Friday, February 3, 2023

Last Call For Balloon Fight

The spotting of a high-altitude balloon over the U.S. mainland has quickly spiraled into a diplomatic incident. U.S. officials say the object is a Chinese spy balloon, while Chinese officials called it a “civilian airship” mainly used to track weather.

The airborne vehicle was seen over Montana, home to some of the United States’ nuclear missile silos.

The balloon has since moved southeast from Montana, U.S. officials said Friday. The Pentagon has a “constant fix” on the aircraft and its direction and is collecting signals and data on it, the aide said. Reports of a second device in Canada and Alaska are inaccurate, a senior defense official told lawmakers Friday morning.

Spy balloons have previously passed over the United States, but this object is unusual for loitering overhead “for an extended period of time,” defense officials say.

The first known usage of reconnaissance balloons was by the French during the Battle of Fleurus in 1794, when they were used to spy on Austrian and Dutch troops in what is now Belgium.

Here’s what you need to know about spy balloons, and about the Chinese balloon spotted over Montana.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has postponed his upcoming trip to China in response to the flying of a suspected Chinese spy balloon over the United States, in what marks a significant new phase in the tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Blinken, who was due to depart Friday night for Beijing, said at a press conference Friday that the high-altitude surveillance balloon flying over the continental United States “created the conditions that undermine the purpose of the trip.” He informed China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, in a call Friday morning that he was postponing.

“In my call today with Director Wang Yi, I made clear that the presence of this surveillance balloon in US airspace is a clear violation of US sovereignty and international law, that it’s an irresponsible act, and that the (People’s Republic of China) decision to take this action on the eve of my planned visit is detrimental to the substantive discussions that we were prepared to have,” Blinken told reporters Friday.

Blinken said Friday that the US was confident the balloon over the US is a Chinese surveillance balloon.

The Chinese foreign ministry claimed Friday that the balloon was a “civilian airship” used mainly for weather research that deviated from its planned course. The statement from a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry was the first admission that the airship originated in China.

“It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes. Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course. The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure,” the Chinese foreign ministry said.

“The Chinese side will continue communicating with the US side and properly handle this unexpected situation caused by force majeure,” the statement added, using a legalistic term to mean circumstances beyond China’s control.
If Beijing is indeed trolling us here, it's because they know perfectly well that Republicans aren't hesitating to use it to push their own garbage conspiracies

Several top Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, on Friday, called on the Biden administration to shoot down the balloon, which some military leaders had discussed. Ryder said at his briefing Friday that the military was still "reviewing options" but had not taken the balloon down because "right now we assess that there is no physical threat or military threat to people on the ground."

Trump posted on his platform Truth Social, “SHOOT DOWN THE BALLOON!”

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., one of the most vocal critics in Congress of the Chinese government and U.S. policy toward China, also called on the U.S. government to bring down the balloon.

“President Biden should stop coddling and appeasing the Chinese communists. Bring the balloon down now and exploit its tech package, which could be an intelligence bonanza,” said Cotton. “And President Biden and Secretary Austin need to answer if this [balloon] was detected over Alaskan airspace. If so, why didn’t we bring it down there? If not, why not? As usual, the Chinese Communists’ provocations have been met with weakness and hand-wringing.”
Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, blasted President Biden for a high-altitude balloon from China that is traveling over the continental United States not being shot down before it reached U.S. territory, speculating that it could have “bioweapons.”

Comer told Fox News’s Harris Faulkner in an interview on Friday that he is concerned that the federal government “obviously” does not know what is in the balloon.

“Is it bioweapons in that balloon? Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?” Comer said, referring to the Chinese city where the COVID-19 virus was first discovered. “We don’t know anything about that balloon.”

He said China is “clearly playing games” with the U.S., and the balloon should not have been allowed to cross into the airspace of the continental U.S.
Next thing you know, the House GOP will be demanding that we shut down your local Chinese take out place.

Welcome To Gunmerica, Cincy Edition, Con't

Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval and the City Council are taking on Ohio Republicans with new gun safety ordnances for the city and a lawsuit to restore home rule for firearms regulations.
In an effort to curb gun violence, Cincinnati has two proposed ordinances for City Council to consider and has filed a lawsuit against the state.

The first ordinance addresses the safe storage of firearms to keep them away from children. The second ordinance would bar those convicted of domestic violence or subject to a protection order from processing firearms.

The ordinances are extensions or additions to existing laws. They give law enforcement and prosecutors a few more options when it comes to addressing gun violence in situations that might not rise to the level of a felony. As city ordinances, both of the new charges would be misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in prison.

However, cities in Ohio have largely been unsuccessful in passing gun legislation due to a 2006 law that has survived a challenge in the Ohio Supreme Court. Cincinnati's lawyers want to change that.

Often called the "preemption law," it bars political subdivisions (like cities and counties) from regulating firearms, their components, ammunition, and knives. Ohio's gun lobby has successfully sued Cincinnati and other cities in the past to block gun restrictions. In 2018, Cincinnati's ban on bump stocks was stopped in this way.

“Keeping residents safe is the top priority of our City government," Mayor Aftab Pureval said. "Gun safety measures save lives, and we will continue to do everything in our power to put an end to gun violence in Cincinnati.”

Last week, the city filed a lawsuit seeking that the "preemption law" be declared unconstitutional.
We'll see. Ohio's Supreme Court may choose to take this up and make a ruling, but I'm sure Ohio Republicans will find a way to block the law anyway by sending whatever legislation is needed to Gov. Mike DeWine's desk.
But at least Pureval is having this fight. Good on him.

Jobapalooza, Con't

A gigantic jobs report for January coupled with recent lowered inflation numbers means the Biden Boom is rolling on.

The number of new jobs created in January rose by 517,000 to mark the biggest increase in six months, suggesting little erosion in a dynamic U.S. labor market even though the economy has show lots of signs of weakening.

One caveat: The government’s formula to adjust for seasonal swings in hiring sometimes exaggerates employment levels in January. It’s unclear whether that was the case last month.

Yet employment grew even faster in the waning months of 2022 than previously reported, indicating the labor market is still quite robust.

The unemployment rate, meanwhile, slid to a 54-year low of 3.4% from 3.5%, the government said Friday. That’s the lowest level since 1969.

Hourly pay rose a modest 0.3% for the second month in a row, reflecting the smallest back-to-back gains in almost two years.

The increase in pay over the past year also slowed again to 4.4% from 4.8%, indicating some relaxation in wage pressures. The Federal Reserve has been worried that rapidly rising wages could make it harder to bring down high inflation.

U.S. stocks DJIA, -0.11% SPX, +1.47% fell in premarket trades and bond yields rose after the report.

Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had forecast an 187,000 increase in new jobs last month.

Big picture: The economy is slowing and the threat of recession is rising as higher interest rates depress growth. Many large companies such as Amazon AMZN, +7.38%, IBM IBM, +0.96% and Fedex FDX, +6.13% have announced layoffs and more job cuts are expected.

Yet the economy has also proven quite resilient and lots of businesses are reluctant to fire workers given how hard it was to hire them in the first place. The U.S. might even be able to avoid a recession if job losses remain on the low side.
With revisions, the jobs numbers were three times the expectation.  Even if adjustments were off by 100k or even 200k, it's still a rocket-powered jobs report.
And record-low 3.4% unemployment?  Yeah, Biden did that.  I don't know where this "recession" is going but people need to stop calling it that, because we're not in one.
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