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China releases video to scare Pelosi from Taiwan

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The new broke mid-morning Monday in Washington.  The Wall Street Journal reported that House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi is going to Taiwan. 

SUMMIT COUNTY COLORADO – Neither the Speaker’s office nor the White House would confirm the trip, but spokesman John Kirby, speaking from the briefing room and seeking to frame what is unfolding ahead of the visit, said:

“There is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit consistent with longstanding U.S. policy into some sort of crisis or use it as a pretext to increase aggressive military activity in or around the Taiwan Strait. Meanwhile our actions are not threatening and they break no new ground. Nothing about this potential visit — potential visit — which by the way has precedent, would change the status quo.”

So Pelosi in Taiwan is on, after days of speculation and significant angst over what Pelosi’s visit would mean, especially in light of China’s exceptionally hostile words about Pelosi’s trip.  

As Australia knows from the bitter rhetoric and harsh punitive measures China has inflicted on Australia over trade, the messages from Beijing on this trip have risen to high-decibel levels. After the long telephone call last Thursday between President Biden and China’s President Xi Jinping, the official readout from Beijing was emphatic:

“Those who play with fire will perish by it. It is hoped that the U.S. will be clear-eyed about this.” There have been clear intimations of  military displays near Taiwan to coincide with Pelosi’s visit.  There are even concerns that China might target her airplane as it headed towards Taipei.

Many see Pelosi’s visit as exceptionally provocative, and it is clear China expected President Biden to do something about it, particularly after Biden said to the media 10 days ago that “the military thinks it’s not a good idea right now.”  

In this photo provided by Ministry of Communications and Information, Singapore, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, left, and Singapore President Halimah Yacob shake hands at the Istana Presidential Palace in Singapore, Monday, Aug. 1, 2022. Pelosi arrived in Singapore early Monday, kicking off her Asian tour as questions swirled over a possible stop in Taiwan that has fueled tension with Beijing. (Ministry of Communications and Information, Singapore via AP)

The White House and State Department almost certainly received messages from several foreign countries, including close allies, that the trip was ill-timed and would make a tense situation even more tense at a moment when many are hoping, given all the global shocks flowing from the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Putin’s alliance with Xi, that the objective should be to lower – not raise – the temperature on US-China strategic issues.

It was clear over the weekend, however, that the distilled consensus was that as long as the Speaker was intent on visiting Taiwan, buckling to Chinese pressure on the visit would set a most unacceptable precedent. 

Why?

It is not unprecedented for a Speaker of the House to visit Taiwan.  Newt Gingrich did it in 1997.

It would be unprecedented for a President to seek to block a foreign trip by a Speaker of the House. Biden can advise, but consent is not his to give. Under the United States Constitution, there are three co-equal branches of the government.

The Executive, who exercises power over foreign policy.  The Congress, which appropriates money to fund the government, and passes laws affecting all official activities, including foreign policy, and fully exercises oversight authority over what the Executive does.  And the Judiciary. No one branch is subordinate to the other two.

Biden can counsel but cannot tell the Speaker not to go Taipei.  She has every right to go to Taipei and assess the situation to inform what Congress should – or should not – do with respect to American foreign policy interests regarding China and Taiwan and new laws that may warrant enactment.

If China could muscle the Speaker from visiting Taiwan, then China can feel it can muscle the United States from any and all other actions it may undertake with respect to Taiwan.

In Washington, that would be an unacceptable precedent.

The White House has stressed, just before the Pelosi visit gets underway, that nothing has changed with US policy:  that the United States is committed, by law, to the “One China” policy and has said repeatedly that the United States “opposes any unilateral changes to the status quo.”

Translation:  China must not invade Taiwan.  Taiwan must not declare itself independent of China. “One China” must be fully realised peacefully.

The truly big question for today and tomorrow is:  What will Pelosi’s message to Taiwan and China be when she is there?  What signals will she send?  What she says will directly affect strategic calculations of how to further play out the long game over Taiwan.

I met Nancy Pelosi when she was in her first term as a member of the House.  It was days after the Tiananmen massacre in 1989. We were at a small dinner in Washington.  All the talk was of the man before the tank – the lone soul stopping the beast in its path.  But the beat slaughtered those seeking more freedom.

Famous image of man in front of the tank in Tiananmen

 Pelosi talked with conviction and passion that what China did was wrong, and that Tiananmen had to inform the United States’ relationship with China.

