Posted by on October 24, 2019 10:20 am
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Categories: Weekly Update

Meet your fuzzy new best friend everyone


Vladimir Putin may have promised that the “Russian bear” will stick to the cold climes of Siberia, but perhaps he wasn’t being entirely truthful (shocking, shocking).  It seems the famous ursine avatar is sniffing around the Middle East and Africa — and Russia’s moves in these regions go far beyond its high-profile intervention in Syria.


Russian démarches in Africa culminate this week in the first Russia-Africa summit from October 23-24, gathering the leaders of over 40 African states along with over 3,000 businessmen in Sochi, Russia. The event is intended to mark Russia’s geopolitical return to Africa, four decades after the collapse of Soviet influence there in the 1970s-1980s. The European Policy Centre’s Ivano di Carlo and Amanda Paul analyze the Russian program and suggest potential Western responses in an insightful new commentary.


Africa isn’t the only place where the Russian bear’s footprint (er, paw print) is expanding. As noted in a previous post, Russia is also muscling into energy production across the Middle East, including North Africa, the Levant, and elsewhere. Marc Pierini, a former French diplomat and visiting scholar with Carnegie Europe, detailed the Russian moves in new report for the IEMed Mediterranean Yearbook. Overall, Pierini notes that Russia is wisely taking a collaborative approach, even with rival energy producers: “Instead of solely considering regional actors as competitors… Moscow decided to undertake a policy of cooperation through a series of agreements and investment decisions.”


What can Europe and the West more broadly due to counter Russian influence (not to mention that of China, with far larger investments)?  One suggestion: a European-backed “Belt and Road”-type infrastructure program across Africa.  Maybe bear will soon have company! 


— Erik Sass, TES Editor-in-Chief



Featured Opinions



Make way for the delivery drones (by empowering local government)

By Brent Skorup and Connor Haaland, Mercatus Center

Drone delivery services are coming to U.S. cities and towns, but US law and policy is not ready for mass drone deliveries. How should the federal government and states cooperate when it comes to drone delivery services? Giving states and cities a greater role in drone operations and infrastructure is indispensable.



Tory agenda focuses on government intervention, ignores markets

By Mark Littlewood, IEA

As the UK grapples with the drama of Brexit, don’t take your eye off the budgetary ball. The Queen’s Speech setting forth the Conservatives’ proposed agenda highlighted some worrying interventions planned by the Government, which would place too much emphasis on the role of the state, and not enough of the role of free markets. IEA director Mark Littlewood argues that solutions to most of the major issues are more likely to lie with market-based propositions than with heavy-handed state intervention.



Young people in UK face stagnant incomes, lower wealth

By Jonathan Cribb, IFS

There’s no question the UK faces some serious challenges.  A new analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that weak earnings growth and falling rates of home ownership have meant that young adults’ average wealth is lower than their predecessors. The IFS’ Jonathan Cribb explores the implications.



Airbus tariffs are a warning shot

IFW Kiel

A new commentary from IFW Kiel points out that the tariffs recently imposed by the U.S. on European goods over illegal subsidies to Airbus are only the beginning. Should the USA later increase the tariffs to the 100 percent allowed by the WTO, the damage to Germany would grow to one billion euros per year, while Great Britain could even suffer damage of over 1.34 billion euros. And uncertainty about possible tariff increases is damaging the European economies.



Miner Discovers Lithium in Them Thar Hills (of Waste Rock)

By Erik Sass, TES Editor-in-Chief

Major multinational Rio Tinto, a world-class copper and iron ore producer, uncovered an unexpected find at its long-running California boron mine. Looking for gold in the boron waste rock, the miner found lithium instead.  With a hat tip to Mark Twain’s Mulberry Sellars, turns out “there’s lithium in them thar hills (of waste rock).”



Time for a U.S.-Switzerland trade deal?

By Patrick Dümmler and Jennifer Anthamatten

As early as 2006, Switzerland and the US were about to open official negotiations for a free trade agreement, but it soon ran afoul of domestic and international politics, mostly on the European side. This historical review of the events of that time tries to explain how the Swiss can avoid another rejection of official negotiations.



