Which relations between Switzerland and the EU?

Straighten up EU-Switzerland relations. “Switzerland does not need a framework agreement with the European Union”; by Felix W. Zulauf / “Federal Council hampers small hydro power plants development”, by Marianne Wüthrich / Swiss agricultural policy – what next? / How Switzerland saved itself. Fundamental book on the history of Switzerland in the Second World War / A framework agreement with the EU, which is almost unknown to the public… The previous history; by Werner Wüthrich / “To facilitate the emergence of a community of common destiny”. Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) take position to sensitive issues of world politics / The NATO states need to change their business model, by Karl Müller / Military strike against Syria must be brought to the International Criminal Court, by Eva Maria Barki / “Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics”, by Wolfgang van Biezen / Basics of a personal common good and peace ethics. On Rudolf Weiler’s standard work “Internationale Ethik”, by Joachim Hoefele, Urs Knoblauch, Elisabeth Nussbaumer / German citizens absolutely do not want a war. They want improved relations with Russia / It needs information about the “Great Game of the Powers”. Being concerned alone is not enough, by Dieter Sprock.

Source Article from http://www.voltairenet.org/article201218.html

Washington wants to drive wedge between Russia, China & Europe – analyst

“The most obvious reason for sanctions is to drive a wedge into the relationship between Russia and the European Union, between Russia and China, etc.” said TeleTradeBel analyst Mikhail Grachev.

According to Grachev, this time Russia should not seek to impose sanctions against American individuals and instead stop the spiral of bilateral sanctions. “Symmetrical answers like deportation of diplomats and closure of consulates are most likely appropriate and are a worthy response. But sanctions against specific personalities will look like a shot in the air,” he said.

“For Russia, in this situation it is more important to maintain one’s own dignity.”

The analyst added that with time, the European Union will realize that the United States is not a trading partner to be trusted. Grachev recalls the recent words by the President of the European Council Donald Tusk that “with friends like that who needs enemies?”

Vladimir Rojankovski, investment analyst at Global FX, agrees that it is the right moment for Russia to strengthen its ties with Europe, when the latter seeks to defend its companies from US sanctions for doing business with Iran.

“Needless to say how much it’s in Russia’s interests to join this party [Europe],” he told RT.

The analyst notes that the US president is ready to get rid of old friends, if they don’t suit his agenda. “The main problem about countering Trump directly is his low level of susceptibility. He is a thick-skinned lifelong cynic, the fact proved by the ease with which he parts with his friends. Remember his former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson? After the latter’s public speech defending the Iran nuclear deal he was mercilessly fired.”

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

Source Article from https://www.rt.com/business/427245-russia-china-europe-us-sanctions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Why true TreeHuggers should never double space between sentences

People get so worked up about such silly things, such as whether one should put two spaces after a period or just one. According to Avi Selk of the Washington Post, “this schism has actually existed throughout most of typed history.” However, in a recent study, Are two spaces better than one? The effect of spacing following periods and commas during reading, the researchers tracked the eye movements of sixty students and found that reading speed improved when there were two spaces.

One would think that the matter would be settled, because science. But then Lance Hosey, a very thoughtful green architect and author of The Shape of Green, made a point about sustainability and waste on Facebook after reading the Post article titled One space between each sentence, they said. Science just proved them wrong.

Facebook Lance Hosey on Facebook/Screen capture

Of course, Lance would think of that. But how much of an impact does that second space really have on the environment? For a rough look, I fired up The Google and my trusty VisiCalc and tried to calculate how much paper would be used if all the books in the USA were printed with a double space between each sentence. I assumed that the space after the period takes up the same amount of room as a character, which it did with fixed-width fonts, which is what they used in the study so I think is fair.

spreadsheet on treesLloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

But the results are shocking: with an average of 5,294 extra spaces per book, it resulted in over a quarter of a billion extra pages, 26,471 trees and about 163 acres of forest, eaten up just for that extra space between each sentence.

Whiners will complain that books have variable width fonts; others might even make the case that has been made in support of wood construction, that chopping trees is good and that every little extra space sequesters carbon and makes room for new carbon-sucking trees. But our TreeHugger position is that Less is More, and that one should use as little of a resource as possible. And that includes spaces after periods.

Seeing the results, Lance noted that “I’m pro Oxford comma, but it probably kills a small wilderness every year….” We will study that next.

Source Article from https://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-product-design/why-true-treehuggers-should-never-double-space-between-sentences.html

Russia is opposed to a war between Iran and Israël, by Thierry Meyssan

JPEG - 28.2 kb
Israëli bombing raids since December 2017.

Israël fired nine missiles against two Syrian military bases in the night of 29-30 April 2018, causing serious damage.

