TBR News February 19, 2018

Feb 19 2018

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. February 19, 2018:” Search the news sites on the internet though I may, I have never found the following information anywhere.

I am speaking of the so-called ‘Russia-gate’ flap. The basic theme of this discordant concerto is that the Russians, having made some kind of a deal with Donald Trump, somehow managed to get him elected to the office of US President in exchange for what quid pro quo none of the self-decleared brilliant experts have yet to invent.

It is obvious to a neutral observer that very compromising emails from the Clinton camp appeared on WikiLeak before, but not after, the election and no doubt had a strong influence on the outcome of the election.

The point the belching pundits seem to have missed is that, whatever the motive behind their release, the documents were genuine.

This seems to be a clear example of the biter being bitten by a better informed biter.

And the noise makers ought to comprehend that what happened once can easily happen again.

Americans always seem to feel that whatever they do is quite acceptable, be it bombing hospitals, torturing prisoners, or starting wars for fun and profit but God help anyone else who does the same thing.

What is normal and acceptable, even God-mandated behavior for them is wickedness if done by another.”



Table of Contents

  • Did George Washington Predict Donald Trump?
  • Washington’s Farewell Address 1796
  • People Care More About the Oxfam Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
  • Top Democrat suggests proof of Trump-Russia collusion still to come
  • Germany’s far-right AfD overtakes Social Democrats in poll
  • Germany seeks new spy satellites to get intel ‘independently from US’ – report
  • The secret on the ocean floor
  • Syrian army to help Kurdish forces repel Turkish offensive in Afrin: reports


Did George Washington Predict Donald Trump?

In an era of disunity and partisanship, the first president’s farewell address seems prescient.

Headline, New York Times,

February 19, 2018

Washington’s Farewell Address 1796


Friends and Citizens:

The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the United States being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made.

I beg you, at the same time, to do me the justice to be assured that this resolution has not been taken without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation which binds a dutiful citizen to his country; and that in withdrawing the tender of service, which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness, but am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both.

The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in, the office to which your suffrages have twice called me have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire. I constantly hoped that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement from which I had been reluctantly drawn. The strength of my inclination to do this, previous to the last election, had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it to you; but mature reflection on the then perplexed and critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations, and the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence, impelled me to abandon the idea.

I rejoice that the state of your concerns, external as well as internal, no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible with the sentiment of duty or propriety, and am persuaded, whatever partiality may be retained for my services, that, in the present circumstances of our country, you will not disapprove my determination to retire.

The impressions with which I first undertook the arduous trust were explained on the proper occasion. In the discharge of this trust, I will only say that I have, with good intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable. Not unconscious in the outset of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience in my own eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others, has strengthened the motives to diffidence of myself; and every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome. Satisfied that if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe that, while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.

In looking forward to the moment which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me; and for the opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment, by services faithful and persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that under circumstances in which the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected. Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.

Here, perhaps, I ought to stop. But a solicitude for your welfare, which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all-important to the permanency of your felicity as a people. These will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsel. Nor can I forget, as an encouragement to it, your indulgent reception of my sentiments on a former and not dissimilar occasion.

Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.

The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.

But these considerations, however powerfully they address themselves to your sensibility, are greatly outweighed by those which apply more immediately to your interest. Here every portion of our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the union of the whole.

The North, in an unrestrained intercourse with the South, protected by the equal laws of a common government, finds in the productions of the latter great additional resources of maritime and commercial enterprise and precious materials of manufacturing industry. The South, in the same intercourse, benefiting by the agency of the North, sees its agriculture grow and its commerce expand. Turning partly into its own channels the seamen of the North, it finds its particular navigation invigorated; and, while it contributes, in different ways, to nourish and increase the general mass of the national navigation, it looks forward to the protection of a maritime strength, to which itself is unequally adapted. The East, in a like intercourse with the West, already finds, and in the progressive improvement of interior communications by land and water, will more and more find a valuable vent for the commodities which it brings from abroad, or manufactures at home. The West derives from the East supplies requisite to its growth and comfort, and, what is perhaps of still greater consequence, it must of necessity owe the secure enjoyment of indispensable outlets for its own productions to the weight, influence, and the future maritime strength of the Atlantic side of the Union, directed by an indissoluble community of interest as one nation. Any other tenure by which the West can hold this essential advantage, whether derived from its own separate strength, or from an apostate and unnatural connection with any foreign power, must be intrinsically precarious.

