End Of Unipolar World Looms As ‘New World Order’ Responds To US Demands On Iran

Authored by F. Michael Maloof, op-ed via RT.com,

If Mike Pompeo’s ultimatum to Iran, after US withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal, was fulfilled it would inflict economic warfare on the country and set up Tehran for failure while reasserting a US-led unipolar world order.

However, it is doomed to failure. As Iranian President Hassan Rouhani pointed out following the US Secretary of State’s declaration mirroring the views of President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, the era when the US will “decide for the world” is over.

Pompeo outlined the 12 demands on Iran in a speech on May 21 before the US think-tank Heritage Foundation. Even many of the conservative participants in attendance seemed to be skeptical of how effective the demands would be to prevent the US from imposing more onerous sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Pompeo’s ultimatum demanded that Iran halt all uranium enrichment, with access to “all sites”“anywhere, anytime.” Yet, the Islamic Republic is a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty which entitles it to enrich uranium for civilian use, as does the Iranian nuclear agreement, formerly known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

The ultimatum went well beyond anything to do with Iran’s nuclear program – demanding that the Islamic Republic halt its missile development, support for Hezbollah and Hamas and demanded that it withdraw all forces under the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from Syria, where it has been fighting along with Hezbollah against the Islamic State and al-Qaeda at the invitation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Left unsaid in Pompeo’s demands was that the US is in Syria without invitation, supporting the jihadi Salafists who also are backed by Israel and Saudi Arabia and are threatening Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran itself.

Barbara Slavin, who directs the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, observed that:

Pompeo’s speech has “almost no chance of working. It’s likely to further alienate the US’s economic allies, boost China as a global economic and political power and gladden Iranian hardliners looking for more reason to start proscribed nuclear activities to continue their interventions in the Middle East.”

In plain-talk English, what Pompeo and Bolton want through their economic warfare against Iran is regime change. Pompeo is signaling an effort to reassert US leadership of a Western world order on Middle East countries, as are European Union countries in resisting Trump’s new brand of economic warfare.

Trump’s 180-degree turn represents a strategic change from his previous position of wanting to pull out of the Middle East. Strangely, it comes at the same time when Americans at home are just beginning to realize the benefits of the tax cut and creation of more jobs at home, promises that Trump said he would fulfill during the campaign.

But he also promised to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem and drop out of the JCPOA.  What has occurred is that one campaign promise has cancelled out the benefits of the other as a result of Trump imposing sanctions not only on Iran but on companies anywhere in the world that have contracts with US companies but continue trading with Iran.

In turn, he has created further tensions in the Middle East, prompting the price of oil to rise from $70 to $80 a barrel just in the week that I was in Iran. Such an increase is already being reflected in the rise of gasoline prices Americans are having to pay, thereby minimizing any benefit from tax savings.

Trump’s actions reflect the fact that the neo-conservatives advising him are back in full fury pursuing a new geopolitical strategy that mirrors what has been left undone following the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 when Saddam Hussein was removed as part of a pre-emptive policy of regime change throughout the Middle East.

When I was at the Defense Department during that period, I had an occasion to brief Bolton one time during which he outlined pursuing regime change not only in Iraq, but then in Syria, Iran, Libya and Saudi Arabia – all countries at the time that were regarded as enemies of Israel. As with back then, we are witnessing the Trump administration implementing Israeli foreign policy.

Given the initial resistance by European Union countries to Trump’s sanctions and dropping out of the JCPOA – a watershed moment – they have signaled staying in the agreement. But that may not last due to sanctions the US can impose on European companies which have contracts with American firms that continue trading with Iran.

I recently was in Iran talking to Iranian officials just after Trump announced dropping out of the JCPOA. I was there at the 6th International New Horizons conference held in Iran’s spiritual city of Mashhad.

What emerged from the three-day conference was a call to resist Trump’s actions of reasserting his version of a US-led unipolar order by undertaking a “multi-polar” approach that will see a new economic order, with the idea of separating countries from American economic dependency and isolating the US and Israel.

What is evolving in response to the US dropping out of the JCPOA is a new world order that could begin to see Iran, China, Russia, Eastern European and Central Asian countries creating their own economic engine to minimize the impact of US influence.

It could include a reinvigorated Shanghai Cooperation Organization founded by China and Russia and Central Asian countries. With China nearing completion of its One Belt, One Road Initiative from Asia to Europe, it could open the way for European countries who are members of the EU and Eastern Europe to expand trade and escape the yoke of weaponized US economic influence. This development already appears to be happening.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has been dealing with Brexit, a long and tedious process to separate from the EU. She had hoped to turn to the US as an alternative, more favorable market. Yet, she has announced that she intends to resist Trump’s sanctions. Her efforts, however, may be short-lived, since Britain is only the size of Indiana and its companies could not survive without the US market. Consequently, she has begun to look to China as an alternative market.

In response to Trump’s recent action on the JCPOA, Russian President Vladimir Putin could once again extend an invitation to Iran to join the SCO. Putin already has said he sees no obstacles to Iran joining the SCO.

