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TBR News December 12, 2017

Dec 12 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., December 12, 2017: “The Business Deal….

A Chinese gentleman goes into a Jewish-owned establishment to buy black bras, size 38.

The store keeper, known for his skills as a businessman, says that black bras are rare and that he is finding it very difficult to buy them from his suppliers. Therefore he has to charge $50.00 for them.

The Chinese gentleman buys 25 bras.

He returns a few days later and this time orders 50.  The store owner tells him that they have become even harder to get and charges him $60.00 each.

The Chinese customer returns a month later and buys the store’s remaining stock of 50, and this time for $75.00 each.  The store owner is somewhat puzzled by the large demand for black size 38 bras and asks the Chinese purchaser, “Please tell me – What do you do with all these black bras?”

The Chinese customer answers:  “I cut them in half and sell them as skull caps to Jewish men for $200.00 each.”

Table of Contents

  • What Should We Fight For?
  • The Next Roy Moore Question for Republicans: If He’s Elected, Will the Senate Expel Him?
  • Germany: Surge in Migrant Attacks on Police
  • Intifada’ in Sweden: Firebombs Hurled at Jewish Sites Amid Anti-Semitic Upsurge
  • Putin: Trump’s Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital Destabilizes Middle East
  • Trump’s Jerusalem Folly: Time for Europe to Take the Lead on Peace
  • New study links Antarctic ice-shelf melt to global sea-level rise
  • Arctic permafrost thawing faster than ever, US climate study finds
  • Is Bitcoin the Most Obvious Bubble Ever?
  • ‘You are being programmed,’ former Facebook executive warns

 

What Should We Fight For?

December 12, 2017

by Patrick J. Buchanan

AntiWar

“We will never accept Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea,” declaimed Rex Tillerson last week in Vienna.

“Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns full control of the peninsula to Ukraine.”

Tillerson’s principled rejection of the seizure of land by military force – “never accept” – came just one day after President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and pledged to move our embassy there.

How did Israel gain title to East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Golan Heights? Invasion, occupation, colonization, annexation.

Those lands are the spoils of victory from Israel’s 1967 Six-Day War.

Is Israel being severely sanctioned like Russia? Not quite.

Her yearly U.S. stipend is almost $4 billion, as she builds settlement after settlement on occupied land despite America’s feeble protests.

What Bibi Netanyahu just demonstrated is that, when dealing with the Americans and defending what is vital to Israel, perseverance pays off. Given time, the Americans will accept the new reality.

Like Bibi, Vladimir Putin is a nationalist. For him, the recapture of Crimea was the achievement of his presidency. For two centuries that peninsula had been home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and critical to her security.

Putin is not going to return Crimea to Kiev, and, eventually, we will accept this new reality as well.

For while whose flag flies over Crimea has never been crucial to us, it is to Putin. And like Israelis, Russians are resolute when it comes to taking and holding what they see as rightly theirs.

Both these conflicts reveal underlying realities that help explain America’s 21st-century long retreat. We face allies and antagonists who are more willing than are we to take risks, endure pain, persevere and fight to prevail.

This month, just days after North Korea tested a new ICBM, national security adviser H. R. McMaster declared that Trump “is committed to the total denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

If so, we are committed to a goal we almost surely are not going to achieve. For, short of a war that could go nuclear, Kim Jong Un is not going to yield to our demands.

For Kim, nuclear weapons are not an option.

He knows that Saddam Hussein, who had given up his WMD, was hanged after the Americans attacked. He knows the grisly fate of Moammar Gadhafi, after he invited the West into Libya to dismantle his nuclear program and disarm him of any WMD.

Kim knows that if he surrenders his nuclear weapons, he has nothing to deter the Americans should they choose to use their arsenal on his armed forces, his regime, and him.

North Korea may enter talks, but Kim will never surrender the missiles and nukes that guarantee his survival. Look for the Americans to find a way to accommodate him.

Consider, too, China’s proclaimed ownership of the South China Sea and her building on reefs and rocks in that sea, of artificial islands that are becoming air, missile and naval bases.

Hawkish voices are being raised that this is intolerable and U.S. air and naval power must be used if necessary to force a rollback of China’s annexation and militarization of the South China Sea.

Why is this not going to happen?

While this area is regarded as vital to China, it is not to us. And while China, a littoral state that controls Hainan Island in that sea, is a legitimate claimant to many of its islets, we are claimants to none.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan are the other claimants. But though their interests in the fishing grounds and seabed resources may be as great as China’s, none has seen fit to challenge Beijing’s hegemony.

Why should we risk war with China to validate the claims of Communist Vietnam or Rodrigo Duterte’s ruthless regime in Manila? Why should their fight become our fight?

China’s interests in the sea are as crucial to her as were U.S. interests in the Caribbean when, a rising power in 1823, we declared the Monroe Doctrine. Over time, the world’s powers came to recognize and respect U.S. special interests in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.

Given the steady rise of Chinese military power, the proximity of the islets to mainland China, the relative weakness and reluctance to confront of the other claimants, China will likely become the controlling power in the South China Sea, as we came to be the predominant power in the Western Hemisphere.

What we are witnessing in Crimea, across the Middle East, in the South China Sea, on the Korean peninsula, are nations more willing than we to sacrifice and take risks, because their interests there are far greater than ours.