While, then, every part of our country thus feels an immediate and particular interest in union, all the parts combined cannot fail to find in the united mass of means and efforts greater strength, greater resource, proportionably greater security from external danger, a less frequent interruption of their peace by foreign nations; and, what is of inestimable value, they must derive from union an exemption from those broils and wars between themselves, which so frequently afflict neighboring countries not tied together by the same governments, which their own rival ships alone would be sufficient to produce, but which opposite foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues would stimulate and embitter. Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty. In this sense it is that your union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.

These considerations speak a persuasive language to every reflecting and virtuous mind, and exhibit the continuance of the Union as a primary object of patriotic desire. Is there a doubt whether a common government can embrace so large a sphere? Let experience solve it. To listen to mere speculation in such a case were criminal. We are authorized to hope that a proper organization of the whole with the auxiliary agency of governments for the respective subdivisions, will afford a happy issue to the experiment. It is well worth a fair and full experiment. With such powerful and obvious motives to union, affecting all parts of our country, while experience shall not have demonstrated its impracticability, there will always be reason to distrust the patriotism of those who in any quarter may endeavor to weaken its bands.

In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations, Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection. The inhabitants of our Western country have lately had a useful lesson on this head; they have seen, in the negotiation by the Executive, and in the unanimous ratification by the Senate, of the treaty with Spain, and in the universal satisfaction at that event, throughout the United States, a decisive proof how unfounded were the suspicions propagated among them of a policy in the General Government and in the Atlantic States unfriendly to their interests in regard to the Mississippi; they have been witnesses to the formation of two treaties, that with Great Britain, and that with Spain, which secure to them everything they could desire, in respect to our foreign relations, towards confirming their prosperity. Will it not be their wisdom to rely for the preservation of these advantages on the Union by which they were procured ? Will they not henceforth be deaf to those advisers, if such there are, who would sever them from their brethren and connect them with aliens?

To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a government for the whole is indispensable. No alliance, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a constitution of government better calculated than your former for an intimate union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.

All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.

However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Constitution, alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments as of other human institutions; that experience is the surest standard by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country; that facility in changes, upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and remember, especially, that for the efficient management of your common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much vigor as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty is indispensable. Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian. It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property.

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositaries, and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield.

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?

Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.

As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it, avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertion in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear. The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it is necessary that public opinion should co-operate. To facilitate to them the performance of their duty, it is essential that you should practically bear in mind that towards the payment of debts there must be revenue; that to have revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant; that the intrinsic embarrassment, inseparable from the selection of the proper objects (which is always a choice of difficulties), ought to be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the government in making it, and for a spirit of acquiescence in the measures for obtaining revenue, which the public exigencies may at any time dictate.

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it  It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue ? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?

In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils 7 Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government. the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing (with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the government to support them) conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that, by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.

How far in the discharge of my official duties I have been guided by the principles which have been delineated, the public records and other evidences of my conduct must witness to you and to the world. To myself, the assurance of my own conscience is, that I have at least believed myself to be guided by them.

In relation to the still subsisting war in Europe, my proclamation of the twenty-second of April, I793, is the index of my plan. Sanctioned by your approving voice, and by that of your representatives in both houses of Congress, the spirit of that measure has continually governed me, uninfluenced by any attempts to deter or divert me from it.

After deliberate examination, with the aid of the best lights I could obtain, I was well satisfied that our country, under all the circumstances of the case, had a right to take, and was bound in duty and interest to take, a neutral position. Having taken it, I determined, as far as should depend upon me, to maintain it, with moderation, perseverance, and firmness.

The considerations which respect the right to hold this con duct, it is not necessary on this occasion to detail. I will only observe that, according to my understanding of the matter, that right, so far from being denied by any of the belligerent powers, has been virtually admitted by all.

The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without anything more, from the obligation which justice and humanity impose on every nation, in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain inviolate the relations of peace and amity towards other nations.

The inducements of interest for observing that conduct will best be referred to your own reflections and experience. With me a predominant motive has been to endeavor to gain time to our country to settle and mature its yet recent institutions, and to progress without interruption to that degree of strength and consistency which is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its own fortunes.

Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.

Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man who views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations, I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government, the ever-favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.

Geo. Washington.


People Care More About the Oxfam Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic

February 17, 2018

by Patrick Cockburn

The Independent

The earthquake that devastated Haiti  on 12 January 2010, killing 220,000 people, produced a terrible and disgusting failure by those who came from abroad to help the survivors. Among these were UN soldiers from Nepal, which was then in the middle of a cholera epidemic, who brought the disease with them and allowed it to enter the rivers that provide Haitians with their drinking water.

