Author Archives: tvman

Irish Nun Shows Off Silky Soccer Skills In Heavenly Kickabout With Cop

This nun?s smooth soccer skills are simply divine.

A sister from the Dominican order enjoyed a glorious kickabout with a local cop in Limerick, southwest Ireland, last weekend.

Video shows Garda O?Connell, from the Henry St. Community Policing Unit, playing a game of ?keepy uppy,? juggling a soccer ball, with the unidentified nun.

Without using their hands, they each try to keep the ball off the ground.

Ireland?s police force, An Garda Síochána, shared footage of the unlikely pairing to its Facebook page on Wednesday.

?Well what can we say, this definitely isn?t something you see everyday,? the force wrote. ?We?re not sure who won this time, a rematch will have to be scheduled.?

We can?t wait!

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GOP Senator: ‘I Don’t See A Comprehensive Health Care Plan This Year’

WASHINGTON ? Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) doesn?t think the Republican-controlled Congress is going to succeed in passing a health care bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act this year. 

Speaking to local TV station WXII 12 News, Burr said, ?I don?t see a comprehensive health care plan this year.?

?It?s unlikely that we will get a health care deal, which means that most of my time has been spent trying to figure out solutions to Iowa losing all of its insurers, to Tennessee potentially losing theirs,? Burr said. He was referring to states where struggling insurers have withdrawn or threatened to withdraw, potentially leaving consumers with no options for buying subsidized coverage. Iowa, for example, is down to one insurer for most of the state ? and that insurer has warned it may have to pull out.

He added that the health care bill passed by the House about a month ago is ?not a good plan? and was ?dead on arrival? in the Senate, which plans to craft its own version.

Pressed by the reporter that President Donald Trump wouldn?t be happy about the Senate ignoring the House bill, Burr said the issue was ?too important to get wrong.?

Burr isn?t alone in his skepticism. A number of Senate Republicans have voiced concern about the process the upper chamber has followed in crafting its version of the bill: private meetings, no hearings and little input from experts. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said last week that he wasn?t even sure how his Republican conference would get enough votes to pass an Obamacare repeal and replace bill. 

?I don?t know how we get to 50 [votes] at the moment,? he told Reuters.  

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters last week thhe expects to send a bill to the president by the time Congress leaves for its monthlong August recess. 

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Stephen Colbert Leads 360-Degree Tour Of His Studio For The Superfans

Stephen Colbert has become a very popular late-night host. Just last month, the comedian officially won the ratings battle between the various late shows, besting the Jimmys in an upset.

Most of this new audience has come for the Donald Trump jokes, which Colbert has made his current specialty.

As such, YouTube clips from ?The Late Show? often gain a large viewership when he makes fun of the current president. But his latest viral video actually doesn?t have a single mention of Trump.

In a segment aimed at the Colbert superfans ? of which there are apparently many ? ?The Late Show? host gave a somewhat ?Birdman?-style tour of the program?s backstage. As a 360-degree camera followed him through rooms and dark corridors, Colbert eventually ran out to host an actual show.

Watch once to follow Colbert. Watch again to see all the different angles of where ?The Late Show? sausage gets made.

Colbert is an informative tour guide in the video, as he relays trivia about different elements of the Ed Sullivan Theater where his show is filmed. It?s not exactly clear whether Colbert is making up some of the facts, but his stories of elephants and a trap door are entertaining nonetheless.

At the end of the tour, Colbert goes though the motions of what is apparently his pre-show ritual. He pops a mint in his mouth (for the guests? sake) and pumps himself up in front of a mirror.

The mirror moment is oddly reminiscent of the final scene of the original ?Twin Peaks,? involving Agent Dale Cooper. This is particularly strange, as multiple people online have brought up that Colbert and Cooper share some resemblance. Perhaps there?s something mystical Colbert isn?t telling us.

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High Schoolers Are Celebrating The End Of School With Epic Paper Tosses

Teens are making it rain literal paper to celebrate the end of the school year.

A bunch of videos of a students throwing their notes, essays, and folders from the year have been making the rounds on Twitter and they are EPIC.

Some schools do the paper toss as a last-day tradition or a graduating senior-specific activity. 

One toss, at Basha High School in Chandler, Arizona, was caught from two different angles and ended with students ?surfing? down the paper-coated stairs.  

Basha senior Jordan White has over 30,000 retweets on his video and spoke to an ABC 15 about the toss:

?People came with the boxes, suitcases filled, all sorts of things filled with paper and just dumped it out,? he told the outlet. ?There was such a thick coating of paper that you could just slide right down the stairs, it was wild.? 

At White?s high school, the toss is tradition and students pitch in to clean it all up afterward so custodians don?t get stuck with all that irritating grunt work. 

?It?s all recycled, there was lots of concern if it was recycled or not, but it?s all recycled,? White added.

Happy graduation, y?all.

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Who Will Take America’s Place In Asia?

Goodbye Pacific Pivot, Hello Pacific Retreat
Cross-posted with

Asia has been the future for more than a generation.

When Americans try to glimpse what?s to come, images of the Pacific Rim flood the imagination. For movie audiences in 1982, the rain-soaked Los Angeles of Blade Runner looked like downtown Tokyo. By 2014, the City of Angels in the Spike Jonze film Her had more of a Shanghai vibe. This upcoming October, with the release of Blade Runner 2049, Los Angeles will likely resemble Seoul.

Off-screen as well, Asia has been almost as good as a time machine. When I was coming of age, it was the place to go for anyone hankering for the next big thing. After college, a number of my classmates traveled to Japan to strike gold teaching English. Today, recent grads are more likely to visit the big cities of South Korea and China, or head further south to Singapore and Malaysia. They all come back, as I did in 2001 after three years in Asia, with stories of the future: bullet trains, otherworldly urban landscapes, the latest electronic gizmos.