Policy At Work…



By Andy Blom, TES Correspondent


If you want hyperbole, rumor, hysteria and gossip, read all about the impeachment circus in the mainstream media. If you want to see actual work being done by free-market organizations and individuals to confront issues and advance ideas to move America forward, then read on…


  • Pointing Out the Pork…Citizens Against Government Waste Releases Prime Cuts Summary. The National Debt has become so big and so scary nobody talks about it anymore. Well, almost nobody. Citizens Against Government Waste (What a concept!) has released their ‘Prime Cuts Summary’ for October 2019…60 pages of egregious Government waste, malfeasance and downright stupidity. But why worry? It’s only your money! Take a look at



  • Pelosi’s Pharmaceutical Plan is a Poor Price Cut Placebo, Not a Cure. Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s rush to judgement on price controls could lead to disastrous government control of the pharmaceutical industry, and that could be real threat to continued American innovation and leadership. Taking a deeper look at this is Citizens Against Government Waste with the seductively named ‘Price Controls for Dummies. And 60 PLUS, The American Association of Senior Citizens, recommends an alternative — an amendment from Representative Arrington (R-TX) that would provide seniors with direct relief at the pharmacy counter without turning things over to the Government. See their thoughts at



  • And If You’re Not Sick of Healthcare News…The Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom has four issues you should be aware of: (1) A National Patient ID. The House appropriations bill would allow funding and development of a Unique Patient Identifier (UPI) which would be required to access medical care. That could mean Government surveillance, and an open door to national health care; (2) Surprise Medical Billing. Proposed House and Senate bills would allow price controls set by a government mandated process. CCHF is concerned this will result in higher prices, reduced patient access and a single payer system; (3) Genetic Research on Children Without Consent. H.R. 2507 allows research, including genomic sequencing on DNA collected during newborn screening. This could result in lifelong government surveillance and research without consent starting at birth, and; (4) Medicare Opt-Out. Finally, some good news. President Trump’s Executive Order 13890 allows seniors to opt-out of Medicare without losing Social Security benefits. This provides seniors with more options and is a hedge against Medicare for All plans. Take a more in-depth look, and read the Executive Order at



  • Between a Rock and a Hard Place in the Granite State. The state legislature attacked New Hampshire’s pro-growth advantage with a flurry of higher taxes, eliminating planned reductions in business taxes, adding a 5% income tax and taxing capital gains. The Granite State’s Governor vetoed 57 such bills and minority Republicans upheld 55 of those vetoes. How does it look going forward? Visit for the full story.



  • Taxing Tips Costs Employers in the Beauty Industry. It’s an ugly truth. Restaurant employee tips aren’t taxed. But employees in the beauty biz — hair salons, nails and pedicures — are taxed on their tips. This not only robs employees of money, it actually costs the employers FICA and other taxes on money they never see. The Small Business Tax Fairness and Compliance Simplification Act (H.R. 1349 and S. 2634) would fix this. You can help by visiting



  • LBJ’s Great Society has been a Great Education Failure. A new report by The Heritage Foundation — ‘The Not-So-Great-Society’ — takes a look at how Lyndon Johnson’s initiatives impacted American education…and the results aren’t good. Head Start? $240 Billion spent since it was launch shows no impact on parenting practices, children’s social and emotional well being, access to medical care…nothing. It has resulted in a $9 billion federal jobs program employing 2,250,000 adults in performing unsuccessful work. The report also looks into K-12 education, federal college loans and a list of non- and counter- productive programs and compares them to positive results from school choice. Get educated about it at the Daily Signal.



  • Surprise! Zuckerberg Defends Facebook….But He Makes a Good Case. It can be easy to hate Facebook, and even easier to hate Mark Zuckerberg. Sympathy for billionaires is in short supply. But in a speech at Georgetown University Mr. Zuckerberg made a cogent case for Facebook’s ardent defense of free speech and unwillingness to act as judge, jury and censor for unpopular and, in fact untrue, political advertising and opinions. His adapted speech is worth a read at the WSJ.



