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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 14th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

In a sleepy town in the Norwegian Arctic, an American-funded radar system is being built to spy on Russia’s expanding fleet of nuclear submarines.

The project has already infuriated the Kremlin, which is seeking to assert itself in the region as climate change opens up shipping routes and resources.

“Norway has to understand that after becoming an outpost of NATO, it will have to face head-on Russia and Russian military might,” Russia’s ambassador to Norway said. “Therefore, there will be no peaceful Arctic anymore.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 26th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The UN General Assembly, UN Headquarters, 29 March 2017 – Intervention of the Holy See
During the Preparatory Committee established by General Assembly resolution 69/292
dedicated to the Development of an international legally binding instrument
under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity
of areas beyond national jurisdiction

Presentation by Susan M. Whelan

Madame Facilitator,

Since this is the first time our delegation takes the floor, we would like to congratulate you
and thank you for your able assistance in this session. We thank Ambassador Charles for his
instructive leadership in the prior Preparatory Committee meetings and we congratulate Ambassador Duarte for his election as Chair.

We have listened carefully to the discussion yesterday and today, and our delegation would
agree with others that there seems to be an unbridgeable divide between those seeking to apply two competing principles to this agreement. Therefore, in the interest of moving forward, we will restrict our discussion to the topic of obligations stemming from the use of ocean resources in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ).

As other delegations have noted, Freedom of the High Seas is not an absolute right and is
subject to limitations and corresponding duties. This “right of access” is conditioned as a result of the use of the ocean space and resources. Various uses such as the general obligation for peaceful use, laying of submarine cables, the construction of artificial islands, fishing and scientific research are identified and subsequently qualified, subject to certain limitations and obligations. So regulating use and providing for responsibilities as well as rights are nothing new.

The practical reality is, however, that not all resources in the ocean are equal and not all human activity has the same impact on biodiversity. Some resources, such as minerals, have an immediate inherent value, or the human activity in using the resource creates such a negative impact on the environment that there is a depreciation value. Others, such as marine genetic resources (MGRs), only have potential value and no real value or impact at the time of extraction or use; therefore, there is no benefit to share. Because of these practical realities – and in the spirit of Norway’s intervention, our delegation suggests that our analysis and our resulting agreement must be more nuanced than just identifying specific uses or ocean resources. We cannot have a successful, forward-looking regime without gaps if we focus solely on where resources are located, or what benefits States will enjoy as a result.

Therefore, our delegation suggests a bifurcated structure for considering the “use” of ocean
resources, and payments and obligations for that use. This proposed framework consists first of benefit sharing and, second, of Commercial Entitlement/Use Obligations. We have tried to fashion this analysis so that it can be applied, not only to MGRs, but to the use of all potential resources in ABNJ — for example, wind, tide, current, or geothermal renewable energies.

1. With respect to “Benefit Sharing”

Provisions are obviously already in place in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the
Seas (UNCLOS) with respect to benefit sharing. With the advent of new uses and discoveries of
ocean resources, however, and in connection with conservation and sustainable use, some
thresholds for how benefits might accrue seem helpful. In order to consider whether benefit sharing payments or obligations are appropriate, our delegation suggests that one of the following four criteria should be met:

First, the resource must have an inherent value (such as a mineral) without the intervention of mankind making it something entirely new; or

Second, there is significant harm to the environment in extracting the resource that impacts marine biodiversity for present and future generations; or

Third, the resource is non-living, and specifically not a biological resource used as a commodity in trade such as fish; or

Fourth, the resource cannot be sustainably used.

If one of these four thresholds is met, then the provisions of Part XI and Article 82 of
UNCLOS apply 82 and both monetary and non-monetary benefits must be shared. All existing
resources covered by these provisions would qualify. If one of these thresholds is not met, however, then instead of “benefit sharing” – since there is no benefit – possible “commercial Entitlement/use Obligations” attach based on “utilization” of resources jointly owned by all States.


2. With respect to Commercial Entitlement/Use Obligations.

We note at the outset that these obligations will not apply to any activities that are associated with Marine Scientific Research as provided for in UNCLOS.

As stated above, MGRs fall into a category of resources that have no value at the time of
extraction, and for which it is impossible to agree on the potential value at that time. This issue is not a new one for the business world as often a seller, such as a large pharmaceutical company, has potential products or drugs that are in various stages of development when they sell their company.
As a result, the valuation of the company is difficult and most merger or sales contracts include whatare called “earn-out provisions.”
An earn-out provision is a contractual clause stating that the seller of a business is to obtain additional compensation in the future if the business achieves certain non-financial and financial milestones. In other words, it is a contingent obligation. Non-financial targets often include the study start, study success, regulatory filing, filing of a patent, regulatory approval for use, first sale, launch of a new product, or minimum number of or increase in sales or customers. Financial targets can include the number of products sold (annual or cumulative sales), unit sales, royalty or license revenue, earnings, revenue, net income, net equity, earnings etc. As New Zealand noted yesterday, the various stages of MGR collection, analysis and utilization could form the basis for these milestones. This model could provide for non-monetary benefits to developing countries with respect to triggers that are not financial in nature, for example, regulatory approvals and patent filings. These non-monetary obligations could include access to collection, data sharing, and clearinghouse or repository arrangements. Monetary payments, if agreed, could be tied to financial
benchmarks, but could also be formulated as preventive measures against selling resulting products or drugs into developing countries at exorbitant prices.

As for how this is structured: A party, for example a private company seeking to find and
develop MGRs into a useful product, has the option of entering into an agreement prior to use
(here, collection of samples) in which case the bargaining power is in their court. If they wait until they file for a patent, the regulator can set the terms. One suggestion is that the mechanism could be the same as used for fishing – through bilateral agreements, Regional Fishing Management Organizations or Agreements (RFMOs or RFMAs), however this is agreed.
As for Intellectual property issues, our delegation believes that this agreement should not
impact or try to undermine patent laws. We hope that this can be avoided by including the
presumption that the origin of every MGR patent is presumed to be in ABNJ unless otherwise
stated. Traceability could become associated with one of the milestone events.

In conclusion: beyond the fact that it fulfills the general principle of economic equity, why
should we use this approach? There are several reasons:

First, the Nagoya Protocol anticipates this model and earn-out provisions in particular. The
Annex lists monetary benefits, including access fees, upfront payments and milestone payments.

Second, in life sciences merger deals, specifically bio-pharmaceutical deals, 82 percent of biopharmaceutical deals included earn-out provisions in 2012. These are provisions that the business world is familiar with and are part of existing international law and practice.

Third, it allows all States to move forward when the parties cannot agree on the value of the
resource, especially when it has no value at all at the time of extraction. This is particularly critical where the source of uncertainty may be the undeveloped product, when there is a new market, when the financial information is unreliable, or when there’s an uncertain future but non-State private investors, developers, enterprises and individuals are involved.

Fourth, it permits private companies or actors greater control over whether and when the
milestone events are triggered, reduces the risk of overpaying, defers obligations and therefore decreases the disincentives.

Finally, from the perspective of developing countries, the user ultimately compensates States
for the use of a resource in the Commons. Every use has the potential to give value, whether
monetary or non-monetary, at some point. It also provides the opportunity to benefit from synergies of working with sophisticated parties in business integration as a matter of contract.

I thank you for your patience with this lengthy intervention.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 13th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from: Max Gruenig  max.gruenig at eius.org

Dear colleagues,

One can now apply to be a part of Arctic Summer College 2017 at bit.ly/ASCapply2017(link is external)

The deadline for an application is June 8, 2017.


Since 2012, the Arctic Summer College provides an interdisciplinary learning environment to increase knowledge and understanding of the people and the environment of the Arctic. To achieve this, the College focuses on climate change adaptation, natural resource management, biodiversity protection, environmental governance, energy policy, security, and human health. The College is primarily a virtual campus for learning about the environment in the Arctic and exchanging ideas on how collaborative efforts can protect the Arctic from negative impacts of human activities in the High North.

The Arctic Summer College invites practitioners and graduate students from around the world to participate in an expert-led, interactive webinar series in which you will engage with Arctic experts in a variety of fields in real time. During the course, you will build relationships with other participants, develop connections with Arctic professionals, and enter into a larger network of Arctic Summer College Alumni upon completion of the program.

You will benefit from lectures and submit a final paper to earn our Arctic Summer College Student Certification. The final paper can be on a topic of your choice within relevant fields such as sustainable development, environmental protection, and/or international cooperation in the Arctic. Exceptional participants will have the opportunity to publish their work in the peer-reviewed Arctic Summer College yearbook (see also our previous book on Arctic Governance: ecologic.eu/10044(link is externa) and the World Policy Institute’s Arctic in Context Blog.

Additionally, distinguished participants will receive a travel grant to present their research at the 2017 Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland.

9 online lectures will be hosted by Ecologic Institute on Wednesdays from 18:00-20:00 CEST / 12:00-14:00 EDT from July 5 to August 30, 2017.

The participation fee for the Arctic Summer College is 300 USD or 300 EUR.

You can contact us with questions about the Arctic Summer College and the application process at  application at arcticsummercollege.org(link sends e-mail)

We look forward to hearing from you!

Your Arctic Summer College Team,
Max Gruenig, Brendan O’Donnell and Arne Riedel

 arcticsummercollege.org


Max Gruenig
President

Phone 202-550-9072
Skype max.gruenig.ecologic
Twitter @MaxGruenig
web eius.org
 www.linkedin.com/in/maxgruenig
 www.facebook.com/eius.org/

Read our new book: Low-Carbon Energy Security from a European Perspective
 bit.ly/low-carbon-energy

Ecologic Institute US
1630 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20009, USA
Ecologic Institute is an IRC 501(c)(3) public charity

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 20th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

APRIL 19, 2017
BASED ON THE UNPARALLELED FAREED ZAKARIA’S COLLECTION OF NEWS.


Admit it, Turkey Isn’t Getting in the EU: Becker


Turkey’s referendum should be the final nail in the coffin of the accession process for EU membership, writes Markus Becker for Spiegel Online.

“One popular counter argument is that the EU will lose any of the influence it has in Ankara by breaking off negotiations,” Becker writes. “But where was that influence in 2013 when Erdogan beat down the protests in Gezi Park? Where was it when Erdogan deliberately escalated the conflict with the Kurds as part of a domestic power play? And where was that EU influence when, right after last summer’s military coup attempt, Erdogan had tens of thousands of people rounded up and thrown into jail, including numerous journalists?”

