Friday, March 1, 2013

Off To Disney East! Brit Horse Humor! Iran Up!

I got to admit, comments like this from a friend and fellow memo reader just warm my heart: "Just hate it when you are away because I am not getting any of this juicy, depressing and interesting info.

Got to be careful or I might start drinking my own bath water!
Our History in 2 minutes
It's a final project by a high school student.
It's worth watching a couple of times......excellent.


British horse humor:
A woman has been taken into hospital after eating horse meat burgers from tesco
Her condition is said to be stable

 Not entirely sure how Tesco is going to get over this hurdle.

Had some burgers from Tesco for my tea last night....
I still have a bit between my teeth
Israel down, Iran up. Obama's shill game continues! (See 1 below.)
Could not overcome Russian obstinence in the Middle East so shift to Asia and try and deal with China?  Obama's foreign policy! (See 2 below.)

Washington sets stage for Israel’s back-off from demand to shut Fordo

Grave concern was voiced in Jerusalem over the upbeat accounts appearing Thursday, Feb. 28 of the six-power talks with Iran  which ended Wednesday in Almati, Kazakhstan. A Western diplomat described the nuclear talks as “more constructive and positive than in the past.” For the first time, said the diplomat, “they were really focusing on the proposal on the table” although he admitted that Iran’s willingness to negotiate seriously will not become clear until an April meeting.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi chimed in buoyantly that the talks had reached “a turning point” this week and “a breakthrough was within reach.”

Intelligence sources following the Kazakhstan suggests alll this optimism is far from representing the true content of the session and no practical discussion took place on “proposals on the table.” The participants did not delude themselves that the next round of nuclear talks with Iran scheduled for April would achieve any more progress on the disposal of Iran’s nuclear program than the current session. In any case, Tehran is determined not to budge from its hard and fast position on this issue – if ever – before the Iranian presidential election in the coming June.

The sudden outburst of Western-Iranian optimism is seen in Jerusalem as part of a US administration effort to soften Israel’s resistance to the continued operation of the underground plant at Fordo which is turning out 20-percent enriched uranium that is easily converted to weapons grade material.

A softer Israeli approach would lighten the nuclear cloud hanging over the meetings Barack Obama is scheduled to hold with Israeli leaders during his visit to Jerusalem on March 20.
Israel’s categorical demand is for the immediate closure of the Fordo plant.
But this is not what the US delegation put before the Iranian negotiators in Kazakhstan. Instead of demanding the plant’s shutdown, the American proposal was for Iran to suspend 20 percent uranium enrichment in a way that “constrains the ability to quickly resume operations” there.
This is a major letdown for Israel’s expectations and for Binyamin Netanyahu. No wonder the Iranian foreign minister was upbeat.
2)How US military plans to carry out Obama's 'pivot to Asia'
By Anna Mulrine

A US policy shift toward Asia means a greater role for the Navy. Even pre-'pivot to Asia,' it already stationed half its ships in the region, and it is developing a new 'afloat forward staging base' in the Pacific
The Pentagon's No. 2 official, Ashton Carter, picked a telling time to discuss the US military's plans for its new strategic focus on the Asia-Pacific.
At Europe's premier security conference in Munich, Germany, this month, Mr. Carter took the opportunity to reassure concerned NATO allies, among others, that America's focus on Asia would not mean its abandonment of Europe. Some US partners have been concerned that even the phrase "pivot to Asia" implies that the United States would be turning its back on Europe.
"Asia has no NATO, has not had a NATO, has had no way of knitting together countries and healing the wounds of the Second World War," he said, making the case for the shift. "Europe is a source of security and not a consumer of security in today's world, fortunately," Carter said. While Asia has prospered for 70 years, "it's not automatic," he added. "And I think a central reason for that peace and prosperity has been the pivotal role of American military power in that part of the world."