That is where Nancy Pelosi was on the issues and who she was then.  That is where she is and who Nancy Pelosi is now.

Bruce Wolpe is a Ticker News US political contributor. He’s a Senior Fellow at the US Studies Centre and has worked with Democrats in Congress during President Barack Obama's first term, and on the staff of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. He has also served as the former PM's chief of staff.

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Trump’s campaign debut was panned – but don’t underestimate his chances

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Last weekend, Donald Trump held two events in New Hampshire and South Carolina, his first official forays onto the 2024 presidential battlefield. 

The experts panned it.  

“Former President Trump’s first campaign swing of the 2024 campaign generated little of the excitement that has long defined his glitzy political rallies…The widespread sentiment among Republicans there is that Trump served the country well, but he’s unelectable in 2024.”  

Axios, the super-sophisticated DC political newsletter

“As he hit the trail for the first time since launching a third bid for the White House in November, signs of Trump’s newfound vulnerabilities came into focus. The trip effectively ushered in the start of the 2024 Republican presidential primary campaign season, with Trump fighting to keep his place at the top of a potentially crowded field.” 

The Washington Post

“He remains the clear front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, yet the solidity of his support seems increasingly in doubt.  Longtime donors have been reluctant to recommit. Leaders in the Republican National Committee are openly encouraging other candidates to run. Voters rejected the handpicked candidates he vowed would win Republicans control of the Senate, but whose losses instead left the chamber in Democratic hands.”

The New York Times

A lot of the political class is talking about Trump in the past tense, and not the future, briefing out to the media that his rambling, Fidel Castro-like  monologues bore his audiences silly, that his obsessions and battles with his political enemies do not have the reach they did in 2016 and during  his term in office, that he is immersing himself more deeply in extremist QAnon cult waters, that he faces indictments and trials that will derail his campaign and might even put him in jail.

Trump 2020

And more: that Trump wallows in the “stolen” 2020 election, knowing that there was no way he could have lost since he got 12 million more votes than in 2016.  Trump never concedes.  Six years later, he does not acknowledge that Hillary Clinton got almost 3 million more votes than Trump in 2016 – and that he won only because she lost in the Electoral College.

The telling critique – the one driving Republicans in private to say that Trump is done (or should be done, or will be done) is that Trump is a loser. 

That Trump lost Republican control of the House of Representatives in 2018, bringing back Nancy Pelosi who secured not one, but two impeachments of the president; that he lost the White House in 2020; that he lost control of the Senate in January 2021 when Democrats swept both Georgia Senate seats, giving them control of that chamber; and that Trump-backed candidates in Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Hampshire, and Arizona again cost Republicans control of the Senate in the 2022 midterms.   As Vince Lombardi, legendary gridiron coach of Green Bay and Washington, said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Lombardi would say Trump was a loser.

Trump is having none of it, and his iron resolve was on full display for those listening more closely when he gave his orations last weekend.

“Maybe he’s lost his step,” Trump said in evoking the musings of some Republicans. But, “I’m more angry now, and I’m more committed than I ever was.”

Former U.S. President Donald Trump points as he announces that he will once again run for U.S. president in the 2024 U.S. presidential election during an event at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. November 15, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The anger is palpable.  The Trump 2023 brand joins his anger with the hottest culture war buttons he can press. Immigration, the open wound that is the southern border, the wall he will finish, the rapists and criminals who are flooding in and that he will keep out tomorrow.  Immigration is his lead-off weapon.

Then promises of energy independence and oil forever.  Utter hostility to electric vehicles and wind energy – especially if the windmills are offshore.  No transgender women in sports.  No way they are tolerated.  A purge of woke content from school curricula, schoolbooks, school libraries, and school boards.  Parents empowered to fire the principal of the schools their children attend; Trump says the parents can vote them out of their jobs.

Trump never goes far into the culture wars without conjuring up Hunter Biden, the president’s son. 

Hunter Biden with Joe Biden

Trump cannot get enough of Hunter’s laptop and the criminality of the Bidens, their business dealings and their money.  We can barely follow all the Trump twists and turns in this tale, but there is no mistake that Trump wants Hunter nailed and his father to bear the consequences.

