Category Archives: Current Political Affairs

Record 95,055,000 Americans Out Of The Labor Force

Record 95,055,000 Americans Out Of The Labor Force

While the unemployment rate dropped and the economy added another 178,000 jobs, the number of Americans out of the labor force hit a record high last month.

According to the Labor Department, 95,055,000 Americans were out of workforce in November, meaning they were neither employed nor had made an effort to find work over the previous month.

The level of Americans outside of the workforce last month — due to retirement, education, discouragement, or otherwise — represented a substantial 446,000 increase over the month of October.

The Labor Department added that in November there were 1.9 million Americans marginally attached to the labor force or people who looked for work at some point in the last 12 months but were not in the labor force. Among the marginally attached were 591,000 discouraged workers or those who are not looking for a job because they do not think there is a job out there for them.

In recent years relatively high numbers of Americans have been dropping out of the workforce. When President Barack Obama took office, 80,529,000 Americans were out of the workforce. That number has since grown by 14,526,000.

The workforce participation rate also dipped in November, hitting 62.7 percent, hovering around levels not seen since the 1970s.

Meanwhile the economy by other metrics appeared healthy. The number of Americans with a job grew to 152,085,000 — a record according to CNS News — and the unemployment rate dropped by 0.3 percentage point to 4.6 percent. Additionally the number of unemployed persons declined by 387,000 to 7,400,000.


Pentagon’s top tester: Littoral ships ‘have a near-zero chance of completing a 30-day mission’

The Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program is behind schedule, hundreds of millions over budget, and incapable of conducting most of the basic missions it was intended to carry out. Senators on Thursday said they wanted to know why.

“Like so many major programs that preceded it, LCS’s failure followed predictably from an inability to define and stabilize requirements, unrealistic initial cost estimates, and unreliable assessments of technical and integration risk, made worse by repeatedly buying ships and mission packages before proving they are effective and can be operated together,” said Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., told Pentagon witnesses during a hearing.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was more blunt. “The process is completely broken. If you want this to stop, somebody needs to get fired.”

The current fleet of eight ships “have a near-zero chance of completing a 30-day mission, the Navy’s requirement, without a critical failure of one or more seaframe subsystems essential for wartime operations,” Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test And Evaluation.

“The miracle of the LCS didn’t happen,” said Paul Francis of the Government Accountability Office. “We are 26 ships into the contract and we still don’t know if it can do its job.”

Originally scheduled to begin service in 2008 at a cost of $220 million per ship, its cost has doubled to $478 million each. And although ships have been commissioned and deployed, they are yet to be equipped with the systems that would allow them to perform their primary missions, and won’t be until 2020.

When the LCS was conceived in 2004, it was envisioned as a state-of-the-art combat vessel with a revolutionary flatted hull design that would allow a speedier, more lethal ship designed to operate in the littoral (close to shore) regions. It would contain plug-and-play mission modules to take out surface threats, hunt mines or go after enemy submarines.

But senators say the ships have a dismal record of reliability because of frequent mechanical breakdowns, and can’t even defend itself.

While admitting substantial shortcomings in the performance of the ships, the Navy insisted it is on track to fix the problems.

“We are doggedly pursuing solutions that will improve operational availability of the ships and you have my assurance that these are never far from my mind,” said Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden, head of Naval Surface Force Pacific.

Francis said that while Congress also failed to exercise proper oversight on the program while it was spinning out of control, it still has a chance to inject some discipline into the next phase of the program by not approving a “block buy” of future ships.

“You are going to be rushed again, you are going to be asked to put in upfront approval of something where the design isn’t done, we don’t have independent cost estimates, and the risks are not well understood,” Francis said. “You’ll be told ‘it’s a block buy, we’re getting great prices, and the industrial base really needs this.'”

Francis recommended Congress not approve a block buy and instead demand that the Navy have a design competition in which it can downselect from two alternatives, and he further recommended hard questions be asked about whether continuing the program is worth the estimated $14 billion cost. Lockheed Martin and Austal USA are each building separate classes of the ship.

McCain admitted Congress was part of the problem. “We could have intervened more forcefully and demanded more from the Department of Defense and the Navy. We did not. But as long as I am chairman, this committee will.”

The GAO also found that once the LCS program matured, too much emphasis was placed on supporting America’s shipbuilding industry.

“Haven’t we done enough for the industrial base? Isn’t it time for the industrial base to come through for us? Can we get one ship delivered on time? Can we get one ship delivered with cost growth? Can we get one ship delivered without serious reliability and quality problems?”

