Senate Confirms First Openly Gay Army Secretary

Senate Confirms First Openly Gay Army Secretary (Source Yahoo) The Senate today confirmed Eric Fanning to be secretary of the Army, making him the first openly gay leader of a U.S. military branch. The confirmation of Fanning, who has been serving as the acting Army Secretary since November 2015, was eight months in the making. After President Obama nominated Fanning for the post back in September 2015, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) put a hold on the nomination in an effort to pressure the administration against moving detainees from the  Guantanamo Bay,  Cuba detention facility to a military base in his home state, Fort Leavenworth, as the White House had considered doing. On Tuesday, Roberts came to the floor to announce that the  Department of Defense had assured him that there was insufficient time left in President Obama’s tenure to execute such a detainee transfer to the mainland United States. “I believe that because of last week, in a private meeting with Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, I received the assurances I needed to hear to release my hold on Mr. Fanning,” Roberts said on the Senate floor just before the unanimous vote to confirm Fanning. “Practically speaking, the clock has run out for the president,” he continued. The vote to confirm Fanning was by unanimous consent, meaning every senator agreed to support his confirmation before it came to the Senate floor. Roberts added that he never had any personal animus against Fanning and that he believes he will do an excellent job as Secretary of the Army.

King of Togo in Israel, Wants to be Recognized as Jewish

King of Togo in Israel, Wants to be Recognized as Jewish (Source israeltoday.co.il) King Ayi of the West African nation of Togo arrived in Israel on Sunday with an unusual request – he wants the Jewish state to officially recognize his people as a lost tribe of Israel. The king, who has become well known among the Orthodox Jewish community, met with Religious Affairs Minister David Azulai, who told the African ruler that Israel’s Chief Rabbinate will have to investigate his claims to being descended from Israel. “My desire is to come to the Western Wall with my people next Sukkot and shout ‘Shema Israel,’” the king told his Israeli hosts. In an interview with the Orthodox Israeli news portal Kikar Hashabbat, King Ayi explained that “a nation that doesn’t recognize God and has no religion is a nation that doesn’t know where it is going. …I can tell you that as a professor of religion, there is no religion as close to my heart as Judaism.” Asked how he discovered his own Jewish heritage, King Ayi said that “our teachers in Togo taught us that we are Jews. Before Togo became a republic, it was a kingdom known as ‘the Jewish Kingdom of West Africa.’ Our founding fathers came from Israel over 2,000 years ago.” The king noted that his people have long kept Jewish biblical customs, such as various kosher dietary laws, circumcision on the eighth day after birth, and observing the Sabbath. He went on to state that all the kings and queens of Africa must come “and see what the God of Israel has done.”

China says it’s ready if US ‘stirs up any conflict’ in South China Sea

China says it’s ready if US ‘stirs up any conflict’ in South China Sea (Source cnbc.com) China’s attempts to claim a nearly 1.4-million-square-mile swathe of open ocean are without precedent and probably without legal merit, but Beijing continues to assert its right to the economically critical zone — and increasingly puts its claims in military terms. Speaking to a small group of reporters in Beijing on Thursday, a high-ranking Chinese official made his warning clear: The United States should not provoke China in the South China Sea without expecting retaliation. The Chinese people do not want to have war, so we will be opposed to [the] U.S. if it stirs up any conflict,” said Liu Zhenmin, vice minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Of course, if the Korean War or Vietnam War are replayed, then we will have to defend ourselves.”.

Investors are pulling billions from global stock market funds

Investors are pulling billions from global stock market funds (Source businessinsider.com)

Stock markets haven’t had a great week. Investors are increasingly concerned that global shares are hitting a ceiling. According to analysts at Jefferies, the investment bank, global equity funds “recorded their fifth consecutive weekly outflow, at a net $7.3 billion (£4.9 billion).” Funds investing in European stocks were the among worst hit, seeing withdrawals of $3.1 billion, extending their outflow streak to 11 weeks, the longest since September 2007, according to Jefferies. Investors also pulled $4.9 billion of equities from Japanese stock market funds after the Bank of Japan surprised the market by leaving interest rates unchanged in April. Analysts had expected more easing measures.  US stocks weren’t immune to the outflows either, experiencing withdrawals of $1.8 billion. Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley pointed out that funds investing in emerging markets saw their heaviest outflows since September last year – the month after China’s stock market saw heavy losses.

