Thu Nov 16th, 2017 at 08:51:15 PM EST
Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri accepts Macron's invitation to France | DW |
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri will travel to France at the invitation of President Emmanuel Macron, according to French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
"He will come to France and the prince has been informed," Jean-Yves Le Drian said Thursday in Riyadh, referring to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
Asked about the date of the trip, Le Drian replied, "Mr. Hariri's schedule is a matter for Mr. Hariri." An official at the French president's office said Hariri was expected in the coming days.
Thu Nov 16th, 2017 at 05:20:15 AM EST
Former MI-6 spy Chris Steele must be a good guy ... working for and against Russian oligarchs in London, even sending reports on Russian involvement in the Ukraine to Victoria Nuland, former assistent to US VP Cheney. Now, those are true credentials ... for American/British neocons. Steele in the same category as CIA, Brennan and Clapper. Why am I not a believer??
How Trump walked into Putin's web
The inside story of how a former British spy was hired to investigate Russia's influence on Trump - and uncovered explosive evidence that Moscow had been cultivating Trump for years. By Luke Harding - The Guardian
The episode burnished Steele's reputation inside the US intelligence community and the FBI. Here was a pro, a well-connected Brit, who understood Russian espionage and its subterranean tricks. Steele was regarded as credible. Between 2014 and 2016, Steele authored more than 100 reports on Russia and Ukraine. These were written for a private client but shared widely within the US state department, and sent up to secretary of state John Kerry and assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland, who was in charge of the US response to Putin's annexation of Crimea and covert invasion of eastern Ukraine. Many of Steele's secret sources were the same people who would later supply information on Trump.
One former state department envoy during the Obama administration said he read dozens of Steele's reports. On Russia, the envoy said, Steele was "as good as the CIA or anyone".
Steele's professional reputation inside US agencies would prove important the next time he discovered alarming material.
'Correspondent' Luke Harding also cooperated with Chris Steele to write his earlier book -
○ A Very Expensive Poison - a dramatic account of Litvinenko's murder
○ Luke Harding on panel discussion on Ukraine - Hromadske International
Info from above linked from The Guardian article -
○ Christopher Steele believes his dossier on Trump-Russia is 70-90% accurate
Wed Nov 8th, 2017 at 10:06:28 PM EST
American policy towards present Middle-East in support of Israel and the GCC states under leadership of Saudi Arabia feeding on revenge for 1983 Beirut US Marines barrack bombing. The rise of Khomeiny and the hostage taking at US embassy in Teheran of 1979.
1983 bombing was opening salvo in 'war on terror': Pence | The Daily Star - Beirut |
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence Monday described the 1983 Beirut bombing that killed over 200 Marines as the "opening salvo" of the war on terror as he hit out at Hezbollah and Iran.
Pence: Hezbollah sparked the war on terror
« click for more info
A truck carrying more than 2,000 pounds of explosives sped past a sentry post and exploded outside the Beirut barracks in the early hours of Oct. 23, 1983, as many servicemen slept. (AP Photo/Jim Bourdier)
○ Turkey reiterates support for Lebanon after Hariri resignation
More below the fold ...
by Frank Schnittger
Tue Nov 7th, 2017 at 05:52:00 PM EST
A correspondent points me to two interesting perspectives on Brexit. The first is an American perspective by Steven Erlanger, the chief diplomatic correspondent for The New York Times, who has just completed four years as London bureau chief. The second is a twitter storm by Jonathan Lis on his discussions with unnamed Brussels staff, purporting to give an informed Brussels perspective on how the Brexit negotiations are going. Both authors can be viewed as broadly sympathetic to the UK cause, and yet this is what they have to say:
Steven Erlanger: No One Knows What Britain Is Anymore
Many Britons see their country as a brave galleon, banners waving, cannons firing, trumpets blaring. That is how the country's voluble foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, likes to describe it.
But Britain is now but a modest-size ship on the global ocean. Having voted to leave the European Union, it is unmoored, heading to nowhere, while on deck, fire has broken out and the captain -- poor Theresa May -- is lashed to the mast, without the authority to decide whether to turn to port or to starboard, let alone do what one imagines she knows would be best, which is to turn around and head back to shore.
