Trump’s foreign policy is pushing allies into China and Russia’s waiting arms

Nuclear tensions on the Korean Peninsula have diminished since last summer’s Singapore summit between President Trump and North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un. In the run-up to this month’s Vietnam summit, Trump is acutely aware that a potential landmark deal on Kim’s complete, verifiable and permanent denuclearization would be a significant foreign policy win for him, the region and the world.

Unfortunately, that potential deal is where Trump’s foreign policy successes both start and end.

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By any other measure, the president’s aggressive pursuit of nativist policies has weakened America’s global leverage, given its adversaries strategic openings and made the world a little less safe for democracy and human rights. In normal times, this would be seen as a failure of leadership and a threat to America’s fundamental values, global stature and international dominance.

These are not, however, normal times. READ MORE

Quest for the Fountain of Youth remains a continually updated story

Ponce de Leon sought it in Florida. Alexander the Great expanded his empire to find it in the East. Now, in the latest search for eternal youth, an American company hopes to make you vibrant and spry by having youthful blood coursing through your system.

Globally, all countries and people share this one desire for a healthier and slower aging process, but if past results are any indication of future prospects, the next elixir, cell therapy, or blood transfusion may be a futile and, perhaps, dangerous search for a panacea.

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Ambrosia Medical is the latest entrant in the all-too-human race for immortality or, at least, healthy longevity. For $8,000-$12,000, the company says that it can deliver nutrient-rich, youthful blood to the aged, the hopeful and, maybe, the hypochondriac crowd. In vague terms and using limited research, the company intimates a promise of parabiosis — a rejuvenated vigor and refreshed immunity to both illness and aging. READ MORE

Brexit aside, Poland and Italy are Europe’s latest troublemakers

Poland is free because of a pope, the Vatican and a European dream. Not that long ago, Soviet-dominated Warsaw created a spiritual alliance and common cause with a church-dominated Rome and its dream of an expansive pan-European political union.

That dream is now a nightmare that aligns the two Catholic-dominated nations of Poland and Italy, bound together in an anti-immigrant stance, an unholy alliance ready to take on Europe and cut it down to size.

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This latest assault on the European Union comes on top of an uncertain and undefined Brexit brought on by a banger-eating British populace tired of Polish plumbers unclogging their water closets. Europe seems especially brittle right now with the political chaos surrounding Britain’s political schizophrenia and the unanswered Irish border wall question. Despite Brexit’s severe disruption, however, Poland and Italy are the European Union’s newest challenge for survival. READ MORE

With Juan Guaidó seizing the presidency, Venezuela’s ‘Latin Spring’ is heating up

Arab Spring, move aside. Latin Spring is now blossoming, and if all goes well, it will be less bloody and a lot more successful at ousting corrupt leaders and promoting homegrown democratically elected representatives than the Middle East revolutions.

The North African and the Middle East popular movements that began in late 2010 shook up the power balance, catalyzed civil wars and further destabilized the region. Venezuela just experienced a so-far relatively peaceful and planned constitutional coup.

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It’s way too early to predict if the effects of Wednesday’s dramatic event will devolve into chaos or breed new forms of violence, corruption, juntas or dictatorships, but as with the Arab Spring countries, what kicked Venezuelans into action is that daily life hit rock bottom. Living conditions have gotten so bad that people’s hope for a better life completely dissolved. Ninety percent of Venezuelans today are living in poverty and over the last year had lost an average of 24 pounds. Citizens were both on the path to real starvation while on a strictly enforced diet from democracy. READ MORE

NBA player goes one-on-one with the petulant President Erdoğan

Shoot a 3-pointer, go to jail.

If Turkey’s spoiled-sport president gets his way, he will soon be locking up Enes Kanter, a Turkish-American star center for the New York Knicks.

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The reason for a just-requested Interpol “Red Notice” arrest warrant is not Kanter’s aggressive defensive style, it is his offensive speech calling President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, among other things, the “Hitler of our century.” Erdogan returned the favor and labeled Kanter “a terrorist.