So, it?s not surprising that when foreign policy elites think about what will replace a U.S. superpower in relative decline ? speculation that has grown more feverish in the Trump era ? they, too, look East. But no longer to Japan, which is passé, or South Korea, which has also perhaps peaked. Instead, they tremble before China, which has already surpassed the United States in gross economic output, while steadily enhancing its military capabilities. It seems like the only country remotely capable of challenging the United States as the world?s sole superpower.

The anxiety of declining U.S. influence became so intense during the Obama years that the notion of a Group of Two (G2) gained considerable currency: if we can?t beat ?em, went the thinking at the time, then maybe we should join ?em. However seriously intended such a proposal to co-rule the world with China might have been, the Obama administration never followed up beyond agreements on climate change and bilateral investment.

The victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 elections has only deepened anxiety over China?s ascendance among Washington?s policymakers and pundits.

Ambitious and impatient, Beijing decided to strike out on its own. It has unveiled a twenty-first-century, industrial-strength version of the post-World War II Marshall Plan with which the U.S. once put a devastated Europe back on its feet.  China?s vision, however, focuses on the building up of all the countries on its periphery and some even further afield, as it tries to draw the whole Eurasian continent into its sphere of influence. Although it?s expected to provide an estimated $1 trillion to more than 60 countries, this ?One Belt, One Road? plan is anything but a charity mission. It will direct a major influx of resources to Chinese construction companies, bring minerals and energy to Chinese factories, and promise a better potential return on investment than U.S. treasury bonds. Some infrastructure projects will also allay security concerns, like the energy pipelines to be built through Myanmar that will bypass the watery bottleneck of the Malacca Straits where a determined adversary could potentially shut off 80% of Beijing?s oil imports.

The victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 elections has only deepened anxiety over China?s ascendance among Washington?s policymakers and pundits. During his campaign, Trump frightened both the neocons and more conventional militarists with his talk of avoiding military entanglements overseas. As president, he has pledged to boost military spending but seems to have no idea of how to use all the Pentagon?s new toys other than to bomb the stuffing out of the militants of the Islamic State.

Nor does Trump care a whit about the soft power the United States has traditionally used to cultivate international support. For instance, Washington had long promoted international financial institutions and free trade agreements, but Trump has railed against the ?false song of globalism.? China, meanwhile, is positioning itself to become the new overlord of global capitalism, even going so far as to set up a parallel international financial system to realize its vision. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which began operations in January 2016 without the support of the United States or the European Union, will function like the World Bank in providing financing for China?s various building projects abroad. Whereas Beijing controls less than 5% of the votes at the World Bank, it commands 28% of the shares in the AIIB. Although still a small operation compared to China?s commercial banks, it will be quite capable of scaling up if the opportunity arises.

The showdown between Beijing and Washington is unlikely to play out exactly as the Chinese hope and Americans fear.

The contrast between Beijing and Washington has become even sharper around climate change. Trump?s denial of global warming ? he once labeled it a Chinese ?hoax? ? has whetted the Beijing leadership?s appetite for global influence. As one of its top climate change negotiators said shortly after Trump won the November election, ?China?s influence and voice are likely to increase in global climate governance, which will then spill over into other areas of global governance and increase China?s global standing, power, and leadership.?

All of this is part of a larger trend of power flowing from West to East. In 2010, North America and Western Europe were responsible for 40% of the global gross national product. By 2050, that share, the Economist Intelligence Unit estimates, will fall to 21%, with Asia?s share rising to a commanding 48.1%.

But don?t rush out to begin that crash course in Mandarin and exchange your dollars for yuan quite yet. The showdown between Beijing and Washington is unlikely to play out exactly as the Chinese hope and Americans fear.

The Decline of the United States

On a visit to Beijing in October 2016, in the presence of the Chinese leadership, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared, ?America has lost now. I?ve realigned myself in your ideological flow.? He went on to imagine a new axis of Russia, China, and the Philippines arrayed against the arrogance of American power.

Talk about shockers. The Philippines has traditionally been a cornerstone of U.S. influence in Asia, a place for Washington to station troops, dock ships, and, in the post-9/11 era, send military advisors to help suppress a Muslim insurgency. Moreover, Manila had gone toe to toe with Beijing over disputed islands in the South China Sea, even submitting its case to an international tribunal for arbitration. But that was before Duterte became president in May 2016 and labeled President Obama, who took a dim view of Duterte?s gruesome record of extrajudicial killings, a ?son of a whore.?

The apparent defection of the Philippines was the coup de grâce for one of the Obama administration?s most heralded foreign policy efforts aimed at staving off American decline. In October 2011, just before the Arab Spring broke out, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton authored an article in Foreign Policy laying out what would become known as the ?Pacific pivot.? The United States, at the time, was fitfully trying to extricate itself from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thanks to imports from Mexico and Canada, as well as investments in shale fracking and sustainable energy, Washington was no longer quite so dependent on Middle Eastern oil. The Obama administration felt that it might finally put the failures of the Bush years behind it and turn to new horizons.

The Pacific pivot should have been called the Willie Sutton policy. When Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he replied, ?That?s where the money is.? So, too, with Asia. It contains four of the top 11 economies in the world: China?s, Japan?s, India?s, and South Korea?s. With the United States focused on losing bets in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen, China has been cornering this rich Asian market. By now, it has become the leading trading partner for South Korea, Japan, Australia, and virtually all of Southeast Asia.

To recapture its edge in the region, the Obama administration promoted a free trade compact known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). U.S. negotiators managed to achieve the near-impossible by getting a dozen disparate countries on the same page while leaving China out of the picture. But Congress proved, at best, lukewarm on the deal. And sentiment among the American public ran even colder ? so cold, in fact, that one of its chief architects, Hillary Clinton, fearing that the trade agreement might take her presidential bid down in flames, came out against it in 2016. Withdrawing from the TPP would, of course, be one of Donald Trump?s first acts as president.

