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Fri Oct 18th, 2013 at 03:42:13 PM EST
Stakes at the table of international diplomacy are set higher as Saudi Arabia is extremely angered by US rebukes on a Syria intervention. Kerry and Lavrov have joined to find a diplomatic solution to the civil/sectarian war in Syria where the Assad regime will be still in place as talks begin. President Obama and Iranian president Rouhani are on a path to resolve the nuclear crisis in order to lift crushing UN sanctions. On domestic troubles, Obama has gained a few months breathing space as the government shutdown is ended and debt ceiling raised.
Saudi King Abdullah's warning on interference
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (Gulf News) - Leader stresses mutual respect as basis for international diplomacy - Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud has warned that the Islamic nation would not allow anyone, regardless of their status, to interfere in its affairs or undermine its security.
"We want to tell the world that we are extending our hand in respect of all divine religions and in an initiative that shuns hatred and violence and indicates that Islam is a religion of purity and moderation. If this be our case with non-Muslims, then our duty towards Muslims is to reject differences and rivalries between them."
Dialogue between Islamic sects is the proper way to understand one another.
"We praise God for everything that we agree upon, but our disagreements should not be used as a way to destroy the unity of the Islamic nation."
King Abdullah said that the Islamic nation never compromised on its religion, morals or values.
"We do not allow anyone regardless of who he is to undermine the sovereignty of our countries or interfere in our domestic or foreign affairs," King Abdullah who assumed power in 2005 said.
"Let the whole world be aware that we respect them and appreciate their contributions to humanity throughout history. However, there is no option for anyone trying to fret, according to his narrow or interests. We are a nation keen on the safety and integrity of its religion and countries and on dealing with others on a peer-to-peer basis."
Saudi rejection stuns UN Security Council
Continued below the fold ...
Wed Oct 16th, 2013 at 06:04:03 AM EST
As the US pivots its military presence towards the Far East, China is quietly moving into prominence in the Middle-East and Gulf states.
Turkey missile deal shows China's growing Mideast clout
(YnetNews/Reuters) - Expected sale of Chinese FD-2000 missile defense system to Ankara 'a wake up call,' former US official says. Survey shows China viewed more positively than US in every Mideast state except Israel.
China's likely sale of sophisticated missiles to Turkey over the objections of its NATO allies might have angered Washington and other capitals, but it should not have been a surprise. Even as the US has spent billions of dollars and lost hundreds of lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, Beijing has been quietly upping its presence in the Middle East.
Militarily, the US - which maintains a permanent aircraft carrier presence near the Gulf as well as dozens of other warships and major bases in Turkey, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates - is by far the dominant regional power.
Beijing's economic, political and diplomatic clout, however, is growing fast. China's Ministry of Commerce said last month China-Arab nation trade now reaches $222 billion a year, 12 times its 2002 level. That would outstrip US-Mideast trade, valued at $193 billion in 2011.
China plays vital role in promoting peace
Turkey's choice of a $3.4 billion deal to acquire the Chinese FD-2000 missile defense system rather than rival US or European systems may be a sign of things to come.
"It is a wake-up call," said Christina Lin, a former US official and now fellow at the School for Advanced International Studies who last year briefed the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs on the issue. "China is looking to get a lot more involved in the Middle East and is being increasingly accepted there."
The firm that makes the missile system, China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp (CPMIEC) is under US sanctions for violations of the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act.
Mixing commerce and geopolitics, experts say, is at the heart of Beijing's approach. Chinese officials have become regular visitors to most Mideast states while a range of regional leaders including Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan, Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan's King Abdullah have all visited China.
China's soaring energy needs are seen as a major motivator, coming just as the US gets closer to energy independence and budget constraints and public reluctance hit its military presence.
The International Energy Agency expects China's Mideast oil imports to grow from 2.9 million barrels per day in 2011 to 6.7 million in 2035, a projected 54% of total Chinese oil imports. Already, Chinese national oil companies are amongst the biggest players in Iraq and Iran and Beijing is both Saudi Arabia's largest trading partner and the biggest single purchaser of Iran's crude.
CSIS Report: Turkey Looks to China on Air and Missile Defense?
by Frank Schnittger
Tue Oct 15th, 2013 at 02:02:11 PM EST
Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan delivered his 2014 budget to the Dail today - about 2 months earlier than usual to give the European Commission more time to review and approve its provisions. Taoiseach Enda Kenny had announced last weekend that Ireland would exit the bailout programme on December 15th., so this is the last budget to be overseen by the Troika.
