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TBR News June 13, 2017

Jun 13 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., June 13, 2017:” We are out of the office until June 15. Ed”

Table of Contents

  • From ‘caliph’ to fugitive: IS leader Baghdadi’s new life on the run
  • SECRECY NEWS
  • Trump’s Destabilization of the Persian Gulf
  • America Last
  • Central America braces for return of US military-led foreign policy
  • Theresa May Puts Peace in Northern Ireland at Risk to Remain U.K. Prime Minister
  • Emmanuel Macron’s storming of the Bastille
  • Canada’s detention of Mexicans surges after visa lift
  • Collective security in Eurasia: Managing diversity & multiple threats
  • Privacy? Forget it

From ‘caliph’ to fugitive: IS leader Baghdadi’s new life on the run

June 12, 2016

by Michael Georgy and Maher Chmaytelli |

Reuters

BAGHDAD/ERBIL, Iraq-Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is on the brink of losing the two main centers of his ‘caliphate’ but even though he is on the run, it may take years to capture or kill him, officials and experts said.

Islamic State fighters are close to defeat in the twin capitals of the group’s territory, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, and officials say Baghdadi is steering clear of both, hiding in thousands of square miles of desert between the two.

“In the end, he will either be killed or captured, he will not be able to remain underground forever,” said Lahur Talabany, the head of counter-terrorism at the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq. “But this is a few years away still,” he told Reuters.

One of Baghdadi’s main concerns is to ensure those around him do not betray him for the $25 million reward offered by the United States to bring him “to justice”, said Hisham al-Hashimi, who advises Middle East governments on Islamic State affairs.

“With no land to rule openly, he can no longer claim the title caliph,” Hashimi said. “He is a man on the run and the number of his supporters is shrinking as they lose territory.”

Iraqi forces have retaken much of Mosul, the northern Iraqi city the hardline group seized in June 2014 and from which Baghdadi declared himself “caliph” or leader of all Muslims shortly afterwards. Raqqa, his capital in Syria, is nearly surrounded by a coalition of Syrian Kurdish and Arab groups.

The last public video footage of him shows him dressed in black clerical robes declaring his caliphate from the pulpit of Mosul’s medieval Grand al-Nuri mosque back in 2014.

Born Ibrahim al-Samarrai, Baghdadi is a 46-year-old Iraqi who broke away from al-Qaeda in 2013, two years after the capture and killing of the group’s leader Osama bin Laden.

He grew up in a religious family, studied Islamic Theology in Baghdad and joined the Salaafi jihadist insurgency in 2003, the year of the US-led invasion of Iraq. He was caught by the Americans who released him about a year later as they considered him then as a civilian rather than a military target.

BOUNTY

He is shy and reserved, Hashimi said, and has recently stuck to the sparsely populated Iraq-Syria border where drones and strangers are easy to spot.

The U.S. Department of State’s Counter-Terrorism Rewards Program had put the same $25 million bounty on Bin Laden and Iraqi former president Saddam Hussein and the reward is still available for Bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Neither Saddam nor Bin Laden were voluntarily betrayed, but the bounties complicated their movements and communications.

“The reward creates worry and tension, it restricts his movements and limit the number of his guards,” said Fadhel Abu Ragheef, a Baghdad-based expert on extremist groups. “He doesn’t stay more than 72 hours in any one place.”

Baghdadi “has become nervous and very careful in his movements”, said Talabany, whose services are directly involved in countering Islamic State plots. “His circle of trust has become even smaller.”

His last recorded speech was issued in early November, two weeks after the start of the Mosul battle, when he urged his followers to fight the “unbelievers” and “make their blood flow as rivers”.

U.S. and Iraqi officials believe he has left operational commanders behind with diehard followers to fight the battles of Mosul and Raqqa, to focus on his own survival.

It is not possible to confirm his whereabouts.

Baghdadi does not use phones and has a handful number of approved couriers to communicate with his two main aides, Iyad al-Obaidi, his defense minister, and Ayad al-Jumaili, in charge of security. There was no confirmation of an April 1 Iraqi state TV report that Jumaili had been killed.

Baghdadi moves in ordinary cars, or the kind of pick-up trucks used by farmers, between hideouts on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border, with just a driver and two bodyguards, said Hashimi.

The region is well known to his men as the hotbed of the Sunni insurgency against U.S. forces that invaded Iraq and later the Shi’ite-led governments that took over the country.

At the height of its power two years ago, Islamic State ruled over millions of people in territory running from northern Syria through towns and villages along the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys to the outskirts of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

It persecuted non-Sunnis and even Sunnis who did not agree with its extreme version of Islamic law, with public executions and whippings for violating strict controls on appearance, behavior and movement.

But the group has been retreating since in the face of a multitude of local, regional and international forces, driven into action by the scores of deadly attacks around the world that it has claimed or inspired.

A few hundred thousand people now live in the areas under the group’s control, in and around Raqqa and Deir al-Zor, in Syria’s east, and in a few pockets south and west of Mosul. Hashimi said Islamic State was moving some fighters out of Raqqa before it was encircled to regroup in Deir al-Zor.

Mosul, with pre-war population of 2 million, was at least four times the size of any other the group has held. Up to 200,000 people are still trapped in the Old City, Islamic State’s besieged enclave in Mosul, lacking supplies and being used as human shields to obstruct the progress of Iraqi forces by a U.S-led international coalition.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, made of Kurdish and Arab groups supported by the U.S.-led coalition, began to attack Raqqa last week, after a months-long campaign to cut it off.

The militants are also fighting Russian and Iranian-backed forces in Syria loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, and mainly Sunni Muslim Syrian rebels backed by Turkey.

The last official report about Baghdadi was from the Iraqi military on Feb. 13. Iraqi F-16s carried out a strike on a house where he was thought to be meeting other commanders, in western Iraq, near the Syrian border, it said.

Overall, Islamic State has 8,000 fighters left, of which 2,000 are foreigners from other Arab states, Europe, Russia and central Asia, said Abu Ragheef.

“A small number compared to the tens of thousands arrayed against them in both countries, but a force to be reckoned with, made up of die-hards with nothing to lose, hiding in the middle of civilians and making extensive use of booby traps, mines and explosives,” he said.

The U.S. government has a joint task force to track down Baghdadi which includes special operations forces, the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies as well as spy satellites of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

It will take more than that to erase his influence, Talabany said. “He is still considered the leader of ISIL and many continue to fight for him; that hasn’t changed drastically,” he said, using one of Islamic State’s acronyms.

Even if killed or captured, he added, “his legacy and that of ISIL will endure unless radical extremism is tackled.”

SECRECY NEWS

From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2017, Issue No. 43

June 12, 2017

MONITORING NUCLEAR TESTING IS GETTING EASIER

The ability to detect a clandestine nuclear explosion in order to verify a ban on nuclear testing and to detect violations has improved dramatically in the past two decades.

There have been “technological and scientific revolutions in the fields of seismology, acoustics, and radionuclide sciences as they relate to nuclear explosion monitoring,” according to a new report published by Los Alamos National Laboratory that describes those developments.

“This document… reviews the accessible literature for four research areas: source physics (understanding signal generation), signal propagation (accounting for changes through physical media), sensors (recording the signals), and signal analysis (processing the signal).”