The United States, in fact, faces more than just an economic challenge in Asia. Washington had long considered the Pacific to be an ?American lake.? It currently has 375,000 military and civilian personnel stationed within the Pacific Command?s ambit and devotes roughly half its naval capacity to Pacific waters. It maintains treaty alliances with Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines, as well as dozens of military bases in the region. But China, after more than a decade of double-digit increases in military spending, has begun pushing back against American pretensions to be the only Pacific power around. It has developed new weapons to deny the U.S. military access to its coastal waters and has come to excel at cyberwarfare, vacuuming up huge amounts of confidential data by hacking into U.S. government agencies. Meanwhile, in the world of spy versus spy, China has managed to plug leaks on its end by jailing or killing more than a dozen U.S. intelligence assets.

Even before the ascension of Donald Trump, the Pentagon?s effort to pivot eastward had come up short. For all its overwhelming military edge, Washington has increasingly found itself unable to dictate outcomes through force anywhere in the Greater Middle East. The rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and turmoil in Yemen and Libya have all continued to bedevil the U.S. military.

In the meantime, the Obama administration made some token rearrangements of its forces in the Pacific, sold some high-tech weaponry to its allies in the region, and threw some brush-back pitches at Beijing. But in the end, as with so many of Obama?s initiatives, the Pacific pivot proved largely aspirational.  The U.S. never really pivoted out of the Greater Middle East. 

As a presidential candidate, Trump was content to bluster about Chinese threats, even as he also threatened to withdraw the U.S. nuclear umbrella from both Tokyo and Seoul. He demanded that U.S. allies pony up more money for American help and protection, while offering no new ways of anchoring the United States in the Pacific.

[Asia] contains four of the top 11 economies in the world… China has been cornering this rich Asian market.

Now in the Oval Office, Trump has sent mixed signals. He?s repaired relations with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, but he?s also been pushing a major rise in the Pentagon budget. And what country would be the target of those additional tens of billions of dollars in military spending? The U.S. Navy certainly doesn?t need a 350-ship force to counter the Islamic State. Trump has welcomed the election of South Korea?s new president, Moon Jae-in, but also insists that he wants to renegotiate ?bad? trade and security deals with South Korea. He has tried to bully North Korea, but has also held out the possibility of meeting personally with that ?pretty smart cookie,? Kim Jong-un.

Thanks to his erratic pronouncements, even though it?s early in Trump?s term, American influence in the region is already dropping as inexorably as the president?s approval ratings at home. Add to this mix a president who only wants big wins but doesn?t see the likelihood of that happening in Asia and you have the definition of decline.

That decline has, in recent years, often been calculated in terms of approaching horizons: when North Korean missiles can reach the West Coast; when China?s military spending pulls closer to the Pentagon?s; when Japan and South Korea, like the Philippines, begin to reconsider their allegiances. Now, in the Trump era, add one more item to the list: when Asia faces an incompetent, corrupt, and self-defeating administration in Washington.

The way seems clear enough for China, the strongest country in Asia, to fill the potential vacuum.  But, as they say, the best-laid plans oft do go astray.

The Weakness of Asia

Japan is the incredible shrinking country. Between 2010 and 2015, the population of America?s most steadfast ally in the Pacific dropped by a million people to just over 127 million. As a result of a strikingly low fertility rate and negligible immigration, there could, according to official projections, be only 85-95 million Japanese by 2050. By 2135, after living in a fossilized society, the last Japanese, at the age of 118, could breathe his or her final breath. This worst-case scenario, as spelled out by former trade negotiator Clyde Prestowitz in his recent book Japan Restored, is perhaps far-fetched, but Japan is nevertheless on a path toward what looks like national seppuku: ritual suicide by attrition.

Ah, well, that?s Japan, you might think. It?s been in a fiscal funk since its economic bubble burst back in 1990. But the rise, stagnation, and shrinkage of that country remains a cautionary tale for all the other lands that have followed its path of export-led and state-facilitated growth.

After all, South Korea has entered its own period of diminished economic expectations, with anemic growth, widening inequality, and pervasive corporate corruption. Young South Koreans, facing the prospect of unemployment or poorly compensated contract labor, refer to their country as ?Hell Choson,? a play on the Choson dynasty that ruled from 1392 to 1897. Taiwan, another member of the ?flying geese of industrialization? responsible for Asia?s tremendous economic growth, faces a strikingly similar set of problems, according to economist Frank Hsiao, including ?low and stagnating wage rates, increasing income inequality, the hollowing out of domestic industries, and languishing exports.?

Some of the shine is even wearing off China?s economic miracle. The days of annual double-digit growth in its gross national product are long past.  Officials are happy now if they can cite growth figures closer to 7% (and even those are believed to be overstated). The Chinese labor force has been contracting since 2012. Strikes and labor protests increased dramatically in 2016, while unrest continues in China?s westernmost provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet. The government?s official anti-corruption campaign, despite netting some highly placed individuals, has only driven the corrupt into more discrete forms of graft.

