Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

Back in June, President Trump used Twitter to officially announce America’s urban crisis.

He hit the ground running calling out the death and destruction in Chicago.

Trump made it clear that he was “sending in Federal help” to contain the dying city.

Since then, Trump’s focus has transitioned on to an international stage with North Korea’s ‘rocket man’ in a war of words battle.

The geopolitical tensions on the Korean Peninsula and elsewhere have distracted this administration from conquering the real out of control war on city streets.

According to The Daily Caller, Baltimore‘s homicide rate is now doubled Chicago’s in 2017.

Essentially, residents in Baltimore are twice as likely to be shot than Chicagoans. As the battlefield continues to expand, President Trump has yet to mention the chaos in Baltimore just 38 miles North of the White House.

As The Daily Caller points out, the soaring violence in Baltimore is occurring in a much smaller city of 621,000, when compared to Chicago of 2,700,000.

Chicago has suffered 503 gun homicides so far in 2017. With a population of over 2.7 million, the gun homicide rate is at just over 18 people per 100,000 residents.

Baltimore, however, has suffered 275 gun homicides with a population of just over 621,000, putting the homicide rate at more than 44 per 100,000.

The city is on track to break its all-time murder record originally set in 1992, when Baltimore had 100,000 more residents.

The author made a very interesting point, both cities are “long-standing Democratic strongholds”. Not surprising, Baltimore hasn’t had a republican mayor since 1947 and or voted Republican in a presidential election since 1956. On top of failed liberal policies, de-industrialization has stripped the cities of productivity and forced an alarming inequality gap in education, jobs, health, and wealth of residents.

For example, Baltimore has a population of 621,000 and out of that 63% are African American. In highlights below, 1/3 of the African American population has a net worth of zero, which equates to 130,000 residents. Opportunity for most citizens in the city are limited giving way to violent crime and an explosion in homicides.

Ever since the increased scrutiny of police following the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri has led to an increased crime rate in both Baltimore and Chicago. In particular, Baltimore’s police department is under heavy scrutiny for planting drugs at crime scenes.

As the social contract between residents and police crack, this gives way to the ‘Ferguson effect’ of increased turmoil in inner cities.

Shown by The Economist, the Ferguson effect demonstrates how homicides in Baltimore have surged…

Perhaps President Trump was on to something in June when he called out Chicago’s urban war zone. Unfortunately, geopolitical tensions on the Korean Peninsula is of a much higher priority to this administration, as the real battlefield on America’s city streets goes unnoticed.

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Update: well, that was quick: according to AFP the Syrian ceasefire is now over, just one week after it began

* * *

Barely a week into the latest “hard fought” Syrian ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russia last weekend, the deal seemed on the verge of collapse on Monday as a rebel official said it had practically failed and signaled insurgents were preparing for a full resumption of fighting. Already widely violated since it took effect a week ago, the ceasefire came under added strain at the weekend when Russia said jets from the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State killed at least 62 Syrian soldiers in eastern Syria.

Then, adding fuel to the fire, moments ago, the Assad administration again lashed out at the US-coalition when Assad said the “confused” American attack on Syrian soldiers which killed 62 as previously reported, was a “naked American aggression.

“Increased state support for terrorists hostile to Syria has recently presented itself in the form of naked American aggression against one of the Syrian army positions in Deir ez-Zor in favor of the interests of the [Daesh jihadist group],” Assad said, as quoted by the Syrian presidency’s Twitter account, hosting a senior Iranian diplomat. He added that “countries hostile to Syria increase their support for terrorism as Syria succeeds in liberating territories and signing ceasefire agreements.”

As previously reported on Saturday, the US Central Command said that the Syrian forces were mistaken for Daesh terrorists, in response to which Russia accused the US of “defending ISIS.” Australia, Denmark and the United Kingdom have confirmed their participation in the airstrikes in Deir ez-Zor. Assad emphasized the importance of support provided by Russia and Iran during Syria’s war against terrorism.