A “signal” here is a detectable, intelligible change in the seismic, acoustic, radiological or other environment that is attributable to a nuclear explosion.

The new Los Alamos report “is intended to help sustain the international conversation regarding the [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty] and nuclear explosive testing moratoria while simultaneously acknowledging and celebrating research to date.”

“The primary audience for this document is the next generation of research scientists that will further improve nuclear explosion monitoring, and others interested in understanding the technical literature related to the nuclear explosion monitoring misson.”

See Trends in Nuclear Explosion Monitoring Research & Development —  A Physics Perspective, Los Alamos National Laboratory, LA-UR-17-21274, June 2017.

“A ban on all nuclear tests is the oldest item on the nuclear arms control agenda,” the Congressional Research Service noted last year. “Three treaties that entered into force between 1963 and 1990 limit, but do not ban, such tests. In 1996, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which would ban all nuclear explosions. In 1997, President Clinton sent the CTBT to the Senate, which rejected it in October 1999.”

QATAR AND ITS NEIGHBORS, AND MORE FROM CRS

New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Qatar and its Neighbors: Disputes and Possible Implications, CRS Insight, June 6, 2017

Burma’s Political Prisoners and U.S. Policy: In Brief, updated June 6, 2017

China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities — Background and Issues for Congress, updated June 6, 2017

Stafford Act Assistance and Acts of Terrorism, updated June 2, 2017

Digital Trade and U.S. Trade Policy, updated June 6, 2017

Ransomware Attacks Renew Focus on HIPAA Security Standards, CRS Insight, June 5, 2017

Unmanned and Unregulated? Court of Appeals Rejects FAA Regulation of Many Drones, CRS Legal Sidebar, June 6, 2017

Trump’s Destabilization of the Persian Gulf

June 9, 2017

by Paul R. Pilar

The National Interest

That “Arab NATO” didn’t last very long, did it?  The break with Qatar by some of its Arab brethren, including its nearest neighbors, is impressively comprehensive, involving a breach of diplomatic relations and an economic and transportation embargo.  It reflects sharp divisions not only within the Arab world but even among the half dozen monarchies that constitute the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).  The break is a resounding refutation of the notion, which was a leitmotif of President Trump’s recent trip to the region, that significant lines of conflict in the region can all be reduced to some simplistic grand division, such as of evil versus good, Shia versus Sunni, or Iran versus everyone else.

The ostensible complaint about Qatar’s financing of extremists is grounded in truth about that financing but is an unpersuasive instance of the pot calling the kettle black, given the Saudis’ own record in furnishing such support to radicals.  The actual grievances that the Saudis and others have with the Qataris involve the sorts of parochial, ignoble concerns that the United States does not share and should not act as if it does.  Qatar’s sponsorship of Al Jazeera has long been a thorn in the side of the Saudi rulers, who dislike free-wheeling journalism that addresses subjects of interest to the Saudis.  Then there was the way in which, back in the nineties, the father of the current Qatari emir deposed his father, an action that senior Saudi royals saw as a disturbing precedent for ruling families in the region and led to the Saudis reportedly attempting to foment their own coup in Qatar.

Policies toward the Muslim Brotherhood are an additional issue.  Certainly it is misleading to throw the Brotherhood rhetorically into the same hopper as the much different violent extremists that are the object of counterterrorist efforts.  The Brotherhood has represented in most places in the region the principal peaceful Islamist alternative to the violent extremism of jihadists such as ISIS.  The Saudi royals have been wary of the Brotherhood because it represents a popular way of incorporating Islam into politics that is quite different from the monarchical absolutism of the royals themselves; the Brotherhood thus constitutes a threat to the religiously-based legitimacy of the house of Saud.  Egyptian strongman Abdel Fatah al-Sisi opposes the Brotherhood because it represents a popular alternative to his increasingly harsh authoritarian rule; the democratically elected president whom al-Sisi deposed in a coup was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

For Qatar’s rulers—even though they, like the Saudis, lead a very undemocratic and Wahhabi-based monarchy—dealing with the Brotherhood is a matter of recognizing social and political reality.  Persian Gulf specialist Gerd Nonneman, of the Doha campus of Georgetown University, observes that Qatar’s relationship with the Brotherhood and other Islamist organizations “was never driven by religious ideology but by a pragmatic calculation that these movements had considerable social traction and would likely become an important part of the post-Arab Spring era.”

Then there is Qatar’s mostly normal relationship with Iran.  This is the aspect of the intra-GCC dust-up that raises the most serious questions about the Trump administration’s crudely simplistic way of defining lines of conflict in the region and in particular its automatic, nothing-but-confrontation-and-hostility posture toward Iran. Qatar has very practical reasons to conduct normal business with Iran.  The two countries share the largest natural gas field in the world, a resource that is the key to Qatar’s wealth and its status as the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas.  The two countries peacefully exploit this resource, competing in terms of economics and technology and not in terms of bullets or subversion.  To those who habitually recite the mantra about Iran’s “nefarious” behavior in the region, isn’t its behavior vis-à-vis Qatar and the gas exactly the kind of peaceful, normal, behavior we want to encourage?  And if it is to be encouraged, shouldn’t we all conduct ourselves the way the Qataris have in this respect?  Such conduct need not erase or overlook other differences or conflicts of interests.  As Nonneman notes, Qatar’s posture toward Iran is as pragmatic as its posture toward the Muslim Brotherhood; Qatar is strongly opposed to Iranian policies in Syria, for example, but sees no good to be done by any attempt to isolate Iran totally.

Iran’s immediate response to the embargo of Qatar by its Arab brethren was to offer food exports to make up for commerce interrupted by Saudi Arabia closing its land border with Qatar.  Would export of food be another example of that “nefarious,” “destabilizing” Iranian behavior we keep hearing about?

The Qatar experience raises another important point regarding conflict, stability, and Iran. As has been mentioned by many observers while Trump has continued sword-dancing with the Saudis and been castigating the Qataris, Qatar hosts the largest U.S. military base in the Persian Gulf region.  If having normal relations with Iran does not preclude a country from hosting even a large U.S. military installation—and one in the Persian Gulf, in Iran’s backyard, rather than, say, in the Gulf of Mexico—than why are we so afraid of anyone having normal relations with Iran, and are so vehement about trying to isolate Iran?  Nothing could demonstrate more clearly the bankruptcy of a U.S. posture that assumes any dealings with, or activity of, Iran to be bad by definition.

And nothing demonstrates the extremes to which the Trump administration goes in pushing its all-hostility-all-the-time policy toward Iran than the White House’s appalling statement about the ISIS terrorist attacks in Tehran, which reads in its entirety, “We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people, who are going through such challenging times. We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.”  Shorten this by about a hundred characters and add some exclamation points, and this almost reads like one of those middle-of-the-night impulsive Trumpian tweets.  It is all the more disturbing that this was instead an official White House statement, released by the press office—a reflection of how the extremes of current policy toward Iran are a function not just of Donald Trump’s urges but also of personal grudges found elsewhere at high levels of his administration, a party-wide impulse to do the opposite of whatever Barack Obama did, and other comparably bad bases for constructing foreign and national security policy.