Meanwhile, it?s not only Japan that faces a demographic crisis. The fertility rates of both Taiwan (1.12) and South Korea (1.25) are even lower than Japan?s (1.41), while China?s (1.6) is only a bit higher. None of them is close to the replacement rate of 2.1. Approaching 2050, all four countries will have to dig deep to pay the retirement benefits and healthcare costs of all the industrious workers currently outperforming their counterparts elsewhere in the world. What was once called ?Japan passing? ? investors skipping that country in search of better opportunities elsewhere in the region ? is already morphing into ?China passing.? Financial flows are also going to be affected by the rising waters of climate change, which, later in the century, will threaten major cities like Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

Predicting the coming supremacy of the East has been a veritable cottage industry in the West, and its stock is still rising as China?s One Belt, One Road venture, meant to tie the vast Eurasian continent together, goes head to head with Trump?s ?my way or the highway.? The future, however, promises to be far messier than China or its boosters imagine. Demographics, corruption, and reduced economic growth ? not to mention environmental degradation and the declining legitimacy of its ruling party?s ideology ? are by no means the only problems that Beijing faces.

Asia?s New Nationalism

The United States once billed itself as the antidote to nationalism in Asia. After World War II, it established a permanent military presence across the region to prevent the resurgence of Japanese militarism. It portrayed itself as a neutral party, with no territorial ambitions. It restored the island of Okinawa to Japan in 1972. It refused to take sides in several island disputes in the region. In this way, its liberal internationalism squared off against the illiberal Communisms of China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

Both these supranational ideologies, which flourished in the region during the Cold War, have entered hospice care in the twenty-first century. Communism has functionally disappeared from the region, replaced by nationalisms of varying degrees of intensity.  Xi Jinping?s China and Kim Jong-un?s North Korea are hardly the only places where nationalism has taken root.

In Japan, for instance, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is busy trying to rebuild the very militarism that the United States once professed to despise. A succession of U.S. administrations has aided and abetted this right-wing nationalist effort to dispense with the country?s post-World War II ?peace constitution? and push the Japanese Self-Defense Forces onto the offensive.

Nationalist leaders, meanwhile, have assumed power throughout Southeast Asia: the murderous president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte; the former military commander, now prime minister of Thailand, Prayuth Chan-ocha; and the corrupt Najib Razak, prime minister of Malaysia. Even more ominously, nationalism has taken hold in South Asia, particularly in India, which recently replaced Great Britain as the world?s sixth largest economy and where Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made Hindu exceptionalism the heart and soul of his ruling party.

One obvious result of this rising nationalism has been escalating arms imports across the region. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, India became the world?s largest arms importer in 2012-2016. During that period, Southeast Asia?s arms imports rose by more than 6%, with Vietnam jumping to 10th place globally. In 2012, for the first time, Asia surpassed Europe in overall military spending.

Both the nationalist rhetoric and those weapons imports are certainly linked to regional perceptions of the waxing and waning of great powers. To reinforce their claims to the South China Sea and several other disputed territories, countries in the region feel the need to arm themselves in the face of a newly aggressive China and a perennially distracted United States.

At the moment, those two countries are cooperating in one key area: pouring money into the kind of military hardware that could someday lead to a catastrophic showdown.  This reality has led ever more foreign policy analysts to invoke the ?Thucydides trap,? in which a rising power like Athens (read: China) takes on the hitherto dominant power Sparta (read: America) in a long, debilitating conflict like the Peloponnesian War (read: World War III).

But the conflicts in Asia may, in fact, shape up quite differently. Movements for greater self-determination are undercutting the reach of both the rising and the reigning superpower. Consider the contrasting examples of Myanmar and South Korea.

China is the largest investor in Myanmar, and at one time the two countries were as thick as thieves. But relations between them have grown tense. In 2011, the new civilian-led government in Myanmar stopped work on the Myitsone dam, one of a number of mega-projects financed by Beijing. ?Plenty of Burmese blame China for helping to prop up the military junta,? writes journalist Tom Miller in his new book, China?s Asian Dream. Newly enfranchised, the Burmese have taken aim at projects like Myitsone, where 90% of the electricity generated would have gone to China. Myanmar?s leader Aung San Suu Kyi must now decide between permanently mothballing the dam, which would require paying back the $800 million owed Chinese financiers, or going forward with a deeply unpopular project she previously opposed.  

The example of Myanmar is not unique. Sri Lanka has recently swung away from China and back toward India. Filipino President Duterte has recently edged back toward a United States led by Donald Trump, who has praised the Philippine leader?s drug war (despite its massive human rights violations). Vietnam is perennially suspicious of China?s geopolitical intentions, but anti-Chinese sentiment has also been building in Laos, Indonesia, and Malaysia. One Belt, One Road might outstrip the Marshall Plan in size, but it lacks the underlying regional political solidarity that ensured the latter?s success.

And yet China is not alone in feeling a backlash in the region. In South Korea, for instance, a decade of conservative rule came to a crashing end with the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye on corruption charges, a hastily organized election, and the victory of progressive Moon Jae-in. The new South Korean leader is no firebrand, so don?t expect a dramatic break with Washington. South Korea has been subservient to the United States for too long to risk that any time soon. Moon has, however, promised to take another look at the missile defense system ? the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) ? that the United States worked so hard to deploy in South Korea before he took office. The new president also wants to mend fences with China, the country?s largest trading partner, and revive a more cooperative relationship with North Korea as well.

Meanwhile, in Japan, opposition from politicians, activists, and ordinary citizens in Okinawa has blocked a plan hammered out in Tokyo and Washington to close an old U.S. military base in the city of Futenma, only to build a replacement elsewhere on the island. Okinawa is where America houses a good deal of its Pacific firepower. The refusal of Okinawan inhabitants to support the construction of the new base has not only scrambled the Pacific plans of both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton but given new legitimacy to the idea of withdrawing U.S. forces from Japan and South Korea to a secondary tier of islands like Guam.

The growing willingness of Asian countries to put their own interests above those of their putative patrons has also made it more difficult for the region to find common ground. ?Asia is not remotely cohesive,? writes Jessica Mathews of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. ?There is no ?East? comparable to the ?West.? Though the region is integrating economically, it is riven by active conflicts, bitter historical memories, and deep cultural divisions.?