Trump’s troubling call. Fareed says President Trump’s decision to call Erdogan to congratulate him on his referendum victory is a troubling sign at a time when Turkey is facing a “serious descent into authoritarianism.”

“Since the 1930s, Turkey was the one Muslim Middle Eastern country that had established a kind of secular liberal democracy. Now that seems to be unraveling, and yet President Trump’s response was to congratulate the strongman,” Fareed says.

“Contrast that with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who with her foreign minister issued a joint statement basically suggesting to Erdogan that ‘You won very narrowly. You really need to pay attention to the opposition. You need to pay heed to minority rights.’

“So what we have now is a situation where Germany’s chancellor has become the leading proponent of human rights and democracy and liberal constitutionalism, while the President of the United States is just saying ‘way to go.’ This is true for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. It’s true for Erdogan. For Rodrigo Duterte and his drug war in the Philippines.

“It’s disturbing because the great victory of the United States in foreign policy, in a broad sense, over the last six or seven decades has been to spread stability, along with a certain set of values. But here you have those unraveling and the President of the United States is cheering him on.”

AND:

Trump’s “Militarization of U.S. Foreign Policy”

President Trump’s recent foreign policy reversals “don’t address one of his administration’s most misguided impulses: The militarization of U.S. foreign policy,” writes James Gibney for Bloomberg View.

“It’s well and good to send a carrier task force…But without U.S. ambassadors in South Korea and Japan, not to mention an assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, the U.S. can’t do the kind of daily consultations and hand-holding needed to reassure allies whose civilian populations would bear the brunt of any North Korean retaliation,” Gibney says.

“…The influence of senior advisers steeped in the region might also have prevented diplomatic gaffes, such as Trump’s parroting of Xi’s line that Korea was once part of China.”


Don’t Panic About North Korean Nukes: Boot


The United States shouldn’t panic about North Korea acquiring nuclear weapons any more than it did China and Russia doing so, suggests Max Boot in Commentary. After all, unlike some other regimes, Kim Jong Un “does not aim to dominate his neighbors. All he wants to do is to survive.”

“By all means, the U.S. should step up sanctions, including secondary sanctions on Chinese companies doing business with the criminal regime in Pyongyang. But there is no overwhelming imperative to go beyond that and risk war, even if North Korea finally fields an ICBM with a nuclear warhead capable of reaching Washington,” Boot says.

AND:

Emirates Airline Cuts Flights To U.S., Citing Trump’s Security Rules

l
April 19, 2017


Emirates Airline says it is reducing its number of U.S.-bound flights because security restrictions imposed by the Trump administration have weakened demand in Middle East countries.

The Dubai-based carrier will pare back flights to five of the 12 U.S. cities it serves. Flights to Boston, Seattle and Los Angeles will be reduced from twice to once daily, and in Florida, daily service to Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale will shrink to five flights a week.

Overall, it’s a reduction of 25 flights per week for the airline, according to The Associated Press.

After Travel Ban, Airlines Scramble To Reroute Crew Members.

BUSINESS
After Travel Ban, Airlines Scramble To Reroute Crew Members

“The recent actions taken by the U.S. government relating to the issuance of entry visas, heightened security vetting, and restrictions on electronic devices in aircraft cabins, have had a direct impact on consumer interest and demand for air travel into the U.S,” Emirates said in a statement announcing the decision.


Last month, the Trump administration announced that passengers on direct flights to the U.S. from eight majority-Muslim countries — Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — must now place electronic devices such as laptops, tablets and cameras in checked baggage.


Those restrictions came on the heels of President Trump’s controversial executive orders in January and early March seeking to temporarily halt travel from several other mostly Muslim nations. Both orders were halted by the courts.

The Dubai International Airport in the UAE, which is Emirates’ hub, is a major transit point for nationals of countries listed in Trump’s travel bans, The Associated Press reports.


THESE ARE CLEARLY UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES FOR TRUMP WHO AS PRESIDENT HAS NOW THE CHANCE AT A NOBEL PRIZE FOR SETTLING THE MIDDLE EAST CANYON. THIS ROAD TO SCANDINAVIA ALSO GOES VIA THE EMIRATES – DUBAI AND ABU-DHABI AND IS BASED ON FULL COOPERATION OF THE SAUDIS.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 30th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

When Russia sold Alaska to the U.S. 150 years ago today, there was consternation on both sides of the Pacific.

American critics railed at the principal negotiator, Secretary of State William Seward, calling the sale “Seward’s Folly” and “Seward’s Icebox.” Russian newspapers are still denouncing the deal.

The Russians sold because they judged the territory a lost cause. After the Crimean War with Britain during the mid-1850s, Moscow determined that Britain would take Alaska in any future conflict.

The transaction cost the U.S. only $7.2 million — approximately $125 million in today’s dollars — to the delight of at least one American paper.

“We have made a fair trade,” argued The Charleston Daily News.
The editors continued, waxing both righteous and pugnacious, that while Europe quarreled over “Eastern questions and German questions, Brother Jonathan” — a national personification and forebear of Uncle Sam — “can sit with sublime indifference on the top of the Alleghenies and spit his tobacco into either the Atlantic or Pacific, whittling huge California timber with a clasp knife made of iron out of his mountains, and mix his cobbler with lemons grown in his own tropics, and cooled with ice brought from his own Arctic circle.”

———————-

• Vladimir V. Putin, Russia’s president, visited an Arctic archipelago to reaffirm Moscow’s foothold in the oil-rich region. [Associated Press]

On a tour on the Franz Josef Land archipelago, a sprawling collection of islands where the Russian military has recently built a new runway and worked to open a permanent base, Putin emphasized the need to protect Russia’s economic and security interests in the Arctic.

The Kremlin has named reaffirming the Russian presence in the Arctic as a top priority amid an intensifying rivalry over the region that is believed to hold up to one-quarter of the planet’s undiscovered oil and gas.

“Natural resources, which are of paramount importance for the Russian economy, are concentrated in this region,” Putin said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies.

Putin said that current estimates put the value of Arctic’s mineral riches at $30 trillion.

In 2015, Russia submitted a revised bid for vast territories in the Arctic to the United Nations, claiming 1.2 million square kilometers (over 463,000 square miles) of Artic sea shelf extending more than 350 nautical miles (about 650 kilometers) from the shore.

Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway have all been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic as shrinking polar ice creates new opportunities for exploration.

Putin said Wednesday that Russia has remained open to a “broad partnership with other nations to carry out mutually beneficial projects in tapping natural resources, developing global transport corridors and also in science and environment protection.”

He also underlined the need for the military and security agencies to “implement their plans to protect national interests, our defense capability and protection of our interests in the Arctic.”

Over the past few years, the Russian military has been conducting a costly effort to restore and modernize abandoned Soviet-era outposts in the Arctic by rebuilding old air bases and deploying new air defense assets in the region.

During the visit, Putin inspected a cavity in a glacier that scientists use to study permafrost. He also spoke with environmental experts who have worked to clean the area of Soviet-era debris.

Natural Resources Minister Sergei Donskoi reported to Putin that the cleanup effort has seen the removal of 42,000 metric tons of waste from the archipelago, most of it rusty metal oil canisters left behind by the Soviet military.

 abcnews.go.com/International/wire…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 12th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


The Irith Jawetz report on Fareed Zakaria’s Global Public Square at CNN International show
of March 12, 2017.


First, Fareed spoke with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Was there any collaboration or serious communication between the Russian government and Donald Trump’s campaign last year? What does Russia think of claims that Moscow tried to alter the outcome of the U.S. presidential election? What does Vladimir Putin make of the first several weeks of the Trump administration? Fareed poses these questions and more to the longtime Kremlin aide.

Peskov denied any interfering in the US elections and any collaboration. Russia is being demonized, Russia has become a nightmare for the U.S. and the US is humiliating itself in the world.

It is impossible for a foreign country to interfere in an election process and Russia would not do it to any country, as it would not accept any country interfering in Russian elections.

What did all Trump’s people talk to the Russian Ambassador? It’s very common for an Ambassador to meet with the Administration people of the country they serve in to get a better understanding. They spoke about bilateral relations, trade, but definitely not about the election process.

President Putin always said he will respect whoever the American chose for President. Yes, he did like Trump’s approach better than Hillary Clinton’s since she had a very negative view of Russia and Trump said that although we have differences we have to talk to each other. However Putin would never interfere with the elections.

When will they meet? Not sure yet, if it does not happen before the Summer, then they will definitely meet at the next G20 meeting in Hamburg beginning of July.

What does President Putin think of President Trump: Too early to tell, but what he saw until now he thinks he is very pragmatic. We have to work together since there are so many problems in the world.

Will President Putin raise the question of the sanctions? No, since the US imposed those sanctions, Russia will not be the first to open discussions, it is up to the US to start.

What kind of a person is Putin? Putin is different than most politicians. He means what he says, he will never say more than he will be able to do. That’s why he is trustworthy, and has been in power for 17 years.

———————————

Then, Fareed spoke with Stephen Schwarzman, chair of the White House’s business advisory council and co-founder of private equity firm Blackstone. Fareed asks how Schwarzman got chosen for his role, whether he believes President Trump is open to criticism, whether there could be a U.S.-China trade war, and what could happen to GDP growth under a Trump administration.

He knows Trump for many years and when asked him to join his Administration he said no, but agreed to be his economic advisor. Trump asked him to form a group of businessmen whom he trusts and to lead that group and they have been advising Trump.

He said that 60% of Americans have not seen increase in disposable income for many years and are frustrated. The GDP will grow, the stock market has already been up 12-13% which is a good sign..

China: on Trade – US wants equivalence – fair trade – and China is accountable for half of the US Trade deficit. However, China wants a long term relationship with the U.S. but it has to be fair. As for Trump’s relations with China: “Some of Trump’s hyperbole on China will be dialed back” ( in his words). All in all Mr. Schwazmamn seemed very optimistic.

————————————


The last segment was a question: Which countries are the only ones that have a favorable view of President Trump?
1) Russia with 83% and
2) China with 54%.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 11th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Russia’s Next Target?

Canada is an obvious target for clandestine Russian meddling, and it needs to be prepared for a combination of disinformation and old school military feints, writes former Canadian diplomat Scott Gilmore in Macleans.