Unlike in the United States, where public figures can’t be libeled, criticism of the Turkish president is illegal. I can write that President Trump is a boob and feel pretty secure that the black helicopters won’t descend on my home. Well, maybe not totally secure as the U.S. Attorney General nominee William Barr recently told the Senate that he “can conceive” of instances where journalists might be arrested. READ MORE

Trump’s foreign policy is all about him. That’s not good for us, or the rest of the world

Snap troop withdrawal from Syria? Overnight decisions for a dramatic military draw-down in Afghanistan?

America’s foreign-policy and national-security establishment is reeling from the rapid-fire changes, declarations and White House edicts. Our allies are shocked, too.

While President Trump’s tweet-from-the-hip policy-making is shocking and shaking-up the world, no one should be surprised.

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The truth is, Donald Trump has never lied to us about his foreign-policy priorities. We may not have wanted to believe him, we may ultimately find out that they were improperly influenced, we may even disagree with them. But the reality is that he has not simply intimated or coyly indicated how he sees the world and what he wants to do. He has told us. Repeatedly.

Treaties? Tear them up. READ MORE

Think doomsday scenarios are just some film fantasy? Think again.

Security threats do not always come from a determined adversary or sworn enemy. What if, like in the age of dinosaurs, we faced an external threat? A huge, hurtling meteor, for example, that could destroy most life on Earth as it did 66 million years ago?

It’s a scary thought to contemplate this early in the new year, but the question of whether we humans could deal with a real and credible global threat to our species is both timely and real. 

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Global threats, however, just aren’t very high up on today’s worldwide political agenda, where nationalism is on the rise - whether Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda or Xi Jinping’s “Made in China 2025” domination strategy.

But what happens if - or when - the entire Earth’s existence is threatened? If a meteor is hurtling toward this blue marble of a planet and only collective action and coordinated efforts can save humanity? When dollars can’t buy you out of a survival fix and opposing militaries can’t fight for primacy in a world left for ashes. READ MORE

The West has long militarized space. China plans to weaponize it. Not good.

Neil Armstrong brought the world to the moon. As the first man to tread on that rocky surface, he reminded us that this was not only an American achievement but another link in humanity’s aspirational chain. It was “one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind.”

That happened almost 50 years ago.

Lunar landings are now back in the news, not because the marginal scientific or symbolic value of the current missions is high for mankind on Earth. Rather, it’s because national pride is driving America’s strategic competitors to escape gravity.

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China and Iran both are hard at work launching and lobbing rockets into space to show that America no longer has a monopoly on technological leadership. They are also using these blast-offs and landings to warn us of their ability to match and surpass America’s scientific prowess. For good measure, they also want to remind us that they can easily land a nuke on the U.S. homeland.

If the Apollo program was the height of astronauts exhibiting the right stuff, the Beijing rocket program is looking like a perfect example of the wrong stuff. READ MORE

Russian President Vladimir Putin praises and warns U.S. at end-of-year press conference

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his year-end press conference, where he praised President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. He also warned of the growing threat of nuclear war between Russia and the United States. Markos Kounalakis, a foreign affairs columnist for McClatchy News and visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, joins CBSN with analysis. VIEW HERE

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This is not what Vladimir Putin wanted for Christmas

Vladimir Putin won’t find many great presents under the Christmas tree this year.

Orthodox Christian religious leaders worldwide are weakening an important institution that gave him outsize power and legitimacy.

The Russian Orthodox Church is being broken up, and an independent Ukraine Orthodox Church will be established. The Ukrainian flock soon will be led not by the Moscow-based church and Patriarchate, but rather by its own independent church and youthful leadership. Ukraine and its political class are suddenly freed from an influential Russian institution that has been fiercely loyal to Putin.

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This was not on Putin’s Christmas list. Instead, the news is like a lump of coal in his stocking.