Past as Prologue?

If liberal internationalism no longer appeals to U.S. allies in Asia ? or, indeed, to the new leadership in Washington ? it might be easy enough to assume that the future will be a replay of the past: the return to a Sinocentric universe that prevailed for 1,000 years or more in the region. Instead of local satraps loaded with gifts visiting an emperor in Beijing, the leaders of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and the Philippines will build dams and ports and pipelines with Chinese money and then repatriate much of the proceeds to that country.

[D]espite all those dreams of Asia?s glittering future, it?s unlikely to resemble the peaceful prosperity of Europe, nor is it likely to see a continuation of U.S. hegemony…

As it happens, though, the intensification of nationalism in Asia has greatly complicated this picture and may leave leaders like Duterte playing Beijing off against Washington, or striking out on their own, or perhaps seeking help from India ? or even Saudi Arabia, which has made a bid for greater influence among Muslim-majority countries like Indonesia and Malaysia.  If the rise of China has caused much anxiety in the West, so has the possibility that no country will become dominant in Asia in the wake of U.S. decline and that a new kind of chaos will descend on the region.

?The idea of a multipolar world, without dominant powers and guided solely by the rule of law, is theoretically attractive,? Financial Times journalist Gideon Rachman writes in his recent book Easternization. But he adds, ?I fear that just such a multipolar world is already emerging and proving to be unstable and dangerous: the ?rules? are very hard to enforce without a dominant power in the background.?

For years, Asia has contemplated an alternative to both Chinese and American hegemony. Following the example of the European Union, politicians and scholars have imagined a future of economic and political integration. But the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and similar efforts continue to fall far short of the EU ideal (which itself looks increasingly shaky and fragmented).

In other words, despite all those dreams of Asia?s glittering future, it?s unlikely to resemble the peaceful prosperity of Europe, nor is it likely to see a continuation of U.S. hegemony or a repeat of the China-centered system of centuries past. It?s likely, however, to involve population decline, economic contraction, heightened nationalism, and rising waters ? a future, in short, filled with troubles and dangers of every sort.

Although Washington still commands considerable power in the region, it could stand back, Trump-like, and just watch everything unravel. Or, alongside Beijing, it could make a serious investment in a new organization of security and economic cooperation, in which the United States and China would be equal partners, the region could have its collective say, and the new nationalism would be deprived of its major raison d?être.

Without such a supranational vision that could bring the region together around the twin threats of climate change and economic inequality, one thing is essentially guaranteed.  The Asia to come won?t look shiny and new like some Hollywood movie.  The future may not look like Asia at all, but more like Europe circa 1913, at the edge of conflict and cataclysm.

John Feffer is the author of the new dystopian novel, Splinterlands (a Dispatch Books original with Haymarket Books), which Publishers Weekly hails as ?a chilling, thoughtful, and intuitive warning.? He is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies and a TomDispatch regular.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Dower?s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, as well as John Feffer?s dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse?s Next Time They?ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt?s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

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Mr. Met Loses It, Flips Off Fans After Game

The New York Mets issued an apology on Wednesday after Mr. Met flipped off fans following a 7-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Twitter user Tony T said he was ?reaching over for a high five? when the iconic mascot responded not with five fingers… but one:   

Mr. Met doesn?t have five fingers. He has four, so technically he cannot flip the middle one. But given the panache with which he delivered the gesture, he was certainly not inviting fans to step right up and greet the Mets. 

The team quickly apologized: 

Mr. Met may have just been expressing some frustration for a team that entered the season with high hopes then dropped to 23-28. The Mets have had to contend with a series of injuries as well as an incident in which star pitcher Matt Harvey was suspended for not showing up for a game earlier in May. (Harvey had been out late the night before and played golf in the morning.)  

The gesture went viral online and landed the mascot on the back page of the New York Daily News:  

The team said the person involved in the incident won?t be appearing as Mr. Met again, The Associated Press reported. On Twitter, fans were largely united behind the mascot: 

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Someone Hung A Black Teddy Bear By A Noose As A ‘Prank’ On A Black Principal

Someone at a Raleigh, North Carolina, high school thought it was a good idea to play a racist ?prank? on the school?s black principal.

On Tuesday morning, Wakefield High School students found a black teddy bear hanging by a noose on the side of the building. A sign reading ?Make Wakefield TRIPP again #smartlunch? was posted next to the bear, referencing the school?s former white principal who was replaced in 2015 and an hour-long lunch break that no longer is in place, students told ABC11.

The sign was quickly removed, but a Snapchat screenshot of the bear and sign was shared more than 5,000 times on Twitter. In a screenshot of a conversation with Twitter user Alexis Isabel, a student notes that the black bear is holding an empty liquor bottle in its hand. 

The principal, Malik Bazzell, said in a letter to the Wakefield High School community that the school?s stadium and baseball field were also vandalized. He said that the school is working with the Wake County Public School System to investigate and they will seek criminal charges.  

?Let me be clear: This was an offensive act that has no place in our school. The imagery is deeply offensive and everyone in our school community should be appalled,? he said.

?This act might have been done as part of an annual tradition of senior pranks,? he continued. ?It is in no way funny. It is not a prank.?

WCPSS sent a tweet in response to the online backlash.  

Students at the school aren?t taking this ?prank? lightly either. The school?s black student union said that this was a flat-out hate crime in a series of tweets. It also noted that vandals graffitied a swastika on school property in 2016. 

The group will hold a meeting on Wednesday for students to openly discuss the issue. Its vice president, India Card, told ABC11 that students shouldn?t have to deal with hate at school.

?We just want to make sure that people of color in Wake County can feel safe and be able to come to school and not have to worry about seeing a noose hanging from the ceiling,? Card said.