I've lived and worked for nine years in Britain, first during the Thatcher years and then again for the last four politically chaotic ones. While much poorer in the 1980s, Britain mattered internationally. Now, with Brexit, it seems to be embracing an introverted irrelevance.
Mon Nov 6th, 2017 at 05:00:48 AM EST
The MIT Energy Hackathon began on Friday night, November 3 and ended Sunday morning, November 5. 9 energy challenges were presented to about 300 people for 2 minutes each. After a take-out dinner, each presenter had the chance to talk with individual and small groups of students for an hour and a half and to check back in over the weekend. I presented my challenge, Rebuilding Energy Infrastructure in the Caribbean After the Hurricanes (https:/www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/10/29/1710825-MIT-Energy-Hackathon-Challenge-Rebuilding-Energ
y-Infrastructure-in-the-Caribbean-After-the-Hurrica), the only one submitted by an individual not a corporation, as best I could. There were over 40 teams at the Hackathon working on problems with Shell and GM's and other' climate goals, beer and other food and beverage waste treatment, drilling fluids, building energy use, and other topics.
Three teams took the hurricane reconstruction challenge up. Each of them concentrated on Puerto Rico although I had specifically reminded them of the situation on Barbuda which was a much smaller scale, about 2000 people rather than more than 3 million. One team redesigned Puerto Rico's electrical system as modular micro-grids with energy storage to provide 40% of the island's power from renewables within a reasonable time period. Hawaii, with a population of about 1.5 million, is planning on 70% of its energy from renewables by 2030. This team intends to keep working on their proposal for another upcoming hackathon.
The second team proposed an app to identify what areas had electricity and what areas didn't and then link people with energy suppliers and systems, an app which is applicable not only to Puerto Rico but any disaster or emergency aftermath. The third team would use SolarCoin (https://solarcoin.org/en/node/6), an existing online currency, and blockchain using Mycroft, "an open source Alexa" or Siri, to bootstrap and crowd fund a solar transition for individual and groups as well as community solar installations. The first team was also thinking of electrical current as currency with blockchain, an authentication or accounting system, something that can lead to what I call a solar swadeshi (http://solarray.blogspot.com/2005/05/solar-swadeshi-hand-made-electricity.html) and, possibly, Gandhian economics (http://hubeventsnotes.blogspot.com/2014/04/inclusive-economics-gandhian-method-and.html).
There were nine finalists. Two of the finalists were teams that took up the challenge of Puerto Rico: the app team and the SolarCoin team. Neither won any of the three top prizes but the SolarCoin team won the best in its challenge.
This particular challenge, building and rebuilding our energy and communications infrastructure in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and here in the USA, is an ongoing challenge, a problem that won't go away without a lot of work.
Fri Nov 3rd, 2017 at 11:46:42 PM EST
31 October 2017, the US Senate Judiciary Committee, Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee (running time: 03:00:00) met with Colin Stretch, VP & General Counsel, Facebook, Sean Edgett, Acting General Counsel, Twitter, and Richard Salgado, Dir. of Law Enforcement and Information Security, Googgle, in a hearing of "Extremist Content and Russian Disinformation Online." What follows is this author's transcription of the chairman's opening remarks and ten minutes, the saddest ten minutes, of the interrogatory which followed. May it be a lesson for us all.
Tue Oct 31st, 2017 at 06:19:05 PM EST
The content committee for the MIT Energy Hackathon, November 3-5, has accepted my challenge on "Rebuilding Energy Infrastructure in the Caribbean After the Hurricanes." With luck, an extremely
knowledgeable and expert team of MIT and other students will study this question and propose solutions.
My cunning plan is to see whether Hackathon weekend can snowball into a global brainstorm on the topic, sorta kinda like a World Game or World Peace Game for all those who want to participate, "for the benefit of all who will allow the benefit of all," as my friend Milt Raymond used to say. I think renewables are mature enough and affordable enough now to be a feasible alternative to the fossil fuel economy if you start from scratch. And there are islands like Barbuda and areas of Puerto Rico which are doing just that. This is an opportunity to design an accelerated renewable transition, something that was already buiding before disaster struck.