The “evil they promote” language turns upside down, of course, the whole story of ISIS and of how Iran has been a major foe, not a supporter, of that group and similar brands of terrorism.  But the heartlessness and ignorance of the White House statement have implications beyond policy toward Iran.  Just imagine what our own reaction would be if a similar “they had it coming” statement were made by any other government, in response to a terrorist attack by any group made against any other country.  The reaction quite properly would be that the government making the statement was irresponsibly condoning terrorism.  For the United States to make such a statement subjects it to a very unfavorable comparison with Iran, which responsibly reacted with compassion and support following the most serious terrorist attack against the United States.  Donald Trump likes to pose, as he tried to do during his recent trip to the region, as a leader in the fight against terrorism.  Anyone who declares that the target of an ISIS attack had it coming to them is not qualified to be such a leader.

Everyone except hardline trouble-makers has an interest in de-escalation, rather than escalation, of tension and conflict in the Persian Gulf.  Everyone includes the United States, the GCC countries, and the global economy.  It is not just the leaders of Qatar who recognize that.  Oman has carefully maintained smooth relations with all of its neighbors, including Iran, and for the most part Kuwait has tried to do so as well.  That’s half of the GCC.  Even the Saudis, when they are not seized with shorter term preoccupations such as new leaders trying to make marks for themselves, have from time to time seen the value of rapprochement with Iran.

There has been an opportunity just within the past few months, based on a GCC proposal for dialogue that the Kuwaiti foreign minister carried to Tehran, for significant de-escalation of cross-Gulf tension.  The proposal was well-received in Iran.  President Rouhani, with a strengthened mandate after a landslide re-election victory, has expressed willingness to discuss without preconditions the full range of differences between Iran and the Gulf Arabs.  Iran and Saudi Arabia already, earlier this year, held talks that reached a compromise to resolve some differences regarding Iranian pilgrims making the Hajj to Mecca.

Then along comes Donald Trump, preaching a message not of rapprochement and reconciliation, not of the need for countries that live in the same neighborhood and are not going anywhere to share that neighborhood, but instead a message of militancy, hostility, and isolation.  He has been appealing to, and bolstering, all the worst, most parochial inclinations of the Saudis and others, and opposing inclinations based on their better judgment.  The Saudi-led move against Qatar was not initiated by Trump but was in effect encouraged by him (and not just because he has bragged of being responsible for it), with its mishmash of anti-Iran, anti-Muslim Brotherhood tones resembling the music that Trump had been singing.  All the issues about the Brotherhood and other intra-GCC disputes had been around for a long time; it is no accident that the move against Doha was made when it was.

In the narrow perspective of Donald Trump, when his simply drawn lines of conflict—of good and evil, of winners and losers—cause him problems because reality is more complicated, his usual response is to draw the lines even more narrowly.  Something of this has been happening with relations in the Persian Gulf.  As of the time of his trip, the projected image was of a grand coalition that could join in eternal hostility toward the forces of evil, with Iran at the center of those forces.  When the more complex reality soon reasserted itself in the Qatar imbroglio, Trump’s immediate inclination was to narrow the lines of conflict some more while keeping them just as simple, and to side with the Saudis while dumping on the Qataris.

There is a parallel with how Trump responds to challenges domestically and within his own administration—always narrowing, and casting out those whom he may have lauded before but then no longer fit the simple vision.  If Qatar, notwithstanding that U.S. military base, has to go the way of Chris Christie and Michael Flynn, then, in Trump’s view, so be it.

Discourse in Washington, especially at its partisan and blame-shifting worst, has long found ways to attribute conflict and disorder in the Middle East to this or that U.S. president.  Often, as is true as well of events in other regions, the attribution of events, for good or for ill, to the U.S. president gets overstated.  But it is not an overstatement that a posture of stoking tensions and division rather than of encouraging their de-escalation, of swearing eternal hostility to a major regional state, of screwing up opportunities for rapprochement within the region, and of forgoing the United States’s own opportunities by bad-mouthing the nuclear agreement with Iran and refusing to build on it in addressing other issues, is making the security situation in the Persian Gulf worse.  That’s bad for the denizens of the Gulf and bad for the United States.

America Last

Will Trump Set a Record for the History Books?

June 13, 2017

by Tom Engelhardt

TomGram

In its own inside-out, upside-down way, it’s almost wondrous to behold. As befits our president’s wildest dreams, it may even prove to be a record for the ages, one for the history books. He was, after all, the candidate who sensed it first.  When those he was running against, like the rest of Washington’s politicians, were still insisting that the United States remained at the top of its game, not an — but the — “indispensable nation,” the only truly “exceptional” one on the face of the Earth, he said nothing of the sort.  He campaigned on America’s decline, on this country’s increasing lack of exceptionality, its potential dispensability.  He ran on the single word “again” — as in “make America great again” — because (the implication was) it just isn’t anymore.  And he swore that he and he alone was the best shot Americans, or at least non-immigrant white Americans, had at ever seeing the best of days again.

In that sense, he was our first declinist candidate for president and if that didn’t tell you something during the election season, it should have. No question about it, he hit a chord, rang a bell, because out in the heartland it was possible to sense a deepening reality that wasn’t evident in Washington.  The wealthiest country on the planet, the most militarily powerful in the history of… well, anybody, anywhere, anytime (or so we were repeatedly told)… couldn’t win a war, not even with the investment of trillions of taxpayer dollars, couldn’t do anything but spread chaos by force of arms.

Meanwhile, at home, despite all that wealth, despite billionaires galore, including the one running for president, despite the transnational corporate heaven inhabited by Google and Facebook and Apple and the rest of the crew, parts of this country and its infrastructure were starting to feel distinctly (to use a word from another universe) Third Worldish.  He sensed that, too.  He regularly said things like this: “We spent six trillion dollars in the Middle East, we got nothing… And we have an obsolete plane system. We have obsolete airports. We have obsolete trains. We have bad roads. Airports.”  And this: “Our airports are like from a third-world country.”  And on the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, he couldn’t have been more on the mark.

In parts of the U.S., white working-class and middle-class Americans could sense that the future was no longer theirs, that their children would not have a shot at what they had had, that they themselves increasingly didn’t have a shot at what they had had.  The American Dream seemed to be gaining an almost nightmarish sheen, given that the real value of the average wage of a worker hadn’t increased since the 1970s; that the cost of a college education had gone through the roof and the educational debt burden for children with dreams of getting ahead was now staggering; that unions were cratering; that income inequality was at a historic high; and… well, you know the story, really you do.  In essence, for them the famed American Dream seemed ever more like someone else’s trademarked property.

Indispensable? Exceptional? This country? Not anymore. Not as they were experiencing it.

And because of that, Donald Trump won the lottery.  He answered the $64,000 question.  (If you’re not of a certain age, Google it, but believe me it’s a reference in our president’s memory book.)  He entered the Oval Office with almost 50% of the vote and a fervent base of support for his promised program of doing it all over again, 1950s-style.

It had been one hell of a pitch from the businessman billionaire.  He had promised a future of stratospheric terrificness, of greatness on an historic scale. He promised to keep the evil ones — the rapists, job thieves, and terrorists — away, to wall them out or toss them out or ban them from ever traveling here.  He also promised to set incredible records, as only a mega-businessman like him could conceivably do, the sort of all-American records this country hadn’t seen in a long, long time.