It's a role that is slated to grow in the near term (even if John Kerry raised some questions during his Senate hearing to become secretary of State). Indeed, the US military is aiming both to strengthen relationships with rising economic partners in the region and to increasingly act as a counter to rivals for power - most notably, China.
As former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, the Pentagon's strategic shift is being driven by a recognition that America's security in the 21st century "will be linked to the security and prosperity of Asia more than any other region on earth."
The shift has implications for the services, too, particularly as America's decade-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan come to an end. The Army and Marine Corps have been the go-to branches during this time. Now it is the Navy to which the Pentagon will be increasingly turning.
Currently, half of the Navy's ships are stationed in the Asia-Pacific region. This helps the US build relationships in the region, as well as reassure allies, says Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations.
Even as the threat of defense cuts loomed, resulting in calls to decrease the size of the Navy's aircraft-carrier fleet from 11 to 10, Secretary Panetta pushed back, citing the need for a Navy "able to penetrate enemy defenses."
The Pentagon is also putting money into developing a new "afloat forward staging base" in the Pacific, which can be used for everything from counter-piracy to mine clearing to Special Operations Forces missions.
Perhaps most public is the move of 250 US Marines to Darwin, Australia, last April, with the promise of as many as 2,500 at any given time in the years to come. Also, some 85,000 US troops are currently stationed in South Korea and Japan.
President Obama called the new troop deployment to Australia "necessary to maintain the security architecture of the region." Further, he added, "This will allow us to be able to respond in a more timely fashion" and "to meet the demands of a lot of partners in the region."
These partners include rising economic powers in Southeast Asia such as Thailand, which has an "extraordinarily key location" given its borders with Myanmar (Burma), Malaysia, and Vietnam, according to Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "They're a very credible, welcoming military power," he said in a visit there last June.
The US military's moves are also considered a counter to other rivals for power in the region. Russia's actions in the Pacific bear watching, noted the outgoing head of the US Pacific Command last year. The country's "increased naval and strategic air force operations, cyberspace activities, and arms sales throughout the Asia-Pacific are signaling Russia's emphasis" on the region, said Adm. Robert Willard.
Then there is the threat of North Korea, although most military analysts say the US pivot toward the Pacific has little to do with that regime. "North Korea is in many ways its own cancer that requires its own treatment," says Ely Ratner, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington.
It is clear, however, that the Pentagon has one rising power firmly in mind as it launches its strategic shift: China. Senior military officials have long expressed concern about China's interest in developing unmanned air systems, as well as its growing capabilities in nuclear weapons, missile defense, and advanced submarines.
Defense analysts have noted that the Australia deployment had been planned for some time, but Mr. Obama used an announcement about it as an opportunity to send China a message.
"It was a DOD [Department of Defense] thing, but the White House grabbed it and announced it," says Michael Green, senior vice president for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studiesin Washington. Obama's announcement also had the effect of giving the administration's Asia-Pacific pivot "a military hue," he says.
Explicitly citing China in conjunction with security concerns and the Asia-Pacific pivot raises its own quandaries, Dr. Ratner says.
"Perhaps the biggest question is, how do we reconcile the fact that we're deepening security relationships with other partners in the region with the equally important goal of maintaining a stable relationship with China?" he warns. "As we strengthen these ties with other countries, China is going to become increasingly insecure."
It is a problem to be managed, rather than solved, he adds.
"The last thing you want to have is miscalculation between large militaries," Adm. Samuel Locklear III noted as he took over US Pacific Command last year. China is an "emerging power, and we are a mature power," he added. "How they emerge, and how we encourage them, will be an important key to both China and the United States."
The US approach has included some efforts to reassure China. Panetta addressed more than 300 members of the People's Liberation Army during a visit there last September, telling them, "It will be your responsibility to help carry the US-China relationship forward."
He acknowledged, too, a "lack of strategic trust" that often leads to suspicion between the two countries.
Yet as the pivot goes ahead, the overarching aim for the US military must include not being caught off guard by Chinese military advances, David Helvey, acting deputy assistant secretary of Defense for East Asia, warned last May.
"We have seen in the past instances where China has developed weapons systems that have appeared earlier than we expected," he said. "We've been surprised in the past.

