Port Adelaide Power previous loss to Geelong Cats doesn’t matter, says coach Ken Hinkley


Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley is proud of his team’s achievement in finishing minor premiers and does not think the Power’s 60-point loss to Geelong five weeks ago is relevant to their upcoming finals meeting.

“We’ve got our opportunity to reset, go again and it doesn’t matter what happened five weeks ago, eight weeks ago or 30 weeks ago, it matters what happens from here on,” said Hinkley after Monday night’s impressive 16-point victory over Collingwood at the Gabba.

Port secured the minor premiership by beating Collingwood on Monday night.Credit:Getty Images

Hinkley said he was “proud of the boys and the way they played”. The win secured Power the minor premiership, set up a qualifying final against the Cats and consigned Collingwood to the unwelcome task of playing West Coast in Perth.

“It’s really significant. The boys deserve it. It’s a 30-week season. We’ve played for a long time and managed to protect it all the way through the year.”



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Trump says he doesn’t like what he’s heard of TikTok deal


President Donald Trump said he’s not happy with what he’s heard about the terms of Oracle’s bid for the Chinese-owned video app TikTok but added he won’t be briefed on details until Thursday morning.

“Just conceptually, I can tell you I don’t like that,” he said after a reporter told him that TikTok’s Chinese owner, Bytedance, would retain a majority of the company’s assets, with Oracle acquiring a minority stake.

“I’m not prepared to sign off on anything,” Trump said, adding that he needs to hear more details of the proposal.

Top Trump administration officials have raised concern that Oracle’s proposal for TikTok’s U.S. operations falls short of satisfying national-security concerns, according to people with the matter. Their position could sway whether the bid succeeds or fails, but Trump has the authority to approve or deny any deal.

The officials, including Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, worry that Bytedance could still access the data of around 100 million app users in the U.S. even if the transaction is approved.

Oracle would be responsible for storing user data in the U.S. under the proposed restructuring.

Oracle’s bid is still under consideration at the Committee for Foreign Investment in the U.S., or Cfius, which vets deals for national-security consideration. The panel, which includes the Departments of Treasury, State, Justice and other agencies, was set to meet Wednesday to discuss the potential sale, following a similar meeting on Tuesday.

TikTok has become a target for Trump as he seeks to punish China for the coronavirus pandemic ahead of the November presidential election. Trump has sought to play up his get-tough approach on China to contrast himself with Democratic challenger Joe Biden, who leads in the polls.

Trump spoke favorably of the Oracle proposal on Tuesday, saying that an agreement is “very close” and praising the company’s chairman and co-founder Larry Ellison as someone who has been “a terrific guy for a long time.”

Trump has repeatedly insisted that any sale of TikTok’s U.S. operations would have to include a substantial payment to the U.S. But on Wednesday, he told reporters that lawyers told him the U.S. has no authority to require that.

“Amazingly, I find that you’re not allowed to do that,” Trump said. “You’re not allowed to accept — I said, ‘What kind of a government — what kind of a thing is this?”’

More must-read tech coverage from Fortune:



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Belarus: Why Russian aid for Lukashenko doesn’t end crisis


Belarus has long been joined in a largely theoretical “union state” with Russia. The economic part of this linkage has enabled Alexander Lukashenko to maintain his grip as president of a quasi-Soviet paternalistic regime. 

Now, beyond the storm of protests over alleged fraud in Mr. Lukashenko’s reelection, an economic crisis is brewing, and Russia is growing weary of subsidizing Belarus.

Despite a meeting Monday between Mr. Lukashenko and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, a solution to a month of tumultuous protests appears no closer. There is no longer any doubt that Russia intends to back Mr. Lukashenko’s claim to legitimacy, after Mr. Putin promised him a lot of cash and political support. But without acknowledgment of the opposition in Belarus, many analysts say a resolution to the crisis will remain murky.

“We want to see relations between the Belarusian and Russian people continue to reflect the level of trust and friendship that exists,” says Valery Tsepkalo, a former Belarusian ambassador to the U.S., who would probably have been Mr. Lukashenko’s top contender in the election if he hadn’t been forced to leave the country in July. But “Lukashenko has already deceived everyone many times.”

Moscow; and Minsk, Belarus

Despite a four-hour-long, mostly secret meeting Monday between Belarus’ disputed president, Alexander Lukashenko, and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, a solution to Belarus’ month of tumultuous protests over alleged electoral fraud appears no closer.

But there is no longer the slightest doubt that Russia intends to back Mr. Lukashenko’s claim to legitimacy, after Mr. Putin promised him a lot of cash, political support, and other forms of assistance that remain unspecified.

While this may increase Mr. Putin’s leverage over Mr. Lukashenko, who has promised much to the Kremlin over the years while delivering little, Belarusian and Russian experts say that it does not solve the most glaring, immediate problem for both Russia and the Belarusian opposition: Mr. Lukashenko’s continued hold on power. Without an acknowledgment of the opposition, they say, a resolution to Belarus’ crisis will remain murky.

“What we have learned is that Putin will unambiguously back Lukashenko with money and political support. There were probably some other informal agreements made to strengthen the union state,” says Alexei Dzermont, a political analyst who heads Northern Eurasia, an independent think tank in Minsk. “There is nothing inherently bad in the relationship between Putin and Lukashenko. Any way out of our predicament would require Russian help. …

“But Russia might also have made some efforts to establish relations with the Belarusian opposition as well. They could do that. But in Moscow it seems they see the opposition as anti-Russian, and they don’t believe claims by opposition leaders that they are not.”