“In a rules-based international system where your influence is measured by the size of your economy, your cultural soft-power, and your stature in multilateralism, Moscow has become an afterthought,” Gilmore says. “And, if Russia didn’t still have a Cold War nuclear arsenal, it would garner even less attention. So, losing the international game of chess, Putin is seeking to knock over the board itself — to discredit the multilateral world order, and destabilize the comparably strong western alliance.”

“Canada is a logical target. We are a G7 member, a strong supporter of NATO (if not a strong contributor), an advocate for a values-based international system, and a vocal critic of Moscow and its interference in other countries.”

— American vs Canadian Dream. Gilmore joined Fareed on last week’s show to discuss why he believes Canada has surpassed the United States as the land of opportunity.

— Fareed’s latest special, “The Most Powerful Man in the World,” takes an in-depth look at the rise and goals of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It premieres this Monday at 9 p.m. ET on CNN.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 11th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Titus Flavius Josephus (37 – c.100), born Joseph ben Matityahu was a first-century Romano-Jewish scholar, historian and hagiographer, who was born in Jerusalem—then part of Roman Judea—to a father of priestly descent and a mother who claimed royal ancestry.

He initially fought against the Romans during the First Jewish–Roman War as head of Jewish forces in Galilee, until surrendering in 67 CE to Roman forces led by Vespasian after the six-week siege of Jotapata. Josephus claimed the Jewish Messianic prophecies that initiated the First Roman-Jewish War made reference to Vespasian becoming Emperor of Rome. In response Vespasian decided to keep Josephus as a slave and interpreter. After Vespasian became Emperor in 69 CE, he granted Josephus his freedom, at which time Josephus assumed the emperor’s family name of Flavius.

Flavius Josephus fully defected to the Roman side and was granted Roman citizenship. He became an advisor and friend of Vespasian’s son Titus, serving as his translator when Titus led the Siege of Jerusalem. Since the siege proved ineffective at stopping the Jewish revolt, the city’s destruction and the looting and destruction of Herod’s Temple (Second Temple) soon followed.

Josephus recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the first century CE and the First Jewish–Roman War, including the Siege of Masada. His most important works were The Jewish War (c. 75) and Antiquities of the Jews (c. 94) The Jewish War recounts the Jewish revolt against Roman occupation (66–70). Antiquities of the Jews recounts the history of the world from a Jewish perspective for an ostensibly Roman audience. These works provide valuable insight into first century Judaism and the background of Early Christianity.

===================================

MARCH 10, 2017, THE ALGEMEINER

During Moscow Visit, Netanyahu Receives Special Gift From Putin — a Nearly 500-Year-Old Copy of Josephus’ The Jewish War.

by Barney Breen-Portnoy

Russian President Vladmir Putin presents Israeli Prime Minister with a nearly 500-year-old copy of Josephus’ The Jewish War in Moscow on Thursday. Photo: Screenshot.
Russian President Vladimir Putin presents Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu with a nearly 500-year-old copy of Josephus’ The Jewish War in Moscow on Thursday. Photo: Screenshot.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received a special gift from Russian President Vladimir Putin during his visit to Moscow on Thursday — a nearly 500-year-old copy of Roman-Jewish historian Josephus’ book The Jewish War.

The copy given to Netanyahu at the Kremlin on Thursday was printed in Italy in 1526.

The Israeli prime minister said he was “moved” by Putin’s gesture.

MARCH 10, 2017 5:03 PM0
Report: Member of British Royal Family to Make First State Visit to Israel
 JNS.org – A member of the United Kingdom’s royal family is reportedly expected to visit Israel this year, in what would be…

The Jewish War is an account of the Great Revolt — the uprising of the Jews of the Judea Province against the Roman Empire in the first century CE.

“This is without a doubt an important book in the historical heritage of our people,” Netanyahu said. “This book greatly influenced my beloved father, Professor Benzion Netanyahu z”l, and I read it for the first time when I was 16.”

Netanyahu further stated that Putin’s gift would be handed over to the National Library of Israel.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 9th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Iceland to Private Sector: You WILL Pay Women Fairly

March, 9, 2017

Iceland’s government is set to introduce legislation to parliament that will require all employers with more than 25 employees to obtain certification to prove they are offering equal pay regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or nationality, the Associated Press reports.

“While other countries, and the U.S. state of Minnesota, have equal-salary certificate policies, Iceland is thought to be the first to make it mandatory for both private and public firms. The North Atlantic island nation, which has a population of about 330,000, wants to eradicate the gender pay gap by 2022,” AP says.

— Rich country progress flatlining. The trend of improving conditions for working women has flatlined within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in recent years, The Economist reports.

“In 2005, 60% of women were in the labor force; ten years later, this ratio had edged up only slightly to 63% (it was 80% for men in both years),” The Economist writes. Meanwhile, the gender wage gap “still around 15%, meaning women as a group earn 85% of what men do.”

————————

In New York City, New York, USA, the police arrested women leaders of the International Womens’ Day.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 7th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The week of Purim – Is Netanyahu now a link to Putin, is Trump just trying to help a friend in trouble or was it a warning call?

Netanyahu is being interrogated at his office in Jerusalem the fourth time on several counts of suspected corruption. These interrogations go on for 5 hours each time.

This Monday the phone rang during the questioning and it was a call from Trump. It was said to the public that Trump informs him that Iran or North Korea launched a new missile and Trump wants Israel’s help. Will be the Israeli Attorney General impressed?

In parallel, it was already known since Sunday that this Friday, Netanyahu will have lunch with Putin in Moscow. The topic of discussion will be the presence of Iranian units
on Syrian soil. Will Netanyahu and his wife stay in Moscow over the Sabbath? Then they could have the chance to read the Esther Megilla at the local Temple, as Ivanka Trump and her husband will probably be doing in Florida. May be even Trump.

But the New York Times has a different idea about what Trump had to say to Netanyahu.
Supposedly he wanted just to say cool it with that construction project on those hills.

Israel Cabinet Minister of Defense, who went to Washington sensing a hurt Netanyahu,
told Lebanon not to join the Iranian side and told the Cabinet that it would be a big mistake to take over another 2 million more Arabs as part of Israel’s citizenry, this just because it would cost billions to give them full rights. That neatly lines up with Trump.

We think rather – Trump might have given to Netanyahu some advice from Tillerson on gas pipelines and the gas market – something of interest to all involved

Have a nice flight and a good weekend!

————

Throughout the centuries, Purim – which celebrates the miraculous salvation of the Jews and the thwarting of Haman’s genocidal plot – has traditionally symbolized the victory of the Jewish people over antisemitic tyranny. As such, Purim is a happy, carnival-like holiday.


The Fast of Esther

The day before Purim is a fast day known as the Fast of Esther, commemorating (inter alia) the fact that Queen Esther – the heroine of the Book of Esther – and the entire Persian Jewish community fasted (4:16) in advance of Queen Esther’s appeal for King Ahasuerus not to implement Haman’s genocidal plot. The fast will extend from before sunrise in the morning until sunset. Special prayers and scriptural readings are inserted into the synagogue service.

The Megilla
The pergament on which all of this was recorded.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 28th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Why We Love Putinology

From The Guardian: Never before have “more people with less knowledge, and greater outrage, opined on the subject of Russia’s president.” Call it Putinology. But the various theories about Vladimir Putin probably say more about us than about him, writes Keith Gessen.

“In the long run, the Russia card is not just bad politics, it is intellectual and moral bankruptcy. It is an attempt to blame the deep and abiding problems of our country on a foreign power. As some commentators have pointed out, it is a page from the playbook of none other than Putin himself.”

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Nevertheless –


The Story of the Week Is Trump, Russia and the FBI. The Rest Is a Distraction

By Malcolm Nance, Guardian UK
27 February 17

The White House reportedly tried to influence an active counter-intelligence investigation. All else, press ban included, is designed to deflect attention

arrative switching. That is what the Trump administration is desperately trying to do around Russia right now. The White House reportedly interfered with the FBI in the middle of an active investigation involving counter-intelligence. This was not only foolhardy but also suspicious, as it directly undermined their apparent objective: distracting us.

On 14 February, the New York Times reported that advisers and associates of Donald Trump may have been in direct and continuous contact with officers of the Russian intelligence agency, the FSB, during a tumultuous election campaign in which the American democracy itself was hacked. A major party – now in opposition – was the victim of an unprecedented cyber-attack.

According to the Times, intercepted telephone calls and phone records indicated to American counter-intelligence officers direct contact with the Russians.

The stakes are high. Most Democrats and more than a few Republicans believe this investigation could unearth details that could plunge the nation into a political and constitutional crisis not seen since the secession of the South in 1860 and 1861.

The Trump administration has repeatedly denied the characterization and defended the campaign’s conduct. However, its denials have always been couched in the most legalistic terms and each falls apart with every new revelation. It doesn’t help that Trump himself calls the allegations “fake news” then validates the reporting by attacking the leaks – suggesting that they are true.

Now, thanks to CNN, we learned on Thursday that Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, had reportedly contacted the deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, and requested that the bureau publicly characterize the Times story as not being serious – in McCabe’s reported words, “total BS”.

When this was rebuffed by McCabe, Priebus reportedly went to the FBI director, James Comey, who allegedly also refused to comment publicly. Priebus then allegedly asked both if he could quote them anonymously as “top intelligence officials”, saying the story was totally wrong. According to CNN, McCabe and Comey agreed to let him do that, despite the fact that the FBI and the White House are prohibited from communicating about open investigations.

The White House then turned to other intelligence officials and to members of Congress. According to the Washington Post, House and Senate intelligence committee chairs Devin Nunes and Richard Burr were asked to push back against Russian stories that did not favor the administration. They told the Post they did so.

No matter what the contention, the fundamental fact exists that the FBI, based on McCabe’s and Comey’s remarks, has inadvertently verified that there is, in fact, a counter-intelligence investigation going on involving the associates of the president. Until now the investigation had only been reported through anonymous sources.

This bungled attempt to manage the media reveals the fear in the White House: that there may actually be a smoking gun that ties Trump to Moscow’s hacking.

It is always possible that Trump’s then campaign manager, Paul Manafort, former adviser Carter Page and others may have been in contact with Russians as part of foreign policy development. But given the political environment in the summer of 2016, after the hack of the Democratic National Committee, it is very hard to believe that any continuous and repeated contact with the Kremlin was completely innocent.

