022.Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via APUkraine has "survived" the night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a briefing on Saturday morning."And we are successfully fighting off the enemy attacks," he added, per The Kyiv Independent.He said that government forces still control Kyiv and "key points around the city," The Guardian reported.Ukrainian President Zelensky addressed false information that circulated online claiming he called on residents to lay down armsIn a video posted early Saturday, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky can be seen in front of the House with Chimaeras in Kyiv. —Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) February 26, 2022Zelensky addressed misinformation that was circulating online and reiterated that he was not standing down. "Ukrainians, it has now come to our attention that a lot of fake information has been circulating about me allegedly calling to our armed forces to lay down their arms, and talks of de-evacuation. Let's get things straight. We are here, we are not laying down any arms, we are going to defend our nation." Zelensky said. He added: "This is because our weapons are our truth, and our truth lies in the fact that this is our land, this is our country, our children, and we are going to defend all of this. So this is what I want to tell you. Glory to Ukraine!" Officials in Kyiv are telling residents to seek shelter as street fights break out against Russian forcesIn this handout photo taken from video released by Ukrainian Police Department Press Service released on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022, firefighters hose down burning burning debris in front of a damaged building following a rocket attack on the city of Kyiv, Ukraine.Ukrainian Police Department Press Service via APThe Associated Press reported that on Saturday morning, Russian troops headed toward Kyiv as explosions could be heard across the city. Officials in the Ukrainian capital warned residents to stay away from windows and take shelter indoors as fighting escalated on the streets. President Joe Biden authorized the release of $350 million for military aid to UkrainePresident Joe Biden delivers remarks during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the East Room of the White House on February 07, 2022.Anna Moneymaker/Getty ImagesIn a memorandum to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken sent on Friday night, President Joe Biden asked the State Department to release $350 million through the Foreign Assistance Act to be sent to Ukraine as it defends itself against a Russian invasion.   'The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride,' Ukrainian President Zelensky said following an offer to evacuateUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky seen at Arlington National Cemetery on September 1, 2021.Anna Moneymaker/Getty ImagesUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky refused an offer from the US to evacuate the Ukrainian capital, a senior American intelligence official with direct knowledge of the conversation told the Associated Press. "The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride," Zelensky said in response to the offer, the official said, describing Zelensky as "upbeat," according to the AP. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accuses Russia of "abusing its power" on the UN Security Council with its attacks on UkraineSecretary of State Antony Blinken takes part in a press conference at the end of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) foreign ministers meeting in Melbourne on February 11, 2022.Kevin Lamarque/Getty ImagesUS Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted his support for the people of Ukraine on Friday night, rebuking Russia — an "irresponsible Permanent Member of the UN Security Council" — for "abusing its power to attack its neighbor and subvert the UN and our international system.Blinken said the US will be addressing the matter in the UN General Assembly where "the nations of the world can, will, and should hold Russia accountable..."—Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) February 26, 2022Earlier Friday, Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council draft resolution that called on Moscow to withdraw its troops and halt the attack on Ukraine.The US Embassy in Kyiv issued a travel advisory warning US citizens remaining in the city to "know your closest shelter"US Embassy building stays empty as the diplomatic staff was ordered to leave Ukraine Kiev, Ukraine on February 23, 2022.Photo by Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto via Getty ImagesThe US Embassy in Kyiv issued a new travel advisory for US citizens remaining in Kyiv early Saturday morning. As Russian forces intensify their attacks against the capital city, the embassy warned US citizens to exercise increased caution due to the possibility of active combat, crime, and civil unrest."The security situation throughout Ukraine is highly volatile, and conditions may deteriorate without warning," the statement said. "US citizens should remain vigilant and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness."The advisory urged US citizens to know the location of "your closest shelter or protected space," and seek shelter immediately in "the event of mortar and/or rocket fire." "If you feel your current location is no longer safe, you should carefully assess the potential risks involved in moving to a different location," the advisory said. US government prepared to evacuate President Zelensky, according to The Washington PostUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers a statement during the 58th Munich Security Conference (MSC) on February 19, 2022 in Munich, Germany.Photo by Ronald Wittek - Pool/Getty ImagesThe US government is ready to help Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky flee Kyiv, but the president is so far refusing to leave, according to The Washington Post.US and Ukrainian officials told the outlet that preparations have been made to help Zelensky avoid being captured or killed as Russian forces descended upon the capital city early Saturday morning.Amid increasing Russian attacks on Friday, Zelensky promised to remain at the head of Ukraine's government in Kyiv, despite the danger."According to the information we have, the enemy has marked me as target No. 1, my family as target No.2," he said in an address. "They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state."Insider has reached out to the White House and the State Department for comment. A senior US official told The Post that US officials in recent days have talked to Zelensky about multiple security issues, including the safest place for the president to remain to maintain the Ukrainian government. "We have been making him aware not only of the threat of Russian invasion, now a reality, but also the threat to him personally," Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told The Post. "We stand ready to assist him in any way."Satellite image shows 4-mile-long traffic jam along the Ukrainian-Romanian borderSatellite image of a miles-long traffic jam along the Ukraine-Romania border.Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies.Satellite images from Maxar show a 4-mile (6.5 km)-long traffic jam of people, cars, and trucks attempting to leave Ukraine and cross into Romania near the Siret border crossing.Tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees have already fled the country since Russian forces invaded early Thursday morning.New explosions heard in Kyiv as Russian forces attack the cityA view of empty streets following the curfew in the country after explosions and air raid sirens wailing again in Kyiv, Ukraine on February 26, 2022.Photo by Aytac Unal/Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesMore than four dozen explosions were heard early Saturday morning in Kyiv as Russian troops intensified their attacks on the capital city, according to The Washington Post.Thirty minutes of ongoing shelling could be heard as the Ukrainian military fought off Russian assaults in northern Kyiv, the Kyiv Independent reported.The State Special Communications Service instructed people to seek shelter following more than 50 shots fired in a suburb near the city's center.CNN reported that heavy fighting is being reported south of Kyiv as well.—The Recount (@therecount) February 26, 2022 Ukraine's president warns that Russia will try to 'break our resistance' and topple the government before the night is overPresident of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy holds a press conference in regard of Russia's attack on Ukraine in Kiev, Ukraine on February 24, 2022.Ukrainian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday night that the future of his country "is being decided right now," a warning that comes amid reports that Russian troops are approaching Kyiv from multiple directions."Tonight the enemy will use all the resources they have to break our resistance in a mean, cruel, and inhuman way," Zelensky said in a message to his nation, according to a translation of his remarks. "Tonight they will assault us."He added that many Ukrainian cities remain under attack."Burn down the enemy's military vehicles, using anything—anything—you can. If even the kindergartens are an admissible target for the invaders, you must not leave them any chance," he said.READ FULL STORYRussia vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution calling on Moscow to stop Ukrainian assaultUnited Nations Security Council vote on a resolution during a meeting on Russian invasion of Ukraine, Friday Feb. 25, 2022 at U.N. headquarters.AP Photo/Seth WenigRussia vetoed on Friday a United Nations Security Council draft resolution that called on Moscow to withdraw its troops and halt the attack on Ukraine.Eleven countries on the council voted in favor, while three abstained. The countries that voted in favor of the resolution were:United StatesUnited KingdomFranceNorwayIrelandAlbaniaGabonMexicoBrazilGhanaKenyaRussia voted no.The countries that abstained from voting were: ChinaIndiaUnited Arab EmiratesThe Biden administration is seeking $6.4 billion for Ukraine aid from CongressA view of the US Capitol at sunset on January 5, 2022 in Washington, DC.Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesThe White House on Friday asked Congress for an estimated $6.4 billion in additional spending to aid Ukraine amid Russia's invasion, according to Bloomberg.The outlet reported that $2.9 billion of the requested funds would go to humanitarian and security needs in Ukraine, the Baltics, and Poland, including food aid, refugee assistance, and energy stabilization. The remaining $3.5 billion would help the US Department of Defense respond to the conflict, a Biden administration official told Bloomberg.The funds could be included in a broad government spending package Congress is aiming to pass by mid-March. The The requested money is on top of $650 million in security aid and $52 million in humanitarian aid that the US promised Ukraine last year. Spy chief humiliated by Putin on Russian TV for stammering releases new video echoing Putin's war rhetoricRussian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Director Sergei Naryshkin is seen while opening of the exhibition on violations of human rights in Ukraine (2017-2020), on January 18, 2022 in Moscow, Russia.Mikhail Svetlov/Getty ImagesJust days after being humiliated in a broadcast meeting by Vladimir Putin, the head of Russia's foreign intelligence agency, Sergei Naryshkin, returned to the screen to reiterate war rhetoric."Russia cannot allow Ukraine to become a dagger raised above us in the hands of Washington," Naryshkin said in a video on state television, according to the New York Times. "The special military operation will restore peace in Ukraine within a short amount of time and prevent a potential larger conflict in Europe."Read Full StoryBiden is planning to announce new sanctions that personally target Putin, report saysRussian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into eastern Ukraine on Monday.Alexei Nikolsky/Associated PressUS President Joe Biden is planning to announce as soon as Friday that the US will sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin, CNN reported, a provocative move of condemnation against one of the world's most powerful leaders.The move would come after the US, in coordination with its partners and allies, slapped two rounds of sanctions on Russia following its military assault on Ukraine earlier this week.Biden's reported decision to sanction Putin personally is a rare step and follows the European Union and the UK announcing sanctions against the Russian leader.Read Full StoryA California professor says he spotted Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Google Maps hours before Putin announced the attackRadar imagery showed a large Russian military unit south of Belgorod before it moved toward the border with Ukraine.Capella Space/Middlebury Institute of International StudiesA California professor and arms control expert says he noticed Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Google Maps in real time hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the attack in a televised address.Jeffrey Lewis, a nonproliferation professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California, had been monitoring Google Maps with a small team of research assistants and graduate students when they spotted a "traffic jam" on a road from Belgorod, Russia, to the Ukrainian border at around 3:15 a.m. local time in the Russian city on Thursday.Lewis told Insider on Friday that the "unusual" early morning backup started exactly where a radar image taken a day earlier showed a newly arrived "large Russian military unit with a lot of armor," such as tanks and armored personnel carriers."What was important about that image is that they were not set up in a camp — they were lined up in columns along roads, which is what you do when you're about to pounce," Lewis said.Read Full StoryThe daughter of Putin's spokesman publicly opposed Russia's invasion of Ukraine, undermining her dadElizaveta Pesokva attends a restaurant opening in January 2022Vyacheslav Prokofyev/TASS via Getty ImagesThe daughter of President Vladimir Putin's spokesman posted an anti-war slogan in her Instagram Live on Friday, according to multiple reports.Elizaveta Peskova, 24, posted "HET BOЙHE" — "no to war," against a black background on her Instagram story according to a screenshot tweeted by the Russian outlet TV Rain.This slogan is the main chant used by Russian protesters to oppose the invasions of Ukraine.Read Full StoryVideo reportedly shows Ukrainian men helping themselves to guns on a Kyiv street after all 18-60 years were urged to take up arms and fight the Russian invasionVolunteers, holding AK-47 rifles, protect a main road leading into Kyiv on February 25, 2022DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty ImagesThe video, which was shared on Twitter by Illia Ponomarenko, the defense correspondent at the Kyiv Independent, appears to shows civilians on a suburban street in a Kyiv suburb rummaging through boxes of firearms unloaded from trucks, as a voice off-camera says "Slava Ukraini!" (Glory to Ukraine!)."Firearms are delivered to anyone willing," Ponomarenko said in the tweet of the video.Read Full StoryUkraine's president posts defiant video with top government leaders saying 'we are all here' in the streets of besieged KyivUkraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy holds a press conference on Russia's military operation in Ukraine, on February 25, 2022 in Kyiv.Photo by Presidency of Ukraine/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesUkraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky posted a defiant video on Friday, purportedly from streets of besieged Kyiv, with top government leaders."We are all here," he said in a video posted to his Facebook page with the words: "We're in here. We are in Kiev. We defend Ukraine."Zelensky said he was with Ukraine's prime minister, presidential advisor, and head of the president's office."Our military are here, our citizens and society are here. We are all here defending our independence, our state, and this is how it's going to be," he said.Read Full StoryRussia says it will partially restrict access to Facebook, accusing it of censorship and human rights violationsRussian President Vladimir PutinAlexey Nikolsky/Getty ImagesRussia said Friday that it would partially limit access to Facebook within its borders over what it alleges is censorship of four state news outlets. In its announcement, the country's communications regulator said it asked Facebook earlier in the week to remove the restrictions and explain its reasoning for them but did not hear back.It also accused the company of various other undetailed human rights and freedoms abuses. Read Full StoryBan children of Russian oligarchs from elite British schools, UK MPs urge after invasion of UkraineHarrow School is one of the many prestigious private schools included in testimonies on Everyone's Invited.Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty ImagesBoris Johnson should ban the children of Russian oligarchs from enjoying the benefits of elite British schools, Conservative MPs have said. The prime minister is coming under increasing pressure to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine by targeting its super-rich, many of whom have interests in the UK and mingle with its high society.Read Full StoryThe 5,000 helmets Germany offered Ukraine are finally on their way as it faces a Russian onslaught from 3 sidesGermany is sending 5,000 military helmets to Ukraine, which had requested 100,000 of them.Friso GentschThe 5,000 helmets Germany offered to Ukraine are finally on their way as the country faces Russian attacks from 3 sides. Over a month after Germany's secretary of defense promised the equipment, two trucks are bound for a handoff just outside Ukraine, according to German media company Der Spiegel.  Read Full StoryRussia's advance on Kyiv hit more resistance and is moving slower than expected, US defense official saysUkrainian servicemen ride on tanks towards the front line with Russian forces in the Lugansk region of Ukraine on February 25, 2022ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty ImagesRussia appears to have "lost a bit of momentum" as they continue their invasion of Ukraine, a senior US defense official told reporters on Friday. The official said Russian forces are "not moving on Kyiv as fast as they anticipated they would be able to" and are "meeting more resistance than they expected," CNN reported.Read Full StoryEuropean Union freezes assets of Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov, Latvia's foreign minister saysRussian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov looks on, next to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as they wait for the US-Russia summit at the Villa La Grange, in Geneva on June 16, 2021.Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty ImagesThe European Union on Friday approved freezing the assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Latvia's foreign minister said."EU Foreign Affairs Council has adopted the 2nd sanctions package, asset freeze includes President of Russia and its Foreign Minister. We will prepare the 3d package," Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs said on Twitter.Read Full StoryA Russian tennis star protested the war in Ukraine in a twist of a traditional celebration in the sportTSN/TwitterRussian tennis star Andrey Rublev has a message for the world — and maybe one directed at his own country."No war please."On Friday, the 24-year-old Moscow native called for peace after besting Poland's Hubert Hurkacz for a spot in the Dubai Tennis Championships title match.As is a popular tennis tradition, Rublev wrote a note on the TV camera lens following his victory.Instead of signing his name or sketching a cheeky doodle — as is the norm in the sport — the world No. 7 penned a serious message for all to see: "No war please."Read Full StoryMonuments around the world are lighting up in blue and yellow in support of UkraineSt Georges Hall in Liverpool is lit up in yellow and blue in an expression of solidarity with Ukraine following Russia's invasion.Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty ImagesMonuments around the world are lit up in Ukrainian flag colors following Russia's invasion.Berlin's Brandenburg Gate and Rome's Colosseum, among other landmarks, displayed blue and yellow lights.Read Full StoryUkraine praises marine for sacrificing his life to blow up bridge to try to choke off Russian tanksSkakun Vitaliy Volodymyrovich.General Staff of the Armed Forces of UkraineOfficials in Ukraine praised a marine for sacrificing his life to blow up a bridge to try to stop Russian tanks from advancing.Vitaliy Skakun Volodymyrovych was positioned at the Henichesk bridge in the Kherson region during a standoff with Russian forces, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a Friday statement.In an effort to fight off advancing Russian tanks, Ukrainian forces decided to blow up the bridge, the statement said."According to his brothers in arms, Vitaly got in touch [with them] and said he was going to blow up the bridge," the statement said. "Immediately after, an explosion rang out."Volodymyrovych died immediately, the statement said.Read Full StoryOrdinary Ukrainian citizens are taking up arms to fend off Russian forces as they close in on KyivResidents attend an open training organised for civilians by war veterans and volunteers who teach the basic weapons handling and first aid on one of Kyiv's city beachesGenya Savilov/AFP via Getty ImagesOrdinary citizens all over Kyiv are taking up arms in the fight against Russian forces as they close in on the capital city following two days of heavy attacks and hundreds of casualties.As Russian forces started making their way toward Kyiv, the Ukrainian government called on all citizens and "patriots" to take up arms in defense of the country, saying that only an ID was required and adding, "We give weapons to all patriots!""We will give weapons to anyone who wants to defend the country," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a tweet. "Be ready to support Ukraine in the squares of our cities."Read Full StoryRussian state media denies its military attacked Kyiv and claims Ukraine shot down its own plane thereDamage to a building in Kyiv Ukraine, on the morning of February 25, 2022. Russia insisted it was not attacking the city.Pierre Crom/Getty ImagesOn Thursday and into Friday it was clear to most people around the world that Russia had invaded Ukraine, and moved quickly to attack its capital, Kyiv.But those receiving their news from Russia's vast array of state media outlets were given no sense of this, according to a review by Insider and other monitors.A selection of stories from the front pages of major Russian outlets in the early afternoon of Friday, the second day of hostilities around Kyiv, show the news the Russian state is promoting. They had a common theme: Russia is winning, Ukraine is planning atrocities, and there are no Russian attacks on Kyiv.Read Full StoryPeople in Kyiv describe bombardment on night 2 of invasion as Russia closes in on the capitalA building hit by a missile in Kyiv, Ukraine, seen on February 25, 2022.Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesKyiv was rocked by shelling for the second straight day on Friday morning, with Russian forces entering the outskirts of the capital by the afternoon.Speaking from Kyiv by phone on Friday, five residents told Insider of multiple explosions overnight, interspersed with air raid sirens directing people to find safety in bunkers. Alisa Obraztsova, 25, said she was rocked away by explosions at 4:20 a.m."I slept in the guest room in my apartment because I could hear the sirens from that room better," she said. Oleksii, a Kyiv resident who asked to be identified only by his first name, told Insider he was also startled awake by bombs."I woke up at around 4 a.m. because there was a massive explosion," he said. "I looked out the window, everything was a bright orange, everything was getting brighter."Read Full StoryPutin falsely describes Ukraine's government as a 'band of drug addicts and neo-Nazis' in latest propaganda blitz as Russian troops fight to take KyivRussia's President Vladimir Putin meets with members of the Delovaya Rossiya [Business Russia] All-Russian Public Organization at Moscow's Kremlin.Photo by Alexei NikolskybackslashTASS via Getty ImagesRussian President Vladimir Putin falsely described Ukraine's government as a "band of drug addicts and neo-Nazis" in a television appearance on Friday.In the speech, Putin also said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's government "lodged itself in Kyiv and taken hostage the entire Ukrainian people," according to a translation from New York Times Moscow bureau chief Anton Troianovski and The Guardian.Read Full StoryZelensky told European leaders, "This might be the last time you see me alive," report saysPresident of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy holds a press conference in regard of Russia's attack on Ukraine in Kiev, Ukraine on February 24, 2022.Ukrainian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday told European leaders on a conference call that it "might be the last time you see me alive" as the Russian military pushes ahead with its offensive in his country. Zelensky on Thursday said in a video address he would remain in Kyiv and would keep his family in Ukraine.Zelensky added that "the enemy marked me as the number one target," with his family being number two.Read Full StoryZelensky asks Putin to 'sit down at the negotiating table' to 'stop the dying' as Russian forces strike KyivUkraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy holds a press conference on Russia's military operation in Ukraine, on February 25, 2022 in Kyiv.Photo by Presidency of Ukraine/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for negotiations to "stop the dying" as Russian forces strike the country's capital city of Kyiv."Let us sit down at the negotiating table in order to stop the dying," he said in a video address on Friday, according to a translation from The New York Times.Zelensky added: "I want to turn again to the president of the Russian Federation... Fighting is taking place across the entire territory of Ukraine."Read Full StoryMap shows Russian troop movement in Ukraine on Friday!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(e){if(void 0!==e.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.querySelectorAll("iframe");for(var a in e.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var r=0;r.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytFeb 26th, 2022

