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Robert Wenzel

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Is the United States Trying to Incite Unrest in Venezuela?

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The U.S. government is placing pressure on major banks to keep their distance from "illicit" Venezuelan financial flows, specifically identifying Petroleos de Venezuela as a problem area.

This has resulted in Citibank announcing that it will stop processing debt payments to Petroleos de Venezuela's bondholders. The bank has cited "a periodic risk-management review."

The bank told bondholders that it would end its role as Petroleos de Venezuela's  principal pay agent and suspend its processing of at least seven debt bonds, including $5 billion in debt payments due in October and November of this year.

If Petroleos de Venezuela can not find another major bank processor, the state oil firm will not be able to make its payments and all hell could break lose.
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On the ISIS Terrorist Threat

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The panic in the western world, since the attack in Paris, where approx. 130 were killed is quite over the top.

Walking home Friday evening, at the corner of Montgomery and Second St., in San Francisco, I witnessed train passengers rushing out of the underground train station. Police were rushing in. Someone had heard a "pop."

It was nothing.

 While the slaughter in Paris was horrific, it should be kept in mind that many more pedestrians die each year in the US as a result of getting hit by automobiles.

  According to the National Highway Safety Administration, in 2013 there were 4,735 deaths caused by pedestrians being hit by cars.

Yet, remarkably, the government hasn't banned crossing the street.
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What You Should Know About the New Defense Secretary

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When President Dwight D. Eisenhower on January 17, 1961 delivered his farewell address and warned about the Military-Industrial Complex, he surely was thinking of men like Ashton Carter, the new Secretary of Defense.

Carter appears to move easily between the higher echelons of the military and the business world.

From October 2011 to December 2013, he served as the Department of Defense’s Chief Operating Officer overseeing more than $600 billion per year. During the Bush administration, he was a member of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's International Security Advisory Board; co-chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Policy Advisory Group; a consultant to the Defense Science Board; a member of the National Missile Defense White Team, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on International Security and Arms Control.

When not working in a military capacity and doling out of billions, he has worked in the private sector for many of the firms that have benefited handsomely from the billions spent by the Defense Department.
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Inside the Strange Mind of NATO's Anders Fogh Rasmussen

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This week, I attended a talk here in San Francisco by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, sponsored jointly by The World Affairs Council and The Commonwealth Club.

I have never heard remarks before quite like those made by Rasmussen, the former Prime Minister of Denmark.

In nearly perfect English, he called for the expanded role for NATO pretty much across the world. He said there was an "arc of crisis" around the world, from north and central Africa to Iraq and Syria. From the Baltics to the Black Sea and on the peninsula of Korea.

He stated that the answer to this global crisis was that NATO needed more ships, planes and troops on the ground. He called for all NATO countries to expand defense spending to two percent of their GDPs and said that the only NATO countries that currently spend above this level are the US, the UK, Greece and Estonia. He justified NATO, which was, of course, formed as a North Atlantic alliance, expansion into activities into the Pacific by pointing out that the NATO member, the US, has a Pacific coast line and that other NATO members have territories in the Pacific.
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In Defense of Dennis Rodman

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Dennis Rodman is one strange dude.

I once visited a club he had in Chicago, during the days of the Michael Jordan led Chicago Bulls championship years. The crowd was the strangest crowd I have ever seen in my life. It looked like a convention of a secret transvestite subchapter of the Hell’s Angels.

Despite his strangeness, Rodman did have an influence on the nation by being the first to cover his body with tattoos. For whatever reason, millions have followed Rodman into getting inked-up bodies. Prior to Rodman’s tattoos, they were mostly worn just by merchant sailors — and only one, on the arm.

But Rodman, his pro basketball playing days well behind him, is now in the national spotlight for playing exhibition games in North Korea at the invitation of NK’s leader, the crazed Kim Jong-un.
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