Russia’s UN Ambassador Goes Berserk at Security Council meeting on Syria’s Chemical Bombs

As the Washington Post headline accurately puts it:

‘Don’t you look away from me!’: How a Russian diplomat’s tirade broke U.N. tradition

Russian diplomat Vladimir Safronkov’s speech on the floor of the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday was unusual. Accusing the British of blocking political efforts to end the Syrian conflict, the Russian deputy envoy to the United Nations suddenly wagged a finger at Matthew Rycroft, Britain’s permanent representative to the United Nations, and said: “Look at me! Don’t you look away from me! Why are you looking away?”

“Don’t you dare insult Russia again,” he added later. . . .

Safronkov’s tone, not just what he said but how he said it, turned heads. Even RT, the state-funded Russian media network, called the harangue an “extraordinary attack on his British counterpart, using some decidedly undiplomatic language.” –Washington Post

ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . International Focus today on Friday, February 3

Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
Linked articles in bold purple

 Nikki Haley, new US ambassador to United Nations: blunt talk to Russia over Ukraine (CNN)

The United States continues to condemn and call for an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea.

Crimea is a part of Ukraine. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control over the peninsula to Ukraine. –Amb. Nikki Haley

Comment: There is zero chance that the Putin regime will pull out of Crimea and slim-to-none that any successor regime would.

Here’s my interpretation: The sanctions stay until Putin gives up something significant to Trump. My assumption here is that Trump is transactional and ready to bargain, but he will never give up anything without full compensation. Same for Tillerson. Big difference from Obama and Kerry. 

 “Decline, Not Collapse: The Bleak Prospects for Russia’s Economy” Important new paper from the Carnegie Foundation’s Moscow Center

Russia faces bleak economic prospects for the next few years. It may be a case of managed decline in which the government appeases social and political demands by tapping the big reserves it accumulated during the boom years with oil and gas exports. But there is also a smaller possibility of a more serious economic breakdown or collapse. –Andrey Movchan at Carnegie’s Moscow Center

 UK Prime Minister Theresa May strongly supports NATO. Now, she will press Europeans to contribute more (BBC)

Britain’s strategic ambition to act as a bridge between Europe and the United States long predates Brexit, but it has now become a central component of the government’s hopes of keeping and building influence in the world.

But pressing for higher defence spending looks like a tough ask.

And her hopes of becoming a bridge – or honest broker – between the EU and the US won’t be easily fulfilled either. –BBC

 Comment: This bridge needs building, but it cannot be built from the middle pier. It must have a strong anchor in Washington and buy-in, literally, from European nations that have been paying too little.

 Wall Street Journal reports that Trump Administration will sanction 25 Iranian entities for its missile test and provocations by regional proxies

Comment: Washington’s simple message to Iran’s mullahs: “Under New Management”


The Free Market. It’s like Uber, But for Everything.” –Robert Tracinski


 Sarah Silverman goes off the rails, calls for a military coup. She does it on Twitter. Perfect for a bird-brain idea

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ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Tuesday, January 31

Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
Linked articles in bold purple

 United Nations will hold urgent meeting, requested by US, to deal with Iran’s test of medium-range missile (AP)

Iran is the subject of a United Nations Security Council resolution prohibiting tests of ballistic missiles designed to deliver a nuclear warhead. As part of the 2015 nuclear deal, the U.N. ban was prolonged by eight years, although Iran has flaunted the restriction. …

Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, condemned Iran for the missile test.

“No longer will Iran be given a pass for its repeated ballistic missile violations, continued support of terrorism, human rights abuses and other hostile activities that threaten international peace and security,” Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, said in a written statement.

Comment: During the campaign, Trump promised to get tough on Iran and, at the very least, make them adhere to the nuclear agreement they signed. This will be his first test of that promise, and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s debut in her new post. They face two problems. First, the agreement is multilateral and the other parties to it want to do business with Iran, not force them to live up to the agreement. Second, Pres. Obama and John Kerry negotiated a deal that front-loaded Iran’s benefits, significantly undercutting US leverage going forward. Obama and Kerry, master negotiators and strategists, paid full sticker price plus a heft tip for that “little beauty of a used car.”