And early as it is in the Trump era, it seems as if, on one score at least, he could deliver something for the record books going back to the times when those recording the acts of rulers were still scratching them out in clay or wax. At this point, there’s at least a chance that Donald Trump might preside over the most precipitous decline of a truly dominant power in history, one only recently considered at the height of its glory.  It could prove to be a fall for the ages.  Admittedly, that other superpower of the Cold War era, the Soviet Union, imploded in 1991, which was about the fastest way imaginable to leave the global stage.  Still, despite the “evil empire” talk of that era, the USSR was always the secondary, the weaker of the two superpowers.  It was never Rome, or Spain, or Great Britain.

When it comes to the United States, we’re talking about a country that not so long ago saw itself as the only great power left on planet Earth, “the lone superpower.”  It was the one still standing, triumphant, at the end of a history of great power rivalry that went back to a time when the wooden warships of various European states first broke out into a larger world and began to conquer it.  It stood by itself at, as its proponents liked to claim at the time, the end of history.

Applying Hard Power to a Failing World

As we watch, it seems almost possible to see President Trump, in real time, tweet by tweet, speech by speech, sword dance by sword dance, intervention by intervention, act by act, in the process of dismantling the system of global power — of “soft power,” in particular, and of alliances of every sort — by which the U.S. made its will felt, made itself a truly global hegemon.  Whether his “America first” policies are aimed at creating a future order of autocrats, or petro-states, or are nothing more than the expression of his libidinous urges and secret hatreds, he may already be succeeding in taking down that world order in record fashion.

Despite the mainstream pieties of the moment about the nature of the system Donald Trump appears to be dismantling in Europe and elsewhere, it was anything but either terribly “liberal” or particularly peaceable.  Wars, invasions, occupations, the undermining or overthrow of governments, brutal acts and conflicts of every sort succeeded one another in the years of American glory.  Past administrations in Washington had a notorious weakness for autocrats, just as Donald Trump does today.  They regularly had less than no respect for democracy if, from Iran to Guatemala to Chile, the will of the people seemed to stand in Washington’s way.  (It is, as Vladimir Putin has been only too happy to point out of late, an irony of our moment that the country that has undermined or overthrown or meddled in more electoral systems than any other is in a total snit over the possibility that one of its own elections was meddled with.)  To enforce their global system, Americans never shied away from torture, black sites, death squads, assassinations, and other grim practices.  In those years, the U.S. planted its military on close to 1,000 overseas military bases, garrisoning the planet as no other country ever had.

Nonetheless, the cancelling of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal, the withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, threats against NAFTA, the undermining of NATO, the promise of protective tariffs on foreign goods (and the possible trade wars that might go with them) could go a long way toward dismantling the American global system of soft power and economic dominance as it has existed in these last decades.  If such acts and others like them prove effective in the months and years to come, they will leave only one kind of power in the American global quiver: hard military power, and its handmaiden, the kind of covert power Washington, through the CIA in particular, has long specialized in. If America’s alliances crack open and its soft power becomes too angry or edgy to pass for dominant power anymore, its massive machinery of destruction will still be left, including its vast nuclear arsenal.  While, in the Trump era, a drive to cut domestic spending of every sort is evident, more money is still slated to go to the military, already funded at levels not reached by combinations of other major powers.

Given the last 15 years of history, it’s not hard to imagine what’s likely to result from the further elevation of military power: disaster.  This is especially true because Donald Trump has appointed to key positions in his administration a crew of generals who spent the last decade and a half fighting America’s catastrophic wars across the Greater Middle East.  They are not only notoriously incapable of thinking outside the box about the application of military power, but faced with the crisis of failed wars and failing states, of spreading terror movements and a growing refugee crisis across that crucial region, they can evidently only imagine one solution to just about any problem: more of the same.  More troops, more mini-surges, more military trainers and advisers, more air strikes, more drone strikes… more.

After a decade and a half of such thinking we already know perfectly well where this ends — in further failure, more chaos and suffering, but above all in an inability of the U.S. to effectively apply its hard power anywhere in any way that doesn’t make matters worse.  Since, in addition, the Trump administration is filled with Iranophobes, including a president who has only recently fused himself to the Saudi royal family in an attempt to further isolate and undermine Iran, the possibility that a military-first version of American foreign policy will spread further is only growing.

Such “more” thinking is typical as well of much of the rest of the cast of characters now in key positions in the Trump administration. Take the CIA, for instance.  Under its new director, Mike Pompeo (distinctly a “more” kind of guy and an Iranophobe of the first order), two key positions have reportedly been filled: a new chief of counterterrorism and a new head of Iran operations (recently identified as Michael D’Andrea, an Agency hardliner with the nickname “the Dark Prince”).  Here’s how Matthew Rosenberg and Adam Goldman of the New York Times recently described their similar approaches to their jobs (my emphasis added):

“Mr. D’Andrea’s new role is one of a number of moves inside the spy agency that signal a more muscular approach to covert operations under the leadership of Mike Pompeo, the conservative Republican and former congressman, the officials said. The agency also recently named a new chief of counterterrorism, who has begun pushing for greater latitude to strike militants.”

In other words, more!

Rest assured of one thing, whatever Donald Trump accomplishes in the way of dismantling America’s version of soft power, “his” generals and intelligence operatives will handle the hard-power part of the equation just as “ably.”

The First American Laster?

If a Trump presidency achieves a record for the ages when it comes to the precipitous decline of the American global system, little as The Donald ever cares to share credit for anything, he will undoubtedly have to share it for such an achievement.  It’s true that kings, emperors, and autocrats, the top dogs of any moment, prefer to take all the credit for the “records” set in their time.  When we look back, however, it’s likely that President Trump will be seen as having given a tottering system that necessary push.  It will undoubtedly be clear enough by then that the U.S., seemingly at the height of any power’s power in 1991 when the Soviet Union disappeared, began heading for the exits soon thereafter, still enwreathed in self-congratulation and triumphalism.

Had this not been so, Donald Trump would never have won the 2016 election.  It wasn’t he, after all, who gave the U.S. heartland an increasingly Third World feel.  It wasn’t he who spent those trillions of dollars so disastrously on invasions and occupations, dead-end wars, drone strikes and special ops raids, reconstruction and deconstruction in a never-ending war on terror that today looks more like a war for the spread of terror.  It wasn’t he who created the growing inequality gap in this country or produced all those billionaires amid a population that increasingly felt left in the lurch.  It wasn’t he who hiked college tuitions or increased the debt levels of the young or set roads and bridges to crumbling and created the conditions for Third World-style airports.

If both the American global and domestic systems hadn’t been rotting out before Donald Trump arrived on the scene, that “again” of his wouldn’t have worked.  Thought of another way, when the U.S. was truly at the height of its economic clout and power, American leaders felt no need to speak incessantly of how “indispensable” or “exceptional” the country was.  It seemed too self-evident to mention. Someday, some historian may use those very words in the mouths of American presidents and other politicians (and their claims, for instance, that the U.S. military was “the finest fighting force that the world has ever known”) as a set of increasingly defensive markers for measuring the decline of American power.