The United States relayed “regret” about the unintentional loss of life. The Danish defense minister said on Monday “more credible sources” were needed before he could draw conclusions. “I don’t want to explore different scenarios until we are certain, that we have even hit Syrian soldiers,” Minister of Defense Peter Christensen told local news agency Ritzau. “So far it’s only a Russian report. I think we need others and more credible sources, before I conclude anything.”

Going back to the ceasefire agreement that was triumphantly announced by John Kerry last Friday night in Geneva, Reuters notes that while the agreement has led to a significant reduction in fighting over the past week, violence has been increasing in recent days, and a planned delivery of humanitarian aid to besieged rebel-held districts of eastern Aleppo – one of the first steps in the deal – has been repeatedly postponed.

Plans to evacuate several hundred rebels from the last opposition-held district of Homs city have also overshadowed the agreement, with rebels saying it would amount to the government declaring the ceasefire over. The Homs governor said the plan had been postponed from Monday to Tuesday.

* * *

Making matters worse, the Russian General Staff said Monday that US-backed Syrian rebels have not separated from terrorists, but united with al-Nusra Front and are preparing for an offensive. According to the Russian military, the only parties adhering to the truce are Moscow and the Syrian government forces, while the United States and opposition groups it controls have not fulfilled a single obligation according to the Russia-US agreement, the General Staff said.

“The United States and so-called moderate opposition groups under its control have not fulfilled a single commitment taken on under the Geneva agreements. Above all, the moderate opposition has not been separated from al-Nusra Front [also known as Jabhat Fatah al Sham],” Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoy said at a briefing.

Syrian opposition forces violated the truce more than 300 times since the ceasefire came into force, killing 153 Syrian personnel and 63 civilians, the Russian General Staff said.

“In the provinces of Aleppo and Hama, opposition units used the ceasefire to regroup, get more ammunition and prepare for an offensive to capture more territories, while the Syrian troops have ceased combat operations,” Lt. Gen. Vladimir Savchenko said.

 

“The joint US-Russian statement on the cessation of hostilities in Syria reached on February 22, 2016 says that our states ‘will also work together…to delineate the territory held by Daesh, al-Nusra Front and other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council.’ Unfortunately, our US colleagues still have not made any real steps in this direction,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.

 

“In the past 24 hours alone, the number of shelling attacks by militant groups reached 53 episodes. The cessation of hostilities regime has been violated a total of 302 times since it came into effect. During this period, 63 civilians died and 252 were injured, Syrian armed forces lost 153 service members,” Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoy, the head of the Russian Chief of the General Staff’s Main Operational Directorate, said.

As a reminder, several months ago, in a loudly ridiculed development, the US said it would boost its support for the “moderate Syrian opposition” when it announced, rather comically, that it would sever its ties with the al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra front.

The Russian General Staff also added that it suspects the US of attempts to create such a situation in Syria to accuse Moscow and Damascus of disrupting the delivery of humanitarian aid. The issue of providing humanitarian access to besieged areas of Aleppo has also not been resolved, Rudskoy added, stressing that opposition fighters have failed to adhere to the agreement and to set up a checkpoint to allow aid convoys to pass through safely. “Armed groups under US control have not set up a checkpoint in the eastern part of the Castello road [north of Aleppo] and have not handed it over to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. Fighters, weapons and equipment have not been withdrawn from Castello.”

Meanwhile,  U.N. officials have blamed Damascus for blocking aid deliveries to other besieged, rebel-held areas.

Perhaps as a result of the deteriorating “deal” conditions, the Syrian army had yet to announce any extension of the seven-day ceasefire it declared on Sept. 12, which was due to expire at 11:59 p.m. (2059 GMT) on Sunday, according to the statement issued by the army command when the truce was announced.