What America needs is a new national consensus on what is vital to us and what is not, what we are willing to fight to defend and what we are not.

For this generation of Americans is not going to risk war, indefinitely, to sustain some Beltway elite’s idea of a “rules-based new world order.” After the Cold War, we entered a new world – and we need new red lines to replace the old.

 

The Next Roy Moore Question for Republicans: If He’s Elected, Will the Senate Expel Him?

November 10 2017

by Jon Schwarz

The Intercept

The Washington Post reported Thursday that Alabama resident Leigh Corfman says Roy Moore — now the Republican nominee in a December 12 special election for a U.S. Senate seat from the state — molested her when she was 14 years old and he was 32.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, on behalf of all Republican senators, said that “if these allegations are true, he must step aside.” Some GOP senators, including John McCain of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, demanded that Moore leave the race without any conditional.

But what if Moore ignores them – as he clearly plans to do – and beats the Democratic nominee Doug Jones in four weeks? Will Republicans then be helpless, with no option but to look on as Moore joins their caucus and votes with them on their all favored priorities?

Absolutely not.

Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution states that both the House and Senate may “with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.” No specific criteria are named; the Senate can expel a member for anything or nothing, at any time.

And in fact, the Senate has previously expelled 15 members. Fourteen of them were removed for their support of the Confederacy during the Civil War. The 15th, William Blount of Tennessee, was removed from office in 1797 when – as part of an extremely convoluted moneymaking scheme — he encouraged Native Americans and American frontiersmen to attack Spanish Louisiana and Florida in order to force Spain to transfer their territories to the British Empire.

In addition, several senators have resigned rather than face certain expulsion. Most recently New Jersey Democrat Harrison Williams left the Senate in 1981 after being convicted on bribery and conspiracy charges during the Abscam scandal.

The Senate’s power to expel members has most recently been emphasized by Republicans, who have demanded that Democrats commit to voting out another Democratic New Jersey senator, Bob Menendez, if he is convicted of federal corruption charges for which he is currently on trial.

All that said, if Moore is elected, the Senate would in fact have to seat him, if only for long enough to vote to throw him out. In 1969, the Supreme Court ruled 7-1 that both the House and Senate must seat duly elected candidates if they meet the constitutional requirements to hold office. Moore would, since he is over 30 years old, has been a U.S. citizen for more than nine years, and is a resident of the state voting for him.

This was most recently a live political issue at the end of 2008 when former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was engulfed in a corruption scandal that eventually sent him to prison. As governor, Blagojevich had the power to appoint a replacement to fill the vacancy in the Senate left by then-President-elect Obama. Then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and all members of the Senate’s Democratic caucus wrote to Blagojevich demanding that he resign. If he did not and made an appointment, said Reid, the Senate would “exercise our Constitutional authority under Article I, Section 5, to determine whether such a person should be seated.”

But Reid was wrong: The Senate did not have such power. Blagojevich went ahead and chose Roland Burris; the Senate seated him and then did not expel him, and Burris served to the end of his term in 2010.

In any case, the bottom line is that Republicans don’t just have to politely request that Roy Moore bow out of this election. They can commit, right now, that if he is elected, they will expel him on his first day in office. And the party wouldn’t even need to be unanimous. All 48 Democrats can surely be counted on to vote to expel a Republican accused of child molestation. That means just 19 Republicans of the 52 in the chamber would be needed.

All senators should be asked immediately whether they will in fact use the power in their hands to prevent an alleged child predator from serving in their midst.

 

 

Germany: Surge in Migrant Attacks on Police

“Migrants Have No Respect for Us”

November 29, 2017

by Soeren Kern

Gatestone Institute

Violent attacks against German police have reached epidemic proportions, and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door migration policy is to blame, official statistics show.

The Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA) reported 36,755 attacks against German police in 2016 — or an average of 100 per day, a significant increase over previous years.

Violence — including verbal and physical assaults, and even murder — against police is rampant in all 16 of Germany’s federal states. According to the BKA, the epicenter of the problem in 2016 was North Rhine-Westphalia (8,929 incidents), the state with the largest migrant population, followed by: Bavaria (4,930); Baden-Württemberg (4,355); Berlin (3,154); Lower Saxony (3,030); Hesse (1,870); Saxony (1,573); Rhineland-Palatinate (1,537); Hamburg (1,339); Thüringen (1,228); Schleswig-Holstein (1,237); Brandenburg (1,009); Saxony-Anhalt (899); Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (658); Saarland (521); and Bremen (486).

Preliminary data, recently leaked to German public radio, indicate that in terms of violence against German law enforcement officers, 2017 will be a record-breaking year. In Berlin alone, attacks against police this year are up 70% in Görlitzer Park, 35% at the Warsaw Bridge and 15% at Kottbusser Tor, according to the Berliner Morgenpost.

Official statistics do not reveal the source of the violence, but do show a spike in attacks against police since 2015, when Merkel allowed into the country more than a million migrants, mostly Muslim, from Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Anecdotal evidence corroborates claims by police that migrants are behind many of the attacks.

In Gelsenkirchen, for instance, two police officers stopped a driver after he ran a red light. The driver stepped out of the car and ran away. When police caught up with him, they were confronted by more than 50 members of an Arab clan. A 15-year-old attacked a policeman from behind and strangled him to the point of unconsciousness. In another incident, police were surrounded and physically assaulted by more than 60 members of an Arab clan.