So here’s the question: When the Trump years (months?) come to an end, will the U.S. be not the planet’s most exceptional land, but a pariah nation?  Will that “again” still be the story of the year, the decade, the century? Will the last American Firster turn out to have been the first American Laster?  Will it truly be one for the record books?

Central America braces for return of US military-led foreign policy

Trump’s homeland security chief to lead meeting on region’s economic and security issues, as experts say aid cuts and deportations could fuel instability

June 13, 2017

by Nina Lakhani

The Guardian

Central America is bracing itself for a return to military-led US foreign policy amid rising fears that sweeping aid cuts and mass deportations could destabilise the region

Gen John Kelly, the US secretary of homeland security, will this week lead a high-level meeting on economic and security issues in Central America, where violence, corruption and poverty have forced tens of thousands to seek refuge in Mexico and the United States.

The talks will be held in Miami at the base of Southern Command, which oversees US military operations in Latin America and which Kelly led before entering the Trump administration.

The two-day meeting comes less than a month after Trump proposed slashing foreign aid to Mexico and Central America while increasing funds for the Pentagon.

Analysts say such a move would in effect kill Barack Obama’s ambitious – though imperfect – policies to tackle some root causes of forced migration by investing in justice and security reforms, and prevention and development programmes.

“In the worst-case scenario, they will slam brakes on Obama’s more holistic, less military focus, and go back to the 1980s ‘drug war’ model and good old fashioned increases in military aid,” said Adam Isacson, a security expert at the Washington Office for Latin America.

During the cold war, the US directed billions of dollars of military aid to the region in support of dictatorships which confronting leftwing rebel groups in a series of interlocking conflicts which killed tens of thousands and forcibly displaced millions.

“Kelly’s department has taken over the direction of security policy for every country north of Panama,” he added.

Almost 15,000 people were murdered in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala – known as the northern triangle – in 2016, making it the most dangerous region outside of Syria. Impunity is rife across the region.

The UN refugee agency estimates that about 200,000 Central

Americans crossing into Mexico each year are fleeing violence and would qualify for international protection.

Activists are alarmed by the leadership, location and scope of the Miami meeting, which appears to focus on boosting business and security, instead of helping build institutions and promoting the rule of law.

More than 100 organisations from across the region have signed a letter condemning the plans to “discuss US policy towards the region solely from a security and economic lens, without addressing the protection needs and human rights of families, individuals, and children from the region”.

Daniella Burgi-Palomino, senior associate at the Latin America Working Group, said: “We’re very concerned at the detrimental impact of Gen Kelly inserting homeland security into what should be foreign policy decisions, especially as he’s shown no understanding of the root causes driving migration and refugees.”

Last month Kelly said that the vast majority of asylum seekers were coached by smugglers to lie about threats and fears in order to stay in the US. Then, at a Senate hearing, he called a programme to help unaccompanied child migrants a “total scam”.

Government officials have seized upon the sharp drop in detentions at the US border since Trump’s inauguration as proof that Central Americans are coming in search of jobs, not safety.

Juan José Hurtado Paz y Paz, from Asociacion Pop Noj, which works with Guatemalan minors deported by the US, believes any reduction will prove temporary.

“Trump’s policies have created a psychosis of fear, but fear subsides, and regardless of how many walls are built, people will find a way to reach the US unless the multiple root causes of migration are tackled,” he said.

There are signs this may be starting to happen: 14,535 people were apprehended on the US southern border in May, a 31% increase from April.

This week’s meeting is co-hosted by Mexico, which had been threatening to rethink a pact made during the Obama administration to detain and deport Central Americans.

Trump repeatedly attacked Mexico throughout his presidential campaign, threatening to rip up the North American free trade agreement and build a 2,000-mile border wall to keep “bad hombres” out.

But in recent weeks, Trump’s attention has turned to Central America, with pledges to deport members of the MS-13 gang to El Salvador.

In addition, plans are afoot to abandon the temporary protected status (TPS) – a special work visa sanctioned for a handful of countries prone to natural disasters – which could lead to the deportation of 250,000 Salvadorans and Hondurans.

Noah Bullock, director of the violence prevention organisation Cristosal in El Salvador, said: “Deportations that exceed the 2016 level could lead to great social instability and [such a policy] has little chance of reducing migration. Rather, it would likely feed the cycle of migration and insecurity that is already destabilizing the region.”

This week’s meeting is the latest evidence that the Pentagon is playing a central role in efforts to stop the migratory flow. In April, defence chiefs from across the region reportedly agreed to increase intelligence and information cooperation with US armed forces in order to conduct aerial, land and reconnaissance patrols on Mexico’s southern border.

In Honduras, the most dangerous country in the world for environmental and land activists, there are particular concerns about the US encouraging investment in large-scale extractive and agribusinesses.

Joaquin Mejia, from a Jesuit human rights group, said: “Experience tells us that police and military will be used as a mechanism to control and repress social conflicts generated by development projects imposed without proper consultation with communities.”

Theresa May Puts Peace in Northern Ireland at Risk to Remain U.K. Prime Minister

June 13 2017

by Robert Mackey

The Intercept

Two decades of peace in Northern Ireland could be at risk if the United Kingdom’s new government relies on the support of Ulster’s Democratic Unionist Party, which represents one of the two formerly warring sides, former Prime Minister John Major said on Tuesday.

“I think the peace process is fragile,” Major, a former Conservative Party leader, told the BBC. Major shared his concern as his party’s current leader, Prime Minister Theresa May, was working to strike a deal with the DUP leader, Arlene Foster, that would allow the Conservatives to form a government with the support of the Ulster unionists.

During his time in office, Major helped to start the process that eventually led to the end of violence and a finely balanced local assembly in Belfast — where power is shared between the mainly Protestant unionist community, which celebrates its British heritage, and the mainly Catholic nationalist community, which identifies as Irish.

“A fundamental part of that peace process is that the U.K. government needs to be impartial between all the competing interests in Northern Ireland,” Major said. “And the danger is that however much any government tries, they will not be seen to be impartial if they are locked into a parliamentary deal at Westminster with one of the Northern Ireland parties.”

“The last thing anybody wishes to see,” Major added, “is one or other of the communities so aggrieved that the hard men, who are still there lurking in the corners of the community, decide that they wish to return to some form of violence.”

That concern is made more pressing by two factors: the looming threat of Brexit, which could make it necessary to once again erect barriers along the currently invisible border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, once the U.K. leaves the European Union; and the fact that Northern Ireland’s local assembly is in crisis.

The local government has not been in session for months, due to a stand-off between Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army, and the DUP, which is supported by former loyalist paramilitaries.

If, however, the new U.K. government can only function with unionist support, it is indeed hard to see how it could also act, in concert with the Irish government in Dublin, as a neutral arbiter in talks between the two sides in Ulster.

As Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader, noted on Monday, the outgoing Irish prime minister, or taoiseach, Enda Kenny, called the British prime minister over the weekend to express his concern that her new alliance could disrupt their efforts to get the legislature in Belfast back on track.

There have even been suggestions that such an alliance in the British Parliament could be a violation of the terms of the 1998 Belfast Agreement, which stipulates that the U.K. must remain impartial in Northern Ireland

Apart from legal wrangling, though, there is also concern that the unionists might seek to extract concessions from the Conservatives that would immediately exacerbate sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland. Some DUP voters even seem anxious to make that a reality.