* * *

As Reuters adds, the Syrian government and its allies have mostly focused their firepower on western areas of the country that are of greatest significance to Assad, including the main cities of Damascus, Homs, Hama, Latakia, Tartous and Aleppo.

The planned evacuation of several hundred rebels from the last opposition-held district of Homs, al-Waer, has also endangered the deal. Rebels said that plan would amount to the government declaring the truce over.

The Homs governor Talal Barazi said the evacuation had been postponed due to “logistical obstacles”, and negotiating committees were completing the preparations, state TV reported. He told journalists it would take place on Tuesday morning.  Barazi said on Sunday that between 250 to 300 rebels were due to be evacuated from Waer, on Monday. The opposition say such evacuations are part of a government strategy to forcibly displace its opponents after years of siege and bombardment. The government has been seeking to conclude local agreements with rebels in besieged areas to give them safe passage to the insurgent stronghold of Idlib in northwestern Syria.

In any case, absent some dramatic change in the negative sentiment to have emerged between the fighting factions and their proxy supporters, the deal appears to be largely finished. A collapse of the ceasefire, a major project of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, could doom any chance of the administration of President Barack Obama negotiating a breakthrough on Syria before it leaves office in January.

With Trump again surging in the polls, including key battleground states like Ohio, and having regained all the momentum from a suddenly slumping and vulnerable Hillary, the Democrats are panicking as her lead in the RealClearPolitics average has shrunk to just 1 points.

 

However, as the latest set of polls shows, the Donald is not the only thing Hillary’s campaign has to worry about as a new threat has emerged. Or rather two.

A new Quinnipiac University poll shows that is Clinton suffering thanks to third-party nominees Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, whose support has soared among millennial voters. In that poll, Clinton leads Trump by 48% to 43% in a two-way match-up. Her head to head lead is particularly pronounced among voters aged 18-34, who pick Clinton over Trump by a margin of 55% to 34%.

But when Johnson and Stein are included in the survey, Clinton’s lead over Trump falls to just 2%, or 41% to 39%, with Johnson at 13% and Stein at 4%.

 

This is the result of a steep drop-off of voters aged 18-34, who in a four-way race only give Clinton 31%. Johnson – who may not know what an Aleppo is, but sure knows what a tiebreaker may be – is in second among voters aged 18-34 with 29%, Trump third with 26% and Stein fourth with 15%.

A NYT/CBS News-New York Times poll released on Thursday morning showed a similar result, with libertarian Gary Johnson getting 26% of the support among Millennial voters, aged 18 to 29, and Stein nabbing 10%.

 

It remains to be seen if the recent surge in Millennial support for 3rd party candidates will stick. In an interview with Mic, Stu Rothenberg, a non-partisan political analyst, said that “we’ll have to see whether this is a function of voters in early September saying, ‘I’m going to vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein,’ or whether this is a true commitment to those candidates. It’s really easy to say you’re going to vote for a third-party candidate a week after Labor Day, but once you get to Oct. 15 and say my vote is going to determine who’s president, things could change.”

For now however, when shifting away from her core demographics of minorities such as Hispanics and Blacks, Hillary suddenly has a problem communicating with the one age group she was supposed to carry without much of a problem. Indeed, if millennial voters do drop off significantly, either voting third-party or not showing up at all, that could wound Clinton.  Younger voters were a primary voting bloc for President Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012.

While Trump has largely ignored America’s yougn adults, Clinton has made millennial outreach a core focus of her campaign, emphasizing her college affordability plan, promising student loan forgiveness, and dispatching Bernie Sanders, who galvanized millennial voters in the primaries.

“The way for Trump to win is relatively strong white turnout for Trump and lower turnout among Latinos, African-Americans and 18-29 year-olds for Clinton,” Rothenberg said.

Indeed, and if America’s Millennials have finally gotten disenchanted with Hillary, whether due to her conflicts of interest, her questionable honesty or even her health, then Trump’s victory may be much closer than many expect. For now, however, Hillary has a big problem, and how she addresses it could mean the difference between victory and defeat on November 8.