Reprising his role as Commander-in-Chief, Trump said, in case we have not been paying attention, that we are on the brink on World War III. That Ukraine would not have happened if he had been president. That we could have a peace deal “in 24 hours.” Trump wants to call Putin and knows Putin will be waiting for that call.

Trump’s great loyalist, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, was on the podium with Trump and put it this way after the event. “How many times have you heard we like Trump’s policies but we want somebody new? There are no Trump policies without Donald Trump.”

That’s the message Trump delivered to his base last weekend.  And that’s how Trump intends to win.

Buried in Trump’s massive monologue was the core of what could be a winning message.   “My mission is to secure a middle-class lifestyle for everyone.  I did it before and I will do it again.  And we will be respected in the world once again.”

Three powerful sentences which, coupled with the red meat of his anger and rage, mean that Trump is very much alive and kicking.

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Leading athletes and medical experts push for medicinal cannabis in sport

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Leading lawmakers, medical experts and athletes are pushing for therapeutic use of medicinal cannabis for chronic pain and injury

Basketball star Brittney Griner is one of the leading players of her generation. She jumped into the spotlight for serving a sentence for possession of cannabis oil in Russia.

It begs the question whether medicinal cannabis and athletes are a good mix. Well, many lawmakers, health experts and athletes around the world want to break down the stigmas associated with its use.

Many want to use Griner’s ordeal as motivation to change cannabis laws and therapeutic use exemptions in sports.

Mark Brayshaw, Managing Director of Levin Health has spoken closely with Dr. Peter Brukner who is a world-renowned Australian sports medicine clinician and researcher.

Dr. Peter Brukner

Brukner believes athletes should be able to compete in their field with medicinal cannabis because it doesn’t enhance their performance.

“Medicinal cannabis is arguably performance diminishing rather than performance enhancing…

It’s likely to be taken off the ban list in the near future.”

Mark Brayshaw, Managing Director of Levin Health

“I don’t see there are any risks at all.”

Mark Brayshaw, Managing Director of Levin Health

Brayshaw believes there are higher risks for athletes becoming addicted to anti-inflammatory and opioids. As opposed to any risks associated with taking medicinal cannabis.

He explains it enables athletes to function in a healthy way, pain free.

Overall, there is hope Griner’s case will break down stigma surrounding natural medicines and athletes.

In Australia, there are tens of thousands of new applications for medicinal cannabis every month.

“We’re seeing a significant stigma reduction… There are 30,000 new applications every month [in Australia] for medicinal cannabis...

In the right hands, and through a GP it can be a very safe alternative to opioids and anti-inflammatories in the treatment of chronic pain.”

Mark Brayshaw, Managing Director of Levin Health

There are also growing calls for countries to adopt therapeutic use exemptions in sport, including in the Australian Football League.

“We’ve got Alistair Clarkson and Damien Hardwick on our board, they’ve taken a keen interest… Yes, it’s on the rise.”

Mark Brayshaw, Managing Director of Levin Health

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Why is China’s changing its strategy to handling the pandemic?

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Changes to China’s COVID policies are coming thick and fast, much faster than many people anticipated given how strict the country has been in the last few years, the latest big announcement is around an app that people had to install on their phone

Then it tracked them when they travelled across the country, alerting them if they’ve been to a high risk COVID area, the government says that that app is now deactivated and people no longer have to have it installed on their phones.

It’s yet another indication of the change in China’s strategy to handling the pandemic.

We’ve seen changes related to quarantine, and also testing as well. And a real change in narrative from the authorities when talking about the virus and how dangerous it is. Now officially case numbers are dropping.

But that is largely due to the fact that much less testing is taking place, and we are seeing signs that in reality cases are surging.

There’s queues of people outside of pharmacies, queuing to get medication for colds and for fevers, and also self testing kits as well.

On social media, many people in China now saying that they have caught COVID For the first time, or that they know a number of people who have COVID When previously they didn’t know anyone at all.

So it’s clear that cases are rising, and this is coming just the month before the Chinese New Year holidays, which will take place at the end of January, traditionally a time when millions of people will travel across the country.

We would expect that to happen this year, as travel within China is now much easier.

So we would expect COVID cases to spread across the country talking to travel and is yet no sign of when the borders will open internationally.

Still very, very hard to get into China and very strict. When people do enter and the procedures they have to follow.

Maybe the government will wait and see how the first phase of reopening goes domestically, before thinking internationally?

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