Category Archives: Corpocracy

Gasolinazo protests continue to rage in Mexico


The gasolinazo, the name Mexicans have given the the government-mandated 20 percent hike in gas prices as a result of the partial privatization of Mexico’s national oil monopoly, continues to inspire massive discontent.

President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose administration mandated the price hike. Has watched his poll numbers plummet, with only one in four Mexicans approving of his handling of the office.

And now he’s trying to cool things down.

From the Associated Press:

Mexico’s president tried again on Thursday to calm anger over the big jump in gasoline prices this month amid a historically weak currency and continued threats by Donald Trump to steer manufacturers back to the United States.

In his latest speech, the deeply unpopular President Enrique Pena Nieto outlined measures that he said would help families mitigate the impact of the price hike. Yet steps like notifying more than 3 million Mexicans older than 65 that they have money in government retirement accounts seemed unlikely to dissipate the outrage that led to widespread looting in parts of the country and marches calling for his resignation.

Earlier this week, Pena Nieto promised to police price increases for staple goods and invest in modernizing public transportation. But it was difficult to see how any of that could make up for the overnight 20 percent increase in the price of gasoline when the government ended price controls.

After days of seeking ways to strike a calming chord, Pena Nieto tried taking a more relaxed posture Thursday, leaning casually on the podium, cracking jokes — and telling Mexicans to suck it up.

Protests lead to State Department warning

Just how tense the situation in Mexico has become can be judged by this travel advisory from the State Department:

The U.S. Consulate General Nogales informs U.S. citizens that large demonstrations are expected at Port of Entry DeConcini January 14-15, 2017 to protest the increase in gasoline prices.  U.S. citizens are urged to use the Mariposa Port of Entry until further notice. As always, avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.

Demonstrations in Nogales last Sunday turned violent, with police firing numerous warning shots in an attempt to turn back protesters.

Protests continue, on a reduced scale

A report from Business Insider:

Protests against the gas price hike imposed by the Mexican government at the start of this year have spread across the country, appearing in at least 28 of Mexico’s 32 states.

Many of the protests have been peaceful, but in some areas demonstrators have shut down gas stations and facilities belonging to the state oil company, Pemex.

Elsewhere, protests against the gasolinazo, as the price increase has come to be called, have boiled over into looting and violence.

In Mexico City, one police officer was killed while trying to stop looting at a department store, and elsewhere police officers joined in to ransack stores. At least six people have been killed and more than 1,500 have been arrested.

Looting seen during the first week of the year largely subsided this week, but in Tijuana, which shares the Western Hemisphere’s busiest land-border crossing with San Diego, protesters continue to block traffic and confront authorities. Since the price increase — designed to let prices float in response to supply and demand — Tijuana and Baja California state have seen some of the country’s highest prices.

One protest, a blockade in the city of Rosarita, turned violent earlier this week, with at least seven people hurt when a truck rammed the barricade.

A video via the San Diego Informer:

U.S. gas stations on the border do a booming business

While the gasolinazo had been bad for Mexican businesses, it’s proving a real boon for one kind of business on this side of the border.

From Bloomberg Markets:

Mexico’s fuel market liberalization has done something rarely seen before: make California’s pump prices look cheap.

Drivers are flooding across the border to southern California to fill up on gasoline, after protesters blocking distribution centers near the Baja California capital of Mexicali caused stations to run dry. Antunez’s Shell gas station in Calexico is just five blocks away from the Mexican border and rarely has business been as busy as now. Mexicali drivers wait four to five hours to cross into the U.S. just to fill their fuel tanks and then wait two more hours to cross back into Mexico.

>snip<

Unleaded gasoline in Mexicali was increased in January to 16.17 pesos a liter, or $2.815 a gallon. Seventeen miles north across the border in El Centro, California, pump prices jumped 5.3 cents a gallon to average $2.718 as of 5 p.m. New York time Wednesday, according to GasBuddy, a price tracking company.

“There is a very important commercial exchange happening in the border region,” said Jose Angel Garcia, the president of Mexico gasoline retailer association Onexpo. “There are trucks with large tanks being used to bring fuel into Mexico from the U.S.”

More from CSP News, a trade publication for gasoline retailers in the U.S.:

In Calexico, Calif., gas stations reported a tripling in fuel sales and waits of an hour or more for fill-ups, according to The Desert Sun. The town of 40,000 sits across the border from Mexicali, where protesters had earlier blocked the road into the central fuel distribution center, causing local gas stations to run out of fuel. Federal police cleared the blockade, but waits for fuel in Mexicali were still more than an hour that same day.