  • Light at the End of Chinese Trade Tunnel? The White House is optimistic that recent breakthroughs in the China Tariff War are the beginning of a positive “Phase 1”. The first of possibly two or three phases is supposed to be finalized and signed next month when President Trump meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Chile. Trump has already suspended an increase of tariffs and there is optimism that the brutal effect of the trade war on American business and consumers will eventually come to an end. But…still on the table are issues that include non-tariff barriers to U.S. agricultural exports, financial services and market accessibility, intellectual property protection, stopping the transfer of technology and currency manipulation. Did anybody mention Human Rights violations? What is the Chinese symbol for hope anyway? Read more here.



  • Slowly Moving to Protect Patent Rights. The wheels of government can grind very slow, but Congress is finally showing faint signs of coming to the aide of U.S. inventors. While the Trump administration battles China’s aggressive attempts to steal or expropriate American innovation, Congress has introduced The STRONGER Patents Act (S.2082 and H.R. 3666). The bipartisan legislation addresses some, but not all of the issues, but it’s a much needed start. Get more details here.



Upcoming events: Fall is full of Galas, Exciting Educational Opportunities, Informative Discussion and Just Plain Fun… Don’t forget to RSVP!


  • HONORING AMERICA’S VETERANS THROUGH IMPROVED CARE AND SERVICES. The Honorable Robert Wilkie, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Friday, October 25, 2 PM – 3 PM. The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Auditorium, 214 Massachusetts Ave., NE. RSVP:



  • ASSESSING THE POTENTIAL OF THE TRAP ACT TO PREVENT INTERPOL ABUSE. Panel Discussion with Introductory Remarks by the Hon. Roger Wicker (R-MS). Tuesday, October 29, 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM. The Heritage Foundation’s Lehrman Auditorium, 214 Massachusetts Ave., NE. RSVP:



  • S. DEPT OF LABOR — THE RIGHT TALENT, RIGHT NOW: A Conversation About Mental Health in the Workplace. Wednesday, October 30, 1 PM – 2:30 PM. Great Hall, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., NW. RSVP:



  • DAILY CALLER NEWS FOUNDATION Annual Gala. Courage Under Fire Award: The Honorable Lindsey Graham and Sonny Perdue.. October 30, The Mayflower Hotel, Washington. Cocktails 6 PM, Dinner 7 PM, Dancing 8:30 PM. Inquire here.



  • LIBERTY FORUM & FREEDOM DINNER 2019 – November 6th-7th in New York City. The Atlas Foundation’s annual Liberty Forum brings together amazing freedom champions to exchange ideas, share strategies, and celebrate successes that create the conditions for liberty to thrive. The gala Freedom Dinner serves as a fitting grand finale to this conference, celebrating heroes of the freedom movement and the principles that Atlas Network’s partners are advancing worldwide. More information on attending is available here.



  • THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR 35th Annual Robert L. Bartley Gala. Featuring Kimberley Strassel, Grover Norquist, R. Emmett Terrell, Jr., et. al. Thursday, November 7, Trump International Hotel, 1100 Pennsylvania Ave., NW. Reception 6:30, Dinner 7 PM. RSVP by Oct. 21.



  • 8th INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE – “THE AUSTRIAN SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS IN THE 21ST CENTURY. November 13th and 14th, Award Gala Nov. 14th. Oesterreichische Nationalbank, OeNB, Otto-Wagner-Platz 3, 1090, Vienna, Austria.



  • THE INAUGURAL CHARTER CITIES CONFERENCE – March 17th and 18th, 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Ever wanted to build your own city? Well, here’s your chance. Participants will learn how to build the foundation for strong, economically vibrant charter cities from experts who are traveling from around the world to discuss projects both planned and in progress. This is your opportunity to get in on the ground floor of an exciting movement to build the future of governance for the cities of tomorrow. Visit the conference site for more. 



Andy Blom is a veteran political and public policy pro with decades of experience in Washington, D.C. circles.