Priebus’s clumsy attempt to perform perception management judo only added fuel to the fire. Then it was raked over with Trump’s often incomprehensible flamethrower rhetoric when he declared CNN reporting “fake news” and had them banned, with the New York Times and other outlets including the Guardian, from a press gaggle on Friday.

Any investigation involving Trump advisers and Russian intelligence is serious stuff. If borne out, it has the potential to become the greatest political scandal in American history. But this meddling by the White House is one step too far. It is not typical Washington pushback. It smacks of a strategy of cover-up.

It is high time for the House and Senate to form independent select subcommittees to ferret out the truth. The key questions are simple. What did Trump and his staff know about the hacks? When did they know it and were they complicit in any way?

If American citizens worked alongside a foreign power to interfere in American democracy, it must be found out and quickly. It is crucial to retain the trust in our president and the electoral process. The stakes are nothing less than the legitimacy of American liberal democracy.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 14th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


RED HOUSE? Yes. It was the intelligence Putin served Trump – directly and indirectly – that was in big part responsible for his defeating Hillary Clinton. And yes, it was FBI’s help that eventually built that wall. Michael T. Flynn should never have been inside that wall except we really do not know what messages he passed from the Trump campaign as promises to Putin via his Ambassador in Washington. How will the Trump=Putin link impact on Europe? On European States – Trump relations? On the future of Ukraine? On the price of Oil? On the Midle East?
On the Planetary Globe? On Outer Space? On the Future of God? ?????


THE NEWS: Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, resigned on Monday night after it was revealed that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other top White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States.


On Monday, a former administration official said the Justice Department warned the White House last month that Mr. Flynn had not been fully forthright about his conversations with the ambassador. As a result, the Justice Department feared that Mr. Flynn could be vulnerable to blackmail by Moscow.


To us at SustainabiliTank this is just the tip of the iceberg – we already wrote that Trump himself is susceptible to Russian blackmail as by hacking into US cyberspace they did not have just the pittance of Hillary Clinton and John Podesta info, but the much juicier Trump business and taxation info. Those are real bombs in hiding! Blackmail in the making!


“I am tendering my resignation, honored to have served our nation and the American people in such a distinguished way,” Mr. Flynn wrote.

The White House said in the statement that it was replacing Mr. Flynn with retired Lt. Gen. Joseph K. Kellogg Jr. of the Army, a Vietnam War veteran, as acting national security adviser.

Mr. Flynn was an early and ardent supporter of Mr. Trump’s candidacy, and in his resignation he sought to praise the president. “In just three weeks,” Mr. Flynn said, the new president “has reoriented American foreign policy in fundamental ways to restore America’s leadership position in the world.”

But in doing so, he inadvertently illustrated the brevity of his tumultuous run at the National Security Council, and the chaos that has gripped the White House in the first weeks of the Trump administration — and created a sense of uncertainty around the world.

DOCUMENT
Michael Flynn’s Resignation Letter
Michael T. Flynn, under scrutiny for his communication with Russia, resigned as President Trump’s national security adviser late Monday.

OPEN DOCUMENT
Earlier Monday, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, told reporters that “the president is evaluating the situation” about Mr. Flynn’s future. By Monday evening, Mr. Flynn’s fortunes were rapidly shifting — his resignation came roughly seven hours after Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to the president, said on MSNBC that Mr. Trump had “full confidence” in the retired general.

And when he did step down, it happened so quickly that his resignation does not appear to have been communicated to National Security Council staff members, two of whom said they learned about it from news reports.

Officials said Mr. Pence had told others in the White House that he believed Mr. Flynn lied to him by saying he had not discussed the topic of sanctions on a call with the Russian ambassador in late December. Even the mere discussion of policy — and the apparent attempt to assuage the concerns of an American adversary before Mr. Trump took office — represented a remarkable breach of protocol.

The F.B.I. had been examining Mr. Flynn’s phone calls as he came under growing questions about his interactions with Russian officials and his management of the National Security Council. The blackmail risk envisioned by the Justice Department would have stemmed directly from Mr. Flynn’s attempt to cover his tracks with his bosses. The Russians knew what had been said on the call; thus, if they wanted Mr. Flynn to do something, they could have threatened to expose the lie if he refused.

The Justice Department’s warning to the White House was first reported on Monday night by The Washington Post.

In addition, the Army has been investigating whether Mr. Flynn received money from the Russian government during a trip he took to Moscow in 2015, according to two defense officials. Such a payment might violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits former military officers from receiving money from a foreign government without consent from Congress. The defense officials said there was no record that Mr. Flynn, a retired three-star Army general, filed the required paperwork for the trip.

Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement late Monday that Mr. Flynn’s resignation would not close the question of his contact with Russian officials.

“General Flynn’s decision to step down as national security adviser was all but ordained the day he misled the country about his secret talks with the Russian ambassador,” said Mr. Schiff, noting that the matter is still under investigation by the House committee.

Two other Democratic lawmakers — Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan and Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland — called for an immediate briefing by the Justice Department and the F.B.I. over the “alarming new disclosures” that Mr. Flynn was a blackmail risk. “We need to know who else within the White House is a current and ongoing risk to our national security,” they said in a statement.

Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the chairman of the House intelligence committee, was supportive of Mr. Flynn until the end. “Washington, D.C., can be a rough town for honorable people, and Flynn — who has always been a soldier, not a politician — deserves America’s gratitude and respect,” Mr. Nunes said in a statement.


The White House had examined a transcript of a wiretapped conversation that Mr. Flynn had with Mr. Kislyak in December, according to administration officials. Mr. Flynn originally told Mr. Pence and others that the call was limited to small talk and holiday pleasantries.

But who was Flynn to talk to the Russian Ambassador? What role did have within the Trump machine? Did Pence send him there or was it his own eagerness to please the incoming Administration before it actually became an Administration? Was he an old time Russian contact? What we used to call a double spy? This clearly can not be washed down by eager-to-please Republicans.

But the conversation, according to officials who saw the transcript of the wiretap, also included a discussion about sanctions imposed on Russia after intelligence agencies determined that President Vladimir V. Putin’s government tried to interfere with the 2016 election on Mr. Trump’s behalf. Still, current and former administration officials familiar with the call said the transcript was ambiguous enough that Mr. Trump could have justified either firing or retaining Mr. Flynn.

Mr. Trump, however, had become increasingly concerned about the continued fallout over Mr. Flynn’s behavior, according to people familiar with his thinking, and told aides that the media storm around Mr. Flynn would damage the president’s image on national security issues.

Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, asked for Mr. Flynn’s resignation — a move that he has been pushing for since Friday, when it became clear that the national security adviser had misled Mr. Pence.

Around 8:20 p.m. Monday, a sullen Mr. Flynn was seen in the Oval Office, just as preparations were being made for the swearing-in of newly confirmed Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. Soon after, Mr. Flynn’s resignation letter started making the rounds.

Administration officials said it was unlikely that Mr. Kellogg would be asked to stay on as Mr. Flynn’s permanent replacement. Mr. Flynn brought Mr. Kellogg into the Trump campaign, according to a former campaign adviser, and the two have remained close. K. T. McFarland, the deputy national security adviser who also was brought on by Mr. Flynn, is expected to leave that role, a senior official said.

One person close to the administration, who was not authorized to discuss the personnel moves and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that retired Vice Admiral Robert S. Harward is the leading candidate to replace Mr. Flynn, although Mr. Kellogg and David H. Petraeus are being discussed. It was not clear whether Mr. Petraeus is still expected to appear at the White House this week, as initially discussed by advisers to the president.

Mr. Flynn’s concealment of the call’s content, combined with questions about his management of his agency and reports of a demoralized staff, put him in a precarious position less than a month into Mr. Trump’s presidency.


We at SustainabiliTank believe that under the circumstances – the choice of General Petraeus would be an excellent idea in the manner of Trump – this because it would take away the media attention from Trump and transfer it to Petraeus’ own problems with that woman. Flynn will then be forgotten and left to his past-driven future behaviour.

Vice President Pence can continue his clean right wing persona to allow him a smooth take-over when the Trump balloon eventually implodes.

Few members of Mr. Trump’s team were more skeptical of Mr. Flynn than the vice president, numerous administration officials said. Mr. Pence, who used the false information provided by Mr. Flynn to defend him in a series of television appearances, was incensed at Mr. Flynn’s lack of contrition for repeatedly embarrassing him by withholding the information, according to three administration officials familiar with the situation.

Mr. Flynn and Mr. Pence spoke twice in the past few days about the matter, but administration officials said that rather than fully apologize and accept responsibility, the national security adviser blamed his faulty memory — which irked the typically slow-to-anger Mr. Pence.

The slight was compounded by an episode late last year when Mr. Pence went on television to deny that Mr. Flynn’s son, who had posted conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton on social media, had been given a security clearance by the transition team. The younger Mr. Flynn had, indeed, been given such a clearance, even though his father had told Mr. Pence’s team that he had not.

Officials said classified information did not appear to have been discussed during the conversation between Mr. Flynn and the ambassador, which would have been a crime. The call was captured on a routine wiretap of diplomats’ calls, the officials said.

But current Trump administration officials and former Obama administration officials said that Mr. Flynn did appear to be reassuring the ambassador that Mr. Trump would adopt a more accommodating tone on Russia once in office.

Former and current administration officials said that Mr. Flynn urged Russia not to retaliate against any sanctions because an overreaction would make any future cooperation more complicated. He never explicitly promised sanctions relief, one former official said, but he appeared to leave the impression that it would be possible.

During his 2015 trip to Moscow, Mr. Flynn was paid to attend the anniversary celebration of Russia Today, a television network controlled by the Kremlin. At the banquet, he sat next to Mr. Putin.

Mr. Flynn had notified the Defense Intelligence Agency, which he once led, that he was taking the trip. He received a security briefing from agency officials before he left, which is customary for former top agency officials when they travel overseas.