Its membership had been offered following completion of the 2015 nuclear agreement. However, the effort was rejected. This time, it could be different, since Iran is in full compliance with the JCPOA but Trump broke from that agreement.

Iranian officials told me that if the US wants to work with Iran, it needs to “decouple” its Israeli policy from dealing with the Islamic Republic. In effect, Trump has done everything Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sought – moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem and dropping out of the JCPOA.

They wondered who is controlling whom: Is Trump controlling Netanyahu, or is Netanyahu controlling Trump in conducting US foreign policy? One Iranian source at the University of Tehran told me that “what is definitely happening is that Iran is tilting heavily, and perhaps permanently, to China and Russia.”

“We are hoping for the best,” he said, but in the event Trump’s pressure on Iran turns kinetic, he added, “Iran is preparing for the worst.”

Do Women Work Harder Than Men?

In this day and age of equal opportunism, sexism, PCism, and any other ‘-ism’ one can imagine, its is probably enough to get one banned from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram just for asking the question “do women work harder than men.”

Traditionally in most cultures, it is the man which would spend the most hours each day at work and, as analysis from MenCare’s ‘State of the World’s Fathers’ report shows, this is still generally the case in most parts of the world.

However, as Statista’s Martin Armstrong points out, there can though, be a difference between being ‘at work’ and ‘working’.

For many people, ‘working’ doesn’t entail going to the office or the factory, but staying at home or in the local community as a caregiver. This kind of work doesn’t usually come with a financial benefit, of course, and according to the UN this unpaid care can include “meal preparation, cleaning, washing clothes, water and fuel collection and direct care of persons (including children, older persons, persons with disabilities, as well as able-bodied adults)”.

Infographic: Women Work More Than Men | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

And, as the infographic above shows, it is the world’s women that are putting in the largest amount of these unpaid hours and in every region, the total amount of time spent working, paid or unpaid, is higher for women than it is for men.

With the exception of East Asia & the Pacific, where it is an almost 50:50 split, the majority of women’s time spent working is unpaid.

So the answer to the question is simple – as any married man knows – of course women work harder than men.

How To Hack The Price Of A Hotel Suite

Submitted by Priceonomics

Suites are the crown jewel of the hotel experience: generally, they’re more spacious, more meticulously appointed, and well-suited to house larger groups looking to share a space. 

There’s only one problem: they’re typically a lot more expensive than standard hotel rooms. But that is that always the case?

We analyzed data from Priceonomics customer Suiteness, a site that lets you book hotel suites. We looked at the price of traditional hotel suites, compared to an interesting hack called the “connecting suite” — suite configurations where more than one bedroom is connected to the living area of a suite — that is typically a lot cheaper. We also looked the price of these suites compared to vacation rentals in top American travel cities.

How much more affordable is a connector suite than a traditional two-bedroom suite? How do these rates compare with a two-bedroom vacation rental? How about two separate hotel rooms?

In this post, we’ll dive deep into our findings — but here’s a quick overview:

Summary of findings

  • Booking a “hacked” suite with a connector room ($1,484), is nearly half the price of a traditional two-bedroom suite ($2,665) over two weekend nights. That’s $1,181 cheaper.

  • In New York, you can save an average of $5,409 over two weekend nights by booking a suite with a connector room instead of a two-bedroom suite.

  • Airbnb appears to be marginally cheaper than hotel rooms and suites — though these bookings often come with extra cleaning fees and platform fees that can boost the price up a few hundred dollars over a two-day stay.

A quick note on methodology

Suiteness specializes in accommodations for groups of four or more, so we decided to compare five different two-bedroom options: a suite, a connector suite, two separate hotel rooms, an Airbnb, and a VRBO. 

The suite data was sourced from Suiteness, the data for hotel rooms from Expedia, and the data from Airbnb and VRBO from those respective platforms. For each dataset, we gathered rates for high and low seasons and calculated the average between the two for a two weekend nights.

Lastly, for our analysis, we focused on the nine markets for which we had the most data on: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, D.C., Las Vegas, Miami, and Orlando.

What’s the cheapest two-bedroom accommodation?

Let’s start with the overall averages for each of the two-bedroom accommodations we researched. Keep in mind that the prices below reflect the cost for two weekend nights, averages across high and low seasons.

Two-bedroom suites are overwhelmingly pricier than any other option, at $2,665 — or $1,332 per weekend night across the markets we analyzed. VRBO, which primarily features full-space rentals, places second, at an average of $1,718.

At $1,312, the two-bedroom Airbnb edged out the cost of two hotel rooms by $76. But, it should be noted that the Airbnb price here reflects the average of a wide variety of neighborhoods. Most hotel suites are more centrally located, and also offer a wider range of amenities.

The connector suite, at $1,484, is 44% cheaper than the typical two-bedroom suite — a huge value considering that the only real difference between the two is a separate private entrance for the connecting room.

Let’s take a closer look at the price differential between the two, by city.

On average, booking a connector suite instead of a standard suite will save you $1,181, but in certain markets, the difference is astronomically higher. In New York (the most expensive suite market), the average two-bed suite runs a whopping $6,995 for a weekend. Alternatively, booking a connector suite ($1,586) will save you $5,409.