Russia’s involvement, EU’s absence

Mr. Putin publicly offered Mr. Lukashenko an immediate $1.5 billion lifeline to rescue his struggling economy from imminent collapse, reaffirmed Russia’s commitment to the ill-defined “union state” economic integration project, and vowed full allegiance to the NATO-like military alliance that binds Russia and Belarus. Mr. Putin vocally approved of Mr. Lukashenko’s road map out of the crisis, which involves rewriting Belarus’ constitution, holding a public referendum to adopt the new document and then, after some time, fresh elections for a new president and parliament.

The Kremlin leader denied Belarus’ opposition protesters what they most wanted – recognition of their grievances and support for their demand that Mr. Lukashenko depart immediately – but offered vague assurances that Russia wishes to see Belarusians resolve their own differences free of external interference. Perhaps as an olive branch to Belarusian protesters, he ordered the withdrawal from the Belarusian border of a “reserve unit” of Russian police that had been pledged to help restore order in the event of civic breakdown in the protest-hit country.

The Kremlin’s prominent role in resolving Belarus’ future highlights how dependent Belarus, with 9.5 million mostly Russian-speaking people, is upon the economic largess, political approval, and security weight of Russia. The cautious response of the West might also be an indicator of how much the world has changed in the past couple of decades.

Andrei Stasevich /BelTA/AP

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko steps down from his plane after arriving at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020.  He was visiting Sochi for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin a day after an estimated 150,000 protesters flooded the streets of the Belarusian capital.

Just six years ago the European Union offered full-throated support for Ukraine’s efforts to change its geopolitical allegiance, including EU association and massive financial assistance. Today, apparently more leery of getting directly involved, the EU declared Belarus’ Aug. 9 election invalid, sanctioned a few dozen top Belarusian officials, and will likely confine itself to verbal expressions of disapproval going forward. Only Lithuania has so far declared Mr. Lukashenko’s main opponent in the election, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, to be the country’s legitimate leader.

For her part, Ms Tsikhanouskaya, who was forced to flee to Lithuania last month, addressed Mr. Putin with the warning that any deals he strikes with Mr. Lukashenko will be regarded as illegal and added, “I regret that you have decided on dialogue with a dictator and not with the people of Belarus.”

Valery Tsepkalo, former Belarusian ambassador to the U.S. and a business leader, would probably have been Mr. Lukashenko’s top contender in the election if he hadn’t been barred from the ballot and forced to leave the country in July. He says that, given Mr. Lukashenko’s record of perfidy – including arresting 33 Russians and accusing them of subversion before the elections – Mr. Putin should know better than to make any agreements with him.

“We want to see relations between the Belarusian and Russian people continue to reflect the level of trust and friendship that exists,” he told the Monitor by phone. “Lukashenko has already deceived everyone many times, and can be expected to continue doing so … It’s important to recognize that he is not legitimate in the eyes of the Belarusian people.”

Russian financial aid to Mr. Lukashenko will only prop up his regime, he says. “The salaries of most state employees have already been delayed. Huge amounts of money are being paid to riot police and security forces. They are receiving big bonuses, and we can see that the redistribution of resources is aimed at rewarding those whom Lukashenko’s regime relies upon. …

“It seems to me that if Russia wants to be constructive, it should demand the release of political prisoners and the termination of criminal cases that were opened on absurd grounds,” he says. “As for the constitutional reforms, we need to discuss not just general terms but the nuts and bolts of the road map that Lukashenko is proposing. Otherwise it’s just empty talk that Lukashenko is giving to Belarusian society and the Russian leadership.”

Lukashenko’s limbo, and after

Belarus has been joined in a largely theoretical union state with Russia since before the Putin era. The economic part of that arrangement has enabled Mr. Lukashenko to maintain his quasi-Soviet paternalistic regime in which everyone gets fed, housed, and educated, but most development is frozen. Belarusians have watched over the past 20 years as neighboring Poland and Lithuania joined the EU and radically improved their lives. Meanwhile next door Russia underwent a different transformation under Mr. Putin that brought order and relative prosperity. To the south, Ukraine is still going through a concerted effort to detach itself from Russia’s sphere that some Belarusians find inspirational, and others view as cautionary.

“Lukashenko built his system on cheap Russian oil supplies, which were processed in Belarusian refineries and sold on to Europe. He, his family, and government profited from the margins,” says Oleg Sosna, a business leader in Belarus’ information technology sector. “Using the rhetoric of the union state, he received huge loans from Russia. Playing his ‘pendulum’ diplomacy [playing Russia against the West], he also negotiated big loans from the World Bank and the EU. … Over 40% of our exports go to Russia, including things that would not be competitive in the EU, like our agricultural production and the vehicles produced by the Minsk Automobile Plant.”

But Mr. Lukashenko’s economic model has been collapsing for some time. With global oil prices plunging and Russia growing weary of subsidizing his archaic system, an economic crisis has been creeping up. By many accounts, the Belarusian banking system is paralyzed, the ruble is sinking fast, and reforms are going to be necessary regardless of who is in charge.

The political trappings of the union state, which include a joint parliament and government agencies, have remained toothless talking-shops for almost two decades, and their only utility appears to be to provide sinecures for retiring politicians. The joke – or rumor, depending on who you ask – going around is that a special chair is being prepared for Mr. Lukashenko in that apparatus.

Polls in both countries show that majorities value good relations, but that enthusiasm for the union state has been falling, with almost half of Russians saying it’s not needed in a recent survey by the state-funded Russian Public Opinion Research Center.