“It’s great for us,” Juan Arce, the manager of two SoCo Express gas stations in Calexico, told the newspaper. “I do feel bad for the people to the south.”

Several retailers in Calexico reported similar spikes in business. “It’s been more than double,” said Carlos Vera, manager of a Shell-branded site. On a high-volume day, the gas station typically sells 5,000 gallons of gas; the weekend of Jan. 7, it sold nearly 10,000. Its supplier has had to refill its underground storage tanks each day, Vera said.

Motorists were filling up gallon gasoline containers, empty laundry soap containers and even metal barrels to bring back into Mexico for family and friends.

Cartels add gas to their drug business

And in Mexico, there’s one organization already doing business in a highly valued commodity where the demand is great and the market is eager to buy.

So it should come as no surprise that they, too, are getting into the gasolinazo.

From Bloomberg Businessweek:

The black market is booming. Several states experienced gasoline shortages at the end of last year as more thieves tapped into state-owned Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) pipelines. The pilfered fuel was sold to drivers hoping to save money. Pipeline theft in 2015 increased sevenfold, to more than 5,500 taps, from just 710 in 2010. Pemex attributes the company’s 12-year slide in crude production in part to the growth in illegal taps.

The drug cartels have turned to fuel theft as a side business worth hundreds of millions of dollars each year, and crime groups focused solely on gasoline robbery have sprung up, says Alejandro Schtulmann, president of Empra, a political-risk consulting firm in Mexico City. “You only need to invest $5,000 or $8,000 to buy some specific equipment, and the outcome of that is huge earnings.”

Fuel theft creates a vicious cycle: The theft increases costs for Pemex and makes the official gasoline supply more scarce, contributing to higher prices for legal consumers. Theft amounts to about $1 billion a year, says Luis Miguel Labardini, an energy consultant at Marcos y Asociados and senior adviser to Pemex’s chief financial officer in the 1990s. “If Pemex were a public company, they would be in financial trouble just because of the theft of fuel,” he says. “It’s that bad.”

And while on the subject of funny business. . .

Consider this from teleSUR English:

An anti-corruption group in Mexico revealed Tuesday that the energy minister, as well as relatives of President Enrique Peña Nieto, had financial interests in the recent gas hikes that have sparked protests across the country for the second week in a row.

Energy Minister Pedro Joaquin Coldwell is a shareholder of four of the five gas stations on the Caribbean island of Cozumel in partnership with his sister and two sons.

One of the gas stations was closed down in April 2016 over alleged manipulations of prices, as the station was not providing the amount of diesel customers were paying for, Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity exposed in the official reports by Profeco, the oil watchdog in Mexico. The ruling was appealed.

The investigative paper Aristegui Noticias denounced a conflict of interests even more problematic in the context of the contested gas price hike. “Coldwell is the head of the energy sector in Mexico. As the energy minister, he could access privileged information on the oil business,” said the article.

Coldwell denied any interference in the administration of the four gas stations in an interview with the anti-corruption group, adding he will pass over his shares to a trustee in order to avoid conflicts of interests.

Nicotine-based pesticides, bees, and the deniers


Nicotine, as we all know by now, is a powerful poison.

blog-black-leafSo powerful that on 22 November 1963 [yes, that day] the Central Intelligence Agency once sent an agent to kill Fidel Castro with a syringe disguised as a fountain pen and filled  Black Leaf 40, a powerful nicotine-based insecticide that our father used the stuff to kill mites on his roses.

Black Leaf 40 is no longer with us, following a 1992 ban on its use by the Environmental Protection Agency — you know, the department Trump wanted to eliminate — because of its widespread long-term environmental hazards as well as it’s propensity to poison people.

But the ban on Black Leaf 40 didn’t stop the widespread current use of nicotine-based insecticides, using nicotine-based chemicals called neonicotinoids.

How widespread is their use here in the U.S.?