What is surprising about this operation is that the Russian radars did not transmit the alert to the Syrian authorities, who were therefore unable to intercept the Israëli projectiles.

It transpires that the attack was aimed not at Syrian objectives, but at Iranian targets installed on Syrian bases.

In honour of a treaty anterior to the war, Iran came to the help of Syria from the beginning of the foreign aggression in 2011. Without this assistance, Syria would have been beaten, the Republic overthrown, and the Muslim Brotherhood installed in power. However, as from September 2015, Syria has also been supported by Russia, whose firepower is far superior. It was the Russian Air Force who destroyed the underground fortifications – built by NATO and Lafarge – with their ’bunker-buster’ bombs, thereby allowing the Syrian Arab Army to recapture the ground they had lost.

Today, the aims of Iran and Russia diverge.

The Irano-Russian disagreement

Russia’s intention is to eradicate the jihadist organisations and pacify the whole region. Then it hopes to restore the historical link between its Orthodox culture and Damascus, the original city of Christianity, in accordance with the strategy developed in the 18th century by Catherine the Great.

Iran is now a country divided between three distinct powers – the Revolutionary Guard, President Rohani, and Supreme Leader Khamenei, who arbitrates their differences.

The Revolutionary Guard is an elite unit, distinct from the regular army. They obey the Supreme Leader, while the army is under the command of the President of the Islamic Republic. They are attempting to free the Middle East from Anglo-Saxon imperialism. They guarantee the protection of Chiites everywhere in the world, and in return, count on them to protect Iran. They are notably deployed in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

President Hassan Rohani is trying to extricate his country from the diplomatic isolation caused by the Revolution triggered by Imam Khomeiny. He wants to develop international commerce and restore the status of dominant regional power which his country enjoyed during the reign of the Shah.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is ideologically close to the Revolutionary Guard, is attempting to maintain the balance between these two powers, and thus the unity of his country. His role is all the more difficult since the tension between these two groups is at a paroxysm. Ex-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (from the Revolutionary Guard) and his ex-Vice President Hamid Beghaie, have been declared « bad Muslims » by the Council of the Guardians of the Constitution. The former has been put under house arrest, while the latter has been condemned to 15 years of imprisonment at the conclusion of a secret trial.

Since the assassination of Jihad Moughniyah (the son of Imad Moughniyah, military head of the Lebanese Hezbollah) and of officers of the Revolutionary Guard, in January 2015, at the line of Syro-Israëli demarcation of the Golan, there are clear indications that Iran is attempting to implant military bases in the South of Syria. It may be part of a plan to organise a planned attack on Israël from Gaza, Lebanon and Syria.

It is this project that Israël is trying to prevent, and that Russia now refuses to caution.

The evolution of political positions

From the Russian point of view, Israël is an internationally recognised state, and more than one million of its citizens come from the ex-USSR. It has the right to defend itself, independent of the questions raised by the theft of land and the current apartheid régime.

In the contrary, from the Iranian point of view, Israël is not a state, but an illegitimate entity which is occupying Palestine and oppressing its historical inhabitants. It is therefore legitimate to bear arms against it. In this case, the Islamic Republic exceeds the analysis of its founder. Indeed, for Imam Khomeiny, Israël is no more than a tool for the two main colonial powers, namely the United States (the « Great Satan »), and the United Kingdom. During the course of the last few years, Iranian statements about Palestine have become particularly confused, mixing political and religious arguments, and falling back on anti-Semitic stereotypes.

For the last three years, Israël has been asking insistently for Russia to prevent Iran from installing military bases less than 50 kilometres from the line of demarcation. At first, Russia pointed out that Iran had won the war in Syria, while Israël had lost it. Tel-Aviv was therefore in no position to demand anything. But we are now approaching the possible end of the war, and the Russian position has changed – it is out of the question to allow Iran to start a new conflict.

It is exactly this same attitude that pushed Russia to bomb the two airports rented by Tsahal in Georgia, in 2008. At that time, it was a question of preventing an attack on Teheran by Tel-Aviv. Except that the laisser-faire this time is opposed to an initiative by Iran, and not by Israël.

The Syrian position

From the Syrian point of view, Israël is an enemy who is illegally occupying the Golan. During the war, Israël supported the jihadists de facto, and has already bombed the country more than a hundred times.

However, this does not necessarily make the Iranian project any more welcome. Indeed, like Moscow, Damascus does not question the existence of the Hebrew state, but only the form of its régime, which excludes Palestinians. Above all, the Syrian Arab Republic does not want war with its neighbour, but peace. Presidents Hafez and Bachar el-Assad have both tried to negotiate – notably with US President Bill Clinton – but in vain.