Still, some senior agency officials were surprised when footage of the banquet appeared on RT, and believed that Mr. Flynn should have been more forthcoming with the agency about the nature of his trip to Russia.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 7th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

HOW ABOUT DISALLOWING INVESTMENTS BY ANYONE, OR ANY ENTITY, CONNECTED DIRECTLY TO ANY MEMBER OF THE PRESENT US ADMINISTRATION? CONSIDERING THE WHITE HOUSE BEHAVIOR, PEOPLE OF THE US ADMINISTRATION HAVE MORE AND MORE BECOME A DANGER TO THE WORLD ORDER AND TO PEACE – UNDERMINING IN EFFECT WHAT USED TO BE FRIENDLY GOVERNMENTS. Mr. BONDEVIK COULD LEAD THE WAY.

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CNN – International Edition+

Former Norwegian PM held at immigration over Iranian visa
By Kara Fox and Mohammed Al-Saiegh, CNN

February 7, 2017
Former Norwegian PM detained at US airport

(CNN) If you’re the former leader of a European nation, the president of a major human rights organization and the owner of a diplomatic passport, you’re not likely to encounter a long wait at airport immigration.

But on January 31, Kjell Magne Bondevik, the former Prime Minister of Norway, encountered more than just a lengthy queue.
Bondevik told CNN’s “Connect the World” he was interrogated by officials at Washington’s Dulles International Airport because he had an Iranian visa in his diplomatic passport.
“When they found the Iranian visa, where I was in December 2014, they said that there was a … regulation that with such a visa I had to be flagged up,” Bondevik said.

After the former European leader detailed his travel history — he was in Tehran speaking at an anti-extremism conference — Bondevik said he “assumed and presumed that they would let me go immediately.” But instead, Bondevik said he was questioned for over an hour.

“Did they really believe that I presented a problem or threat to the US? I expected they would show more flexibility and wisdom,” he said.

Bondevik said he was held along with migrants from the Middle East and Africa who were also facing additional screening. Although Bondevik was eventually released, he said the atmosphere surrounding President Donald Trump’s travel ban had shaken his core values.
Bondevik told CNN’s Becky Anderson he disagrees with the ban entirely, calling it “a contradiction” to his “view on human dignity.”
“I really dislike that he is treating people from some Muslim countries as a group and not individuals,” he said.

Bondevik, who heads the human rights organization Oslo Center, said the incident speaks to a wider issue of concern brought on by the President’s first actions in office.
It’s not just the ban that’s worrying Bondevik.

“I also must say that I dislike very much his approach to other international leaders — the Prime Minister of Australia, the President of Mexico … and how he is acting in the international community.”

He said many others, including Norway were concerned.
Last week, Trump signed an executive order that banned citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, from traveling to America. The ban also suspended the refugee program for four months, and stopped the admission of all Syrian refugees indefinitely.
These are the faces of Trump’s ban

On Friday, the executive order was temporarily halted after a federal judge suspended key parts of the order nationwide. As of Monday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had denied the US government’s emergency request to resume the ban and had ordered both sides to submit their arguments for or against it before a final ruling.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 6th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


SHOCKING OF THE UN-INITIATED? NOW IT IS OFFICIAL – PUTIN PERSONALLY WAS INVOLVED IN CREATING US ELECTION RESULTS. WAS THERE FURTHER COLLUSION WITH THE US RIGHT – IN THE PERSON OF THE HEAD OF THE FBI WHO CHOSE THE TIME WHEN THE PUTIN INTERFERENCE WOULD BEAR MOST FRUIT?

The US intelligence community concluded in a declassified report released Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an “influence campaign” aimed at hurting Hillary Clinton and helping Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

The report was the first official, full and public accounting by the US intelligence community of its assessment of Russian hacking activities during the 2016 campaign.

“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” the report said.

The campaign — which consisted of hacking Democratic groups and individuals, including Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, and releasing that information via third-party websites, including WikiLeaks — amounted to what the intelligence report called “a significant escalation” in longtime Russian efforts to undermine “the US-led liberal democratic order.”

Trump earlier Friday downplayed Russia’s role in the election after what he called a “constructive meeting” with top US intelligence officials.

Trump tried to defuse controversy over his criticism of the intelligence community and said he will appoint a team within 90 days to figure out ways to stop foreign hacking.

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National Security: Declassified report says Putin ‘ordered’ effort to undermine faith in U.S. election and help Trump.

By Greg Miller, The Washington Post, January 6 at 4:49 PM


Russia carried out a comprehensive cybercampaign to upend the U.S. presidential election, an operation that was ordered by Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and “aspired to help” elect Donald Trump by discrediting his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in a report released Friday.

The report depicts Russian interference as unprecedented in scale, saying that Moscow’s assault represented “a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort” beyond previous election-related espionage.


The campaign was ordered by Putin himself and initially sought primarily to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, “denigrate Secretary Clinton” and harm her electoral prospects. But as the campaign proceeded, Russia “developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump” and repeatedly sought to elevate him by “discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”


The document represents an extraordinarily direct and detailed account of a long-standing U.S. adversary’s multi-pronged intervention in a fundamental pillar of American democracy.

Trump emerged from a briefing on the report by the nation’s top intelligence officials Friday seeming to acknowledge for the first time at least the possibility that Russia was behind election-related hacks. But he offered no indication that he was prepared to accept U.S. spy agencies’ conclusion that Moscow sought to help him win.

Report on Russian hacking released after Trump briefing Play Video3:04
U.S. intelligence agencies released a declassified version of their report on Russian intervention in the 2016 U.S. election on Jan. 6, just hours after President-elect Donald Trump was briefed by American officials. (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)
Instead, Trump said in a statement issued just minutes after the high-level meeting ended that whatever hacking had occurred, “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”

Trump’s statement seemed designed to create the impression that this was the view of the intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. and CIA Director John Brennan, who had met with him.

But weighing whether Russia’s intervention altered the outcome of the 2016 race was beyond the scope of the review that the nation’s spy agencies completed this week. And Clapper testified in a Senate hearing Thursday that U.S. intelligence services “have no way of gauging the impact .?.?. it had on the choices the electorate made. There’s no way for us to gauge that.”

Trump’s statement came after his first face-to-face encounter with the leaders of intelligence agencies whose work he has repeatedly disparaged. Others who took part in the meeting included FBI Director James B. Comey and National Security Agency chief Adm. Mike Rogers.

All four of the spy chiefs have endorsed a classified report that was briefed to Trump and circulated in Washington this week that concludes that Russia used a combination of aggressive hacking, propaganda and “fake news” to disrupt the 2016 U.S. presidential race.

Trump appeared to acknowledge that hacking of Democratic and Republican computer networks had occurred, but was apparently not prepared to accept the consensus view of U.S. spy services that Russia sought to help him win.

“I had a constructive meeting and conversation with the leaders of the intelligence community,” Trump said. He acknowledged that “Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber-infrastructure of our government institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee.”

U.S. intelligence captured Russian officials’ communications celebrating Trump’s victory.
(a Video 2:42 minutes presented}

The Post’s Adam Entous reports that U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted electronic communications, known as “signals intelligence,” in which top Russian officials celebrated the outcome of the U.S. election. (Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)

The session was seen as an early indicator of whether Trump could reach some sort of accord with U.S. intelligence agencies or is determined to extend his increasingly bitter feud with America’s spies and analysts into his first term.

In an interview with the New York Times before Friday’s briefing, Trump said the focus on Russian hacking “is a political witch hunt.”

In Thursday’s testimony, Clapper appeared to take aim at Trump and the stream of social-media insults he has targeted at the intelligence community over the Russia issue.

“There is an important distinction here between healthy skepticism, which policymakers, to include policymaker number one, should always have for intelligence,” Clapper said. “But I think there is a difference between skepticism and disparagement.”

The meeting, which was requested by Trump, comes on the heels of a series of revelations about Russia’s role and motivations in last year’s campaign.

The Post reported in December that the CIA and other agencies had concluded that Russia sought not only to disrupt the election and sow doubt about the legitimacy of American democratic institutions but also to help Trump win.

U.S. intelligence agencies based that determination on an array of interlocking intelligence pieces, including the identification of known “actors” with ties to Russian intelligence services who helped deliver troves of stolen Democratic email files to the WikiLeaks website.

U.S. spy agencies also monitored communications in Moscow after the election that showed that senior officials in the Russian government, including those believed to have had knowledge of the hacking campaign, celebrated Trump’s win and congratulated one another on the outcome.

Trump has rejected intelligence agencies’ unanimous conclusions about Russia, saying it could just as easily have been China or “some guy” in New Jersey.

Trump has seemed to court conflict with U.S. intelligence agencies on several fronts. During his campaign, he vowed to order the CIA to return to the use of waterboarding and other brutal interrogation measures widely condemned as torture. Since his surprise victory, Trump has skipped the majority of the daily intelligence briefings made available to him, saying that he has no need for sessions that he finds repetitive.

But the president-elect softened his message on Thursday, saying on Twitter that he is a “big fan” of intelligence, although, as has been his practice, he set off the word “intelligence” in quotes.

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The United States’ most senior intelligence officials briefed Trump on Russian hacking during the election campaign just hours after the President-elect doubled down on his dismissal of the threat as an artificial and politically driven controversy, calling it a “witch hunt.”

Trump also tried to defuse controversy over his criticism of the intelligence community and continued refusal to accept Moscow’s actions, calling the Friday meeting “constructive” and offering praise for the senior intel officials. He said he will appoint a team within 90 days to figure out ways to stop foreign hacking.

Trump’s meeting with the intel officials took around 90 minutes at Trump Tower. A Trump spokeswoman said the officials who gave the briefing were Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan and FBI Director James Comey.


Officials: Hackers aggressively targeting US 02:26

A senior TRUMP transition official described the meeting between Trump and intelligence community officials as “cordial,” not contentious. Trump asked questions and made clear his admiration for intelligence community employees, the official added.

Based on the presentation Friday, which included new information, the TRUMP official insisted that it’s the transition’s view that the hacking was intended to harm Hillary Clinton more than to help Trump. This official pointed to what they were told at the meeting, that the cyberactivity began in late 2015 and early 2016, before it was clear Trump would be the nominee. So, the official asked, how could the hacking be a pro-Trump operation if it began so early on. “This was more an effort to discredit her than anything else,” the Trump official said.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 4th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Rex Tillerson to put Exxon nest egg in a trust over conflict of interest concerns

by Jethro Mullen @CNNMoneyInvest January 4, 2017

ExxonMobil and Rex Tillerson have announced their plan to address concerns about the huge nest egg the oil giant has promised to its former CEO.

Tillerson, who Donald Trump has picked as his secretary of state, is due to receive more than 2 million Exxon shares — worth more than $181 million at current prices — over the next decade.