Cholera, previously unknown on the island, killed 7,568 Haitians over the next two years, though the UN denied responsibility for the outbreak. This was despite a report by its own experts in 2012 that showed that the spread of cholera downstream from the Nepalese soldiers’ camps was predictable and avoidable. It was only in 2016 that the UN finally accepted responsibility for starting the epidemic, though it claimed legal immunity and refused to pay compensation.

Compare the lack of interest shown by the international media, politicians and assorted celebrities to this man-made calamity, leading to the death of thousands of Haitians, to the hysterical outrage expressed about Oxfam officials consorting with prostitutes in Haiti in 2011. Though nobody died in the Oxfam sex scandal, it is described as “terrible” and “heart-breaking”, words normally reserved for tragedies such as the enslavement and rape of thousands of Yazidi women by Isis in Iraq.

It would certainly be better if the Oxfam aid workers did not use prostitutes, but how high does this really rate on the Richter scale of moral turpitude? Oxfam was discreet about the punishment of those involved, as are all organisations about in-house scandals, but suddenly the word “cover-up” is used, as though we were dealing with Richard Nixon disclaiming responsibility for the Watergate burglary. This coverage of a minor scandal systematically exaggerates wrongdoings and abandons any sense of proportion in order to discredit Oxfam as a whole.

Few commentators, though bellowing their shock and sense of moral outrage, bother to ask what Oxfam was doing in Haiti at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011. This was when The Times and other organs critical of the Oxfam leadership should have been devoting more attention to monitoring the morals and behaviour of their local Oxfam representatives in the capital Port-au-Prince.

In fact, Oxfam was trying with some desperation to stem the cholera epidemic, the first outbreak of which was detected in central Haiti in October, from spreading further. By the following month, it had reached Port-au-Prince and Oxfam was trying to provide uncontaminated water to 315,000 people already rendered homeless by the earthquake. An Oxfam statement on 10 November describes how “Oxfam continues to strengthen water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure and activities in the camps/communities where we are working. A cholera strategy is being developed to guide our activities for at least the next three months. At this time, we are reinforcing our water, sanitation and hygiene programmes in camps where we already work in Port-au-Prince, and in Artibonite. We are currently reaching over 400,000 people with water, sanitation and hygiene programmes, and another 100,000 individuals mostly through our emergency food security and vulnerable livelihoods (EFSVL) programmes.”

None of this is as titillating as the sort of thing we have been reading or watching over the last week about the sexual misconduct of Oxfam employees in Haiti, but these do seem to have kept a lot of people alive who would otherwise have died. Curiously, though foreign journalists and politicians claim concern about the alleged exploitation of Haitian sex-workers, few of them seem to have noticed that there was cholera epidemic raging in Haiti at the same time as the sex scandal.

Why has The Times story produced such a media feeding frenzy? The story has the attraction to press and television of being about those who take a superior moral tone, such as aid agencies or the churches, and who are then caught committing sins that other organisations might get away with. The public enjoys revelations showing moral giants to have much the same feet of clay as everybody else.

Aid agencies are easy to attack because there is usually a disparity between the way these officials live compared to the misery of those they are meant to assist. Sometimes, the disparity is grotesque as in the case of aid consultants in Kabul in 2010 who were earning between $250,000 (£178,000) and $500,000 in a country where 43 per cent of the population were living on a dollar a day. Yet such excessive salaries are rare and a more substantive charge is that aid agencies spend too much on administration.

Yet these reasons do not quite explain the lynch mob hysteria with which Oxfam is currently being attacked for what, in the middle of a cholera epidemic, were fairly minor failings. The explanation for this probably has more to do with the public and media mood in the wake of the allegations that the Hollywood film mogul Harvey Weinstein harassed and assaulted women for decades, using his power to make or break their careers. The story was first printed in October last year and provoked a wave of accusations against men in senior positions who used their power to exploit women. The Haiti Oxfam story can be fitted into the same general picture of those in charge exercising their authority for sex, though the circumstances are very different.

In the post-Harvey Weinstein era it is difficult to defend Oxfam because all excuses sound self-serving and all episodes of sexual exploration tend to be regarded as equally grave. This obscures the degree of guilt and the gravity of the crime, though in the Oxfam villa in Port-au-Prince it is not even clear that there really was a crime.

The great 19th-century British historian Macaulay famously said that “we know of no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality”. The same could be said today of the Oxfam sex scandal in Haiti, but the word “frightening” should be substituted for “ridiculous” because the multiple sources of information – internet, television and press – have pumped up the speed with which there is a collective rush to judgement. This is made without regard to the evidence and is almost impossible to reverse once it has gained momentum.