Furthermore, everyone knows that the Israëli army is unreservedly supported by the United States, and that to attack Israël is to a attack Washington. Syria, which has just weathered seven years of foreign aggression and is widely destroyed, could not engage in such an operation even if it wanted to.

Consequently, Damascus, which has allowed Iran to install bases on its soil, will not proceed any further.

The Irano-US context

Just as the possible end of the war has provoked the current crisis, it also weighs on the future of the 5+1 agreement. The United States will probably cease to be its guarantor.

This multilateral agreement is not what we think it is. The text, signed on 14 July 2015, is exactly identical to the treaty negotiated on 4 April. However, over the last few months, Washington and Teheran have been negotiating, face to face, certain secret bilateral clauses, the contents of which nobody knows.

However, everyone has been able to see that since the conclusion of this secret agreement, US and Iranian troops, present everywhere in the Middle East, have never been directly confronted.

The public part of the agreement deals with the suspension of the Iranian nuclear programme for at least a decade; the cancellation of international sanctions against Iran; and a reinforcing of IAEA controls. This agreement is catastrophic for Teheran, which has, for example, been obliged to cease the teaching of nuclear physics. But it signed nevertheless, hoping for the cancellation of the sanctions which are very damaging for its economy. But hardly had the sanctions been lifted, they were re-imposed on another pretext (the missile programme). The Iranian standard of living continues to sink.

Contrary to a commonly-held idea, the Islamic Republic had stopped seeking to develop the nuclear bomb in 1988, because Imam Khomeiny had convinced its leaders that weapons of mass destruction were contrary to Islam. However, they had continued to pursue their activities on civil nuclear power, plus some research on tactical military applications. Today, only those who seek to follow in the footsteps of the Shah – in other words, President Rohani’s group – are likely to want to re-start the military nuclear programme . But they will not do so, because of their excellent relations with Washington.

A preparatory meeting of the World Conference on the follow-through of the nuclear non-proliferation Treaty is currently under way in Geneva. Iran and Russia are present, defending a motion which aims to declare the Middle East a « zone free from nuclear weapons » – a motion opposed by Israël, Saudi Arabia and the Western powers.

The threat brought to bear from Syria by Teheran should perhaps be viewed as a means of pressure for the maintenance of the secret clauses parallel to the 5+1 agreement.

Source Article from http://www.voltairenet.org/article201027.html

The curious link between coal and the future of energy

The end of the era of coal

Coal launched the industrial revolution. The amazing black fuel burns hotter and provides more energy than the prevailing prior fuel, wood. Coal actually owes its energy to wood, compressed by geological forces for millennia. Most of the coal we burn still in these waning years of fossil fuel use derives from trees that died and could not rot, because the organisms evolved to eat the strong, tough cell walls of trees did not yet exist.

But just as microbes are now evolving an ability to eat plastics, evolution could not leave such a nutrient-dense buffet as a tree to remain uneaten. The fungi we now call “white rot fungi” perfected the evolution of organisms capable of eating trees – scientists classify fungi as white rot species when they have the ability to digest all of the components of the trees’ cell walls, including the lignin. Lignin describes a class of polymers that give trees such as the giant redwood, or sequoia, the ability to grow to such towering heights.

If not for climate change, we could keep using coal until the reserves run out. The white rot fungi are now believed to have been a major influence in limiting coal reserves, as they could break dead trees down before they could be turned into coal. The evolution of fungi that eat trees was the beginning of the end for coal.

An organism that grows larger than a blue whale

Ask people to name the biggest creature on earth, and most will answer the blue whale. Curiously, the fungi that feed on trees have evolved to beat the whales, winning the prize for the largest organism ever found. Called the “humongous fungus,” a growth of Armillaria ostoyae now devastating areas of Oregon’s Malheur National Forest consists of one huge organism linked together by nets of underground tendrils known as rhizomorphs. By current estimates, this fungus extends over 3.4 square miles (2,200 acres; 8.8 km2) of forest floor.

Many species of fungi provide benefits to the neighboring trees, providing nutrients to the trees in trade for sugars. Other species survive by feeding on trees that are already dead. But the A. ostoyae ranks as pathogenic, killing the trees on which it feeds. By feeding on living trees, the fungus avoids competition with bacteria, other fungi, and microbes. The organisms owe their huge size and deadly effects to a wide breadth of genes, which means a lot of recipes for the little kitchen tricks that make tasty meals of the tough lignin.

Fueling the future

Other plants contain lignin too, especially in the stems and tougher parts. Too often, this biomass goes to waste because no cost-effective process to use it efficiently has been discovered. Also too often, industry is turning to parts of plants that we use for food to create new sources of energy – putting food in direct competition with energy even as human populations reach levels at which that poses ethical conflicts.