Senior members of the Gelsenkirchen police department subsequently held a secret meeting with representatives of three Arab clans in order to “cultivate social peace between Germans and Lebanese.” A leaked police report revealed that the clans told Police Chief Ralf Feldmann that “the police cannot win a war with the Lebanese because we outnumber them.” The clan members added: “This applies to all of Gelsenkirchen, if we so choose.”

In nearby Duisburg, a police officer asked a man to move his car, which was illegally parked. The man refused and began shouting at the officer. Within minutes, more than 250 people appeared at the scene and began harassing the police officer, who called for backup. More than 50 policemen and 18 police vehicles were required to resolve what had begun as a routine traffic procedure.

In Düsseldorf, 15 police officers were injured when they tried to break up an illegal rally organized by Kurds celebrating the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK. Police used pepper spray to restore order.

In Mülheim, around 80 members of two rival clans got into a mass brawl following a dispute between two teenagers. When police arrived, they were attacked with bottles and stones. More than 100 police, backed up by helicopters, were deployed to restore order. Five people were taken into custody but then released.

In Dortmund, more than 40 migrants engaged in a fight at a refugee shelter. When police arrived, they were “massively attacked” by the mob. Police used dogs to restore order.

In Bremen, a 25-year-old man was stabbed by a group of migrants in the Huchting district. When police arrived to investigate, they were immediately surrounded by a mob of between 30 and 40 men. Police used teargas and dogs to restore order.

In Fellbach, 60 migrant teenagers attacked police at the 70th annual Harvest Festival. Police described the youths as “exclusively German citizens with a migration background and other migrants.” The youths were said to be engaged in “turf wars.”

In Leipzig, an Iraqi man was stabbed and seriously injured during a mass brawl in front of a Kebab restaurant. When police intervened, the mob attacked them with bottles and stones.

In Naumburg, police confiscated the driver’s license of Ahmed A., a 21-year-old member of a Syrian clan, during a traffic stop. Almost immediately, police were surrounded by a mob of other clan members. The police retreated. The mob then marched to the police station, which they proceeded to sack.

In Würzburg, a 17-year-old Afghan asylum seeker brandishing an axe and shouting “Allahu Akbar” seriously injured five people on a train. The assailant was shot dead by police after he charged at them with the axe. Green Party MP Renate Künast criticized the police for using lethal force.

Some police believe that Germany’s politically correct judicial system encourages violence against them.

In Hanover, for example, a court handed suspended sentences to six members of a Kurdish clan who seriously wounded two dozen police officers during a violent rampage in Hameln. The court’s ruling was greeted with anger and derision by police.

The case went back to January 2014, when a 26-year-old clan member, arrested for robbery, tried to escape from the magistrate’s office by jumping out of a seventh-floor courtroom window. The suspect was taken to the hospital, where he died. Members of his clan subsequently ransacked the hospital, as well as the court, and attacked police with rocks and other projectiles; 24 police officers and six paramedics were injured.

The judge said he was lenient because the defendants witnessed the death of the 26-year-old and were traumatized. The judge also revealed that he had reached a deal with the clan, which among other effects prevented police from testifying in court.

Dietmar Schilff, chairman of the GdP police union in Lower Saxony, said that the ruling had left many police officers shaking their heads in disbelief: “All police forces expect protection and support from the state.” He added:

“If we want to protect those who ensure public security, it must be clear that anyone who attacks police officers attacks the state — and has to fear appropriate consequences. It does not matter from which milieu the perpetrators come.”

Observers surmised that the real reason for the judge’s leniency was that he feared his family might be subjected to retribution from the clan.

Some municipalities are taking measures to protect police. In Mainz, for example, where violence against police has jumped by more than 50% since 2014, police are now being outfitted with bodycams to deter violence. In Bremen, police have been supplied with “anti-spit-masks” to prevent detainees from assaulting police.

In a bestselling book, German police officer Tania Kambouri blamed the deteriorating security situation on migrants who have no respect for law and order. In an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio, she said:

“For weeks, months and years I have noticed that Muslims, mostly young men, do not have even a minimum level of respect for the police. When we are out patrolling the streets, we are verbally abused by young Muslims. There is the body language, and insults like ‘sh*t cop’ when passing by. If we make a traffic stop, the aggression increases ever further, this is overwhelmingly the case with migrants.

“I wish these problems were recognized and clearly addressed. If necessary, laws need to be strengthened. It is also very important that the judiciary, that the judges issue effective rulings. It cannot be that offenders continue to fill the police files, hurt us physically, insult us, whatever, and there are no consequences. Many cases are closed or offenders are released on probation or whatever. Yes, what is happening in the courts today is a joke.”

Freddi Lohse, the Vice Chairman of the DPolG German Police Union in Hamburg, said that many migrant offenders view the leniency of the German justice system as a green light to continue delinquent behavior: “They are used to tougher consequences in their home countries. They have no respect for us.”

‘Afraid of US’: Turkey slams ‘weak’ response of some Arab countries to Trump’s Jerusalem move

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has criticized the Muslim countries which failed to show a strong response to Washington’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, accusing them of being afraid of the US.