Here is the challenge proposal I submitted:
by Frank Schnittger
Sat Oct 28th, 2017 at 04:55:07 PM EST
As someone distrustful of extreme nationalism and committed to the European ideal as the best way we have yet found of maintaining peace and prosperity in Europe, I am utterly conflicted by the drive for Catalonian independence.
On the one hand I am committed to the European principle of subsidiarity - that decisions effecting peoples lives should be made with their maximum involvement and as close as possible to their own communities.
I therefore have no problem with negotiations for greater Catalonian autonomy, if Catalonians generally are unhappy with decisions made on their behalf by the central government in Madrid.
But granting Catalonia full sovereignty is an altogether different matter. It implies that Catalonia will have its own army and distinct relationships with the EU and all foreign states. On what basis could it be granted?
by Frank Schnittger
Wed Oct 25th, 2017 at 09:43:20 PM EST
Worst case Brexit scenario could see Irish GDP fall by 9%, says EU report
A new study into the effects of Brexit on UK and EU trade, particularly agricultural trade, warns that Ireland's GDP could be harder hit than the UK.
Its main scenario analysis, based on a hard Brexit, foresees a fall in Irish GDP of 3.4 per cent, compared to a fall of 2.4 per cent in the UK. This is broadly in line with the predictions of other recent studies.
The report predicts that Irish agricultural exports to the rest of the world could fall by more than two thirds (71 per cent, or $6.5 billion).
The Brexit effect on the GDP of the whole of the EU27 would be of the order of only minus 0.3 per cent. The report, "EU-UK agricultural trade: State of play and possible impacts of Brexit", was written by economists for the European Parliament's agriculture committee.
The report even suggests the fall in Irish GDP could be as high as 9.4 per cent in the most malign scenario studied, if "non-tariff mechanisms" combine with new World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs to hamper Irish agricultural exports gain access to the rest of the EU and world.
Sat Oct 21st, 2017 at 05:38:04 PM EST
This essay is appropriately titled as the survey of actions therein are limited to state authorities, law and law enforcement, to punish (proscribe, abridge, or "chill") individual, personal conduct.
Censorship in the Digital Age
British Home Secretary Amber Rudd recently announced that citizens that view too much extremist material online could face up to 15 years in jail. Rudd related...
by Frank Schnittger
Tue Oct 17th, 2017 at 06:49:41 PM EST
Helen and others have expressed scepticism as to whether a "no deal" Brexit could actually happen in reality. Surely the leaders of the UK and EU couldn't be so incompetent or irresponsible? I have been gaming out the possible outcomes in my mind for quite some time now. The most plausible "no deal" scenario runs something like this:
The Brexit negotiations plod on for almost two years sometimes making progress and sometimes getting stuck. Some specific areas are almost put to bed, but as always, "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed". The negotiators home in on the outstanding areas of disagreement where the gap between the two sides seems bridgeable. Other areas, where the gap appears impossible to resolve are abandoned altogether. The ambition to craft a deal covering all areas of major mutual interest is ditched in favour of agreeing on what we can, while we can. "Nice to haves" are abandoned in favour of focusing on the absolute "must haves" of any deal.
Keeping some form of "Blue skies" agreement in operation is vital if planes are to be able to fly between the UK and EU. Mutual recognition of regulations and their enforcement is vital if non-tariff barriers are not going to stymie efforts to keep trade and just-in-time multi-national production processes flowing.
Deadlines are set and pass without full agreement.
The EU27 leaders are called in to knock negotiators heads together. Everyone gets nervous as Brexit day end March 2019 approaches. The window of opportunity to ratify any deal done before Brexit gets narrower and narrower. Negotiators are keenly aware that a Brexit deal requires weighted majority support on the EU Council. They can afford to upset one major and a few smaller EU members, but any more than that and a "blocking minority" on the Council can stymie any agreement.
