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Sinema Paradiso – Biden loves this movie

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It was a shocker out of nowhere when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a week ago that he had reached a deal with Senator Joe Manchin on a revival of significant pieces of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda for the American people:

  • The largest investment in clean energy and renewables ever undertaken by the United States, putting the US more firmly on track to meeting most of its 2030 carbon reduction targets
  • Reduced prescription drug prices for consumers and cuts in health insurance premiums – saving millions of households billions of dollars in the cost of medicines and health care
  • A national minimum corporate tax – with no tax increases for Americans earning less than $400,000

BEVERLY HILLS CALIFORNIA – It was less than a month ago that Manchin shredded Biden’s agenda, leaving the president’s party with very little to show voters this November that they can govern. 

Disunity among Democrats means political death, because if the party that controls the House, the Senate and the White House cannot produce the legislative goods for the American people, the Democrats’ half life going into the November midterms will be halved again.

Finally, the Democrats in the Senate fully understood this, from the socialist warrior Bernie Sanders, who decried what was left of the ambitious Biden agenda (this bill “does not address the major crises facing working families,” he said) to Ed Markey, the leader for decades on climate change. Markey said he would vote “to protect” the Schumer-Manchin-Sinema compromise — “which means voting no on amendments, even ones I support” on climate.  Both Senators understood it was better to get something real done than to be left with nothing for voters – that no Democratic Senator could let the best be the enemy of the good, as much as they hated settling for far less than they wanted.

Even Kirsten Sinema of Arizona finally came to the party she had helped wreck last December, when her vote for the Biden agenda was not certain. She stood firm on nixing one funding mechanism – taxing wealth industry managers on their capital gains – by accepting other taxes that would more than foot the bill.  

As they say here in Hollywood, Sinema Paradiso was a boffo performance.  And the president loved it:

“Today, Senate Democrats sided with American families over special interests, voting to lower the cost of prescription drugs, health insurance, and everyday energy costs and reduce the deficit, while making the wealthiest corporations finally pay their fair share.  I ran for President promising to make government work for working families again, and that is what this bill does — period.”

Behind the scenes, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who last year when everything was booming blew the whistle on the inflation that has been roaring across America for months, concluded that these social items, paid for in this way, would help curb inflation.  Other eminent economists concurred.

And to nail that point, this bill is called the “Inflation Reduction Act.”

The Senate vote on Sunday, with the 50-50 tie between Democrats and Republicans broken by Vice President Kamala Harris, capped one of Biden’s best months in office:  The killing in Kabul of the head of Al Qaida, the passage of the most significant industrial policy legislation in years to spur the strength and competitive edge of the US semiconductor industry, overdue legislation to care for veterans exposed to burn pits in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the new gun safety legislation. And this new legislation will build on the trillion-dollar infrastructure rebuilding program enacted into law last year. And Biden had Covid.

Suddenly, Joe Biden looks good in the Director’s chair.

One more vote later this week in the House of Representatives will crystallize all this.  The same political lesson re-learned by Senate Democrats now is staring House Democrats in the face.  They have a margin of four votes.  Unity will ensure victory; defections will bring down the curtain on dozens of their House colleagues – and themselves.

All this sudden legislative momentum, after months of paralysis, is occurring when the extremism of the Trump Supreme Court is causing a shift in the political tectonic plates.  Last week, in one of the most Republican states in the country, Kansas, voters decisively rejected a state constitutional amendment to prohibit abortion. That meant that a lot of Republicans in Kansas (!) thought the Supreme Court had gone too far. In Indiana late last week, the Republican legislature passed one of the strictest anti-abortion laws anywhere -and it was immediately signed by the governor.  This will happen in other states. 

Millions of women, and those who care about them, are angry that their constitutional right to reproductive health care has been taken away.  And they are mobilizing to vote in November.

Republican political hardheads are worried the anti-abortion zealots have gone too far.

For all these reasons, this is a moment for Democrats to show they can deliver on significant promises they made to the American people in 2020 and shift the polarity of these extraordinarily polarizing times.

If they fail in the House, this movie is over.