Consider this chart from How Neonicotinoids Can Kill Bees — The Science Behind the Role These Insecticides Play in Harming Bees, a very informative new report from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation:

Estimated Annual Agricultural Use of Neonicotinoids in the United States: 1994–2014

Estimated Annual Agricultural Use of Neonicotinoids in the United States: 1994–2014

More from the report’s Executive Summary:

Neonicotinoids have been adopted for use on an extensive variety of farm crops as well as ornamental landscape plants. They are the most widely used group of insecticides in the world, and have been for a decade. Developed as alternatives for organophosphate and carbamate insecticides, neonicotinoids are compounds that affect the nervous system of insects, humans, and other animals. Although less acutely toxic to mammals and other vertebrates than older insecticides, neonicotinoids are highly toxic in small quantities to many invertebrates, including beneficial insects such as bees.

The impact of this class of insecticides on pollinating insects such as honey bees and native bees is a cause for concern. Because they are systemic chemicals absorbed into the plant, neonicotinoids can be present in pollen and nectar, making them toxic to pollinators that feed on them. The potentially long-lasting presence of neonicotinoids in plants, although useful from a pest management standpoint, makes it possible for these chemicals to harm pollinators even when the initial application is made weeks before the bloom period. In addition, depending on the compound, rate, and method of application, neonicotinoids can persist in the soil and be continually taken in by plants for a very long periods of time.

Across Europe and North America, a possible link to honey bee die-offs has made neonicotinoids controversial. In December 2013, the European Union significantly limited the use of clothianidin, imiadcloprid, and thiamethoxam on bee-attractive crops. In the United States, Canada, and elsewhere, local, state, and federal decision makers are also taking steps to protect pollinators from neonicotinoids. For example, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service phased out all uses of neonicotinoids on National Wildlife Refuges lands starting in January 2016.

The European Union has banned the used of three neonicotinoids —  clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid — and restricted the use of a fourth, fipronil.

Given that bees are responsible for pollinating much of the food we eat, impacts on apians is a cause for deep concern.

A Colorado city bans nicotine-derivative insecticides

More on the good reasons for concern, as summarized in the following, taken from  Boulder, Colorado city government website section on protecting pollinators:

One group of pesticides, the neonicotinoid insecticides (also called neonics), stand out as a major contributing factor to the catastrophic loss of bees and other animals. Neonicotinoid insecticides are extremely toxic to pollinators at very low doses. They are absorbed and taken up by the plant, ending up in all plant tissues, including the nectar and pollen collected by pollinators and the seeds, fruits, and leaves eaten by other animals. These products are often applied as soil treatments in the form of granules or drenches, where they can persist for many years and continue to contaminate plants, kill earthworms and other important beneficial soil organisms, and run off into surface water where they can kill aquatic invertebrates. An  analysis by a consortium of independent scientists from around the globe reviewed more than 800 peer-reviewed studies and concluded that neonicotinoid insecticides pose a significant risk to the world’s pollinators, worms, birds and other animals and that immediate action is needed. Studies conclude that pesticide application rates that regulatory agencies consider protective to the environment actually harm aquatic organisms found in surface waters (dragonflies mayflies, snails and other animals that form the base of the food chain and a healthy, clean watershed) and build up in soils to levels that can kill soil organisms.

The city was so concerned that in May 2015, the city banned use of the chemicals on city land and urged similar actions by individuals, corporations, and state and federal government as well.

Canada to ban a popular neonicotnoid

One of the most widely used neonicitinoids in imidacloprid, and back in November CBC News reported that the Canadian government’s health agency is proposing a nationwide band on the substance based on its impacts on bees:

“Based on currently available information, the continued high-volume use of imidacloprid in agricultural areas is not sustainable,” the assessment states.

It proposes phasing out all agricultural uses of imidacloprid, and a majority of other uses, over the next three to five years.

“I’m really surprised,” said Mark Winston, a professor of apiculture at Simon Fraser University and senior fellow at the university’s Centre for Dialogue.

“To take an action to phase out a chemical that is so ubiquitous, and for which there is so much lobbying pressure from industry, I think that’s a really bold move.”

After the jump, impacts from use on one crop, the industry denial machine, and bee behavioral impacts. . . Continue reading

Map of the day: U.S. poor hit as water bills soar


Census tracts where water rates are endangering the poor, From PLOS One.

Census tracts where water rates are endangering the poor, From PLOS One.

While lead-tainted water in some of America’s poorest neighborhoods has garnered a lot of attention in recent months, another water water is plaguing the nation’s poor: Soaring home water bills.

The problem is a direct result of the ruthless waves of government downsizing and privatization of public resources, and it’s bound to get much worse as cash-strapped cities finding themselves unable to repair aging infrastructure.