During last night’s “Commander in Chief” forum in which both presidential candidates laid out their views about the future of the US military, as well as the country’s defense and security, with both committing numerous gaffes, none appears to have gotten as much criticism as event moderator Matt Lauer. As the NYT reports this morning, “charged with overseeing a live prime-time forum with Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton, as a dry run of sorts for the coming presidential debates, Lauer found himself besieged on Wednesday evening by critics of all political stripes, who accused the anchor of unfairness, sloppiness and even sexism in his handling of the event.”

The reason for the anger, originating mostly on the left, is that having been granted 30 minutes with each candidate, Lauer devoted about a third of his time with Mrs. Clinton to questions about her use of a private email server, then seemed to rush through subsequent queries about weighty topics like domestic terror attacks.

The highlight of the event, and what set the stage from the beginning, was a question from Navy veteran Lt. John Lester who set the adversarial mood with a question about Hilllary reckless handling of classified material.

As a Naval flight officer I held the top secret sensitive compartmentalized information clearance. And that provided me access with materials and information highly sensitive to our war fighting capabilities. Had I communicated this information not following the prescribed protocols I would have been prosecuted and imprisoned. Secretary Clinton, how can you expect those such as myself who are and were trusted with America’s most sensitive information to have any confidence in your leadership as president when you clearly corrupted our national security.

Hillary used her fallback excuse that the documents were not marked as classified, one which she had reverted to previously when she explained she didn’t know what the “c” designation means. As reported yesterday, Julian Assange announced that Wikileaks has thousands of cables Hillary Clinton signed with a “c” that designated it as classified confidential, and suggested he would disclose proof that Hillary has lied.

Lauer was also lambasted when an Army veteran in the audience asked Mrs. Clinton to describe her plan to defeat the Islamic State, Mr. Lauer interjected before the candidate could begin her reply. “As briefly as you can,” he said, one of several moments where the anchor spoke over Mrs. Clinton to remind her that their time was running short.

The NBC host was then slammed for for not asking follow-up questions and letting Trump flip from previous statements he’s made. Reporters especially took issue with Lauer not pushing back on Trump’s claim that he has opposed the Iraq War from the start.

As the NYT adds, journalists and longtime political observers pounced. “How in the hell does Lauer not factcheck Trump lying about Iraq? This is embarrassingly bad,” wrote Tommy Vietor, a former aide to President Obama. Glenn Kessler, the chief fact checker at The Washington Post, posted a link to NBC’s check of Mr. Trump’s claim and wrote: “@MLauer should have been prepared to do this.”

“Lauer interrupted Clinton’s answers repeatedly to move on. Not once for Trump,” Norman Ornstein, the political commentator, wrote in a Twitter message, adding: “Tough to be a woman running for president.”

 Trump has maintained throughout his campaign that he never supported the Iraq War, although early interviews prove otherwise. Clinton, who went first during the NBC News event, charged that she and Trump both made a mistake in supporting the war in its beginnings. On social media, surrogates for Mrs. Clinton began mounting a sustained attack on the anchor. “Imagine if @NBCNews had done its job,” wrote Nick Merrill, her press secretary, on Twitter. Neera Tanden, a close Clinton ally, was even harsher: “I guess the good news is that Matt Lauer isn’t moderating an actual debate,” she wrote.

The criticism captured what has become a common complaint about media coverage during this election: that news organizations and interviewers treat Mrs. Clinton as a serious candidate worthy of tough questions, while Mr. Trump is sometimes handled more benignly.

Mr. Lauer did manage to extract several head-turning statements from Mr. Trump. He confronted Mr. Trump with a crass Twitter message from 2013 in which the future candidate suggested that sexual assaults in the military were a logical result of men and women serving together. “It is a correct tweet,” Mr. Trump said.