The Troika had sought to insist that Noonan take 3.1 Billion (= 1.9% of GDP) out of the economy in tax increases and spending cuts, a call supported by the Economic and Social Research Institute. The Government has restricted this to 2.5 Billion (= 1.5% of GDP) made up of spending reduction (1.6 Billion) and tax increases of (0.9 Billion).
This is planned to reduce the budget deficit from 7.3% in 2013 (Troika target 7.5%) to 4.8% of GDP in 2014 (Troika target 5.1%) and 2.9% in 2015. This should be sufficient to generate a small primary surplus next year and reduce the overall Government debt to GDP ratio to 120 percent at end-2014, 118.4 percent at end-2015 and 114.6 percent at the end of 2016. Despite this contractionary policy, the Government is forecasting 0.2% GDP growth in 2013, rising to 2.0% in 2014.
From a US perspective it is noteworthy that Ireland's national debt and projected annual deficits are much higher than that of the USA and yet no one is panicking. On the positive side, at least we have a functioning budgetary process!
Of more interest to international observers, Mr. Noonan has announced that companies will no longer be able to incorporate in Ireland without also being tax resident here, and so will not be able to use tax avoidance schemes like the double Irish and dutch sandwich to evade the Irish corporation tax rate of 12.5%. Companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple have been in the news recently for utilizing such schemes to move Billion of Euros to tax havens like Bermuda virtually tax free.
The issue of low Irish corporate tax rates is reported to have surfaced in German coalition talks between the CDU and SPD, and so the timing of this change may not be entirely unrelated. Whether he is doing Merkel a favour or seeking to relieve pressure on Ireland to increase it's 12.5% Corporate Tax rate is unclear. The measure is not scheduled to kick in until 1st. Jan, 2015 and so will not effect revenues for 2014. It has not been stated how much additional revenue the Minister expects to collect from this measure in future years, and whether he expects some multinationals to relocate outside Ireland in response to his change.
Mon Oct 14th, 2013 at 10:15:28 AM EST
Russia's staunch opposition to Ukraine's intention to sign a free trade agreement with the European Union has thrust this otherwise banal political decision into the centre of the news. The Kremlin has built a perverse narrative of a zero-sum war of influence between Brussels and Moscow. Russia's President Putin is wrong, however, to interpret the geopolitical stakes in such simplistic terms.
Under Lithuania's presidency, the EU has pushed hard for improved relations on its Eastern borders, hoping notably to sign an Association Agreement (AA) and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with Ukraine and to initiate negotiations with Georgia and Moldova. This diplomatic offensive is expected to culminate at the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit in late November, while the final decision by the Council of Ministers is expected next week in Luxembourg. Russia, however, has not taken kindly to Brussels' latest initiative, viewing it as meddling in their backyard and direct competition against its own `Eurasian' trade bloc.
Sun Oct 13th, 2013 at 06:10:32 AM EST
Joseph Firestone is publishing a series of articles at New Economic Perspectives by way of a response to President Obama' cavalier treatment of suggested options for resolving the US debt ceiling crisis.
Part Two: Coins, the 14th and Consols
Apparently a commenter called Beowulf came up with the idea of Consols, so I thought I would weigh in with a comment, as this is a subject I aired on ET as long ago as August 2009 in the context of Iceland
I'm being a bit more radical by proposing a debt/equity swap on a US scale: Obama's Conversion.
Sat Oct 12th, 2013 at 09:33:11 AM EST
Obama administration brings chilling effect on journalism
WASHINGTON DC (AP) - The U.S. government's aggressive prosecution of leaks and efforts to control information are having a chilling effect on journalists and government whistle-blowers, according to a report released Thursday on U.S. press freedoms under the Obama administration.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) conducted its first examination of U.S. press freedoms amid the Obama administration's unprecedented number of prosecutions of government sources and seizures of journalists' records. Usually the group focuses on advocating for press freedoms abroad.
Leonard Downie Jr., a former executive editor of The Washington Post, wrote the 30-page analysis entitled "The Obama Administration and the Press." The report notes President Barack Obama came into office pledging an open, transparent government after criticizing the Bush administration's secrecy, "but he has fallen short of his promise."
Continued below the fold ...
Mon Oct 7th, 2013 at 05:09:21 PM EST
Well well, looky here...
Mon Oct 7th, 2013 at 08:17:25 AM EST
This photos are not mine but I felt like I would like to share them with you. My daughter just came from Greece (Lefkada, or Leucas or Leucadia or Lefkas or Leukas, is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea on the west coast of Greece). It is so beautiful and also very very cheap in this time (they were last group this season). Look at the color of the sea...my daughter was fascinated. Accommodation was more then decent for the money and Greeks are overly friendly (especially for Serbian women, haha).