So many nyets: Why the chasm between US, Russia is so hard to bridge
By Fred Weir

Many in the West see a perplexing obstructionism in Russia's stands on everything from Syria to adoption. But Russia is working from a fundamentally different understanding of the post-cold war world
For many in the West, Russia remains the brain-twisting, multi-layered enigma of Winston Churchill's overworked cliche.
Though it may not be the USSR any longer, it still seems like a through-the-looking-glass kind of place in the eyes of most outsiders. And in international affairs, it appears almost as devoted as its superpower predecessor to countering US power, nyet-saying in the UN Security Council, and critiquing the West in general.
Whether it's Moscow's recent harsh ban on US citizens adopting Russian orphans, accompanied by some of the most extreme anti-American rhetoric since the cold war, the Kremlin's repeated vetoesof Western-sponsored UN resolutions for collective action on Syria's crisis, or even incoming US Secretary of State John Kerry's inability to get his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on the phone over six days last week for an urgent discussion about North Korea and Syria, Americans sometimes just throw up their hands and conclude that it's impossible to understand Russia.
But unlike Soviet times, when the view from Moscow was determined by rigid ideological certainties, a lot of Russians today appear similarly perplexed, and vexed, about the West. Experts here insist that Russia generally knows its own geopolitical mind and acts accordingly, while to them the West appears to have no coherent strategy or consistent values at all.
The Western narrative sees Russia struggling to implement democratic reforms and trying to be a team player with the West after it crawled out of the wreckage of the USSR in the early 1990s, but gradually beginning to backslide. In this view, after Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000, Russia embarked on a full-scale revival of Soviet rhetoric and ways.