When Mr. Lauer asked if Mr. Trump actually believed he knew more about the Islamic State than American generals, the candidate replied: “The generals have been reduced to rubble.” When Mr. Lauer brought up Mr. Trump’s admiration for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, noting that Mr. Putin had invaded Ukraine and was suspected of hacking Democratic emails, Mr. Trump refused to say a negative word about him. “Do you want me to start naming some of the things that President Obama does?” Mr. Trump asked.

With the formal debates set to begin on Sept. 26, Lauer’s performance seemed to preview the troubles that television moderators could face in balancing fairness with accountability. Trump, with his Houdini-like ability to squirm out of direct answers, is a particularly tough subject for interviewers, who will be forced to determine on the fly when to interrupt with a prime-time fact-check. Chris Wallace, the Fox News anchor who will handle the third presidential debate, drew criticism this week when he said, “I don’t view my role as truth-squading.” Questions for Hillary, meanwhile, will be seen as politically charged if they touch on topics many outside the mainstream find as important, such as her health or her conduct relating to the FBI probe and/or her receipt of numerous funds from foreign sources such as Saudi Arabia.

However, the biggest reason why Lauer’s conduct was furiously slammed by the mainstream may be the outcome of the first quasi-debate, best captured by NBC itself.

Two days ago ITT was forced to shut down amid an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education which restricted new enrollees from acquiring federal student loans.  Now, with ITT’s 29,000 students stuck in limbo, many are asking what’s going to happen to their $500mm worth of outstanding student loans.  Well, like with everything else these days, taxpayers will likely have the “honor” of picking up the bill.   

As Bloomberg reports, the Education Department is “frantically trying to limit debt cancellations” though it likely has few options as federal student loan docs allow for loan forgiveness in the event an enrolled student’s school shuts down during their education and that student subsequently fails to enroll in a “comparable” institution.

 The Education Department is frantically trying to limit debt cancellations. Students who transfer even one ITT credit toward what the agency considers “comparable” programs at other schools and then complete their studies aren’t eligible to have their loans wiped. But federal regulations don’t clearly define “comparable”—giving the department the authority to reject borrowers’ pleas for forgiveness. The application borrowers must fill out is similarly vague.

All ITT students who don’t complete “comparable” programs elsewhere can apply for debt cancellations.

That said, the Education Department has expressed it’s view that current rules around student debt cancellation go too far in protecting taxpayers.  Apparently, forcing students to actually apply for debt forgiveness, rather than just offering it up, is too large a burden for their millennial souls to bear.  

The Education Department has proposed new regulations that call for the automatic cancellation of loans for borrowers who don’t re-enroll in college in the three years after their schools shut down—but for now, it still requires borrowers to apply formally. Its own forecasts estimate that a policy change to automatically cancel those students’ loans could cost taxpayers about $135 million a year; the proposal, which doesn’t require congressional approval, is pending.

Meanwhile, according to Bloomberg, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is actually encouraging students to stick it to taxpayers by canceling their debts before enrolling in a new institution.  She’s even holding workshops to help the young, millennial victims of ITT’s microaggressions to game the system.  Per Bloomberg:

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, whose own fraud lawsuit against ITT is still pending, is urging students to consider canceling their federal debt before deciding to transfer their credits, her spokeswoman Jillian Fennimore said. Her office will soon hold seminars to help them fill out the required paperwork.

But surely an attorney general wouldn’t blatantly suggest that students should force their debt upon taxpayers without at least trying to transfer their credits to another institution, right?  Well, we took a look at Healey’s website (here:  Website of the Attorney General of Massachusetts) and, sure enough, she has the following guidance for ITT students which warns against transferring credits.

If you are a current Massachusetts resident who meets the above
conditions, please complete the Massachusetts Attorney General’s ITT
Closed School Assistance Request Form below to get help applying for
loan forgiveness.

If you transfer your ITT Tech credits to
another school and complete your course of study, you will lose your
eligibility for a closed school discharge.

