Saturday, 15 April 2017

Weekend Update 15/04/2017 President U-Turn! War?

To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the 'U-turn', I have only one thing to say: 'You turn [U-turn] if you want to. The lady's not for turning.' I say that not only to you but to our friends overseas and also to those who are not our friends.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. 1980.

President Trump is a million miles away from the days of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. “The Donald” in his April 2017 iteration seems to have at least one U-turn a day. And we are not quite yet into 100 days of his administration. But first this. Are we about to repeat the mistakes of 1914? Will President Trump restart the Korean War 2017 style, or are we looking at yet another U-turn next week?

China Warns of War Risk as Trump Rattles Saber at North Korea

Bloomberg News
China warned that a war on the Korean Peninsula would have devastating consequences as the U.S. threatened military retaliation against North Korea if it proceeds with a nuclear test this weekend.

As U.S. Vice President Mike Pence heads to Asia on a 10-day trip that will include South Korea, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged all parties “to stop provoking and threatening each other and not to make the situation irretrievable."

“Once a war really happens, the result will be nothing but losing all round and no one could become a winner,” Wang told reporters in Beijing on Friday, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

The world is watching North Korea as speculation mounts that Kim Jong Un’s regime will carry out a ballistic missile or nuclear test this weekend to mark the 105th birth anniversary of his grandfather Kim Il Sung, the nation’s founder, on Saturday.

A spokesman for North Korea’s military warned Friday that “the Trump administration’s serious military hysteria has reached a dangerous phase which can no longer be overlooked.”

While President Donald Trump’s administration is ratcheting up pressure on China to contain its neighbor and ally, the U.S. says it’s also willing to act on its own. Administration officials said Thursday it’s considering economic sanctions and military options if a provocation by North Korea occurs.

Pence will discuss the U.S. response when he visits South Korea and Japan as part of his Asian tour. He’ll arrive in Seoul on Easter Sunday, a day after North Korea’s biggest holiday. White House foreign policy aides who requested anonymity to discuss the vice president’s travel say North Korea has telegraphed the possibility of a test to coincide with the occasion.

Pence’s trip comes after Trump dispatched the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and its battle group to the waters around the Korean Peninsula. Commercial satellite imagery of North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site obtained by 38 North, a program devoted to analysis of the country at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, showed activity at the site suggestive of preparations for a nuclear test.

“North Korea is a problem,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday. “The problem will be taken care of.”

Any U.S. military strike risks leading to a war between the world’s biggest economies that would threaten to devastate South Korea and Japan, two American allies in striking range of retaliatory attacks. China has backed North Korea since the peninsula was last at war in the 1950s, in part to prevent having an American ally on its border.

The Chinese military dispatched 20 submarines in waters around the peninsula, Yonhap News reported Friday, citing Taiwanese media outlet CNA.

Below President Trump’s latest U-turn on China, although he left enough wiggle room to U-turn again later, should the popular media require it.

"It's no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then."

President Trump. With apologies to Lewis Carroll and Alice.

U.S. Treasury declines to label China a currency manipulator

Published: Apr 14, 2017 5:56 p.m. ET
China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Germany and Switzerland on Treasury’s ‘monitoring list’
The U.S. Treasury Department sharply criticized China’s exchange-rate policy on Friday, though it stopped short of labeling the Asian trade giant a currency manipulator.

“China has a long track record of engaging in persistent, large-scale, one-way foreign exchange intervention,” the Treasury Department said in its semiannual report on the foreign-exchange policies of major U.S. trade partners. Although Beijing has allowed the yuan to slowly appreciate in recent years and actively fought depreciation recently, its past interventions “imposed significant and long-lasting hardship on American workers and companies.”

“Treasury will be scrutinizing China’s trade and currency practices very closely, especially in light of the extremely sizable bilateral trade surplus that China has with the United States,” it added.

Earlier this week, U.S. President Donald Trump reversed course on a promise that he had made both on the campaign trail and from the White House: that he would designate China as violating international exchange-rate rules, pushing down the yuan to gain a competitive advantage.

The report has traditionally been used as a diplomatic tool to prod other countries whose currency policies were deemed a threat to U.S. industries. The latest report’s censure of China and other countries—including South Korea and Germany—could be used in the future as a pretext for new tariffs.

We end with more on United Airline’s spectacular crash. Sounds like it’s going to be costly for United Airlines, though probably not as costly as for the unfortunate Dr. Dao, who reportedly suffered a broken nose, two missing teeth, and the indignity of being roughly dragged along the floor of the airplane.

