In a great national championship college football game that saw an amazing group of freshmen players on both sides, Alabama beat Georgia 26-23 in overtime. And Mayhem is back! The New Year’s resolution of the kinder, gentler, Mayhem didn’t even last two weeks…..
US Suspends Security Assistance to Pakistan
The relationship between the US and Pakistan has long been a complicated one. The protracted 17 year war in Afghanistan has made us strained allies in the war against terrorism. Defense Times is reporting the decision by the U.S. to suspend security assistance to Pakistan could have serious consequences for the American-led fight in Afghanistan, and potentially further strengthen ties between Islamabad and China. As you’ll recall China is spending big money in Pakistan to develop and build the new silk road. Our need to encourage Pakistan to assist the US conflicts with the government of Pakistan’s generally reluctance to put pressure on the tribal forces in Afghanistan they identify with more closely than those of western cultures. Then there was that whole deal of allowing Osama bin Laden to hind in and flourish in Pakistan. And it’s important to note that as we withdraw our influence or in this case money from the region, China is there to fill the gap. Spokesperson for the United States Department of State Heather Nauert announced new restrictions on Thursday that cover security assistance above and beyond the $255 million for Pakistani purchases of American military equipment that the administration held up in August, but it was not immediately clear how much money and materiel was being withheld. Nauert made clear the $255 million was still blocked. The new action targets payments of so-called Coalition Support Funds that the U.S. pays to Pakistan to reimburse it for its counterterrorism operations. Those funds are typically paid later in the year, and already require U.S. certification, so the effect of Thursday’s announcement was unclear. The move comes days after President Donald Trump’s New Year’s Day tweet that accused Pakistan of playing U.S. leaders for “fools,” as well as a growing number of voices from the administration that have complained Pakistan is not doing enough to combat militants targeting U.S. personnel in neighboring Afghanistan. On Monday, Trump said the U.S. had “foolishly” given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid in the last 15 years and had gotten nothing in return but “lies & deceit.” He reiterated longstanding allegations that Pakistan gives “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan.” The big question facing the American effort in Afghanistan now becomes whether Pakistan retaliates by shutting down the supply lines for materiel into Afghanistan, known as the Ground Lines of Communication, or GLOC. Hours before the announcement, United States Secretary of DefenseJim Mattis was asked if there were any signals from Pakistan that cutting the aid would result in the GLOC being closed, to which he responded, “We have had no indication of anything like that.” But closing the GLOC remains a long-standing concern for the U.S. Those lines represent the cheapest way of getting supplies to U.S. forces in Afghanistan, something the Pentagon learned the hard way between Nov. 2011 and July 2012, when Pakistan shut the GLOC routes down following an incident where 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed by NATO forces along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Reporting in 2012 revealed that costs for getting needed supplies into Afghanistan went from $17 million a month to $104 million a month, a significant upcharge even by Pentagon budget standards. With significantly fewer troops in Afghanistan today than in 2012, the costs would not be quite so high, but could still hurt a Department of Defense that finds itself lacking budget stability. Pakistan has for years tried to counterbalance its alliance with the U.S. with one from China, including with its military relationships. Industrially, Pakistan has agreed to work with China to produce a new submarine fleet as well as working together to develop what in Pakistan is known as the JF-17 jet fighter. In addition, China has developed the Azmat-class missile boat for Pakistan, which will carry Chinese-built weapons. Notably, a Pentagon report from last June concluded that China will seek to develop a military base in Pakistan, which would represent only the second People’s Liberation Army military facility outside of China. In an off-camera briefing with reporters on Friday, Mattis took a more conciliatory approach. He acknowledged Pakistan’s anti-terrorism efforts and emphasized that aid would be restored if the U.S. sees evidence of renewed effort by Pakistan. So I’d say Pakistan has some choices to make.
We’re in the midst of Hanukkah, Festival of Lights. I don’t know why there are so many spellings of Hanukkah, but Hanukkah is the Hebrew spelling. Then there’s Tiberian: khanuká or another a transliteration also romanized as Chanukah or Ḥanukah). But whatever the spelling, it is a Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar. It is also known as the Festival of Lights and the Feast of Dedication. The festival is observed by lighting the candles of a candelabrum with nine branches, called a Hanukkah menorah (or hanukkiah). One branch is typically placed above or below the others and its candle is used to light the other eight candles. This unique candle is called the shamash (Hebrew: שמש, “attendant”). Each night, one additional candle is lit by the shamash until all eight candles are lit together on the final night of the holiday. Other Hanukkah festivities include playing dreidel and eating oil-based foods such as doughnuts and latkes. Since the 1970s, the worldwide ChabadHasidic movement has initiated public menorah lightings in open public places in many countries. The story of Hanukkah is preserved in the books of the First and Second Maccabees, which describe in detail the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem and the lighting of the menorah. These books are not part of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) but both books are included in the Old Testament used by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. When the Second Temple in Jerusalem was looted and services stopped, Judaism was outlawed. In 167 BCE, Antiochus ordered an altar to Zeus erected in the Temple. He banned brit milah (circumcision) and ordered pigs to be sacrificed at the altar of the temple. Antiochus’s actions provoked a large-scale revolt. Mattathias (Mattityahu), a Jewish priest, and his five sons Jochanan, Simeon, Eleazar, Jonathan, and Judah led a rebellion against Antiochus. It started with Mattathias killing first, a Jew who wanted to comply with Antiochus’s order to sacrifice to Zeus, and then a Greek official who was to enforce the government’s behest (1 Mac. 2, 24–25). Judah became known as Yehuda HaMakabi (“Judah the Hammer”). By 166 BCE Mattathias had died, and Judah took his place as leader. By 165 BCE the Jewish revolt against the Seleucid monarchy was successful. The Temple was liberated and rededicated. The festival of Hanukkah was instituted to celebrate this event. Judah ordered the Temple to be cleansed, a new altar to be built in place of the polluted one and new holy vessels to be made. According to the Talmud, unadulterated and undefiled pure olive oil with the seal of the kohen gadol (high priest) was needed for the menorah in the Temple, which was required to burn throughout the night every night. The story goes that one flask was found with only enough oil to burn for one day, yet it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of kosher oil for the menorah. An eight-day festival was declared by the Jewish sages to commemorate this miracle. The version of the story in 1 Maccabees states that an eight-day celebration of songs and sacrifices was proclaimed upon re-dedication of the altar, and makes no specific mention of the miracle of the oil. Spin a dreidel and enjoy some chocolate gelt and Happy Hanukkah.