But worse than that, if no deal is agreed by March 2019, unanimity between the EU27 is required to agree an extension of the A50 deadline or any deal thereafter. Some EU27 members have already signalled their unhappiness with aspects of the deal that is emerging. Whatever chance there is of winning a weighted majority vote on the Council, the chances of gaining unanimous support are slim to non-existent. Huge pressure is exerted on the UK to agree something - anything - before the March deadline if any sort of deal is to be reached.
by Frank Schnittger
Mon Oct 16th, 2017 at 10:26:38 AM EST
Many here at the European Tribune have been predicting a hard Brexit almost from day one, convinced that the UK government was being almost totally unrealistic in what it expected to achieve out of the negotiations. Ministers seemed to be negotiating with themselves and each other as to what they really wanted, with any consideration of why the EU might actually want to concede such things barely an afterthought, if that.
Conscious that the Brexit negotiations were going to be difficult and complex, Theresa May quickly came up with another cliche to rival her famous "Brexit means Brexit" mantra. Now it was "No deal is better than a bad deal" in an effort to put the wind up the EU negotiators and force concessions. Apparently Germany was supposed to act as the adult in the room and bring both sides to their senses and force a deal at the denouement.
But the gradual hardening of the UK negotiating position has had the opposite effect to what was perhaps intended. Instead of softening their position the EU side has looked on with increasing incredulity at the shifting sands across the Dover straits. Could the UK really be serious? Trade talks before a financial settlement is reached? An invisible Irish border despite the UK leaving the Single Market and Customs Union? EU citizens in the UK being used as bargaining chips and threatened with deportation despite their importance to the UK economy? A Transition deal with no quid pro quo?
But what perhaps no-one has anticipated was that a hard Brexit might actually become the UK policy objective. Political commentators have moved slowly from an initial position where a deal was seen as inevitable to one where the risks of a 'no deal' Brexit were seen to increase, if only because of the incompetence of the negotiators. Now Chris Johns in the Irish Times has come to the conclusion that far from being a result of a negotiating failure, a "Cliff Edge" Brexit is becoming the desired outcome for many on the UK side. Far from falling off a cliff, the UK may be getting ready to jump.
by Frank Schnittger
Thu Oct 12th, 2017 at 03:53:20 PM EST
When focusing on the political and economic aspects of Brexit, it is easy to forget the human drama it represents for many people. Here is an extract from an Irish UK immigrant's story:
What's it like observing an entire country having a nervous breakdown? Those of us living in the now utterly divided UK know the answer. It's like being a lodger in a house with a couple who have decided to get divorced but can't afford to separate. It's lying awake at night listening to bickering in the next room. It's sitting opposite both parties at the breakfast table, smiling sympathetically at the eye-rolls each are throwing behind the other's back. And it's all the while silently knowing that any expression of one's own discomfort will be dismissed with the words "Well, if you hate it here so much, why don't you just leave?". Totes awks.
Now imagine that one of the reasons for the divorce is that the couple could not agree on whether to take in lodgers in the future. Naturally, in that situation your mere presence becomes an acute reminder of their failure to agree. It becomes impossible for them to see you beyond the uncomfortable feelings you bring. All you are is a lower lip, quivering as you warble, "Is this is about that time I got you out of bed at 2am to let me in? Because if it is that won't happen again. I can change, I swear."
This is what being a migrant in Brexit Britain is like. Surrounded by wounded divorcée landlords, hoping you don't say the wrong thing to the wrong person. You find yourself appraising everyone you meet to discern which camp they fall into and thus the ground on which you can safely tread.
The Brexiteer is the party in the dispute who admits that the income from lodgers is required to cover the mortgage on the house but who wants to be able to apply more quality control to the kind of lodgers they allow in. They also have a strong suspicion that one of the lodgers has been helping themselves to their jar of Marmite and won't be taken for a fool.
The Remainers are the ones drilling you at length about the profile of the UK in the outside world. To fully understand their position one must remember that the British are the people who invented manners and etiquette, and so in their eyes to treat a guest badly is unforgivable. One cannot underestimate how utterly wretched they feel at the poor impression this whole debacle must be giving those looking on. I've had a very positive experience of the country, but I still have to reach to find enough good things to say that will quell their fear that they are now regarded internationally as complete dumbasses.
by Frank Schnittger
Mon Oct 2nd, 2017 at 10:46:09 AM EST
When the 1916 rising against British rule in Ireland took place, many of the defeated insurgents were booed on the streets of Dublin as they were being led to imprisonment: Such was the popular anger at the damage their ill-planned adventure had caused to many lives and the city's infrastructure.