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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Watered down meetings for Pacific leaders

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Solomon Islands Prime Minster concludes his second overseas trip in a week as strategic competition heightens

It’s hard to believe a time when leaders from the Pacific jumped on board their emissions-spurting jets to meet with the U.S. President.

But last week 12 leaders from across the Pacific gathered in Washington to meet with President Joe Biden in the first U.S.-Pacific Island Country Summit.

“We honoured the history and values that our nations share and expanded our cooperation on key areas that will benefit our people for years to come,” President Biden said.

What was the meeting about?

Leaders from Fiji, Solomon Islands, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia were among the guests at the summit.

They discussed maritime security, climate change, and economic development.

Of course, climate change is a crucial issue for these Pacific Island states, many of which are low-lying and vulnerable to the impacts of rising temperatures and sea levels.

These countries are already experiencing higher temperatures, shifts in rainfall patterns, and rising sea levels.

There are also long-term climate variables, which are expected to occur in the future.

The U.S. believes the summit was a platform to “reaffirm its commitment to the Pacific region” and “strengthen its relationships”.

But it was only a matter of time before the climate guise was dropped.

“The security of America, quite frankly, and the world depends on your security, and the security of the Pacific Islands.”

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT

Security is the key word here, because President Biden’s definition of this, may differ from the low-lying states of the Pacific.

Why was it important?

One word: China. When Beijing’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi blitzed through 10 Pacific countries earlier in the year, he had a big deal on his mind: a regional security pact.

“China practices the diplomatic principle of equality among all countries,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

The Pacific sensationally declined to sign up to the sweeping deal, which included greater economic and security ties.

Wang said the Pacific region should not to be “too anxious” about Beijing’s intentions.

“China is not a newcomer, but rather an old friend with Pacific Island countries,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Solomon Islands is the key example here, especially after Prime Minster Manasseh Sogavare’s stance on the Declaration following last week’s U.S.-Pacific Partnership.

Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele said he watered down the initial language because it “put us in a position where we’d have to choose sides”.

He added there were “indirect” references to China, however, officials later found “common ground” and Solomon Islands signed up.

It’s no surprise Sogavare was then seen standing next to President Joe Biden for the official photo at last week’s Washington Summit. Fiji’s leader Frank Bainimarama was also strategically on the other side.

It was the first time in 40 years where a Fijian Prime Minister had an official audience with the U.S. President.

Why is Solomon Islands at the centre of this?

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare met with Australia’s leader Anthony Albanese in Canberra today, where the pair reiterated their relationship as “proud Pacific nations”.

“I look forward to engaging with Prime Minister Sogavare on building a strong and prosperous Pacific region, based on principles of transparency, respect and partnership.”

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA

Australia remains Solomon Islands’ largest development partner. But Sogavare’s state visit largely remained behind closed doors, with no media opportunities scheduled.

Prime Minister Sogavare welcomed Australia’s $16.68 million commitment to support the 2023 Pacific Games, and offer to support the next Solomon Islands’ election—an issue where earlier friction was caused.

Sogavare’s visit was part of Canberra’s plan to reduce friction between the two nation.

Earlier this year, Honiara signed a security alliance with Beijing. It stirred a diplomatic pot over concerns a Chinese military base could be established on the island nation.

Australia’s Prime Minister meets with Solomon Islands Prime Minister.

Australia’s then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison asked for greater transparency over the deal.

But Sogavare lashed out at Australian officials in his nation’s parliament, asking where the same transparency was over the AUKUS alliance between Australia, Britain and the U.S.

“I learnt of the AUKUS treaty in the media. One would expect that as a member of the Pacific family, the Solomon Islands and members of the Pacific should have been consulted to ensure this AUKUS treaty is transparent.”

MANASSEH SOGAVARE, PRIME MINISTER OF THE SOLOMON ISLANDS

The recent Washington summit was the perfect opportunity for President Biden to roll out the red carpet and discuss his administration’s plans for the Indo-Pacific region.

On the other hand, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it “will keep in close communication with all parties” and “make good use of the mechanism of China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers’ Meeting”.

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How close to a full scale nuclear war are we really?