Democrat Doug Jones Apparent Winner Over Roy Moore In Alabama
In a special election contest that has drawn national and international attention, it would appear Democrat Doug Jones is the winner over Republican Roy Moore in the conservative state of Alabama. It has been an extraordinary alignment of events, including a sex scandal involving teenagers, for Alabamians to elect their first Democrat to the Senate in 25 years, but they triggered a political earthquake that will be felt far and wide. With 99 percent of the vote in, Jones was leading 50-48 percent, or 673,236 votes to 652,300 votes — a margin of more than 20,000. The current margin appears too large for an automatic recount, which is triggered under state law if the candidates are separated by less than half a percentage point, but Moore could call for a recount if he’s willing to pay for one himself.
New York Yankee News
A lot is going on in the off season. Currently the Winter Meetings are underway. Two days ago, The New York Yankees announced this morning that Giancarlo Stanton has officially waived his no-trade clause and that their blockbuster deal for the reigning NL MVP is complete. It will be the Judge – Stanton duo next season. As reported last week, the Yankees received Stanton and cash considerations in exchange for second baseman Starlin Castro, minor league pitcher Jorge Guzman and minor league infielder Jose Devers. And The New York Yankees have traded third baseman Chase Headley and pitcher Bryan Mitchell to the San Diego Padres for outfielder Jabari Blash. This would seem to be an exercise in salary clearing by the Yankees in anticipation of another move, as it takes about $13 million off of their payroll. Which is about how much was added to their payroll for 2018 in the Giancarlo Stanton deal. That could get Todd Frazier back for them, perhaps. Or it could help them retain CC Sabathia or go after another starting pitcher. The club likewise maintains an interest in getting under the $197 million payroll threshold which would trigger yet another year of 50% luxury tax payments for the Yankees. CC Sabathia was set to come back to the Yankees as a signed free agent at the end of the season, but he’s been talking with both California Angles and now the Toronto Blue Jays. I don’t think the Yankees are done trading yet – how about Manny Machado – a possibility I think. And lastly Aaron Boone, the new Yankee manager has hired Josh Bard as his new bench coach. I’ve been sitting by my phone, but so far no call to be senior bat boy. I’m waiting…..
President Trump and Former Security Advisor Michael Flynn
There is ever increasing evidence against President Donald Trump supporting a case of obstruction of justice. It includes a tweet that he fired his former security adviser Michael Flynn because he knew Flynn had lied to both the Vice President and the FBI. If he knew Flynn had committed a felony; that of lying to the FBI, then one could draw a conclusion Mr. Trump obstructed justice when he told then-FBI director James Comey to go easy on Flynn the day after the firing of Flynn. On December 1, 2017, Flynn appeared in federal court to formalize a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller to plead guilty to a single felony count of “willfully and knowingly” making “false, fictitious and fraudulent statements” to the FBI. As part of his plea bargain agreement to avoid additional charges Michael Flynn is talking to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation team regarding Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election in order to avoid a prison sentence. Should we believe a retired United States ArmyLieutenant General, a member of Trump’s inter-circle during the Trump presidential campaign, a member of the transition team and the National Security Advisor during the first days of the Trump presidency acted on his own in contacting the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak? And if he received guidance to contact the Russian government then its more than likely that guidance could only have come from Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, or President Trump. Tic, tic, tic, tic.
Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger Win Rookie of the Year Awards
Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge and Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger won the Rookie of the Year Awards unanimously in their respective leagues, as voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Judge, 25, hit .284/.422/.627 with 52 home runs, 114 RBI, and 128 runs scored in 678 plate appearances. He led the American League in home runs, runs scored, and walks (127). Judge made the AL All-Star team during the summer and just took home a Silver Slugger Award. He’s a major contender for the AL MVP Award as well. Judge is the first Yankee to win the Rookie of the Year Award since Derek Jeter in 1996.
Robert Mueller Can Now Close Down Russian Investigation
In May 2017, Robert Mueller was appointed by the Justice Department as special counsel to oversee the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, one of several investigations looking into the matter. Mueller can now close down that investigation because after chatting with former KGB agent and now President of Russia Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit President Trump is contradicting the overwhelming consensus among current and former U.S. officials that the Russian leader tried to manipulate the 2016 election. In a 26-minute question-and-answer session with reporters aboard Air Force One, the president managed to dismiss probes into whether his campaign colluded with Russia as an “artificial Democratic hit job,” said he believed Putin was being sincere when he insisted that Russia did not attempt to interfere in the 2016 election, and warned that the continued focus on Russian election meddling risks lives. I was worried there for a while that perhaps Russia didn’t respect us or value our way of life. So now I guess we can close down Mueller’s Russian investigation and get on with the real work of the Administration, that of giving a tax break to corporations as well as the wealthiest tax payers. And let’s create more ciaos in the health care system that will result in people paying more for health care no matter who they are.