Guardian: Brexit would be very bad news for America

The Guardian reports that while the British may have valid reasons to want to liberate themselves from European Union rules made in Brussels, for America "Brexit'' would be a disaster. 

"There is consensus among economists that Britain leaving the E.U. would lead to a major economic shock, which would have worldwide impacts. In recent days, global markets have followed polls in the U.K. The less likely it is that Britain leaves the better markets have done, and vice versa. Janet Yellen, the chair of the Federal Reserve, warned on Tuesday that Brexit could have 'significant economic repercussions' in the U.S.

"Furthermore, from a national security perspective, Brexit would deprive the U.S. of a crucial window and important pro-American voice in pan-European meetings.''

To read The Guardian story, hit this link.

Father of ISIS-murdered daughter sues Google, Facebook and Twitter

Reynoldo Gonzalez, whose daughter Nohemi was among the 130 people murdered by Islamist terrorists in Paris last November, is suing GoogleFacebook and Twitter, saying that the companies gave "material support" to extremists in violation of the law.

Mr. Gonzalez filed the suit on June 14 in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California. The suit asserts that the companies "knowingly permitted" the Islamic State to recruit members, raise money and spread "extremist propaganda" via their services.

For more information, hit this link.

June 11, 2016

To members and friends of the Providence Committee on Foreign Relations (;

Our last speaker of the season will be Evan Matthews, a key thought leader at the North Atlantic Ports Association and director of the Port of Davisville. He will talk to us on Wednesday, June 22, on changes in world shipping, including the widening of the Panama Canal and other changes of huge interest to New England ports, especially Quonset/Davisville, Providence and Boston. Since this will be in some part about Narragansett Bay, it’s a good summery topic to end the season with.
As usual, the dinner will be at the Hope Club, 6 Benevolent St., Providence. Drinks start at about 6, dinner by 7, then the talk and a Q&A and the evening ends by 9. We will make all possible efforts short of physical violence (psychic violence is allowed) to ensure that the talk ends with plenty of time left for questions and that we close up shop (except for the bar) by 9.
We’d greatly appreciate knowing soon how many people will come to the June 22 dinner.
Please let us know whether you will join usby replying to or, in a crunch, calling (401) 523-3957.

Thanks very much to those who have already let us know!
The Hope Club needs good estimates no later than the day before a PCFR dinner.
Dues and dinner cost information may be found at: Other membership information may be found there, too.  (A member asked if (the modest) duesand dinner fees for this nonprofit educational and civic membership organization aredeductible for business purposes. In some cases. Ask your tax adviser.)
By the way, dues are on a 12-month basis. So, for example, if you paid, as a new member, your dues in March, then you’d pay them again next March. Most of our members pay their annual dues in the summer, in advance of the mainseason. But we have had quite a few new members this season.
We’ll be sending you a list of some new-season speakers in the next few weeks. Topics will probably includethe role of Germany in the E.U.; the mess in Brazil; Central Europe facing right-wing populism and an  aggressive Russia; Mongolia; the Zika virus; ocean fishing, the Silk Road Project;  Japan, Vietnam, and God knows what other topics current history might throw at us. And we update the PCFR Web site with interesting topics every few days.
Suggestions are appreciated.
We look forward to seeing you.

Roger Cohen warns of disaster for the West if the E.U. unravels

Roger Cohen warns in The New York Times of the perils that lie just ahead with what he sees as the terrifying possibility that the European Union could collapse if the United Kingdom decides to leave the E.U.

Mr. Cohen implied that would make Russian President Vladimir Putin and would-be tyrants in central Europe very happy.

Mr. Cohen concluded:

….I listened the other evening at the American Academy in Berlin as Henry Kissinger, the personification of realpolitik, insisted that the “necessity of the coherence of the Atlantic world” had become ‘even greater.’ With him was the American ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, the recipient of this year’s Kissinger Prize — and long the personification of liberal interventionist idealism. In many ways they formed a strange duo. But their togetherness was also a statement: That, until now, America’s postwar European and internationalist commitment has held across the foreign policy spectrum.