Graham said the service secretaries and chiefs are responsible for knowing what’s happening with the big programs under their control. “Hopefully in the future, someone will be held accountable and get fired, if this happens again, and if nobody ever get’s fired, nothing’s gonna change,” Graham said.

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images-199% Muslim, 43,000 Somali refugees settled in US under Obama

The Obama administration resettled 8,858 Somali refugees in the United States last year, and nearly 43,000 during Obama’s eight years, a huge number that is now raising concerns after a Somali refugee led a one-man attack spree on the campus of Ohio State.

Like Syrian refugees, there is no adequate way to check the backgrounds of the Somalis, according to the head of the Center for Immigration Studies.

The Somali refugee numbers into the U.S. from the Department of Homeland Security and State:

— 2015, 8858.

— 2014, 9,000.

— 2013, 7,608.

— 2012, 4,911.

— 2011, 3,161.

— 2010, 4,884.

— 2009, 4,189.

The Center also reviewed other data Monday and told Secrets that some 97,000 Somali refugees have been resettled in the United States since 9/11. Of those, 99.6 percent were Muslim, and 28,836 (29.7 percent) were males between the ages of 14 and 50.

In a review of the numbers he reissued after Monday’s attack, CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian said:

“We have no way of vetting people from any of the failed states of the Islamic world, whether Somalia or Libya or Yemen or Afghanistan or Iraq. The latter two actually we have more intelligence on, having ruled them for a number of years, but even that information is of limited use; we admitted two Iraqis as refugees who, we only discovered later, had been [improvised explosive device] makers back in Iraq. And the FBI fears dozens more such terrorists have been admitted as refugees.

“Oh, and we resettled nearly 9,000 Somali refugees last year.”

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner’s “Washington Secrets” columnist, can be contacted at



Stein sues after Wisconsin refuses to order hand recounts

The Wisconsin State Board of Elections has decided to move forward with a recount effort pushed by 2016 Green Party candidate Jill Stein. As deadlines loom in Pennsylvania and Michigan, Stein continued her push for battleground recounts on Monday.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission agreed Monday to begin a recount of the presidential election on Thursday but was sued by Green Party candidate Jill Stein after the agency declined to require county officials to recount the votes by hand.

It will be a race to finish the recount in time to meet a daunting federal deadline, and the lawsuit could delay the process. Under state law, the recount must begin this week as long as Stein or another candidate pays the $3.5 million estimated cost of the recount by Tuesday, election officials said.

Also Monday, Stein filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania to force a recount there and her supporters began filing recount requests at the precinct level in the Keystone State. Stein — who received just a tiny piece of the national vote — also plans to ask for a recount in Michigan on Wednesday.

Unless Stein wins her lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court, officials in each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties would decide on their own whether to do their recounts of the 2.98 million statewide votes by machine or by hand, with dozens of counties expected to hand count the paper ballots.

Citing the results of a 2011 statewide recount that changed only 300 votes of 1.5 million, Elections Commission chairman Mark Thomsen, a Democrat, said this presidential recount is very unlikely to change Republican Donald Trump’s win in the state.

“It may not be 22,177,” said Thomsen, referring to Trump’s win over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the vote count. “But I don’t doubt that the president-elect is going to win that.”

Thomsen dismissed Stein’s claims of problems with the vote as unfounded and misleading. But he directed his toughest criticism to Trump’s unsupported allegations that millions of people voted illegally nationwide, calling them “an insult to the people that run our elections.”

In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.

The commission is made up of three Democrats and three Republicans. It adopted the recount plans unanimously.

Trump issued a statement calling Stein’s maneuver a ruse to raise money that would not affect the outcome.

“This is a scam by the Green Party and Jill Stein for an election that has already been conceded. The result of this election should be respected instead of being challenged and abused,” his statement said.

Stein is seeking to pay for the recount of Wisconsin’s election to make sure that the election wasn’t rigged in some way against Democrat Hillary Clinton. Stein herself received about 31,000 votes in Wisconsin, more than the margin separating Clinton and Trump.

“We must recount the votes so we can build trust in our election system,” Stein said in a written statement.

Independent candidate Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, who received about 1,500 votes, also requested a recount.