It is doubtful that Oxfam will survive the scandal in its present form as it is being buried under so many imputations of guilt that people might well imagine that the organisation was being run by a combination of Harvey Weinstein and Jimmy Saville. Given Oxfam’s need for public and governmental financial support, it has probably – and to my mind unfairly – suffered a fatal wound. If it does go down then it will be a triumph for hypocrisy, in which pundits and politicians are destroying Oxfam for mistreating Haitians, about whose fate they suddenly express great concern, although few of them have even heard of the Haitian cholera epidemic Oxfam tried to stop.



Top Democrat suggests proof of Trump-Russia collusion still to come

While these latest indictments do not allege Trump’s team knowingly colluded, says Adam Schiff, that doesn’t mean later ones won’t

February 19, 2018

by Edward Helmore in New York

The guardian

The top Democrat on the House intelligence committee suggested on Monday that Robert Mueller may still present evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, despite last week’s indictments stating that such connections relating to those cases were merely “unwitting”.

Adam Schiff, a frequent foe of Donald Trump’s whom the president called “the leakin’ monster of no control” at the weekend, told WNYC he felt that a web of collusion had already been established.

“It’s very clear from this 37-page indictment that this was a massive Russian operation and part of its design was to promote the campaign of Donald Trump,” Schiff said.

The indictment, he said, “tore any veneer off the argument that the Russians were not involved, and were involved for the purpose of helping him and hurting others.”

On Friday, Mueller’s office revealed that 13 Russians and three Russian entities, including one named the Internet Research Agency, had been indicted by a grand jury.

The allegations included claims that the Russians’ operations “included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J Trump … and disparaging Hillary Clinton.”

But the indictment did not allege that Trump’s team had knowingly colluded, only that Russian operatives “communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign”.

Asked if he believed the investigation would claim “witting participation” with Russian by anyone working for the president, Schiff said it was clear that the president was aware of Russia’s hacking and dumping of documents because the intelligence community had said in October 2016 it was being carried out at Putin’s behest.

“Then-candidate Trump used this information on a daily basis to denigrate Hillary Clinton … and we know there were conversations about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton between very high levels of the campaign, including the president’s own son, son-in-law and campaign manager met in the secret meeting at Trump Tower where the Russians had offered to send someone out from Moscow … who was part of the Russian government effort to help elect Donald Trump.”

Schiff claimed the Russians communicated “something very similar” to George Papadopoulos, the former member of Trump’s foreign policy advisory panel who has pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents about contacts he had with the Russian government.

“What we don’t know is: what did Papadopoulos share with others in the campaign and what was the message that went back from the Trump tower to the Kremlin? ‘We’d love to have your help, although what you delivered at that meeting wasn’t useful’?

Schiff pointed out that “very shortly after that meeting was when the dumping of stolen documents first began”.

Trump initially greeted Mueller’s indictments with glee, claiming that the failure to charge anyone in his political orbit with collusion was an exoneration. But over the weekend, he launched a multi-target Twitter attack blaming Democrats for Russian meddling and claiming the investigations were playing into Moscow’s hands.

“They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America!” Trump tweeted on Sunday.

On Monday, Trump continued to taunt Democrats over their failure to block Moscow’s social media interference program, which Mueller’s indictment states began in 2014.

“Obama was president up to, and beyond, the 2016 election. So why didn’t he do something about Russian meddling?”, Trump tweeted.

Schiff said it was important to realize that the indictments only covered “one facet of the Russian active measures campaign … the use of social media to try to motive people to get out and protest for or against different candidates.

“There was a whole different vector the Russian used. They hacked democratic institutions, they leaked stolen documents, and that’s not covered at all in this indictment.”

Schiff said there may be good reason why Mueller is choosing to separate aspects of his investigation, if indeed he is.

“The fact that he didn’t allege in one active and willing participation by the Trump campaign doesn’t mean he won’t in the other,” said Schiff.


Germany’s far-right AfD overtakes Social Democrats in poll

The populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) has overtaken the Social Democrats (SPD) in a national opinion poll for the first time. The news comes as the SPD begins a crucial vote on a coalition with Angela Merkel.

February 19, 2018


A poll published on behalf of German tabloid Bild has found that 16 percent of voters would choose the right-wing, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD), half-a-percent more than those who would vote for the Social Democrats (SPD).

The figures released by the INSA polling institute show theSPD in free fall. Germany’s oldest political party has seen its polling figures plummet even further since it garnered just 20.5 percent of the vote in September’s federal election, its worst result in the post-war era.

Bild described the survey “a bitter blow” for the SPD, while INSA chief Hermann Binkert said the poll showed that “the conservative bloc is currently the only truly mainstream party.”