The Orange Lodge of Portadown, a fraternal order of anti-Catholics that counts among its members David Simpson, one of the DUP’s 10 members of Parliament, issued a statement over the weekend calling on the party to use its leverage with the prime minister to get her to permit its annual parade to once again pass through Catholic areas.

The Orange order’s July 12 parade, celebrating the victory of the Protestant King William of Orange over the Catholic James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, has been barred from passing through a Catholic area by the authorities since 1998, when three Catholic children were murdered by rioting unionists.

Emmanuel Macron’s storming of the Bastille

French President Emmanuel Macron’s clear victory in the first round of French parliamentary elections has completely changed the political party system – for now. The defeated mainstream parties can still bounce back.

June 12, 2017

by Helena Kaschel

DW

Macron’s winning streak continues. Almost a month ago, he moved into the Elysee Palace and next Sunday, he expects a solid majority for his newly-formed centrist party La Republique en Marche (LREM) and its allies after the second round of legislative elections. The Republicans and the Front National suffered setbacks in the first round and the Socialists failed miserably.

It seems like the political system has gone off the rails. Established parties are a thing of the past; categories like left and right are anachronistic. If La Republique en Marche really does end up winning 455 of the 577 seats in France’s National Assembly, then it would be one of the largest parliamentary majorities in France since the foundation of the Fifth Republic in 1958.

‘Unique and absolutely remarkable’

It is clear that Macron’s seemingly unstoppable success can be attributed to the failures of his predecessors. High unemployment and the terrorist threat weigh heavily on the mood of the French. Furthermore, there is an increasing distrust of politicians. “The electoral victory of a politician who was unknown three years ago, who has never held an elected office and has no party base, is a declaration of a considerable crisis of representation and deep disrepute of France’s political elite,” said political scientist Joachim Schild in an interview with the German newspaper Trierischer Volksfreund at the beginning of May.

It comes as no surprise that a newly elected president in France has won enough votes for an absolute majority. Ever since a constitutional change in 2000, every president has achieved this, including Macron’s direct predecessor, Francois Hollande. The establishment of the LREM movement is also nothing unusual. New parties, party divisions and name changes are common in the French political landscape.

Yet the success of LREM is unique in two ways. “Before Macron, there has never been a cross-party government with a president who says he would like to work with the right and the left,” says Eileen Keller, a political scientist who works for the Franco-German Institute (DFI) in the German city of Ludwigsburg. Also, the fact that someone who is “incredibly successful first wins the presidential election and then wins such a large majority in the National Assembly in such a short period of time is unique and absolutely remarkable.”

The tides can turn quickly

The center could be strengthened by Macron, which means that future coalitions can sway to the left or right. It is completely unclear whether the success of a 39-year-old pro-European will have a lasting effect on the political system, as French election laws encourage the formation of different camps and thus, changing majorities. Small parties have no chance of entering parliament on their own, but they can help stabilize majority parties. “There are good reasons to believe the party landscape is evolving, also as a reaction to the new En Marche bloc,” explains Keller. Macron’s overwhelming majority could vanish into thin air within five years, especially because it is based on a historically low voter turnout of 15 percent. No one can really tell how much voter support Macron can rely on for his reform plans.

Also, there is a need to wait and see how Macron’s camp fares as a parliamentary majority. “They are all new faces. We do not know how these people will fulfill their political duties. We do not know to what extent they are willing to internally distance themselves from Macron and his line,” Keller said.

Weakened, but not defeated

The established parties have without doubt been weakened after the weekend’s defeats, especially because each parliamentary seat is tied to funding. But the Republicans still have a solid base, says Keller. She adds, “The situation is bleak for the Socialists because they first must fight for survival. But that can change if a part of Macron’s huge majority leaves or changes direction.”

While the left and Jean-Luc Melenchon are busy keeping their parties and alliance from falling apart, the conservatives are divided into two camps: one has defected to Macron and the other has decided to act as a constructive opposition party that may decide to block certain presidential projects.

And what happened to the Front National? Marine LePen was not able to ride on the wave of her successful presidential bid and managed to mobilize very few voters. “I think the momentum has been completely lost and LePen’s reputation is a bit tarnished,” says Eileen Keller. It looks like the Front National has to gather strength again. “My guess is that the party will not really have an impact on politics in the coming weeks and months,” she analyzed. If this turns out to be true, then the French president would have yet another reason to celebrate.

Canada’s detention of Mexicans surges after visa lift

June 13, 2017

by Anna Mehler Paperny

Reuters

TORONTO-Detention of Mexican citizens in Canada has spiked since December, when the government lifted its visa requirement for visitors from Mexico, figures obtained by Reuters show, even as Canada burnishes its image as more welcoming than the United States.

Detentions in the first five months of 2017 were more than twice the previous two years combined, according to Canada Border Services Agency statistics provided last week in response to a Reuters request.

Canada’s detention of Mexicans surged more than tenfold from 24 in November to 331 in April, the data show. The number of Mexicans filing refugee claims more than quadrupled from November to March.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to lift the visa requirement, imposed by the previous government, during the 2015 election campaign in an effort to improve bilateral relations. Visitors from Mexico can now apply online for an electronic travel permit in a process that takes minutes.

Mexican migrants have been looking to Canada as U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration ramps up deportations and targets illegal immigrants who had been granted reprieves under the Obama administration.

Trudeau’s government has been under pressure from opposition politicians to reverse the visa lift, which a review late last year projected would cost about C$262 million.

“The lifting of the visa requirement for Mexican citizens strengthens Canada-Mexico ties and builds momentum to expand trade, investment and tourism. It will provide lasting benefits for both countries,” immigration department spokesman Rémi Larivière said in an email.

“As with all visa lifts that Canada undertakes, we continually and carefully monitor migration trends to ensure the integrity of Canada’s immigration system.”

The border agency can detain foreign nationals indefinitely on no charge if it believes they pose a danger to the public, if their identities are unclear or if they are deemed unlikely to appear for removal or for a proceeding.

Toronto lawyer Ali Esnaashari, who has represented detained Mexican travelers, said in a telephone interview there was significant pressure on detainees to willingly leave instead of fighting to stay.

“They’re usually offered: ‘You can be in detention or you just go back and withdraw your request to enter the country,'” he said. “Most of them end up spending a night or two at the immigration holding center and then they go on the plane and go back home.”

The number of Mexican citizens applying to extend temporary residence permits rose to 1,057 in March from 679 in November.

“There was an anticipation of that possibility,” Scott Bardsley, spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, said by phone. “But that was all accounted for in the planning that was done to do the visa lift.”

The statistics track the number of detentions, not the number of detainees, which means if a person is detained on multiple occasions those will be counted separately.

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Richard Chang)

Collective security in Eurasia: Managing diversity & multiple threats

June 13, 2017

by Dr. Alexander Yakcvenko

RT

Twenty-five years ago, several independent states, former Republics of the Soviet Union signed the Collective Security Treaty, and 10 years later they established the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

Even this chronology shows that it was not an easy process. It took time for the member-states – including Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan – to assess their own security interests and requirements, as well as the overall security picture in the region they share.