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Trump Buys Into Putin Plan To Melt The Arctic

WASHINGTON ?- The genius of Vladimir Putin is that he makes his aims crystal clear, as clear as a block of ice in the Arctic. 

Ice and cold have always defined and limited his vast country. For centuries the chief Russian geopolitical imperative was the search for ?warm-water? ports to its south. 

Now the grand aim is to allow global climate change to melt the Arctic and turn the water at the top of the world into a lucrative oil and gas field, as well as a network of efficient new sea lines Russia will control.

Putin, in essence, is gaining U.S. backing for his vision as his pal, President Donald Trump, signals that America will withdraw from the Paris Agreement on combating climate change.

The Russian leader has made no secret of his plan. In fact, he has proclaimed it from the literal rooftop of the world, most recently at a conference on the future of the Arctic region in March.

 ?Climate change brings in more favorable conditions and improves the economic potential of this region,? Putin said told CNBC while attending the International Arctic Forum in Arkhangelsk, Russia. ?Today, Russia?s GDP is the result of the economic activity of this region.?

Russia planted a flag on the floor of the Arctic Sea in 2007 and claimed most of it based on an extensive continental shelf beneath.

Exxon Mobil ? notwithstanding its official support for the Paris accord ? and Russia have extensive plans to drill in the Arctic. But so far even the Trump administration has been unwilling to lift sanctions on those projects imposed after Russia invaded the Ukraine.

But Russia has other places and other partners in the region, and is racing ahead with its drilling plans. And it is probably only a matter of time before Exxon Mobil and its allies get a sanctions rollback. 

The Russian military, meanwhile, is rapidly expanding land and sea forces in the Arctic region in what Putin hopes will be new short-cut routes to Europe.

?We see what the Russians are up to,? a top European diplomat in Washington told HuffPost in an interview, speaking on background to avoid confronting the administration by name. 

?It seems to us that President Trump wants Putin to succeed. Maybe we will get cheaper gasoline, but at what cost to the world??


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‘Game Of Thrones’ Reunion Pics Might Have Spoiled A Shocking Death

Over six seasons, we?ve seen the Stark family separated from one another, and sometimes from their own heads. We?ve seen them endure unspeakable hardships, such as weddings. Now, Entertainment Weekly has reunited the remaining Starks in a photo shoot ? the Final Four, if you will ? so you know a party is coming.

The photos of Sansa (Sophie Turner), Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Arya (Maisie Williams) may reveal another, more subtle reunion going on, too. One tiny detail seems to further support information about the upcoming Season 7 from a rumored leaker:

See anything funny? Can?t quite put your ?little? finger on it?

Look again at Arya.

The young assassin is apparently brandishing a new blade at her hip, and it may be a blade we?ve seen before.

Following the release of the images, Redditors noticed that Arya seems to be carrying Littlefinger?s Valyrian steel dagger. We?re pretty sure it?s the same knife because, as Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) says in the HBO show, there?s only one like it in all the Seven Kingdoms.

As BuzzFeed discovered, you can see better images of the dagger on A listing explains it?s ?officially licensed from HBO?s hit series ?Game of Thrones.??

Bran may recognize the dagger since a character known as the ?catspaw assassin? tried to use it to kill him in Season 1.

(Reunions can be awkward, too.) 

Redditor JustACookiecat recalls the journey of the dagger, saying that the last we know of it, it was in Littlefinger?s possession.

If all of this is true, and Arya does have Littlefinger?s dagger, it seems to support the rumor (based on information from a suspected leaker) that Arya will kill Littlefinger in Season 7, possibly at Sansa?s request.

Considering other, similar suspected plot leaks shared on Reddit forums have since found more supporting evidence, things are not looking good for Littlefinger.

After the Season 6 finale, Gillen told HuffPost his character likes ?heading into periods of uncertainty.?

Unfortunately for him, we?re fairly certain about his fate in Season 7. Deuces, bruh.

?Game of Thrones? Season 7 premieres July 16 on HBO.


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Donald Trump Reportedly Plans To Withdraw From Paris Climate Deal

President Donald Trump plans to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change, multiple outlets reported Wednesday. This would make the United States one of just three countries outside the historic pact to reduce planet-warming emissions.

Trump pledged during his campaign to ?cancel? the deal, but delayed a decision for months amid a split in the administration on the issue. But in recent weeks, the camp opposing the accord apparently convinced the president to abandon it ? despite few political advantages and harsh economic and diplomatic consequences.

Under the terms of the deal, the U.S. cannot officially withdraw until November 2019. But even an announcement that the country is looking to leave the deal shows that the White House has no plans to meet earlier targets for slashing greenhouse gas emissions.

That much was already clear. In March, Trump ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to review the Clean Power Plan, a sweeping regulation passed by former President Barack Obama to limit emissions from the utility sector, by far the country?s biggest emitter. The policy was already stayed by the Supreme Court in February 2016 as a result of a lawsuit filed by former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who is now Trump?s head of the EPA. Without the Clean Power Plan, the U.S. wouldn?t even come close to meeting its goals laid out in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Trump vowed to jumpstart the U.S. economy by eliminating environmental regulations he blamed for holding back companies. In particular, he positioned himself as a staunch advocate for fossil fuels, nixing climate change funding from his proposed budget and scrapping rules that discourage pollution and boost renewable energy. But, somewhat ironically, major oil, gas and coal companies ? along with a plethora of other big corporations ? urged Trump to keep the U.S. in the Paris Agreement.

Environmental groups have little legal recourse given that the Obama administration bypassed the Senate to ratify the deal, arguing it did not constitute a treaty. But the Trump administration is still required to regulate carbon dioxide emissions as a public health threat under a 2007 Supreme Court ruling. How it plans to fulfill that legal responsibility that is unclear.