To tackle the ethical and legal problems raised by the massive payout, Exxon said late Tuesday that if Tillerson is confirmed for the job, it plans to put the value of the shares he would have received in an independently managed trust, which won’t be allowed to invest in the oil company.

Tillerson, 64, has also agreed with the State Department to sell the more than 600,000 Exxon shares he owns at the moment, the company said. They’re worth more than $54 million at today’s prices.

Related: Exxon’s Tillerson retiring to prep for Senate confirmation

Richard Painter, a former ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, said the measures appeared to satisfy concerns he had expressed previously about Tillerson’s financial ties to Exxon.

“He should convince President-elect Trump to come up with a similar arrangement to divest his conflicts of interest,” Painter said, comparing Tillerson’s deal to what was done for former Goldman Sachs CEO Hank Paulson when he became treasury secretary in 2006.

Tillerson’s arrangement, which Exxon says was drawn up in consultation with federal ethics regulators, involves giving up various payouts and perks, according to the company’s statement.

He’ll no longer be entitled to more than $4.1 million in cash bonuses that he was set to receive over the next three years — or medical, dental and other benefits from Exxon. He retired as the oil company’s CEO on Saturday after working there for more than four decades.

As America’s chief diplomat, Tillerson could have a tremendous impact on Exxon’s business, from negotiations over a climate change treaty and sanctions on Russia to the nuclear deal with Iran and general geopolitical unrest in the Middle East.

Exxon said that if Tillerson returns to work in the oil and gas industry during the 10-year payout period from the trust, he would forfeit the funds.
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“The money would be distributed to one or more charities involved in fighting poverty or disease in the developing world,” the company said. “Neither Tillerson nor ExxonMobil would have any control over the selection of the charities.”

Painter described that part of the plan as “an added benefit” that will make it “highly unlikely” that Tillerson will go back into the oil industry.

“Most public servants have no restrictions on where they can work after government … and we have to worry about them trying to help future employers,” he said, pointing to Treasury Department officials who go back to Wall Street.

Related: The problem with Rex Tillerson’s nine-figure nest egg

Over all, the arrangement would cost Tillerson about $7 million in compensation he would have received, Exxon said.

As with all political appointees who sell assets that may pose conflicts of interest, Tillerson would be allowed to defer any capital gains tax he owes on the more than 600,000 Exxon shares he’s agreed to sell so long as he reinvests the proceeds within 60 days into so-called “permitted property.” That basically means U.S. Treasury securities and diversified mutual funds.

It’s not immediately clear, however, what the tax implications are for Tillerson from Exxon agreeing to set up the trust for the value of the more than 2 million shares he’d otherwise have coming to him over the next 10 years.

— Jeanne Sahadi and Chris Isidore contributed to this report.

OUR COMMENT:

Rex Tillerson during the years 2006 to 2016 changed his views on Climate Change from total denial by EXXON to a controlled acceptance of the Paris outcome.
Exxon had a history of funding false scientists – ten moved on to join what seemed to be the winning crowd, but took positions that slow change.

ExxonMobil k nows the global oil industry and understandably will promote it above everything else. This leads to alliances with Saudi Arabia and Putin’s Russia that will turn away the US from the Obama path of disengagement from te dependence on oil as the true path to slow down climate change and the harm the use of fossil fuels causes to the environment.

And besides, Foreign relations of the USA contain many other topics besides the negotiation of oil contracts. What are the visions of Rex Tillerson when he gets of the Oil Barrel?

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 27th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


WE POST THIS AS WE WONDER IN WHICH SCHOOL OF DIPLOMACY STUDIED ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU – WHO SITS ALSO IN THE CHAIR OF HIS FOREIGN MINISTER. HE SEEMINGLY DOES SUCH A BAD JOB UNDER BOTH HATS SO THAT HE IS EVEN BEING CRITICIZED IN PUBLIC BY HIS OWN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER. THIS WOULD BE FUNNY IF NOT INVOLVING NUCLEAR POWERS. TO BRING THIS HOME, A STATEMENT BY A FORMER ISRAELI MINISTER LAST WEEK CAUSED THE RATTLE OF NUKES BY PAKISTAN.

FROM OUR POINT OF VIEW -IT BECOMES IRRELEVANT TO TALK OF CLIMATE CHANGE WHEN THE FRY AND THE BIG ONES – i.e. Messrs. Putin and Trump SEEM BENT TO TELL THE WORLD THAT NUKES ARE THE FUNDAMENT OF SECURITY IN A POST-OBAMA ERA.

MIDDLE EAST

Defying U.N., Israel Prepares to Build More Settlements

By PETER BAKER – The New York Times DEC. 26, 2016.


Introducing Photo – Housing construction last week on the outskirts of Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish housing development in East Jerusalem. CreditJim Hollander/European Press photo Agency

JERUSALEM — Undeterred by a resounding defeat at the United Nations, Israel’s government said Monday that it would move ahead with thousands of new homes in East Jerusalem and warned nations against further action, declaring that Israel does not “turn the other cheek.”

Just a few days after the United Nations Security Council voted to condemn Israeli settlements, Jerusalem’s municipal government signaled that it would not back down: The city intends to approve 600 housing units in the predominantly Palestinian eastern section of town on Wednesday in what a top official called a first installment on 5,600 new homes.

The defiant posture reflected a bristling anger among Israel’s pro-settlement political leaders, who not only blamed the United States for failing to block the Council resolution, but also claimed to have secret intelligence showing that President Obama’s team had orchestrated it. American officials strongly denied the claim, but the sides seem poised for more weeks of conflict until Mr. Obama hands over the presidency to Donald J. Trump.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lashed out at Security Council countries by curbing diplomatic contacts, recalling envoys, cutting off aid and summoning the American ambassador for a scolding. He canceled a planned visit this week by Ukraine’s prime minister even as he expressed concern on Monday that Mr. Obama was planning more action at the United Nations before his term ends next month.


The Times of Israel:

Deputy FM questions PM’s diplomatic embargoes after UN vote. In apparent jab at Netanyahu for canceling meetings with world leaders, Hotovely says ‘part of diplomacy is explaining our position’

BY RAOUL WOOTLIFF December 27, 2016,

Introducing photo – Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely speaking at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem (Elram Mendel)

Raoul Wootliff is The Times of Israel Knesset correspondent.

TZIPI HOTOVELY – Deputy Foreign Minister

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU – Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, and Minister of many other things.


The prime minister defended his retaliation. “Israel is a country with national pride, and we do not turn the other cheek,” he said. “This is a responsible, measured and vigorous response, the natural response of a healthy people that is making it clear to the nations of the world that what was done at the U.N. is unacceptable to us.”

The Security Council resolution that passed Friday condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a “flagrant violation under international law” and an obstacle to peace. The Council approved it 14 to 0, with the United States abstaining instead of using its veto, as it has in the past.

Mr. Trump publicly pressed for a veto of the resolution and has chosen a settlement advocate as his administration’s ambassador to Israel. He turned to Twitter on Monday night to air complaints that the United Nations “is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.”

Palestinian leaders made clear that they would use the resolution in international bodies to press their case against Israel. With the imprimatur of a United Nations finding of illegality, they said they would campaign to require that other countries not just label products made in the settlements, but ban them.

“Now we can talk about the boycott of all settlements, the companies that work with them, et cetera, and actually take legal action against them if they continue to work with them,” Riad Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister, was quoted as saying by the Palestinian news media.

He outlined other steps the Palestinians could now take, using the resolution to press the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israeli leaders, file lawsuits on behalf of specific Palestinians displaced by settlements and urge the international authorities to determine whether Israel is violating the Geneva Conventions.

“We are looking to devise a comprehensive vision, and hopefully 2017 will be the year when the Israeli occupation ends,” Mr. Malki said.

Israeli officials said such pronouncements showed that the resolution actually undermined chances for a negotiated settlement because the Palestinians now have less incentive to come to the table. By declaring Israeli settlements illegal, they said, the United Nations essentially took away the one chip that Israel had to trade, meaning land.

“The Palestinians are waging a diplomatic and legal war against Israel. That’s the strategy,” Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, said in a phone interview. “Their strategy is not to negotiate an agreement with Israel because a deal is give and take. They want take and take.”

Israel’s settlement project, once a scattering of houses across the so-called Green Line marking the borders before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, has grown substantially over the years. In 2009, the year Mr. Obama took office, 297,000 people lived in West Bank settlements and 193,737 in East Jerusalem. That increased to 386,000 in the West Bank by the end of last year and 208,000 in East Jerusalem by the end of 2014, according to Peace Now, a group that opposes settlements.

Israeli officials note that when Mr. Netanyahu acquiesced to a 10-month settlement freeze sought by Mr. Obama in 2009, the Palestinians still did not agree to negotiate until just before time ran out. But the addition of more than 100,000 settlers during Mr. Obama’s tenure convinced him that it was time to change approach at the United Nations, aides said.

The 618 housing units to be granted building permits in East Jerusalem on Wednesday have been in the works for a while, and the planning committee meeting agenda was set before the United Nations acted. But the committee chairman said he was determined to go forward with units totaling 5,600.

“I won’t get worked up over the U.N. or any other organization that might try to dictate to us what to do in Jerusalem,” Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman, the planning committee chairman, told the newspaper Israel Hayom. “I hope that the government and the new administration in the United States will give us momentum to continue.”

Although he did not specify which projects he had in mind, Ir Amim, a private group tracking settlements in East Jerusalem, said he was probably referring to projects in Gilo and Givat Hamatos. Betty Herschman, the group’s director of international relations and advocacy, said it was “defiance demonstrated after Trump’s election, now reinforced by the U.N. resolution.”

Anat Ben Nun, the director of development and external relations for Peace Now, said such construction was problematic. “Netanyahu’s attempt to avenge the U.N.S.C. resolution through approval of plans beyond the Green Line will only harm Israelis and Palestinians by making it more difficult to arrive at a two-state solution,” she said.

Israeli leaders said they had no reason to stop building. The Security Council resolution “was absurd and totally removed from reality,” said Oded Revivi, chief foreign envoy for the Yesha Council, which represents West Bank settlers. “Israeli building policies are set in Jerusalem, not New York.”