“I understand that Russia wants the level of our relations to remain. And this is a legitimate concern,” says Mr. Tsepkalo. “We should maintain our relations with Russia, but we should also seek normal trade and investment relations with the West. We also need to build new values inside our society: the principle of the separation of powers, the right to choose our own leaders, civil liberties. I’m sure that Russians can understand this. We can’t develop just in one direction, we need several vectors.”

As Belarusian protesters continue to flood the streets, Russia holds many advantages in its efforts to maintain Belarus’ geopolitical allegiance, says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, a Moscow-based foreign policy journal. But it lacks the ability to inspire the youth and professionals who yearn for greater freedom and civil rights, and risks alienating them if it continues to support Mr. Lukashenko.

“Belarus is always going to be the object of geopolitical competition between East and West,” he says. “Just now there seems to be little appetite in the EU to get engaged with this crisis as they did in Ukraine a few years ago. That puts a damper on the hopes of pro-Western Belarusian liberals. But it doesn’t really help Russia. …

“Russia has money, and raw power, but no good ideas. For those Belarusians who are transfixed by the aspirations of nation, liberal values, or joining the global mainstream, Russia has nothing to offer.”



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The Canberra bubble now envelops South Australia … if you can get there, and if COVID-19 doesn’t burst it


Canberra resident Anita Hopf was overjoyed when she learned she could attend a family wedding she thought she would miss.

Most of Ms Hopf’s family live in South Australia, including her parents and her brother, who is about to marry.

Unable to travel there because of COVID-19 restrictions, she was preparing to watch a video stream of the wedding.

But then the South Australian Government announced on Tuesday it would open its borders to ACT residents.

“I’m ecstatic!” she told the ABC, while her son Blake chimed in: “Me, too!”

The celebration will not be perfect; another brother lives in Victoria and so won’t be allowed to attend.

But Ms Hopf said she had resigned herself to “a real disappointment”.

“When the news came through today, I was laughing — it was great.”

Her next step was to deal with “a bit of a conundrum in trying to find direct flights”.

So just who is allowed in to South Australia, and how can they get there?

If you live or work in Queanbeyan, bad luck

South Australian police are warning Canberrans not to try to drive across the border.(ABC News: Isadora Bogle)

The new policy, announced on Tuesday, extends only to Canberrans — not to New South Wales residents — and SA authorities do not want anyone travelling through NSW to cross their border.

So, as SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens put it, forget about trying to drive there.

“It’s simply not possible for us to be confident that a person driving between the ACT and South Australia has not had contact with members of the NSW community,” the police chief said.

Anyone who wants to visit SA must complete an online pre-approval form declaring they have not visited NSW or Victoria within 14 days of their intended arrival.

This means the SA border is closed to residents of Queanbeyan, Jerrabomberra and Murrumbateman, but also to Canberrans who visit those places to work, shop or play sport.

They must apply through a separate process and, if permitted entry, commit to isolating for 14 days once in Adelaide.

Commissioner Stevens said he was confident NSW’s situation would improve but it remained a higher risk than Canberra for now.

“The level of comfort we have with the ACT does not, at this point in time, translate to NSW.”

It will take a while for airlines to put more flights on

An empty airport passenger counter.
It could take weeks for airlines to increase flights between Canberra and Adelaide.(ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

Flying is only legal way Canberrans can get to South Australia, but it will not be as easy as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic, nor is it likely to be cheap.

Before March, there were 23 flights a week between Adelaide and Canberra, provided by Qantas and Virgin Australia.

Now there are just three, all with Qantas.

A return economy seat costs up to $1,200, even with heavy government subsidies, but pricing may change quickly.

Canberra Airport aviation head Michael Thomson said travellers could expect to see more flights within a week or two “at the longest”.

“They do need to coordinate schedules and routes but they can act fairly quickly.”

A Qantas spokeswoman told the ABC: “Now that border restrictions have been lifted, we’ll look to increase flights if there is higher demand.”

Virgin, which entered into administration during the pandemic, said in a statement it welcomed the border decision.

“We are reviewing our network schedule and will look to resume services between Canberra and Adelaide in due course,” it said.

Why is NSW banned if the ACT’s borders are open?

A car crosses the border into Canberra on a sunny day.
The ACT is hardly a fortress, nor are its borders with NSW closely watched.(ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

There are almost 70 different entry points by road into the ACT from NSW, and none are closely monitored.

So what will stop SA residents flying to Canberra as a backdoor means of visiting Sydney?

What will prevent Canberrans from travelling to the South Coast one weekend, then staying in the Barossa Valley the next?

Commissioner Stevens said he was relying on honesty — and the gentle threat of a fine.

“We are requiring people to make a declaration on their pre-approval [form] and we are expecting people to be honest in that declaration,” he said.

The immediate fine for such a breach would be $1,060, though a criminal prosecution in the SA courts is another option open to police.

When can Canberrans visit the rest of the country?

The short answer? No one knows.

However, the ACT’s political representatives hope the SA decision will jolt other states into rethinking whether Canberra belongs with pandemic hotspots like NSW and Victoria.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the ACT Government had been “working patiently and diplomatically behind the scenes to get this announcement [with SA]”.

The next step, he suggested, was resuming links with Tasmania.

“I’ll be in contact with Premier [Peter] Gutwein in Tasmania. I think they’re the next most likely. Queensland also in the coming months,” Mr Barr said.

“Western Australia, I suspect, will be a longer proposition.”