The SPD’s seen known better days

The news will add to the Social Democrats’ woes, whose members on Tuesday will begin voting on whether to forge another “grand coalition” with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives .

However, the SPD leadership’s decision to pursue a coalition deal with Merkel has been the catalyst for its fall in support. Many in the SPD — and the party’s youth wing in particular — have warned against another coalition, arguing that the party must go into opposition to properly regroup.

Martin Schulz, who led the party to its worst election result in since 1945, stepped down as leader last week. The SPD will hope a change in leadership in the form of Andrea Nahles will give it a much needed boost.

Nahles is expected to be elected to the helm of the SPD at the next party congress on April 22.

Elsewhere, the poll saw Merkel’s Christian Democrats strengthen their lead at the top by two points to 32 percent.

The Greens retained a steady 13 percent, the Left Party saw its support fall to 11 percent and the Free Democrats (FDP) fell 1.5 points to 9 percent.

A total of 2040 citizens were interviewed for the survey from 16-19 of February.

Second poll disputes INSA findings

Pollsters from INSA, however, admitted that a poll of this size had to take into account a margin of era of at least 3 percent, placing doubts over the AfD’s narrow 0.5 percent lead over the SPD.

The Forsa Institute’s “Trend Barometer,” also published on Monday on behalf of German broadcasters RTIL and n-tv, found that the SPD was still second most popular party in Germany, albeit also with just 16 percent of the voter share.

The AfD, meanwhile, stil laid still a good way behind 13 percent of the vote. Merkel’s conservative bloc took 34 percent, while the Greens enjoyed 13 percent, the Left Party 10 percent and the Free Democrats 9 percent.


Germany seeks new spy satellites to get intel ‘independently from US’ – report

February 19, 2018


Berlin has launched a new satellite program for its intelligence service (BND) in an attempt to escape US influence in spying matters, Die Zeit daily reports. The project has already proven to be costlier than planned.

Germany plans to spend €400 million ($465 million) on two of the “latest-generation satellites” for its foreign intelligence service. The budget committee of the German parliament (Bundestag) already approved the financing of the costly project back in early November 2017.

The two reconnaissance satellites, which are now being constructed by the Bremen-based aerospace company OHB, are expected to be able to identify and capture images of objects as small as an A4 paper sheet. They are scheduled to be launched into orbit in 2022, where they will be able to keep an eye on “any place on Earth” within 24 hours, according to a “top secret” intelligence document obtained by Die Zeit.

The ambitious project is apparently aimed at making Berlin less dependent on Washington, as the German security services are said to rely heavily on satellite data provided by their US partners.

“The BND must be capable of obtaining information quickly and on autonomously in order to be able to provide independent up-to-date situation assessments,” Bruno Kahl, the head of the foreign intelligence service, told Die Zeit, justifying the need for the new satellites.

“It is sometimes not enough to receive information while depending on third parties, to buy visual imagery at a commercial market or to request it from international partners,” Kahl added.

The German daily claims that the 2013 NSA surveillance scandal could have played a role in Berlin’s policy shift. The fact that a US intelligence agency spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone could be one of the factors that allegedly prompted her to choose a more independent political course in the field of intelligence.

Since 2013, the BND has reportedly received a total of €1 billion in additional funding, aside from its regular budget. In 2016, the foreign intelligence was also asked to present its proposals for big investment projects in the field of intelligence. Some of the proposals involved developing new software for internet surveillance, but the Chancellor’s Office eventually opted for a new satellite program.

However, the project, called ‘Georg’ (a German acronym for the Secret Electro-optical Reconnaissance System Germany), has already turned out to be more expensive than initially planned. The BND reportedly said that the construction of the satellites alone would cost about €100 million more than the entire sum allocated for the project so far.

In the meantime, Berlin has rejected an idea of merging the expansive BND satellite program with a similar project from the German Army (Bundeswehr), which is now in the process of modernizing its own satellite arsenal, called the Synthetic Aperture Radar Altitude High or ‘SARah.’ The first new German military satellite is expected to be launched into space this year by US businessman Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket.

Sources justify the need for there being two separate projects by the BND and the army, which have “different interests” and different tasks. The BND satellites are still expected to be operated from a facility run by the German army.

Currently, the BND relies on data from the Bundeswehr, while further intelligence comes from purchasing data from foreign partner agencies. This notably included the joint project “Hiro” with the US. The project, which collapsed in 2010, envisioned launching three satellites 500 kilometers into space. The high-resolution images from the satellites were to be used for commercial interests and disaster prevention, as well as offering extra surveillance capabilities to the BND.