Quitting the Paris Agreement strikes a major diplomatic blow to the U.S. Only war-torn Syria and Nicaragua, the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, are not included in the accord. Retreating from the agreement, which the U.S. took a lead role in brokering, brands the nation as a ?rogue country? and a ?climate pariah,? diplomats said. Without a seat at the table, the U.S. loses leverage over policy action on global warming, and cedes influence to rival superpower China, which has vowed to support poorer countries? efforts to adapt to climate change.

?Who cares?? Myron Ebell, a top climate change denier who led Trump?s EPA transition team, told HuffPost on Tuesday ahead of the announcement. ?If countries are moving in the wrong direction, I don?t think the leader of that movement has much to look forward to. It seems to me that President Trump has a chance to not only turn the direction of the country around but the direction of the world around. Good luck to China.?

Who cares? … It seems to me that President Trump has a chance to not only turn the direction of the country around but the direction of the world around.
Myron Ebell, a top climate change denier who led Trump?s EPA transition team

Yet few credible, peer-reviewed scientists believe manmade climate change isn?t a major problem, and a growing number of investors are already pouring money into transforming the energy economy.

The economic effects of leaving the Paris Agreement would likely be devastating. The U.S. is poised to lose access to fast-growing clean energy markets as Europe, India and China gain major footholds in an industry estimated to be worth $6 trillion by 2030. Countries that tax emissions could now put a tariff on American-made imports, complicating Trump?s plans to reclaim the U.S. mantle as a top manufacturing hub.

?It?s very clear that the energy economy is heading in a direction that, if you don?t engage with climate change, you?re going to miss out on a large number of jobs that have already emerged,? David Waskow, director of the World Resource Institute?s international climate program, told HuffPost before the announcement. ?Withdrawing and retreating would have very negative implications for the U.S. economically.?

It?s unclear what Trump gains politically from the withdrawal. The deal had overwhelming support. Sixty-one percent of Americans said the country should remain in the deal, while just 17 percent support withdrawing and 21 percent weren?t sure, according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted earlier this month. And more than 400 U.S. cities, 37 states, 800 universities and nearly half of all Fortune 500 companies have already set their own clean energy and emissions targets.

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After Denver Post Writer Out Following Racist Tweet, Site’s Former Exec Has Some Words

After a journalist?s racist tweet about the Japanese Indy 500 winner went viral this past weekend, a former colleague took to social media to sound off. 

Gil Asakawa, a former executive producer at The Denver Post?s website, recently responded to his old colleague Terry Frei?s remarks about racer Takuma Sato. Frei had written that he felt ?uncomfortable? the Japanese driver had won the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend. 

Though Frei deleted his tweet and is reportedly ?no longer an employee? at the Denver Post, he still received a great deal of backlash from a variety of social media users including Asakawa.

?I wonder what my former colleague Terry Frei thought about my running the website that featured his sports coverage?? Asakawa asked in his post on Sunday. ?Was he ?very uncomfortable? with me having power over his content??

In his post, Asakawa questioned whether Frei would?ve reacted the same way had a German or Italian driver won the race. And further addressing how Frei tied Memorial Day to his objection to the win, Asakawa also mentioned the service of the 442nd Infantry Regiment, one of the most decorated units in U.S. military history made up of all Japanese-Americans. 

?What was he thinking?? the Japanese-American writer said before calling the tweet a ?disgusting disappointment.? 

For Asakawa, his former colleague?s statements struck a nerve, as his father served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he told 9 News. He explained that his father was both ?all-American and also very Japanese,? however served the United States. He told the outlet that he wonders how Frei would?ve reacted to the Japanese-American veteran. 

Frei has issued a statement in an attempt to apologize, explaining that his actions were linked to a Sunday visit to his father?s grave at the Fort Logan National Cemetery. Frei said his father flew missions over Japanese targets during World War II. But Asakawa, whose dad is buried at the same cemetery, said he doesn?t buy Frei?s excuse. 

?It?s sad to keep that kind of hatred in your soul,? he told 9 News. ?My dad didn?t have any problems with Koreans, even though he fought Koreans.? 

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Alaska’s Erupting Bogoslof Volcano Triggers Highest Aviation Alert

Authorities issued the highest danger alert for aircraft after the Bogoslof Island volcano erupted in Alaska.

The eruption of the state?s most active volcano lasted for 55 minutes Sunday and sent a massive plume of ash up to 45,000 feet into the atmosphere. 

Planes flying between North America and Asia use the route above the volcano that?s in the Aleutian Islands chain as a key flight path, though there were no reports of problems with aircraft following this eruption.

Seismic activity on the island has been low since Sunday, but another eruption could occur at any time without warning, noted monitors at the Alaska Volcano Observatory

?Bogoslof Volcano remains at a heightened state of unrest and in an unpredictable condition,? said a statement from the observatory. ?Activity may ramp back up with additional explosions producing high-altitude volcanic clouds with little precursory activity.?

Monitors were tracking a cloud of white-gray ash from Sunday?s eruption that was drifting north. Authorities lowered the alert level later that day from red to orange.

Aircraft engines can suck in volcanic ash, which can melt and coat the mechanisms, ultimately leading to engine failure. A major eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland in April 2010 caused Europe?s largest air-traffic shutdown since World War II.

This current sequence of seismic activity of frequent eruptions and volcanic lightning started on Bogoslof in December 2016. There were 36 eruptions from January to March on the island, which is less than a half mile wide.

Bogoslof is in such a state of upheaval that scientists can?t place sensitive monitoring equipment on the island, which is home to bird species and sea lions.

Researchers have to rely on satellite images, flyovers and instruments on nearby volcanoes to monitor Bogoslof.

The volcano has been sporadically active for decades. The material it?s spewed out has tripled the size of the island since 2015.