“There was a lot of strong reaction, reaction from the highest level. Some countries, however, have shown a very weak response. It seems that some countries are very timid, since the decision came from that country [the US],” the Minister told NTV broadcaster on Tuesday, adding that such countries were afraid of challenging the US and its “superpower mentality.”

The remarks came ahead of an extraordinary Summit and Ministerial meetings of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on the Jerusalem issue, scheduled to take place in Istanbul on Wednesday. Several countries, namely Egypt and the United Arab Emirates will send only foreign ministers to the meeting, according to Cavusoglu, while Saudi Arabia and some others still have not decided how they would participate.

“Some countries in the Islamic world are in a state of fear. Who or what are you afraid of? If we do not protect Jerusalem today, when will we protect it? If we cannot defend Jerusalem, one of Islam’s three holy cities, what can we defend?” Cavusoglu stated.

Many non-Muslim countries, the EU and even Jews worldwide have expressed a far stronger rejection to the US move than some Muslim countries, Cavusoglu added. The minister vowed to make a bold statement at the OIC meeting and make the US to back off from the Jerusalem decision, urging those countries which have not recognized Palestine to do so.

On Sunday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan harshly criticized Israel, branding it a “terrorist state” while describing the Palestinians as its “victims.” Erdogan vowed to fight Trump’s decision and not “abandon” Jerusalem at the hands of a state which “kills children.”

The controversial move by the US president came last Wednesday, amid numerous warnings coming from world leaders against recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The move was approved by the US Congress back in 1995, but all US Presidents since then have waived it.

The US decision effectively violated the UN resolutions on Palestine, which stated that the status of Jerusalem must be decided during reconciliation talks between Israelis and Palestinians. The resolutions explicitly prohibit establishing diplomatic facilities in the city before the peace agreement is brokered.

Trump’s move has triggered unrest among Palestinians, who believe that the city is under Israeli occupation, as well as mass demonstrations in a number of Muslim countries. Many other countries voiced concerns that the decision would only raise tensions in the Middle East, despite US claims that peace was still possible. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin branded Trump’s move “counterproductive” and “destabilizing.”

“We consider counterproductive any moves that pre-empt the result of negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Putin said during a state visit to Egypt on Monday. “Such steps are destabilizing, and don’t help to resolve the situation, but instead provoke conflict.”

 

 

Intifada’ in Sweden: Firebombs Hurled at Jewish Sites Amid Anti-Semitic Upsurge

December 12, 2017

Sputniknews

Unrest over Donald Trump’s decision to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has spread to Sweden, triggering the rise of militant anti-Semitism. Hardly had immigrants in Malmö proclaimed their own intifada pledging to “shoot Jews” when firebombing synagogues and Jewish chapels in Sweden’s largest cities ensued.

During Friday’s demonstration in Malmö, which gathered several hundred people, insults were shouted against both Arab leaders and Jews.

“We have announced our own intifada from Malmö. We want our freedom back and we will shoot the Jews,” the protesters chanted according to Swedish Radio. Furthermore, the protesters reminded the Jews that “Muhammad’s army” will return.

By contrast, the Arab leaders in the Middle East were called “dirt” and “cowards” because they allegedly do not dare to take a hardline stance against Israel.

Neither the authorities nor the journalists were able to locate the organizers of what was called a “spontaneous manifestation” reported for hate speech.

Shortly after the anti-Semitic rally in Malmö, a synagogue in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest city, was firebombed following a public outcry against the US President’s decision, involving hundreds of protesters. Allan Stutzinsky, the president of the Jewish Assembly of Sweden, who happened to be at the site during the incident, claimed that a dozen pro-Palestinian supporters were involved in the attack.

In light of the anti-Semitic demonstration in Malmö and the Gothenburg attack, extensive security measures have been taken to protect synagogues across Sweden. Furthermore, Jews in fellow Nordic countries have expressed their concern and unease over the recent events in Sweden.

However, the measures taken have proven to be insufficient, as another firebomb attack against a Jewish chapel, this time in Malmö, ensued. According to the Malmö police, two bottles with a flammable fluid were hurled at a chapel located at a Jewish cemetery.

Justice Minister Morgan Johansson condemned the attack as an “abominable crime” sounding the alarm of the Nazi persecution of Jews in the 1930s and 1940s. At the same time, Johansson admitted that the authorities have been aware of the existing threats and said he wanted to have more legal recourse for wiretapping suspected individuals, the national broadcaster SVT reported.

“When different situations happen in Israel-Palestine, it usually affects Malmö, too,” Freddy Gellberg, president of the Jewish Assembly in Malmö, previously explained, pointing out that many living in Malmö come from the Middle East and are emotionally engaged in the matter.

“We want to show sympathy and solidarity with the Jews in Malmö and condemn all forms of racism and anti-Semitism in society,” Ala Eddin al-Qut, the director of the Malmö Muslim study federation Ibn Rushd told SVT.

Malmö, Sweden’s third-largest city, is often touted as the nation’s most multicultural one, where 174 countries and about 150 languages are represented. Over a half of its population of 320,000 are of foreign descent. The Middle East, the Horn of Africa and former Yugoslavia (including Muslims from Bosnia and Herzegovina) are the main sources of immigration.

In Sweden, which currently has the EU’s seventh largest Jewish diaspora, a rise in anti-Semitism has been reported amid snowballing Muslim immigration. Members of the Jewish community in Malmö, including rabbis and spiritual leaders, have experienced violence and threats.