At best, we can burn this biomass. But just as burning trees could not launch an industrial revolution, burning biomass cannot sustain our current technological and economic demands. A better solution must be found. Some processes have been developed to turn the easier-to-digest bits of plant stalks, cellulose and hemicellulose, into alcohols or break them into molecules that can be reacted into better fuels or raw materials. But the hard-to-digest lignin holds 25 to 35% of the available energy.

That is why scientists are now trying to understand the tricks that fungi use to break down lignin. Just as the plastic-eating microbes are under study to find super-enzymes that can be of use in plastic recycling processes, the many evolutionary tricks of tree-eating fungi will inspire scientists looking for answers to how we can fuel the future.

Source Article from https://www.treehugger.com/renewable-energy/curious-link-between-coal-and-future-energy.html

Military Coordination between Teheran, Baghdad, Damascus and Moscow

On 19 April 2018, the Iraqi air force bombed positions of the Islamic Emirates (Daesh) in Syria.

At the same time, several Defence leaders of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Russia met in Baghdad as part of an effort to coordinate the military intelligence services of the four countries.

Source Article from http://www.voltairenet.org/article200851.html

Documents show ‘concerning level of coordination’ between FBI, DOJ in Clinton email probe, says Rep. Meadows

Rep. Mark Meadows

    

The head of the conservative House Freedom Caucus has asked the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to take a closer look at emails and texts between demoted FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page that previously had been given to Congress.

In a letter to Oversight Committee chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., claimed recently uncovered documents “suggest a concerning level of coordination between the Department of Justice and the FBI throughout crucial moments of the investigation into [Hillary] Clinton’s private email server.”

Meadows’ claim contradicts repeated statements by former FBI Director James Comey, who has said the bureau and the DOJ did not coordinate on his July 2016 statement recommending Clinton not be charged for keeping classified information on her personal email server.

“Given the tone of Director Comey’s sworn testimony, and his stated intention to continue to publicly speaking about the investigation in support of his new book,” Meadows wrote, “we believe it is important to further examine whether his previous statements before Congress and the American people were misleading.”

Meadows quoted a July 1, 2016 text exchange between Strzok and Page about then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s pledge to accept Comey’s recommendations in the email case.

“Timing looks like hell,” Strzok wrote. “Will appear choreographed. All major news networks literally leading with ‘AG to accept FBI [Director’s] recommendation.'”

“Yeah, that is awful timing,” Page answered. “Nothing we can do about it.”

“What I meant was,” Strzok said, “did DOJ tell us yesterday they were doing this, so [Comey] added that language.”

Page texted back: “I think we had some warning of it. I know they sent some statement to [Comey chief of staff James] Rybicki bc he called andy [Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe].”

Meadows said the cryptic conversation “raises concerns the FBI learned former Attorney General Lynch would accept Director Comey’s recommendation, leading him to add the ‘no coordination’ language to his public comments on July 5th 2016.”

He added, “These texts exchanged between Lisa Page and Peter Strzok also raise concerns DOJ sent remarks related to the ‘no coordination’ language to James Rybicki, Director Comey’s former Chief of Staff.”

According to Meadows, another document indicated that McCabe “reached out to ask that we set up another DOJ/FBI meeting to discuss developments in MYE (midyear exam).” MYE is the code for the Clinton email case.

“It is very possible former Director Comey did not coordinate specifics of his statement with the Deputy Attorney General [Sally Yates]. However, the documents suggest that at the staff-level, coordination on the Clinton MYE investigation was frequent,” Meadows wrote.

Gowdy told Fox News’ “The Story” Tuesday night that he had read Meadows’ letter and planned to forward it to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

“I think it fits most neatly within what Horowitz is doing now, which is looking at just how unprecedented this investigation was in 2016,” Gowdy said.

The FBI and Justice Department did not immediately respond to Fox News’ requests for comment.

Source Article from https://www.sott.net/article/383280-Documents-show-concerning-level-of-coordination-between-FBI-DOJ-in-Clinton-email-probe-says-Rep-Meadows

Secret negotiations between Syria and the US

On 14 April 2018 the US Representative to the UN, Nikki Haley declared that the “United States refuses to initiate dialogue and to enter into discussions with President Bashar al-Assad”.

Contradicting this assertion, the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reveals that three high level meetings took place between the two States. However, the fourth meeting, scheduled in March, was cancelled by Syria on the grounds that it would serve no purpose so long as Washington did not reconceive its policy.

Source Article from http://www.voltairenet.org/article200753.html