GreenWood Investors 3Q21 Commentary: Defense, Offense & Conviction

GreenWood Investors commentary for the third quarter ended September 2021, titled, “Defense, Offense & Conviction.” Q3 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more When Defense Misfires “Offense wins games. Defense wins championships.” This past quarter, much of my curiosity has been focused on the differences between offense and defense. Given I’ve spent little time watching […] GreenWood Investors commentary for the third quarter ended September 2021, titled, “Defense, Offense & Conviction.” if (typeof jQuery == 'undefined') { document.write(''); } .first{clear:both;margin-left:0}.one-third{width:31.034482758621%;float:left;margin-left:3.448275862069%}.two-thirds{width:65.51724137931%;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element input{border:0;border-radius:0;padding:8px}form.ebook-styles .af-element{width:220px;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer{width:115px;float:left;margin-left: 6px;}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer input.submit{width:115px;padding:10px 6px 8px;text-transform:uppercase;border-radius:0;border:0;font-size:15px}form.ebook-styles .af-body.af-standards input.submit{width:115px}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy{width:100%;font-size:12px;margin:10px auto 0}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy p{font-size:11px;margin-bottom:0}form.ebook-styles .af-body input.text{height:40px;padding:2px 10px !important} form.ebook-styles .error, form.ebook-styles #error { color:#d00; } form.ebook-styles .formfields h1, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-logo, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-footer { display: none; } form.ebook-styles .formfields { font-size: 12px; } form.ebook-styles .formfields p { margin: 4px 0; } Get The Full Series in PDF Get the entire 10-part series on Charlie Munger in PDF. Save it to your desktop, read it on your tablet, or email to your colleagues. (function($) {window.fnames = new Array(); window.ftypes = new Array();fnames[0]='EMAIL';ftypes[0]='email';}(jQuery));var $mcj = jQuery.noConflict(true); Q3 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more When Defense Misfires “Offense wins games. Defense wins championships.” This past quarter, much of my curiosity has been focused on the differences between offense and defense. Given I’ve spent little time watching team sports, it’s been an interesting exploration. As my mind was occupied by defining an offensive playbook for our two coinvestments, we took our eyes off the ball of our protective, defense-oriented portfolio activities. The performance in the quarter was impacted by a 4% headwind generated by one particular short, which was the primary reason our fund underperformed indices in the quarter. While it was a painful lesson, we immediately evolved our short process in order to prevent our defensive measures from ever hurting our performance to such an extent going forward. Cutting to the chase, the performance in the quarter for the Global Micro Fund was -7.7% net (+30.5% YTD), and this compares to our benchmark MSCI ACWI index returning -1.1% in the quarter (+11.5% YTD). Without any FX headwinds, euro-denominated Luxembourg fund returned -3.3% net (+39.4% YTD). Separate account composites had similar returns, as Global Micro strategy returned -8.1% net (+15.0% YTD) and our longest-running and long-only Traditional accounts returned -6.8% net (16.5% YTD). The Builders Fund I returned -5.2% net in the quarter (+84.5% YTD) driven partially by foreign exchange. Builders Fund II, which was launched in the quarter, returned +3.0% net (+3.0% YTD). Aside from the one short mentioned, our returns were also impacted by corrections at Superdry PLC (LON:SDRY) and Peloton Interactive Inc (NASDAQ:PTON), each taking away roughly 2% from our performance in the quarter. They are both experiencing very different situations right now in the aftermath of Covid, but both are pressing their offense strategies with increased vigor. We remain undeterred with Superdry despite popular skepticism on the brand’s turnaround. Such perspectives look mismatched with a reinvigorated influencer strategy targeting a whole new generation, which have just driven same-store-sales to positive territory on a two-year stack. This is ahead of a pivotal autumn-winter season, when its jackets, coats and sweaters have traditionally shined. Having missed last winter due to Covid, we are excited to see the new product resonate with an entirely new base of consumers. We recently followed the Chairman and CEO’s insider buys, and purchased more shares on weakness. We continue to be encouraged by the progress made; and for a slightly longer discussion on where our thoughts are on Superdry, click here to see a tweet thread. Peloton has experienced a round trip of home workout demand back to pre-covid levels. Thus, while it is launching new products and new geographies, and retains an industry-leading engaged base of 6.2 million exercisers with low monthly subscription churn, this position will have to return to old fashioned marketing to continue on its path towards its incredibly ambitious goal of impacting 100 million users’s fitness routines every month.. With its customer satisfaction, as measured by the Net Promotor Score, remaining one of the highest, if not the highest, in the world, we would not bet against this heavily engaged cult of growing endorphin-filled users. We believe the company still has a very significant market opportunity to both attack and define. Revisiting The Defense Playbook “Rule No.1: Never lose money. Rule No.2: Never forget rule No.1.” Warren Buffett Stretching the offense and defense analogies over to investing, this past year has rewarded risk-taking (offensive) strategies, particularly those that are furthest out on the risk curve. But over the long-term, value-oriented investing wins the championship. That means taking a conservative underwriting approach to investment opportunities and maintaining a defensive posture when everyone else is doing the opposite. In our opinion, that also means running a short book, which allow us to remain opportunistic in periods of greater stress. It is not a good time to be reducing a defensive posture, in our opinion. Over the first 11 years of GreenWood’s existence, we have almost never been idea-constrained. Rather, we have been only constrained by the capacity we have to analyze the large opportunity set. That has typically meant, aside from the earliest years, we have had minimal cash left over. Given we have gravitated towards misunderstood assets and areas neglected by robotic index funds, not only does this portfolio tend to not carry a large cash balance, but it has exhibited more volatility than an index. Accordingly, carrying a short book is essential for us to be able to remain opportunistic in periods of stress. And quite frankly, our defense track record could use some improvement. While this defensive posture paid off in 2008, 2011, and 2018, we had few opportunistic shorts going into 2016 and 2020, right when we needed them. I’m personally committed to improving on that 3-2 market defense track record. I’m also committed to lowering any significant portfolio tilt towards specific factors, as our fundamental research capabilities are not able to be matched on a macroeconomic scale. There are too many factors and estimates to know anything on a large scale with any degree of certainty. For us, conviction is the most important function of an asset manager. It was with that intention we have been carrying a full short book ever since late 2020. And that short book largely paid off over the first half of this year, as the current environment has proved to be fertile in finding over-valued, value-less businesses. In fact, most of these shorts underperformed the market so quickly and so dramatically, that short book turnover caused Chris and I to run on a faster and faster treadmill throughout this year. When we found the short that ended up causing us so much pain in the quarter, it sounded too good to be true. It was a perfect offset to some of our chunkier portfolio factor exposures, but even more, it became clear this was not only a terrible business model, but it was likely a fraud. As Chris and I dug further into the business, there was a never-ending string of yarn that we kept pulling, and the more we pulled, the more damning the evidence was on the founder, company and target markets. In that excited process, we failed to appreciate the risk posed by the meme-trading phenomenon, in the assumption that an Italian company was unlikely to get caught up in the retail trading frenzy that has generated so many distortions elsewhere. Bypassing that debate proved to be our mistake, as the less liquid nature of the stock meant that it was more easily manipulated higher for a few months. As it was getting squeezed, I took action to eliminate that portfolio risk, even knowing that the stock would eventually go to zero. And in the wake of that experience, we also exited other shorts that had largely run their course, but that posed some possible retail trading risk. In our post-mortems, that are published on our investors-only research area, we identified one of the problems we were trying to solve for was the treadmill we found ourselves on. Because each piece of incremental evidence made it more and more compelling, we actually didn’t pause to have a proper bull-bear debate, which is what we have done for every other position. We had put too much pressure on ourselves to maintain a timely short book, and in many ways that papered over the obvious truth that the borrow was hard to obtain and liquidity was not accommodative. We revised our ranking framework to ensure there is a significantly higher bar for less liquid shorts in the future. Furthermore, we decided that any “gaps” in needed short exposure would more easily be filled immediately with index funds that could directly help offset some of the chunkier factor risks to our portfolio, namely European value stocks. We don’t intend to hold these index hedges forever, but believe it will help take pressure off of us to prematurely add new shorts to the portfolio. We have a lot of candidates in the backlog, but we are determined to ensure that we get the timing right as opposed to just the company thesis and factor exposure. At their core, our defensive moves should first do no harm. This analogy mirrors perhaps the most quoted Buffett lesson about rule number one, noted above. In that vein, our current short portfolio is comprised of large, liquid index constituents with very low short interests, cheap borrows, and are largely well-loved. Similar to most of our short positions in the past, they also have mounting liabilities as decades of unconscious behaviors or corruption have eroded the core values of the businesses. We recently published our research on two newer positions on our investor-only research site. These shorts have multiple catalysts over the next few quarters, that we believe, will cause both a material impact to their financials while also possibly downgrading the market’s behavioral narrative. More Conscious Than ESG “Sustainability is built into our business model. If we are focused on the long term, there is no conflict between profitability and the interests of stakeholders. If you are focused on the short term, there is. It’s that simple!” Sir Martin Sorrell Most importantly, these two businesses that we are short have some deeply unconscious features. While each case is different, this means that we’ve found evidence of corruption or deliberate sales of defective or toxic products for decades prior to being discontinued. All of these behaviors are only now catching up to these companies and present material downside risks to these businesses that have historically been run for short-term profit maximization as opposed to long-term value creation or innovation. These are the kinds of companies that are causing the ESG movement to gain major traction around the world. But while we applaud action being taken on protecting the environment, the ESG movement is not solving the root of the problem. The movement is addressing the symptoms rather than the causes. In a white paper that I can’t wait to publish, we’ll show evidence that the fundamental issue facing business today is one of unaccountable agents seeking immediate gratification. There’s a lack of ownership and accountability in a market that continues to outsource much of the “ratings” to agents. Large funds managed by agents with no skin in the game are relying on ratings agencies, also with no skin in the game, to dictate qualitative criteria that often don’t tie to value creation, but rather liability minimization. And that is important, but not sufficient on its own. It is defense without the offense. Or sometimes, it’s all marketing covering up flimsy foundations. Owners or founders exhibit more long-term, conscious capitalist behavior. They generally don’t give quarterly profit guidance, and instead prefer to focus on their customer satisfaction and employee morale. They invest more in their own businesses rather than paying that capital out to shareholders or to acquisition targets. Great shareholder returns are the result of a highly conscious business model, not the goal in and of itself. Exhibit 1: Builders Have Happier Customers & More Engaged Employees Source: GreenWood Investors, OO = owner operators, DC = dual share class structures, S&P = S&P 1200 Global Index But what does it mean actually to be conscious? That’s the subject that Anil Seth seeks to answer in his latest work, Being You. In seeking to demystify the mystery of consciousness, he discusses the most robust model that has been put forward for understanding and measuring how conscious an organism is. Integration information theory (IIT) postulates that consciousness is measured by the degree to which information is integrated into a system or action. Seth explains, “This underpins the main claim of the theory, which is that a system is conscious to the extent that its whole generates more information than its parts.” This concept struck me, as it has many direct parallels to well-worn concepts in investing. Of course it makes sense that the more conscious an organization is, the better it is at integrating information into action. But what really struck me here is that using this IIT framework- an organization is only conscious if the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. To me this infers that if the parts of a business don’t come together to produce something more powerful or valuable than the sum of those individual units, segments or components, the business is not a conscious business. Seth later explained how conscious perceptions are largely built from best guesses and confidence. A key insight of Bayesian inference is that perception is largely a function of updating beliefs about the world based on the precision and reliability of new information. Our minds seek to eliminate prediction errors everywhere and all the time, and we do so by converging our beliefs to the level of conviction we have in the information. In this age of ubiquitous and free information, we differentiate ourselves by the level of conviction we have in the quality and reliability of the insights we have. Conviction is the key. And as Seth later demonstrated, such insights are virtually worthless if not paired with action. This echoes the sentiment that Warren Buffett expressed in talking about getting fat pitches in one’s career, and that one must “swing big,” as they don’t happen very often. This is indeed why we are “swinging big” with Coinvestment II, as this is one of the fattest pitches we’ve ever been thrown. Moving From Defense to Offense “High expectations are the key to everything.” -Sam Walton As my mind was more occupied with offensive capital allocation strategies in the quarter, this pairing of action with insight particularly spoke to me, highly conscious offense playbook strategies are rare. Instead the norm is that most offensive actions are typically made from a defensive motive, and are not based on novel insights. As I wrote in last year’s fourth quarter letter, we endeavor to only get involved in turnaround situations where we either have a board presence, or where a founder or owner operates the business. In our view, these managers have been more resilient in defending their businesses from adversity. Simply put, they cannot just give up and move on. As Covid ripped through the world and economies, far too many managers decided to give up. In the depths of the Covid crisis, at the Presidential inauguration ceremony, National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman articulated rather eloquently that, “Your optimism will never be as powerful as it is in that exact moment when you want to give it up.” Founders are inherently optimistic, and they don’t give up. In exploring the differences between defense and offense, I’ve come to realize that it is even more important to have an owner-oriented management culture when moving from defense to offense. Defense is inherently reactive, reacting to “known knowns” or “known unknowns.” Reactions are easier than proaction. Traditional boards are typically very good at liability minimization. But as important as liability reduction is, these actions do not create value. New business and invention is inherently venturing into the unknown, seeing what others don’t, and pursuing the path untravelled. It comes naturally to a founder or owner, whose authorship imbues the business with the optimistic, entrepreneurial impulse that often started it in the first place. As my friend Bill Carey has articulated, most managers compensated via stock options act more like stock brokers as opposed to owners. Similar to brokers, their time horizons have shrunk considerably. They are simply rent-seeking for a short period of time. And as my friend Chris Mayer likes to say, “no one washes a rental.” Our research on the differences in the behaviors of owner operators and these renters, shows these renters are not very good at offense strategies either. They are very good at competitive reactions, cost cutting and margin optimization. These are important, just as any defense strategy is, but they typically fail to create any lasting value. The value that is captured from these tools generally only lasts as long as the brief period in which the manager’s stock options vest. Given 70-90% of mergers and acquisitions fail, and stock repurchases have taken a notably pro-cyclical, buy-high, sell-low, history, these renters have a typically poor track record in value-creating initiatives and capital deployment. This short-term rental behavior often results in mediocre outcomes. As the late great Sergio Marchionne regularly reminded, “mediocrity is not worth the trip.” Marchionne acted like an owner even before he was one. And he created so much value that his net worth neared $1 billion when he shuffled off this mortal coil. While much of that was indeed generated by options that he exercised, such options were struck at twice and three times the level at which he came in to rescue Fiat in 2004. His package inspired the design of CTT’s options package for top and first level managers. Sergio was very good at seeing things others didn’t. He and his venerable team of managers, to whom he dedicated so much of his energy, were very good at transforming ignored products and assets into gold. Of particular note, Jeep grew from just over 2%of the market in the US to just under 6% when he passed- and it became a truly global brand. He invented Ferrari’s Icona series, which made the irregular limited edition profits part of the regular P&L of the brand without diluting the exclusivity of such models. He and parent holding company Exor have continued to provide much of the inspiration behind our activities with both coinvestments. We endeavor to replicate their divide & conquer strategy, which allowed the Fiat Group to become stronger as stand-alone Fiat-Chrysler (now Stellantis), Ferrari, CNH, and soon to be Iveco Group. Just as Sergio advised the few believers throughout his career, investors will be “owning multiple pieces of paper” as the journey unfolds. In hindsight, we can all agree on the value creation prowess of him and his team. But we easily forget that for most of his career, he was faced mostly by skeptics and doubters. He was not afraid to look dumb. In his own words, “A lot of what I do is challenge assumptions . . . which often looks like you are asking stupid questions.” Being entrepreneurial, by definition, means taking the path untraveled, and heading into the unknown with daring boldness. Offense playbooks, by design, must take competition by surprise. Coming from a humble place with brands and companies that were ridiculed by competitors, when Sergio put medium-term plans out to the market, they were not timid. He would always aim higher than anyone, especially his competitors, believed he and his team could reach. And while not every target was always achieved, the formidable results speak for themselves. This past earnings season, as Twitter was the only social media company to deliver on guidance while also confirming the quarter ahead to be at least as good, the stock sold off materially as its monetizable daily active user (MDAU) targets in the medium-term were called into question. While founder Jack Dorsey is clearly unafraid to look foolish to the public, or even in front of congress, he also manages multiple businesses at the same time. Competitors openly make fun of him. But his team is exceptionally loyal to him, and they have set out very ambitious targets for themselves over the next few years. The recent sell-off in Twitter shares was like deja vu all over again, as I reminisced about the Fiat capital markets day in 2014, fittingly on Twitter in this tweet thread. With its product and revenue servers rebuilt, it can now innovate and launch new ad formats faster than ever before. We look forward to the Twitter team pressing its offense strategy as a major peer loses focus on its core business. Into The Unknown “Action is inseparable from perception. Perception and action are so tightly coupled that they determined and define each other. Every action alters perception by changing the incoming sensory data, and every perception is the way it is in order to help guide action. There is simply no point to perception in the absence of action.” Anil Seth, Being You What does it mean to move into offense? One thing very clear to us, is that it has to be a dynamic and reflexive approach. It cannot be built into a three or five year plan and remain fixed over that duration. As Anil Seth’s work on consciousness explains, a highly conscious being is constantly ingesting and integrating information, evolving actions based on reliability, precision and conviction. As capital-markets focused investors, we believe one of the highest values we can provide to our companies is information that can be integrated into their offense and defense playbooks. Thanks to our collaborative approach, we get nearly daily recommendations and thoughts from our investors with new information, new case studies, and new suggestions on how to continue iterating. One of the biggest differentiations between good and great investments, that is often overlooked, is the value added by good capital allocation- be it with a very well-done merger, opportunistic buyback or even more, venture-style investments that are almost in no one’s “model” or perception. Small acquisitions that bring new tools and managers can often upgrade the business model. As Clayton Christensen suggested in The Big Idea: The New M&A Playbook, these are often the most overlooked investments. But during the quarter, when posed with the question of how to best allocate capital over the long term, I found myself tongue tied. For it’s a dynamic and reflexive question to ask. It’s easy to see what to do right now, and where to build in the next few years. But sound capital allocation is a function of the opportunities that present themselves. It is also about creating new possibilities, particular ones that competitors don’t see. At CTT, with defensive, problem-solving actions becoming less of a focus, attention can now turn to offense. What that looks like in the near term, at least to me, should be continued progress and convergence on the strategy to become the Shopify of Iberia. With Portugal e-commerce order frequency at very small fractions of neighboring Spain, we believe it is CTT’s responsibility to make itself the most convenient and most cost effective way of conducting commerce. Through more parcel lockers, better digital tools, while maintaining or improving on best-in-class quality of service, we believe much of the responsibility to make online the most convenient commerce channel in Portugal will fall on CTT’s shoulders. Going further with online shop enabling, more cost effective payments tools, and an integrated fulfillment offer, that continues through to returns and customer service, it has every tool it needs to enable this digital transition. This convergence is happening at the same time EU recovery stimulus dollars will be directed towards digitalizing the economy. Case studies like Kaspi, which started as a bank, evolved into a payments company, then launched an e-commerce marketplace and then further expanded into logistics, provide more inspiration than any company in the logistics industry. This reminds me of Google’s earliest days, when its managers encouraged their teams to ignore the traditional competitors and instead go where other competitors hadn’t dared to venture- into the unknown. We believe CTT has greater competitive advantages than some “new economy” companies playing throughout the same e-commerce value chain, often trading at significantly higher valuation multiples. Whether we’re talking about fulfillment services, parcel lockers, or alternative purchase financing, it’s the customer relationship that differentiates and builds competitive advantages. That is why one of the first priorities of the new management was to improve customer satisfaction. And while some analysts that cover the company still use traditional methods to frame the opportunity, the shareholder base has largely transitioned away from income-oriented investors. More like-minded shareholders, aligned with management, can enable the team to build something truly great. Building Great Companies “The urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” DaVinci What started for us as an approach to separate the bank from the industrial company, and achieve a sum of parts valuation, has been upgraded to that of building a great compound machine. As Exor articulated in 2019, its purpose to “build great companies,” is an aspirational philosophy for us. While we certainly aren’t doing the building here, perhaps through setting the right strategic priorities, incentives, and providing timely and right information, we can assist in the build underway. Exor has provided an exemplary model of how to enable its teams to build greater value by dividing, conquering, and then often later combining with more synergistic peers. Just like Anil Seth described, the whole must be greater than the sum of the parts in a highly conscious organization. When a company’s sum of the parts is greater than the total, the organization is not conscious, and therefor not capable of adding material value. Just as Exor has executed masterfully in its portfolio companies over the past decade, the path forward is one of both dividing and one of conquering. Extending the business and commerce services that CTT provides is a natural offense-oriented positioning that further reinforces the strength of the whole. But there are other parts of this organization that aren’t adding as much to the sum total- those can, and should be separated to pursue their own offense playbooks in a more focused and agile manner. Such an approach goes well beyond ESG, and it goes well beyond most other broker-oriented management teams. It is a highly conscious capitalist approach, aligned with long term value creation and sustainability. And that process should result in considerable returns as an effect, not as a goal. As owner operators’ short, medium, and long term benchmark outperformance demonstrates, this strong alignment between management and ownership is a championship-winning combination. Exhibit 2: Owner Operators’ Stock Index Outperformance Source: GreenWood Investors In the months ahead, we anticipate thoroughly engaging with the management and board of the target at the Builders Fund II. This company is mirroring CTT’s current posture, in that it is in the process of finishing nearly a decade of defense-oriented actions. After years of strategic actions focused on fixing problematic areas, contracts or business dynamics, most of these reactive or defensive actions are increasingly passing into the rearview mirror. It is entering a new phase of life in a position to also divide and conquer, and it has exceptional assets. With both coinvestments representing a substantial portion of our net exposure, we move forward with conviction. While this quarter was a lesson that we, nor our companies, can lose sight of a strong defense strategy, we are increasingly looking forward to our portfolio pressing offense strategies moving forward. Committed to deliver, Steven Wood, CFA GreenWood Investors Updated on Nov 24, 2021, 4:37 pm (function() { var sc = document.createElement("script"); sc.type = "text/javascript"; sc.async = true;sc.src = "//mixi.media/data/js/95481.js"; sc.charset = "utf-8";var s = document.getElementsByTagName("script")[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(sc, s); }()); window._F20 = window._F20 || []; _F20.push({container: 'F20WidgetContainer', placement: '', count: 3}); _F20.push({finish: true});.....»»