In August, an imam called Jews “offsprings of apes and pigs” during a demonstration held in Helsingborg, Skåne County after clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police in Jerusalem.

 

Putin: Trump’s Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital Destabilizes Middle East

Turkish and Russian officials will meet to finalize Turkey’s S-400 surface-to-air missile systems deal in the coming week

December 11, 2017

Haaretz and Reuters

Russia and Turkey agree that U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is destabilizing the situation in the Middle East, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday.

Speaking in Ankara alongside Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Putin said the Trump administration’s move “doesn’t help the Mideast settlement and, just the opposite, destabilizes the already difficult situation in the region.”

According to the Russian leader, the announcement may “finish prospects for the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.”

Putin added that Moscow believes the status of Jerusalem can only be settled through talks between the Palestinians and Israel in line with United Nations resolutions.

The Russian leader also said Russia hoped to sign credit agreements for the defense industry with Turkey in the near future.

Turkish and Russian officials will meet to finalize Turkey’s S-400 surface-to-air missile systems deal in the coming week, Erdogan said.

Responding to Trump’s move, Erdogan said that the U.S. has become a “partner in bloodshed” with their decision to recognize Jerusalem. He said he believes the Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting on Jerusalem this week will be a turning point. A day earlier, he called Israel “a terror state,” adding that Turkey “won’t leave Jerusalem to the mercy of a child-murdering country.”

Speaking earlier in Latakia, Syria’s main port city, on Monday, Putin also announced that Russia will pull its forces from Syria. The Russian president said that despite the decision to withdraw “a significant portion of the Russian contingent,” if “terrorists raise their heads” in Syria Russia will hit them with powerful strikes.

 

Trump’s Jerusalem Folly: Time for Europe to Take the Lead on Peace

U.S. President Donald Trump prides himself on being a deal-maker. But his decision to relocate the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem will produce only losers. It is time for Europe to take the lead in the Middle East peace process.

December 8, 2017

A DER SPIEGEL Editorial by Juliane von Mittelstaedt

Zionists have never liked Jerusalem. Theodor Herzl, the father of Zionism, dreamed of a capital city in the north of the country, on the slopes of the Carmel Mountains overlooking the Mediterranean. He had nothing but disdain for the Western Wall in Jerusalem, once writing: “What superstition and fanaticism on every side!”

It’s a shame that the Zionists didn’t get their way. Because ever since Israel declared Jerusalem to be its capital almost 70 years ago, the city’s status has been the subject of conflict. And U.S. President Donald Trump poured a large bucket of oil on the flames of that conflict on Wednesday by announcing that the United States was formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and would be moving the U.S. Embassy to the city from its current location in Tel Aviv.Jerusalem, of course, is already the seat of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, and is also where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is headquartered and where most of the ministries are located. Yet no country had seen fit to locate its embassy there because the international community, in unusual unanimity, had agreed that the question regarding Israel’s capital should be solved within the framework of an official peace agreement. The Palestinians, after all, also see Jerusalem as their capital, at least the Arab eastern part of the city, and they make up approximately a third of the city’s population. The Jerusalem question is one of the most complicated issues facing the peace process, which explains why it has been left out of peace plans to date.

Now, though, Donald Trump has put the cart before the horse and recognized Jerusalem – because he promised to do so in his election campaign. It is a dumb move. And it shows that Trump is the very opposite of a “deal maker.” He handed Netanyahu a long-coveted gift without asking anything in return. That Trump then claimed that the recognition is “a necessary condition for achieving peace” is a clear demonstration of this president’s hubris. He believes that only by trampling all that has come before can something new be created. But the peace process, as unrealistic as it may always have been, is now a virtual impossibility – no matter how loudly Trump claims that he wants a “great deal” for both sides.

The move, after all, disqualifies the United States as a mediator. And Israel, which has long demonstrated a reluctance to make any compromises at all, will feel empowered to continue ignoring demands to yield. Netanyahu’s government has anyway shown a preference for creating facts on the ground, continuing to build settlements and hiding the Palestinians behind colorfully painted walls. And the Palestinians anyway have the feeling that they will emerge as the losers in the end. The purported peace plan developed by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, for example, is said not to contain their most important demands. Why continue negotiating?

But Trump’s decision hasn’t just stirred things up in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, that tiny speck of land the size of Belgium, but all across the Arab world. From Egypt to Jordan, heads of state have expressed their indignation while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan went so far as to say that America was “plunging the region and the world into a fire with no end in sight.” That might be a bit theatrical, but blood has already been shed in protests and rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip.

Trump’s decision will produce only losers. The U.S. is one of them, having now sacrificed even more credibility in the Middle East. The anti-Iran alliance between Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt could now disintegrate – at a time when yet another political amateur, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, is shaking up the region with his war in Yemen, the blockade of Qatar and the downright thuggish attempt to topple the Lebanese prime minister.

Even the Israelis, who are now celebrating, could ultimately find themselves among the losers of this decision. And it’s not just because this conflict has always served to empower the radicals. Rather, Trump’s decision could end up estranging Israel from Europe even further.