Zed Seselja, wearing glasses and a suit, sits at a desk in an office with sunlight pouring through the wooden blinds.
Zed Seselja says there are “no medical reasons” why Queensland should shut out Canberrans.(ABC News: Jake Evans)

ACT Liberal senator and Federal Minister Zed Seselja said he had been lobbying SA for a changed approach.

He said Queensland’s insistence the ACT was a coronavirus hotspot was unreasonable.

“There’re no medical reasons why Canberrans should not be able to travel,” he said.

“Given Queenslanders are open to some [Australians], I think it’s absolutely fair that they should now be open to Canberrans.”

However, SA’s police chief offered a reminder that all plans — including SA’s new border policy — were subject to change.

“This is not permanent revocation of the 14-day quarantine,” he warned of the relaxed rules for Canberrans.

“This is where we’re able to be at the moment.

“But people should understand that this is a pandemic.



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He Loves Pakistani Cricket. It Doesn’t Love Him Back.


LONDON — Wasim Khan has spent his life immersed in Pakistani cricket, even as he spent very little of that life in Pakistan. To his critics, that latter bit is precisely the problem.

Wasim Khan was hooked early. As the son of Pakistani immigrants to Britain, Khan grew up listening to his father, his uncles and his cousins talk passionately about cricket late into the night. They told tales of Pakistan’s cricketing superstars, of its stunning victories, and of the huge crowds that regularly packed the dusty stadiums a world away from the Khans’ home in the Small Heath section of Birmingham, the city that served as a magnet for the generations of migrants from South Asia in 1960s and ’70s.

Khan was, and is, a Pakistan cricket fan. He was even when he started to show his own talent for the sport, a talent with the bat that earned him a place in England’s under-19 team. Even when he became the first Briton of Pakistani heritage to sign a professional club cricket contract. And even later, when he was appointed to lead the Leicestershire County Cricket Club, becoming the first nonwhite chief executive of a major professional British sports team.

So when he was offered the opportunity to run Pakistan’s cricket board in 2018, Khan had no hesitation. The lure was personal, not just professional.

“Part of the appeal of going back to Pakistan was being with your own people, the whole understanding of the place, the feeling when you get up in the morning and you hear the call to prayer,” he said.

Now, 18 months after taking on the job, whatever romance Khan, 49, had about relocating to the land of his parents’ birth to take charge of a sport that is a national obsession has largely evaporated.

Since moving last year to Lahore, where the Pakistan Cricket Board is based, he has faced an unending torrent of criticism. For the changes he has instituted. For his European upbringing. For the languages he chooses to speak, and his accent in them when he does. But mostly, as he is reminded almost daily, for not being Pakistani enough, for being an “import” doing a job that should be reserved for a Pakistani.

“I don’t think anything prepared me for the hostility I was going to face,” Khan said. “They’ve put me on the back foot right from the word go.”

Khan detailed the daily outpouring of negativity during an interview last month. How a group of board members staged a walkout, followed by a news conference in which they attacked him as an outsider, almost as soon as he had been appointed last year. How his salary was leaked and is now subject to daily debate. And how rumors continue to persist that he was only appointed because of connections to influential political figures close to Pakistan’s cricket-hero-turned-prime-minister, Imran Khan.

To underline the point, he brandished his cellphone. “Look,” he said. “This just came out today.”

The screen loads a YouTube video in which another of Pakistan’s former star players, the ex-captain Javed Miandad, launches into a full-throated assault on the cricket board, and both Khans. (Wasim Khan is not related to Imran Khan.) The diatribe lasts several minutes. Dressed in a blue tunic and sitting in a chair, Miandad fires volley after volley, excoriating Khan, his former teammate, over changes to the cricket board, including the appointment of Wasim Khan.

“Is there a shortage of people in your own country that you had to bring people from abroad?” Miandad says, his voice rising until he is almost shouting. (Weeks later, Miandad apologized for his outburst.)

Being responsible for Pakistan cricket is unlike most other similar roles in professional sports. The scrutiny runs from the office of the prime minister, through the dozens of news channels featuring frothing ex-players and commentators with hours of airtime to fill, and down to streets teeming with children playing impromptu games, mimicking the swashbuckling batting or the fast bowling of their green-shirted national team heroes.

Then there is the daily reality of managing cricket in Pakistan, which has only recently started to host international teams after a decade-long exile forced upon it after militants attacked a visiting Sri Lankan team in 2009. Domestically, Khan has become the face of a major restructuring of the professional game, a streamlining that has eliminated several teams, cost hundreds of professional players their jobs and sparked protests in the streets.

“There is that emotional pull and he moved back to Pakistan, hoping it would be great,” said Osman Samiuddin, an author and journalist who has written a book about the history of cricket in Pakistan. “And then you get there and reality of situation hits you, and you think, ‘Oh damn, maybe I shouldn’t have done this.’”

Khan shook his head as he recalled the moment a group of board members walked out of a meeting after a motion to block his appointment was not heard. The moment was captured on television cameras as the men held an impromptu news conference to air their grievances. Khan recalled receiving a frantic call from his wife, Salma, who was in Lahore, hundreds of miles away, house hunting for the new family home.

“She rang me in tears, saying, ‘You’re on every TV station right now and it’s saying you’re not going to have a job anymore,’” Khan said. “I said, ‘Don’t worry, it will get sorted.’”

Instead, it has gotten worse. In many ways, the ceaseless criticism is a function of cricket’s centrality to life in Pakistan. But it is also based in the changes to the culture of the way the sport is managed in the country.

“Do you know what the word sifarish means?” Wasim Akram, once the world’s No. 1-ranked fast bowler, asked. He was referring to an Urdu word which suggests a mix of nepotism and favoritism, which he said has long been a function of cricket in Pakistan. Ex-players, relatives of ex-players and influential political figures had for decades benefited from a system that rewarded relationships over professional aptitude.

