You Signed Up For This
|IN A NUTSHELL: MUST READ|
Rex Tillerson Calls For Closer Ties To India As China Ascends: On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the Trump administration wanted to “dramatically deepen” cooperation with India as a key partner in the face of growing Chinese influence in Asia. Tillerson visits India next week and, in less than a month, President Trump makes his first state visit to China. Tillerson also stated that the US would work with other countries, including Australia, to join US-India-Japan security cooperation, something Beijing has opposed as an attempt by Western democracies to “gang up on it.” The US decision to expand relations with India will also upset Pakistan, which Tillerson also visits next week. Pakistan has been the main US ally in South Asia for many years, but US officials are frustrated with what they claim has been Pakistan’s failure to cut support for the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.
…Speaking Of China (If You Dare), 2017’s Most Happening Party Has Now Officially Started, and You’re Definitely Not On The List: Chinese President Xi Jinping laid out a sweeping vision for his country’s future as he kicked off the week-long Chinese Communist Party congress, which takes place every five years. In front of 3,000 delegates and guests and a TV audience of millions, Xi detailed China’s accomplishments in the last five years, including lifting 60 million people out of poverty, improving living standards and education, and enhancing law, order, and national security. Xi’s crackdown on corruption has brought down more than a million officials, some often considered to be Xi’s rivals. Xi made it clear that China’s future path would not emulate the West, stating that he would not “mechanically copy the political systems of other countries. No one should expect China to swallow anything that undermines its interests.” During the congress, Xi will be formally granted a second five-year term as the party’s general secretary. He may also seek to cement his status by revising the party charter to include “Xi Jinping Thought.” If Xi’s name is crowned in the constitution, it will signal his elevation to the level of previous Chinese leaders, as exemplified by “Mao Zedong Thought” and “Deng Xiaoping Theory.”
|NUTS AND BOLTS: SHOULD READ|
Despite What You’ve Read, It’s Not Over And Done For ISIS: The Islamic State (IS) has lost territory in Iraq and Syria, but any word of its demise is greatly exaggerated. Counterintelligence and jihadi experts agree its ideology is still recruiting globally. The group’s powerful social media network with no physical presence allows it to spew propaganda, claim responsibility for terrorist attacks, inspire, and even help plot and execute them remotely. Iraq is bracing for future waves of suicide attacks, and while some plots fail, propaganda-inspired lone wolf assaults are virtually unstoppable. Before dying via American drone strike, IS spokesman Abu Muhammed al-Adnani urged followers to fight on as a lean, agile insurgency vice the bureaucratic juggernaut it had become. Today, despite the loss of most of its territory, IS is far from defeated. Current estimates put it 6,000 to 10,000 fighters strong, eight to 14 times more than when the US pulled out of Iraq in 2011.
IS still controls close to 4,000 square miles along the Euphrates River Valley, North African and Asian branches are still launching operations, camps in eastern Afghanistan remain largely intact despite US drone strikes. The group continues to grow globally. In the Philippines, a local affiliate held the town of Marawi for months, and in West Africa the militants continue to grow in areas previously held by Al Qaeda.
|KEEPING OUR EYE ON|
President Trump Telephones A Soldier’s Widow: Florida congresswoman Frederica Wilson told a Miami news station Tuesday night that she overheard President Trump’s telephone call to the widow of one of the US soldiers killed in Niger earlier this month. Wilson said she was riding in the car with Myeshia Johnson on the way to pick up the body of Sergeant La David Johnson when Trump phoned and said to Mrs. Johnson “He knew what he signed up for … but when it happens, it hurts anyway.” Wilson said the phone was on speaker, adding “Yeah, he said that. So insensitive. He should not have said that — he shouldn’t have said it. This is a young, young woman, who has two children, who is six months pregnant with a third child. She has just lost her husband.”
Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, who also served as a Captain in the US Army, said in an interview with CNN the remark was “nauseating”, adding “I’ve heard people say this before — I think we probably all have” Kander continued, “People say that because they’re seeking emotional distance from the situation. People say that because they want to avoid feeling that pain.” In a tweet Wednesday morning, the president said: “Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!”
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|BRAZIL NUTS (LONG READS)|
My Goodness Mr. Sessions, Bless Your Heart – How You Do Protest! US Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III has that kind of slow Alabama drawl that makes one think of lazy summer days, sittin’ on a porch swang, sippin’ a big ole glass of southern sweet tea. It’s actually kinda hard not to zone out listenin’ to him intone on ’bout some thang or ‘nother. Like when Republicans were askin’ all those gentle-like not-quite-questions Wednesday at the Senate Judiciary oversight hearing on the Justice Department.
But then it was the Democrats’ turn, and quicker than a barn cat can pounce on a field mouse, the mood changed. Minnesota Senator Al Franken reminded Sessions of the different answers he’d offered regarding meetings with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign. Sessions has said (1) No, he hadn’t met with any Russians; (2) Maybe he had met with Russians but there were no improper discussions regarding the campaign; (3) Well, yeah, he’d met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times but he couldn’t recall anything they’d discussed. (The Washington Post reported in July that US intelligence agencies picked up intercepts in which Kislyak told the Kremlin he had held substantive discussions with Sessions about Trump’s positions on US-Russia relations.)
It got a little testy after that. Franken: “Not being able to recall what you discussed with him is very different than saying, ‘I have not had communications with the Russians,’” “The ambassador from Russia is Russian. And how your responses morphed from, ‘I did not have communications with the Russians’ to ‘I did not discuss substantive, I did not discuss the political campaign’ and then finally going to, ‘I did not discuss interference in the election.’ That, to me, is moving the goal posts every time. … By the end, we’re going to a 75-yard field goal.”
Sessions: “Mr. Chairman, I don’t have to sit here and listen –“
Franken: “You’re the one who’s testifying.”
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