Russia’s wider designs on — and power over — Ukraine have included a wide hybrid war from the Donbass to the recent naval blockade in the Black Sea. Moscow has its fingerprints on the shoot-down of the Malaysian MH-17 passenger plane over Ukrainian territory and its paw prints on an annexed Crimea. Every step of the way, Putin has found legitimacy in his actions and the nation’s military activity through reignited Russian nationalism and the silent acquiescence of Moscow’s spiritual leadership and clergy. READ MORE

High-flying U.S. car execs often crash when when they run into foreign laws

Mary Barra runs a global auto company that has fallen out of favor with both the American public and president. Barra runs General Motors and she argues that shutting down plants will prevent her from shutting down business.

Americans think of General Motors as an American company that boldly asserted that what’s good for GM is “good for the country.” Born of Detroit, built up during and after World War II and bailed out by President Obama with taxpayer cash. Its headquarters — and its heart — are in the United States. But its head is in China and other emerging global markets. In this time of impending trade wars and active geostrategic competition, this is a worrisome development.

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Car execs operate with near impunity in America, but they are selling their souls to a China that is less accommodating. They are also selling out their workers and America’s economic advantage and technological edge in the process. If that’s not enough, brash auto executives may find that their leadership style and attitude doesn’t play as well overseas. READ MORE

George H.W. Bush, Pearl Harbor and America’s other fallen

George H.W. Bush survived an airplane crash in Japan’s Pacific Ocean in September of 1944. Seventy-four years later, on Wednesday of this week, two Marines were recovered in the same Bush-ditched cold waters when a couple of planes went down in a mid-air collision. 

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In both incidents, the majority of the crew went missing. Time teaches us that some soldiers are remembered more than others, but that everyone’s military sacrifice must be recognized and revered.

Men who go on to greatness and achieve power are remembered in remarkable ways, with eloquent words, in lasting tributes. READ MORE

Nicaragua’s ‘House of Cards’ stars another corrupt and powerful couple

Nicaragua is a political stage where a real-life “House of Cards” is now in its second season. President Daniel Ortega and his wife and partner in crime, Vice President Rosario Murillo, have together run the country as an increasingly violent family business for the last couple of years. Ortega has been continuously in power for the past decade and, all in all, for four long terms with no term limits. The next elections are scheduled for 2021.

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Ortega and Murillo make the Netflix series’ Frank and Claire Underwood seem like law-abiding, Constitution-respecting, selfless public servants. The Ortega family runs everything, owns the ruling Sandinista Party, dominates media, monopolizes power, skims profits and loots the nation. They are living proof of Lord Acton’s axiom that, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The United States has now decided to shut down parts of the Ortega-Murillo gang’s operation by freezing funds and flummoxing any financial transactions using American banks or brokers. READ HERE

The truth of Khashoggi‘s death is buried under a mountain of Saudi lies

Osama bin Laden was killed by American special forces on foreign soil. His body was secreted off to a U.S. Navy ship and received ablutions, prayers. It was wrapped in a white sheet out of respect for the dead and flollowing Islamic custom. He was then given a sea burial and returned to his maker.

Jamal Khashoggi‘s body remains desecrated and his spirit despoiled.

This is the sad tale of the death of two Saudis, one a targeted terrorist, the other an innocent journalist. 

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No matter how you feel about giving mass murderer bin Laden a proper and respectful burial, you have to credit the United States for giving a sworn enemy his last rites. It’s only a small part of what makes America great. It’s also what makes America big. READ MORE


Under Trump’s “sovereignty doctrine,” foreign tyrants have nothing to worry about

Jamal Khashoggi’s horrific murder was a message to journalists, dissidents and regime critics everywhere. You are never safe. Anywhere, anytime.

Khashoggi was guilty of practicing journalism. He mistakenly bet he would be safe traveling to a NATO member nation to take care of personal business. Why? Because nations generally follow both international law and formal diplomatic practices that respect foreign laws and sovereignty.

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Increasingly, however, more nations are exporting fear and practicing lethal intimidation with a new form of global vigilantism. They go abroad to get outlaw revenge.

The Khashoggi case is the latest example of exceptional and perverse murderous state-related behavior that targets and takes out perceived opponents living in exile. It’s not just journalists abroad practicing their profession that are singled-out for murder. Turncoats living in other countries are targets, and killing them, too, is a clear warning to future defectors and detractors. READ MORE

The impatience of China’s Xi Jinping

China is a methodical nation that cautiously plays the long game. That’s the story China likes to tell about itself and the one it would like the world to believe. Unfortunately for China, that once-credible narrative is now a full-blown myth.