Category: blogSource: valuewalkNov 24th, 2021

American Defense Policy After Twenty Years Of War

American Defense Policy After Twenty Years Of War Authored by Jim Webb via NationalInterest.org, America has always been a place where the abrasion of continuous debate eventually produces creative solutions. Let’s agree on those solutions, and make the next twenty years a time of clear purpose and affirmative global leadership. The American scorecard for foreign policy achievements over the past twenty years is, frankly, pretty dismal. And without talking our way all around the globe, it’s clear that the most dismal score goes to the stupidest mistakes. We fought one war that we never should have fought and another war whose objectives grew so out of control that no amount of battlefield proficiency could overcome the naïve mission creep of the political and military leadership at the top that was defining what our troops were supposed to do. So, let me start with a couple of quotes from two pieces I wrote, one at the beginning of this twenty-year period and the other at the end.   On September 4, 2002, five months before the Bush administration ordered the invasion of Iraq, I wrote the following as part of a larger editorial for the Washington Post, warning that an invasion would be a strategic blunder: Nations such as China can only view the prospect of an American military consumed for the next generation by the turmoil of the Middle East as a glorious windfall. Indeed, if one gives the Chinese credit for having a long-term strategy — and those who love to quote Sun Tzu might consider his nationality — it lends credence to their insistent cultivation of the Muslim world. An “American war” with the Muslims, occupying the very seat of their civilization, would allow the Chinese to isolate the United States diplomatically as they furthered their own ambitions in South and Southeast Asia. Almost exactly nineteen years later as the military planners serving the Biden Administration executed a shamefully incompetent final withdrawal from Afghanistan, I wrote the following for The National Interest, excerpted in the Wall Street Journal, in a piece entitled “Requiem for an Avoidable Disaster:”  …the war that we began was not the same war that we are finally bringing to an end. When we went into Afghanistan in 2001 our national concern was to eliminate terrorist entities who desired to attack us. The common understanding at the time was that we would operate with maneuver elements capable of attacking and neutralizing terrorist entities. It was never to occupy territory with permanent bases or to attempt to change the societal and governmental structure of the Afghan people. This “mission creep” began after a few years of successful operations and was obvious in 2004 when I was in the country as an embed journalist. The change in mission eventually increased our troop presence tenfold and sent our forces on an impossible political journey that no amount of military success could overcome. Why did all this happen? And how can we rectify the damage that has been done to the institutions that were involved, and to our international credibility? There’s an old saying that “success has a thousand fathers but failure is an orphan.” In this case, there were two entirely different categories of orphans, some of whom were not touched personally or even professionally, and some who gave up lives, limbs, and emotional health. For the policymakers in Washington, these were wars to be remotely managed inside the guide rails of theoretical national strategy and uncontrolled financial planning. As with so many other drawn-out military commitments with vaguely defined and often changing objectives, America’s diplomatic credibility steadily decreased while the price tag rose through the roof, into trillions of dollars and thousands of combat deaths. There is no way around the reality that these hand-selected policymakers, military and civilian alike, failed the country, even as many of them were being lionized in the media and offered lucrative post-retirement positions in the private sector. Their immediate strategic goals, vague as they were from the outset, were not accomplished. The larger necessity of meeting global challenges, and particularly China’s determined expansion, was put on the back burner as our operational and diplomatic capabilities were diverted into a constantly quarreling region with the deserved reputation of being the “Graveyard of Empires.” In the context of history, the human cost on the battlefield as viewed by those at the top was manageably small, and carried out by an all-volunteer military. Indeed, despite the length of twenty years of war and many ferocious engagements, the overall casualty numbers were historically low. DOD reports the total number of American military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan combined over twenty years as 7,074, of which 5,474 were killed in action. This twenty-year number was about the same as six months of American casualties during any one of the peak years of fighting in Vietnam. Emotionally, although there was much sympathy and respect for our soldiers we were not really a nation in a fully engaged war. As the wars continued, life in America went on without disruption. A very small percentage of the country was at human or even family risk. The wars did not interfere on a national scale with the lives of those who chose not to serve. The economy was largely good. In places like my home state of Virginia it absolutely boomed with tens of billions of dollars going to Virginia-based programs in the departments of Defense and Homeland Security. This societal disconnect gave the policymakers great latitude in the manner in which they ran the wars. It also resulted in very little congressional oversight, either in operational concepts or in much-need scrutiny of DOD and State Department management and budgets. Powerpoint presentations replaced vigorous discussion. Serious introspection by Pentagon staff members gave way to bland reports from Beltway Bandit consultants hired to provide answers to questions asked during committee hearings. An “Overseas Contingency Fund” with billions of unlabeled dollars allowed military leaders to fund programs that were never directly authorized or specifically appropriated by Congress. To be blunt, the Pentagon and the Joint commands were basically making their own rules, and to hell with everybody else. This was not the Congress in which I had worked as a full committee counsel during the Carter Administration. Nor was it the Pentagon in which I had served as an assistant secretary of defense and Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan. At the other end of the pipeline, it was different. For those who did serve, and especially for those who served in ground combat units and in special operations, being thrown into the middle of a region where violence and bitter retribution is the norm was often a life-altering experience. Repetitive combat tours pulled them away from home, from family, and from the normal routines of their peers again and again, creating burnout from unresolved personal issues of stress and readjustment to civilian life. So-called “stop loss” programs kept many soldiers on active duty after their initial terms of service were supposed to end, a policy that brought the not-unreal slogan that stop-loss was, in reality, nothing more than a back-door version of the draft: We have you. And we are going to keep you until we no longer need you. The traditional policy of allowing troops a two-to-one ratio of “dwell time” at home between deployments was repeatedly shortened until, for the Army, the ratio was less than one-to-one, requiring soldiers to return to combat for fifteen months with only twelve months at home to recuperate, refurbish, and retrain. Those who left the military after one enlistment rather than choosing a career were largely ignored by commands that provided little post-military guidance and sent battle-weary young soldiers home without much more than a goodbye. But along the way, as with those who have served our country in uniform in every other war, our young military did the job that they were sent to do, no matter the overall wisdom of the mission itself. With respect to these capable and dedicated young Americans who stepped forward to serve, I feel fortunate to have been able to play a part in making sure that the public was aware of the contributions they made, and to put into place policies that recognized and properly rewarded their service. And as a writer, journalist and later a Senator I was able to use whatever pulpit was available in order to emphasize that our greatest strategic challenges were not in the places where our elites had decided to invest our people and our national treasure, and to call for the country’s leadership to cease its unfortunate obsession with a region that has never needed a permanent American ground presence as a means of mediating, much less resolving, its centuries-old conflicts. You don’t take out a hornet’s nest by sitting on top of it. We’re smarter than that, and also more capable.   In addition to working on strongly felt issues such as economic fairness and criminal justice reform, once I was elected to the Senate I took a two-pronged approach to resolving the mess that had been made in our misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. The first involved our larger strategic interests. I immediately gained a seat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and two years later was named Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs. From our immediate office, I designed a staff—and a legislative approach—that would energetically re-emphasize our commitment to relations in East Asia, and recruited good people to carry out that approach. My mission to my staff was that we were going to work to invigorate American relations in East Asia, particularly in South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines, and we were going to open up Burma to the outside world. We did more than talk about this, averaging three intense trips every year where I was able to meet with top leaders in those countries as well as almost every other country in ASEAN. Barack Obama later announced a similar policy after he was elected two years later, calling it the “Pivot to Asia.” Unfortunately, his administration’s approach skirted the largest issue in the region by avoiding any major confrontations with China. The pivot was largely abandoned at a crucial period in 2012 after China claimed sovereignty over a two million square kilometer area of the South China Sea, and began militarizing numerous contested islands claimed by several other countries. The Obama administration declined to criticize China’s actions, saying that the United States would not take a position on sovereignty issues. Quite obviously, not taking a position in this matter was defaulting to China’s aggressive acts. I responded by introducing a Senate resolution condemning any use of military force in the resolution of sovereignty issues in the South China Sea, which passed with a unanimous vote. The second involved the day-to-day manner in which our wars were being fought, and the way that our younger military people were being treated by those at the top. I participated in numerous hearings on all aspects from my seats on the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, becoming even more concerned about the lack of serious congressional oversight. During one Foreign Relations Committee hearing on post-invasion reconstruction efforts, an assistant secretary of state testified that the United States had spent 32 billion dollars on different smaller-scale projects.  I asked him to provide me and the committee a complete list of every project, as well as the cost. That was in 2007. I’m still waiting for his answer. This was clearly not the way things worked when I was a counsel in the House, where such requests were often answered within a day or two, from information that had already been compiled. In fact, the lack of an answer, despite follow-up calls from my staff, followed a broader pattern that had evolved after 9/11 when vague answers and delayed responses had become the norm, a deliberate and increasingly routine snub of the Congress by higher-level members of the executive branch. Take your choice. This was either incompetent leadership or deliberate obstruction. If the congressional liaisons from DOD were able to provide specific, complicated data within a day or two in 1977, certainly the computers of 2007 were capable of doing so after thirty years of technological progress. I responded by co-authoring legislation along with Senator Claire McCaskill that created the Wartime Contracts Commission, modeled after the Truman Commission of World War Two. After three years of investigations, the commission’s final report estimated that due to major failures in our contracting system the United States had squandered up to 60 billion dollars through contract waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the commission lacked subpoena power or criminal jurisdiction over actions taken in the past, but it certainly got the attention of would-be fraudsters, led to better record-keeping, improved the oversight process, and put a marker down for contracts from that point forward.   Having grown up in the military, and serving as an infantry Marine in Vietnam, and with a son who had left college to enlist in the Marine Corps infantry and fought in Ramadi, Iraq during one of the worst periods in that war, I seized the opportunity – and undertook the obligation – to properly reward the contributions of those who had stepped forward to serve. Immediately after I won the election to the Senate, and two months before actually being sworn in, I sat down with the Senate legislative counsel and drafted the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Having spent four years as a full committee counsel on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, my legislative model was the GI Bill that had been given to our World War Two veterans, the most generous GI Bill in history up to that time: pay for the veteran’s tuition and fees, buy the books, and provide a monthly living stipend. For every tax dollar that was spent on the World War Two GI bill, our treasury received eight dollars in tax remunerations from veterans who had gone on to successful lives. By contrast, the Vietnam Era GI Bill had provided only a monthly payment that in almost every case was far less than the costs of higher education, beginning in 1966 at a paltry rate of 50 dollars a month and ending in the early 1970s at $340 a month. I introduced the Post-9/11 GI Bill on my first day as a Senator. I put together a bipartisan leadership team—two Republicans, John Warner and Chuck Hagel; two Democrats, Frank Lautenberg and myself; two of them World War Two veterans, and two of them Vietnam veterans. Sixteen months later in a modern-day Congressional miracle, the bill became law, ironically over the strong opposition of the Bush Administration to the very end. The White House and the Pentagon claimed that such a generous bill would affect retention, causing too many people to leave the military. The obvious but implicit message was, Don’t treat them too good; they’ll leave. This position was taken by general officers who were going to receive a couple of hundred thousand dollars every year in military retirement when they themselves decided to leave. Having spent five years in the Pentagon and being intimately familiar with manpower issues, I held a completely different belief, that the generosity of the new GI Bill would enhance enlistments and help broaden the base of our overall military. In a back-handed compliment, at least in my view, I was not invited to the White House for the ceremony when the President signed the bill. But to date, millions of post-9/11 veterans have used this Bill, which is beyond cavil the most generous GI Bill in history. It has created opportunities and empowered the careers of people who are now making their way into positions of leadership and influence throughout the country. Shortly after I introduced the GI Bill, I introduced legislation to mandate a proper ratio for dwell time between overseas deployments. The legislation would have required that military members not be returned to combat unless they had been home for at least the amount of time that they had previously been gone. This was not unreasonable. A two-to-one ratio was a simple formula that reflected traditional rotation cycles. With the continuous deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan it had fallen to less than one-to-one, which meant that for years our soldiers would be gone longer than they were at home, and when they were at home they would be spending much of their time getting ready to go back. This reality was clearly affecting not only morale but also the potential for long-term emotional difficulties such as post-traumatic stress. Predictably, the White House and the Pentagon opposed the legislation. Some claimed that I had designed it with a hidden agenda to slow down the war in Iraq. Others, led by Senator Lindsey Graham, claimed that the legislation was unconstitutional, that Congress could not intervene in the operational tempo of the military since the President was the Commander in Chief. But a precedent was already set. During the Korean War, Congress had ceased the deployment of soldiers who were being sent to the war zone without proper training by mandating that no military members could be deployed overseas unless they had spent 120 days on active duty. If the military leaders weren’t going to take care of their people, it was only right that Congress should set proper boundaries. The Republicans filibustered the legislation, which then required sixty votes for passage. Although the bill twice received a fifty-six vote majority, with several Republican votes for passage, we did not break the filibuster.  But we did put the issue of dwell time firmly before Congress and the public, and the two-to-one deployment cycle eventually became the express goal inside the Department of Defense. All of that is history. I put it before you as something of a template to show the patterns that evolved and have continued over the past twenty years, as well as evidence that strong and informed leadership in Congress can turn things around. In many ways, this dislocation is between those who make policy—including military leaders—and those who carry it out. It continues due to the group mentality of a foreign policy aristocracy seeking common agreement rather than original thought. And it has exacerbated this ever-growing dislocation by freezing out those who are not, basically, in the club because their thinking does not fit the usual mantra and their ideas threaten the prevailing orthodoxy. We need these other voices. There are lessons to be learned and unavoidable questions that need to be answered at every level. Some involve the articulation of our national security objectives and how we define national strategy. Some involve when and how we should use the military for operational missions in harm’s way. And some involve the actual makeup of these military missions, from their remote or covert or overt nature, and if deployed in large numbers how large that footprint should be, and what portion should consist of military contractors along the lines of the past twenty years. And for those who want to repair the damage, it challenges us to find clear ways where we can move forward. Who do we hold accountable for the random and often changing strategic mistakes that have damaged our strength and our reputation? How do we move forward in the way we articulate and implement our national strategy here at home? How do we regain our respect in the international community, both among our friends who need us, and from potential adversaries who pray every day that America will lose its willpower, that we would be so overcome by military failures abroad and turbulence at home that the nation itself will atrophy and descend into the ranks of an also-ran, second-rate power?   We should begin with a vigorous and open discussion about the makeup, power, and influence of America’s massive defense establishment. And here I’m talking about the highest levels of our uniformed military, the civilian government officials, the powerful defense corporations, the numerous think tanks funded heavily by the defense industry, the hugely influential lobbying organizations, and—if not at the bottom, certainly in the bullseye of the efforts of all of these entities—the authorizing and appropriating committees in the Senate and House of Representatives. Couple that with the media of all sorts, particularly the huge growth of the internet and social media, and one can see how complicated the debate over any controversial issue can become. We were warned about this, sixty years ago, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his well-remembered speech about the “military / industrial complex.” The speech was the president’s carefully placed farewell message to the American people, made just three days before he left office. His words resonate, symbolic in their timing as his final shot across the bow, and coming as they did from this former five-star general who knew the military with a completeness that no other American president could ever match. After commenting that in the aftermath of World War Two the “conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience,” Eisenhower expressed his concern about the “total influence – economic, political, even spiritual” of this new reality “in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications.”   The outgoing, immensely popular President then bluntly called out the members of his own professional culture—the military itself—and the bond its top leaders were increasingly forming with America’s defense corporations. “In the councils of government we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military / industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” Looking at the decades following his speech and particularly the past twenty years, I believe President Eisenhower would be amazed at how massively this military-industrial complex has grown, how entangled the relationships between the military and the industrial complex have become, and how much it has affected the career paths of civilian “experts,” as well as the positions taken by many senior flag officers facing retirement. Lucrative civilian careers have been made through the “revolving doors” of serving for a few years in appointed posts in the Departments of Defense and State, or by working on committee staffs in the Congress, then rotating over the space of many years in and out of government into the defense-oriented industry and in the ever more influential think tanks, some of them heavily funded by corporations with major financial interests in defense contracts. The number of people involved in such revolving doors and the amount of money flowing back and forth would have stunned the understanding of people in Eisenhower’s era. Likewise, many military officers have made similar career moves, taking advantage of skills and relationships that were developed while on active duty. Those in uniform and others who work in the area of national defense regularly comment about the potential for conflicts of interest among the most senior flag officers as they carry out their final active duty positions before retiring and prepare for their next career in the civilian world. Critical issues ranging from the procurement of weapons systems to carrying out politically sensitive military operations often comprise the way in which potential civilian employers decide on the next chapter in their lives. A hand played well can bring large financial benefits. A hand played poorly can result in media stigma or even being relieved of their duties, and a beach house in Tarpon Springs. As with other areas of public service, it would be useful for Congress to examine the firewalls in place in order to maintain the vitally important separation of the military, on the one side, and the industrial complex on the other, just as President Dwight Eisenhower so prophetically pointed out sixty years ago. Dwight Eisenhower would have liked General Robert Barrow, the twenty-seventh commandant of the Marine Corps. His leadership example personally inspired me, both during and after my service in the Corps. We had many personal discussions over the years, until he passed away in 2008. He was a great combat leader. He mastered guerrilla warfare while fighting Japanese units alongside Chinese soldiers in World War Two. In the Korean War, he received the Navy Cross, our country’s second-highest award, for extraordinary heroism as a company commander during the historic breakout from the Chosin Reservoir. And in Vietnam, he was known as one of the war’s finest regimental commanders. He knew war, he knew loyalty, and he knew his Marines. General Barrow was fond of emphasizing that moral courage was often harder, and more exemplary, than physical courage. On matters of principle, he would not bend. During one difficult period when he was dealing with serious issues in the political process, the four-star Commandant calmly pointed out to me that his obligation was to run the Marine Corps “the same way a good company commander runs his rifle company: I’ll do the best job I know how to do, and if you don’t like what I’m doing, then fire me.” It is rare these days to see such leaders wearing the stars of a general or an admiral. And thinking of President Eisenhower’s prescient warnings about what he termed the “the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals,” I have no doubt that he and General Barrow shared the same concerns. General Barrow held another firm belief. Having served as Commandant of the Marine Corps, he believed it would soil the dignity of that office by trading on its credibility for financial gain through banging on doors in Washington as a lobbyist or serving as a board member giving a defense-related corporation his prized insider’s advice on how to sell their product. The Japanese have a saying that “life is a generation, but reputation is forever.” And General Barrow’s pristine motivation will forever preserve his honor. I grew up in the military. I know the price that families must pay when their fathers or now even their mothers are continuously deployed, because I lived it as a very young boy. My father, a pilot who flew B-17s and B-29s in World War Two and cargo planes in the Berlin Airlift, was continually deployed either overseas or on bases with no family housing, at one point for more than three years. I know the demands and yet the honor of leading infantry Marines in combat and then spending years in and out of the hospital after being wounded. I know what it is like to be a father with a son deployed in a very bad place as an enlisted infantry Marine. And most of all I know the pride that comes from being able to say for the rest of my life that when my country called, I was there, and I took care of my people. My other major point today is that our top leaders in all sectors of national defense need to get going and develop a clearly articulated foreign policy. We have lost twenty years, unfortunately fulfilling the prediction that I made in the Washington Post five months before the invasion of Iraq that “Nations such as China can only view the prospect of an American military consumed for the next generation by the turmoil of the Middle East as a glorious windfall.” And for China, indeed it was. It’s ironic that we are now hearing frantic warnings from our uniformed leaders about China’s determined expansionism, both military and economic, and particularly about how recent reports of Chinese technological leaps might be something of a new “Sputnik” moment where America has been caught off-guard and now must rush to catch up. Too bad they weren’t following this as these policies and technological improvements were developed by the Chinese over at least the past two decades, while our focus remained intently on the never-ending and never-resolved brawls in the Middle East. The very people who now are wringing their hands and calling for a full-fledged effort to counter such threats are the same people who should have been warning the nation of their possibility ten or even twenty years ago. So, ask yourself: If things go wrong, who then shall we blame? Much of the world is now uneasy with China’s unremitting aggression on its home turf in Asia. Over the past decade, China has been calling its own shots, rejecting international law and public opinion while flexing its muscle to signal its view that it will soon replace the United States as the region’s dominant military, diplomatic and economic power. Beijing has taken down Hong Kong’s democracy movement; started military spats with India; disrupted life for tens of millions by damming the headwaters of the Mekong River; conducted what our government now deems a campaign of genocide against Muslim Uighurs; escalated tensions with Japan over the Senkaku Islands; consolidated its illegal occupation and militarization of islands in the South China Sea; and made repeated bellicose gestures designed to test the international community’s resistance to “unifying” the “renegade province” of Taiwan. China’s military is expanding and modernizing and its Navy is becoming not only technological but global. While we expended a huge portion of our human capital, emotional energy, and national treasure on two wars, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has had a major economic impact in Asia, Africa, and Latin America and with individual governments on other continents. In Africa, whose population has quadrupled since 1970 and which counts only one of the world’s top thirty countries in Gross National Product, more than forty countries have signed on to China’s BRI. Let’s get going. We have alliances to enhance, and extensive national security interests to protect. We need to address these issues immediately and with clarity. America has always been a place where the abrasion of continuous debate eventually produces creative solutions. Eventually is now. Let’s agree on those solutions, and make the next twenty years a time of clear purpose and affirmative global leadership. Tyler Durden Tue, 11/09/2021 - 00:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 9th, 2021

One of the nation"s largest defense contractors just donated tens of thousands to lawmakers voting on Ukraine defense legislation

Raytheon Technologies spent more than $51,000 in April donating to the campaigns of members of Congress and political action committees, new records show. Raytheon, a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, hosts an exhibition stand at the Farnborough Air Show, England.In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images One of the nation's largest defense contractors just donated tens of thousands to lawmakers. Raytheon Technologies donated to more than 30 lawmakers' campaigns in April. These donations came at a time when members of Congress were debating sending weapons Raytheon makes to Ukraine. One of the nation's largest defense contractors spread more than $51,000 in contributions among members of Congress and partisan political committees in April as lawmakers debated sending a new round of weapons and other military aid to Ukraine, according to a new filing with the Federal Election Commission.The contractor, Raytheon Technologies, donated to more than 30 members of Congress' campaigns, as well as several leadership political action committees and national party committees.As Raytheon Technologies contributed its money to lawmakers throughout April, legislators were discussing more than 10 Ukraine-related bills.The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a $40 billion Ukraine military and humanitarian support package, which President Joe Biden is poised to sign. Raytheon manufactures Stinger missiles, which Ukraine is using to shoot down Russian aircraft, as well as co-manufactures Javelin anti-tank missile systems with fellow defense contractor Lockheed Martin.Of the more than 30 members of Congress to which Raytheon's PAC donated, eight members currently sit on the House Armed Services Committee: Democratic Reps. Veronica Escobar from Texas and Elaine Luria of Virginia, and Republican Reps. Michael Waltz from Florida, Jerry Carl of Alabama, Jack Bergman of Michigan, Mike Turner from Ohio, Jim Banks from Indiana, and Mike Rogers of Alabama.The weapons supplier also in April donated $15,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and $2,500 to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California.Raytheon Technologies' PAC spending varies from month to month. Its spending in the month of April during election years has, over time, ranged from low six-figures to no spending at all. Accepting donations from corporate PACs has been a contentious issue for Democrats, of late. Beginning in earnest during the 2018 election cycle, some liberal candidates have rejected corporate PAC money because they say it represents a corrupting influence and doesn't represent their constituents' needs.A retired commander in the US Navy, Luria wore off accepting PAC donations in her 2018 campaign, but has since reneged. She's accepted more than $200,000 from corporate PACs this campaign cycle, according to the Washington Post.A spokesperson for Luria's campaign did not answer Insider's questions about the Raytheon contribution, but said in a statement: "Elaine Luria took an oath at 17 years old to support and defend her country, and she spent 20 years on combat ships at sea doing just that. She knows that Russia and its invasion of Ukraine is a threat to the United States, and she will continue to support humanitarian aid and military assistance to the people of Ukraine in their fight for freedom."Representatives for the campaigns of Escobar and Rogers did not respond to Insider's request for comment.Raytheon Technologies acknowledged Insider's request for comment but did not immediately reply to questions.Beyond campaign contributions from its PAC, Raytheon Technologies spends millions of dollars each year directly lobbying the federal government, including Congress, over policy and regulatory matters. During the first three months of this year alone, Raytheon spent nearly $3.5 million on federal-level lobbying efforts, according to federal data compiled by nonpartisan research organization OpenSecrets.Meanwhile, 20 federal lawmakers have personally invested money in Raytheon Technology or Lockheed Martin stock, which has nearly doubled in value since the stock market crash of March 2020.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 20th, 2022

Putin has 2, maybe 3, daughters he barely ever talks about. One is reported to have a secret child with a German ballet star — here"s everything we know about them