Israeli officials speak frequently these days of similarities with Europe, emphasizing values, culture and economy. Why do the Europeans constantly insist on the Palestinian question, they wonder? It is, they insist, a minor matter. That, though, couldn’t be further from the truth. It is a question of political values and therefore, a solution to the Palestinian question is central to the EU-Israel relationship. And Trump’s decision makes such a solution that much more difficult, pushing European and Israelis even farther apart. And it allows the deepest wound in the relationship between the West and the Arab world to continue festering.

Thanks to Trump, it should now be clear to everyone that the peace process is little more than an empty phrase and isn’t working anymore. And that the relative quiet in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship we have seen recently is more the exception than the rule.

That means that it is now up to us – the Europeans, the Germans – to come up with new ideas and new formats, as difficult as that may be. Wherever possible, those new ideas should be developed in cooperation with moderate Arab countries, those which know that the old animosity toward Israel hurts more than it helps. For German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who has been demanding that Germany be more courageous on foreign policy, the new situation in the Middle East presents a perfect opportunity. No other conflict should be as important to Europe as the one between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

 

New study links Antarctic ice-shelf melt to global sea-level rise

The melting of small ice shelves surrounding Antarctica could lead to even bigger melt of glaciers hundreds of kilometers inland, compounding sea-level rise.

December 12, 2017

by Katharina Wecker

DW

We know that polar ice melt is pushing up the global sea level. And we know that warmer ocean temperatures are melting ice shelves floating in the seas off Antarctica. But like ice cubes in a glass, because ice shelves are already in the water, they don’t raise sea levels when they melt.

However, a new study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the British Antarctic Survey brings the worrying news that melting ice shelves can have a knock-on effect on ice flows, accelerating inland ice melt and pushing up the sea level.

“Ice shelves are highly important. They can buttress the ice flow from the continent into the ocean,” Ronja Reese, lead author of the study and researcher at PIK, told DW. Erosion of ice shelves that regulate the flow means more water ends up in the ocean.

The researchers found this effect was bigger than previously thought, and the thinning of a small, localized areas of ice shelf can accelerate the melting of glaciers hundreds of kilometers inland.

Reese and her colleagues linked minor ice shelf losses near tiny Ross Island off the Antarctic coast with an accelerated glacial ice flow 900 kilometers (560 miles) away on the Ross Ice Shelf — Antarctica’s largest.

Melting the eternal ice

Polar ice doesn’t melt at its surface. The air above most of the Antarctic continent is constantly below the freezing. The main risk for ice stability comes from the surrounding ocean — which is getting warmer.

“Ice shelves are especially vulnerable to changes in the surrounding atmosphere and ocean,” Reese explains. “They have lower surface elevations than the continental ice and are in direct contact with the ocean at their base. This makes them the weak spots of Antarctica.”

The scientists ran computer simulations to map regions at risk and investigate the role global warming plays.

They found that not only areas where ice shelves meet the land, but also the fringes of some ice shelves, have an impact on inland ice flow. These are often the parts closest to the warming seas.

The researchers say they cannot forecast just how fast Antarctica will melt. But their findings are a clear sign that global warming is already impacting the South Pole.

“It shows the risks we run in Antarctica if we do not limit heating up our planet,” co-author Anders Levermann from PIK and Columbia University’s LDEO, said in a statement.

The study should serve as a warning that “what has been called eternal ice might not be so eternal after all,” Levermann added.

Ice apocalypse?

Antarctica has already been making ever-bleaker headlines this year.

In July, an iceberg seven times the size of Berlin split from the Larsen C ice shelf on the northwest of the continent. Two months later, the Pine Island Glacier in western Antarctica lost an iceberg for times the size of Manhattan.

Break-away icebergs in Antarctica are part of a natural cycle. But scientists are observing these “calving” events closely to make long-term forecasts and prepare for the disintegration of still bigger ice shelves.

In November, meteorologist Eric Holthaus warned of an “ice apocalypse” in environment magazine Grist, arguing that the rapid collapse of Antarctic glaciers could flood coastal cities by the end of this century.

Not everyone in the scientific community is convinced by Holthaus’ arguments, but the authors of the PIK study agree that sea levels will rise unless action is taken.

“Limiting global warming is necessary to stabilize the Antarctic ice masses, avoid many meters of additional sea-level rise and hence protect cities like New York, Hamburg, Mumbai, and Shanghai,” Levermann said.

 

Arctic permafrost thawing faster than ever, US climate study finds

Sea ice also melting at fastest past in 1,500 years, US government scientists find

‘The Arctic is a very different place than it was even a decade ago’ – author

December 12, 2017

AP

Permafrost in the Arctic is thawing faster than ever, according to a new US government report that also found Arctic seawater is warming and sea ice is melting at the fastest pace in 1,500 years.

The annual report released on Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed slightly less warming in many measurements than a record hot 2016. But scientists remain concerned because the far northern region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe and has reached a level of warming that’s unprecedented in modern times.

“2017 continued to show us we are on this deepening trend where the Arctic is a very different place than it was even a decade ago,” said Jeremy Mathis, head of NOAA’s Arctic research program and co-author of the 93-page report.

Findings were discussed at the American Geophysical Union meeting in New Orleans.

“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic; it affects the rest of the planet,” said acting NOAA chief Timothy Gallaudet. “The Arctic has huge influence on the world at large.”