"It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

United Airlines apology. With apologies to Lewis Carroll and Alice.

United Broke Its Contract With Frequent Flyers

April 13, 2017 1:31 PM EDT By Noah Feldman
Most of the coverage of the United Airlines bumping debacle assumes something like, “United Airlines had a right to remove that flier. But should it have?” But a close reading of the fine print of the contract included in every ticket purchased from United Continental Holdings Inc. strongly suggests that United in fact breached its contract with passenger David Dao.

The contract allows the airline to deny boarding involuntarily in case of overbooking. But that’s not what happened; the airplane wasn’t oversold. And Dao wasn’t denied boarding. As far as we know, he was removed from a seat he had already taken after being assigned to it. The contract’s specific provisions for removing travelers or refusing to transport them don’t include the airline’s desire to free up seats, whether for its own employees, as in this case, or for other passengers.

----The coverage of the United incident seemed to suggest that the custom as I knew it was different from the written contract. That sent me to the actual contract of carriage, as it’s called.

And sure enough, the custom does seem to be reflected in the terms of the contract.

Rule 25(A)(2) of the contract applies to “oversold flights.” It says that “no one may be denied boarding against his/her will” until the airline asks for volunteers. Then, “if there are not enough volunteers, other Passengers may be denied boarding involuntarily in accordance with United Airlines’ boarding priority.”

The contract then explains what that priority order is. Unaccompanied minors and disabled people will be denied boarding last. As for the rest, the airline’s decision “may be determined based on a passenger’s fare class, itinerary, status of frequent flyer program membership, and the time in which the passenger presents him/herself for check-in without advanced seat assignment.”

Presumably this paragraph, with the highly loose language “may be determined,” was the basis on which United thought it could remove passengers.

But all this is about “oversold flights,” which are defined in the contract as “a flight where there are more passengers holding valid confirmed tickets that check-in for the flight within the prescribed check-in time than there are available seats.” That’s a grammatically poor definition, but it’s pretty clear that it doesn’t apply to a situation where the flight isn’t oversold, but the airline wants to add its own employees.

What’s more, this entire section of the contract is about denial of boarding -- which is legally different from “removal,” which is discussed in an entirely different section of the contract.

Rule 21 of the contract covers “refusal of transport” and includes involuntary removal of a passenger from a plane. It includes a wide variety of misdeeds, from the serious (deadly weapons) to the trivial (barefoot).
But nowhere does this section authorize removal or refusal to transport for no reason other than that the airline needs the seat.

To be clear, the fact that United seems to have breached its contract with Dao doesn’t mean its action was illegal, as the headline of this otherwise helpful article by a nonlawyer on a frequent traveler website suggests. There’s nothing illegal about breaching a contract. If you do so, you simply have to pay damages.  Dao’s lawyer, Thomas Demetrio, said Thursday that he is investigating possible claims against United.

Boycotting United Will Never Work. Here’s Why

Angry about what happened in Chicago? The airline monopoly leaves you with few choices.
by Lance Lambert 13 April 2017, 18:04 BST

A string of megamergers has given the four largest airlines a monopoly-like grip on U.S. air travel. Sure, everyone knows that—but did you know how tight that grip is and what it means for you as a customer?

A lot of people are thinking about that after Sunday’s violent treatment of a United Airlines passenger by Chicago airport security workers. Why would a business ever think it was OK to allow a paying customer to be assaulted so its own employee could take his seat?

Part of the reason may be that you, as a customer, don’t really have a practical alternative to punish the offending company. American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, and United now have 85 percent of the market, compared with 55 percent in 2007 1 . Like all monopolies, they have less pressure to improve customer service or fret about losing passengers. They’re certain you’ll be back. And it’s not just airlines: As of 2015, market concentration hit a three-decade high.

When David Dao was left bloodied with a broken nose and missing teeth after being dragged down the plane’s aisle, it was met with a public outcry for accountability and better service—and even a boycott. But the reality of America’s economy, where monopolies are part of the commercial fabric, makes that threat less than effective.

“If you are in Houston, good luck if you want to boycott United,” said John Kwoka, an economics professor at Northeastern University, referring to how the airline dominates that hub. “That’s called monopoly power, where you have little functional choice for your travel options.”

He added: “If you look at a lot of the routes these firms dominate ... sure enough, the prices have risen.”

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?”

President Trump. With apologies to Lewis Carroll and Alice.

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