And then the British started to execute some of the leaders, and the tide of public opinion turned.
It is doubtful whether Catalonian independence had the support of a majority of Catalonians prior to the referendum on the First of October 2017. But the sight of peaceful citizens seeking to vote being baton charged, beaten and shot with rubber bullets by riot police will change all of that.
Despite deploying 15,000 police mostly from outside Catalonia and injuring over 800 people, the Spanish state managed to close only about 300 out of 2,300 polling stations and could not prevent 2.3 Million people from casting their vote - a 42% turnout - despite confiscating many ballot boxes. Many Irish referenda have been passed with less.
90% voted for independence, a resounding response to the violence.
In one ill-considered act the Spanish state has ensured its own disintegration. Catalonia will now declare independence. If the Rajoy government seizes control and organises new elections, they will be won by separatists. In the words of W.B. Yeats all is "changed, changed utterly: a terrible beauty is born."
by Frank Schnittger
Sat Sep 30th, 2017 at 10:38:06 AM EST
As the Catalonia referendum crisis reaches it's apotheosis the Irish Government has proposed to hold no fewer than seven referendums in the next couple of years which has even friendly commentators questioning their necessity. More hostile commentators regard the plan as nothing more than a stunt pulled by a weak minority Government trying to prove it has vision and durability.
But some of the proposed referenda are very important and likely to prove extremely controversial and difficult to pass. The proposal to remove or amend the Eight Amendment to the Constitution which prohibits abortion in almost all circumstances is one such issue. There is a broad consensus that access to abortion in Ireland needs to be liberalised, but little consensus on precisely to what degree.
The Eight Amendment was originally passed in 1983 (with a 54% turnout) at the height of the Catholic Church's powers and guaranteed "the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn child". It has proved controversial then and ever since, but conservative forces will not give up without a fight.
Fri Sep 29th, 2017 at 12:29:37 PM EST
In the absence of a thread from someone more knowledgeable about Spain, an open thread to collect links and impressions.
First out, Eurointelligence from this morning:
Things are coming to a head in Catalonia
The Spanish government has disrupted the Catalan referendum, but is likely not to be able to stop millions of Catalans from casting votes anyway despite a massive police deployment;
this undermines the authority of the state and still leaves the initiative with the Catalan regional government and parliament, which will decide on Tuesday whether to declare independence;
Víctor Lapuente argues that the credibility of a democratic state depends on the predictablity of its enforcement actions, which has been absent in Spain, while Guillem Martínez writes that "Leviathan" and "midget Leviathan" are both unpredictable and so unsettling;
Andrés Boix i Palop reviews in Verfassungsblog the increasingly widespread opinion among Spanish legal experts that the Spanish government is violating the constitution in order to protect it;
Front paged - Frank Schnittger
by Frank Schnittger
Tue Sep 26th, 2017 at 01:26:24 PM EST
Ireland is competing with France and South Africa for the right to host the 2023 Rugby World cup. It's an important issue for Ireland because the economic benefit could be as much as 1.5 Billion, and it provides an opportunity for North South cooperation post Brexit. Rugby is one of the few major activities that are organised on an all island basis with very little of the sectarian or Governmental divisions seen in other areas.
Gerry Thornley has a piece up in the Irish Times looking at the voting blocs and how they might vote in deciding who gets the next Rugby World Cup. Update [2017-9-30 19:22:51 by Frank Schnittger]: He has now also added a piece on the Pros and Cons of the three bids
If the IRFU have done their homework and lobbied all the right people, then Ireland should be capable of attracting 22 votes and an overall majority even on the first round ballot. However that assumes Ireland wins the recommendation of the technical committee and that our competitors haven't bribed the relevant officials and Unions in some of the swing vote members (as routinely happens with the Olympics and FIFA World Cup).
Sun Sep 24th, 2017 at 03:18:56 AM EST
Solar lights and cell phone chargers are now $1or less production costs and selling around the world for $5 or less retail. Add bicycle generators and you have independent indigenous emergency power now, day or night. AA battery to car battery and better microgrids.