The CSTO is, thus, a modern security organization, fully in line with the post-Cold War geopolitical reality. So it’s based not on ideological unity, but on time-tested Westphalian principles of international relations, set out in the UN Charter.

These are, first of all, sovereign equality, independence, territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs. It means that it is a joint enterprise driven by national interests, defined by each member-state and collectively.

In that regard the CSTO is contrasted by the present state of NATO, a security alliance, created at the time of Cold War to be a military tool of the ideological confrontation. That reality is gone, and the ideology that underpinned that security paradigm is no longer relevant. The dissolution of the Warsaw Treaty Organization was the right response to the radical change of geopolitical coordinates. Unfortunately, NATO was preserved as an old alliance, which has been at the core of its problems ever since.

The search for a new raison d’etre gave birth to the idea of a global NATO, then brought the alliance back to its Cold War mission of territorial defense. The greatest damage to European security was done by its expansion towards Russia’s borders. The resulting confrontational dynamics explains a paradox in which the very membership in NATO becomes a source of insecurity. Now we have to deal with the consequences of the European Union’s foray into zero-sum geopolitics as a NATO proxy in Ukraine.

That is why starting from scratch was a huge advantage for the CSTO. Nobody rushed things through. Nobody sought to dominate partners or push forward some hidden agendas. Instead, member states were dealing with real problems as they arose in real life.

It is a light, flexible alliance, unlike cumbersome highly-bureaucratized entangling alliances of the past established to fight wars. The lack of ideological bias helps to cooperate with other organizations in Eurasia.

For us it was not a problem engaging with NATO, especially when the alliance led the international military presence in Afghanistan. Although NATO wouldn’t even engage in a dialogue with the CSTO for the twisted logic of being unwilling to “legitimize” it. Therefore, lots of opportunities for cooperation in Afghanistan have been missed.

The CSTO has been networking on security matters with such organizations as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), doing its bit in harmonization of integration processes in Greater Eurasia.

It is worth noting that primary security concerns of the member states are in the area which was the site of the famous Great Game of the 19th century. The present security cooperation, rooted in contemporary reality, is a direct opposite of that great power game. Now it is by the regional states for the regional states.

The CSTO has achieved tangible progress and brought quite a few positive outcomes with their impact felt beyond the region. It is working primarily to ensure stability in its area of responsibility by way of addressing transnational threats, such as terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking, illegal migration. The member states established the Collective Peacekeeping Force to help tackle those threats.

The high level of trust and mutual understanding has been achieved among the CSTO partners as a result of gradual integration, including regular joint exercises, daily contacts of our border services, assistance in training of personnel, supply of special equipment and weapons. A complex approach to security allowed us to strengthen external borders.

Our key priority remains finding negotiated regional solutions to crises and conflicts in our neighborhood, especially in Afghanistan. The expansion of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) to Afghanistan – which brings the terrorist threat emanating from that country to a new, higher level – requires a coordinated response on the part of all regional and international players and their organizations.

The CSTO is open to such cooperation. That includes NATO, whenever the alliance is ready for that.

Privacy? Forget it

June 13, 2017

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

 

This application is related to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/017,597, titled “ADVERTISING BASED ON ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS”, filed concurrently with this application, the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD

This document generally relates to information management.

BACKGROUND

On-line advertisements allow advertisers to reach a wide range of viewers through the Internet.

The selection of advertisements for display, such as with search results and other information, and the ordering of those advertisements, may be achieved by various techniques. In one example, an initial determination is made to identify all advertisements that are a match or near match for the applied search terms or other query items or information. The match may be made, for example, between one or more words in a query, and key words identified by an advertiser and associated with a particular advertisement or group of advertisements, such as a campaign. For example, a company selling fishing tackle may have a line of large lures, and may thus identify terms such as “lunker,” “sturgeon,” and “muskie fever” as keywords to associate with their advertisements for such large lures. Those advertisements may then be considered by the system for display when a search results are displayed to a user who enters such terms. The comparison may also be made between a search or query, and the text in an advertisement or the text in a target of a hyperlink in an advertisement, or to a combination of keywords, target text, and advertisement text, among other possible techniques. For example, the system may effectively select terms from an advertisement as key words so that the advertisement is selected for possible display when a search or other user action associated with the key words is submitted. An advertisement may be selected for possible display if there is a “near” match also, for example, if a query includes terms that are known synonyms or mistypings/misspellings of the key word terms for an advertisement.

United States Patent: 8138930 http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=H…

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SUMMARY

This document describes a system for allowing advertisers to target on-line advertisements based on environmental factors of end users. When determining what ads to serve to end users, the environmental factors can be used independently or in combination with matching of keywords associated with the advertisements and keywords in user search queries. A web browser or search engine located at the user’s site may obtain information on the environment (e.g., temperature, humidity, light, sound, air composition) from sensors. Advertisers may specify that the ads are shown to users whose environmental conditions meet certain criteria. For example, advertisements for air conditioners can be sent to users located at regions having temperatures above a first threshold, while advertisements for winter overcoats can be sent to users located at regions having temperatures below a second threshold. In general, in one aspect, information about an environmental condition of a remote user who is accessing a network is received at a server, an advertisement based on the environmental condition is identified at the server, the information about the environmental condition being derived from an output of a sensor located at the remote user, and the advertisement is provided to the user through the network.

Implementations may include one or more of the following features. The sensor can include an environmental sensor that provides information about the environmental condition. The sensor can be part of or coupled to a machine used by the user for accessing the network. At the server, the advertisement can be identified from among a plurality of advertisements by matching an environmental condition associated with the advertisement with the environmental condition of the user. The environmental condition can include at least one of temperature, humidity, sound, light, air composition, location, and speed of movement. The environmental condition can include at least one of soil, crop, or livestock conditions. The advertisement can be associated with a predetermined temperature condition, and the server can provide the advertisement to the user when the temperature at the user’s site or at a geographical location of the user meets the predetermined temperature condition. The advertisement can be associated with a predetermined sound level condition, and the server provides the advertisement to the user when the ambient sound level at the user’s site meets the predetermined sound level condition A keyword query can be received from the user, the keyword query including one or more keywords, wherein the advertisement provided by the server is associated with the one or more keywords. Traffic condition of the user can be determined based on the information about the environmental condition, and the advertisement can be provided based on the traffic condition.

Receiving information about the environmental condition can include identifying a geographical location of the user based on the sensor output, and receiving information about the environmental condition of the geographical location. Identifying the geographical location of the user can include identifying the geographical location of the user based on data from a global positioning system sensor or by signal triangulation.

In general, in another aspect, at a server, a request for information from a remote user accessing a network is received, a location of the remote user is determined without using location information stored in a pre-established user profile, an environmental condition of the remote user is determined based on the location of the remote user, and an advertisement is identified based on the environmental condition. The requested information and the advertisement are provided from the server to the remote user through the network. Implementations may include one or more of the following features. The network can include a mobile phone network having base stations, and determining the location of the remote user can include determining the location of the remote user using information provided by a base station that receives signals from the remote user. The request from the remote user can include a request for information. The request for information can include a request for phone directory information. The request for information can include a request for a document.

In general, in another aspect, from a client device, information about an environmental condition of a user of the client device who is accessing a network is provided to a remote server, and an advertisement that is identified at the server based on the environmental condition is received at the client device. At the client device, the advertisement is presented to the user.