“We need someone like Wasim Khan to come as a neutral guy, as a person who comes in and sees things differently,” Akram said. His backing was a rare public endorsement for the cricket board chief and the changes he is pursuing. Many of Akram’s former teammates, like his former captain Miandad, typically line up to outdo one another in their criticism.

The demand for such content — the commentaries are broadcast daily on dozens of news channels but also countless personal YouTube channels — is partly explained by the fact that cricket’s popularity has no rival in a country with a population of more than 200 million. Its importance is perhaps best underlined by the central role afforded to the prime minister, whose official title of patron in chief to the cricket board belies its power.

And in Imran Khan, Pakistan has one the most storied cricket players of all time at the helm. Educated at the University of Oxford in Britain, Khan was already a household name well beyond Pakistan’s borders when he played a starring role in Pakistan’s greatest sporting triumph, captaining the team to the 1992 World Cup title.

Shortly after sweeping to power as Pakistan’s prime minister in August 2018, Khan set about overhauling the sport in which he made his name.

A club cricket structure that was dominated by so-called department teams — clubs run by some of Pakistan’s biggest businesses — was replaced by six regional teams, in an effort to create a cleaner pathway for talent to the national side and also build a fan base for the club game.

While Imran Khan, in his role as prime minister, is the guiding hand behind the change, Wasim Khan has been the face of it. That has made him a lightning rod for criticism, especially after the changes reduced the number of professionals by more than a half, and led to stories of former cricketers having to suddenly turn to driving taxis and even rickshaws to make a living.

Many have blamed Khan’s foreign origins for the plight of the players.

“Wasim Khan has been imported from England, he has never lived in Pakistan, doesn’t know about Pak cricket,” one of the chief executive’s biggest critics, Mirza Iqbal Baig, a broadcaster with huge social media following, wrote on Twitter.

Khan argues that in time, the new system will yield results. Besides, he said, he had little choice in the matter: the prime minister wanted the changes, and the country’s world rankings — seventh in Test cricket and sixth in one-day internationals — suggest the existing structure is not producing the results that the country and its tens of millions of fans crave.

“If you’re telling me the competitiveness of our structure works,” Khan said, “the stats don’t lie.”

The belief that he is right, though, does little to win over the critics, especially those — like Miandad and others — who reject his authority out of hand because of his British roots.

“He’s got the worst of both worlds,” said Samiuddin, the author. “He understands the country, speaks the language, but he’s not one of them. They’ll treat him like one of them, but never let him be completely in.”

Sitting in the corner of a mostly empty hotel restaurant in London, mulling over what has happened to him, the sadness and hurt that he has endured, Khan ruminated on a philosophical question that he thought he had resolved before trading his homeland for that of his parents.

“Where is home? That’s a good question,” he said. “I’ve been back here now three weeks and it’s been such a relief to be back and out of that caldron.”



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America Is Obsessed With Policing The Persian Gulf, It Doesn’t Have To Be


Here’s What You Need To Remember: As the keeper of the system of liberal maritime trade and commerce, the United States clearly has an interest in preserving freedom of the sea wherever it comes under threat. That does not mean the U.S. sea services—the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard—must take the forefront of every effort to uphold nautical freedom. If other nations, notably Arab states and oil-thirsty European states, have more compelling interests in staring down Iran, it only makes sense that they should bear primary responsibility for the effort.

That chronic pain gnawing at officialdom’s guts is bipartisan. Presidential administrations, Republican and Democratic alike, keep trying to draw down the U.S. military presence in the Middle East, the Persian Gulf region in particular, to attend to more pressing priorities. Back in 2012 the Obama administration vowed to “pivot” or “rebalance,” from the Middle East to the Pacific theater to counterbalance China. President Donald Trump and his lieutenants proclaim that an age of great-power competition is upon us. Like their Democratic forerunners, they have signaled their desire to reapportion finite U.S. diplomatic and military resources elsewhere around the Eurasian perimeter—say, to the South China Sea or Baltic Sea.

This is sound strategy. Strategy is about setting and enforcing priorities. Lesser priorities must yield to greater lest a competitor exhaust itself trying to do everything, everywhere. Not even superpowers are exempt from this iron law of world politics.

But if U.S. presidents prefer to compete against China and Russia, the Gulf region stubbornly refuses to let America and its allies leave. Iran is the foremost mischief-maker. Whether out of strategic calculation, ideological fervor, or plain orneriness, the clerics who govern the Islamic Republic appear bound and determined not to let the Great Satan vacate their backyard. Running feuds over nuclear-weapons development and economic sanctions, freedom of maritime movement through the Strait of Hormuz and its environs, and drone shootdowns rank among the headline-grabbing issues miring the United States in the Middle East. Seldom, of late, does a day pass without some bitter exchange between Tehran and the West.

Much of the action has transpired at sea or in the skies overhead. Not so long ago, USS Boxer, a light aircraft carrier designed for amphibious operations, shot down an Iranian drone that approached to within one thousand yards of the vessel—presumably along a menacing intercept course. The downing took place scant weeks after Iranian anti-aircraft artillerymen brought down an American drone flying along the Iranian seacoast.