Recount would start Thursday.
Under the plan adopted Monday, the Wisconsin recount would begin Thursday, provided Stein, De La Fuente or both paid the $3.5 million by Tuesday. County officials would have to complete their recount by 8 p.m. Dec. 12 and then the state election commission would prepare the official recount for certification by Dec. 13 — the deadline for guaranteeing that the state’s electoral college votes are counted.

If Monday’s cost estimate is high, Stein and De La Fuente will get a refund but if the costs come in above expectations they will have to pay more.

Stein has taken in $6.5 million since Wednesday through an online fundraising blitz to fund her recount efforts. A spokeswoman for De La Fuente said he is considering his options for paying for his share of the recount.

Neil Albrecht, executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, said it took nearly a month to complete the recount in the April 2011 Wisconsin Supreme Court race between Justice David Prosser and JoAnne Kloppenburg. The city will now have about two weeks to recount more than twice as many ballots — a challenge that will play out across the state.

Most machines in Wisconsin are optical readers. Voters fill out a paper ballot and feed it into the machine, which then electronically records the vote. In a hand recount, clerks would individually tally those ballots. In a machine recount, they would feed the ballots back through the machines, though they would also run a number of other checks such as reconciling the votes and signed names on poll lists.

A small percentage of votes in Wisconsin are cast on touch-screen machines, which also generate paper records.

None of the machines used for voting in the state are connected to the internet and could not be hacked remotely, said Mike Haas, the administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

In Dane County, which includes Madison, the computers used to prepare the ballot files loaded into voting machines are also not connected to the internet, meaning that it would take someone with physical access to the machines to hack them, County Clerk Scott McDonell said. The individual machines are also tested by city, village and town clerks prior to the vote to make sure they are working correctly.

“Even if the KGB broke into the City-County Building, it’s encrypted, it’s password protected,” said McDonell, who doubted whether even he could rig the election. “I don’t know how I would do it without the (local) clerks seeing it.”

Even before the recount began, Trump’s unofficial lead of 22,177 was due to grow by 440 votes, as officials moved to correct a reporting error in Oneida County. Trump’s vote in the Town of Hazelhurst had been recorded as 44 instead of 484. (Clinton’s vote total was 330 in the same town).

Securing a recount in Pennsylvania will be more difficult than in Wisconsin.

Pennsylvania law allows recounts to be conducted at a precinct if at least three voters from that precinct request one. Stein’s supporters started doing that Monday, but it would take thousands of voters to get them going in all of Pennsylvania’s precincts.

Pursuing a second track, Stein also filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania court to try to get a statewide recount.

Clinton would have to flip the vote in all three states to win the presidency, a possibility that election experts call extremely remote.

Craig Gilbert and Mary Spicuzza of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.

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Inside Fidel Castro’s life of luxury and ladies while country starved

With his shaggy beard and rumpled, olive-drab fatigues, Fidel Castro presented himself to the world as a modest man of the people.

At times, he claimed he made just 900 pesos ($43) a month and lived in a “fisherman’s hut” somewhere on the beach.

But Castro’s public image was a carefully crafted myth, more fiction than fact.

“While his people suffered, Fidel Castro lived in comfort — keeping everything, including his eight children, his many mistresses, even his wife, a secret,” wrote Juan Reinaldo Sanchez, Castro’s longtime bodyguard.

Sanchez’s book, “The Double Life of Fidel Castro: My 17 Years as Personal Bodyguard to El Líder Maximo,” describes his former boss’s hidden life of political ruthlessness, mistresses and greed.

Castro, who died Friday night at 90, made a personal fortune offering safe haven to drug traffickers, bedded a bevy of women over the decades, and once threatened his own brother, Raul, with execution when the brother lapsed into alcoholism in the ’90s, Sanchez’s book reveals.

Amazingly, most Cubans had no idea how, or even where, their secretive strongman actually lived.

Even his first and second wives were kept out of the public eye — as was their leader’s two-timing.

Castro cheated on his first wife, the upper-middle-class Mirta Diaz-Balart, with Natalia Revuelta.

“With her green eyes, her perfect face and her natural charm,” Revuelta was one of Havana’s most beautiful women, Sanchez wrote — no matter that she, too, was married at the start of their mid-’50s affair.

Diaz-Balart would bear Castro his first “official” son, Fidel Jr. or “Fidelito,” and Revuelta would bear Castro his only daughter, Alina.

Castro cheated, too, on his second wife, seducing “comrade Celia Sanchez, his private secretary, confidante and guard dog for 30 or so years,” Sanchez wrote.