Russian president Vladimir Putin has tried to keep his personal life out of the spotlight, rarely if ever discussing his children. Russian President Vladimir and his now ex-wife Lyudmila Shkrebneva.Sergey Ponomarev/AP Russian president Vladimir Putin has at least two, possibly three, daughters he rarely talks about. He has two adult daughters with his ex-wife Lyudmila Shkrebneva: Maria, 36, and Katerina, 35. On April 6, 2022, the US and the UK put both on its sanctions list because of the war in Ukraine. See more stories on Insider's business page. President Vladimir Putin is famously secretive of his personal life, and has fought hard to prevent the media and the world from knowing much about his family.His carefully curated macho image — he's often photographed riding horses, lifting weights, and posing shirtless — has colored much of the public's understanding of him.He has also made a concerted effort to shield his children from the spotlight.Putin has never publicly acknowledged his children, though media outlets have for years speculated and reported about the two daughters Putin had with his ex-wife, and even that a girlfriend may have had another daughter in 2015.One daughter, Katerina Tikhonova, herself appears to have had a clandestine relationship and a child with German ballet director Igor Zelensky, according to a joint investigation by Der Spiegel and Important Stories.She appears to be building a public profile, although in media appearances such as last year's St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia, nobody explicitly linked her with Putin.Here is what we know about the lives of Putin's secret kids.Pat Ralph contributed reporting to previous versions of this article.Putin had two daughters in his first marriage to former flight attendant Lyudmila Shkrebneva, to whom he was married for three decades until their divorce in 2013.APSources: Vladimir Putin, Reuters, Business InsiderTheir daughter's names are Maria and Katerina. Maria was born in Leningrad in 1985, and Katerina was born in Germany in 1986 when the family lived there during her father's time in the KGB.Maria and Katerina Putin, from their father's personal archive.ReutersSources: Vladimir Putin, Reuters, NewsweekBoth girls are named after their grandmothers. Maria's nickname is Masha and Katerina's nickname is Katya.Putin's father, Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin, and his mother, Maria Ivanovna Shelomova.KremlinMasha and Katya are common Russian shortenings for Maria and Katerina.Sources: Vladimir Putin, Reuters, NewsweekWhen the family moved to Moscow in 1996, the girls attended a German-language school. The children were reportedly removed from school when Putin became acting president, and teachers educated them at home.Then-acting President Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila applaud during a concert after an award ceremony in Gudermes on January 1, 2000.REUTERSSource: Newsweek"Not all fathers are as loving with their children as he is," Lyudmila said in a quote on Putin's government website. "And he has always spoiled them, while I was the one who had to discipline them."Vesti.ru screengrabSource: Vladimir PutinMaria studied biology in college and went to medical school in Moscow, while Katerina majored in Asian Studies in college. Both girls attended university under false identities.Putin and wife Ludmila arrive at the airport in Rostock-Laage, Germany on June 6, 2007.Alexander Hassenstein/Getty ImagesSources: Reuters, NewsweekMaria, now 36, is a medical researcher and lives in Moscow with her Dutch husband, Jorrit Faassen.APSources: Reuters, Newsweek, BloombergMaria and Faassen reportedly have a child — Putin told filmmaker Oliver Stone in 2017 that he was a grandfather. When Stone asked if he played with his grandchild, Putin replied, "Very seldom, unfortunately.""The Putin Interviews" was a four-part series that premiered on Showtime in May 2017.ShowtimeSources: Reuters, The Independent, Bloomberg, Daily MailMeanwhile, Katerina reportedly lives a high-flying life, living in lavish apartments and acquiring a fortune.Russian President Vladimir Putin makes a toast during an award ceremony in the Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia on Dec. 28, 2017.Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool Photo via APSources: Reuters, The Independent, Bloomberg, Daily MailKaterina, now 35, is an accomplished acrobatic dancer and has a senior position at her alma mater, Moscow State University, heading a $1.7 billion startup incubator.Katerina Tikhonovna, daughter of Vladimir Putin, dancing.Jakub Dabrowski/ReutersSources: Reuters, BloombergKaterina married Russian billionaire Kirill Shamalov in 2013. But the couple divorced in 2018, and the divorce case revealed they were worth $2 billion.Kirill Shamalov, the former husband of Putin's daughter KaterinaReuters/Kommersant Photo/Dmitry DukhaninSources: Bloomberg, Reuters, The Guardian   But flight records suggest that in 2017, Katerina had begun a clandestine relationship with German ballet star Igor Zelensky. She had a daughter with him.Igor Zelensky the father of Katerina's child pictured, in 2014. In 2016 he became director of the Bavarian State Ballet.Tobias Hase/picture alliance via Getty ImagesZelensky has served as the director of the Bavarian State Ballet and the Munich State Ballet. Source: Important Stories and Der SpiegelKaterina secretly flew to Munich more than 50 times to see Zelensky between 2017 and 2019, with their daughter in tow.Igor Zelensky on stage in 2018 in Munich, Germany.Gisela Schober/Getty ImagesThe relationship was revealed by a 2022 investigation that examined Katerina's flight records, showing that she traveled with members of Putin's presidential secret service. Source: Important Stories and Der SpiegelThere are no official current photos of the girls. For Katerina, we found the slightly varying first names "Katerina", "Katya", and "Yekaterina," and the last names "Putina," "Tikhonova," and "Shamalov."Katerina Tikhonova (L), daughter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, dances with Ivan Klimov during the World Cup Rock'n'Roll Acrobatic Competition in Krakow, Poland, on April 12, 2014.REUTERS/Jakub DabrowskiSources: Reuters, NewsweekFinally, there are rumors that Putin has a third daughter with girlfriend and former Russian rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabaeva.Putin greets rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabayeva during a meeting with candidates to the Russian Olympic team for Summer Olympics 2004 at the presidential residence in Novo-Ogaryovo outside Moscow on March 10, 2004.REUTERS/Pool ASSource: New York PostBut neither the child nor the relationship with Kabaeva have been confirmed.Putin smiles next to Russian gymnast Alina Kabaeva during a meeting with the Russian Olympic team at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia on November 4, 2004.REUTERS/ITAR-TASS/PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICESource: Business InsiderPutin has tried to shelter his children from the media, attempting to keep them out of politics so they can live normal lives.Dennis Grombkowski/Getty ImagesSources: Reuters, Business InsiderDespite this, Katerina made her debut on Russian state TV as a biotechnology expert in December 2018.Katerina Tikhonova (R) on Rossiya 1 on December 7, 2018.Rossiya 1Source: Business InsiderHer appearance did not include comment on her being related to Putin. The link was briefly made public in the course of a dance competition, but later retracted.Katerina Tikhonova (L) and Vladimir PutinREUTERSSource: ReutersIn June 2021, Katerina addressed a conference that is Russia's equivalent of Davos — but nobody called her Putin's daughter, apparently out of fear of reprisal from the Kremlin.Katerina Tikhonova, deputy director of the Institute for Mathematical Research of Complex Systems at Moscow State University, on screen taking part in a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Russia, on June 4, 2021.Evgenia Novozhenina/ReutersSource: The Washington PostIn late 2020, Putin announced Russia had completed its COVID-19 vaccine, although it had yet to complete clinical assessments. Putin said he gave the shot to one of his two daughters, but wouldn't specify which one.Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government via video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, on August 11, 2020.Sputnik/Aleksey Nikolskyi/Kremlin via REUTERSSources: Business Insider, BBC, PoliticoPutin said his daughter's temperature decreased after getting two shots. "She has taken part in the experiment," he said, adding, "She's feeling well and has a high number of antibodies."Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo / AP ImagesSources: Business Insider, BBC, PoliticoIt was a rare acknowledgment for Putin, but one still shrouded in mystery.Russia's President Vladimir Putin holds a meeting of the Russian Security Council at Moscow's Kremlin.Alexei NikolskybackslashTASS via Getty ImagesIn February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, prompting condemnation from around the world. Three weeks later an activist filmed himself inside what he said was a Biarritz apartment owned by Katerina's ex-husband, saying he wanted to host Ukrainian refugees there.An image showing an activist flying a Ukrainian flag from the balcony of a villa linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Biarritz, France.Russia TodaySource: Insider, The Insider.In April, the US sanctioned Maria and Katerina, saying that they had "enriched themselves at the expense of the Russian people." A statement said "This action cuts them off from the US financial system and freezes any assets they hold in the United States."Getty/ReutersThe Wall Street Journal said that the EU could also sanction the two women.An EU spokesperson said the bloc is "currently discussing the proposals for further sanctions, including new listings of individuals and entities," but could not comment on who would be targeted by them. Source: The Wall Street Journal, The White HouseThe US announcement also contained more details about their work. saying that it has close ties to the Kremlin. Tikhonova's work supports Russia's government and defense industry, while Vorontsova's genetics research programs are personally overseen by Putin, the White House said.The main building of the Moscow State University. As of 2021, Tikhonova was Deputy Director of its Institute for Mathematical Research of Complex SystemsAlexander Nemenov/AFP via Getty ImagesSource: ABC News.The US said it believed the women are hiding assets for Putin, which was its rationale for sanctioning them. The Kremlin expressed confusion over the decision, suggesting it was anti-Russian.Mikhail Svetlov/Getty ImagesA senior official at the Biden administration said: "We believe that many of Putin's assets are hidden with family members and that's why we're targeting them."Putin's top spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin found the decision "difficult to understand" and framed it as part of a "rabid" western animosity towards Russia. Source: ABC News, Reuters.The UK quickly followed suit with a raft of sanctions on Maria and Katerina, among others in Putin's inner circle, aimed at hitting their "lavish lifestyles."The villa registered in the name of Kirill Shamalov, Katerina Tikhonova's ex-husband, in Biarritz, France.Gaizka Iroz/AFP via Getty ImagesSource: The Press Association.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 20th, 2022

Turkey: NATO"s Pro-Putin Ally

Turkey: NATO's Pro-Putin Ally Authored by Burak Bekdil via The Gatestone Institute, Western leaders shrugged it off when, in 2016, Erdoğan said in plain language that Turkey did not need to join the European Union "at all costs" and could instead become part of a security bloc dominated by China, Russia and Central Asian nations. Erdoğan's popularity, since he came to power in 2002, has worked as a self-poisoning instrument in the Turkish society, increasingly fuelling anti-Western sentiment, particularly anti-Americanism. The... poll also indicated that 48% of the Turkish public think that the U.S. and NATO are responsible for the situation in Ukraine. Turks also think that Russia is their country's third most important partner. Nearly six out of 10 Turks (58.3%), according to the GMFUS poll, see the U.S. as the country's biggest threat, while 31% said Russia and 29% said Israel. The percentage of Turks who say the U.S. should help solve global problems stands at just 6%. While sending smiley messages of reconciliation to the West and the West's partners in the Middle East, including Israel, Erdoğan keeps fuelling anti-Western sentiments in Turkey. When they are not reading pro-Erdoğan newspapers, Turks are watching pro-Erdoğan television channels featuring commentators who blame the war on Washington and NATO's eastward expansion. Turkey... dismissed the idea of send its S-400 missiles to Ukraine to help Kyiv resist Russian troops. "The Russians are buying houses and other properties in Turkey, taking advantage of the law that allows foreigners to become Turkish citizens if they invest at least $250,000. Many Russians are able to circumvent Western sanctions by transferring their money from Russian to Turkish banks and converting their rubles to Turkish liras or other currencies. All NATO member countries, with the exception of Turkey, have imposed strict sanctions on Russia..." — Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2022. "Turkey's central bank took in about $3 billion in just two days in mid-March... That money was likely largely composed of deposits from Russians." — Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2022 This is how NATO ally Turkey is "fighting" the Western battle against Russian aggression. In return, the Biden administration seems to be rewarding Erdoğan. The Biden administration, evidently, at the behest of Turkey, has tried to kill the EastMed gas pipeline project, which could supply gas from Cyprus and Israel, via Greece, to Europe. Worse, the US State Department, in a March 17 letter to Congress, said that a potential sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey would be "in line with U.S. national security interests" and would also "serve NATO's long-term unity." Greece, which recently has experienced countless illegal Turkish overflights, not to mention the last few years, must be thrilled. Turkey needs to start acting like an ally; not a deceitful, pro-Putin ally. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's popularity, since he came to power in 2002, has worked as a self-poisoning instrument in the Turkish society, increasingly fuelling anti-Western sentiment, particularly anti-Americanism. Turkey needs to start acting like an ally; not a deceitful, pro-Putin ally. Pictured: Erdoğan meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, on March 10, 2017. (Image source: kremlin.ru) Turkey's "balancing act" during the Russian invasion of Ukraine is the result of the country's Islamist leader's two-decade long indoctrination of a generation of Turks to make them "pious." President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may or may not have raised pious generations, as he declared was his political mission, but he has definitely raised an anti-Western generation. That anti-Western sentiment once again makes Turkey the odd-man-out in NATO. Western leaders shrugged it off when, in 2016, Erdoğan said in plain language that Turkey did not need to join the European Union "at all costs" and could instead become part of a security bloc dominated by China, Russia and Central Asian nations. Earlier, in 2013, Turkey had signed up as a "dialogue partner" saying it shared "the same destiny" as members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation -- China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) -- which was formed in 2001 as a regional security bloc. The same Western leaders looked silly when they were "shocked" at a 2019 Turkish decision to buy the Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile system. They simply missed that Turkey had long been only a part-time NATO ally. Erdoğan's popularity, since he came to power in 2002, has worked as a self-poisoning instrument in the Turkish society, increasingly fuelling anti-Western sentiment, particularly anti-Americanism. The Turkish public's views of the Russian invasion of Ukraine today is an inevitable consequence. A poll by the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. (GMFUS) found that nearly 84% of Turks want their country either to mediate or stay neutral -- 10 times more than those who want Turkey to back only Ukraine. Put in other words, 84% of Turks do not support Ukraine in the conflict. Turkish pollster MetroPoll found in March that fewer than half (49.3%) of those surveyed think Turkey should be a member of the EU, down from 80% in the early 2000s. The same poll also indicated that 48% of the Turkish public think that the U.S. and NATO are responsible for the situation in Ukraine. Turks also think that Russia is their country's third most important partner. Nearly six out of 10 Turks (58.3%), according to the GMFUS poll, see the U.S. as the country's biggest threat, while 31% said Russia and 29% said Israel. The percentage of Turks who say the U.S. should help solve global problems stands at just 6%. While sending smiley messages of reconciliation to the West and the West's partners in the Middle East, including Israel, Erdoğan keeps fuelling anti-Western sentiments in Turkey. Speaking at the inauguration of a madrassa (Islamic seat of learning) on April 15, Erdoğan spoke of "these days when the Western culture and life-style has invaded the whole world." Echoing his boss' ideological obsession, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said in a March 14 interview that the Ukraine war shows that the "UN, NATO, and global institutions are going bankrupt" and "the EU is no longer meaningful as a community." Soylu claimed that the Kremlin merely reacted against U.S. efforts to contain Russia "at a time when the vulnerability of the U.S. and the EU reached a peak under the pandemic." The war, in Soylu's thinking, symbolizes the end of globalization as nation-states rise to power. When they are not reading pro-Erdoğan newspapers, Turks are watching pro-Erdoğan television channels featuring commentators who blame the war on Washington and NATO's eastward expansion. One well-known admiral saluted the Russian invasion of Ukraine as "a step to end the imperialist Atlanticist age", and another claimed that Moscow was tricked into the conflict so that it can be weakened for years to come. Others said that Moscow was not massacring people and was in fact opening an opportunity for peace by not seizing Kyiv. Since the beginning of the Russian aggression, some of the confused Turkish action reflecting the country's confused directions included: On February 25, Turkey abstained from voting on suspending Russia's membership in most bodies of the Council of Europe in response to the military operation in Ukraine. "During the vote in Strasbourg, Turkey decided to abstain," Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said. "We don't want to break off the dialogue with Russia." In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal, former CIA official Paul Kolbe suggested that "Turkey should send Ukraine the Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems." Turkey, however, dismissed the idea of send its S-400 missiles to Ukraine to help Kyiv resist Russian troops. Although Turkey has blocked some Russian ships from their Black Sea blockade of Ukraine, according to retired U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, "This is an illegal blockade in every dimension -- no declared war, no self-defense involved, illegitimate and flagrant violation of international law. Designed to starve the population and break the economy. Yet another example of Russian criminal behavior." No one, of course, has held Russia accountable. Turkey has, in fact, blocked all naval vessels, including NATO's ships, which must make Russia happy -- but not supplies. As Western governments targeted Roman Abramovich and several other Russian oligarchs with sanctions to isolate Putin and his allies, a second superyacht linked to the Russian billionaire docked in a Turkish resort. A source in Ankara told Reuters that Abramovich and other wealthy Russians were looking to invest in Turkey, given the sanctions imposed elsewhere. "He wants to do some work and may buy some assets," the source said, adding that the oligarch already had some assets in Turkey. Another source in Ankara said Turkey was not currently considering joining sanctions action and expected wealthy Russians to purchase assets and make investments. Çavuşoğlu said on March 26 that "Russian oligarchs are welcome in Turkey." The message was taken. On April 16, the Clio, a superyacht owned by Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska, arrived at Turkey's port of Göcek. Deripaska, the founder of the Russian aluminum giant Rusal, was sanctioned by the US, the EU and Britain. Erdoğan's government announced the creation of an airline, Southwind, with the aim of bringing Russian tourists to resorts and attractions in Turkey. This is part of a Turkish-Russian understanding that Russia keeps using Turkish airspace as free as if it had never invaded Ukraine. The Wall Street Journal reported in a headline that "Superyachts, Seaside Apartments and Suitcases Full of Cash: Russians Pour Money Into Turkey." The article said that tens of thousands of Russians have fled to Turkey with suitcases full of money, yachts, private jets and other assets: "The Russians are buying houses and other properties in Turkey, taking advantage of the law that allows foreigners to become Turkish citizens if they invest at least $250,000. Many Russians are able to circumvent Western sanctions by transferring their money from Russian to Turkish banks and converting their rubles to Turkish liras or other currencies. All NATO member countries, with the exception of Turkey, have imposed strict sanctions on Russia, preventing its citizens from wiring their money out of the country, blocking Russian Airlines from flying to western countries, and confiscating the oligarchs' superyachts and private jets. Refusing to impose sanctions on Russia, Turkey is trying to revive its bankrupt economy by generating desperately-needed funds... Turkey's central bank took in about $3 billion in just two days in mid-March... That money was likely largely composed of deposits from Russians." This is how NATO ally Turkey is "fighting" the Western battle against Russian aggression. In return, the Biden administration seems to be rewarding Erdoğan. The Biden administration, evidently, at the behest of Turkey, has tried to kill the EastMed gas pipeline project, which could supply gas from Cyprus and Israel, via Greece, to Europe. According to Gatestone Senior Fellow Soeren Kern: "The EastMed pipeline has been in the works for more than a decade. The Israel-Greece-Cyprus project — joined by Bulgaria, Hungary, North Macedonia, Romania and Serbia — has long been seen as a way to diversify natural gas supplies to Europe." Worse, the US State Department, in a March 17 letter to Congress, said that a potential sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey would be "in line with U.S. national security interests" and would also "serve NATO's long-term unity." Greece, which recently has experienced countless illegal Turkish overflights, not to mention the last few years, must be thrilled. Turkey needs to start acting like an ally; not a deceitful, pro-Putin ally. Tyler Durden Fri, 05/06/2022 - 02:00.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytMay 6th, 2022