Maybe that's the best way to help your fellow Europeans...go and spend your money there.
Mon Oct 7th, 2013 at 07:38:21 AM EST
Edward Snowden's E-Mail Provider Defied FBI Demands to Turn Over Crypto Keys, Documents Show
(Wired) - The U.S. government in July obtained a search warrant demanding that Edward Snowden's e-mail provider, Lavabit, turn over the private SSL keys that protected all web traffic to the site, according to to newly unsealed documents.
The July 16 order came after Texas-based Lavabit refused to circumvent its own security systems to comply with earlier orders intended to monitor a particular Lavabit user's metadata, defined as "information about each communication sent or received by the account, including the date and time of the communication, the method of communication, and the source and destination of the communication."
The name of the target is redacted from the unsealed records, but the offenses under investigation are listed as violations of the Espionage Act and theft of government property -- the exact charges that have been filed against NSA whistleblower Snowden in the same Virginia court.
The records in the case, which is now being argued at the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, were unsealed today by a federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia.
Continued below the fold ...
by Frank Schnittger
Sun Oct 6th, 2013 at 02:05:48 AM EST
Samuel Johnson made this famous pronouncement that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel on the evening of April 7, 1775, but perhaps it is populism which is the last refuge of the modern political scoundrel. Ever since the Irish economic crash and the failure of the political system to properly regulate, and then resolve the Irish banking industry, politicians and politics have often been seen as the most egregious form of low life in the country.
Seeking to capitalize on this unpopularity, the Irish Prime Minister or Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, decided, almost on a whim, that it would be a good idea and an easy win for the Government parties to propose the abolition of the Irish Senate in a referendum to be put to the people. Despite a range of opinion polls showing large majorities in favour, that strategy has just blown up in his face with a narrow 52 to 48% majority of the electorate voting against his proposal.
The main arguments being put in favour of the abolition of the Senate where that:
- The Senate has relatively few powers under the Irish constitution and generally has a significant built in Government majority thanks to the Taoiseach having the power to nominate 11 members.
- The lack of a popular mandate. Some Senators are elected by University graduates only, and most of the others are elected by local county Councillors to represent notionally vocational groups but are in practice mostly politicians who failed to win election to the Dail or lower chamber by universal suffrage.
- Numerous proposals to reform the archaic nature of the Senate electorate have to date come to nothing.
- A small country like Ireland doesn't require a bicameral system of governance.
- Abolishing the Senate could lead to an annual cost saving of up to 20 Million p.a., although this figure is disputed and is in any case trivial in comparison to the cost of the public service as a whole.
Nobody on the NO campaign side sought to deny that the Senate was in need of fundamental reform, although proposals for reform varied greatly. But what the NO vote did perhaps indicate was that the electorate wanted more political accountability, not less.
front-paged by afew
Sat Oct 5th, 2013 at 05:22:59 PM EST
Normally, renewable energy is really popular - right up there with cute kitten and puppy pictures. For example, here is a survey done about offshore wind energy in New Jersey: (from Sierra Club). Unfortunately, in this survey nobody ever asked if people in NJ were willing to pay for the electricity made in this manner..... and we know that talk can be really cheap....
Fri Oct 4th, 2013 at 05:23:43 AM EST
The IPCC released its first of three assessment reports on climate change, available for download here. The report, still without a slick format, provides an opportunity to compare findings and scenario's in regard to its most recent counterpart, released in 2007, available for download here.
I will compare both reports of Working Group 1 on a number of climate topics that have drawn my interests over the years. With over 2200 pages, the new report is staggeringly huge, more than twice as thick as its predecessor, and the number of covered topics is vast. I start with comparing the reports on climate extremes.
Wed Oct 2nd, 2013 at 09:37:56 AM EST
Technology companies are worried that Europe may become a battle ground for patent lawsuits. In the United States, the number of patent cases, particularly in the information technology sector, has exploded in recent years. This phenomenon has largely been driven by entities that amass large portfolios of patents and attempt to enforce patent rights against accused infringers to collect licensing fees. Fourteen leading IT companies, including giants such as Google and Microsoft, addressed a letter. to European officials last week (26 September) warning of this danger.