Castro also bedded his English interpreter, his French interpreter, and a Cuban airline stewardess who attended him on foreign trips, Sanchez wrote.

“He doubtless had other relationships that I did not know about,” Sanchez wrote.

Castro kept 20 luxurious properties throughout the Caribbean nation, including his own island, accessed via a yacht decorated entirely in exotic wood imported from Angola, Sanchez wrote.

Taking control of Cuba on New Year’s Day 1959, after his guerrilla army routed the quarter-century-long dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, Castro vowed that unlike his hated predecessor, he’d share the nation’s wealth with its poorest citizens.

Alina Fernandez RevueltaPhoto: Bolivar Arellano
But while he made good on some of his promises to educate and care for his people — building free schools and hospitals with the help of his Soviet sponsors — Castro’s legacy was also one of repression and hypocrisy.

Deep poverty persisted — teen prostitution, crumbling houses, food rations. Political opponents were executed by the thousands by firing squad, or sentenced to decades of hard labor.

Castro had as many as 11 children with four women — only two of whom he was married to — and numerous other mistresses, Sanchez wrote.

Only those closest to him knew of these affairs.

The only woman who dared to cause him any public scandal was his rebellious daughter, Alina Fernandez Revuelta.

“I remember her in the 1980s, a pretty young woman who had become a model,” Sanchez wrote.

“One day, when I was in Fidel’s anteroom, Pepín Naranjo, his aide-de-camp, showed up with a copy of the magazine Cuba.

“Spread across its second page, Alina could be admired posing on a sailboat in a bikini, in an advertisement for Havana Club rum.”

“What on earth is this?” Fidel exclaimed, according to Sanchez.

“Call Alina, at once!”

What followed was an epic father-daughter blowout.

“Two hours later, Alina strode into his office, not in the least ­intimidated,” Sanchez recalled.

“The ensuing argument was the most memorable of them all: Shouting reverberated all over the room, shaking the walls of the presidential office.”

“Everybody knows you are my daughter! Posing in a bikini like that is unseemly!” Castro raged.

Several years later, in 1993, Fidel learned through his secret service that Alina was plotting to flee to the United States.

“I am warning you: Alina must not leave Cuba under any pretext or in any way,” Castro told his head bodyguard, Col. Jose Delgado Castro, according to Sanchez.

“You’ve been warned.”

Two months later, Alina put on a wig, packed a false Spanish passport, and, with the help of a network of international accomplices, sneaked out of Cuba.

Two months later, Alina put on a wig, packed a false Spanish passport, and, with the help of a network of international accomplices, sneaked out of Cuba.

This, too, ignited the dictator’s temper.

“One rarely sees the Comandante allowing his anger to explode,” Sanchez wrote.

“In 17 years, I saw it only twice. But when Pepín broke the unpleasant news to him that day, Fidel went mad with rage.

“Standing up, he stamped his feet on the ground while pointing his two index fingers down to his toes and waving them around.”

“What a band of incompetent fools!” he cried. “I want those responsible! I demand a report! I want to know how all this could have happened!”

Alina remains one of her father’s most outspoken opponents.

“When people tell me he’s a dictator, I tell them that’s not the right word,” she told the Miami Herald.

“Strictly speaking, Fidel is a tyrant.”

Castro’s second wife and widow, Dalia Soto del Valle, is the least known of Castro’s women, Sanchez noted.

They met in 1961. Castro noticed her in the audience as he gave an open-air speech, Sanchez remembered.

“Fidel spotted in the first row a gorgeous girl with whom he rapidly started exchanging furtive and meaningful glances,” Sanchez wrote.

After being vetted by his aide-de-camp, del Valle was installed in a discreet house just outside Havana.

Eventually, they married and had five sons, who grew up in hidden luxury on an estate outside Havana.

“With its orange, lemon, mandarin, grapefruit and banana trees, the estate resembled a veritable garden of Eden — especially if one compared it with the notorious ration book that all Cubans had to use to buy food,” Sanchez wrote.

Each member of the family possessed his or her own cow, “so as to satisfy each one’s individual taste, since the acidity and creaminess of fresh milk varies from one cow to another.”

Disloyalty exacted a heavy price. Dissidents were jailed for as little as handing out books on democracy.

Castro himself displayed little loyalty, either professionally or personally.

Even his closest aides faced execution if it suited his agenda.

In the late ’80s, when an international scandal brewed over Castro’s exchanges of safe haven for cash with Colombian cocaine traffickers, Castro had no problem throwing those closest to him under the bus.