In 8 of the 9 cities we analyzed, connector suites are cheaper: in San Diego, a connector suite will save you $1,562; in LA, $1,547, in Chicago, $907; in San Francisco, $611, and in Las Vegas, $501.

Only Washington, D.C. featured nominally higher-priced connector rooms ($167 more than a standard suite).

A city-by-city analysis

Breaking this data down by market, we can see that prices for certain accommodations vary widely by location.

For instance, the average two-bedroom suite across all markets runs $2,665 per weekend, but that ranges from as high as $6,996 in New York to $752 in Orlando. Las Vegas, perhaps most renowned for its suites, runs in the middle of the pack ($2,306).

Connector suites average $1,484 per weekend. And, while Miami ($1,842) and Las Vegas ($,1805) run higher here, we see much more affordable rates for New York ($1,586), Los Angeles ($1,611), and San Diego ($1,120).

San Francisco — the most expensive rental market in the U.S. — also tops the list for priciest standard hotel rooms, at an average of $2,135 per weekend. For nearly $600 less, you can get a connector suite.

In Las Vegas, two hotel rooms can be booked for an average of $1,760 per weekend, but a connector suite can be had for just $45 more. And in Los Angeles, two hotel rooms run just about the same cost as a connector suite.

Average two-bedroom VRBO rentals range from $3,677 in New York to $888 in Orlando, and overall, at $1,718 per weekend, are pricier than both connector suites and two hotel rooms.

Only Airbnb offers a more affordable alternative than the connector suite — but it typically doesn’t come with the amenities of a hotel suite.

Airbnb appears to be cheaper than hotel rooms and suites — though these bookings often come with extra cleaning fees and platform fees that can boost the price up to a few hundred dollars over a two-day stay.

Cheat sheet

Lastly, to help navigate all this data, here’s a “cheat sheet” with both high and low season averages for each accommodation type, by city.

So, what does this data ultimately tell us?

It’s easy to think of hotel suites as a ridiculously expensive, intangible booking option for vacations — an accommodation reserved for presidents and celebrities. But suites can actually be a lot more affordable than you might think. Sometimes, they could even be the cheapest possible option for a large group.

By booking a connector suite you can save more than $1,100 over a standard suite price. And when you consider the average group size that stays in a connector suite is 5.9 people (compared to 3.5 for a traditional suite), the cost per person is even lower: $251 per person for two weekend nights, versus $761 per person, on average.

Lastly, while Airbnb does offer a slightly cheaper alternative to a connector suite, one should consider the additional amenities a suite offers. For an average of $86 more per night, a suite offers: first-class customer and concierge service, fully-stocked inventory and an on-call maintenance staff; housekeeping at no additional cost; and a huge convenience factor.

China’s Terrifying “Social Credit” System Has Already Blocked 11 Million From Taking Flights

China’s terrifying ‘social credit’ system, which is a rating assigned to each citizen based on government data regarding their economic and social status, has effectively blocked more than 11.14 million flights and 4.25 million high-speed train trips at the end of April, according to a senior government official.

Government officials first announced the proposal for a social credit system in 2014 — where each Chinese citizen would be rated according to their online, social, financial, and legal behavior. Misdeeds, such as late credit card payments, criminal record, jaywalking, using fake IDs, refusal to sign up for required insurance, and failing to pay taxes, could result in a travel ban for an extended period. The penalty for misdeeds went into full effect in May.

China’s Social Scoring System

The government decides who gets these goods and services:

It is still unknown which misdeeds the government cracked down on to induce such a large number of travel bans within the country. Former deputy director of the development research center of the State Council, Hou Yunchun, is quoted by the Global Times as saying the system needs a few more tweaks so that “discredited people become bankrupt.”

“If we don’t increase the cost of being discredited, we are encouraging discredited people to keep at it,” Hou was quoted by Sina Finance at an annual credit development forum in Beijing on Saturday.

In addition to blocking the flights and trains, the Global Times noted that the names of 33,000 companies which violated laws had been shamed on a public list, said Meng Wei, spokeswoman for the National Development and Reform Commission, via news website chinanews.com. Those on the list could be denied loans, grants, and other forms of government assistance, Wei added.

“Hou’s phrase that the ‘discredited people become bankrupt’ makes the point, but is an oversimplification,” Zhi Zhenfeng, a legal expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times.

“How the person is restricted in terms of public services or business opportunities should be in accordance with how and to what extent he or she lost his credibility.”

“The punishment should match the deed.”

“Discredited people deserve legal consequences.”

“This is definitely a step in the right direction to building a society with credibility.”

Since the launch of the ‘social credit’ system, state media has reported that pilot tests have been successful. There is even chatter about a China-wide social credit system expected in the early 2020s. In the meantime, senior government officials plan for eight more pilot credit systems, including the continued testing of Sesame Credit, an Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial, that deducts credit points off people who default on court fines.

A screenshot from the Sesame Credit app, showing score 729 on a scale from 350

Many observers have likened China’s ‘social credit’ system to that shown in Netflix’s Black Mirror episode ‘Nosedive’ in which a world where people can rate each other from one to five stars for every interaction they have.