Tehran has repeatedly pledged to close the Strait of Hormuz to surface traffic and has publicly toyed with the idea of charging ships a toll to traverse the narrow waterway. The leadership disclaimed responsibility for a recent spate of attacks on merchantmen in the Gulf of Oman, along the southern approaches to the Strait. This week, however, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN), the Iranian irregular naval force, seized a Panamanian-flagged tanker based in the United Arab Emirates. Spokesmen subsequently accused the crew of MT Riah of smuggling Iranian oil. The seizure came mere days after a British frigate shooed IRGCN vessels away from a British tanker transiting Gulf waters. In turn that encounter constituted Tehran’s reply to British actions in the Mediterranean Sea, where Royal Marines detained an Iranian supertanker allegedly bound for Syria in breach of European Union sanctions.

Tit for tat.

The U.S. Navy keeps potent forces on station in an effort to manage events in Middle Eastern waters and back diplomacy with steel. Task forces centered on Boxer and the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln are currently operating in the region under the aegis of the Bahrain-based U.S. Fifth Fleet, the U.S. Central Command’s naval arm. That’s a sizable fraction of U.S. naval power for a theater Washington longs to demote on its strategic agenda. Bear in mind that on a good day the navy has just four nuclear-powered flattops like Lincoln (of eleven in the inventory) fully ready for action along with three amphibious carriers like Boxer (of eight total). The remainder are working up for combat duty, recovering from extended deployments, or undergoing maintenance or overhauls.

That means two of seven naval-aviation hulls are executing duties in or around the Gulf while five are entrusted with the rest of the globe. Tehran, it seems, has managed to entangle the world’s leading superpower in a theater it would like to be quit of; done so at low cost by employing light naval forces; exacted a high price from the superpower for the privilege of remaining in that unloved theater; and siphoned away resources the superpower needs for strategic competition in more crucial theaters. Small wonder deputy Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Admiral Ali Fadavi crows that when foreign ships “enter the Persian Gulf they say among themselves, ‘we just entered hell.’ And whenever they exit the Persian Gulf, they say, ‘we went out of hell.’”

Hell indeed in strategic terms. Whether the Iranian military could defeat U.S. or allied task forces is an open question. It is beyond question that Tehran can impose heavy opportunity costs on Washington. It’s already doing so. After all, every gray hull facing down the IRGCN or regular Iranian Navy is a gray hull not facing down Chinese or Russian fleets or pursuing other worthwhile endeavors such as training, scraping rust, or relaxing in home port.

The Islamic Republic and Britain may be squabbling at the moment, but Iranian strategy exhibits a strikingly British flair. Britain during the age of sail, that is. In 1808 the Royal Navy landed an expeditionary army on the Iberian Peninsula, Napoleonic France’s western flank. Having swept the French and Spanish navies from the sea at Trafalgar in 1805, Britain’s navy could mount amphibious operations in European rimlands with near-impunity. Beneficiaries of logistical support from the sea, groundpounders commanded by Sir Arthur Wellesley—later elevated to duke of Wellington—battled French forces in concert with Portuguese and Spanish partisans. This hybrid campaign bled France for the next six years. So successful was Wellington’s venture that allied forces ultimately broke into France and helped compel Napoleon to abdicate.

Overseers of the Peninsular War had no particular strategic or political goal in mind when they conceived the campaign. They simply allotted Wellington a humble 50,000-man army and a supporting Royal Navy fleet. They bade the expeditionary force go forth and make trouble for the little emperor in a theater he wished would remain quiet and undemanding in manpower terms. So impactful was the British strategy that Napoleon joked sardonically about his “Spanish Ulcer.” It inflicted less-than-fatal but constant nagging pain, distracted attention and energy from more important affairs, and drained resources that should have gone into the main fighting theater to France’s east. Best of all from the allies’ standpoint, it accomplished all of this at a bargain-basement price.

The peninsular campaign returned gains disproportionate to the investment—the hallmark of effective strategy. It was what naval historian Julian Corbett, channeling Carl von Clausewitz, called a “war by contingent.” Normally policymakers set strategic goals for an enterprise, allocate martial means sufficient to achieve those goals, and measure progress toward them, adjusting the effort when necessary. War by contingent is not a goal-driven strategy; it is a resource-driven strategy. Policymakers supply a force they can spare without placing more crucial theaters in jeopardy—Corbett terms it a “disposal force”—and order that force into the field to sap enemy resources and resolve as its commanders think best. This is not a war-winning approach in itself. But a disposal force, artfully handled, can enfeeble the foe in the main combat theater. A token force becomes a difference-maker in the larger struggle.

Iranian strategy echoes Wellington’s strategy but adds a twist, or rather several of them. First of all, Tehran can wage war by contingent on the cheap. Nearby seas, not some distant shore, constitute the scene of strife. Iranian military folk can project power seaward using light forces such as land-based missiles and aircraft and speedboats toting guns or missiles. Unlike Wellington’s host in 1808-1814, they need not command the sea before staging a war by contingent. They can cause problems from home territory even though the U.S. Navy and its allies rule the waves. Such measures keep hostile navies on edge while driving up the price of oil and gas as Tehran deems fit. Insurance rates for shippers go up when shipping comes under threat. Markets likewise tend to spike. The new costs are passed on to consumers, who may bring pressure on elected leaders to soften their line vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic. Political and strategic advantage accrues.

Second, the mullahs need not fret that pursuing a war by contingent will place more critical theaters at risk. Managing Iran’s marine near abroad is the ruling regime’s top priority. That is the same setting where its war by contingent unfolds. Ultimately Iranian rulers, unlike Bonaparte, have no decisive theater of action. At most they can hope their opponents will tire of ceaseless struggle and strike an accommodation on Iranian terms—or go away altogether. While that narrows Tehran’s options for seeking victory, it also simplifies operations: the disposal force is the main Iranian force. Commanders and their political masters can dispatch as much or as little of that force as they choose on any given day—and thus dial up or down the effects of their war by contingent as circumstances warrant. Such an enterprise uncoupled from a main effort somewhere else doesn’t add up to a war-winning strategy. It is an excellent strategy for harnessing meager resources if mischief-making represents the goal.