Volcanic eruptions have in recent months significantly changed the coastline and appear to have split the island into segments.

There were some reports of a light ash dusting of Alaska?s Unalaska Island and the community of Dutch Harbor, some 63 miles southeast of the volcano, during an eruption in February.

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Kentucky Newspaper’s Windows Shattered Amid Rising Anti-Press Climate

The Lexington Herald-Leader is staying ?vigilant? after several of its windows were shattered Sunday morning, Editor Peter Baniak said Monday.

Police believe the damage is consistent with small-caliber bullet fire. No one was hurt in the incident, and authorities are investigating it as criminal mischief, the Herald-Leader reported.

?We need to keep doing what we do because it?s that important,? Baniak told HuffPost, adding that the paper?s staff ?can?t be deterred from doing the work that we do because of an act of vandalism.?

The motive of the perpetrator, or perpetrators, is still unknown. But Sunday?s crime occurred amid increasing anti-press rhetoric and even some violence against members of the media.

Montana Republican Greg Gianforte attacked journalist Ben Jacobs Wednesday before going on to win a Congressional election Thursday. Jacobs was the fourth reporter to either be manhandled or arrested in May for questioning candidates and public officials.

Baniak urged caution Monday against assuming the motive for Sunday?s crime. ?We at the Herald-Leader want to be cautious about speculating and we don?t want to connect the dots until there are dots to be connected,? he said. 

Still, Baniak told HuffPost that ?it is difficult not to be concerned given some of the rhetoric, both nationally and here in Kentucky.?

President Donald Trump, who ran the most anti-press presidential campaign in recent memory, has continued trying to delegitimize the press while in office. On Sunday he again took a page from Stalin in labeling the ?fake news? media as the ?enemy.?

In Kentucky, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin last week called journalists ?cicadas? as part of his ongoing feud with the press. 

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This Is What Heat Stroke Does To Your Body

Temperatures were in the 100s when Vanessa Dunn, a 29-year-old Los Angeles-based makeup artist, was driving back home to California from Virginia last summer. After hours on the road and drinking limited water, she was struck by a severe case of dehydration and heat stroke.

?I wasn?t drinking enough water because I didn?t want to stop to pee,? she says. When she finally pulled over for the night she felt light-headed, and she couldn?t keep food down when she tried to eat. She even threw up blood.

?I was in incredible pain, and dizzy,? she says. ?[I went] to the ER, turned out there was blood because my throat was so dry.?

Her story is not unusual. In 2014, more than 13,000 people visited the emergency room because of a heat-related illness such as heat stroke, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control. And on average, about 675 people die in the U.S. every year from heat-related illnesses.

Heat stroke is the most severe form of heat-related illness. It?s less common than other issues such as heat exhaustion (characterized by heavy sweating, weakness, cold, pale or clammy skin, fainting, a fast or weak pulse, and nausea or vomiting) or heat syncope (fainting). But heat stroke can happen quickly, to anyone, and can result in irreversible damage or death.

Heat stroke is an extreme elevation of your body temperature that occurs when your body stops being able to regulate itself, according to Dr. James Wantuck, chief medical officer at PlushCare, an online urgent care provider. ?If a fever is like an infection turning up your body?s thermostat, heat stroke is like a broken air conditioner,? he says.

Your body does an expert job of keeping its temperature around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit under normal circumstances. When you?re in a hot environment, your body will regulate its temperature by ?radiating heat into the air, driving your brain to find a cooler environment, and sweating to cause evaporation and cooling,? Wantuck says.

But, he adds, ?radiating heat and finding cooler air don?t work when the temperature is higher than your body temperature, and sweating doesn?t work when the humidity is higher than about 75 percent ? conditions that happen frequently in the summertime.?

That inability to cool down can cause a host of physiological events to occur. They include a raised heart rate, as the heart beats faster to eliminate heat in the body more quickly; inflammation resulting from heat-related cell damage; and the production of ?heat-shock? proteins, which try to protect your cells from heat damage.

If cell damage does occur, it can affect enzyme function.

?Without normal enzyme function, your body?s ability to make energy becomes broken, leading to effects similar to cyanide poisoning [such as] multi-organ failure,? Wantuck says. ?Your nervous system is the most sensitive to high heat, which is why confusion, incoordination and loss of consciousness are common symptoms of heat stroke.?

For anyone who you are worried may have heat stroke, getting them cooled and to an emergency room are the first priorities.
Dr. James Wantuck, chief medical officer at PlushCare

If you?re out in the sun or exercising on a hot day, look out for signs of heat stroke. They include: sweating profusely; feeling weak, lightheaded or confused; a rapid and strong pulse; headache; muscle and stomach cramps; flushed, pale, dry or clammy skin; or body temperature over 103 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or a friend, move to a cooler location immediately, remove excess clothing and try to cool down with cold cloths or even a cold bath.

?We recommend calling 911, and if they are young, placing the person into a water bath with ice,? Wantuck says. ?If they are older, [use] ice packs and [pour] cold water on them. [Keep cooling them] until the person starts shivering, or about 15-20 minutes, and their symptoms have gone away.?

?For anyone who you are worried may have heat stroke, getting them cooled and to an emergency room are the first priorities,? he says.

To prevent heat stroke, Wantuck recommends seeking air conditioning on hot days ? especially for older adults and those with medical conditions or taking medications that can disrupt that body?s ability to regulate its temperature. You should also stay hydrated, and avoid enclosed environments and layers of clothing.

For athletes of any stripe, Wantuck says to remove excess equipment (where possible), take frequent breaks and gradually build up a tolerance to heat.

For Dunn, having heat stroke was an eye-opener. ?It was a really scary experience,? she says. She urges everyone she knows to stay hydrated on hot days. ?I hope no one goes through [heat stroke].?

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