“Very simply, a huge drug-trafficking transaction was being carried out at the highest echelons of the state.”

Castro “was directing illegal operations like a real godfather,” Sanchez wrote.

Revolutionary Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa, who had fought alongside Fidel and Raul Castro, was at the center of the drug dealings, Sanchez said.

But when the US caught wind, Castro vowed an “official inquiry.”

Raul was forced to watch on closed-circuit TV as a kangaroo court tried and convicted Ochoa — and then to watch the general’s execution by firing squad.

“Castro made us watch it,” Sanchez recalled.

“That’s what the Comandante was capable of to keep his power: not just of killing but also of humiliating and reducing to nothing men who had served him devotedly.”

After Ochoa’s death, Raul plunged into alcoholism, drowning his grief and humiliation with vodka.

“Listen, I’m talking to you as a brother,” Castro warned him.

“Swear to me that you will come out of this lamentable state and I promise you nothing will happen to you.”

Raul, who perhaps knew best what his brother was capable of, complied.

Donald Trump certainly wasn’t shedding any tears over Castro’s death.


Pope’s possible deal with China would ‘betray Christ’, says Hong Kong cardinal

Senior Catholic Joseph Zen says the pontiff ‘may not know the Communist persecutors who have killed hundreds of thousands’

Cardinal Joseph Zen, a former bishop of Hong Kong, says most supporters of the potential Vatican deal do not truly know China. Photograph: Benjamin Haas for the Guardian China Pope’s possible deal with China would ‘betray Christ’, says Hong Kong cardinal Senior Catholic Joseph Zen says the pontiff ‘may not know the Communist persecutors who have killed hundreds of thousands’

The most senior Chinese Catholic has slammed a potential rapprochement between the Vatican and Beijing, saying it would be “betraying Jesus Christ”, amid a thaw in more than six decades of bitter relations.

Talk of a deal between the two sides has been building for months, with some saying the diplomatic coup for Pope Francis would be resolving the highly controversial issue of allowing China’s Communist government to have a hand in selecting bishops.

But Cardinal Joseph Zen, the 84-year-old former bishop of Hong Kong, has been an outspoken critic, saying any agreement where Beijing would have a hand in approving clergy would be “a surrender”.

“Maybe the pope is a little naive, he doesn’t have the background to know the Communists in China,” Zen said at the Salesian school in Hong Kong where he still teaches. “The pope used to know the persecuted Communists [in Latin America], but he may not know the Communist persecutors who have killed hundreds of thousands.”

Chinese Catholics are free to go to mass and attend government-sanctioned churches, but barred from proselytising. The state-controlled China Catholic Patriotic Association controls the church and appoints bishops, currently without any input from the Vatican.

An “underground” Catholic church exists, with some estimates saying it is larger than the official one, and its members and clergy have faced persecution by authorities.

Protestant Christians also face similar challenges, and a recent campaign by authorities in eastern China has seen more than 1,200 crosses removed from buildings and churches demolished.

Zen complained that most supporters of the deal did not truly know China, lacking first-hand experience with the state of the church under the Communists. He spent seven years frequently teaching in cities across China in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters that was followed by severe tightening of freedom of expression and religion.

One motivation for the Vatican is the relatively small number of Catholics in a country filled with people who are increasingly searching for meaning in their lives. There are roughly 10 million Catholics, just a 10th of the overall number of Christians in the country.

With “fake freedom” under a proposed deal, priests could more easily preach and more churches would open, Zen predicted, but “it’s only the impression of freedom, it’s not real freedom, the people sooner or later will see the bishops are puppets of the government and not really the shepherds of the flock.”

“The official bishops are not really preaching the gospel,” Zen added “They are preaching obedience to Communist authority.”

Francesco Sisci, an Italian scholar and journalist who is based in Beijing, said “a very wide-ranging agreement” appeared to be on the horizon but that it remained unclear exactly when the deal would be unveiled. No observers expected it to lead to full diplomatic relations.

Sisci, who conducted a rare interview with Pope Francis at the start of this year in which the leader of the Catholic church backed the idea of dialogue with Beijing, said he believed the deal would represent a “a major breakthrough” for China, the Vatican and people of all faiths.

Sisci rejected the idea that the Vatican was abandoning its principles by engaging with Beijing and claimed many within the church leadership believed it would be more effective to talk to China’s Communist leaders than to “wage war” against them on issues such as human rights and religious freedom.