The secret on the ocean floor

by David Shukman

BBC News

In the summer of 1974, a large and highly unusual ship set sail from Long Beach in California.

It was heading for the middle of the Pacific where its owners boasted it would herald a revolutionary new industry beneath the waves.

Equipped with a towering rig and the latest in drilling gear, the vessel was designed to reach down through the deep, dark waters to a source of incredible wealth lying on the ocean floor.

It was billed as the boldest step so far in a long-held dream of opening a new frontier in mining, one that would see valuable metals extracted from the rocks of the seabed.

But amid all the excited public relations, there was one small hitch – the whole expedition was a lie.

This was a Cold War deception on a staggering scale, but one which also left a legacy that has profound implications nearly half a century later.

The real target of the crew on board this giant ship was a lost Soviet submarine. Six years earlier, the K-129 had sunk 1,500 miles north-west of Hawaii while carrying ballistic nuclear missiles.

The Russians failed to find their sub despite a massive search, but an American network of underwater listening posts had detected the noise of an explosion that eventually led US teams to the wreck.

It was lying three miles down, deeper than any previous salvage operation. The weapons and top-secret code books were surely beyond reach.

But in the struggle for military advantage, the sub represented the crown jewels – a chance to explore Moscow’s nuclear missiles and to break into its naval communications.

So the CIA hatched an audacious plan, Project Azorian, to retrieve the submarine. That would have been hard enough. But there was another challenge as well – it had to be done without the Russians knowing.

The spies needed to create a smokescreen so they pretended to be exploring the possibility of deep sea mining.

A PR campaign conveyed a determined effort to find manganese nodules. These potato-sized rocks lie scattered in the abyss, the great plains of the deep ocean.

There had to be a frontman – someone rich and eccentric enough to be plausible. The reclusive billionaire inventor Howard Hughes was perfect for the role.

He agreed to take part and, in his name, a unique ship was designed. Publicly, it was fitted with everything needed to dig up the seabed.

But, covertly, the Hughes Glomar Explorer was also built with ingenious devices straight from a Bond film. The ship’s hull had enormous doors that could swing apart to create a “moon pool”, an underwater opening large enough to accommodate the Soviet sub and keep it hidden.

Tucked away out of sight inside the ship was a “capture vehicle” which had a giant set of claws to straddle the sub and secure it.

It took until 1974, six years after the sinking of the sub, for the CIA to be ready. The cost of the project – $500m – was equivalent then to building a couple of aircraft carriers or launching an Apollo mission to the moon.

No-one had ever attempted anything on this scale in such incredible depths. The sub itself had a weight of nearly 2,000 tonnes but the three miles of thick steel pipe needed to haul it up added even more.

New systems were needed to keep the Glomar Explorer in position as well as to handle the huge load, and everyone on board was nervous. Dave Sharp, one of the few CIA figures happy to talk about the project, tells me it was “really frightening” when heavy seas threatened to tear their unusual vessel apart

But even more alarming was the suspicion of the Russians. To convince them that Howard Hughes was genuinely interested in nodules, executives were despatched to conferences on ocean mining where they described in detail their plans to harvest the rocks.

“We made ocean mining seem a lot more credible,” Sharp says. “We really misled a lot of people and it’s surprising that the story held together for so long.”

The cover was so good that it prompted US universities to move to start courses in deep sea mining and it also whipped up the share prices of the companies involved. “People thought, ‘if Howard Hughes is into it, we need to be too’,” says Sharp.

“We even collected a few nodules,” he remembers, which was fortunate because Soviet spy ships kept a constant vigil and once even came close enough to overhear the Americans’ conversations.

“When we realised they were right alongside, we started talking about nodules, like ‘here’s a good one’ so it looked like we were checking them.”

Yet another complication arose. The project needed calm weather and that was only likely in summer. But just when it was about to begin in summer 1974, US President Richard Nixon was visiting Moscow for a peace-making summit.

Being caught stealing a Soviet sub would not exactly have helped, so Nixon insisted that the operation could not begin until he had left Russia. That was on 3 July. By then the Hughes Glomar Explorer was in position and the winches whirred into action the next day.

Things did not go smoothly. Sharp recalls that pumps and connections kept breaking. Huge vibrations rocked the ship as the “capture vehicle” was “banging back and forth in the waves”. But on 30 July, he watched as underwater cameras relayed video of the sub as well as “dozens of crawling crab-like crustaceans” and a big white fish that looked like a shark.

Amazingly, the giant steel claws successfully seized the sub. But then disaster struck. At some point on the way up, the immense strain became too much, part of a claw snapped off and most of the sub slipped back to the seabed.