Gordon Chang: What To Do About China

Gordon Chang: What To Do About China Authored by Gordon Chang via The Gatestone Institute, Since about 2018, Chinese officials have been talking about the moon and Mars as sovereign Chinese territory, part of the People's Republic of China. This means that China considers those heavenly bodies to be like the South China Sea. This also means that China will exclude other nations from going to the moon and Mars if they have the capability to do so. We do not have to speculate about that: Chinese officials say this is what they are going to do. [W]hen Biden says, "Oh, the Chinese just want to compete with us," he is wrong. They do not want to "compete" within the international system. They do not even want to change that system... They want to overthrow it altogether, period. Is Xi Jinping really that bold... to start another war? ... First, China considers the United States to be its enemy. Second the United States is no longer deterring China. China feels it has a big green light to do whatever it wants. We Americans don't pay attention to propaganda... After all, these are just words. At this particular time, these words... [suggest] to me that China is laying the justification for a strike on the United States. We keep ignoring what Beijing is saying. We kept ignoring what Osama bin Laden was saying. We have to remember that the Chinese regime, unlike the Japanese, always warn its adversaries about what it is going to do The second reason war is coming is that America's deterrence of China is breaking down. Di's message was that with cash, China can do anything it wants, and that all Americans would take cash. He mentioned two words in this regard: Hunter Biden. In February, [Biden] had a two‑hour phone call with Xi Jinping. By Biden's own admission, he didn't raise the issue of the origins of COVID‑19 even once. If you are Xi Jinping, after you put down the receiver, your first thought is, "I just got away with killing hundreds of thousands of Americans." We have news that China is building something like 345 missile silos in three locations: in Gansu, Xinjiang, and in Inner Mongolia. These silos are clearly built to accommodate the DF‑41. The DF‑41 has a range of about 9,300 miles, which means that it can reach any part of the United States. The DF‑41 carries 10 warheads. This means that China could, in about two years..., have a bigger arsenal than ours. ...we have to assume the worst because Chinese leaders and Chinese generals, on occasion, unprovoked, have made threats to nuke American cities. In July, 2021 China tested a hypersonic glide warhead, which circled the world. This signals China intends to violate the Outer Space Treaty, to which China is a party. As of today, more than eight million people have died outside China. What happened? No one imposed costs on China. For at least a half‑decade, maybe a little bit longer, Chinese military researchers have been openly writing about a new type of biological warfare....They talk about a new type of biological warfare of "specific ethnic genetic attacks." In other words, pathogens that will leave the Chinese immune but sicken and kill everybody else, which means that the next disease from China can be a civilization killer. A lot of military analysts talk about how the first seconds of a war with China are going to be fought in outer space. They are going to blind our satellites, take them down, do all sorts of stuff. Those statements are wrong. The first day of war against the United States occurs about six months earlier, when they release pathogens in the United States. Then we are going to have that day in space. The war starts here, with a pathogen ‑‑ a virus, a microbe, a bug of some kind. That is where it begins. The One‑China policy is something many people misunderstand. Probably because Beijing uses propaganda to try to fuzzy up the issue.... China has a One‑China principle: that Taiwan is part of the People's Republic of China, full stop. We have a One‑China policy..., that the status of Taiwan is unresolved.... that the resolution of the status of Taiwan must be with the consent of people on both sides of the Strait. We need a policy of "strategic clarity," where we tell China that we will defend Taiwan. We also say we will extend a mutual defense treaty to Taiwan if it wants it, and we will put American troops on the island as a tripwire. We are Americans. We naturally assume that there are solutions, and good solutions, to every problem. After three decades of truly misguided China policy, there are no ... solutions that are "undangerous." ...The current trend of policy is unsustainable. There will be no American republic if we continue to do what we are currently doing and if we continue to allow China to do what it does. I do not think that enforcing a trade deal will start World War III. China has not met its obligations. As of a few months ago, China had met about 62% of its commitments..... We should be increasing the tariffs that President Trump imposed under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. Remember, those tariffs are meant to be a remedy for the theft of US intellectual property. China has continued to steal US IP. As matter of fact, it has gotten worse... I do not think that we should be trying to foster integration of Wall Street into China's markets.... Do not take it from me, just look at their failure to comply with very simple, easy‑to‑comply-with requirements. It was a mistake. The best response would be if we hit them with everything at once because China right now is weak. If we were going to pick the number one thing to do, I would think trade. China now has a debt crisis, so they are not going to invest their way out of this crisis, which means the only way they can save their economy is net exports. We should stop buying their stuff. China has bought the political establishment in the Solomon Islands, except for one brave man named David Suidani. Recently, somebody got the bright idea of publishing all of the specific payments that Beijing has made to Solomon Islands politicians.... We should be doing this with payments to American politicians, we should be doing this across the board. What bothers me is that, although their assumptions about China have demonstrably been proven wrong, American policymakers still continue with the same policies. There is, in some people's mind, an unbreakable view that we have to cooperate with China.... This is what people learn in international relations school when they go to Georgetown, and they become totally stupid. Clearly, Nike and Apple and other companies are now, at this very moment, trying to prevent Congress from enacting toughened rules on the importation of forced‑labor products into our country. Moreover, the Chinese regime is even more casualty‑averse than we are. Even if Beijing thinks it can take Taiwan by force, it is probably not going to invade because it knows an invasion would be unpopular with most people in China. It is not going to risk hundreds of thousands of casualties that would result from an invasion. Unfortunately..., we taught the Chinese that they can without cost engage in these dangerous maneuvers of intercepting our planes and our ships. That is the problem: because as we have taught the Chinese to be more aggressive, they have been. [W]e should have made it clear to the Chinese leadership that they cannot kill Americans without cost. Hundreds of thousands Americans have been killed by a disease that China deliberately spread. From October 2020 to October 2021, more than 105,000 Americans died from fentanyl -- which China has purposefully, as a matter of state and Communist Party policy -- sold to Americans... we have to change course. I would close China's four remaining consulates. I would also strip the Chinese embassy down to the ambassador and his personal staff. The thousands who are in Washington, DC, they would be out. I would also raise tariffs to 3,600%, or whatever. This is a good time to do it. We have supply chain disruptions. We are not getting products from China anyway. We can actually start to do this sort of stuff. I would... just hammer those guys all the time verbally. People may think, "Those are just words." For communists, words are really important, because they are an insecure regime where propaganda is absolutely critical. I would be going after the Communists on human rights, I would be going after them on occupying the South China Sea, on Taiwan, unrelentingly -- because I would want to show the world that the United States is no longer afraid of China.... State Department people, they are frightened. We need to say to the Chinese regime, like Dulles, "I'm not afraid of you. I'm going after you, and I'm going to win." Is Xi Jinping really that bold... to start another war?... First, China considers the United States to be its enemy. Second the United States is no longer deterring China. China feels it has a big green light to do whatever it wants. All the conditions for history's next great war are in place. Jim Holmes, the Wiley Professor at the Naval War College, actually talks about this period as being 1937. 1937 was the year in which if you were in Europe or America, you could sense the trouble. If you were in Asia in 1937, you would be even more worried, because that year saw Japan's second invasion of China that decade. No matter where you lived, however, you could not be sure that the worst would happen, that great armies and navies around the world would clash. There was still hope that the situation could be managed. As we now know, the worst did happen. In fact, what happened was worse than what anyone thought at the time. We are now, thanks to China, back to 1937. We will begin our discussion in Afghanistan. Beijing has had long‑standing relations with the Afghan Taliban, going back before 9/11, and continuing through that event. After the US drove the Taliban from power and while it was conducting an insurgency, China was selling the group arms, including anti‑aircraft missiles, that were used to kill American and NATO forces. China's support for killing Americans has continued to today. In December 2020, Indian Intelligence was instrumental, in Afghanistan, in breaking up a ring of Chinese spies and members of the Haqqani Network. The Trump administration believed that the Chinese portion of that ring was actually paying cash for killing Americans. What can happen next? We should not be surprised if China gives the Taliban an atomic weapon to be used against an American city. Would they be that vicious? We have to remember that China purposefully, over the course of decades, proliferated its nuclear weapons technology to Pakistan and then helped Pakistan sell that Chinese technology around the world to regimes such as Iran's and North Korea's. Today, China supports the Taliban. We know this because China has kept open its embassy in Kabul. China is also running interference for the Taliban in the United Nations Security Council. It is urging countries to support that insurgent group with aid. It looks as if the Taliban's main financial backers these days are the Chinese. Beijing is hoping to cash in on its relationship in Central Asia. Unfortunately, there is a man named Biden, who is helping them. In early August, Biden issued an executive order setting a goal that by 2030, half of all American vehicles should be electric‑powered. To be electric‑powered, we need rare earth minerals, we need lithium. As many people have said, Afghanistan is the Saudi Arabia of rare earths and lithium. If Beijing can mine this, it makes the United States even more dependent on China. It certainly helps the Taliban immeasurably. Unfortunately, Beijing has more than just Afghanistan in mind. The Chinese want to take away our sovereignty, and that of other nations, and rule the world. They actually even want to rule the near parts of the solar system. Yes, that does sound far‑fetched, but, no, I'm not exaggerating. Chinese President Xi Jinping would like to end the current international system. On July 1, in a landmark speech, in connection with the centennial of China's ruling organization, he said this: "The Communist Party of China and the Chinese people, with their bravery and tenacity, solemnly proclaim to the world that the Chinese people are not only good at taking down the old world, but also good in building a new one." By that, China's leader means ending the international system, the Westphalian international system. It means he wants to impose China's imperial‑era notions of governance, where Chinese emperors believed they not only had the Mandate of Heaven over tianxia, or all under Heaven, but that Heaven actually compelled the Chinese to rule the entire world. Xi Jinping has been using tianxia themes for decades, and so have his subordinates, including Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who in September 2017 wrote an article in Study Times, the Central Party School's influential newspaper. In that article, Wang Yi wrote that Xi Jinping's thought on diplomacy ‑‑ a "thought" in Communist Party lingo is an important body of ideological work ‑‑ Wang Yi wrote that Xi Jinping's thought on diplomacy made innovations on and transcended the traditional theories of Western international relations of the past 300 years. Take 2017, subtract 300 years, and you almost get to 1648, which means that Wang Yi, with his time reference, was pointing to the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, which established the current system of sovereign states. When Wang Yi writes that Xi Jinping wants to transcend that system, he is really telling us that China's leader does not want sovereign states, or at least no more of them than China. This means that when Biden says, "Oh, the Chinese just want to compete with us," he is wrong. They do not want to "compete" within the international system. They do not even want to change that system so it is more to their liking. They want to overthrow it altogether, period. China is also revolutionary with regard to the solar system. Since about 2018, Chinese officials have been talking about the moon and Mars as sovereign Chinese territory. In other words, as part of the People's Republic of China. This means that China considers those heavenly bodies to be like the South China Sea: theirs and theirs alone. This also means that China will exclude other nations from going to the moon and Mars if they have the capability to do so. We do not have to speculate about that: Chinese officials say this is what they are going to do. Let us return to April 2021. Beijing announced the name of its Mars rover. "We are naming the Mars rover Zhurong," the Chinese said, "because Zhurong was the god of fire in Chinese mythology, " How nice. Yes, Zhurong is the god of fire. What Beijing did not tell us is that Zhurong is also the god of war—and the god of the South China Sea. Is Xi Jinping really that bold or that desperate to start another war? Two points. First, China considers the United States to be its enemy. The second point is that the United States is no longer deterring China. China feels it has a big green light to do whatever it wants. On the first point, about our enemy status, we have to go back to May 2019. People's Daily, the most authoritative publication in China, actually carried a piece that declared a "people's war" on the US. This was not just some isolated thought. On August 29th 2021, People's Daily came out with a landmark piece that accused the United States of committing "barbaric" acts against China. Again, this was during a month of hostile propaganda blasts from China. On the August 29th, Global Times, which is controlled by People's Daily, came right out and also said that the United States was an enemy or like an enemy. We Americans don't pay attention to propaganda. The question is, should we be concerned about what China is saying? After all, these are just words. At this particular time, these words are significant. The strident anti‑Americanism suggests to me that China is laying the justification for a strike on the United States. We keep ignoring what Beijing is saying. We kept ignoring what Osama bin Laden was saying. We have to remember that the Chinese regime, unlike the Japanese, always warn its adversaries about what it is going to do. Jim Lilley, our great ambassador to Beijing during the Tiananmen Massacre, actually said that China always telegraphs its punches. At this moment, China is telegraphing a punch. That hostility, unfortunately, is not something we can do very much about. The Chinese Communist regime inherently idealizes struggle, and it demands that others show subservience to it. The second reason war is coming is that America's deterrence of China is breaking down. That is evident from what the Chinese are saying. In March of 2021, China sent its top two diplomats, Yang Jiechi and Wang Yi, to Anchorage to meet our top officials, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. Yang, in chilling words, said the US could no longer talk to China "from a position of strength." We saw the same theme during the fall of Kabul. China then was saying, "Look, those Americans, they can't deal with the insurgent Taliban. How can they hope to counter us magnificent Chinese?" Global Times actually came out with a piece referring to Americans: "They can't win wars anymore." We also saw propaganda at that same time directed at Taiwan. Global Times was saying, again, in an editorial, an important signal of official Chinese thinking, "When we decide to invade, Taiwan will fall within hours and the US will not come to help." It is probably no coincidence that this propaganda came at the time of incursions into Taiwan's air-defense identification zone. We need to be concerned with more than just the intensity and with the frequency of these flights, however. We have to be concerned that China was sending H‑6K bombers; they are nuclear‑capable. Something is wrong. Global Times recently came out with an editorial with the title, "Time to warn Taiwan secessionists and their fomenters: war is real." Beijing is at this moment saying things heard before history's great conflicts. The Chinese regime right now seems to be feeling incredibly arrogant. We heard this on November 28th in 2020, when Di Dongsheng, an academic in Beijing, gave a lecture live-streamed to China. Di showed the arrogance of the Chinese elite. More importantly, he was showing that the Chinese elite no longer wanted to hide how they felt. Di, for instance, openly stated that China could determine outcomes at the highest levels of the American political system. Di's message was that with cash, China can do anything it wants, and that all Americans would take cash. He mentioned two words in this regard: Hunter Biden. Unfortunately, President Joe Biden is reinforcing this notion. China, for instance, has so far killed nearly one million Americans with a disease that it deliberately spread beyond its borders. Yet, what happened? Nothing. We know that China was able to spread this disease with its close relationship with the World Health Organization. President Trump, in July of 2020, took us out of the WHO. What did Biden do? In his first hours in office, on January 20th, 2021, he put us back into the WHO. In February, he had a two‑hour phone call with Xi Jinping. By Biden's own admission, he didn't raise the issue of the origins of COVID‑19 even once. If you are Xi Jinping, after you put down the receiver, your first thought is, "I just got away with killing hundreds of thousands of Americans." Then there's somebody named John Kerry. Our republic is not safe when John Kerry carries a diplomatic passport, as he now does. He is willing to make almost any deal to get China to sign an enhanced climate arrangement. Kerry gave a revealing interview to David Westin of Bloomberg on September 22, 2021. Westin asked him, "What is the process by which one trades off climate against human rights?" Climate against human rights? Kerry came back and said, "Well, life is always full of tough choices in the relationship between nations." Tough choices? We Americans need to ask, "What is Kerry willing to give up to get his climate deal?" Democracies tend to deal with each other in the way that Kerry says. If we are nice to a democracy, that will lead to warm relations; warm relations will lead to deals, long‑standing ties. Kerry thinks that the Chinese communists think that way. Unfortunately, they do not. We know this because Kerry's successor as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in February 2009, said in public, "I'm not going to press the Chinese on human rights because I've got bigger fish to fry." She then went to Beijing a day after saying that and got no cooperation from the Chinese. Even worse, just weeks after that, China felt so bold that it attacked an unarmed US Navy reconnaissance vessel in the South China Sea. The attack was so serious that it constituted an act of war. The Chinese simply do not think the way that Kerry believes they do. All of this, when you put it together, means that the risk of war is much higher than we tend to think. Conflict with today's aggressor is going to be more destructive than it was in the 1930s. We have news that China is building something like 345 missile silos in three locations: in Gansu, Xinjiang, and in Inner Mongolia. These silos are clearly built to accommodate the DF‑41. The DF‑41 has a range of about 9,300 miles, which means that it can reach any part of the United States. The DF‑41 carries 10 warheads. This means that China could, in about two years, as some experts think, have a bigger arsenal than ours. China has built decoy silos before. We are not sure they are going to put all 345 missiles into these facilities, but we have to assume the worst because Chinese leaders and Chinese generals, on occasion, unprovoked, have made threats to nuke American cities. This, of course, calls into question their official no‑first‑use policy, and also a lot of other things. China will not talk to us about arms control. We have to be concerned that China and Russia, which already are coordinating their military activities, would gang up against us with their arsenals. In July, 2021 China tested a hypersonic glide warhead, which circled the world. This signals China intends to violate the Outer Space Treaty, to which China is a party. It also shows that in hypersonic technology, which was developed by Americans, China is now at least a decade ahead of us in fielding a weapon. Why is China doing all this now? The country is coming apart at the seams. There is, for instance, a debt crisis. Evergrande and other property developers have started to default. It is more than just a crisis of companies. China is basically now having its 2008. Even more important than that, they have an economy that is stumbling and a food crisis that is worsening year to year. They know their environment is exhausted. Of course, they also are suffering from a continuing COVID‑19 epidemic. To make matters worse, all of this is occurring while China is on the edge of the steepest demographic decline in history in the absence of war or disease. Two Chinese demographers recently stated that China's population will probably halve in 45 years. If you run out those projections, it means that by the end of the century, China will be about a third of its current size, basically about the same number of people as the United States. These developments are roiling the political system. Xi Jinping is being blamed for these debacles. We know he has a low threshold of risk. Xi now has all the incentive in the world to deflect popular and regime discontent by lashing out. In 1966, Mao Zedong, the founder of the People's Republic, was sidelined in Beijing. What did he do? He started the Cultural Revolution. He tried to use the Chinese people against his political enemies. That created a decade of chaos. Xi Jinping is trying to do the same thing with his "common prosperity" program. The difference is that Mao did not have the means to plunge the world into war. Xi, with his shiny new military, clearly does have that ability. So here is a 1930s scenario to consider. The next time China starts a conflict, whether accidentally or on purpose, we could see that China's friends -- Russia, North Korea, Iran, Pakistan -- either in coordination with China or just taking advantage of the situation, move against their enemies. That would be Ukraine in the case of Russia, South Korea in the case of North Korea, Israel in the case of Iran, India in the case of Pakistan, and Morocco in the case of Algeria. We could see crises at both ends of the European landmass and in Africa at the same time. This is how world wars start. *  *  * Question: Why do you believe China attacked the world with coronavirus? Chang: I believe that SARS‑CoV‑2, the pathogen that causes COVID‑19, is not natural. There are, for example, unnatural arrangements of amino acids, like the double‑CGG sequence, that do not occur in nature. We do not have a hundred percent assurance on where this pathogen came from. We do, however, have a hundred percent assurance on something else: that for about five weeks, maybe even five months, Chinese leaders knew that this disease was highly transmissible, from one human to the next, but they told the world that it was not. At the same time as they were locking down their own country ‑‑ Xi Jinping by locking down was indicating that he thought this was an effective way of stopping the disease -- he was pressuring other countries not to impose travel restrictions and quarantines on arrivals from China. It was those arrivals from China that turned what should have been an epidemic confined to the central part of China, into a global pandemic. As of today, more than eight million people have died outside China. What happened? No one imposed costs on China. For at least a half‑decade, maybe a little bit longer, Chinese military researchers have been openly writing about a new type of biological warfare. This was, for instance, in the 2017 edition of "The Science of Military Strategy," the authoritative publication of China's National Defense University. They talk about a new type of biological warfare of "specific ethnic genetic attacks." In other words, pathogens that will leave the Chinese immune but sicken and kill everybody else, which means that the next disease from China can be a civilization killer. Remember, Xi Jinping must be thinking, "I just got away with killing eight million people. Why wouldn't I unleash a biological attack on the United States? Look what the virus has done not only to kill Americans but also to divide American society." A lot of military analysts talk about how the first seconds of a war with China are going to be fought in outer space. They are going to blind our satellites, take them down, do all sorts of stuff. Those statements are wrong. The first day of war against the United States occurs about six months earlier, when they release pathogens in the United States. Then we are going to have that day in space. The war starts here, with a pathogen ‑‑ a virus, a microbe, a bug of some kind. That is where it begins. Question: You mentioned 1939. Taiwan is the Poland of today. We get mixed signals: Biden invites the Taiwanese foreign minister to his inauguration, but then we hear Ned Price, his State Department spokesman, say that America will always respect the One‑China policy. Meaning, we're sidelining defending Taiwan? Chang: The One‑China policy is something many people misunderstand. Probably because Beijing uses propaganda to try to fuzzy up the issue. China has a One‑China principle: that Taiwan is part of the People's Republic of China, full stop. We have a One‑China policy, which is different. We recognize Beijing as the legitimate government of China. We also say that the status of Taiwan is unresolved. Then, the third part of our One‑China policy is that the resolution of the status of Taiwan must be with the consent of people on both sides of the Strait. In other words, that is code for peace, a peaceful resolution. Our policies are defined by the One‑China policy, the Three Communiques, Reagan's Six Assurances, and the Taiwan Relations Act. Our policy is difficult for someone named Joe Biden to articulate, because he came back from a campaign trip to Michigan, and he was asked by a reporter about Taiwan, and Biden said, "Don't worry about this. We got it covered. I had a phone call with Xi Jinping and he agreed to abide by the Taiwan agreement." In official US discourse, there is no such thing as a "Taiwan agreement." Some reporter then asked Ned Price what did Biden mean by the Taiwan agreement. Ned Price said, "The Taiwan agreement means the Three Communiques the Six Assurances, the Taiwan Relations Act, and the One‑China policy." Ned Price could not have been telling the truth because Xi Jinping did not agree to America's position on Taiwan. That is clear. There is complete fuzziness or outright lying in the Biden administration about this. Biden's policies on Taiwan are not horrible, but they are also not appropriate for this time. decades, we have had this policy of "strategic ambiguity," where we do not tell either side what we would do in the face of imminent conflict. That worked in a benign period. We are no longer in a benign period. We are in one of the most dangerous periods in history. We need a policy of "strategic clarity," where we tell China that we will defend Taiwan. We also say we will extend a mutual defense treaty to Taiwan if it wants it, and we will put American troops on the island as a tripwire. Question: You think he is not saying that because he has no intention of actually doing it, so in a way, he is telling the truth? Chang: The mind of Biden is difficult to understand. We do not know what the administration would do. We have never known, after Allen Dulles, what any administration would do, with regard to Taiwan. We knew what Dulles would have done. We have got to be really concerned because there are voices in the administration that would give Taiwan, and give other parts of the world, to China. It would probably start with John Kerry; that is only a guess. Question: You mentioned earlier the growing Chinese economic problems. Would you use taking action on the enormous trade deficits we run with China to contribute to that problem? Chang: Yes, we should absolutely do that. Go back to a day which, in my mind, lives in infamy, which is January 15th, 2020, when President Trump signed the Phase One trade deal, which I think was a mistake. In that Phase One trade deal, it was very easy for China to comply, because there were specific targets that China had to meet in buying US goods and services. This was "managed trade." China has not met its obligations. As of a few months ago, China had met about 62% of its commitments. That means, they have dishonored this deal in a material and significant way. If nothing else, China has failed to meet its Phase One trade deal commitments. We should be increasing the tariffs that President Trump imposed under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. Remember, those tariffs are meant to be a remedy for the theft of US intellectual property. China has continued to steal US IP. As matter of fact, it has gotten worse: for instance, these Chinese anti‑lawsuit injunctions, which they have started to institute. We need to do something: China steals somewhere between $300 to $600 billion worth of US intellectual property each year. That is a grievous wound on the US economy, it is a grievous wound on our society in general. We need to do something about it. Question: As a follow‑up on that, Japan commenced World War II because of the tariffs Roosevelt was strapping on oil imports into Japan, do you think that might well have the same effect on China, where we do begin to impose stiffer tariffs on American imports? Chang: That is a really important question, to which nobody has an answer. I do not think that China would start a war over tariffs. Let me answer this question in a different way. We are Americans. We naturally assume that there are solutions, and good solutions, to every problem. After three decades of truly misguided China policy, there are no good solutions. There are no solutions that are "undangerous." Every solution, going forward, carries great risk. The current trend of policy is unsustainable. There will be no American republic if we continue to do what we are currently doing and if we continue to allow China to do what it does. I do not think that enforcing a trade deal will start World War III. The point is, we have no choice right now. First, I don't think the Chinese were ever going to honor the Phase One agreement . This was not a deal where there were some fuzzy requirements. This deal was very clear: China buys these amounts of agricultural products by such and such date, China buys so many manufactured products by such and such date. This was not rocket science. China purposefully decided not to honor it. There are also other issues regarding the trade deal do not think that we should be trying to foster integration of Wall Street into China's markets, which is what the Phase One deal also contemplated. Goldman Sachs ran away like a bandit on that. There are lot of objections to it. I do not think we should be trading with China, for a lot of reasons. The Phase One trade deal, in my mind, was a great mistake. Do not take it from me, just look at their failure to comply with very simple, easy‑to‑comply-with requirements. It was a mistake. Question: Concerning cybersecurity, as we saw in the recent departure of a Pentagon official, ringing the alarm on how we are completely vulnerable to China's cyberattacks. From your perspective, what would an attack look like on China that would hurt them? What particular institutions would be the most vulnerable? Is it exposing their secrets? Is it something on their financial system? Is it something on their medical system or critical infrastructure? What does the best way look like to damage them? Also, regarding what you mentioned about Afghanistan, we know that China has been making inroads into Pakistan as a check on American hegemony in relationships with India and Afghanistan. Now that the Afghanistan domino is down, what do you see in the future for Pakistan's nuclear capability, in conjunction with Chinese backing, to move ever further westward towards Afghanistan, and endangering Middle East security? Chang: Right now, India has been disheartened by what happened, because India was one of the main backers of the Afghan government. What we did in New Delhi was delegitimize our friends, so that now the pro‑Russian, the pro‑Chinese elements in the Indian national security establishment are basically setting the tone. This is terrible. What has happened, though, in Pakistan itself, is not an unmitigated disaster for us, because China has suffered blowback there. There is an Afghan Taliban, and there is a Pakistani Taliban. They have diametrically‑opposed policies on China. The Afghan Taliban is an ally of China; the Pakistani Taliban kill Chinese. They do that because they want to destabilize Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. Beijing supports Islamabad. The calculation on part of the Pakistani Taliban is, "We kill Chinese, we destabilize Islamabad, we then get to set up the caliphate in Pakistan." What has happened is, with this incredible success of the Afghan Taliban, that the Pakistani Taliban has been re‑energized -- not good news for China. China has something called the China‑Pakistan Economic Corridor, part of their Belt and Road Initiative. Ultimately that is going to be something like $62 billion of investment into Pakistani roads, airports, electric power plants, utilities, all the rest of it. I am very happy that China is in Pakistan, because they are now dealing with a situation that they have no solutions to. It's like Winston Churchill on Italy, "It's now your turn." We should never have had good relations with Pakistan. That was always a short‑term compromise that, even in the short term, undermined American interests. The point is that China is now having troubles in Pakistan because of their success in Afghanistan. Pakistan is important to China for a number of reasons. One of them is, they want it as an outlet to the Indian Ocean that bypasses the Malacca Strait -- a choke point that the US Navy ‑‑ in their view ‑‑ could easily close off, which is correct. They want to bypass that, but their port in Gwadar is a failure in many respects. Gwadar is in Pakistan's Baluchistan. The Baluchs are one of the most oppressed minorities on earth. They have now taken to violence against the Chinese, and they have been effective. Pakistan is a failure for China. The best response would be if we hit them with everything at once because China right now is weak. If we were going to pick the number one thing to do, I would think trade. Trade is really what they need right now. Their economy is stalling. There are three parts to the Chinese economy, as there are to all economies: consumption, investment, and net exports. Their consumption right now is extremely weak from indicators that we have. The question is can they invest? China now has a debt crisis, so they are not going to invest their way out of this crisis, which means the only way they can save their economy is net exports. We should stop buying their stuff. We have extraordinary supply chain disruptions right now. It should be pretty easy for us to make the case that we must become self‑sufficient on a number of items. Hit them on trade. Hit them on investment, publicize the bank account details of Chinese leaders. All these things that we do, we do it all at the same time. We can maybe get rid of these guys. Question: In the Solomon Islands, they published China's under-the-table payments to political figures. Should we do the same thing with China's leaders? Chang: Yes. There is now a contest for the Solomon Islands, which includes Guadalcanal. China has bought the political establishment in the Solomon Islands, except for one brave man named David Suidani. Recently, somebody got the bright idea of publishing all of the specific payments that Beijing has made to Solomon Islands politicians. This was really good news. We should be doing this with payments to American politicians, we should be doing this across the board. Why don't we publish their payments to politicians around the world? Let's expose these guys, let's go after them. Let's root out Chinese influence, because they are subverting our political system. Similarly, we should also be publishing the bank account details of all these Chinese leaders, because they are corrupt as hell. Question: Could you comment, please, on what you think is the nature of the personal relationships between Hunter Biden, his father, and Chinese financial institutions. How has it, if at all, affected American foreign policy towards China, and how will it affect that policy? Chang: There are two things here. There are the financial ties. Hunter Biden has connections with Chinese institutions, which you cannot explain in the absence of corruption. For instance, he has a relationship with Bohai Harvest Partners, BHR. China puts a lot of money into the care of foreign investment managers. The two billion, or whatever the number is, is not that large, but they only put money with people who have a track record in managing investments. Hunter Biden only has a track record of being the son of Joe Biden. There are three investigations of Hunter Biden right now. There is the Wilmington US Attorney's Office, the FBI -- I don't place very much hope in either of these – but the third one might actually bear some fruit: the IRS investigation of Hunter Biden. Let us say, for the moment, that Biden is able to corrupt all three of these investigations. Yet money always leaves a trail. We are going to find out one way or another. Peter Schweizer, for instance, is working on a book on the Biden cash. Eventually, we are going to know about that. What worries me is not so much the money trail -- and of course, there's the art sales, a subject in itself, because we will find out. What worries me is that Hunter Biden, by his own admission, is a troubled individual. He has been to China a number of times. He has probably committed some embarrassing act there, which means that the Ministry of State Security has audio and video recordings of this. Those are the things that can be used for blackmail. We Americans would never know about it, because blackmail does not necessarily leave a trail. This is what we should be most concerned about. Biden has now had two long phone calls with Xi Jinping. The February call, plus also one a few months ago. We do not know what was said. I would be very worried that when Xi Jinping wants to say something, there will be a phone call to Biden, and it would be Xi doing the talking without note takers. Question: Please tell us about the China desk over the 30 years, the influence of the bureaucracy on politics; what can they affect? Chang: I do not agree with our China policy establishment in Washington, in general, and specifically the State Department and NSC. This a complicated issue. First, there is this notion after the end of the Cold War, that the nature of governments did not matter. You could trade with them, you could strengthen them, and it would not have national security implications. That was wrong for a number of reasons, as we are now seeing. What bothers me is that, although their assumptions about China have demonstrably been proven wrong, American policymakers still continue with the same policies. There is, in some people's mind, an unbreakable view that we have to cooperate with China. You hear this from Blinken all the time: "We've got to cooperate where we can." It is this formulation which is tired, and which has not produced the types of policies that are necessary to defend our republic. That is the unfortunate thing. This is what people learn in international relations school when they go to Georgetown, and they become totally stupid. We Americans should be upset because we have a political class that is not defending us. They are not defending us because they have these notions of China. George Kennan understood the nature of the Soviet Union. I do not understand why we cannot understand the true nature of the Chinese regime. Part of it is because we have Wall Street, we have Walmart, and they carry China's water. There are more of us than there are of them in this country. We have to exercise our vote to make sure that we implement China policies that actually protect us. Policies that protect us are going to be drastic and they will be extreme, but absolutely, we have now dug ourselves into such a hole after three decades of truly misguided views on China, that I don't know what else to say. This is not some partisan complaint. Liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, all have truly misguided China policies. I do not know what it takes to break this view, except maybe for the deaths of American servicemen and women. Question: Is the big obstacle American businesses which, in donations to Biden, are the ones stopping decoupling of commerce, and saying, "Do not have war; we would rather earn money"? Chang: It is. You have, for instance, Nike. There are a number of different companies, but Nike comes to mind right now, because they love to lecture us about racism. For years they were operating a factory in Qingdao, in the northeastern part of China, that resembled a concentration camp. The laborers were Uighur and Kazakh women, brought there on cattle cars and forced to work. This factory, technically, was operated by a South Korean sub‑contractor, but that contractor had a three‑decade relationship with Nike. Nike had to know what was going on. This was forced labor, perhaps even slave labor. Clearly, Nike and Apple and other companies are now, at this very moment, trying to prevent Congress from enacting toughened rules on the importation of forced‑labor products into our country. One of the good things Trump did was, towards the end of his four years, he started to vigorously enforce the statutes that are already on the books, about products that are made with forced and slave labor. Biden, to his credit, has continued tougher enforcement. Right now, the big struggle is not the enforcement, but enhancing those rules. Apple and all of these companies are now very much trying to prevent amendment of those laws. It's business, but it's also immoral. Question: It is not just big Wall Street firms. There are companies that print the Bible. Most Bibles are now printed in China. When President Trump imposed the tariffs, a lot of the Bible printers who depended on China actually went to Trump and said, "You cannot put those tariffs in because then the cost of Bibles will go up." Chang: Most everyone lobbies for China. We have to take away their incentive to do so. Question: What are the chances that China's going to invade Taiwan? Chang: There is no clear answer. There are a number of factors that promote stability. One of them is that, for China to invade Taiwan, Xi Jinping has to give some general or admiral basically total control over the Chinese military. That makes this flag officer the most powerful person in China. Xi is not about to do that. Moreover, the Chinese regime is even more casualty‑adverse than we are. Even if Beijing thinks it can take Taiwan by force, it is probably not going to invade because it knows an invasion would be unpopular with most people in China. It is not going to risk hundreds of thousands of casualties that would result from an invasion. The reason we have to be concerned is because it is not just a question of Xi Jinping waking up one morning and saying, "I want to invade Taiwan." The danger is the risk of accidental contact, in the skies or on the seas, around Taiwan. We know that China has been engaging in hostile conduct, and this is not just the incursions into Taiwan's air-defense identification zone. There are also dangerous intercepts of the US Navy and the US Air Force in the global commons. One of those accidents could spiral out of control. We saw this on April 1st, 2001, with the EP‑3, where a Chinese jet clipped the wing of that slow‑moving propeller plane of the US Navy. The only reason we got through it was that George W. Bush, to his eternal shame, paid China a sum that was essentially a ransom. He allowed our crew to be held for 11 days. He allowed the Chinese to strip that plane. This was wrong. This was the worst incident in US diplomatic history, but Bush's craven response did get us through it. Unfortunately, by getting through it we taught the Chinese that they can without cost engage in these dangerous maneuvers of intercepting our planes and our ships. That is the problem: because as we have taught the Chinese to be more aggressive, they have been. One of these incidents will go wrong. The law of averages says that. Then we have to really worry. Question: You don't think Xi thinks, "Oh well, we can sacrifice a few million Chinese"? Chang: On the night of June 15th, 2020, there was a clash between Chinese and Indian soldiers in Ladakh, in the Galwan Valley. That was a Chinese sneak attack on Indian-controlled territory. That night, 20 Indian soldiers were killed. China did not admit to any casualties. The Indians were saying that they killed about 45 Chinese soldiers that night. Remember, this was June 15th of 2020. It took until February of 2021 for China to admit that four Chinese soldiers died. TASS, the Russian news agency, recently issued a story reporting that 45 Chinese soldiers actually died that night. This incident shows you how risk‑averse and casualty‑averse the Chinese Communist Party is. They are willing to intimidate, they are willing to do all sorts of things. They are, however, loath to fight sustained engagements. Remember, that the number one goal of Chinese foreign policy is not to take over Taiwan. The number one goal of Chinese foreign policy is to preserve Communist Party rule. If the Communist Party feels that the Chinese people are not on board with an invasion of Taiwan, they will not do it even if they think they will be successful. Right now, the Chinese people are not in any mood for a full‑scale invasion of Taiwan. On the other hand, Xi Jinping has a very low threshold of risk. He took a consensual political system where no Chinese leader got too much blame or too much credit, because everybody shared in decisions, and Xi took power from everybody, which means, he ended up with full accountability, which means -- he is now fully responsible. In 2017, when everything was going China's way, this was great for Xi Jinping because he got all the credit. Now in 2021, where things are not going China's way, he is getting all the blame. The other thing, is that Xi has raised the cost of losing a political struggle in China. In the Deng Xiaoping era, Deng reduced the cost of losing a struggle. In the Maoist era, if you lost a struggle, you potentially lost your life. In Deng's era, if you lost a struggle, you got a nice house, a comfortable life. Xi Jinping has reversed that. Now the cost of losing a political struggle in China is very high. So there is now a combination of these two developments. Xi has full accountability. He knows that if he is thrown out of power, he loses not just power. He loses his freedom, his assets, potentially his life. If he has nothing to lose, however, it means that he can start a war, either "accidentally" or on purpose. He could be thinking, "I'm dying anyway, so why don't I just roll the dice and see if I can get out of this?" That is the reason why this moment is so exceedingly risky. When you look at the internal dynamics inside China right now, we are dealing with a system in crisis. Question: China has a conference coming up in a year or so. What does Chairman Xi want to do to make sure he gets through that conference with triumph? Chang: The Communist Party has recently been holding its National Congresses once every five years. If the pattern follows -- and that is an if -- the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party will be held either October or November of next year. This is an important Congress, more so than most of them because Xi Jinping is looking for an unprecedented third term as general secretary of the Communist Party. If you go back six months ago, maybe a year, everyone was saying, "Oh, Xi Jinping. No problem. He's president for life. He's going to get his third term. He will get his fourth term. He will get his fifth term, as long as he lives. This guy is there forever." Right now, that assumption is no longer valid. We do not know what's going to happen because he is being blamed for everything. Remember, as we get close to the 20th National Congress, Xi Jinping knows he has to show "success." Showing "success" could very well mean killing some more Indians or killing Americans or killing Japanese or something. We just don't know what is going to happen. Prior to the National Congress, there is the sixth plenum of the 19th Congress. Who knows what is going to happen there. The Communist Party calendar, as you point out, does dictate the way Xi Jinping interacts with the world. Question: Going back to the wing-clip incident, what should Bush have done? Chang: What Bush should have done is immediately demand the return of that plane. What he should have done was to impose trade sanctions, investment sanctions, whatever, to get our plane back. We were fortunate, in the sense that our aviators were returned, but they were returned in a way that has made relations with China worse, because we taught the Chinese regime to be more aggressive and more belligerent. We created the problems of today and of tomorrow. I would have imposed sanction after sanction after sanction, and just demand that they return the plane and the pilots. Remember, that at some point, it was in China's interests to return our aviators. The costs would have been too high for the Chinese to keep them. We did not use that leverage on them. While we are on this topic, we should have made it clear to the Chinese leadership that they cannot kill Americans without cost. Hundreds of thousands Americans have been killed by a disease that China deliberately spread. In one year, from 2020 to 2021, nearly 80,000 Americans died from fentanyl, which China has purposefully, as a matter of state and Communist Party policy -- sold to Americans. China is killing us. We have to do something different. I'm not saying that we have good solutions; we don't. But we have to change course. Question: Biden is continuing this hostage thing with Huawei, returning the CFO of Huawei in exchange for two Canadians. Have we taught the Chinese that they can grab more hostages? Chang: President Trump was right to seek the extradition of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies. Biden, in a deal, released her. She did not even have to plead guilty to any Federal crime. She signed a statement, which I hope we'll be able to use against Huawei. As soon as Meng was released, China released the "two Michaels," the two Canadians who were grabbed within days of our seeking extradition of Meng Wanzhou. In other words, the two Michaels were hostages. We have taught China that any time that we try to enforce our own laws, they can just grab Americans. They have grabbed Americans as hostages before, but this case is high profile. They grabbed Americans, and then they grabbed Canadians, and they got away with it. They are going to do it again. We are creating the incentives for Beijing to act even more dangerously and lawlessly and criminally in the future. This has to stop. Question: On the off-chance that the current leader does not maintain his position, what are your thoughts on the leaders that we should keep an eye on? Chang: There is no one who stands out among the members of the Politburo Standing Committee. That is purposeful. Xi Jinping has made sure that there is nobody who can be considered a successor; that is the last thing he wants. If there is a change in leadership, the new leader probably will come from Jiang Zemin's Shanghai Gang faction. Jiang was China's leader before Hu Jintao, and Hu came before Xi Jinping. There is now a lot of factional infighting. Most of the reporting shows that Jiang has been trying to unseat Xi Jinping because Xi has been putting Jiang's allies in jail. Remember, the Communist Party is not a monolith. It has a lot of factions. Jiang's faction is not the only one. There is something called the Communist Youth League of Hu Jintao. It could, therefore, be anybody. Question: Double question: You did not talk about Hong Kong. Is Hong Kong lost forever to the Chinese Communist Party? Second question, if you could, what are the three policies that you would change right away? Chang: Hong Kong is not lost forever. In Hong Kong, there is an insurgency. We know from the history of insurgencies that they die away -- and they come back. We have seen this in Hong Kong. The big protests in Hong Kong, remember, 2003, 2014, 2019. In those interim periods, everyone said, "Oh, the protest movement is gone." It wasn't. China has been very effective with its national security law, but there is still resistance in Hong Kong. There is still a lot of fight there. It may not manifest itself for quite some time, but this struggle is not over, especially if the United States stands behind the people there. Biden, although he campaigned on helping Hong Kong, has done nothing. On the second question, I would close China's four remaining consulates. I would also strip the Chinese embassy down to the ambassador and his personal staff. The thousands who are in Washington, DC, they would be out. I would also raise tariffs to 3,600%, or whatever. This is a good time to do it. We have supply chain disruptions. We are not getting products from China anyway. We can actually start to do this sort of stuff. The third thing, I would do what Pompeo did, just hammer those guys all the time verbally. People may think, "Those are just words." For communists, words are really important, because they are an insecure regime where propaganda is absolutely critical. I would be going after the Communists on human rights, I would be going after them on occupying the South China Sea, on Taiwan, unrelentingly -- because I would want to show the world that the United States is no longer afraid of China. We have taught the world that we are afraid of dealing with the Chinese. State Department people, they are frightened. We need to say to the Chinese regime, like Dulles, "I'm not afraid of you. I'm going after you, and I'm going to win." Tyler Durden Sun, 05/01/2022 - 23:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeMay 2nd, 2022