If that weren’t bad enough, an activist group, The Debt Collective, is trying to take Healey’s scheme one step further by organizing students at a number of for-profit institutions to petition the Education Department for a sweeping cancellation of student loans on the basis of deceptive recruiting techniques.

  The Debt Collective—the activist group behind last year’s “debt strike” by former Corinthian students who publicly refused to make payments on their federal loans—is trying to organize all former ITT students to help petition the Education Department to cancel their debts on the basis of what they’re calling the school’s deceptions.

It’s also trying to persuade former students at other for-profit colleges under investigation to use a legal provision that lets debtors have their federal loans canceled if they were misled into taking them on—relief for which records show hundreds of former ITT Tech students have already applied. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have collectively taken out more than $3.4 billion in federal student loans to attend ITT Tech over the last six academic years, according to federal data.

While we’re at it, we would like to suggest that taxpayers throw in a little extra cash to cover the pain and suffering endured by these poor students.  Guess we should also add “ITT” to the official list of trigger words.

What a mess! In the crazy Syrian war, US-backed and armed groups are fighting other US-backed rebel groups. How can this be?

It is so because the Obama White House had stirred up war in Syria but then lost control of the process. When the US has a strong president, he can usually keep the military and intelligence agencies on a tight leash.

But the Obama administration has had a weak secretary of defense and a bunch of lady strategists who are the worst military commanders since Louis XV, who put his mistress, Madame de Pompadour, in charge of French military forces during the Seven Year’s War. The French were routed by the Prussians. France’s foe, Frederick the Great of Prussia, named one of his dogs, ‘la Pompadour.’

As a result, the two arms of offensive US strategic power, the Pentagon and CIA, went separate ways in Syria. Growing competition between the US military and militarized CIA broke into the open in Syria.

 Fed up with the astounding incompetence of the White House, the US military launched and supported its own rebel groups in Syria, while CIA did the same.

Fighting soon after erupted in Syria and Iraq between the US-backed groups. US Special Forces joined the fighting in Syria, Iraq and most lately, Libya.

The well-publicized atrocities, like mass murders and decapitations, greatly embarrassed Washington, making it harder to portray their jihadi wildmen as liberators. The only thing exceptional about US policy in Syria was its astounding incompetence.

Few can keep track of the 1,000 groups of jihadis that keep changing their names and shifting alliances. Throw in Turkomans, Yzidis, Armenians, Nestorians, Druze, Circassians, Alawis, Assyrians and Palestinians. Oh yes, and the Alevis.

Meanwhile, ISIS was inflicting mayhem on Syria and Iraq. But who really is ISIS? A few thousand twenty-something hooligans with little knowledge of Islam but a burning desire to dynamite the existing order and a sharp media sense. The leadership of these turbaned anarchists appears to have formed in US prison camps in Afghanistan.

The US, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey armed and financed ISIS as a weapon to unleash on Syria, which was an ally of Iran that refused to take orders from the Western powers. The west bears heavy responsibility for the deaths of 450,000 Syrians, at least half the nation of 23 million becoming refugees, and destruction of this once lovely country.

At some point, ISIS shook off its western tutors and literally ran amok. But the US has not yet made a concerted attempt to crush ISIS because of its continuing usefulness in Syria and in the US, where ISIS has become the favorite whipping boy of politicians.

Next come the Kurds, an ancient Indo-European stateless people spread across Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. They have been denied a national state by the western powers since WWI. Kurdish rebels in Iraq have been armed and financed by Israel since the 1970’s.

When America’s Arab jihadists proved militarily feeble, the US turned to the Kurds, who are renowned fighters, arming and financing the Kurdish Syrian YPG which is part of the well-known PKK rebel group that fights Turkey.

I covered the Turkish-Kurdish conflict in eastern Anatolia in the 1980’s in which some 40,000 died.

Turkey is now again battling a rising wave of Kurdish attacks that caused the Turks to probe into northern Syria to prevent a link-up of advancing Kurdish rebel forces.