Implementations may include one or more of the following features. Providing to a remote server information about an environmental condition can include providing to the remote server information about an environmental condition that is derived from an output of a sensor of the client device or a sensor coupled to the client device. The environmental condition can include temperature, humidity, sound, light, air composition, location, or speed of movement. A keyword query can be provided from the user to the server, the keyword query including one or more keywords, wherein the advertisement provided by the server can be associated with the one or more keywords. Traffic condition of the user can be provided based on the information about the environmental condition and advertisement that is identified based on the traffic condition can be received. In general, in another aspect, information about an environmental condition of a remote device is received, the environmental condition being determined based on a signal output from a sensor of the remote device or a sensor coupled to the remote device; an advertisement is identified based on the environmental condition; and the advertisement is provided to the remote device. Implementations may include one or more of the following features. An audio, image, or video signal can be received from the sensor and the environmental condition can be determined based on the audio, image, or video signal, respectively. An audio signal that includes a voice instruction from a user of the remote device can be received, and the environmental condition can be determined based on background sounds in the audio signal. Information in addition to the advertisement can be provided to the user based on the voice instruction of the user. The remote device can include a mobile phone. The remote device can include a mobile phone, personal computer, digital billboard, a digital kiosk, or a vendor machine, and providing the advertisement to the remote device can include providing a visual advertisement for displaying on a display of the mobile phone, personal computer, digital billboard, digital kiosk, or vending machine, respectively.

The remote device can include a mobile phone, personal computer, digital billboard, a digital kiosk, a vending machine, or a public address system, and providing the advertisement to the remote device can include providing an audio advertisement for playing through an audio output of the mobile phone, personal computer, digital billboard, digital kiosk, vending machine, or public address system, respectively. An event can be identified based on the signal output from the sensor. The event can include at least one of a sports event or a musical event. Identifying an advertisement based on the environmental condition can include identifying an advertisement based on the event. The remote device can be placed in a public environment and be shared by a plurality of people. Information in addition to the advertisement can be provided from the remote device to the user. Providing information can include providing at least one of text, audio, or video information. In general, in another aspect, content is displayed on a digital billboard laced in a public environment; a sensor of the display or a sensor coupled to the display senses an environmental condition; the environmental condition is sent to a server; an advertisement is received from the server, the advertisement being identified by the server based on the environmental condition; and the advertisement is displayed on the digital billboard.

Implementations may include one or more of the following features. Sensing the environmental condition can include sensing at least one of temperature, humidity, sound, light, or air composition. The digital billboard can be installed at an indoor location, and sensing the environmental condition can include sensing an indoor or outdoor environmental condition. In general, in another aspect, information is broadcast through a public address system; a sensor of the public address system or a sensor coupled to the public address system is used to sense

an environmental condition; the environmental condition is sent to a server; an advertisement is received from the server, the advertisement being identified by the server based on the environmental condition; and the advertisement is broadcast through the public address system.

In general, in another aspect, a computer-implemented method includes enabling advertisers to associate advertisements with one or more environmental conditions to allow the advertisements to be provided to users whose environmental conditions match the environmental conditions associated with the advertisements; and enabling the advertisers to bid for environmental conditions associated with one or more keywords. Implementations may include one or more of the following features. The method can include providing a user interface to allow the advertiser to associate the advertisement with the environmental condition, the user interface allowing the advertiser to bid for environmental conditions associated with one or more keywords. The environmental condition can include at least one of temperature, humidity, sound, light, air composition, location, and speed of movement. In general, in another aspect, a computer implemented method includes enabling a sponsor to configure an ad campaign based on criteria that include environmental conditions; receiving information about environmental conditions; and dynamically adjusting the ad campaign based on the environmental conditions.

Implementations may include one or more of the following features. Enabling a sponsor to configure an ad campaign can include enabling the sponsor to allocate ad budgets based on the environmental conditions. Enabling the sponsor to allocate ad budgets based on the environmental conditions can include enabling at least one of (a) adjusting allocation of ad budgets for different types of media, (b) adjusting bid amounts of ads for different types of media, (c) adjusting allocation of ad budgets for different products, or (d) adjusting bid amounts of ads for different products based on the environmental conditions.

In general, in another aspect, an apparatus includes a storage device to store advertisements each associated with an environmental condition; and a server to receive information about an environmental condition of a remote user who is accessing a network, the information about the environmental condition being derived from an output of a sensor located at the remote user, identify an advertisement based on the environmental condition, and provide the advertisement to the user. Implementations may include one or more of the following features. The server can identify the advertisement from among a plurality of advertisements by matching an environmental condition associated with the advertisement with the environmental condition of the user. The server can identify a geographical location of the user based on the sensor output and receive information about the environmental condition of the geographical location.

In general, in another aspect, an apparatus includes a storage device to store advertisements each associated with an environmental condition; and a server to receive a request for information from a remote user accessing a network, determine a location of the remote user without using location information stored in a pre-established user profile, determine an environmental condition of the remote user based on the location of the remote user, identify an advertisement based on the environmental condition, and provide the requested information and the advertisement to the remote user through the network.

Implementations may include one or more of the following features. The server can include a mobile phone server.

In general, in another aspect, an apparatus includes a graphical user interface to enable advertisers to associate advertisements with one or more environmental conditions to allow the advertisements to be provided to users whose environmental conditions match the environmental conditions associated with the advertisements. The graphical user interface enables the advertisers to bid for environmental conditions associated with one or more keywords. Implementations may include one or more of the following features. The environmental condition includes temperature, humidity, sound, light, air composition, location, and/or speed of movement.

In general, in another aspect, an apparatus includes a device having a user interface to provide information to a user; and a sensor to sense a parameter and generate an output signal. The device is configured to provide the output signal to a remote server, receive an advertisement identified by the remote server based on an environmental condition determined according to the output signal of the sensor, and provide the advertisement in addition to the information to the user.

Implementations may include one or more of the following features. The sensor can include an audio, image, or video sensor. The device can include at least one of a visual or audio user interface. The device can include a mobile phone, a digital billboard, a digital kiosk, or a vending machine, and can be configured to receive visual advertisements from the remote server and show the advertisements on a display of the mobile phone, the digital billboard, the digital kiosk, or the vending machine. The remote device can include a mobile phone, a digital billboard, a digital kiosk, a vending machine, or a public address system, and providing the advertisement to the remote device can include providing an audio advertisement for playing through an audio output of the mobile phone, digital billboard, digital kiosk, vending machine, or public address system, respectively. The sensor can sense temperature, humidity, sound, light, or air composition. In general, in another aspect, a system includes means for receiving information about an environmental condition of a remote user who is accessing a network, the information about the environmental condition being derived from an output of a sensor located at the remote user; means for identifying an advertisement based on the environmental condition; and means for providing the advertisement to the user through the network.

These and other aspects and features, and combinations of them, may be expressed as methods, apparatus, systems, means for performing functions, program products, and in other ways. The systems and methods disclosed herein may have one or more of the following advantages. By providing ads that are selected based in part on environmental conditions, more relevant ads may be shown to users, providing a better user experience. More relevant ads can be served to users, increasing the likelihood of the ads being clicked on or acted upon, increasing the effectiveness of the ads.

 

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