First NATO country sends Ukraine powerful surface-to-air missiles to shoot down Russian aircraft and cruise missiles

Slovakia confirmed it had sent Ukraine a Soviet-era S-300, a long-range surface-to-air missile system that President Zelenskyy had desperately wanted. An S-300 anti-aircraft missile launches during a Greek army military exercise near Chania on the island of Crete on December 13, 2013.Costas Metaxakis/AFP via Getty Images Slovakia said it sent Ukraine an S-300 air defense system to defend against Russian attacks. The Soviet-era S-300 is a long-range surface-to-air missile system that can shoot down cruise missiles and aircraft. The small Eastern European country is the first NATO member to send Ukraine such advanced weaponry. Slovakia Prime Minister Eduard Heger has confirmed that it had sent its S-300 air defense system to Ukraine, becoming the first NATO country to answer the calls by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to supply powerful missile weaponry.The S-300 is a Soviet-era long-range surface-to-air missile system that can shoot down cruise missiles and aircraft and has a range of up to 90 miles.It is considered one of the most potent anti-aircraft missile systems and is in the arsenal of three NATO countries: Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Greece.—Eduard Heger (@eduardheger) April 8, 2022  On Friday, the Slovakian prime minister wrote on Facebook that donating the system did not mean that Slovakia, a NATO country, has become a part of the armed conflict in Ukraine.Zelenskyy has urged Western allies to send planes, tanks, and defense systems to Ukraine and mentioned S-300s during an impassioned speech to Congress by video last month."Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people," Zelenskyy told Congress."You know what kind of defense systems we need, S-300 and other similar systems."NATO countries have begun to step up their support of Ukraine by sending more heavy-duty weaponry as Russia's invasion continues.The Czech Republic became the first NATO country to send tanks to Ukraine earlier this week, as a Czech defense source told Reuters.NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told AP on Thursday that individual NATO countries were planning to increase the supply of weapons to Ukraine following recent atrocities but did not provide details.As an organization, NATO has refused to send weapons or troops to non-member Ukraine, but individual countries can choose to act.The move follows recent reports about the death of at least 300 civilians in Bucha and a rocket attack on a train station in Kramatorsk that killed at least 50 people on Friday.  Zelenskyy warned that the predicted fighting in Donbas, eastern Ukraine, could result in the biggest war in centuries.Speaking to the German newspaper BILD, owned by Axel Springer, Insider's parent company, on Friday, Zelenskyy predicted intense fighting in the coming days."It could be a big war in Donbas — like the world has not seen in hundreds of years," he told BILD reporter Paul Ronzheimer."We will go on defending our country until the end," the Ukrainian president continued.The chilling forecast echoes what Ukraine's foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba told NATO members on Thursday. "The battle for Donbas will remind you of the Second World War," Kuleba said.He used this warning to immediately call on Western allies to provide more heavy weaponry, including air defense systems, artillery, armored vehicles, and jets.Russian President Vladimir Putin's forces are regrouping for a new eastern offensive on the Donbas region after failing to capture Kyiv.President Joe Biden said on Friday that the US was supporting Slovakia's decision to ship the S-300 missile system to Ukraine and was sending the Eastern European country a US-made Patriot missile-defense system as a replacement."I want to thank the Slovakian government for providing an S-300 air defense system to Ukraine, something President Zelenskyy has personally raised with me in our conversations," Biden said."Now is no time for complacency," Biden said in a statement while accusing the Russian military of committing "horrific acts of brutality."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytApr 9th, 2022

Putin has 2, maybe 3, daughters he barely ever talks about who just got hit by US and UK sanctions — here"s everything we know about them