U.S. debt dump deepens in 2016

U.S. debt dump deepens in 2016 (Source CNN Money) Central banks are dumping America’s debt at a record pace. China, Russia and Brazil sold off U.S. Treasury bonds as they tried to soften the blow of the global economic slowdown. They each sold off at least $1 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds in March. In all, central banks sold a net $17 billion. Sales had hit a record $57 billion in January. So far this year, the global bank debt dump has reached $123 billion. It’s the fastest pace for a U.S. debt selloff by global central banks since at least 1978, according to Treasury Department. Treasuries are considered one of the safest assets in the world, but some experts say a sense of panic about the global economy drove the selloff. “It’s more of global fear than anything,” says Ihab Salib, head of international fixed income at Federated Investors. “There’s still this fear of ‘everything is going to fall apart.'” Judging by the selloff, policymakers across the globe were hitting the panic button often and early in the year as oil prices fell, concerns about China’s economy rose and stock markets were very volatile. In response, countries may be selling Treasuries to prop up their currencies, some of which lost lots of value against the dollar last year. By selling U.S. debt, central banks can get hard cash to buy up their local currency and prevent it from losing too much value. The leader in the selloff: China. “We’ve seen Chinese central bank foreign reserves fall dramatically,” says Gus Faucher, senior economist at PNC Financial. “Their currency is under pressure.” Between December and February,  China’s central bank sold off an alarming $236 billion to help support its currency, which China is slowly letting become more controlled by markets and less by the government. In March, China sold $3.5 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds, Treasury data shows.

Escalations in a New Cold War. US-NATO Military Deployments on Russia’s Border

Escalations in a New Cold War. US-NATO Military Deployments on Russia’s Borders (Source consortiumnews.com) The Obama administration poked Russia in the eye again by activating a missile defense site in Romania while building up NATO forces on Russia’s borders, acts that could escalate toward nuclear war, notes Jonathan Marshall. If the United States ever ends up stumbling into a major conventional or nuclear war with Russia, the culprit will likely be two military boondoggles that refused to die when their primary mission ended with the demise of the Soviet Union: NATO and the U.S. anti-ballistic missile (ABM) program. The “military-industrial complex” that reaps hundreds of billions of dollars annually from support of those programs got a major boost this week when NATO  HYPERLINK “http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36272686” established its first major missile defense site at an air base in Romania, with plans to build a second installation in Poland by 2018. Although NATO and Pentagon spokesmen claim the ABM network in Eastern Europe is aimed at Iran, Russia isn’t persuaded for a minute. “This is not a defense system,” Nato-shield-russia-said Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday. “This is part of U.S. nuclear strategic potential brought [to] . . . Eastern Europe. . . Now, as these elements of ballistic missile defense are deployed, we are forced to think how to neutralize emerging threats to the Russian Federation.”

Here’s why Russia’s humongous new missile is worth worrying about

Here’s why Russia’s humongous new missile is worth worrying about (Source businessinsider.com)

Russia is testing an intercontinental ballistic missile that is so large and powerful it could hit any strategic target in the United States or NATO with independently targeted warheads possibly capable of penetrating ballistic missile defenses.  According to a TASS report on May 6, Col.-Gen. Sergei Karakayev, commander of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, said Russia will move their new l28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles to bases at Uzhurskogo and Dombarovsky. The first location is near Krasnoyarsk in Siberia; the second is located in the Urals in the Orenburg Oblast and is a major ICBM base first built by the Soviets during the 1960s. In particular, Dombarovsky is a site associated with missile training exercises. For example, in the early 2000s the SMF held as many as seven launches from the Dombarovsky site using decommissioned missiles that delivered commercial payloads. The bases also are ideal for launching the new missile toward targets either in the United States or in NATO countries such as Germany, France, or the United Kingdom once it becomes operational. In the report, Karakayev also said a “completed missile complex” will hold the Sarmat as a “silo-based heavy missile” intended to replace the venerable ICBM. The Soviets first deployed the SS-18 in 1977 – the missile in its Cold War SS-18 MOD 4 configuration carried 10 multiple independently targeted reentry vehicles each with up to a 750 kiloton yield. An individual warhead had more than 20 times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb. It was specifically designed to attack and destroy American ICBM silos and other hardened targets. Code named Satan by NATO, the SS-18 MOD 6 version of the ICBM currently deployed by Russia has a single 20-megaton warhead.