In question is Europe's new unified patent court system. Traditionally, companies have generally supported a pan-European approach to protecting intellectual property. Europe's patent system is currently a jungle of national rules, making it expensive to file patents and defend against infringements. Under the new system, companies can use any court in Europe to start a case and it will all be decided under the one body of law, with one verdict to cover the 28 Member States. As details of the new system have emerged, however, the technology industry has become concerned that it could be vulnerable to the patent entites that have cost firms billions in the United States.
Tue Oct 1st, 2013 at 02:19:32 AM EST
After years of toleration of nazi / organized crime activities the Greek government following the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, acted at last:
(Reuters) - Greek police arrested the leader and more than a dozen senior members of the far-right Golden Dawn party early on Saturday after the killing of an anti-fascist rapper by a party supporter triggered outrage and protests across the country.
The arrests, which are the most significant crackdown on a political party in Greece since the fall of a military dictatorship in 1974, are the biggest setback to Golden Dawn since it entered parliament on an anti-immigrant agenda last year.
front-paged by afew
Sun Sep 29th, 2013 at 05:49:05 PM EST
Recently, I've noticed there has been a shift from talking about mitigation to adaptation to resilience when dealing with climate change. From my perspective, this is not a bad development as resilience focuses on practical preparedness for immediate hazards. This can partition change into small increments that are readily understandable and remove the polarized politics of climate change from the discussion. If you're talking about measures to prevent system failure because of a weather emergency, it tends not to matter what your position is on greenhouse gases because everybody remembers the last hurricane, flood, or blizzard. In addition, resilience measures can also be adaptation and, even in some cases, mitigation strategies for climate change as well. At least, this is what I'm observing here in the Boston area and what I've heard out of post-Sandy New York and other areas.
This week I attended a discussion at the Boston Society of Architects about a new report, Building Resilience in Boston
pdf alert: http://www.greenribboncommission.org/downloads/Building_Resilience_in_Boston_SML.pdf)
Before the meeting, I spent some time scanning the document and found it to be superlative work, a great introduction to the concepts of urban design for resilience and emergency preparedness and, most especially, a fine literature search of the state of the art all around the world. If you want to begin the process in your own city or town, this document will give you plenty of useful ideas and show you where to get more. It is useful not only for cities like Boston, London, and New York but also towns like Chula Vista, CA and Keene, NH.
Another indication of growing seriousness on these issues I noticed is that the dangers from temperature extremes are entering the picture, especially since there has been a 2,300% increase in casualties from heat waves and 189% increase from cold snaps in the 2001 to 2010 decade (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/07/16/1224282/-World-Meteorological-Organization-Heatwave-Decade).
According to Christina Figueres of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, whom I also saw this week, there are over 300 cities around the world which are actively working on mitigation, adaptation, and resilience in the face of climate change. So while international organizations are struggling to find actionable agreements and individual countries are fighting to avoid responsibility, municipalities around the world are taking practical steps.
Fri Sep 27th, 2013 at 05:32:59 PM EST
A discussion about former New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins, triggered a deeper investigation in understanding about the earliest reporting from East-Ghouta on the day of the gas attack. The advocacy group Syrian Support Group of Brian Sayers has some explaining to do.
The Syrian Question by Dexter Filkins on Aug. 23, 2013 also published @Syrian Freedom
(The New Yorker) - But Wednesday's early-morning attack appears to be something very different in scale. According to reports from the scene, four large rockets landed in the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta at just after 2 A.M. This time, the gas appeared to be more concentrated: on Thursday, the Syrian Support Group (S.S.G.), a rebel advocacy organization in Washington, put the death toll at 1,302, with nearly ten thousand others contaminated. Two-thirds of the dead were women and children, the group said. [Ghouta was evacuated as the suburb has been under heavy bombardment by the Assad regime - Oui]
... On Thursday, S.S.G. put me in touch with Mohammad Salaheddine, a Syrian reporter and activist who lives in the Damascus area and works for Al Aan TV, which is based in Dubai. Salaheddine told me that he arrived in East Ghouta minutes after the area was struck by four rockets containing poison gas.
"There were so many people I could not count them,'' Salaheddine said of the hospital. Many of the people, he said, were weak and couldn't breathe; the doctors were trying to give injections of atropine, an antidote, to as many of the victims as they could, and administer oxygen to others."
"People were panicking," he went on. "They were saying, Am I dead or am I alive?"
Continued below the fold ...
Thu Sep 26th, 2013 at 03:41:04 AM EST
Burning the Midnight Oil for the Arc of the Sun
Cross-posted from Voices on the Square: refers to earlier essays cross-posted here at The Sunset Empire Shudders and Shakes and Is Syria the Kind Of Place where World Wars Start?.