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Endangered bee doesn’t warrant ‘critical habitat’




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Trump says he doesn’t want his supporters to confront left-wing protesters


President Trump condemned the violence in Democratic-run cities, telling “The Ingraham Angle” Monday night it should be handled by law enforcement.

When host Laura Ingraham asked the president if he wanted his supporters to confront the left-wing protesters, Trump responded, “Oh, I don’t want them to.”

“Leave it to law enforcement,” he said.

TRUMP SUGGESTS ‘SOME VERY STUPID RICH PEOPLE’ ARE FUNDING PROTEST GROUPS, RIOTERS AT RNC AND ACROSS US

“But my supporters are wonderful, hardworking, tremendous people,” Trump said, “and they turn on the television set and they look at a Portland or they look at a Kenosha before I got involved and stopped it.”

CNN’S DON LEMON PRAISES BIDEN AFTER URGING HIM TO CONDEMN RIOTS: HE PUT TRUMP ‘ON HIS HEELS’

Trump slammed Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler as “incompetent” after the Democrat blamed Trump for the violent confrontation that led to the killing of a Patriot Prayer supporter in the Oregon city over the weekend.

“I’ve offered to send in the National Guard. I’ve offered to send in anybody they want,” Trump said. “I could put that [unrest] out in 45 minutes and it would stop. And I think the people of Portland and the people of Oregon, I know it’s a liberal state — considered liberal — they’re tired of it. They’re tired of having, of living with this curse.”

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Trump also responded to Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who called on the president to scrap his planned trip to Kenosha to inspect the damage from rioting that followed the Aug. 23 police shooting of Jacob Blake.

“[I’m going] because I am a tremendous fan of law enforcement and I want to thank the law enforcement. They’ve done a good job,” he said. “And when the governor says that I shouldn’t come or he’d prefer that I not come, I’m the one that called him and said, ‘Tony, you got to bring out the National Guard.’ [And he said] ‘Well, I don’t really want to do it.'”



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Remote learning doesn’t have to be awful. Here’s what works


This story is part of Fast Company‘s Reinventing Education package. As millions of students begin school during a deadly pandemic and global recession, we’re highlighting the ongoing efforts to keep children safe in the classroom, educate them remotely, and help their parents manage a new second shift. Click here to read the whole series.


In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, Gina Ruffcorn spent about an hour wearing a fake mustache in front of her classroom.

Ruffcorn, who teaches 5th grade at West Harrison Community School in Iowa, realized early on that remote learning would have to be a bit more stimulating than typical classroom lessons. Mustache Day was among the many tricks she reached for.

“If you’re needing to engage kids in an online setting, you’re going to really have to go with that extra little piece that you might not have to do if they’re right in front of you,” she says.

That bit of advice applies to more than just visual gimmickry. As schools reluctantly return to remote learning this fall—or implement hybrid models where students spend some of their weekdays at home—they’re scrambling to avoid a repeat of the clumsy Zoom calls, messy curricula, and technological glitches that made the spring so draining. That means they’ll need to learn from teachers like Ruffcorn, who was a strong proponent of technology in the classroom for years before the pandemic began.

While there’s no magic solution that can replace in-person instruction—and no one-size-fits-all approach that will work for every student and age group—remote learning overall doesn’t have to be a terrible substitute. Here’s what remote learning experts and grade school teachers say are the best ways to make it more tolerable in the fall.

Keep video calls short (and activities shorter)

If “Zoom fatigue” is a problem for parents, it’s an even bigger one for kids, who have shorter attention spans and plenty of distractions outside of the screen.

Erin Girard, a teacher for the live online class service Outschool who also instructs other teachers on how to use the platform, says schools should avoid the trap of trying to replicate the patterns of a physical classroom. Instead, individual video sessions shouldn’t last more than 30 minutes for children in second grade or younger, or more than an hour for middle schoolers. And within that timeframe, teachers should think about switching up their lessons or activities more frequently than they normally would. (Think three to five minutes per “mini lesson” for young kids, versus 10 to 15 minutes in the real world.)

“Kids aren’t used to sitting on a Zoom call for 30 minutes, and so there needs to be time where they go and do another activity, and maybe meet again,” she says.

Simplify the instructions

In lieu of keeping kids on video calls for hours, schools will have to give students lots of activities to complete on their own. Those might include quizzes in Kahoot, interactive lessons on Nearpod, video recordings through Flipgrid, learning activities on Seesaw, or offline assignments such as handwriting. The problem—as any parent who’s been buried under a list of assignment links knows—is that managing these activities can get overwhelming.

Aimee Copple, a second grade teacher in Edmond, Oklahoma, says her school is trying to make its instructions as simple as possible so that kids can follow them. Using Canvas, the school has created sections for each day of the week, all of which contain buttons that link directly to an activity for every subject. Teachers also provide audio instructions that students can listen to if they get stuck. While some teachers gripe about Canvas, and it crashed for one school in North Carolina minutes into the first day of classes, Copple says she likes the way her school has set it up.

“It’s good to give [students] a lot of information, but there has to be a middle ground between one button—you can only click here and go to this—and here’s 57 buttons that’ll take you to all the different places,” Copple says.