Permafrost records show the frozen ground that many buildings, roads and pipelines are built on reached record warm temperatures last year nearing and sometimes exceeding the thawing point. That could make them vulnerable when the ground melts and shifts, the report said. Unlike other readings, permafrost data tend to lag a year.

Preliminary reports from the US and Canada in 2017 showed permafrost temperatures are “again the warmest for all sites” measured in North America, said study co-author Vladimir Romanovsky, a professor at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.

Arctic sea ice usually shrinks in September and this year it was only the eighth lowest on record for the melting season. But scientists said they were most concerned about what happens in the winter – especially March – when sea ice is supposed to be building to its highest levels.

Arctic winter sea ice maximum levels in 2017 were the smallest they’ve ever been for the season when ice normally grows. It was the third straight year of record low winter sea ice recovery. Records go back to 1979.

About 79% of the Arctic sea ice is thin and only a year old. In 1985, 45% of the sea ice in the Arctic was thick, older ice, said NOAA Arctic scientist Emily Osborne.

New research looking into the Arctic’s past using ice cores, fossils, corals and shells as stand-ins for temperature measurements show that Arctic ocean temperatures are rising and sea ice levels are falling at rates not seen in the 1,500 years. And those dramatic changes coincide with the large increase in carbon dioxide levels in the air, the report said.

This isn’t just a concern for the few people who live north of the Arctic circle. Changes in the Arctic can alter fish supply. And more ice-free Arctic summers can lead to countries competing to exploit new areas for resources. Research also shows changes in Arctic sea ice and temperature can alter the jet stream, which is a major factor in US weather.

This is probably partly responsible for the current unusual weather in the United States that brought destructive wildfires to California and a sharp cold snap to the south and east, according to NOAA scientist James Overland and private meteorologist expert Judah Cohen.

“The Arctic has traditionally been the refrigerator to the planet, but the door of the refrigerator has been left open,” Mathis said.

Outside scientists praised the report card.

“Overall, the new data fit with the long-term trends, showing the clear evidence of warming causing major changes,” in the Arctic, said Pennsylvania State University ice scientist Richard Alley.

 

Is Bitcoin the Most Obvious Bubble Ever?

The cryptocurrency is almost certainly due for a major correction. But its long-term value remains a mystery.

December 9, 2017

by Derek Thompson

The Atlantic

To call Bitcoin the biggest and most obvious bubble in modern history may be a disservice to its surreality.

The price of bitcoin has doubled four times this year. In early January, one bitcoin was worth about $1,000. By May, it hit $2,000. In June, it breached $4,000. By Thanksgiving, it was $8,000. Two weeks later, it was $16,000.

This astronomical trajectory might make sense for a new public company with accelerating profits. Bitcoin, however, has no profits. It’s not even a company. It is a digital encrypted currency running on a decentralized network of computers around the world. Ordinary currencies, like the U.S. dollar, don’t double in value by the month, unless there’s a historic deflationary crisis, like the Panic of 1837. Instead, bitcoin’s behavior more resembles that of a collectible frenzy, like Beanie Babies in the late 1990s.

But defining and identifying bubbles is harder than it seems (kind of like defining bitcoin). The term technically refers to an asset whose price dramatically exceeds its intrinsic value. But who determines price and value, anyway? Those aren’t scientific concepts with formulas, like gravity or the length of a hypotenuse. They are the co-creation of buyers and sellers whose needs and attitudes are constantly changing.

Sometimes, spotting a bubble is very easy. Imagine three public companies that make shoe leather—Derek Leather, Inc., Joe Leather, Inc., and Becca Leather, Inc.—with the exact same revenue, expenses, talent pool, and customer demographic. Let’s say the market caps for all three companies start the year at $1 billion and Derek Leather and Joe Leather don’t appreciate; meanwhile, the public valuation of Becca Leather climbs to $2 billion, then doubles to $4 billion in a month, and then doubles again to $8 billion in the following week. It would be pretty clear that Becca Lather’s valuation makes no sense with an apples-to-apples comparison to Derek and Joe.

But what happens when an entire industry is a bubble? It becomes harder to make an apples-to-apples comparison, since the entire sector is an incomparable fruit. A good example would be early Internet companies whose valuations soared in the late 1990s and crashed in the dot-com bubble. For years, Internet bulls defended the stock prices of companies like Pets.com by arguing that, due to the rising digitization of the economy and the global nature of the Internet, user growth was a more significant proof of value than old-fangled metrics like profit or revenue. Eventually, a combination of factors—the failure of some large Internet companies, changes to the tax code, rising interest rates, and venture capital exhaustion—contributed to the big pop.

In a way, the emergence of cryptocurrencies is akin the dot-com era, because there is no perfect comparison to illuminate the “real” value of something like bitcoin. It’s a currency (like the dollar), whose owners consider it a long-term store of value (like silver), which is appreciating as if it were a faddish collectible (like a Beanie Baby), and is running on a blockchain platform, which some insist could change the future of everything from legal titles to daily payments (like Internet). How can one be so sure bitcoin is a bubble if we don’t even know what the proper comparison is—dollars, silver, Beanie Babies, or the Internet?