Still, I expect Trump and his national security team to pursue a hard line and signal America’s nervous allies in the region that Obama is well and truly gone.

 Facebook is pulling every string to get back into China . . . and failing (Wall Street Journal)

Since regulators blocked the service in 2009, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has hired well-connected executives, developed censorship tools and taken a ‘smog jog’ in Beijing—but the company has made no visible headway.

And as time passes, Facebook is watching from the outside as Chinese social-media giants mop up the market that might have been its own.  –WSJ

Comment: Remember when China’s leader, Xi, told the World Economic Forum at Davos that he was a free-trading globalist?

That wasn’t spin. It was straight-out deceit.

 Good tech news: Honda, GM partner to develop next-generation hydrogen fuel cells for cars  The companies will also partner in building fueling stations. Production will begin in three years and could have military, aerospace, and residential uses, as well. (Fox News)

Executives said costs have come down dramatically since [2013] and the new fuel cell system has become smaller, lighter, less complex and more durable.

The fuel cell producing part of the system has been reduced to the size of a box that would come close to fitting onto an airplane as carry-on luggage. A first-generation system from GM took up the entire floor space in a van, executives said. –Fox News

 Well, that was fast. Obama criticizes Trump on immigration after less than two weeks’ silence. The Chicago Tribune calls it “a rare move for an ex-President.”

 AP says “US Military Botches Online Fight against Islamic State

Several current and former WebOps employees cited multiple examples of civilian Arabic specialists who have little experience in counter-propaganda, cannot speak Arabic fluently and have so little understanding of Islam they are no match for the Islamic State online recruiters.

It’s hard to establish rapport with a potential terror recruit when — as one former worker told the AP — translators repeatedly mix up the Arabic words for “salad” and “authority.” That’s led to open ridicule on social media about references to the “Palestinian salad.” –Desmond Butler and Richard Larnder for AP

 Competition does wonders: Walmart offers free 2-day shipping to compete with Amazon  (Reuters)

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ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Wednesday, January 25

Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
Linked articles in bold purple

◆ Comment: No university president should ask students to lobby for a law. It is simply inappropriate. But that is exactly what Rutgers University president Robert Barchi did. (Campus Reform)

Further Comment: Rutgers’ Board of Governors should formally reprimand Barchi for this serious misuse of his authority.

Whether the law itself is good or bad is irrelevant. That is why I didn’t mention the substance of the law; all you need to know is that it is politically controversial to know Barchi was seriously wrong. Asking students to engage in a politically-controversial act (as opposed to urging them to vote) oversteps the proper bounds of any university official. To his credit, Barchi said that his request was purely optional. But he should never have made the request at all.

A university president should understand the proper bounds of his or her authority. Requesting students take a specific political position puts the university in a position of backing one view and opposing another. Generally, speaking, the university as an institution should remain neutral so the individual students, faculty, and staff can take any position they wish. If the university does wish to take an institutional position, it should do so but it should never urge students or faculty to support its position.

 Obama and Kerry gave $221 million to Palestinian political groups on his final hours in office (New York Post) Congress had tried to block the transfer, largely because so much of the money is divided between corrupt officials in the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, direct payment to families of terrorists, who are treated as heroic martyrs, and to Hamas itself, which the US has deemed a terrorist organization.

 More obstruction and slow-walking: “Dems Force Trump’s Ed. Nominee to Answer 1,397 Questions in Writing–Obama’s TWO (nominees) had 109, Combined”  (Daily Caller)

Arne Duncan, Pres. Obama’s first Sec. of Ed., had 53 follow-up questions. His successor, John King, Jr., had 56. Trump’s nominee, Betsy DeVos, has been flooded with 25 times as many.