“Realpolitik and idealism meet in the unity of Europe. The unthinkable, on both sides of the Atlantic, must be resisted before it is too late.’’  Hit this link to read his column.


North Korean dictator likes Trump

The North Korean government, via state-controlled media, has praised putative Republican presidential nominee  Donald Trump for his proposal to hold talks with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, calling him a “wise politician” and “far-sighted candidate who could help unify the Korean peninsula by not being willing to defend South Korea.

“Trump said he will not get involved in the war between the South and the North, isn’t this fortunate from North Korea’s perspective?” the media said.

Mr. Trump’s remarks suggest that he would tear up U.S. foreign policy around the world.

Read this Guardian article.

Laying the foundation for close U.S.-Vietnamese relations

By Lan Anh, a journalist for  VietNamNet

On the night of May 22, President Obama landed at Noi Bai International Airport to start his official visit to Vietnam. U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also visited Vietnam while in office.

The American War in Vietnam was a long and sad chapter but that conflict ended 41 years ago.

President Obama’s visit to Vietnam  was a dramatic turning point as the two countries establish stronger ties  to promote the development, peace and security of the both countries, the Asia/Pacific region and the wider world.

Vietnam has spent  much blood,  wealth and time defending itself from invadersto regain and preserve its independence.  The country  has constantly faced threats to its freedom, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

But, overcoming the sorrow of historical events, and some missteps in its economic-development strategy, Vietnam has  today achieved remarkable improvements in the economic and other aspects of its development. It has great potential strengths from its location and its population of 100 million, (making Vietnam the 13th most populous nation) including its large number of young people who are very receptive to new technology. It is also playing an increasingly important role in global economic development.

Meanwhile, Vietnam preserves many of its ancient traditions while it stays open to learning and accepting the best aspects of cultures and values all over the world.  

Vietnam has become an inspiring story of a country in transition.  A nation that suffered the sorrow of  a long war with the U.S., Vietnam has since normalized the relationship with America and is taking steps to improve it further.  Vietnamese-U.S. relations are now a world-recognized symbol of reconciliation and of progress toward a peaceful, more secure and developed world.

America has the  world’s largest economy and is the global military superpower.  Thus,  the U.S. plays a crucial role in preserving stability around the Earth. American military power can be deployed quickly to any place in the world.  Further, America is the innovation hub of the planet. It’s where leading technologies are constantly being invented and refined with great international impact.

Since World War II, the U.S.  has led the establishment of a network of multilateral organizations  -- most notably the World Bank, the  International Monetary Fund (IMF) and such regional  security organizations as NATO. In part becase of these organizations, the U.S. has strong allies around the world.

These factors are crucial parts of the foundation for stronger Vietnamese-U.S. relations.

Prof. Thomas Patterson, a leading Harvard scholar on politics, press and public policy,  and a co-founder and director of The Boston Global Forum (, said that the bases for a strong and sustainable relationship between  the U.S. and Vietnam are trust and respect for each other and mutual understanding of each other’s needs and values. Despite some inevitable differences, the two countries have many shared goals, which include building their own and each other’s prosperity, friendly cultural exchanges and peace and security in the South China Sea (called in Vietnam the East Sea). Strong andfriendly U.S.-Vietnamese relations will foster the strong growth of the two countries in the Pacific Era.

The U.S. can help Vietnam with capital and advanced technology so that Vietnam can continue growing its knowledge and innovation economy via such technology solutions as  artificial intelligence (AI) and network security.

After the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TTP) comes into effect, Vietnam’s GDP is projected to increase to $23.5 billion in 2020 and $33.5 billion in 2025. Its exports are projected to rise by  $68 billion by 2026.  Under the TPP, big markets,  such as the U.S., Japan and Canada, willeliminate tariffs for goods imported from Vietnam, which will obviously give its exporting activity a big boost..