For the fourth day, Israeli officials accused Mr. Obama’s team of ambushing them at the United Nations. While the White House denied it, Israeli officials pointed to a meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and his New Zealand counterpart a month before the Council vote discussing a resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. New Zealand was a sponsor of Friday’s measure.

Mr. Dermer, the ambassador, said Israel had other, nonpublic information proving the Obama administration’s involvement but provided no evidence and would not elaborate beyond saying it would be provided to Mr. Trump’s team when he takes office.

“They not only did not get up and stop it, they were behind it from the beginning,” Mr. Dermer said. “This is why the prime minister is so angry. We’re going to stand up against it.”

Israeli officials worried that Mr. Kerry would use a coming speech or a conference in France to outline an American peace plan that would be hostile to Israel’s interests. Mr. Kerry’s office had no comment.

The fury of Mr. Netanyahu’s response has generated debate at home. Mitchell Barak, a political consultant, said the political left considered the resolution “an epic foreign policy and diplomatic debacle” by Mr. Netanyahu.

But to his base, the Security Council action confirmed what they believed all along, that Mr. Obama is inherently anti-Israel, and so the prime minister comes across as a champion beset by enemies. “For them,” Mr. Barak said, “Netanyahu emerges from this unscathed, as the lone wolf in a lion’s den of hatred.”

Since the measure was passed, Israel has taken a number of retaliatory steps against the countries that supported its passage, including an official dressing-down of the Security Council members’ ambassadors to Israel on Sunday, Christmas Day.

Netanyahu on Saturday disinvited Ukraine Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman after Kiev voted in favor of the resolution.

Groysman, who became his country’s first-ever Jewish prime minister earlier this year, was scheduled to arrive in Israel on Tuesday for a two-day visit that would have included meetings with Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and other senior officials.

Netanyahu’s office has denied reports that he nixed a meeting with Theresa May next month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, saying that no meeting had been set. But the deputy head of mission at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, Tony Kay, told The Times of Israel on Monday there had been plans for a sit-down, though Jerusalem had not told London it planned to cancel the meeting.

Netanyahu has also reportedly ordered the Foreign Ministry to minmize all working ties with the 12 of countries that voted in favor of the decision with which Israel has diplomatic relations. Foreign ministers from the countries will reportedly no longer be able to meet with Netanyahu or Foreign Ministry officials.

In addition, travel by Israeli ministers to the countries will be kept to a minimum, an official said.

Of the 15 countries on the UN Security Council, 14 voted in favor of Resolution 2334, which demands a halt to all Israeli settlement activity — including in East Jerusalem — with one abstention, that of the US, whose veto would have nixed the measure.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 27th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Make Russia great again? Aleppo and a plea from another world

JUAN FRANCISCO LOBO – OpenDemocracy – 24 December 2016


During the last days of December, Russia will host a round of diplomatic talks with Iran and Turkey.


A hundred years ago, Ernst Jünger described a peculiar encounter with a frightened British officer in his account of trench warfare, Storm of Steel: “he reached into his pocket, not to pull out a weapon, but a photograph (…). I saw him on it, surrounded by numerous family (…). It was a plea from another world.”


According to conventional wisdom, “war is hell,” as famously sentenced by General Sherman. Hence Jünger’s depiction of the scene as something from another planet. And that is how the world today, more concerned with the holidays and the latest Hollywood blockbuster, is receiving the dire plea for help by multiple civilians caught in the crossfire of the battle for Aleppo. We simply content ourselves with the thought that civilians will always suffer in times of war, for war is hell.

Or is it?

A few days ago, the soon to be replaced Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, gave his last press conference. Referring to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, he remarked ominously: “Aleppo is now a synonym for hell”. But surely the Secretary General did not intend merely to describe a regrettable fait accompli, as someone might depict a natural disaster. His closing official words carry a message for the world to actively engage in Aleppo, and particularly to make belligerents stop targeting civilians, for not everything is allowed in war after all. As Michael Walzer has pointed out in his decades-long effort to revive the Just War tradition, we strive to fight wars justly and to uphold rules even in the midst of hell.

But, who is there to listen this plea from another world? Even if the message gets through, what is the attitude of superpowers vis-à-vis any demands that the rules of war be upheld?

I have previously argued that there is a value to American hypocrisy coming from its blatant breach of international humanitarian law during the last decade when torturing its way through to fight the “war on terror.” If as La Rochefoucauld said once, hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue, then the difference between a hypocrite and a cynic lies in the former’s capacity to recognize the existence of rules, only deliberately flouting them, whereas the latter does not even admit the existence of rules. Whereas the day of reckoning eventually comes for the hypocrite, the cynic is forever immune to criticism.


What about Russia?

Has Vladimir Putin’s regime been a hypocrite or a cynic in international relations? We know it has not been an Aliosha Karamazov, a saint, but then, which country has? Has Russia been more of a cynic like Ivan, or a hypocrite like Dimitri Karamazov? The answer is that is has been a bit of both over recent years, behaving as ambiguously as the double-headed eagle in its national coat of arms.

Sometimes Russia has recognized the existence of jus ad bellum and jus in bello conventions and has pledged to uphold them. Indeed, Russia relied on the responsibility to protect doctrine when trying to justify its military advance over Georgia in 2008. In 2013, Russia demonstrated what it could broker in the international arena when stepping in to secure a last-minute deal between Syria and the United States for Al-Assad to surrender his chemical weapons arsenal, absolutely banned under international humanitarian law. Just last Monday morning, on December 19 2016, Russia consented to a Security Council resolution to deploy observers to monitor civilian evacuation procedures in Aleppo.

To be sure, Russia’s use of R2P doctrine in 2008 has been widely condemned as a case of pure hypocrisy; yet, the important thing about the hypocrite is that he acknowledges the existence of rules. Whether he truly respects them or not is something that cannot be ascertained in the present – any more than it can be in the case of the true believer, for that matter.

On the other hand, Russia has of late deployed some alarmingly cynical attitudes in the international arena. During November 2016, Russia announced its withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, pragmatically arguing that “during the 14 years of the court’s work it passed only four sentences having spent over a billion dollars”. ( This announcement followed an ominous spree of similar withdrawals from the ICC by African states. It also followed the publication of a Report by the ICC containing its preliminary examination of the situation in Ukraine, where allegedly war crimes are being committed by Russian and pro-Russian forces.

Although technically Russia never became a party to the Rome Statute – having signed yet never ratified it, and now just exerting its right to make “its intention clear not to become a party to the treaty” pursuant to article 18 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties – still this announcement comes as a strong sign of Russian contempt towards international legal institutions.

Some other worrisome examples of Russian cynicism towards the rule of international law are its annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the law passed in 2015 authorizing its constitutional court to overrule decisions by the European Court of Human Rights.

Regarding the armed conflict in Syria, during recent years Russia has systematically vetoed Security Council draft resolutions aimed at solving the crisis in order to protect the interests of Al-Assad, its strongest client in such a strategic region.

Nevertheless, Russia still has the potential to change the course of the Syrian deadlock, as it demonstrated when it brokered the chemical weapons deal in 2013. Moreover, history arguably presents Russia today with a unique opportunity to become the legitimate heir of a genuine humanitarian tradition that the ancient Russian Empire has practiced since the late nineteenth century. Among the main landmarks of this tradition we find the Saint Petersburg Declaration (1868), the humanitarian intervention which prompted the Russian-Turkish War (1877) and Russia’s key role in the discussion of The Hague peace conferences (1899 to 1907), where the Russian diplomat Fiodor Martens promoted a famous clause to protect people in times of war.

During the last days of December, Russia will host a round of diplomatic talks with Iran and Turkey to try and find a definitive solution to the Syrian civil war. If Putin wants to “make Russia great again,” he should endeavor to honor that tradition. By doing so at least Russia will more probably err on the side of hypocrisy rather than on that of cynicism, and people who suffer the consequences of war would still have a chance to find solace behind the aegis of international law.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 26th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We visited the village of MARSAXLOKK, of La Valetta, Malta, as part of a MSC Splendida cruise of the Western Mediterranean. This was on a beautiful December 21, 2016 – First Winter Day. Our guide insisted in pointing out the difference from the stormy 1998 day – when right after the fall of the Berlin Wall – this bay was host to the first post Cold War meeting between the the presidents of the USA and the Soviet Union – Messrs. Gorbachev and H. W. Bush.

I decided right there to post about that old event, that closed the era codified at Yalta by the 1945 interim settlement between Stalin and Roosevelt with only Churchill sitting in. Today we seem to enter an era that replaces the global peace that came after the cold war with a Putin-Trump concordance that has the potential to destroy everything that achieved since the 1990s.

We visited today the village of MARSAXLOKK, of La Valetta, Malta, as part of a MSC Splendida cruise of the Western Mediterranean. This was a beautiful December 21, 2016 First Winter Day, and our guide insisted in pointing out the difference from the stormy 1998 day when right after the fall of the Berlin Wall this bay was host to the first post Cold War meeting between the the presidents of the USA and the Soviet Union Messrs. Gorbachev and H. W. Bush.

I decided to post about that old event, that closed the era that was codified at Yalta by the 1945 interim settlement between Stalin and Roosevelt with only Churchill sitting in. Today we seem to enter an era that replaces the global peace that came after the cold war with a Putin-Trump concordance that has the potential to destroy everything that was achieved since the 1990s.

I thought that a new meeting at MARSAXLOKK – BETWEEN PUTIN AND TRUMP – could help both of them open eyes to where they want to lead the global community that by now got glued together in a manner that it is impossible to see any of the old super-powers not cooperating, or not making place for China and India as well, or ignoring the future rise of Africa and Brazil. Could it be that we are the first to call for such a meeting? Is it really far-fetched to attribute to the present two gladiators, that will be active on the global stage into the 2017-2020 years, a sense of the need of covering each other’s back when in the midst of the aspiring powers of China, India, other Asians, and some form of a reformulated Europe. All this while basic concepts of Democracy and Human Rights are being shelved, and replaced with power of oligarchies bent on increased personal gains that leave behind hordes of malcontents – the brew of a new undertow of Despicables a la Les Miserables?

Malta Summit
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

(To be seen a Monument in Bir?ebbu?a commemorating the Malta Summit)

The Malta Summit comprised a meeting between US President George H. W. Bush and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, took place on December 2–3, 1989, just a few weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
It was actually their second meeting following a meeting that included Ronald Reagan, in New York in December 1988.