USGS says swarm of earthquakes detected below Mount St. Helens

USGS says swarm of earthquakes detected below Mount St. Helens (Source foxnews.com) The U.S. Geological Survey said Friday they have discovered a swarm of small earthquakes underneath Mount St. Helens since March, which could mean it’s recharging with magma. Scientists said the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network detected more than 130 earthquakes, between 1.2 and 4 miles deep, in the region since March 13. Researchers said the majority of the quakes have registered as a magnitude 0.5 or less and some are too small to detect. There’s no indication there will be an eruption anytime soon, scientists said. “No anomalous gases, increases in ground inflation or shallow seismicity have been detected with this swarm, and there are no signs of an imminent eruption,” researchers said. “As was observed at Mount St. Helens between 1987 and 2004, recharge can continue for many years beneath a volcano without an eruption.” According to the USGS, the quakes are volcano-tectonic – which are commonly seen in active magma systems. Stress pushes fluid through cracks, creating small quakes or tremors. The USGS said that data they have collected indicates the volcano is still active. The amount of quakes have been increasing since March, reaching nearly 40 per week.

Lynch: States Can’t ‘Insist’ a Man is a Man and a Woman is a Woman

Lynch: States Can’t ‘Insist’ a Man is a Man and a Woman is a Woman, If Person Feels Otherwise(Source cnsnews.com) The U.S. Justice Department is putting the feelings of transgenders — men who think they are women and women who think they are men — above the privacy rights of the vast majority of people who don’t contest the biological facts of who they actually are. “And what we must not do, what we must never do, is turn on our neighbors, our family members, our fellow Americans for something that they cannot control and deny what makes them human,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Monday.”[N]one of us can stand by when a state enters the business of legislating identity and insists that a person pretend to be something or someone that they are not.” But Lynch was referring to people who, in fact, are pretending to be something that — biologically — they are not. A man “identifying” as a woman is not a biological woman. And likewise, a woman “identifying” as a man is not a biological man. Until now, that is, when the federal government has determined that biological facts matter less than wishes and feelings. Lynch announced a federal civil rights lawsuit against North Carolina because of the state’s new law (HB-2), which requires transgender people in public facilities to use the restrooms consistent with their sex “as noted at birth,” rather than the restrooms that fit their “gender identity.” “We are seeking a court order declaring HB-2’s restroom restriction impermissibly discriminatory, as well as a statewide bar on its enforcement,” Lynch announced. She said the Justice Department also retains the option of “curtailing federal funding to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina as this case proceeds.” This came hours after North Carolina sued the Justice Department “for their radical reinterpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which would prevent plaintiffs from protecting the bodily privacy rights of state employees while accommodating the needs of transgendered state employees.”

Johnny Depp: Donald Trump would be ‘the actual last president of the United States

Johnny Depp: Donald Trump would be ‘the actual last president of the United States’ (Source Yahoo)

Johnny Depp says if Donald Trump becomes president, he’ll be the last commander in chief to inhabit the White House. “Here’s the thing,” Depp told a London television reporter on Wednesday. “If Donald Trump is elected president of the United States, in a kind of historical way it’s exciting because we will see the actual last president of the United States. It just won’t work after that.” It isn’t the first time Depp has offered his take on the presumptive Republican nominee. The Oscar-nominated actor — who was in London to promote his latest film, “Alice Through the Looking Glass” Johnny-depp-trump-funny-or-die-movie-video-160120350.html” portrayed Trump in Funny or Die’s mini-biopic, Johnny-depp-trump-funny-or-die-movie-video.” Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie.” The 50-minute faux film, which borrowed its name from Trump’s 1987 bestselling business advice book, was shot over four days in December and released online in February following Trump’s first primary victory. Depp, who portrayed James “Whitey” Bulger in last year’s “Black Mass,” reportedly brought a team of makeup artists to transform himself into the controversial real estate mogul. “I approached Donald Trump as what you kind of see in him when you really watch him,” Depp said in March. “There’s a pretense; there’s something created about him in the sense of bullydom. “But what he is, I believe, is a brat,” Depp added. “He’s a brat.” Trump, for his part, said he wasn’t offended by Depp’s portrayal. Trump, a former reality television star, is regularly skewered on late night talk shows and “Saturday Night Live.” “I know the business,” he said in February. “I know the game, and I’m not offended.”