The Russians say that as the cold war wound down and the Soviet Union crumbled two decades ago, they had been assured by US leaders that military blocs would be abolished and a "new world order" would take shape — in much the same way the end of World War II inspired world leaders to envisage a whole new architecture of global security, including the United Nations and other key global institutions. But instead, Western leaders read the cold war's end as a triumph for their side, and proceeded to isolate Russia and push their own institutions, particularly NATO, into the former Soviet sphere.
"Lord knows, we tried," to join with the Western world, says Sergei Karaganov, honorary chair of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policies, one of Russia's most prestigious political think tanks.
"Unfortunately, the consensus of most of our elite today is that Russia was fooled, betrayed, and sidelined. Now we don't regard the West as an enemy, but it's lost its magnetism, its former aura of infallibility, for us. We can work with it on various issues, but we're not going to be trusting, as we were in those early post-Soviet days.... We have very different interests. In terms of economics, geopolitics and culture Russia is located elsewhere. We are coming to better understand who we are."
The "wrong turn at the cold war's end" theme is a core staple of Russian diplomacy, but is seldom given a sympathetic hearing in the West. At the annual Munich Security Conference this month, Lavrov indicated that Russia believes it's not too late to wind down cold war vestiges like NATO and design a modern system that would include Russia as an equal player.
"We consider such a narrow-bloc (NATO) approach to be of no avail.... It is hardly applicable to building politics in today's global world, when we share the threats," Lavrov said. "It is time to take a broad and comprehensive look at the whole complex of relations in Euro-Atlantic region and try to define approaches and the remaining discrepancies between us, including with regard to conflict situations in other parts of the world that influence our mutual security."
Russia, a country with a revolutionary history that most Russians now regard as a curse, tends to take a sour view of revolutionary enthusiasms wherever they may break out. Many Russian experts add that Mr. Putin has constructed a version of the classic Russian state — centralized, militarized, and increasingly authoritarian, but lacking in social roots and electoral legitimacy — which could make it vulnerable to the same fate that overtook czarist Russia and the USSR in the past century.
Moscow was deeply shocked when pro-Western and democratic revolutions broke out in a string of post-Soviet republics in the past decade and two of the new regimes, Ukraine and Georgia, applied to be put on a fast-track to NATO membership. Georgia launched a military assault to retrieve a Moscow-backed breakaway territory, leading to a brief war with Russia in 2008.
Russian leaders see these events as foreign-inspired, and possibly foreign-financed. When protesters hit the streets of Moscow to complain of fraudulent Duma elections in December 2011, Putin immediately blamed Hillary Clinton for "giving the signal."
"Russia, on principle, doesn't want the US intervening at will around the world. It opposes regime changes that are backed from abroad," says Dmitri Trenin, director of the Moscow Carnegie Center.
When the Arab Spring broke out, the Kremlin took a dim view of its prospects. After then-President Dmitri Medvedev was persuaded to abstain on a Security Council resolution allowing NATO to intervene in Libya "to protect civilian lives," his then-prime minister, Putin, publicly opposed the decision.
The Russians now say they were "deceived again," because NATO immediately employed the resolution as a mandate to give Libyan rebels full air support in their ultimately successful bid to overthrow dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
People in the West sometimes see Moscow's stubborn refusal to accept any unified international action to ease out Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad, even after a two year revolt that has killed more than 60,000 people, as a case of Putin choosing to side with a fellow dictator, or perhaps just a defense of Russia's $5 billion in arms contracts with Syria and other material interests.
But Russian experts argue the Kremlin is far more concerned about its own seething north Caucasus region, where an Islamist insurgency has been simmering for years and sometimes projecting bloody terrorist strikes into downtown Moscow itself.
"The Arab Spring is seen as Islamization by Russian leaders, and when it becomes violent the more extreme, radical elements are likely to dominate," says Mr. Trenin.
"They view Syria as a violent generator of jihadism that can break open and spill instability around the wider region — even to our own north Caucasus. If the rebels win, they see Syria mutating intoAfghanistan-on-the-Mediterranean, and it profoundly worries them," he adds.
Moscow's suave and articulate foreign minister, Mr. Lavrov, has honed this skepticism into a style that increasingly wins points for Russian diplomacy. He has a knack for deftly skewering what he sees as Western "double standards" — such as accusing Russia of doing things the US is arguably just as guilty of — and of having a naive enthusiasm for exporting democratic revolutions to places where they inevitably backfire.
Over the past year he has slammed the US for its longtime support for Middle Eastern dictators, as in Egypt, only to flip into a capricious embrace of revolutionary masses in the streets. He's scolded that the West's support for rebels who overthrew Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi merely led to better-armed and enabled Islamist militants, who are now destabilizing the wider region. He warns that arming anti-regime fighters in Syria might lead to far more deadly blowback.
Since Putin returned to the Kremlin for a third term as president, Russian domestic politics have taken a hard turn to the right. Many experts argue that Putin is embracing the prejudices of Russia's deeply conservative, Orthodox majority in order to marginalize the increasingly vocal urban middle class, who have been the backbone of the anti-Kremlin protest movement.
Anti-American rhetoric polls well in Russia's working-class heartland, and Putin has deployed it with increasing emphasis beginning with his election campaign a year ago.
New Russian laws to limit protests, curb Internet freedoms, crack down on foreign-funded nongovernmental organizations and drive gay people out of the public sphere have shocked the Western public and escalated the diplomatic chill over larger strategic differences.
Many in the West viewed the imprisonment of two members of the Pussy Riot performance art group last summer, over an offense that boiled down to blasphemy, as a sign that Russia has ceased even trying to be a modern, secular state.
But some Russian foreign policymakers say they're sick and tired of being lectured to by the West about how to arrange their own affairs, and angry about "intrusions" like the US Magnitsky Act, which levels visa and economic sanctions against Russian officials deemed to have committed serious human rights violations.
"The Magnitsky Act is an example of pure double standards," says Alexei Pushkov, chair of the State Duma's international affairs committee.
"Why single out Russia? They know if they made it universal, they'd have to extend it to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, China, and so on. They don't want to deal with that.... We're willing to engage in civilized rivalry with the US, but what we see is this fervent desire to make us over into the Russia they want. It's curious that they accept China pretty much as it is, but not us," he says.
"The USSR was a country that wanted to export its values all over the world, and we all remember how well that went down in Washington. Russia no longer tries to export its values, but we do insist on our right to choose our own path. We don't tell the West they shouldn't be liberal societies that accept gay marriage and so on, we just don't want it exported here...."
"We're at a very different stage. The Russia the West wants us to be is not the Russia the majority of our population wants. This is a more conservative place, and this is the Russia you get."

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