In their great 1982 paper “Bubbles, Rational Expectations, and Financial Markets,” the economists Olivier Blanchard and Mark Watson explain why gold is susceptible to bubbles. It’s an explanation that sheds light on the bitcoin frenzy, too. Gold, like bitcoin, is not a company. There are no financial reports, and its investors will never receive dividends. Instead, there are at least two big reasons to invest in gold. First, goldbugs want a hedge against an economic catastrophe or inflation. Second, some people invest in gold simply because they see the price of gold going up. Such an investor “bases his choice of whether or not to hold the asset on the basis of past actual returns rather than on the basis of market fundamentals,” Blanchard and Watson write. In other words, the investor’s story is: The price will go up, because … well, it just went up!

These investors buy gold, not because of any fundamental economic insight or any analysis of value, but rather because they want to catch the train. They see the price rising and they assume they can buy gold, hold onto it as it appreciates, and then offload it to some greater fool before its value declines. In fact, the economic term for this sort of irrational belief is called “greater fool theory.”

Bitcoin is turning into a gaggle of greater fools. Retail investors are jumping into the market to buy bitcoin, in the expectation that they will be able to sell their investments for cash to some other sucker later on. In November, Bloomberg reported that “buy bitcoin” had overtaken “buy gold” as an online search phrase. In December, bitcoin platforms soared up the app charts. Coinbase, an online broker where people can buy cryptocurrencies, is now the top trending app in the Apple App Store. Two similar platforms to oversee cryptocurrency accounts, Gdax and Bitcoin Wallet, are now fifth and eighth on the trending charts.

For the people downloading these apps, bitcoin probably isn’t a philosophical bet on the future of money and society’s relationship to the government, says Christian Catalini, a professor of technology at MIT Sloan School of Management, whom I have spoken to often about bitcoin. “There is a speculative frenzy among retail investors who just want to make a quick buck and the App Store is pretty clear evidence of that,” he said.

There is another important feature of the bitcoin market that could both explain its high valuation and suggest an imminent correction. The crypto market is insanely concentrated. Approximately 1,000 people own 40 percent of all bitcoin in circulation, according to Bloomberg. Just 100 accounts control 17 percent of the market. Many of these accounts have held bitcoin for years because they believe fervently in its value. But if a handful of them sell even a small portion of their shares, it could dramatically move bitcoin’s price, potentially triggering a massive correction, as retail investors (who only bought in because the price was going up) try to sell en masse to avoid losing all of their money. There is an upside to this concentration, however, which is minimal contagion effects. If the bitcoin bubble crashes, it likely won’t spill out into the general economy, like the subprime mortgage crisis did one decade ago.

Smaller bitcoin bubbles have inflated and deflated before, without any macroeconomic effect. In 2011, the price rose from $1 to $30 and then crashed back to $2 all within the same year. “I wouldn’t be surprised with another crash, followed by another growth in line with transactions,” Catalini said. Indeed, the dot-com bubble was an unambiguous frenzy of speculation and financial malpractice. But 15 years later, many of the business propositions that flamed out spectacularly were reincarnated as successful companies. Chewy.com, essentially a modern incarnation of Pets.com, sold for $3 billion earlier this year.

Fifteen years from now, the blockchain, too, might be an integral infrastructure for the digital world. In this hypothetical world of 2033, bitcoin at $16,000 might be an absolute steal. But we don’t live in “hypothetical-world 2033.” This is still real-world 2017. And bitcoin’s last few weeks are the real-world definition of a speculative bubble.

 

‘You are being programmed,’ former Facebook executive warns

December 12, 2017

by Rozina Sini

BBC News

A former Facebook executive has criticised the social network for ripping society apart during a question and answer session.

Chamath Palihapitiya, who worked as Facebook’s vice president for user growth, was speaking at an event run by the Stanford Graduate School of Business on 10 November in which he described feeling “tremendous guilt’ in helping the company attract two billion users.

His comments echoed remarks by Sean Parker, one of the early pioneers of Facebook, who spoke on 8 November, saying the social network provided “a dopamine hit and a social validation feedback loop, that exploited a vulnerability in human psychology.”

However, coverage this week has seen thousands responding to Palihaptiya’s words.

“We have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he told the audience.

He advised people take a “hard break” from social media, describing its effect as “short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops.”

Palihapitiya referred to a Facebook blog post in October which said an estimated 10 million people in the US saw Facebook adverts from Russia before and after the US presidential election. The blog said most adverts focused on “divisive social and political messages” on issues like immigration and gun rights.

There was “no civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth and its not just an American problem, it’s not just about Russian ads,” explained Palihaptitya. “This is a global problem.”

Russia has denied trying to influence the US election.

In another example, Palihapitiya referred to a hoax circulating on WhatsApp in a village in India. He told the audience the rumour warned parents of child kidnappings which led to the lynching of several people.

‘You are being programmed’

“We curate our lives around this perceived sense of perfection, because we get rewarded in these short term signals: Hearts, likes, thumbs up,” Palihaptiya said.

“We conflate that with value and we conflate it with truth, and instead what it really is is fake, brittle popularity that’s short term and leaves you even more vacant and empty before you did it.

“You don’t realise it but you are being programmed.”

Palihapitiya said he could not offer a solution but deals with the problem himself by not using social media anymore, something which he says has caused tension with his family and friends.

Despite the critical analysis of social media, Palihaptiya says Facebook did overwhelmingly positive things.

Details of the hour-long talk began to be shared widely after the Guardian reported on the remarks which had been published by tech website the Verge on Monday.

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