Consider this from the abstract of a sobering review in the open access scientific journal PLOS One:

If water rates rise at projected amounts over the next five years, conservative projections estimate that the percentage of U.S. households who will find water bills unaffordable could triple from 11.9% to 35.6%. This is a concern due to the cascading economic impacts associated with widespread affordability issues; these issues mean that utility providers could have fewer customers over which to spread the large fixed costs of water service. Unaffordable water bills also impact customers for whom water services are affordable via higher water rates to recover the costs of services that go unpaid by lower income households.

More on the study from Michigan State University:

If water rates continue rising at projected amounts, the number of U.S. households unable to afford water could triple in five years, to nearly 36 percent, finds new research by a Michigan State University scholar.

Elizabeth Mack said a variety of factors, ranging from aging infrastructure to climate change to population decline in urban areas, are making residents’ ability to afford water and wastewater services a burgeoning crisis.

Funded by the National Science Foundation and published online in the journal PLOS ONE, her study is one of the first nationwide investigations of water affordability.

“In cities across the United States, water affordability is becoming an increasingly critical issue,” said Mack, an assistant geography professor who analyzed water consumption, pricing and demographic and socioeconomic data for the study.

Spending on water and wastewater services combined should make up no more than 4.5 percent of household income, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends. Based on that criteria, some 13.8 million U.S. households (or 11.9 percent of all households) may find water bills unaffordable – a hardship that hits poor families particularly hard, Mack said.

Water rates have increased 41 percent since 2010, and if they continue at that pace over the next five years the number of households that cannot afford water and wastewater services could soar to an estimated 40.9 million, or 35.6 percent of all households.

Continue reading

Gasolinazo protests swell south of the border


Protests against the gasiloinazo, the gasoline price hike mandated by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in the wake of the partial privatization of the Mexican state oil monopoly Pemex. continue to flare, with the death toll at six as authorities crack down.

We follow developments through a series of stories from teleSUR English, starting with a story on events through Sunday:

A new wave of protests against a hike in gas prices in Mexico began Sunday, as the nationwide mobilizations enter its second week and spread to at least 25 states.

Because of the protests, that are blocking highways throughout Mexico, freeways in California are being affected and some are again being closed Sunday night. The southbound 5 and 805 freeways which lead to the San Ysidro Port of Entry are being closed, according to the California Highway Patrol. Cars that are traveling to Mexico will have to go via 905 Freeway to the Otay Mesa Port of Entry.

On Saturday, thousands marched across 15 of 31 states in the country and the Federal District. Among the largest demonstrations were 20,000 protesters who gathered in Puebla, 5,000 in Guadalajara and 1,000 in Tapachula.

Since the protests broke out beginning on Jan. 1, clashes between police and protesters and looting have left six people dead, 1,500 arrested, 420 businesses affected and several roads blocked.

The government of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced in the last week of December that the price of gasoline would spike by 20 percent and diesel by 16 percent. Peña Nieto has said that the price hikes are the only option available and that the cost changes respond to international prices and are not a result of his neoliberal reforms.

Protesters take over the border

Another story highlights one of the more spectacular actions:

Chanting “Peña out,” tens of thousands of protesters are demanding the resignation of the nation’s most unpopular president in a quarter of a century.

Hundreds of protesters against a 20 percent gas hike took over the U.S. border crossing in Tijuana, letting cars pass without customs checks, as tens of thousands of people took to the streets across Mexico to once again demand the resignation of embattled President Enrique Peña Nieto over the so-called “gasolinazo” price hike that has hit the country’s poorest communities.

The protests were largely peaceful but police fired tear gas in Tijuana and the nearby town of Rosarito, where demonstrations were most tense, but the police repression in Tijuana was not enough to stop the action, which targetted El Chaparral, the border crossing into California, according to Radio Zapote.

The biggest actions took place in the country’s three main cities: Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara, but mass rallies have also been registered in the central states of Puebla, Queretaro, Morelos as well as the northern territories of Chihuahua and Baja California.

Chanting “Peña out,” many of the protesters gathered in the cities main boulevards. In Mexico City, people marched from the iconic Independence monument toward the main Zocalo square.

In Rosarito, Baja California, police beat and kicked protesters, tweeted reporter Andrea Noel.

A church calls for moderation

The subject of the third story:

In response to the unrest, the Episcopal Church has called on the government, legislators and political parties to “reconsider” the gasolinazo and resolve the conflict “intelligently and creatively.”

