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No one in their right mind would link the atrocity at Khan Sheikhoun in the Idlib Province of Syria yesterday with the bombing of a tube train in St Petersburg on Sunday, not least of which because the Russians themselves make no link between the bombing and any group active in Syria. No one in their right mind would consider that military population should be subjected to an attack of poisonous gas that left people gasping in the street as their mouths foamed and their breathing came to an agonised stop. And no one in their right mind would inflict that on a civilian population, already suffering from the ravages of civil war, bombed out of their homes and businesses so that men, women and children are always in the streets. No one in their right mind would do any of those things and that is why Syria's President Assad must be removed, even though he has the support of Russia.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack using an as yet unspecified gas or other chemical agent may have been mounted by Russian jets; Russia said that is absolutely not so.



The American term "town hall" is, regrettably, spreading through management-speak and is to be found amongst those who favour jargon over action. And last night, US President Trump held one of these badly named fora, this time for CEOs, some of which were his friends. OK, most of which are his friends. But we saw a new Trump: he's still not "presidential" and he still can't string a sentence together without some element of hyperbole and the insertion of glib phrases while his brain works out what his mouth is to say next (not an entirely successful strategy as we've learned over the past year or so) but... scary as it is to say, he's beginning to make sense. He's learning that the media and through it the population need something they can actually see is true. And visuals other than his bad-hair competition with NoKo's KIM isn't really doing it for us any longer. So, admittedly still littering his speech with his broken phrases and trite superlatives, he had someone bring out a graphic he had made showing the process required to undertake remedial work on Federal highways etc. He pointed out that Obama had voted more than USD1,000 million for repairs and improvements but none had been spent because the process takes longer than eight years, which is all that Obama had. He said that it's not Obama to blame, that the systems have been created over a period of 20 years or more. He said that in States, the process is similar and he told New York that he intended to get Federal approval time down to one year and he really wanted four months. He told New York that if they were told they were going to get federal money for a project, that the project had to start within 15 months or the money would not be handed over. And he told New York that when it is given money for specific infrastructure projects, that it what it is to be spent on, not diverted to other purposes.

And that was just one part of his presentation. His game plan is starting to make sense. His plans for Dodd-Frank are taking shape: he made it clear, he was not reducing regulation but aiming to target it better so that it maintained all the protections without creating a blanket culture of failure to make loans.

Odd - even disturbing - as it is to say it, Trump might not be the total idiot he appeared during campaigning and his first two months in power.


Transfixed as the world has been to Jude Law's "The Young Pope," the big question for the past few weeks has been "what's happened to The Old Pope?" Now we know: he's been looking at the state of the world, starting with Chicago. Don't give up hope, he has told the city. But is he playing to stereotypes? Is Chicago really as violent as he appears to think?