“The church doesn’t want crusades … and doesn’t want to start a new one with China,” he said.

The Italian academic said he believed the pope thought the church could play “a crucial role in helping China move into the modern world, to become a modern society”.

“He may be naive but it is his job being naive, being a man of faith,” Sisci added.

But that naivety could harm the Catholic church in China for decades to come, according to Zen, and a perception is building that the pope is pushing a pact he may not fully understand.

“You cannot go into negotiations with the mentality ‘we want to sign an agreement at any cost’, then you are surrendering yourself, you are betraying yourself, you are betraying Jesus Christ,” Zen lamented.

“If you cannot get a good deal, an acceptable deal, then the Vatican should walk away and maybe try again later,” he added. “Could the church negotiate with Hitler? Could it negotiate with Stalin? No.”

Ordinary Catholics who attend the government-controlled church welcome the negotiations as any deal would legitimise what is essentially a schismatic church.

“If they could really strike a deal, not only would us Catholics be happy, but all of the Chinese people should rejoice,” said Zhao, 36, who has been a Catholic for 20 years and works at the oldest Catholic church in China, close to Tiananmen Square in Beijing. He declined to give his full name because of the sensitivity of discussing religion.

“Chinese society needs faith right now,” he added, saying a warming of ties would increase the number of Catholics, “which is a benefit to all society”.

But Zen warned that gains, diplomatically and in the number of faithful, could be short-lived.
In the long run people would leave the church as they became disillusioned with the “fake” institution, Zen said, adding “the clergy need to side with the people, the poor and the persecuted, not to government”.

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of new Christians,” Zen said. “If that blood is poisoned, how long will those new Christians last?”

Additional reporting by Christy Yao


Indonesian woman flogged for close proximity with a man

Banda Aceh (Indonesia) (AFP) – An Indonesian woman screamed in agony Monday as she was caned in Aceh, the latest in a growing number of women to be publicly flogged for breaking the province’s strict Islamic laws.

Aceh is the only province in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country that imposes sharia law. People can face floggings for a range of offences — from gambling, to drinking alcohol, to gay sex.

In the latest caning, five people — two women and three men — were flogged in front of a cheering crowd at a mosque in the provincial capital Banda Aceh.

The 34-year-old woman who yelled in pain had been found guilty of spending time in close proximity with a man who was not her husband in contravention of Aceh’s Islamic regulations.

She was lashed seven times with a rattan cane by a man wearing long robes and a hood, with just slits for the eyes.

“It hurts so bad,” the woman said, raising her arms into the air, as she was beaten.

The 32-year-old man with whom she was caught was also flogged seven times.

Two university students, both 19, received 100 lashes of the cane after they confessed to sex outside marriage. They stared at the ground as they were flogged, showing little emotion.

A man found guilty of sex outside marriage was flogged 22 times although his partner, who is two-months pregnant, is still waiting to learn her fate after facing trial at an Islamic court.

However Aceh authorities typically spare pregnant women from canings.

Aceh, on Sumatra island, began implementing sharia law after being granted special autonomy in 2001, an attempt by the central government in Jakarta to quell a long-running separatist insurgency.

Islamic laws have been strengthened since the province struck a peace

deal with Jakarta in 2005, and there has been a particular increase in the number of women being caned in recent times.


Trump Has Chairman of Top Nordic Bank Predicting Better Times

The chairman of the biggest Nordic bank says Donald Trump’s election win is good news for the U.S. economy, thanks to the real estate mogul’s pledge to deliver tax cuts and deregulation.

“Based on the expectation that the American President and Congress are likely to act on taxes, and perhaps on regulation as well, I think there is a slightly more positive outlook for the American economy over the intermediate horizon,” Bjorn Wahlroos, the chairman of Nordea Bank AB, said in an interview in Stockholm on Thursday. But for the rest of the world, things will probably continue “as before,” he said.

Wahlroos’s view of Trump’s policies contrasts with criticism he has leveled at Sweden’s government for pushing laws he says are too tough on banking. The ruling coalition in Scandinavia’s largest economy, whose banks are among the world’s best capitalized, is planning a new financial tax to help cover welfare spending. The finance industry warns such a levy may wipe out 16,000 jobs as firms either move operations abroad or rely on robots instead of humans. The government says banks are exaggerating.

There’s much to suggest Sweden’s regulatory environment has done little to hamper its banks from thriving. In the years following the 2008 financial crisis, Sweden’s four biggest banks — Nordea, Handelsbanken, Swedbank and SEB — have consistently outperformed most of their peers in European stress tests.