Check in often

When they are giving live instructions, teachers will have to do more than just lecture. Interaction is essential for keeping students engaged, and digital tools like Nearpod and Kahoot can help. By having students visit these websites side-by-side with videoconferencing services like Zoom—usually in a separate browser window or tab—teachers can inject polls, questions, and puzzles into their lessons.

[Screenshot: Nearpod]

“Think about your own experience as a student,” says Jennie Kristofferson, Nearpod’s chief academic officer. “When a teacher talked at you for 15 minutes and never checked in with you, what was that experience like? Tiresome. So what we want to do is make sure we have those intermittent check-in moments.”

While the idea of regular check-ins are hardly unique to online learning, digital tools do have some advantages. If teachers poll their class to see how they’re feeling, they might get responses from students who otherwise might be shy about speaking up in person. And if they quiz the class in the middle of a lesson, they can instantly see all the answers and adjust their teaching in real time.

“[We’re] using a lot of data to do formative assessment on the fly,” says Sean D’Arcy, Kahoot’s senior vice president of marketing. “A teacher can actually go through what the difficult questions were with the class to reteach or reinforce what was correct.”

Let students socialize

Remote learning is never going to replace every element of being in the classroom. Gina Ruffcorn, the 5th grade teacher in Iowa, notes that even something as simple as a dispute over shared pencils is the kind of teachable moment that online learning can’t replicate.

Still, there are tools teachers can use to help their students feel more connected. Nearpod, for instance, offers a feature called Collaborate Board that Kristofferson describes as “social media-like,” letting students answer teachers’ questions and “Like” each others’ comments. She also points to Microsoft’s Flipgrid as a way for students to make videos for one another in a moderated environment.

“Can it completely replace that physical interaction? Absolutely not, but I think there are things you can do,” she says.

[Screenshot: Kahoot]

Kahoot, meanwhile, argues that its quiz games are inherently social, as they encourage students to compete with one another. It’s also beta testing “study leagues” in which students can tackle quizzes together, and the company encourages teachers to have students create their own quizzes for one another.

“Being a social learning platform, we feel very strongly that this is as important as math,” Kahoot’s D’Arcy says.

Teach the tech, too

Whether they’re reopening in-person or not, schools would be wise to orient students—and their parents—for remote learning. Ruffcorn says she’ll be taking some time to teach basic computing concepts like copying, pasting, and screenshots to her students even though her district is planning to have all classes in person. Aimee Copple, the 2nd grade teacher in Oklahoma, says she’ll be demonstrating Canvas in the classroom so students know how to use it on the three days per week that they’re at home. The district will also provide parents with tutorials and troubleshooting steps.

You don’t want to shift where everything only works with distance learning.”

Jennie Kristofferson

“Just in case we have to go back to 100% online, I’ll feel better about it if I know that I’ve given my kids a solid basis for how to deal with a situation and what to expect,” Ruffcorn says.

Schools might also want to view digital tools as something they can use even after classrooms reopen. Companies like Kahoot, Nearpod, and Seesaw were pitching themselves to teachers long before the pandemic began and that’s not going to change after it’s over.

“You don’t want to shift where everything only works with distance learning,” Nearpod’s Kristofferson says. “That’s a lot of time, energy, and expense for something that can only be used for one use case.”

Lessons from higher ed

K-12 schools might also be able to draw some lessons from academia, which is also grappling with how to teach students remotely.

2U, a company that designs online education programs for universities, advocates for giving students a “sense of place” even if they’re not on campus, says Nate Greeno, 2U’s senior vice president of university relations. That might involve a cultural studies class that teaches students about the school’s history, or areas outside the classroom—a shared Slack channel, bulletin boards, or student-run Zoom sessions—where students can interact.


More from Fast Company‘s “Reinventing Education” Series:


“We’re very active in creating cocurricular learning spaces—so outside of the classroom, but within the ecosystem of the online campus,” he says.

2U is also a proponent of simulating as much of the classroom experience as possible in an asynchronous way. For example, instructors will record lectures for their students, but then break those lectures up with questions that students must answer to progress further, sort of like a taped version of the Socratic method. Instructors can then use the data from those sessions to inform the Zoom calls (or, if possible, in-person lessons) that they eventually give in real time.

“You’re getting this dialog that’s happening in the asynchronous environment, all in service of a very active live session,” Greeno says.

The same sort of transformation has to happen in K-12, otherwise you’ll have a mess there as well.”

Nate Greeno

Within those live classes, Greeno also suggests making extensive use of breakout sessions instead of just holding one big lecture. Teachers can then hop between sessions to see how students are interacting. While teachers might often turn to small groups in-person, they can be “a super-effective paradigm shift in a digital environment,” he says.

While some of these concepts might be harder to pull off in K-12, Greeno believes the same learning principles would apply to any age group. It’s not hard to imagine a taped lesson with interactive questions or frequent small group discussions translating well to grade school instruction.

“Our movement with institutions is really to help them get way beyond remote learning into quality digital learning,” he says. “And I think the same sort of transformation has to happen in K-12, otherwise you’ll have a mess there as well.”

Teachers teach, parents parent

One thing that probably won’t change from last spring: Parents are going to feel a lot of pressure to act like teachers themselves, doling out assignments and keeping their kids on task. Gina Ruffcorn says parents weren’t meant to be teachers, and encourages them not expect too much of themselves in what is clearly a difficult situation for everyone.

“The teachers will teach, I promise, in whatever format we need to. We will do it,” Ruffcorn says. “Just parent your kids, spend time with your kids, and be a little easier on yourself.”





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