In a conference held Monday, the Secretary-General of the Mexican Episcopal Church, Alfonso Miranda Guardiola, warned the government that “the disposition to build peace and the common good is the best way to strengthen our unity.”

The National Commission of Human Rights, CNDH, echoed the sentiments of the church, arguing economic security should not come at the cost of social security.

In the communique, released Monday, the CDNH said “the economic stability of the country is important but not at the cost of social security.”

While criticizing the “looting” and “vandalism,” the group defended the demonstrators right to “freedom of expression and social protest.”

The human rights organization ended its statement, calling upon Nieto’s government to “design and implement measures to control spending that will effectively combat corruption and impunity … without directly affecting the economy of the people and their families.”

Meanwhile, social organization Somos Mas filed a complaint Tuesday with the attorney general’s office, accusing those responsible for the gasolinazo of “committing illicit acts that threaten the Mexican people.”

And the economy suffers as inflation rises

With the gasolinazo certain to make things worseAnd fourth and final story, posted today:

Mexico’s December annual inflation rose at the fastest pace in two years, data showed on Monday, boosting chances the central bank will raise interest rates again at a time when prices are expected to be further fanned by a hike in fuel costs.

Consumer prices rose 3.36 percent from December 2015, national statistics agency INEGI said on Monday, the highest rate since December 2014, and above the central bank’s 3 percent target.

The figure was below the 3.4 percent analysts forecast in a Reuters poll but up from 3.31 percent in November.

Consumer prices should rise faster after a double-digit hike in gasoline prices went into effect this month, some analysts said. The increase has spurred protests and blockades throughout the country.

“We expect a much more accentuated rise in January,” CitiBanamex said in a note, citing energy prices and a weak peso. The bank said inflation would surge beyond 4.6 percent on an annual basis.

Headlines of the day: Today in Trumplandia™


From the Washington Post, the three leading front page stories:

Secretary of state nominee pushed for Exxon deal in Iraq despite U.S. plea

  • The 2011 oil exploration deal overseen by former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson — whose confirmation hearings to become secretary of state begin Wednesday — defied U.S. diplomats’ requests that the company wait, fearing such an agreement would undermine their credibility with Iraqi authorities and worsen ethnic tensions that had led Iraq to the brink of civil war.

Defense nominee urged U.S. strike against Iran during Iraq War

  • Gen. James Mattis’s falling-out with the Obama administration over Iran offers perspective into how he would lead the world’s largest military and the advice he would bring during sensitive Situation Room debates.

Over China’s objections, Ted Cruz and Texas governor meet with Taiwanese president

  • The meeting is likely to irk officials in Beijing amid already heightened tensions between the U.S. and China.

Fueled by Trump, the Game of Zones heats up


The Donald’s provocative moves in the delicate multi-power game underway in the China Seas have include incendiary tweets, numerous campaign declarations, and, in particular, two meetings.

The first came in the form of the first post-election visit by a foreign leader, Shinzo Abe’s 18 November visit to the President-elects Trump Tower suite, a meeting also attended by the first-daughter-to-be Ivanka and her real estate mogul/media baron spouse.

The meeting, Trump’s first-ever flesh-presser with a foreign head of state, also came while Ivanka was sealing a business deal with a Japanese company. business negotiations.

Then, on 2 December came another foreign visitor, this time by telephone, when Trump reversed decades of American foreign policy by engaging in direct conversation with the President of Tawan, a government most of the world doesn’t recognize, in part because of its claims to be the only legitimate government of the Chinese mainland.

Besides appealing to the Cold War strains still resonating in the Grand Old Party, Trump’s conversation with Tsai Ing-wen inflamed Beijing — probably intentionally — even though he’s the first Taiwanese leader who hasn’t endorsed claims to rightly rule the mainland.

Oh, and former U.S. Senator-turned-lobbyist Bob Dole spent months setting up the meeting, his firm pocketing more than $140,000 for Dole’s labors.

Abe takes heart from Trump’s glad-handing

Bolstered by his meeting with the anti-Beijing Trump, Japan’s prime minister is beefing up his country’s military agenda in the Game of Zones.

We begin with a map from the Yomiuri Shimbun, a conservative Japanese paper charting the competing powers in the Game of Zones:

blog-zones

From the accompanying story:

The government plans to formulate by this summer an integrated defense strategy, which outlines how the Self-Defense Forces would respond in the event of a contingency involving China over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, according to government sources.