So, Turkey, a key American ally, is now battling CIA-backed Kurdish groups in Syria. Eighty percent of Turks believe the recent failed coup in Turkey was mounted by the US – not the White House, but by the Pentagon which has always been joined at the hip to Turkey’s military.

This major Turkish-Kurdish crisis was perfectly predictable, but the obtuse junior warriors of the Obama administration failed to grasp this point.

Now the Russians have entered the fray in an effort to prevent their ally, Bashar Assad, from being overthrow by western powers. Also perfectly predictable. Russia claimed to be bombing ISIS but in fact is targeting US-backed groups. Washington is outraged that the wicked Russians are doing in the Mideast what the US has done for decades.

The US and Russia now both claim to have killed a senior ISIS commander in an air strike. Their warplanes are dodging one another, creating a perfect scenario for a head-on clash at a time when neocons in the US are agitating for war with Russia.

Does anyone think poor, demolished Syria is worth the price? Hatred for the US is now seething in Turkey and across the Mideast. Hundreds of millions of US tax dollars have been wasted in this cruel, pointless war.

Roughly at the same time as China’s infamous snub of Obama‘s arrival at Hangzhou for the G-20 summit, when the G-20 host nation’s delegation first made sure there was no staircase for Obama to exit the plane and descend on the red carpet; forcing the president of the world’s most powerful nation to use an emergency exit…

… followed by a shouting match by a Chinese official who unleashed on the US Press corps and national security advisor Susan Rice, blocking them from crossing a blue rope holding back press and saying “This is our country. This is our airport”, Chinese officials had no such problems greeting Russian president Vladimir Putin with full honors, whose arrival – on the red carpet – took place without a glitch.

 The favor was returned: according to RT, Putin brought a box of Russian ice-cream as a gift to Chinese leader Xi Jinping:  “I promised you I’d bring some ice-cream,” Putin said. “I’ve brought for you a box of it as a gift.” Xi Jinping is a real fan of Russian ice-cream. “Thank you very much for the gift, for the tasty ice-cream. In my every trip to Russia I always ask to buy Russian ice-cream. And then, at home, we eat it,” the Chinese leader said.

“You have the best cream, and it makes it so tasty. I like it very much. Thank you for this courtesy,” he added.

* * *

Having brought no ice cream of his own, and his embarrassing arrival in China making front page news over the weekend, Obama quickly tried to talk down the embarrassing incident, saying the tensions were the result of different approaches to the media, as well as the sheer scale of the US operation when he travels, according to AFP. Obama pivoted away from the snub, instead accusing China of once again showing little respect for human rights: “Washington stands up for press freedom and human rights and – whatever the fallout – does not leave our values and ideals behind when we take these trips” he said.

“It can cause some friction. The seams are showing a little more than usual in terms of some of the negotiations and jostling that takes place behind the scenes,” Obama told reporters on Sunday.

The justification continued: “Part of it is we also have a much bigger footprint than a lot of other countries. And we’ve got a lot of planes, a lot of helicopters, a lot of cars, a lot of guys. You know, if you’re a host country, sometimes it may feel a little bit much.

Obama said it was not the first time Washington’s differences with Beijing had erupted during a visit, and that clashing values were also on display in his discussions with Xi.

Obama concluded by expressing hope the world would quickly move on and forget China’s snub of Obama on his last official visit to the country: “And so I wouldn’t over-crank the significance of it,” he said.

“None of this detracts from the broader scope of the relationship (with China),” he told a news conference. “The bilateral discussions that we had yesterday were extremely productive and continue to point to big areas of cooperation.”

* * *

Obama’s “explanation” aside, China took the initiative to continue piling its critisim of the US, when Chinese President Xi Jinping said at the open of a two-day G-20 summit that the global economy is being threatened by rising protectionism and risks from highly leveraged financial markets. He was referring to recent US trade war escalations, and Washington’s recent response to Chinese dumping with duties on cold-rolled steel as high as 522%. As for highly leveraged financial markets, pretty much anyone could be at fault there.

