October 24th, 2011 - 7:15 pm
The Los Angeles Times says that the President, tired of Congressional ‘inaction’, is using executive powers to help homeowners who meet certain conditions to refinance their mortgages at lower rates. The move is designed to pick up the housing market and by reducing mortgage payments thereby increase the amount of consumer spending on other items.
“We can’t wait for an increasingly dysfunctional Congress to do its job,” he [the President] said. “Where they won’t act, I will.”
But David Reilly at the Wall Street Journal points out that as in everything else there is no free lunch in the housing market. The owners of mortgages will have to accept a lower yield, thus paying for the lunch.
October 24th, 2011 - 12:17 pm
The Strategy Page reports that the Syrian security services have been shaken by 20,000 desertions in the military. According to their sources, Damascus is now relying on the hard-core secret police and foreign auxiliaries like the Hezbollah to protect the regime. Yet despite sustaining average losses of 100 per week the opposition still shows no signs of slowing down. The Assads are digging in, replacing provincial officials who show signs of weakness and shooting deserters who try to cross the border.
With the temperature rising, Canada advised its nationals to leave Syria. Britain has threatened to expel Syrian diplomats from the UK unless they desist from harassing anti-Assad activists based there. The US has just pulled out its ambassador from Damascus over fears for his “personal safety”.
October 23rd, 2011 - 1:33 pm
French Foreign Minister Alan Juppe has magisterially declared the Libyan operation at an end, marking yet another triumph for the West. But other parts of the world remain in crisis. With winter coming to the Korean Peninsula, Pyongyang has cut its food rations — never ample in the best of conditions — by two thirds, leading the UN to appeal for international donations to feed them.
“There are real needs there, you can’t let the people of North Korea suffer,” a spokesman told journalists in Beijing, saying said daily food rations had been cut from 600 grams to just 200 grams, mostly corn, cabbage and rice, with little or no protein provided.
October 21st, 2011 - 11:00 pm
Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the Kingdom’s secretary of defense, is dead. Aged 86, he was rumored to be suffering from cancer. The Crown Prince was once regarded as the successor to the throne. The reigning monarch, King Abdullah, also has health issues and had his third back surgery in less than a year. “It is still unclear how long the king will take to recover, or when he is expected to leave the hospital.” The death of the Crown Prince has put a spotlight on the the Kingdom’s succession mechanism, which must now elevate what passes for royal youth to fill the vacancies forced by age.
October 21st, 2011 - 4:15 pm
As US officials hailed Libya as the model for future military action, Hillary Clinton warned Pakistan: ‘you can’t keep snakes in your backyard’. After Clinton was told of the death of the Libyan dictator Mohammar Khadaffy she told a reporter, ‘We came, we saw, he died’. There was she implied, a moral in there somewhere.
October 20th, 2011 - 3:41 pm
Michael Yon, reporting from Afghanistan, repeats a question that is often put to him by villagers. “Why does the Coalition spend so much in the dangerous places like Kandahar and Helmand, when you are welcome here?”
The question has come up repeatedly here, as it does in other more peaceful areas … The Kurdish used to ask this question in northern Iraq. We spent billions on people who blew us up, and mostly ignored those who offered tea. …
We expend huge effort to tame the wild villages while investing scant attention elsewhere. The message is clear. While attending a funeral service for a killed policeman, the governor of Nimruz Province said to me over tea, “Do you want that we should fight you, too?” By contrast, neighboring Helmand Province absorbed substantial Coalition aid and blood. The idea of investing more into our allies and expending less on our enemies is not new. We can strengthen allies with small investments instead of taming the bleeding ulcers with our own blood and hundreds of billions of dollars, which go more into military operations than into nation building.
October 20th, 2011 - 1:40 pm
Reaction to the End of the Duck of Death, after the Read More.
October 20th, 2011 - 11:07 am
Reports from Libya say that Mohammar Khadaffy has been killed in Sirte, possibly after a NATO airstrike on a small convoy of vehicles he may have been traveling in dismounted him. The Telegraph quotes a doctor who says Khadaffy was and died of wounds to the chest and head.
AFP photographer Philip Demazes was covering the fall of Sirte when he heard gunfire from where rebels explained that Kadhafi’s men had tried to break out at night. “So I asked the fighters to take me there,” he said. He found a knot of men near a number of large draining pipes. One of them had cell phone video (taken during the daylight hours) of Khadaffy either dead or dying. Other videos obtained by journalists show the prequel: Khadaffy struggling with a mob of men shouting “Allah Akbar”.
October 19th, 2011 - 11:51 am
A new term has been added to the litany catchphrases describing enemies of the people. To the words wreckers, profiteers and capitalist roaders has been added “bedroom blockers”, now used to refer to persons over 60 years of age who are live in homes in Britain with more bedrooms than they need.
The Intergenerational Foundation (IF), an organization “established to promote fairness between generations”, notes that these homes with spare bedrooms are now being selfishly used by older people when they are needed by the young. In a report the IF has proposed a tax increase to squeeze these seniors out of their homes to “free up space” for the younger generation.
October 18th, 2011 - 4:17 pm
The Second World War, it is said, had one villain, one martyr, one heroine and one winner. These roles were filled by Germany, Russia, Britain and the United States respectively. But in more recent conflicts, the scorecard is murkier. Who won in Libya? The Wall Street Journal describes one country that did win. Qatar. Yes Qatar. The little kingdom is sponsoring an Islamic militant who was once a prisoner of the CIA for a leadership position in Libya
Qatar provided anti-Gadhafi rebels with what Libyan officials now estimate are tens of millions of dollars in aid, military training and more than 20,000 tons of weapons. Qatar’s involvement in the battle to oust Col. Gadhafi was supported by U.S. and Western allies, as well as many Libyans themselves.
But now, as this North African nation attempts to build a new government from scratch, some of these same figures worry that Qatar’s new influence is putting stability in peril.
At issue, say Libyan officials and Western observers, are Qatar’s deep ties to a clique of Libyan Islamists, whose backgrounds variously include fighting in Afghanistan in the 1980s and spending years in jail under Col. Gadhafi.