Global Banks
Since the beginning of 2009, Nordea has doubled its market value, making it roughly twice as big as Deutsche Bank. JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs have both seen their market values rise about 150 percent over the same period. Wells Fargo is up almost 80 percent, while Citigroup is down about 16 percent.

There’s evidence to suggest that a more rigorously regulated environment supports rather than impedes economic health. Under Democratic administrations, which have tended to lean more heavily toward regulation than their Republican counterparts, the U.S. economy grew an average of 4.33 percent a year. Republican administrations have overseen an average growth rate of 2.54 percent, according to a 2015 paper by Princeton University economists Alan S. Blinder and Mark W. Watson covering 64 years of data.

Wahlroos said he wants Nordea to stay in Sweden, but warned that there are limits to how far his loyalty to the country will stretch if the business environment becomes too difficult. He’s previously signaled a readiness to shift parts of the bank’s operations outside Sweden and his talks this summer over a potential merger with ABN Amro Group were widely seen as a hint to the government in Stockholm that he was willing to turn words into actions.

‘Mild Words’
By approaching ABN Amro, Nordea has “made the point, in mild words, that it is important from our point of view that we need to be competitive,” Wahlroos said. The commitment to Sweden “may change if indeed new sort of levies or new regulations are placed on the banking industry,” he said.

As for the U.S. under a President Trump, Wahlroos said the reality TV star’s protectionist views may ultimately undo any good that is expected to come from his other policies.

“It remains to be seen whether Trump’s negative stance on some issues such as free trade will over the longer run have a negative impact,” he said.

“But over the short term, his approach to taxes and implicit promise of tax cuts, particularly corporate taxes, have a positive outlook.”

Saw Brexit Coming
While Wahlroos was relatively upbeat on Trump’s election win, he was gloomier on Britain’s efforts to disentangle itself from the European Union. Though the Nordea chairman said he saw Brexit coming, after numerous trips to rural England, the sheer complexity of the task ahead is still only just dawning on people, he said.

“The technical perplexity of this thing — clause 50 and what it all entails — the task is just daunting,” he said. Nordea itself isn’t really exposed to any Brexit risks, he said.

“There might be a small negative in our London operation, which is not all that big, but on the other hand you can also say that we gain in competitiveness relative to the British banks.”


Trump Picks Betsy DeVos, Daughter-In-Law Of Billionaire Amway Cofounder, For Education Secretary

Chase Peterson-Withorn , FORBES STAFF

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Donald Trump continues to add to his cabinet. On Wednesday the president-elect announced his choice for education secretary: Betsy DeVos, a leader of the school choice movement and a prominent GOP donor from Michigan.


The daughter-in-law of Amway cofounder Richard DeVos — who Forbes estimates is worth $5.1 billion — she is currently chairman of the American Federation for Children. The organization promotes school vouchers, scholarship tax credit programs and education savings accounts. Its affiliated PAC supports pro-school choice candidates at the state level.

“Betsy DeVos is a brilliant and passionate education advocate,” Trump said in a statement. “Under her leadership, we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families.”

“I am honored to accept this responsibility to work with the President-elect on his vision to make American education great again,” DeVos said in a statement. “The status quo in education is not acceptable. Together, we can work to make transformational change that ensures every student in America has the opportunity to fulfill his or her highest potential.”

The DeVos family have been ardent GOP supporters for years. Richard DeVos launched Amway in 1959 and helped grow it into a $9.5 billion (revenues) direct-selling giant that does business in more than 100 countries today. In 1991 he bought the Orlando Magic; last year he purchased a minority stake in the Chicago Cubs. But DeVos has also invested heavily in politics.


He was the finance chair of the Republican National Committee in the 1980s and publicly donated at least $2.9 million in 2016 — all to Republican groups — according to Center for Responsive Politics data. According some reports (including Jane Mayer’s book, Dark Money) he has quietly given hundreds of millions over the past four decades to conservative causes.

Betsy and her husband, Richard Jr., have proudly carried on the tradition. She chaired the Michigan Republican Party from 1996 to 2000 and again from 2003 and 2005; Richard Jr. unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2006. The couple donated at least $2.8 million this cycle — again only to conservatives — including Right to Rise, a pro-Jeb super PAC. It appears they never publicly came out in support of Trump prior to the election.