His warning on Sunday followed bilateral talks with Barack Obama that the U.S. president described as “extremely productive”, but which failed to bring both sides closer on thornier topics such as tensions in the South China Sea.

In addition to the previously leaked communique details, which as reorted last night will call for more fiscal and monetary stimulus, observers expect G20 leaders to mount a defense of free trade and globalization and warn against isolationism, eyeing Britain’s vote in June to exit the
European Union and before the U.S. presidential election in November. The global economy has arrived “at a crucial juncture”, Xi said, in the face of sluggish demand, volatile financial markets and feeble trade and investment.

“Growth drivers from the previous round of technological progress are gradually fading, while a new round of technological and industrial revolution has yet to gain momentum,” he said.

Xi also called on G20 countries to match their words with actions. “We should turn the G20 group into an action team, instead of a talk shop,” he said. Considering that the G-20 has been equated with the UN in terms of efficiency, we hope Xi isn’t holding his breath.

* * *

Meanwhile, some of the G20 leaders have begun drawing battle lines in disputes over issues ranging from trade and investment to tax policy and industrial overcapacity, suggesting there was far less smiling by world leaders going on behind the scenes.

According to Reuters, Xi held talks with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and told him he hoped Australia would continue to provide a fair, transparent and predictable policy environment for foreign investors. China was angered when Australia blocked the A$10 billion ($7.7 billion) sale of the country’s biggest energy grid to Chinese bidders last month.

China has accused Australia of bowing to protectionist sentiment in blocking the bid for Ausgrid, as well as an earlier one by a China-led consortium to buy cattle company Kidman & Co. Beijing has also criticized Australia, a staunch U.S. ally, for running surveillance flights over disputed islands in the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker shot back at China saying the G-20 host nation must set up a mechanism to address its problem of industrial overcapacity, adding it was “unacceptable” the European steel industry had lost so many jobs in recent years. “Overcapacity is a global problem but there is a particular Chinese element,” he told a news conference.

* * *

Britain’s future after its departure from the European Union was also subject to discussion. Obama reassured Prime Minister May that Britain’s closest political, commercial and military ally would stand by her, tentatively backing off his infamous line that Brexit would leave the UK “in the back of the queue.”  However, Obama did not shrink away from his stance that Brexit was a mistake and that London would not be able to jump the queue to arrange a bilateral trade deal.

Juncker said that if Britain wanted access to the European Union’s common market, it needed to respect the rules of the common market. Turnbull, meanwhile, said Australia wanted an early free trade agreement with Britain so markets could remain open between them when Britain formally left the European trading bloc.

* * *

Snubbed or not, Obama held talks with Xi on Saturday that ran late into the night focusing mostly on the recent geopolitical tensions surrounding the disputed islands. He urged Beijing to uphold its legal obligations in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, and stressed U.S. commitments to its regional allies. Xi responded by saying China would continue to safeguard its sovereignty and maritime rights in the South China Sea. But China is keen to keep the summit focused on economic issues and to prevent other disputes from overshadowing it.

According to a “fact sheet” on China-U.S. relations issued on Sunday, the two sides agreed on a range of issues, including avoiding competitive currency devaluations and not limiting deal opportunities for foreign information and communication technology providers.

Obama, in the last five months of his presidency, is using the visit to put a final stamp on his signature policy shift toward the Pacific, setting the tone for his White House successor, who will be elected in November and take office on Jan. 20. Judging by this weekend’s incidents, Chinese opinion of the highest US political institutions has never been lower.

Perhaps just as bizarre as the now infamous Obama snub, however, was China’s decision to convert parts of the city of Hangzhou, with its 9 million people, into a virtual ghost town as China sought to ensure that the G20 summit stays incident-free.