Only the front section made it up. The bodies of six Soviet submariners were recovered and were later given a formal burial at sea. But the missiles and code books were never found.

The CIA official history asserts that the operation was one of the greatest intelligence coups of the Cold War, but it had cost vast sums and questions immediately arose about its value. A year later, the sensational details became public and plans to recover the remaining section were abandoned.

As Sharp puts it, the revelation that the deep sea mining project was fake was “a sudden shock” to other mining companies and also to diplomats at the UN who were right in the middle of negotiating future rights to ocean minerals. Share prices tumbled amid a wave of recriminations.

This might have derailed the very notion of deep sea mining for good. But in fact it proved that with clever engineering and a lavish budget it was possible – just – to operate in the otherworldly depths. “It’s really difficult but we showed it could be done,” says Sharp.

In an air-conditioned cabin in a teeming port in Papua New Guinea, Leslie Kewa reaches for a joystick that will control a machine the size of a house. Nearly half a century after the CIA men pretended to mine the ocean floor, he’s about to do it for real.

A burly figure with a kindly face, Kewa is from a village in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea. In a country blighted by poverty, he grew up in relative comfort because his father, and the rest of the men in his family, made careers in the mining industry. Kewa became a specialist in handling gargantuan devices.

But the one standing nearby is unique, not only because of the destructive power of its whirling steel teeth, and its menacing resemblance to something from a Mad Max film, but also because it’s designed to be used far beyond human reach.

As Kewa’s fingertips send the first commands, and the machine crunches over the ground outside, he admits to feeling a bit scared.

In these first trials, he’s learning to steer by remote control, relying on CCTV to show him where the huge steel tracks are pointing as they inch their way forward. “I’m used to the feel of machinery in my hands so having to trust the equipment and the screens is hard,” he says.

But there’s no other option. The machine will soon be deployed not in the huge pits of an opencast mine on land but in the sunless depths a mile underwater on the ocean floor.

If work starts as planned next year, Kewa will earn himself a place in history as the first person to break rock in the world’s first deep sea mine.

Run by a Canadian firm, Nautilus Minerals, the project will be managed from a ship in the tropical waters of the Bismarck Sea off Papua New Guinea. Three of the vast machines will be lowered to the slopes of an undersea volcano.

There they will encounter a stretch of seabed covered in hydrothermal vents. These strange twisting chimneys are formed by boiling water blasting up from the rock.

As with most fields of vents, this one is astonishingly rich in valuable metals. The site is named Solwara 1 – “salt water” in the local language.

But the hydrothermal vents host thriving communities of marine life – snails, worms and shrimp that have evolved to cope with very specific conditions.

In some cases these creatures are extremely rare, which is why the prospect of deep sea mining is highly controversial.

The plan is for Kewa to guide the steel teeth of the mining machines so they methodically demolish the vents, pulverising them into fragments.

The tiny pieces of rock should then be small enough to be piped up to the surface. On board the ship, a processing plant will churn out a multitude of specks of copper and gold that could be worth billions. A Chinese firm has already agreed to buy the lot.

Once the riches of Solwara 1 have been extracted, the machines will be moved to another dozen sites lined up nearby.

On the sea floor the ores are massively richer than those on land. Every tonne of material dug up in a typical copper mine on land only yields less than a gram of actual metal.

By contrast, the hydrothermal vents off Papua New Guinea are at least ten times richer.

And it’s the same story with gold and many other metals too. A Japanese expedition to another set of vents off Okinawa discovered enough zinc to keep Japan supplied for an entire year. Those behind that project kept it quiet until it was over, causing real surprise in the mining industry.

Nautilus Minerals forecasts that in copper alone an emerging undersea industry in oceans around the world could be worth $30bn a year by 2030. And it claims that by mining a small area of seabed, the venture will be friendlier to the environment. It contrasts its work with mines on land where trees and topsoil are swept away across vast areas.

For the government of Papua New Guinea, the attraction is obvious – badly needed income as a partner in the venture. And Nautilus has agreed to funnel some of the proceeds to local administrations too, to let ordinary people benefit.

But the history of mining in Papua New Guinea does not inspire confidence. Millions still live well below the poverty line despite the massive extraction of ores from the mountains.

And for some, venturing into the sea spells danger for precious waters.


Syrian army to help Kurdish forces repel Turkish offensive in Afrin: reports

The Syrian regime and Kurdish forces have reportedly agreed to join forces in Afrin to counter an ongoing Turkish offensive. Syrian state media report that the deployment of pro-regime troops is imminent.