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imagesTrump’s election has China’s former critics looking to it to defend globalization — willingly or not

Just months ago, world leaders were fretting over the threat posed by an increasingly assertive China.

The country’s government oversaw the worst crackdown on dissent in nearly three decades. The Chinese built, then militarized, islands in disputed waters of the South China Sea. They tightened controls over the Internet, freezing out foreign firms while allowing their domestic competitors to prosper.

Then the United States elected Donald Trump as president.

Now some of those same countries are looking to Beijing to defend international cooperation on matters as diverse as trade and climate change, propelling China to new heights on the world stage.

And yet China doesn’t sound particularly enthused about its elevation.

The Global Times, a Communist Party mouthpiece, this week called it “beyond imagination to think that China could replace the U.S. to lead the world.”

The 21st Century Business Herald, China’s leading business newspaper, referred to the country as “a promoter, a reformer, not a revolutionary.”

China “wants to be a force of stability,” said Min Ye, an associate professor at Boston University’s Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies. “But it’s not into changing the global order. It’s a big responsibility … China still sees itself as a growing power.”

China, whose leaders’ greatest concern is domestic stability, is also battling a slowing economy and rampant income inequality at home.

“Factor one is whether China has the capacity to be leader, and factor two is whether China has the willingness to be leader,” said Chen Dingding, professor of international relations at Jinan University in Guangzhou.

“If the U.S. — No. 1 power — not interested in global leadership, why should China be?”

The election of a U.S. president who takes an inward and sometimes contradictory approach to foreign policy has already handed China major geopolitical wins, analysts say.

The president-elect’s vow to block President Obama’s signature trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, has drawn some countries closer to China’s economic orbit.

Malaysia, once a backer of the 12-nation free trade deal, is shifting its focus to a Chinese alternative, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Vietnam recently decided not to ratify the U.S.-backed agreement, leaving an opening for China’s pact. Even longtime American ally Australia plans to seek out other trade options.

Obama saw the TPP — which excluded China — as vital to expanding America’s influence in the region. China considered it a blatant attempt to contain its growing economic and political clout.

Trump’s dismissal of the pact “leaves a gap,” said Claire Reade, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Is China going to walk into that gap to encourage regional and global integration? I think the answer is yes.”

The region’s pivot toward China on economic matters hurts the United States’ ability to shape developments on the political front. The U.S. typically ties its international aid and loans to causes such as gender equality, government transparency and human rights — issues on which China’s authoritarian leaders rarely engage.

“U.S. hegemony is not great, but it’s the best hegemony we’ve had in a long time,” said David Zweig, a Canadian who researches Sino-American relations at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

China has reason to defend globalization.

Although Beijing has chafed at perceived U.S. incursions, including criticism of its human rights record and U.S. naval operations in the South China Sea, it has benefited greatly from closer economic cooperation with the rest of the world. The struggling country that entered the World Trade Organization in 2001 has grown into the world’s second-largest economy.

While Trump has been promoting his “America first” platform, China has sought to reassure world leaders about its reliability and consistency on international matters.

“China will not shut the door to the outside world but will open it even wider,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said Nov. 20 at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Peru.

Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin last week dismissed Trump’s assertion that climate change is a “hoax” invented by China to destroy U.S. competitiveness and pledged to defend a landmark agreement to fight global warming “whatever the circumstances.”

This year, China opened the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a Beijing-based rival to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The country has also greatly expanded its “One Belt, One Road” initiative, which aims to revive ancient Silk Road trade routes by building roads, ports and other infrastructure across Asia, Europe and North Africa.

Nations far outside China’s regional sphere of influence are paying heed.

In 2012, China struck a deal with 16 Central and Eastern European countries to deepen economic, tourism and education ties.

That framework has encouraged Eastern European countries to see China as “sort of a savior” in difficult economic times, when there is a need for investment that the West cannot provide, said Anastas Vangeli, a sociologist at the Polish Academy of Sciences.

China’s economic rise, combined with the shock of the recent global financial crisis and the wave of populism now sweeping the U.S. and Europe, has some people in the region questioning the virtues of Western-style democracy.

“When you take a lot of people who don’t know much about China, and you show them snatches of Beijing and Shanghai, they get fascinated with it,” Vangeli said. “Often in their statements, they say things like, ‘Maybe China got some things right.’”

For more news from Asia, follow @JRKaiman on Twitter

Meyers is a special correspondent. Nicole Liu in The Times’ Beijing bureau contributed to this report.


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