BrainBust News




                  State of the Union Mayhem: President Obama gave his 8th and final State of the Union

                     speech on Tuesday evening. Whatever your politics, it was one helluva speech. He took

                     shots at every Republican in the country -- the only really bipartisan efforts mentioned

                     were those that referred to the recent budget deal, which we believe is rubbish (BBP

                     21:Late Night Legislation). It seems to some of us that Obama used his last SOTU

                     address to air out a bunch of dirty laundry, all while keeping his own soiled

                     undergarments close to his chest. It was an entertaining hour-long vent, if nothing

                     else. Affordable Care Act aside, we view the President's last 7 years as typical,

                     status-quo politics. The Economist called Obama's speech "an effort to stake out,

                     ahead of Iowa, the ground for legitimate debate in a civilized society." We'll see.


                     Op-Eds on the Speech: Left. Right.


                   • Sixth Republican Debate Tonight: Steve Holland and Emily Stephenson write for

                     Reuters, and they think there could be fireworks on tonight's debate. Fireworks?

                     Yes. Informed public debate? Probably not. And we're not just taking jabs at

                     Republicans -- Democratic debates have been full of grandstanding, as well. And

                     that's not to mention the atrocious job CNN did of moderating one the DNC's

                     exchanges. Mind you, tonight's debate will be moderated by Neil Cavuto and Maria

                     Bartiromo of Fox Business Channel. Anderson Cooper, eat your heart out. What we

                     expect: a lot of fighting and a lot of sound-bites. Watch out for the bullshit.


                   • Panda Watch 2016: Just kidding, we're talking about the presidential candidates.

                     Here's where everyone stands, according to national polls. In the Iowa Democratic

                     Presidential Caucus (Bloomberg/DM Register Poll), Clinton is polling at 42%,

                     Sanders at 40% -- Hillary is likely freaking out. Bernie isn't supposed to be doing that

                     well. This is very reminiscent of 2008. For the Republicans (Iowa Caucus,

                     CBS/NYTimes Poll): Trump at 36%, Cruz at 19%, Rubio at 12%, Carson and Bush at

                     6%. And Chris "Krispy-Kreme" Christie is pulling 3%. Good for you, pal, have a

                     donut. The Republican numbers could change wildly after tonight.



     What’s Relevant?

                   Besides outrage from Republicans over the President's SOTU address and the

                     specter of an entertaining political knife fight on TV tonight, there is not much new

                     to report on the political front. The Iowa Caucuses kick off in less than a month, so

                     things should start getting interesting soon. The two biggest themes here: Trump

                     and Sanders. I don't think anyone put either of these two this close to their respective

                     party's nods. They are there, however, for incredibly different reasons.



Middle East



                   • US Thanks Iran for Swift Release of 10 Navy Sailors: "The sailors were detained on

                     Tuesday when one of their two vessels broke down while training in the Gulf." 10

                     "Sailors," "training" in the Persian Gulf? Those are very poor euphemisms for "10

                     Navy SEALs," "on an operation" in the Persian Gulf. With their safety procured, we

                     are left to wonder what was actually going on. I, for one, do not buy the headline.

                     The US military does train on foreign soil, but that foreign soil is almost

                     unequivocally found within the borders of our allies.


                   • Ten Sunni Mosques Bombed in Iraq: According to Turath Mahmoud al-Azzawi, the

                     bombings "were perpetrated in an organized way and some of them were committed

                     at security inspecting points. Armed men dismount from military vehicles, enter the

                     mosque then bomb it using explosives." A member of the Iraqi parliament referred

                     to the attacks as "purely racist," and claimed that they were aimed at sabotaging the

                     relationship between Kurds and Shiites.


                   • IDF Readying Itself for Threat from ISIS in the Sinai: Israeli Defense Forces (IDF)

                     have been changing their training strategies and tactics to focus more on fighting in

                     urban areas and "protecting southern Israeli agricultural farms, which may be

                     vulnerable to infiltration by ISIS elements," according to ynetnews. This is the 3rd

                     time they've changed strategies. According to a senior IDF official, "We in the IDF

                     have improved our lethality. We also understand that the threat has changed, and

                     have made moves that will answer the blows they have yet to land." Israeli officials

                     are concerned about their shared border with Egypt, where, evidently, Egyptians

                     have been fighting ISIS.