Russian president Vladimir Putin has tried to keep his personal life out of the spotlight, rarely if ever discussing his children. Russian President Vladimir and his now ex-wife Lyudmila Shkrebneva.Sergey Ponomarev/AP Russian president Vladimir Putin has at least two, possibly three, daughters he rarely talks about. He has two adult daughters with his ex-wife Lyudmila Shkrebneva: Maria, 36, and Katerina, 35. On April 6, 2022, the US and the UK put both on its sanctions list because of the war in Ukraine. See more stories on Insider's business page. The international community has been laser-focused on Russian President Vladimir Putin amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine.The 69-year-old leader has fought hard to prevent the media and the world from knowing much about his personal life. But five weeks into Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the US applied sanctions to both women, barring them from the US financial system.Putin's carefully curated macho image — he's often photographed riding horses, lifting weights, and posing shirtless — has colored much of the public's understanding of him. He has also made a concerted effort to shield his children from the spotlight, prompting many to question whether he even has children at all.Putin has never publicly acknowledged his children, though media outlets have for years speculated and reported about the two daughters Putin had with his ex-wife, and even that a girlfriend may have had another daughter in 2015.One of them, Katerina Tikhonova, appears to be building a public profile, and was seen last year speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia — the country's equivalent of Davos. But as with her earlier media appearances, nobody explicitly linked her with Putin.Here is what we know about the lives of Putin's secret kids.Pat Ralph contributed reporting to previous versions of this article.Putin had two daughters in his first marriage to former flight attendant Lyudmila Shkrebneva, to whom he was married for three decades until their divorce in 2013.APSources: Vladimir Putin, Reuters, Business InsiderTheir daughter's names are Maria and Katerina. Maria was born in Leningrad in 1985, and Katerina was born in Germany in 1986 when the family lived there during her father's time in the KGB.Maria and Katerina Putin, from their father's personal archive.ReutersSources: Vladimir Putin, Reuters, NewsweekBoth girls are named after their grandmothers. Maria's nickname is Masha and Katerina's nickname is Katya.Putin's father, Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin, and his mother, Maria Ivanovna Shelomova.KremlinMasha and Katya are common Russian shortenings for Maria and Katerina.Sources: Vladimir Putin, Reuters, NewsweekWhen the family moved to Moscow in 1996, the girls attended a German-language school. The children were reportedly removed from school when Putin became acting president, and teachers educated them at home.Then-acting President Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila applaud during a concert after an award ceremony in Gudermes on January 1, 2000.REUTERSSource: Newsweek"Not all fathers are as loving with their children as he is," Lyudmila said in a quote on Putin's government website. "And he has always spoiled them, while I was the one who had to discipline them."Vesti.ru screengrabSource: Vladimir PutinMaria studied biology in college and went to medical school in Moscow, while Katerina majored in Asian Studies in college. Both girls attended university under false identities.Putin and wife Ludmila arrive at the airport in Rostock-Laage, Germany on June 6, 2007.Alexander Hassenstein/Getty ImagesSources: Reuters, NewsweekMaria, now 36, is a medical researcher and lives in Moscow with her Dutch husband, Jorrit Faassen.APSources: Reuters, Newsweek, BloombergMaria and Faassen reportedly have a child — Putin told filmmaker Oliver Stone in 2017 that he was a grandfather. When Stone asked if he played with his grandchild, Putin replied, "Very seldom, unfortunately.""The Putin Interviews" was a four-part series that premiered on Showtime in May 2017.ShowtimeSources: Reuters, The Independent, Bloomberg, Daily MailMeanwhile, Katerina reportedly lives a high-flying life, living in lavish apartments and acquiring a fortune.Russian President Vladimir Putin makes a toast during an award ceremony in the Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia on Dec. 28, 2017.Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool Photo via APSources: Reuters, The Independent, Bloomberg, Daily MailKaterina, now 35, is an accomplished acrobatic dancer and has a senior position at her alma mater, Moscow State University, heading a $1.7 billion startup incubator.Katerina Tikhonovna, daughter of Vladimir Putin, dancing.Jakub Dabrowski/ReutersSources: Reuters, BloombergKaterina married Russian billionaire Kirill Shamalov in 2013. But the couple divorced in 2018, and the divorce case revealed they were worth $2 billion.Kirill Shamalov, the former husband of Putin's daughter KaterinaReuters/Kommersant Photo/Dmitry DukhaninSources: Bloomberg, Reuters, The Guardian   There are no official current photos of the girls. For Katerina, we found the slightly varying first names "Katerina", "Katya", and "Yekaterina," and the last names "Putina," "Tikhonova," and "Shamalov."Katerina Tikhonova (L), daughter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, dances with Ivan Klimov during the World Cup Rock'n'Roll Acrobatic Competition in Krakow, Poland, on April 12, 2014.REUTERS/Jakub DabrowskiSources: Reuters, NewsweekFinally, there are rumors that Putin has a third daughter with girlfriend and former Russian rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabaeva.Putin greets rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabayeva during a meeting with candidates to the Russian Olympic team for Summer Olympics 2004 at the presidential residence in Novo-Ogaryovo outside Moscow on March 10, 2004.REUTERS/Pool ASSource: New York PostBut neither the child nor the relationship with Kabaeva have been confirmed.Putin smiles next to Russian gymnast Alina Kabaeva during a meeting with the Russian Olympic team at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia on November 4, 2004.REUTERS/ITAR-TASS/PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICESource: Business InsiderPutin has tried to shelter his children from the media, attempting to keep them out of politics so they can live normal lives.Dennis Grombkowski/Getty ImagesSources: Reuters, Business InsiderDespite this, Katerina made her debut on Russian state TV as a biotechnology expert in December 2018.Katerina Tikhonova (R) on Rossiya 1 on December 7, 2018.Rossiya 1Source: Business InsiderHer appearance did not include comment on her being related to Putin. The link was briefly made public in the course of a dance competition, but later retracted.Katerina Tikhonova (L) and Vladimir PutinREUTERSSource: ReutersIn June 2021, Katerina addressed a conference that is Russia's equivalent of Davos — but nobody called her Putin's daughter, apparently out of fear of reprisal from the Kremlin.Katerina Tikhonova, deputy director of the Institute for Mathematical Research of Complex Systems at Moscow State University, on screen taking part in a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Russia, on June 4, 2021.Evgenia Novozhenina/ReutersSource: The Washington PostIn late 2020, Putin announced Russia had completed its COVID-19 vaccine, although it had yet to complete clinical assessments. Putin said he gave the shot to one of his two daughters, but wouldn't specify which one.Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government via video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, on August 11, 2020.Sputnik/Aleksey Nikolskyi/Kremlin via REUTERSSources: Business Insider, BBC, PoliticoPutin said his daughter's temperature decreased after getting two shots. "She has taken part in the experiment," he said, adding, "She's feeling well and has a high number of antibodies."Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo / AP ImagesSources: Business Insider, BBC, PoliticoIt was a rare acknowledgment for Putin, but one still shrouded in mystery.Russia's President Vladimir Putin holds a meeting of the Russian Security Council at Moscow's Kremlin.Alexei NikolskybackslashTASS via Getty ImagesIn February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, prompting condemnation from around the world. Three weeks later an activist filmed himself inside what he said was a Biarritz apartment owned by Katerina's ex-husband, saying he wanted to host Ukrainian refugees there.An image showing an activist flying a Ukrainian flag from the balcony of a villa linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Biarritz, France.Russia TodaySource: Insider, The Insider.In April, the US sanctioned Maria and Katerina, saying that they had "enriched themselves at the expense of the Russian people." A statement said "This action cuts them off from the US financial system and freezes any assets they hold in the United States."Getty/ReutersThe Wall Street Journal said that the EU could also sanction the two women.An EU spokesperson said the bloc is "currently discussing the proposals for further sanctions, including new listings of individuals and entities," but could not comment on who would be targeted by them. Source: The Wall Street Journal, The White HouseThe US announcement also contained more details about their work. saying that it has close ties to the Kremlin. Tikhonova's work supports Russia's government and defense industry, while Vorontsova's genetics research programs are personally overseen by Putin, the White House said.The main building of the Moscow State University. As of 2021, Tikhonova was Deputy Director of its Institute for Mathematical Research of Complex SystemsAlexander Nemenov/AFP via Getty ImagesSource: ABC News.The US said it believed the women are hiding assets for Putin, which was its rationale for sanctioning them. The Kremlin expressed confusion over the decision, suggesting it was anti-Russian.Mikhail Svetlov/Getty ImagesA senior official at the Biden administration said: "We believe that many of Putin's assets are hidden with family members and that's why we're targeting them."Putin's top spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin found the decision "difficult to understand" and framed it as part of a "rabid" western animosity towards Russia. Source: ABC News, Reuters.The UK quickly followed suit with a raft of sanctions on Maria and Katerina, among others in Putin's inner circle, aimed at hitting their "lavish lifestyles."The villa registered in the name of Kirill Shamalov, Katerina Tikhonova's ex-husband, in Biarritz, France.Gaizka Iroz/AFP via Getty ImagesSource: The Press Association.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytApr 8th, 2022

Republican Rep. Diana Harshbarger bought and sold defense contractor stocks in the days after Russia invaded Ukraine

Congress is considering whether to ban lawmakers from trading individual stocks altogether. Rep. Diana Harshbarger, a Republican from Tennessee, is one of Congress' most active stock traders.Allison Shelley/Getty Images Harshbarger, of Tennessee, is one of Congress' most active stock traders. She bought stock in Northrop Grumman on February 25, the day after Russia invaded Ukraine. The congresswoman's office says a financial advisor makes trades on her behalf without her input. Rep. Diana Harshbarger, a Republican of Tennessee and her husband bought or sold stock in three major US defense contractors in days following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, according to new congressional financial disclosures reviewed by Insider.Harshbarger or her husband, Robert Harshbarger, purchased between $4,004 and $60,000 worth of Northrop Grumman stock on February 25, the day after the invasion began, the records indicate. Northrop Grumman stock closed at just under $410 per share that day and has risen sharply since, trading around $455 per share by April 1. Lawmakers are only required to publicly report the value of their stock trades in broad ranges, which prevents an exact valuation of their trades.On March 2, the Harshbargers sold up to $60,000 worth of stock in Oshkosh Corp., then on March 15, sold up to $30,000 worth of stock in L3Harris Technologies Inc. Harshbarger's chief of staff Zac Rutherford declined to comment on the congresswoman's defense contractor stock trades. In a statement to Insider in August, Rutherford said that Harshbarger employs a financial planner to make stock trades on her behalf and does so "without any authorization, direction, or approval from Congresswoman Harshbarger."Harshbarger's stock trades are the latest example of members of Congress buying and selling stock in defense contractors that depend on congressional appropriations to earn money and whose fortunes might rise or fall based on decisions the government makes. At least 15 members of the House and Senate armed services committees, which oversee defense policy, reported owning defense contractor stock. Separately, at least 19 members of Congress personally invest in Lockheed Martin or Raytheon, the companies that manufacture the Javelin and Stinger missile systems that Western nations have sent to Ukraine to defend against Russian tanks and aircraft.Defense contractors together spend tens of millions of dollars annually to lobby the federal government to influence policy. Northrop Grumman alone spent nearly $10.7 million during 2021 to lobby the federal government, including Congress, according to federal lobbying records compiled by nonprofit research organization OpenSecrets.Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, government affairs manager for nonpartisan watchdog group Project on Government Oversight, said it's "bunk" for Harshbarger, or any member of Congress, to shift responsibility for one's personal stock trades to a money manager or stock broker."She and her family bear ultimate responsibility, and if they so choose, they can direct their financial advisor to manage their investments in such a way so as to avoid conflicts or even the appearance of conflicts," he said. "Given the hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer dollars funneled to the Pentagon every year, and given the optics of personally profiting when defense companies get government contracts, members of Congress should be prohibited from having these investments at all."A stock trade ban?The Committee on House Administration is scheduled to conduct a public hearing April 7 on that topic: whether federal lawmakers — and potentially their immediate family members — should be allowed to buy and sell individual stocks. The hearing will also address enforcement of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012, a law designed to defend against conflicts of interest and promote transparency.Insider's "Conflicted Congress" project in December found that dozens of lawmakers, and at least 182 senior congressional staffers, had failed to comply with the reporting requirements of the STOCK Act."Conflicted Congress" also found numerous examples of conflicts of interest, including that four members of Congress or their spouses have either currently or recently invested money in Russian companies at a time when Russia has invaded Ukraine.Harshbarger is one of Congress' most active stock traders, often making dozens, if not hundreds of individual trades each month. In August, Insider reported that Harshbarger violated the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012's disclosure provisions by failing to properly disclose more than 700 individual stock trades together worth between $728,000 and $10.9 million.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderApr 1st, 2022

A return to Cold War levels of Pentagon funding would actually require reducing the US defense budget

Opinion: Before Washington embarks on a new Cold War, it's time to remind ourselves of the global consequences of the last one. President John F. Kennedy looks over the Berlin Wall near Checkpoint Charlie, June 26, 1963.Anonymous/AP Pundits and policymakers are saying Russia's invasion of Ukraine marks the beginning of a new Cold War. There are also more calls for higher defense spending, but the US already spends more than it did during the first Cold War. Embracing competition and confrontation with Russia and China will have global consequences — just like the last Cold War. A growing chorus of pundits and policymakers has suggested that Russia's invasion of Ukraine marks the beginning of a new Cold War. If so, that means trillions of additional dollars for the Pentagon in the years to come coupled with a more aggressive military posture in every corner of the world.Before this country succumbs to calls for a return to Cold War-style Pentagon spending, it's important to note that the United States is already spending substantially more than it did at the height of the Korean and Vietnam Wars or, in fact, any other moment in that first Cold War.Even before the invasion of Ukraine began, the Biden administration's proposed Pentagon budget (as well as related work like nuclear-warhead development at the Department of Energy) was already guaranteed to soar even higher than that, perhaps to $800 billion or more for 2023.Here's the irony: going back to Cold War levels of Pentagon funding would mean reducing, not increasing, spending. Of course, that's anything but what the advocates of such military outlays had in mind, even before the present crisis.Some supporters of higher Pentagon spending have, in fact, been promoting figures as awe inspiring as they are absurd.Rich Lowry, the editor of the conservative National Review, is advocating a trillion-dollar military budget, while Matthew Kroenig of the Atlantic Council called for the United States to prepare to win simultaneous wars against Russia and China. He even suggested that Congress "could go so far as to double its defense spending" without straining our resources. That would translate into a proposed annual defense budget of perhaps $1.6 trillion.Neither of those astronomical figures is likely to be implemented soon, but that they're being talked about at all is indicative of where the Washington debate on Pentagon spending is heading in the wake of the Ukraine disaster.Ukrainian troops load US-made Javelin anti-tank missiles at Kyiv's Boryspil airport, February 11, 2022.SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty ImagesEx-government officials are pressing for similarly staggering military budgets. As former Reagan-era State Department official and Iran-Contra operative Elliott Abrams argued in a recent Foreign Affairs piece titled "The New Cold War": "It should be crystal clear now that a larger percentage of GDP [gross domestic product] will need to be spent on defense."Similarly, in a Washington Post op-ed, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates insisted that "we need a larger, more advanced military in every branch, taking full advantage of new technologies to fight in new ways." No matter that the US already outspends China by a three-to-one margin and Russia by 10-to-one.Truth be told, current levels of Pentagon spending could easily accommodate even a robust program of arming Ukraine as well as a shift of yet more US troops to Eastern Europe.However, as hawkish voices exploit the Russian invasion to justify higher military budgets, don't expect that sort of information to get much traction. At least for now, cries for more are going to drown out realistic views on the subject.Beyond the danger of breaking the budget and siphoning off resources urgently needed to address pressing challenges like pandemics, climate change, and racial and economic injustice, a new Cold War could have devastating consequences.Under such a rubric, the US would undoubtedly launch yet more military initiatives, while embracing unsavory allies in the name of fending off Russian and Chinese influence.The first Cold War, of course, reached far beyond Europe, as Washington promoted right-wing authoritarian regimes and insurgencies globally at the cost of millions of lives. Such brutal military misadventures included Washington's role in coups in Iran, Guatemala, and Chile; the war in Vietnam; and support for repressive governments and proxy forces in Afghanistan, Angola, Central America, and Indonesia.Pro-Shah demonstrators burn a newspaper kiosk in Tehran during a Western-backed coup against Iranian Premier Mohammad Mossadeq, August 19, 1953.APAll of those were justified by exaggerated — even at times fabricated — charges of Soviet involvement in such countries and the supposed need to defend "the free world," a Cold War term President Joe Biden all-too-ominously revived in his recent State of the Union address (assumedly, yet another sign of things to come).Indeed, his framing of the current global struggle as one between "democracies and autocracies" has a distinctly Cold War ring to it and, like the term "free world," it's riddled with contradictions.After all, from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates to the Philippines, all too many autocracies and repressive regimes already receive ample amounts of US weaponry and military training — no matter that they continue to pursue reckless wars or systematically violate the human rights of their own people. Washington's support is always premised on the role such regimes supposedly play in fighting against or containing the threats of the moment, whether Iran, China, Russia, or some other country.Count on one thing: the heightened rhetoric about Russia and China seeking to undermine American influence will only reinforce Washington's support for repressive regimes. The consequences of that could, in turn, prove to be potentially disastrous.Before Washington embarks on a new Cold War, it's time to remind ourselves of the global consequences of the last one.Cold War I: the coupsUS Army tanks on Pennsylvania Avenue during for President Dwight D. Eisenhower's inaugural parade, January 21, 1953.AP PhotoDwight D. Eisenhower is often praised as the president who ended the Korean War and spoke out against the military-industrial complex. However, he also sowed the seeds of instability and repression globally by overseeing the launching of coups against nations allegedly moving toward communism or even simply building closer relations with the Soviet Union.In 1953, with Eisenhower's approval, the CIA instigated a coup that led to the overthrow of Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeqh. In a now-declassified document, the CIA cited the Cold War and the risks of leaving Iran "open to Soviet aggression" as rationales for their actions.The coup installed Reza Pahlavi as the Shah of Iran, initiating 26 years of repressive rule that set the stage for the 1979 Iranian revolution that would bring Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power.In 1954, the Eisenhower administration launched a coup that overthrew the Guatemalan government of President Jacobo Arbenz. His "crime": attempting to redistribute to poor peasants some of the lands owned by major landlords, including the US-based United Fruit Company. Arbenz's internal reforms were falsely labeled communism-in-the-making and a case of Soviet influence creeping into the Western Hemisphere.Of course, no one in the Eisenhower administration made mention of the close ties between the United Fruit Company and both CIA Director Allen Dulles and his brother, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. Such US intervention in Guatemala would prove devastating with the four decades that followed consumed by a brutal civil war in which up to 200,000 people died. In 1973, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger followed Eisenhower's playbook by fomenting a coup that overthrew the democratically elected socialist government of Chilean President Salvador Allende, installing the vicious dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.That coup was accomplished in part through economic warfare — "making the economy scream," as Secretary of State Henry Kissinger put it — and partly thanks to CIA-backed bribes and assassinations meant to bolster right-wing factions there.Kissinger would justify the coup, which led to the torture, imprisonment, and death of tens of thousands of Chileans, this way: "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people."Vietnam and its LegacyA napalm erupts after an airstrike near US troops on patrol in South Vietnam in 1966.Associated PressThe most devastating Cold War example of a war justified on anti-communist grounds was certainly the disastrous US intervention in Vietnam.It would lead to the deployment there of more than half a million American troops, the dropping of a greater tonnage of bombs than the US used in World War II, the defoliation of large parts of the Vietnamese countryside, the massacre of villagers in My Lai and numerous other villages, the deaths of 58,000 US troops and up to 2 million Vietnamese civilians — all while Washington systematically lied ;to the American public about the war's "progress."US involvement in Vietnam began in earnest during the administrations of Presidents Harry Truman and Eisenhower, when Washington bankrolled the French colonial effort there to subdue an independence movement. After a catastrophic French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, the US took over the fight, first with covert operations and then counterinsurgency efforts championed by the administration of John F. Kennedy. Finally, under President Lyndon Johnson Washington launched an all-out invasion and bombing campaign.In addition to being an international crime writ large, in what became a Cold War tradition for Washington, the conflict in Vietnam would prove to be profoundly anti-democratic. There's no question that independence leader Ho Chi Minh would have won the nationwide election called for by the 1954 Geneva Accords that followed the French defeat.Instead, the Eisenhower administration, gripped by what was then called the "domino theory" — the idea that the victory of communism anywhere would lead other countries to fall like so many dominos to the influence of the Soviet Union — sustained an undemocratic right-wing regime in South Vietnam.That distant war would, in fact, spark a growing antiwar movement in this country and lead to what became known as the "Vietnam Syndrome," a public resistance to military intervention globally. While that meant an ever greater reliance on the CIA, it also helped keep the US out of full-scale boots-on-the-ground conflicts until the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Instead, the post-Vietnam "way of war" would be marked by a series of US-backed proxy conflicts abroad and the widespread arming of repressive regimes.The defeat in Vietnam helped spawn what was called the Nixon Doctrine, which eschewed large-scale intervention in favor of the arming of American surrogates like the Shah of Iran and the Suharto regime in Indonesia. Those two autocrats typically repressed their own citizens, while trying to extinguish people's movements in their regions.In the case of Indonesia, Suharto oversaw a brutal war in East Timor, greenlighted and supported financially and with weaponry by the Nixon administration.'Freedom fighters'President Ronald Reagan meeting members of the Afghan mujahideen in the White House Oval Office in 1983.Reagan Library/Wikimedia CommonsOnce Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1981, his administration began to push support for groups he infamously called "freedom fighters." Those ranged from extremist mujahideen fighters against the Soviets in Afghanistan to Jonas Savimbi's forces in Angola to the Nicaraguan Contras.The US funding and arming of such groups would have devastating consequences in those countries, setting the stage for the rise of a new generation of corrupt regimes, while arming and training individuals who would become members of al-Qaeda.The Contras were an armed right-wing rebel movement cobbled together, funded, and supplied by the CIA. Americas Watch accused them of rape, torture, and the execution of civilians. In 1984, Congress prohibited the Reagan administration from funding them, thanks to the Boland amendment (named for Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Edward Boland).In response, administration officials sought a work-around. In the end, Lt. Col. Oliver North, a Marine and member of the National Security Council, would devise a scheme to supply arms to Iran, while funneling excess profits from the sales of that weaponry to the Contras.The episode became known as the Iran-Contra scandal and demonstrated the lengths to which zealous Cold Warriors would go to support even the worst actors as long as they were on the "right side" (in every sense) of the Cold War struggle.Chief among this country's blunders of that previous Cold War era was its response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, a policy that still haunts America today. Concerns about that invasion led the administration of President Jimmy Carter to step up weapons transfers through a covert arms pipeline to a loose network of oppositional fighters known as the mujahideen. Reagan doubled down on such support, even meeting with the leaders of mujahideen groups in the Oval Office in 1983.That relationship would, of course, backfire disastrously as Afghanistan descended into a civil war after the Soviet Union withdrew. Some of those Reagan had praised as "freedom fighters" helped form al-Qaeda and later the Taliban. The US by no means created the mujahideen in Afghanistan, but it does bear genuine responsibility for everything that followed in that country.As the Biden administration moves to operationalize its policy of democracy versus autocracy, it should take a close look at the Cold War policy of attempting to expand the boundaries of the "free world." A study by political scientists Alexander Downes and Jonathon Monten found that, of 28 cases of American regime change, only three would prove successful in building a lasting democracy.Instead, most of the Cold War policies outlined above, even though carried out under the rubric of promoting "freedom" in "the free world," would undermine democracy in a disastrous fashion.A new Cold War?US Navy officers monitor Chinese ships from the guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin in the Philippine Sea, April 4, 2021.US Navy/MCS3 Arthur RosenCold War II, if it comes to pass, is unlikely to simply follow the pattern of Cold War I either in Europe or other parts of the world. Still, the damage done by the "good vs. evil" worldview that animated Washington's policies during the Cold War years should be a cautionary tale.The risk is high that the emerging era could be marked by persistent US intervention or interference in Africa, Asia, and Latin America in the name of staving off Russian and Chinese influence in a world where Washington's disastrous war on terrorism has never quite ended.The United States already has more than 200,000 troops stationed abroad, 750 military bases scattered on every continent except Antarctica, and continuing counterterrorism operations in 85 countries.The end of US military involvement in Afghanistan and the dramatic scaling back of American operations in Iraq and Syria should have marked the beginning of a sharp reduction in the US military presence in the Middle East and elsewhere. Washington's reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine may now stand in the way of just such a much-needed military retrenchment.The "us vs. them" rhetoric and global military maneuvering likely to play out in the years to come threaten to divert attention and resources from the biggest risks to humanity, including the existential threat posed by climate change. It also may divert attention from a country — ours — that is threatening to come apart at the seams.To choose this moment to launch a new Cold War should be considered folly of the first order, not to speak of an inability to learn from history.Nick Cleveland-Stout is a researcher at the Quincy Institute.Taylor Giorno is a researcher at the Quincy Institute.William D. Hartung, a TomDispatch regular, is a Senior Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, and the author most recently of the Quincy Institute Issue Brief "Pathways to Pentagon Spending Reductions: Removing the Obstacles." His most recent book is Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military Industrial Complex.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMar 30th, 2022

Nancy Pelosi — under pressure — directs House to consider bigger penalties for lawmakers and aides who break a federal conflict-of-interest law