Over the weekend, I saw a piece on Syria: Now hundreds of Syrian rebels defect to Al Qaeda: 'Civil war within the civil war' weakens the battle to topple Assad
At least two entire rebel brigades are said to have joined the Nusra Front in opposition-held Raqqa, which borders Turkey. One of the groups, the Raqqa Revolutionaries, is said to have about 750 fighters.
A video uploaded by activists from Raqqa yesterday showed a massive convoy of fighters on cars and trucks with artillery and machine guns as they waved black flags. The video's title said it was a newly unified force of Nusra fighters and other rebel battalions which had recently pledged loyalty.
Many Syrian rebels are attracted to radical units because they are generally more effective than the moderate forces which have Western backing but receive only halting military aid.
Shockingly, in a confirmation of Candidate Obama's emphasis on the importance of "soft power" and at least implied critique of President Obama's increasing reliance on "hard power", the evolution of a civil war favors increasing polarization and increasing influence by hard-liners on both sides.
Thu Sep 26th, 2013 at 12:58:09 AM EST
Stanislav Petrov had just settled into the commander's chair for night duty when the Soviet Union's early-warning satellite system reported that all hell was breaking loose.
"Suddenly the screen in front of me turned bright red," said Petrov. "An alarm went off. It was piercing, loud enough to raise a dead man from his grave."
"The computer showed that the Americans had launched a nuclear strike against us."
The uneasy quiet inside a secret bunker at Serpukhov-15 was disrupted just past midnight on September 26, 1983 by the warning of an incoming attack. The data from the satellite indicated a missile had been launched by the Americans. In a moment, another launch was detected, and then another. Soon, the system was "roaring".
This was not a drill. According to the data scrolling across the screen, the Soviet Union was under attack by five intercontinental ballistic missiles. "The warning system's computer, weighing the signal against static, concluded that a missile had been launched from a base in the United States."
There was precious few seconds to pause. On the panel in front of the 44-year-old lieutenant colonel of the Soviet Air Defense Forces "was a red pulsating button. One word flashed: 'Start.'"
"For 15 seconds, we were in a state of shock," he said. "We needed to understand, what's next?"
Wed Sep 25th, 2013 at 07:50:18 AM EST
A dry analysis of the political positioning at the UN General Assembly yesterday. Preaching to the global community or placating the warmongers at home. A new spirit of optimism may be justified, the work will be done behind closed doors and through back-channels. Plenty of work do be done by Secretary Kerry in the coming months.
The Handshake That Never Happened by Justin Raimondo
Former U.S. officials blast diplomacy with Rouhani at MEK rally outside UN
(Anti-War) - The world waited with bated breath as the day approached: would President Obama's speech to the UN General Assembly reflect positively on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's "charm offensive" (as the Israelis derisively dub it)? Would the two meet up at a luncheon arranged by Ban Ki-Moon and - gasp! - actually shake hands?
We now know the answers to these two questions: no, and certainly not.
It's funny how subjective impressions can be. People often hear their hopes rather than what is actually being said: here's Phil Weiss, over at the activist MondoWeiss web site, who sees in Obama's speech evidence of a "bold opening to Iran," all but proclaiming the beginning of a new era in US-Iranian relations. On the other hand, here's Max Fisher over at the Washington Post with a much more sober - and, I would say, more accurate - assessment.
Rouhani never showed up at the luncheon, and therefore the handshake that was supposed to have shaken the world never happened.
Continued below the fold ...
Wed Sep 25th, 2013 at 01:30:20 AM EST
There is great suffering in the peripheral countries of the Euro zone and the existing 'austerity' policies are gratuitously inflicting economic damage and destroying lives, especially in Greece and Cyprus, but also in Portugal, Spain and Ireland. At present, Germany has no motive to change anything and is the chief beneficiary of the existing crisis. This seems likely to continue so long as German workers accept their reduced circumstances and blame them on 'lazy southerners'. Germany is adamant about maintaining a hard money Euro and keeping all debts segregated by nationality while refusing to approve any surplus recycling mechanism within the Eurozone. These positions seem unlikely to change any time soon. Splitting the EMU into two monetary unions could provide a path to a resolution.
by gmoke - Dec 8
by melo - Dec 10
by melo - Dec 10
by gmoke - Dec 8
by Oui - Dec 6
by marco - Nov 30
by afew - Nov 28
by Oui - Nov 23
by vbo - Nov 21
by gmoke - Nov 19
by Oui - Nov 19