                   • ISIS Attack Kills 10, injures 15 in Istanbul's Sultanahmet: An explosion on Tuesday

                     in one of Istanbul's beloved tourist districts has killed 10 people. According to

                     Hurriyet Daily News, the suicide bomber recently entered Turkey from Syria.

                     Another high-profile attack at the hands of the Islamic State.



     What’s Relevant?

                   • Islamic State has the media priority in the Middle East -- little reporting is done that

                     does not have them involved. The burden that the refugee crisis puts on neighboring

                     states, coupled with consistent violence, is making the situation difficult for

                     government officials, specifically, Angela Merkel. Iran has historically been

                     uncomfortable with the US presence in the Gulf, and the US Navy has constantly

                     maintained a two-carrier presence, at least. It is almost surprising to me that it has

                     taken this long for a spat to arise. But to be sure, another country's Naval vessels

                     found "training" off the coast of Florida would probably be met with a more

                     aggressive response from our officials.


                    -Mr. "X"






                   Internet Service Providers Trying to Screw You: Republicans are trying to pass a bill

                     that would allow ISPs to, essentially, charge whatever they want for internet access,

                     and the FCC could be left holding its member and without recourse. The "No Rate

                     Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act" is the name of the bill. Presently, the

                     FCC can investigate consumer claims that they're being overcharged for services,

                     and this bill could eliminate that ability. More legislation, written vaguely, that could

                     be interpreted in myriad of ways. ArsTechnica is a great source for the latest.



     What’s Relevant?

                   • We're running the "lite" version on our tech coverage this week -- still ramping things

                     up. With that said, our focus has been and will continue to remain on technology's

                     impacts on society, legal issues and privacy. Also, we really don't like it when

                     companies and politicians conspire to stick it to consumers.






                   December Jobs Report: Total nonfarm jobs increased by 292,000 in December, with

                     the current unemployment rate unchanged at 5%. This is a pretty significant jobs

                     number – 2014 and 2015, combined, saw ~3 million new jobs created. We haven’t

                     seen employment gains like that since the late ‘90s. Macroeconomist Dean Baker (co-

                     director of the Center for Economic Policy and Research) sees trouble in some key

                     areas still: “even as unemployment has fallen, there has been no increase in the pace of

                     nominal wage growth... the most recent data actually show the rate of wage growth

                     slowing slightly.”


                    You can find Dean’s entire piece on TruthOut.


                   Questioning Capitalism?: Economist Richard Wolff just released his latest weekly

                     economic update podcast, and boy, is it interesting. He breaks down the meaning of

                     capitalism as an economic system, which is great because there’s a lot of confusion.

                     Free Enterprise, Private Enterprise, Public Enterprise, Free Market… what does all of

                     it mean and what should we be doing? Is there a way to incorporate the democratic

                     model in our private enterprises? Mr. Wolff thinks so, and I am starting to agree.


                     Listen to his latest show here.


                   Chinese Market Turmoil: Chinese stock markets have started 2016 off with the wrong

                     kind of bang. The Shanghai Composite is off 8.5%, after plunging lows of 15%. Put

                     another way, ~$1  trillion in market value has gone up in smoke in less than two

                     weeks. All of this stems from fears that the Chinese economy is slowing and

                     responding sluggishly to government intervention. Some analysts have already begun

                     claiming that this is an isolated problem. Markets stateside have reacted by kicking off

                     the new year with the worst performance in over 90 years. Ouch.



     What’s Relevant?

                   • Jobs. People need them, and, increasingly, they have them. But we think the bigger

                     story here is wages – they’ve been sluggish-to-stagnant for decades, while corporate

                     profitability has sky-rocketed. Richard Wolff poses the question: “if you have nothing

                     but your ability to work, with which to get the goods and services that you need to

                     live, how free, exactly, are you?” Probably not that free. China's problems could very

                     well become our problems. If we learned anything from the 2008 meltdown and the

                     ensuing fallout, it's that our global markets are more interconnected than ever. Greece

                     circa 2010 was Europe's September 2008 in the United States. Stay tuned.



Featured Content


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                   • BBP 21: Late Night Legislation


                   • The Minimum Wage Sausage - Dan Willis


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Jan 14 2016

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