Comment: This “flood the zone” strategy is effectively “lawfare,” in which political opponents use lawsuits and bureaucratic manuevers to tie up their opponents. If you oppose Betsy DeVos, vote against her. Stop playing these destructive, delaying games. They are why the House and Senate have lower popular support than used-car dealers.

 Trump says he will announce his Supreme Court nominee next week. Expect fireworks.

Comment: Trump’s nominee will inevitably be conservative, but there are different flavors that could please (or repel) different segments of the party.  What you can be certain of, in the post-Bork era, is that most Democrats will staunchly oppose.

What we don’t know yet–this will depend on the nominee–is whether some Democrats will support the nomination, perhaps because they are in states Trump carried and facing election themselves soon. Nor do we know if Mitch McConnell will decide to change the rules so the nominee needs 50 votes (plus the Vice-President), rather than 60.

Harry Reid opened the door when he changed the tradition Senate rules, but he did not include the Supreme Court. That exclusion, the Republicans will argue, was arbitrary and, now that Democrats are blocking the nominee, the rules need to change.

With so many elderly Justices, this fight could be repeated going forward, with Trump having a real chance to shape the court for years to come. It was a major issue for many voters, one that helped Trump and hurt Clinton, according to exit polls.

 Nikki Haley, Gov. of South Carolina until recently, confirmed as UN Ambassador with significant Democratic support, partly because she was so frank about where she disagreed with the President who appointed her. (Washington Post)

 Trump expected to sign Executive Orders for a border wall and against sanctuary cities. More on this as the orders emerge.  (Washington Post)

Beijing continues to warn Washington over the South China Sea (Time)

 

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zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Marcia Sukenik Weiss
 for the story on money given to Palestinian Authority
◆ Michael Lipson on Trump’s forthcoming Executive Orders

 

Israeli government sharply critical of Pres. Obama’s role in pushing for UN Resolution against Israel

The Israeli government released a severe rebuke to the Obama Administration, issued by P.M. Netanyahu at the start of a cabinet meeting. The heart of the Israeli statement is this:

From the information that we have, we have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated on the wording and demanded that it be passed. This is, of course, in complete contradiction of the traditional American policy that was committed to not trying to dictate terms for a permanent agreement, like any issue related to them in the Security Council, and, of course, the explicit commitment of President Obama himself, in 2011, to refrain from such steps.  –Statement issued by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at start of Cabinet meeting, Dec. 25, 2016 

The Obama Administration has denied any active involvement in the UN Resolution, but the Israelis have said they have “ironclad” proof to the contrary.

UPDATEThe Ukrainians have now said they were personally lobbied by VP Joe Biden to vote for the anti-Israel resolution. Again, this is directly contrary to what the Obama administration has said publicly. It is interesting for a second reason: the US was apparently pushing other countries to vote against Israel but lacked the political conviction to do anything other than “abstain” itself.

The Washington Post, reflecting on the US move at the United Nations, editorialized that it would inhibit a future people settlement: “The Obama Administration fires a dangerous parting shot“:

It will encourage Palestinians to pursue more international sanctions against Israel rather than seriously consider the concessions necessary for statehood. –Washington Post editorial board

CommentI think the Post’s assessment is correct but I doubt there will be movement toward a peace settlement in the foreseeable future, whatever the US does.

For a superb, thoughtful evaluation of the Obama Administration’s vexed relationship with Israel, see Ron Radosh’s essay at PJ Media. 

I have also written (in this post at ZipDialog) that Pres. Obama’s action will accelerate the movement of traditional Jews away from their historic attachment to the Democratic Party. Other than black voters, Jews are the most reliable ethnic/racial/religious group of Democratic voters. Secular Jews will remain Democrats, but more religious Jews have already shifted significantly and the movement will continue.

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 ♥ Hat tip to Clarice Feldman for the update about Joe Biden’s pressure on Ukraine. You can read “Clarice’s Pieces” every Sunday at the American Thinker blog.

ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Thursday, Oct. 5

Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
Linked articles in bold purple

◆  US Dept. of Justice says police departments are not diverse enough, and they know why. Because, for some odd reason, the police check to see if the applicants are criminals. And, for some crazy reason, they also check to see if they are citizens. Stop it, says DOJ. This is not the Onion. This is your Department of Justice. (Washington Times)

Criminal background checks done as part of police departments’ hiring processes are “likely to disproportionately impact racial minority applicants,” the report states. –-Washington Times

◆  Next head of UN chosen. Antonio Guterres, former PM of Portugal, recently head of UN refugee agency (2005-2015), got the nod from the Permanent 5 members of the Security Council and others. Formal vote on Thursday. (CNN)

◆ Panasonic has developed a TV that, when switched off, looks like a regular, transparent pane of glass. (Mirror, UK) If this follows the pattern of cell phones and other tech, it will cost a fortune this year, be within reach of the middle class in four years, and, a few years after that, be present in low-income homes.

◆ In other technology news . . . a bored tech worker hacked into huge electronic billboard in downtown Jakarta, Indonesia, and streamed porn during rush-hour traffic. (Daily Mail) Made the news-radio traffic report pretty interesting.

◆ Obama Administration came into office condemning Israel settlements beyond the 1967 lines. Total failure. It goes out the same way.  (New York Times)

The Obama administration on Wednesday castigated the Israeli government for approving plans to create a new Jewish settlement on the West Bank, three weeks after it signed a lucrative military aid package with the United States and a week after President Obama traveled to Jerusalem for the funeral of Shimon Peres.  In an uncommonly harsh statement, the State Department “strongly condemned” the move . . .   –Mark Landler, reporting for the NYT

Last week, when Pres. Obama returned to Washington after Peres, the White House issued a statement that the President had attended funeral in Jerusalem, Israel. Later that day, it issued a correction, striking out the word Israel.

◆ EU report chastises British press freedom and specially urges Britain to say less (or nothing at all) about the Muslim background of terrorists. (Mirror, UK)

Never mind that the United Kingdom is a democracy. Never mind that free speech and a free press were hard-won over centuries of struggle. The smug bureaucrats at the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) know better. They don’t mean to do so, but they are proving to all Britons that staying in the EU is incompatible with Anglo-American concepts of freedom.  Quoting from the ECRI’s drivel:

“In this context, it draws attention to a recent study by Teeside University suggesting that where the media stress the Muslim background of perpetrators of terrorist acts, and devote significant coverage to it, the violent backlash against Muslims is likely to be greater than in cases where the perpetrators’ motivation is downplayed or rejected in favour of alternative explanations.”

Despite the creation of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) in 2014 as an independent regulator for newspapers and magazines, the “ECRI strongly recommends that the authorities find a way to establish an independent press regulator according to the recommendations set out in the Leveson Report. It recommends more rigorous training for journalists to ensure better compliance with ethical standards.”

⇒ This is what speech suppression in the name of “social justice” looks like. It looks like that in the EU. It looks like that on college campuses.

◆  More groveling from the good folks in Europe: the EU roadmap for Iran ties ignores its terrorism, anti-Semitism (Times of Israel)

◆ Marijuana legalization is on the ballot in 5 states this November. And it is winning in all five. (Washington Post) Cab Calloway and Willie Nelson are managing the national campaign. And now a little music from Cab, Willie…and Lawrence Welk!

 

And here, ladies and gentlemen, is the (inadvertently) funniest song ever about weed. It’s from the Lawrence Welk Show (yes!!) in the early 1970s, when everybody but the staff of the Lawrence Welk Show as totally baked.  The Welk folks were so unhip they thought “One Toke Over the Line, Sweet Jesus” was a gospel song. And that’s exactly how they played it. It is a hoot.

Here’s old Willie singing the praises of a joint to Merle. (True story: a friend of mine met Willie to do some business a couple of years ago. 8 am. He said that Willie got off his bus, walked into my friend’s office, and was already buzzed.

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zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Gerry Steinberg
for the article on EU roadmap on Iran