During the summit, Bush and Gorbachev would declare an end to the Cold War although whether it was truly such – is a matter of debate. News reports of the time referred to the Malta Summit as the most important since 1945, when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed on a post-war plan for Europe at Yalta.

No agreements were signed at the Malta Summit. Its main purpose was to provide the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, with an opportunity to discuss the rapid changes taking place in Europe with the lifting of the Iron Curtain, which had separated the Eastern Bloc from Western Europe for four decades. The summit is viewed by some observers as the official end of the Cold War. At a minimum, it marked the lessening of tensions that were the hallmark of that era and signaled a major turning point in East-West relations. During the summit, President Bush expressed his support for Gorbachev’s perestroika initiative and other reforms in the Communist bloc.

The U.S. delegation:

James Baker, U.S. Secretary of State

Robert Blackwill, then Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for European and Soviet Affairs at the National Security Council

Jack F. Matlock, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union

Condoleezza Rice, then Director for Soviet and East European Affairs at the National Security Council

Brent Scowcroft, U.S. National Security Adviser

Raymond Seitz, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs

John H. Sununu, White House chief of staff

Margaret Tutwiler, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Spokeswoman of the Department

Paul Wolfowitz, U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy

Robert Zoellick, Counselor of the Department of State

Venue: “From Yalta to Malta”, and back.
The meetings took place in the Mediterranean, off the island of Malta. The Soviet delegation used the missile cruiser Slava,[2][3][4] while the US delegation had their sleeping quarters aboard USS Belknap.[5][6] [7]

The ships were anchored in a roadstead off the coast of Marsaxlokk
. Stormy weather and choppy seas resulted in some meetings being cancelled or rescheduled, and gave rise to the moniker the “Seasick Summit” among international media.

In the end, the meetings took place aboard Maxsim Gorkiy, a Soviet cruise ship anchored in the harbor at Marsaxlokk.

The idea of a summit in the open sea is said to have been inspired largely by President Bush’s fascination with World War II President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s habit of meeting foreign leaders on board naval vessels.[8][9] The choice of Malta as a venue was the subject of considerable pre-summit haggling between the two superpowers. According to Condoleezza Rice:

“… it took a long time to get it arranged, finding a place, a place that would not be ceremonial,
a place where you didn’t have to do a lot of other bilaterals. And fortunately – or unfortunately – they chose Malta, which turned out to be a really horrible place to be in December.

Although the Maltese were wonderful, the weather was really bad.”[10]

The choice of venue was also highly symbolic. The Maltese Islands are strategically located at the geographic centre of the Mediterranean Sea, where east meets west and north meets south. Consequently, Malta has a long history of domination by foreign powers. It served as a British naval base during the 19th and early 20th centuries, and suffered massive destruction during World War II.

Malta declared its neutrality between the two superpowers in 1980, following the closure of British military bases and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Regional Headquarters (CINCAFMED), previously located on Malta.

Neutrality is entrenched in the Constitution of Malta, which provides as follows, at section 1(3):

“Malta is a neutral state actively pursuing peace, security and social progress among all nations by adhering to a policy of non-alignment and refusing to participate in any military alliance.”


On February 2, 1945, as the War in Europe drew to a close, Malta was the venue for the Malta Conference, an equally significant meeting between US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill prior to their Yalta meeting with Joseph Stalin. The Malta Summit of 1989 signalled a reversal of many of the decisions taken at the 1945 Yalta Conference.

See also:
Revolutions of 1989
Cold War
Cold War (1985-1991)
List of Soviet Union–United States summits
New world order (politics)
References:
Jump up^ “An Interview with Dr. Condoleezza Rice (17/12/97)”
Jump up^ www.nytimes.com/1989/12/03/world/…
Jump up^ articles.latimes.com/1989-12-02/n…
Jump up^ articles.chicagotribune.com/1989-…
Jump up^ www.nytimes.com/1989/12/03/world/…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 5th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

To stop crippling air pollution, Iranians do car-free Tuesdays
By Karin Kloosterman (KarinKloosterman@greenprophet)

Karin Kloosterman interests intersect in the worlds of the environment, technology, activism and Middle East politics. Blogging for some of the most influential media outlets in the “green” world, such as TreeHugger, and The Huffington Post, Karin founded Green Prophet to share the enormous potential of new clean technologies, and environmental awareness emanating from the Middle East region. For tips, advertising and editorial inquiries Karin can be reached at
karin@greenprophet.com

July 4, 2016

Cities in Iran are some of the most polluted in the world. It’s estimated that 27 people a day die in Tehran from the low quality of air.

Mohammad Bakhtiari, 25, from Arak decided he couldn’t take it anymore, and started car-free Tuesdays –- a day when he’s encouraging Iranians to find alternative ways to get around. He told local media, “With air pollution getting worse, I did not like to sit back doing nothing. I thought everybody is responsible for this problem. And I was thinking of a way to involve more people to help with it.”

So he proposed that people go car free on Tuesdays. Residents in Tripoli, Lebanon tried it once a long time ago, but it didn’t stick.

Mohammad wanted the idea to stick. He went with posters and flyers and explained to locals in Arak until the Department of Environment gave its stamp of approval. It’s catching on in all Iranian cities but there are no reports on how many people are actually doing it.

Tuesday was the day picked because it is in the middle of Iranian week when traffic congestion is high and air pollution is at its worst.

The World Bank estimates losses inflicted on Iran’s economy as a result of deaths caused by air pollution at $640 million, which is equal to 5.1 trillion rials or 0.57 percent of GDP. Diseases resulting from air pollution are inflicting losses estimated at $260 million per year or 2.1 trillion rials or 0.23 percent of the GDP on Iran’s economy.

Leaving cars at home can reduce air pollution: The campaign that started this spring is expected to run for 600 weeks. The idea is to get people to use bikes and more public transport.

Mohammad said: “Sixty percent of the people who know there is such a campaign have supported it. Our first step is to tell people that there is such a movement. The second step is to tell them why they should support it.

“The third step is to have incentives for those who join the campaign.

“And the fourth step is to push the government to carry out its responsibilities at a more rapid pace.”

He is now pushing the government for safe bike routes, and more people to start using electric motorbikes. As well as an overhaul of public transport.

Cities in Russia and India, have made a similar pledge to be car free on Tuesdays.

Read more on sustainable Iran:
Iran Looks to Create Biofuel
Iran Inaugurates Its First Solar CSP Plant
Celebrate Spring and Iranian New Year

View other posts by Karin Kloosterman ?

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 12th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Thursday
12th May 2016

Nord Stream 2: A killer project

NS2, which will pass through Danish waters, is to be operational by 2019

BRUSSELS, EUobserver, 11 MAY, 10:49
By PETRAS AUSTREVICIUS – a Lithuanian MEP in the liberal Alde group.

Scholars of European affairs will one day judge how well EU institutions coped with crises.
However, speaking as an MEP, I must say it is unwise for the European Commission to try to play deaf, dumb and blind to certain serious developments in the real world.

Follow the gas: Russian pipelines are instruments of political pressure.

Drawing attention to one area, it is unwise to pretend that things are normal in the EU-Russia energy business.

The fact is that Russia’s gas pipelines, the little green men that it sent to Ukraine, the money it gives to populist parties in our member states and its anti-EU propaganda are all part of the same programme. The fact is that Russia is exerting great influence to bend, or even break, EU energy law.

One project that lacks principled scrutiny by the EU’s top institutions is the Nord Stream 2 (NS2) gas pipeline.

If it is built, by 2019, it would duplicate existing pipes under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany and its implications would be far wider than many people think.

I would like to hear commission president Jean-Claude Juncker take a clear stand on NS2.

But I myself call it a killer project because I believe it is part of a programme to destroy European unity.

If it is built, the EU would become extremely dependent on a single gas supplier – Gazprom, an entity under the full control of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Europe already imports 39 percent of its gas from Russia. After NS2, 80 percent of Russian gas imports would be concentrated in one route. In Germany itself, the share of Russian gas would increase from 40 percent to 60 percent.

Beyond Germany, 12 EU member states depend on Russia for 75 percent or more of their gas. After NS2, the level of their dependence would also go up.

I call it a killer project because it has no commercial purpose, whatever its lobbyists say.

Independent energy experts agree that there is no market logic for investing €20 billion in new Baltic pipelines. Nord Stream I, which is already in operation, uses less than half of its capacity.

NS2 was never about the energy business, it was always energy politics.

It aims to split and destabilise the EU, to harm individual member states and to degrade Ukraine, which would be eliminated as the main Russia-EU gas transit route.

This is why Ukraine and all other central and eastern European countries are against the Russian-German project.


Cui bono?

It is obvious who would stand to gain from splitting the EU into gas partners and gas slaves – Russia. It is less obvious why Germany is getting involved.

It is also interesting what Denmark’s official position will be, knowing that NS2 will pass through Danish waters.

NS2 contradicts the European Energy Union – a policy of diversification of energy sources and suppliers.

We need the energy union to guarantee a fair gas price for all and to enable imports from the wider world, for instance via liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals.

Some have been built in Spain and in my home country, Lithuania. We have an LNG terminal in the port of Klaipeda and an LNG vessel named Independence. “Independence” is the key word here.

The Juncker commission made big promises on creating a free and secure energy market. It has yet to deliver.

NS2 is a killer project because it shows that Schroederism is back in Europe.

I am talking about the former German chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder’s policy of putting Russian money first. It risks making Germany, one of the most powerful EU states, prone to Russian manipulation.

You hear Schroederism from people in chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet.

You sometimes hear it from the chancellor herself. Merkel recently spoke out in defence of EU energy security, but she also defended the commercial merit of NS2.


Shell game

There is no such merit. Behind Gazprom, a giant shell firm, there is only Putinism.

There is no easy way to stop NS2. Two big states are building it and the ones who will pay the price are smaller.


Brussels is being squeezed by Moscow and Berlin.

But for all of Russia and Germany’s influence, if NS2 contradicts EU single market law – specifically, the so called third energy package – then Juncker’s commission must call a spade a spade.

Because of the sensitivity of the issue, a group of independent jurists should also provide its own legal analysis of the project. I will be demanding this as a member of the European Parliament.

When strategic decisions are being made, but political courage and EU values are lacking, the law is our last line of defence.

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Petras Austrevicius is a Lithuanian MEP in the liberal Alde group

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