Meanwhile Fulbright University Vietnam has officially been granted approval to open. This  is a milestone  in the journey of  cooperation between U.S. and Vietnam in education. Further, the University of California at Los Angeles ( UCLA ) will soon work with Vietnam to carry out new initiatives in global citizenship education.

To establish itself as a major global player, Vietnam needs to be independent  of bigger countries so that it can strategize its  path ahead while following universal standards and values. Vietnam will raise its visibility in  the world with a loving,  tolerant and generous attitude.

Vietnam has overcome sorrow and loss to make peace with other countries that caused it pain. Hence, Vietnam has become a symbol of reconciliation and can play an important role in preserving  international peace and security in the Asia/Pacific region and around the world. 

For example, Vietnam can contribute to the effort to resolve conflicts between the U.S.  and Russia,  between Europe and Russia,  between China and Russia,  between the U.S.,  Japan and North Korea,  and between the U.S. and China. Vietnam could also become a centerfor finding solutions to conflicts in the Middle East and forhelping North Korea integrate with the rest of the world (as when Vietnam helped Myanmar reintegrate). And it can be a pioneer in building harmony and security in online space in South East Asia and around the world. This can include educating people  to be responsible online citizens in Internet era; teaching them to respect each other’s culture, knowledge and morality, and  promoting initiatives for global citizenship education.

Building strong Vietnamese-U.S. relations, as well as the other initiatives cited above, can’t be completed overnight but the path to a brighter future is opened. Tomorrow has started today.

Lan Anh is a journalist for VietNamNet


Exxon execs suppressed company scientists' warnings about global warming

Exxon scientists back in the '70s warned  company senior executives about the menace of manmade global warming from burning fossil fuels but the execs suppressed their warnings. See this link.



PCFR News Blog Archive

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 Observations by Win Tompkins, a PCFR member and a student at the Met School:

Organized crime was for a long time mostly confined within national borders, hemmed in by aggressive policing in Western nations and a dwindling number of markets to exploit, especially with relegalized alcohol in the U.S. after Prohibition. In the ‘70s, however, the effects of globalization and the recent declaration of a U.S. “war on drugs’’ inevitably washed into the market of illegal narcotics.  

One of the first organizations to fully embrace a transnational  and high-tech approach to crime was the Medellin Cartel, which used a massive logistical operation involving trucks, planes and boats to transport trucks to the United States via Central America, the Bahamas or the Gulf of Mexico.

At its peak, cocaine sourced from the Cartel made up for 90 percent of America’s cocaine imports and 80 percent of the entire globe’s cocaine market. While the cartel was broken up in 1993 thanks to the intensive efforts of the CIA and Colombian government, the Cartel’s concept of a trans-national crime operation that spans the globe did not go unnoticed in the criminal underworld.

With the dissipation of the Warsaw Pact in 1989, the newly free countries of Eastern Europe had their systems of government changed almost overnight, with vast amounts of state property being sold off and corruption affecting every level of government, the resurgence of organized crime was inevitable.

While many countries have noteworthy criminal organizations, only one group has such a firm grip on a nation’s economy that it could be considered its own state. I am referring to the Bulgarian mafia.

Bulgaria’s mafia was in a unique position in the 1990’s, having not only been able to buy up huge amounts of former state property, but also having become so important to Bulgaria’s economy that it was able to accrue vast political influence in both the two main parties at the time, the Bulgarian socialist party and the Union of Democratic forces party.
In any case, criminal groups now have had global reach. In certain countries as well, the Cartels are integrated into the systems of government itself, and will likely stay that way for some time to come.

-- Win Tompkins

THE TPP by Win Tompkins

The TPP, or Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, is a trade agreement negotiated by 12 nations, including the United States. The treaty has proven to be a deeply divisive issue in not only the United States but in most of the countries involved in the treaty. This is because, in part, of the controversial proposals made by the U.S relating to copyright law and patent protection for brand-name drugs. 

The U.S has been pushing for changes to drug patents, extending protection to eight years from the current limit of five years. However, Australia and several other countries oppose such extensions. This has been one of the main sticking points in the agreement, as well as 19 points of contention relating to copyright.