February 19, 2018


Damascus will deploy pro-government forces to Afrin to back Kurds against the Turkish offensive, Syrian state agency SANA reported on Monday morning.

The move aims to “support the steadfastness of its people in confronting the aggression which Turkish regime forces have launched on the region,” SANA said.

Syrian state television also announced that the deployment was imminent, without providing details.

The announcement raises the prospect of direct clashes between the Syrian regime and Turkey, which alongside rebel allies intervened a month ago against the Kurdish-held enclave in northwestern Syria.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said there would be “no problems” if the Syrian fighters were deployed to “cleanse” the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) from Afrin.

But he said that if the regime defended the YPG, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization linked to the PKK, then “nothing and nobody can stop us or Turkish soldiers.”

“This is true for Afrin, Manbij and the east of the Euphrates River,” Cavusoglu added, referring to Kurdish-controlled areas east of Afrin.

Erdogan and Putin to ‘cooperate in fight against terrorism’

The prospect of Syrian government forces deploying to Afrin triggered a flurry of diplomatic activity, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaking by phone with his Russian and Iranian counterparts.

The Syrian regime is backed by Russia and Iran, both of which also have been working with Turkey to reach a diplomatic solution to the Syrian civil war.

Monday’s developments come a day after a senior Kurdish official told Reuters that the Kurds had reached a deal with Damascus.

Any agreement complicates the conflict in Northern Syria as rivalries and alliances among Kurdish forces, the Syrian government, rebel factions, Turkey, the United States, Iran and Russia become more entangled.

What did Damascus and Kurds say about the deal?

Details of any deal have not been confirmed and Kurdish officials said negotiations are still underway

SANA said pro-government fighters known as “popular forces” would enter Afrin. Many popular forces are backed by Iran.

Badran Jia Kurd, an adviser to the Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria, told Reuters that Syrian army troops would deploy along some border positions in the Afrin region. That echoes a previous call from the Kurds for the government to deploy along the border to protect Syria’s sovereignty.

Jia Kurd said the agreement with Damascus on Afrin was strictly military with no wider political arrangements, but added: “We can cooperate with any side that lends us a helping hand in light of barbaric crimes and the international silence.”

Jia Kurd said there is opposition to the deal that could prevent it from being implemented.

YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud told Reuters: “There is no agreement. There is only a call from us for the

Syrian army to come in and protect the borders.”

What is the Afrin conflict? Ankara and its rebel allies launched an air and ground offensive on the Afrin region on January 20 against the YPG militia. Turkey views the YPG as terrorists with links to PKK insurrection in Turkey.  The YPG is the main component of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which controls about 25 percent of Syrian territory.

What does a possible deal mean? If the regime and Kurds cut a deal, it could lead to clashes with Turkey or force Ankara to halt its offensive. It is unlikely Turkey will want to clash with Iranian and Russian backed Syrian forces.

What is relationship between the Assad regime and Kurds?  In 2012, the regime handed control of parts of the north to the Syrian Kurds. The YPG and its allies have established three autonomous cantons in northern Syria that Turkey opposes. Despite occasional minor clashes, the regime and YPG have had a tacit relationship throughout the Syrian civil war. There may be a possibility for a long-term agreement between the two, but the Kurds want autonomy and Assad wants full control over the whole country, including oil and water resources now in Kurdish hands.

Why do the Kurds want help from the Syrian government? “Over the years of the conflict, the Kurds have managed to manoeuvre about, sometimes with the rebels, sometimes with the regime,” Bente Scheller from the Heinrich Böll Foundation told DW. “We also saw a long time back that not only the United States wanted to support them as a large international power, but Russia did too. So the Kurds looked for states and powers that support them because they have a lot at stake.”

Is the Kurdish-Syrian alliance a beneficial one? “I think in the case of Afrin at any rate,” said Scheller, “because there it is very clear that Turkey has decided it has to carry through with an offensive, and the Kurds are in a very difficult position here. Of course, they have support from the other Kurdish-dominated parts of Syria, but obviously they feel this is not enough. There have also been air raids by Turkey and I think this has resulted in their turning to the regime for help.”

How does the future look? “As the Syrian conflict escalates and becomes more complex, more individual states consider it necessary to intervene,” said Scheller. “Turkey claims it needs to clear all terrorist activity from the other side of its border, but this does not justify crossing the border with its own military … We are not likely to see peace for a long time.”

What happens next? Full details of the deal are yet to emerge. However, cooperation between the regime and YPG in Afrin could also be pivotal as to how the Syrian conflict unfolds further east in where the regime and SDF cooperate and compete, especially around oil-rich Dier ez-Zor.


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