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Since President Vladimir Putin’s latest warning that he is ready to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia, the question of whether or not the former KGB spy is bluffing has become much more urgent.

There are several reasons why Putin’s nuclear warnings have the West worried. First, Russia has been increasingly aggressive in its actions in recent years, from annexing Crimea to intervening in Syria. This has led to a feeling that Putin is becoming more and more reckless and unpredictable.

Second, Russia has been beefing up its nuclear arsenal, with reports indicating that it now has more nuclear warheads than any other country in the world. This increase in firepower makes Putin’s threats all the more credible.

Last but not least, there is the fact that Putin is a former KGB agent. This means that he is no stranger to playing games of brinkmanship and bluffing. In the past, he has used nuclear threats as a way to get what he wants. For example, in 2008, he threatened to aim nuclear missiles at European cities unless the United States agreed to drop plans for a missile defense system in Eastern Europe.

The West is worried

Given all of this, it’s no wonder that Putin’s latest nuclear threats have the West worried. Only Putin knows if he is actually bluffing, but given his track record, it’s certainly a possibility.

If a nuclear weapon were used in Ukraine, it would cause a massive humanitarian crisis. Tens of thousands of people would be killed or wounded, and millions more would be displaced. The economic and social damage would be enormous, and Europe would be plunged into chaos.

In addition, the use of nuclear weapons would also have devastating consequences for the rest of the world. The nuclear non-proliferation regime would be dealt a serious blow, and there would be a renewed risk of nuclear war.

The world would become a much more dangerous place.

Nuclear impact

A nuclear explosion in Ukraine would have a regional impact, but it could also have global consequences. The use of nuclear weapons would violate the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and this could lead to other countries acquiring nuclear weapons. In addition, the risk of nuclear war would increase, and this would have a negative impact on the entire world.

The UN has condemned Russia’s threats of nuclear war, and it has called on all parties to refrain from any actions that could lead to the use of nuclear weapons. The UN Secretary-General has said that there can be no military solution to the crisis in Ukraine, and he has urged all sides to return to the negotiating table.

Russia has several allies in its war against Ukraine. These include Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Russia also has the support of China and Iran.

The war in Ukraine has had a significant impact on energy prices.

Due to the conflict, there has been a disruption in the supply of natural gas and oil from Ukraine. This has led to an increase in prices for these commodities.

The West can only threaten Putin further, as they’ve done all year, since President Biden warned that Russia was about to invade Ukraine.

Every step of the way, Putin has done exactly what the West has feared.

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“These are the guys?” Putin’s Dad’s army

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Vladimir Putin’s army is in a bit of a pickle. They’ve been drafting retirees, and telling conscripts to use tampons for bullet wounds.

This isn’t exactly the most impressive fighting force we’ve ever seen. In fact, they look more like dad’s army than anything else.

It’s clear that Putin is desperate to beef up his forces, but it seems like he’s just throwing bodies at the problem instead of actually preparing them for battle.

Pictures from Sevastopol in Crimea show groups of men — many well into their 50s and 60s gripping weapons and wearing uniforms.

Several appear in questionable fighting shape.

This could be a big problem for Russia if they actually get into a serious conflict. We hope for their sake that they never have to find out.

Thousands of Russian men are fleeing the country to avoid conscription. This just goes to show how unpopular Putin’s policies are, even among his own people.

The Kremlin is now trying to catch thousands of Russian men as they try and leave the country. But it’s not going to be easy.

Many of these men are willing to risk everything to avoid being drafted into Putin’s army.

It’s estimated that up to 100,000 Russian soldiers have died in Ukraine since the conflict began.

This is a huge loss of life for Russia, and it’s all thanks to Putin’s reckless policies.

Many of these soldiers were just boys, barely out of their teens. They had their whole lives ahead of them, but they’ll never get to experience it now.

It’s tragic, and it’s all thanks to Putin. He needs to be stopped.

At the same time, a video shared on social media shows a Russian officer telling new recruits what to expect.

“I say right away if you are near the fire, you are f***ed,” she says, before reeling off a list of items they will need to acquire themselves before entering the war zone.

“Take sleeping bags with you, you will sleep where you have to.”

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