People are still studying the current version of the agreement. In any event, the TPP has numerous clauses in the deal forcing most ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to heavily police their users’ Internet activity and downloads lest they get a takedown notice or a lawsuit from a copyright holder that they must comply with, even if the origin of the takedown notice is unknown.  

This YouTube-style policy being applied to all facets of the Internet is understandably deeply unpopular with many people, and it is the main point of opposition to the TPP.

While at face value, the TPP is technically only an economic agreement, another purpose is to push against Chinese territorial ambitions, in particular the building of "Islands" 800+ miles off the Chinese mainland.  

The Chinese government has not said much about the agreement other then it is willing to become a partner, though it has so far been rebuffed. It also serves as a noticeable part of the Obama administration’s "Pivot to Asia" to reassure our Asian partners that we remain committed to their security.  

However, with the Taiwanese and Chinese leaders  meeting and South Korea's president attending China's recent military parade, it is unknown if the Pivot to Asia is too little, too late.

 --- Win Tompkins

Scott Shane on the Drone Program by Win Tompkins

In his talk on Oct. 22, Scott Shane addressed some of points of the United States’s drone program, and while he said nothing noticeably different from  what has already appeared in his writing for The New York Times and elsewhere, he was articulate, unbiased and very interesting in his analysis.

Mr. Shane first talked about the life of Anwar al-Awlaki, a well known once-moderate Sunni Muslim cleric and U.S citizen who joined al-Qaeda. Mr. Shane noted that his path toward radicalization may have started after the FBI discovered his transgressions with prostitutes. Alwaki feared that these documents would be leaked and so he fled to Britain, where he became more and more radical until he and his family traveled to Yemen and joined al-Qaeda, where he was ultimately killed by a CIA drone strike, in 2011.

Mr. Shane  concluded that while there are indeed some who joined al-Qaeda as a result of drone strikes there is no conclusive evidence that drones create more terrorists than they kill.

--- Win Tompkins

On Oct. 22, Scott Shane, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times,  will discuss the ethics of drone warfare,  the legality of drone strikes against U.S. citizens as well as  against  foreigners, and how drones could change the image and reality of war in the future.

His book, the highly praised Objective Troy,  focuses on the 2011 drone strike that killed Anwar Al-Awlaki, a American Muslim cleric turned Al-Qaeda propagandist who allegedly helped finance attacks inside the West and inspired others, including the failed underwear bomber and the Charlie Hebdo attack, though the connection to the latter attack is flimsy, based only the claims of one of the gunmen.

The killing of Al-Awlaki, whom the CIA hunted for years, was a landmark event because  he was a U.S.  citizen who was killed without a trial. With Mr. Shane's expertise and ample experience on reporting on the CIA and NSA, he'llprovide a vivid look at a subject that will have implications on how America conducts foreign and military policy for years to come.

--- Win Tompkins

Observations on the Pope's visit to Cuba by Win Tompkins

Pope Francis’s visit to Cuba could turn out to have been an important event the future of the island nation. The Communist government, since it took power in 1959, has opposed organized religion because it conflicts with Marxist-Leninist doctrine and could serve as a rallying point for some political groups opposing Castro. .

Meanwhile, consider the joyful reception that the pope received in light of the nation’s demographics.

Most living Cubans were born after the revolution. Thus they have never known a time in which the Communist Party wasn’t in power. In spite of that, or because, they greeted the Pope with great warmth.

While the Castro government is now less brutal than it was to dissidents during the Cold War, censorship and house arrest are still common tools of the regime to try to keep its critics quiet.

Such methods, however, will not keep the Communist Party from continuing to fall out of favor, for like the Soviet Union before it, a younger population less swayed by the romance of the 1959 revolution and with greater access to information provided by new technology will continue to erode the party’s power.

History suggests that time is not on the autocrats’ side in Cuba, especially since it’s only 90 miles the United States.

-- Win Tompkins