It is conceivable that we could crowd fund a basic emergency electrical system (lights, cell phones or radio, computers) for Puerto Rico (as well as the other islands destroyed by the recent hurricanes) within less time than the established grid can come back on line.
There are examples of islands which are planning and working toward 100% renewable power:
El Hierro, 7,000 people, one of the Spanish Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, uses wind and pumped hydro energy storage to supply 50% of its power
Kodiak Island, 15,000 people, in Alaska has been running its grid with wind and hydro power since 2012
Samsø, 4,000 people, in Denmark has spent over the last decade moving towards zero carbon with wind, solar, and biomass
Bornholm, 14,000 people, also in Denmark, is working towards a CO2-neutral society based on renewable and sustainable energy by 2025 and was the site of the EU's Grid 2.0 project
and Hawaii, 1,400,000 people, has the goal of using renewables like wind, sun, ocean, geothermal, and bioenergy to supply 70 percent or more of Hawaii's energy needs by 2030en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_Hawaii#Hawaii_Clean_Energy_Initiative
How about an ad hoc global online design charette and hackathon to rebuild Anguilla, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, St. Martin / St. Maarten, the US Virgin Islands, and Turks and Caicos, Dominica... ?
That might be a good thought experiment. Perhaps we could run it through the Small Island and Developing States UN organization /en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_Island_Developing_States
Sat Sep 23rd, 2017 at 05:47:25 AM EST
Spending a fortnight in the Emirates ... always interesting to learn a people and nation from inside out. Amazing hoe Dubai is orienented on the Saudi kingdom and its oil exploration beneficiares the British with BP and Yanks with Standard Oil and Aramco of old.
Agressive PR about the soldiers of fortune fighting the war in Yemen against the imaginary foe Iran. Of course the US goods of war fully on display with Apache fighting machines and fighter planes. Sheikh ... whatever Needs You. Same old US influence on local culture or thereof. Television news casts CNN - Fox - Sky News - BBC and the Gulf States' broadcasts.
Modern life mixing with the conservatieve Islamic culture ... amazing. Dubai Mall displays the top brands for the extreme wealthy next to 100% trash goods from Japan, China and Taiwan ... just unreal. Desert temperatures outside pushing 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Strictly a male society with with all inequalities of gender and minorities. Display of care quite similor to the American way of life ... big, bigger, biggest. Adolescent behavior with most expensive cars reminding me of my teenage years of the 50s and 60s. Rolls Royce, Ferraris, Porches and the largest of Asian brands. No midsized cars or European standard cars. See little goods from mainland Europe.
Just had celebration of Islamic New Year, holidays and the Friday day of prayer. Just the first impressions of a tourist on a mission. Am aware UAE is a full security state with Sharia als basic law.
It's weekend so I bought the local issues of the Gulf News and National newspapers. Picked up the October issue of the National Geographic with an article on Dubai - Can the Desert Metropolis Go Green. Always gains my intention. Noticed some smudges on the pages. A little study proofed these blackened out a single term in the article on Dubai. Persian Gulf was censured by the local authority. Let's make war, not love. The Hallmark of the propaganda Hollywood style mixed with the military industrial complex. Where did these Arab tribes gain so much wealth during the Bush years, Iraq War and the sky rocketing oil price.
Thanking Uncle Sam ... more to come soon, not The End yet. ;-)
More to follow ... crossposted from Booman Tribune.
by Luis de Sousa
Fri Sep 22nd, 2017 at 04:07:00 PM EST
Much confusion - or outright misinformation - continues to circulate in the UK media regarding the exit of the country from the EU. Particularly affected is the difference and relationship between the EU, the political union, presently governed by the Lisbon Treaty, and the European Economic Area (EEA), the trade union, ruled by the EEA Agreement.
Days ago The Independent newspaper published an enigmatic article in which it is claimed, among other oddities, that article 127 of the EEA Agreement can stop the current process of exit from the EU. Reproduced below is a short note I sent the editors of The Independent clarifying some of the misunderstandings in the article.
Front paged - Frank Schnittger