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A common trope about a historically hyper-aware and confident China is that it thinks in millennial terms. But China’s traditional long view and patient plan for global domination has just accelerated, even as parts of the country steadily continue to plod along on in their “Hundred-Year Marathon.”

The rise of President Xi Jinping, however, is accelerating China’s long march pace to a fast-paced sprint. The dizzying velocity of change has China rapidly implementing a tech AI and robotics “Made in China 2025” plan and a strategy to make China a leading global power by 2050.

As a result, President Xi’s picked-up pace in his nation’s marathon might hit the wall because a patient plan requires one key element: Patience. READ MORE

Italy’s impudence will take down the global economy

Wall Street is preparing for the next global recession. Reliable Saudi oil supplies are threatened, China’s domestic economy is ripe for a reckoning and American tariff wars are cranking up. The last thing the global economic system needs right now is a petulant, provocative, debt-ridden and budget-busting Italy.

The world has just gotten the last thing it needs. 

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Italy’s relatively new, untested and full-on nationalist coalition government is pursuing an aggressive and expensive nativist agenda while unconvincingly promising to grow out of its economic troubles. It is in the early stages of extorting the European Union and holding the euro currency hostage. The result of the fresh Italian-led European political and economic crisis will not end well for anyone. This is a real-time stress test. READ MORE

Haley leaves the stage as America prepares to assert a harsher global vision

Nikki Haley is getting out just in time.

With Venezuela on the brink of collapse and renewed Iran sanctions kicking in on Nov. 5, Haley will be on her way out the U.N. door as the world comes knocking on it to call for greater American accountability and support.

Haley could handle it, of course — she gives as good as she gets. However, it might just be a good time for her to be sipping mint juleps on a South Carolina back porch as this administration executes a more-assertive foreign policy — one the United Nations will not look upon kindly.

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The Trump administration is actively advocating for and catalyzing regime change in several countries, but with no plans to participate in follow-on nation building.

The administration clearly is disregarding Colin Powell’s famous use of the Pottery Barn rule, “You break it, you own it.” There are plenty of plans to break Iran and Venezuela, for example, but no clear plans to take ownership for the nation building that needs to follow any traumatic or violent event in an already-struggling society. READ MORE

In Cold War 2.0 between the U.S. and China, put your money on Beyoncé

Beyoncé and Jay Z are proving that America has the diversity and creativity to survive the new China challenge. The musical duo inspires a new generation, shows America’s cultural strength, resilience and power — and just may help lead the world out of the new Cold War.

American culture and free commerce proved an attractive model during the first Cold War against the Soviets. “Lemonade” and the Carter couple’s just-finished five-month “On the Run II” tour are just two recent American cultural products that will help check China’s 21st century rise and prove America’s creative pre-eminence.

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China may be stealing American technologies, draining U.S. trade coffers and interfering in the 2018 midterm elections, but it will always struggle to replicate America’s creative dynamism born of unbridled social and cultural expression and experimentation. The passion and energy of a row of Beyoncé dancers, legs flying — plus lights flashing, fireworks popping, bodies cavorting, plus the thumping, driving message of emancipation, inspiration and starkly sexy imagination — beats a bunch of stiff leadership dudes at the microphone any day. READ MORE

Iran and United States play a high-stakes game of chicken

Iran and America entered a new and intense phase of word-slinging and trash-talking this week. Wars of words can sometimes lead to shooting wars or they can raise the stakes so high that negotiations become necessary to skirt conflict.

Which will it be with Iran? Future talks or terror?

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President Trump sees it only one way: “Iran has to come back and they have to talk,” he said at Wednesday’s press conference. For him, Iran’s precarious domestic conditions combined with America’s external pressure give Iran only one choice. His recent experience with Kim Jong Un informs and reinforces his firm belief that these Axis of Evil nations have no choice and no better partner for negotiations than this administration. READ MORE