The measure is aimed at devising scenarios for a possible clash between Japan and China.

To strengthen the defense of the Nansei Islands through cooperation between the SDF and U.S. forces, the government will also compile a Japan-U.S. joint operation plan at the same time, the sources said.

With these measures, the government intends to become fully prepared and, at the same time, to develop a deterrent effect against China, which has been stepping up its military activities in areas around Japan.

Possible scenarios for a contingency over the Senkakus likely include an accidental clash between a Chinese fisheries patrol boat and a Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel, the dispatch by China of patrol vessels en masse, the deployment of Chinese naval vessels, and landing on any of the islands by a Chinese airborne unit.

The strategy is expected to stipulate operations to be conducted in the form of exercising the right to self-defense within Japan’s territories and waters, such as preventing a military vessel from approaching a remote island by using surface-to-ship missiles of the Ground Self-Defense Force, bringing enemy forces under control with ground strafing from an Air Self-Defense Force fighter jet or fire from a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer, and having GSDF personnel land on the island.

So what are Trump’s motives

Here’s what a Chinese government paper came up with when it looked across the Pacific.

From China Daily:

In light of US President-Elect Donald Trump’s hawkish remarks about China, allied to a number of unexpected moves in the wake of his election victory, experts in Sino-US studies around the world have expressed deep concerns about the key relationship.

Many of the experts have warned that the Sino-US relationship may revert to the deep, mutual distrust that characterized relations between the countries during the 1960s.

Ted Carpenter, senior fellow of defense and foreign policy at the Cato Institute in Washington, said he is “increasingly worried” about Trump’s policies regarding China.

“At first, I thought that Trump was engaging in the ‘China-bashing’ that is fairly typical of US presidential campaigns. Yet once in office, new presidents have pursued policies very similar to those of their predecessors since the early 1970s,” he said, adding that Trump’s post-election actions suggest that something else may be going on.

“The telephone conversation with Tsai Ing-wen was startling enough, but the Trump transition team’s insistence on referring to her as the ‘President of Taiwan’ indicated sympathy with hard-line Taiwanese separatists,” he said, referring to a phone call between Trump and the Taiwan leader on Dec 2, which broke with decades of diplomatic precedent.

The irony is that China turned to the Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank that gave birth to the first draft of Reaganomics.

And China signals possible reprisals to come

More on China/U.S. relations in the Age of Trump from the Financial Times:

Senior Chinese officials have warned the US that Beijing is ready to retaliate if Donald Trump’s incoming administration imposes new tariffs, highlighting the risk of a destructive trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

Penny Pritzker, the outgoing US commerce secretary, said in an interview with the Financial Times that Chinese officials had informed their US counterparts in a meeting after November’s election that they would be forced to respond to trade measures taken by the new administration.

“The Chinese leadership said to me ‘If you guys put an import duty on us we are going to do it on you’,” Ms Pritzker said. “And then they said ‘That will be bad for both of us’.”

She said that the next administration needed to decide “the fine line between being tough and a trade war”, cautioning that such a confrontation would have “enormous consequence” for the US.

The move highlights the concern in China over the risk to relations presented by Mr Trump, who has also offended Beijing by breaking with traditional US policy on Taiwan.

In the words of that venerable China-watcher Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street,  “Come Watson! The game is afoot.”

And now for a word from his sponsors. . .


And if not a word, how about a party?

From the Intercept:

Just hours after passing the very first bill of the new Congress on Wednesday — one designed to roll back a range of environmental and consumer regulations — House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., celebrated with a corporate lobbying firm at a fundraiser for his campaign committee.

The vote on the Midnight Rules Relief Act of 2017 took place at 4:48 p.m. on Wednesday. The fundraiser, at the offices of the BGR Group, a major lobbying firm, started at 7 p.m.

The bill would amend existing law to allow Congress to repeal en masse multiple regulations finalized since the end of May last year. The law is believed to be aimed at rolling back a rule designed to deter mining companies from polluting drinking water sources, rules designed to curb hazardous methane emissions from fracking sites, and a rule that extends the threshold for overtime pay to workers, among others.

BGR Group represents Chevron, Celgene Corp, the Consumer Technology Association, Eli Lilly & Co., Gilead Sciences, Johnson & Johnson, Raytheon, Southern Company, and Xerox, among many other clients, and has helped a number of clients work on regulatory policy.