Insider's "Conflicted Congress" investigation found that dozens of lawmakers and more than 182 senior staff violated a law meant to increase transparency and banish conflicts of interest. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, takes questions from reporters at her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021.Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images A House panel will scrutinize congressional stock trades following Insider's 'Conflicted Congress' investigation. Lawmakers may face higher fines if they report their stock trades late.  The move comes after Insider revealed numerous violations and lawmakers are proposing stock bans.  Facing withering criticism from political friends and foes alike, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is directing a panel to consider higher fines for lawmakers and top aides who violate a law on congressional stock trading meant to combat financial conflicts of interest. The Democratic leader asked the Committee on House Administration to investigate how many members have broken the reporting requirements of the the 2012 Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, also known as the STOCK Act.At least 54 members of Congress and 182 of their top aides have violated the STOCK Act's disclosure provisions, according to Insider's "Conflicted Congress" investigation, which published in December.Drew Hammill, Pelosi's deputy chief of staff, told Insider that the Speaker asked the panel to look into "the possibility of stiffening penalties," and confirmed it would extend to senior staff. "The speaker believes that sunlight is the best disinfectant and has asked Committee on House Administration Chair Zoe Lofgren to examine the issue of Members' unacceptable noncompliance with the reporting requirements in the STOCK Act," he said. The panel is responsible for setting rules on lawmakers and staff, including everything from human resources directions to ethical standards.Pelosi's actions contrast with most recent statements about members of Congress and their stock trades. Following publication of Insider's "Conflicted Congress" project, Pelosi told Insider that members of Congress should be allowed to buy and sell individual stocks. "We are a free-market economy. They should be able to participate in that," Pelosi said, adding that members of Congress should report their trades on time.But while the STOCK Act requires members of Congress to publicly report their stock transactions within 30 to 45 days, depending on when they learned about a trade, dozens of Democrats and Republicans alike have recently failed to do so. Some have broken federal disclosure deadlines by months with stock trades worth into the millions of dollars.Lawmakers who have violated the STOCK Act's disclosure provisions routinely invest in companies that vie for federal contracts and lobby the federal government, sometimes spending millions of dollars annually to do so."Conflicted Congress" also revealed numerous, recent examples of potential conflicts: House Armed Services Committee members trading defense contractor stocks, lawmakers responsible for health policy buying shares of COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers, environmentally minded congressional members investing in oil companies.Pelosi does not personally trade stocks, but her husband, Paul Pelosi, has millions of dollars worth of stock investments that the speaker must by law disclose. Insider also contacted Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's office and the Senate Rules Committee to ask whether the Senate might undertake a similar review, but did not immediately receive a response. On Tuesday, Schumer dodged a question about whether he supported a stock trading ban for lawmakers, but told Insider "I don't own any stocks, and I think that's the right thing to do."Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York are among a growing, bipartisan coalition of lawmakers who have expressed support for a ban on members of Congress trading individual stocks.Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images; J. Scott Applewhite/AP PhotoMinimal consequencesInsider's "Conflicted Congress" investigation found that few face consequences for violating the law, including cases in which they reported millions of dollars in trades months or even years late.Scofflaws are supposed to pay a late fee of $200 the first time they file a report about their stock trades late, and increasingly higher fines are supposed to follow if they continue to be late — potentially costing tens of thousands of dollars in extreme cases. But that rarely happens.Pelosi's latest actions come as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have in recent days proposed a slew of similar bills to ban stock trading, including a pair of competing proposals unveiled on Wednesday by Sen. Jon Ossoff, a Democrat of Georgia, and Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican of Missouri. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, who is poised to become the new speaker if Republicans win back the House after the 2022 elections, told Punchbowl News this week he supports restrictions on members of Congress buying and selling individual stocks. Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas has sponsored a bill restricting members of Congress from trading stocks, and US Senate candidate Blake Masters of Arizona has made banning congressional stock trades a cornerstone campaign issue.Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Abigail Spanberger, and Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Mark Kelly of Arizona, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and Mark Warner of Virginia rank among Democrats who've said they want tough restrictions on lawmakers' stock trades.Pelosi's decision also arrives as the White House on Friday opened the door to a potential ban on members of Congress trading individual stocks. Meanwhile, Rep. Angie Craig, a two-term Democrat from Minnesota, is preparing to next week introduce a resolution banning members of the US House from owning "common stock of any individual public corporation."Unlike the several other bills lawmakers are introducing to squelch stock trade activity among members of Congress, Craig's resolution, if passed, wouldn't be a law. Instead, it'd be a House rule that only applied to House members and not subject to a vote in the US Senate or the signature of President Joe Biden.Why is Craig willing to defy Pelosi on this matter and potentially invite political blowback from the speaker?"I just fundamentally disagree with her on this topic … I wish the speaker had a different point of view," Craig told Insider on Friday. "If the American people can't believe that we're here just to serve them, not to pad our own portfolios, then how can they trust we're doing what's in our best interest?"I want to start the conversation about why my leadership wants to block this legislation," Craig said, adding that she will "working across the aisle to see what kind of support we can build."Craig recalled once participating in a House Subcommittee on Aviation hearing involving Boeing, the aviation and defense contracting giant."I literally sat there that one day and said to myself, 'My God, if I wanted to short Boeing today, and make a little money — this is the most ridiculous thing in the world that members of Congress can trade individual stocks," she said. "We often get information before the general public."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytJan 14th, 2022

8 Top CEOs Give Their Predictions for the Wild Year Ahead

(To receive weekly emails of conversations with the world’s top CEOs and business decisionmakers, click here.) Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, business leaders are heading into 2022 facing the strong headwinds of the Omicron variant, continued pressure on supply chains, and the great resignation looming over the labor market. TIME asked top leaders… (To receive weekly emails of conversations with the world’s top CEOs and business decisionmakers, click here.) Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, business leaders are heading into 2022 facing the strong headwinds of the Omicron variant, continued pressure on supply chains, and the great resignation looming over the labor market. TIME asked top leaders from across the world of business to share their priorities and expectations for the year ahead. Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, wants to leverage the advances his pharmaceutical company has made in fighting COVID-19 to tackle other diseases, while Rosalind “Roz” Brewer, CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, has made improving access to healthcare one of her goals over the next year. GoFundMe CEO Tim Cadogan says building trust will be at the heart of decision-making at the crowdfunding platform—both with workers and its wider community. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Innovation is key to Intel CEO Patrick P. Gelsinger and Forerunner Ventures founder and managing partner Kirsten Green. And Rothy’s CEO Stephen Hawthornthwaite, Albemarle CEO Kent Masters, and Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, shared their suggestions for how companies and policymakers can respond to persistent supply chains problems. Read on to see how some of the most powerful people in business envision the coming year. (These answers have been condensed and edited for clarity.) What are the biggest opportunities and challenges you expect in the year ahead? Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer: The scientific advancements made by Pfizer and others over the past year have brought us very powerful tools to battle the worst pandemic of our lives. But, unfortunately, we don’t see everyone using them. I am concerned about the limited infrastructure and resources in the poorest countries as they struggle to administer their supply of COVID-19 vaccines to their people. Some of these countries have asked us to pause our deliveries of doses while they work to address these issues. While I am proud of the work Pfizer has done to make vaccines available to low- and lower middle-income countries over the past year, we need to find new ways to support the World Health Organization as they work with NGOs and governments to address these infrastructure issues. Getty ImagesAlbert Bourla, CEO, Pfizer Over the next year I’d like us to help find solutions to issues like the shortage of medical professionals, vaccine hesitancy due to limited educational campaigns, lack of equipment and even roads to allow timely delivery of vaccines. Throughout every chapter of this pandemic, we have been reminded of the importance of collaboration and innovative thinking. We need to work harder than ever before to address these health inequities so that people around the globe are protected from the virus. Pat Gelsinger, CEO of Intel: Throughout the history of technology, we’ve seen the pendulum swinging between centralized and decentralized computing. And there is still a tremendous untapped opportunity in edge computing as we bring greater intelligence to devices such as sensors and cameras in everything from our cars to manufacturing to the smart grid. Edge computing will not replace cloud; we’re swinging back to where decentralized compute becomes the primary growth for new workloads because the inference and AI analysis will take place at the edge. Technology has the power to improve the lives of every person on earth and Intel plays a foundational role within. We aim to lead in the opportunity for every category in which we compete. Roz Brewer, CEO of Walgreens: The pandemic affirmed Walgreens as a trusted neighborhood health destination to help our customers and patients manage their health. We provide essential care to our communities, including administering more than 50 million COVID-19 vaccines as of early December 2021. The opportunity ahead of us at Walgreens Health—our new segment launched this past fall—is to create better outcomes for both consumers and partners, while lowering costs across the care continuum. A year from now I want to look back on this time as an inflection point and a moment in time where real, lasting change happened—that we will all have collectively banded together to get through the pandemic and at the same time delivered real change toward improving accessible and affordable healthcare. I feel inspired and hopeful that some good will come out of this very difficult time in our country and the world’s history. Jason Redmond—AFP/Getty ImagesRosalind Brewer, CEO of Walgreens, speaks in Seattle, Washington on Mar. 20, 2019. Tim Cadogan, CEO of GoFundMe: We’re going to see continued disruption in the world and the workplace in 2022—this will require more people to come together to help each other. Our opportunity is to use our voice and platform to bring more people together to help each other with all aspects of their lives. Asking for help is hard but coming together to help each other is one of the most important and rewarding things we can do in life. We are continuously improving our product to make it easier for more people to both ask for and give help, whether it’s helping an individual fulfill a dream, working on a global cause like climate change, or supporting a family during a difficult time. Kirsten Green, founder and managing partner of Forerunner Ventures: We are nearly two years into the pandemic, and it is still ongoing. We must embrace this new normal and figure out how to make that reality work for our businesses, our consumers, and our people. Thankfully, we often see innovation come out of these periods of change and fluctuation. At the same time, it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that the world has evolved, and it is still important to understand that the ‘reset’ button just got hit for a lot of people. Values, goals, and core needs are being reevaluated and reestablished, and we as a society need to figure out how to move forward during a volatile period. Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles: Our industry needs to help drive the American economic recovery amid the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The top priority remains getting goods to American consumers and creating a more fluid supply chain. We also need to address the growing trade imbalance. Imports are at all-time highs while U.S. exports have declined nearly 40% over the past three years in Los Angeles. We have to help American manufacturers and farmers get their products to global markets. With the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, our team is working to get our fair share of federal funds to accelerate projects to improve rail infrastructure, local highways and support facilities. The Port of Los Angeles is the nation’s primary trade gateway, yet east and gulf coast ports have received most of the federal funding in the past decade. The best return on port infrastructure investment is in Los Angeles, where the cargo we handle reaches every corner of the country. Kent Masters, CEO of Albemarle: Challenges will likely continue to include competition for top talent, supply chain disruptions due to possible pandemic impacts to raw material availability and logistics, and potential inflation impacts to material and freight costs, all of which we’re monitoring closely so we can respond quickly. With the global EV market growing rapidly, we have a tremendous opportunity ahead of us for years to come. Next year, we’ll advance our lithium business through new capacity ramp-ups in Chile, Australia and China, and restart the MARBL Lithium Wodgina hard rock resource in Australia to help feed our new conversion assets and meet customer needs. We’re also keenly focused on organizational goal alignment and continuous improvement to drive greater productivity through our global workforce next year. What do you expect to happen to supply chains in 2022? Gelsinger: The unprecedented global demand for semiconductors—combined with the impact of the global pandemic—has led to an industry-wide shortage, which is impacting technology providers across the industry. Intel is aggressively stepping in to address these issues and build out more capacity and supply around the globe for a more balanced and stable supply, but it will take time and strong public-private partnerships to achieve. Read more: From Cars to Toasters, America’s Semiconductor Shortage Is Wreaking Havoc on Our Lives. Can We Fix It? Brewer: We learned a lot over the past two years and companies are taking action with investments in capacity, resiliency and agility for supply chains across the world. We will continue finding creative ways to increase manufacturing and shipping capacity. Manufacturers will continue expanding capacity and increasing the diversity in their supplier base to reduce reliance of single sourcing. Companies will continue to invest to increase resiliency through expanded inventory positions, extended planning horizons and lead-times, and increased agility in manufacturing and logistics capabilities to fulfill customer needs. As the marketplace changes, we must be agile and adapt quickly as we respond to shifts in consumer behavior. Investments in technology, such as real time supply chain visibility and predictive/prescriptive analytics, will enable companies to deliver the speed and precision expected by today’s consumer. Seroka: Goods and products will get to market. The maritime logistics industry must raise the bar and make advances on service levels for both our import and export customers. Retailers will be replenishing their inventories in the second quarter of the year. And by summer, several months earlier than usual, we’ll see savvy retailers bringing in products for back to school, fall fashion and the winter holidays. Despite the challenges, retail sales reached new highs in 2021. Collectively, supply chains partners need to step up further to improve fluidity and reliability. Stephen Hawthornthwaite, CEO of Rothy’s: In 2022, pressure from consumers for transparency around manufacturing and production, coupled with pandemic learnings about existing supply chain constraints, will push businesses to condense their supply chains and bring in-house where possible. I also predict that more brands will test make-to-demand models to better weather demand volatility and avoid supply surpluses—a benefit for businesses, consumers and the planet. Nimbleness and a willingness to innovate will be crucial for brands who wish to meet the demands of a post-pandemic world. At Rothy’s, we’ve built a vertically integrated model and wholly-owned factory, enabling us to better navigate the challenges that production and logistics present and unlock the full potential of sustainability and circularity. Courtesy of Rothy’sStephen Hawthornthwaite, chairman and CEO, Rothy’s Green: The pandemic crystallized what a lot of us knew to be true, but hadn’t yet evaluated: There’s not nearly as much innovation in the supply chain as a flexible world is going to need. What we’re seeing now is a giant wake-up call to the entire commerce ecosystem. This is more than a rallying cry; it’s a mandate to reevaluate how we’re managing our production processes, and 2022 will be the start of change. Expect a massive overhaul of the system, and expect to see more investment building innovation, efficiency, and sustainability into the supply chain space. Read more: How American Shoppers Broke the Supply Chain Masters: As the pandemic continues with new variants, we expect global supply chain issues to persist in 2022. To what degree remains to be seen, but I would expect impacts to some raw materials, freight costs, and even energy costs. On a positive note, we can successfully meet our customer obligations largely because of our vertically integrated capabilities. This helps us continue to be a reliable source of lithium, as well as bromine. Worldwide logistics issues are a factor, but more marginal in the supply question when the determining factor is the ability to convert feedstock to product and bolster the supply chain. In lithium, we have active conversion facilities running at full capacity now. As we bring more capacity online (La Negra III/IV, Kemerton I/II, Silver Peak expansion, and our Tianyuan acquisition in China) while making more efficient use of our feedstocks, it will help strengthen the global supply chain. How will the labor market evolve and what changes should workers expect in the coming year? Brewer: The labor market will continue to be competitive in 2022. I often say to my team: as an employer, it’s not about the products we make, it’s not about our brand. It’s about how are we going to motivate team members to feel good about themselves, fulfilled and passionate about their work, to contribute at their highest level of performance. How do we create a culture that means Walgreens Boots Alliance is the best place to work—so our team members say, “Yes, pay me for the work that I do, but help me love my job.” In the coming year and beyond, broadly across the market, we will see that managers will continue to become even more empathetic and listen more actively to their team members as people. Workers will expect that employers and their managers accept who they are as their whole, authentic selves, both personally and professionally. Read more: The ‘Great Resignation’ Is Finally Getting Companies to Take Burnout Seriously. Is It Enough? Gelsinger: Our employees are our future and our most important asset, and we’ve already announced a significant investment in our people for next year. As I’ve said, sometimes it takes a decade to make a week of progress; sometimes a week gives you a decade of progress. As I look to 2022, navigating a company at the heart of many of the pandemic-related challenges, we must all carefully consider what shifts are underway and what changes are yet to come. It will continue to be a competitive market and I expect you’ll continue to see companies establish unique benefits and incentives to attract and retain talent. We expect the “hybrid” mode that’s developed over the past years to become the standard working model going forward. Al Drago/Bloomberg—Getty ImagesPatrick Gelsinger, chief executive officer of Intel Corp., speaks during an interview at an Economic Club of Washington event in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Dec. 9, 2021. Bourla: The past couple of years have challenged our workforce in ways that we never would have imagined. Companies have asked employees to demonstrate exceptional flexibility, commitment, courage and ingenuity over the past two years—and they have risen to the challenge. I predict that we are likely to see an increase in salaries in the coming year due to inflation—and I believe this is a good thing for workers, as it will help close the gap in income inequality. That said, financial rewards are no longer the only thing that employees expect from their employers. Increasingly, people want to work for a company with a strong culture and a defined purpose. As such, companies will need to foster and promote a culture in which employees feel respected and valued for their contributions and made to feel that they are integral to furthering the purpose of their company. Businesses that are able to create such a culture will not only be able to attract the best talent, but also maximize the engagement, creativity and productivity of their people by enabling them to bring their best selves to every challenge. Green: For many years, Forerunner has been saying, “It’s good to be a consumer. Consumers want what they want, when they want it, how they want it, and they’re getting it.” That same evolution of thought has now moved into the labor market: It’s a worker’s market, not a company’s market, and the relationship between the worker and the employer needs to evolve because of that. Workers should expect to get more flexibility, respect, benefits, and pay in some cases—but they still need to show up and deliver impact at work. It’s a two-way street, and we need to tap into a broader cultural work ethic. As a society, we need to be more holistic in our approach to meeting both company and worker needs. Read more: The Pandemic Revealed How Much We Hate Our Jobs. Now We Have a Chance to Reinvent Work Seroka: There’s a need for more truck drivers and warehouse workers in southern California. President Biden’s new Trucking Action Plan funds trucker apprentice programs and recruit U.S. military veterans. It’s an important step forward to attract, recruit and retain workers. Private industry needs to look at improved compensation and benefits for both truckers and warehouse workers. We need to bring a sense of pride and professionalism back to these jobs. On the docks, the contract between longshore workers and the employer’s association expires June 30. Both sides will be hard at work to negotiate and reach an agreement that benefits the workers and companies while keeping cargo flowing for the American economy. Courtesy Port of Los AngelesGene Seroka, executive director, Port of Los Angeles. Masters: I think there will still be a fight for talent next year. It’s a tight labor market overall and Covid-19 restrictions are a challenge in some regions. Albemarle has a really attractive growth story and profile, especially for workers interested in combatting climate change by contributing in a meaningful way to the clean energy transition. We are embracing a flexible work environment, much like other companies are doing, and upgrading some benefits to remain an employer of choice in attracting and retaining the best people on our growth journey. And, of course, we should all expect pandemic protocols to continue next year to ensure everyone’s health and safety. How do you see your role as a leader evolving over the coming year? Bourla: We are entering a golden age of scientific discovery fueled by converging advancements in biology and technology. As an industry, we must leverage these advancements to make disruptive changes in the way we discover, develop and bring new medicines to patients. Since I became CEO of Pfizer, we have been working to reimagine this process by operating as a nimbler, more science-driven organization, focused on delivering true breakthroughs for patients across our six therapeutic areas. In the past few years, we have demonstrated our ability to deliver on this promise of bringing true scientific breakthroughs through our colleagues’ tireless work in COVID-19. But there is more work to be done to address the unmet need in other disease areas—and now is the time to do it. In the year ahead, my leadership team and I will focus on leveraging these advancements in biology and technology, as well as the lessons learned from our COVID-19 vaccine development program, so that we may continue to push this scientific renaissance forward. This is critical work that we must advance for patients and their families around the world who continue to suffer from other devastating diseases without treatment options. Gelsinger: We are in the midst of a digital renaissance and experiencing the fastest pace of digital acceleration in history. We have immense opportunities ahead of us to make a lasting impact on the world through innovation and technology. Humans create technology to define what’s possible. We ask “if” something can be done, we understand “why,” then we ask “how.” In 2022, I must inspire and ensure our global team of over 110,000 executes and continues to drive forward innovation and leadership on our mission to enrich the lives of every person on earth. Brewer: Purpose is the driving force at this point in my career. I joined Walgreens Boots Alliance as CEO in March of 2021, what I saw as a rare opportunity to help end the pandemic and to help reimagine local healthcare and wellbeing for all. Seven months later, we launched the company’s new purpose, vision, values and strategic priorities. My role as CEO now and in 2022 is to lead with our company’s purpose—more joyful lives through better health—at the center of all we do for our customers, patients and team members. I’m particularly focused on affordable, accessible healthcare for all, including in traditionally medically underserved communities. Healthcare is inherently local, and all communities should have equitable access to care. John Lamparski—Getty Images for Advertising Week New YorkTim Cadogan, CEO of GoFundMe, speaks in New York City on Sept. 26, 2016. Cadogan: The last two years were dominated by a global pandemic and social and geopolitical issues that will carry over into 2022. The role of leaders in this new and uncertain environment will be to deliver value to their customers, while helping employees navigate an increasingly complex world with a completely new way of working together. Trust will be at the center of every decision we make around product development and platform policies—do the decisions we are making align with our mission to help people help each other and do they build trust with our community and our employees? Green: Everything around us is moving at an accelerated pace, and being a leader requires you to operate with a consistent set of values while still leaning into opportunity. Arguably, the pandemic has been the most disruptive time in decades—a generational disruption on par with the Depression or WWII. People’s North Stars are in the process of transforming, and leaders need to figure out what that means for their companies, their cultures, and their work processes. How does this change require leaders to shift their priorities as a business? Courtesy, Forerunner VenturesKirsten Green, founder and managing partner, Forerunner Ventures Masters: My leadership style is to make decisions through dialogue and debate. I encourage teams to be curious about other perspectives, be contrarian, actively discuss, make decisions, and act. I wasn’t sure how well we could do this from a strictly remote work approach during the pandemic, but watching our teams thrive despite the challenge changed my mind. Our people adapted quickly to move our business forward. We’ve worked so well that we’re integrating more flexibility into our work environment in 2022. With this shift to hybrid work, it will be important for all leaders, myself included, to empower employees in managing their productivity, and ensure teams stay engaged and focused on our key objectives. We’re facing rapid growth ahead, so our culture is vital to our success. I’ll continue to encourage our teams to live our values, seek diverse viewpoints, be decisive, and execute critical work to advance our strategy. Courtesy of Albemarle Kent Masters, CEO of Albemarle Seroka: Overseeing the nation’s busiest container port comes with an outsized responsibility to help our nation—not just the Port of Los Angeles—address the challenges brought about by the unprecedented surge in consumer demand. That means taking the lead on key fronts such as digital technology, policy and operational logistics. On the digital front, our industry needs to use data better to improve the reliability, predictability, and efficiency in the flow of goods. Policy work will focus on improving infrastructure investment, job training and advocating for a national export plan that supports fair trade and American jobs. Operationally, we’ll look for new ways to improve cargo velocity and efficiency......»»

Category: topSource: timeJan 2nd, 2022