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Saturday, 20 June 2015

Bizarre Family Life

Revealed: The bizarre family tree at the heart of an extraordinary court battle over one little girl - involving two lesbian mothers, a gay sperm donor and a transsexual lover now living with a man 

But judge rules said that another effective parent would risk harm 

  • Girl is the biological child of lesbian woman and gay sperm donor
  • They see her occasionally and she lives with mother's lesbian ex
  • The step-mother's former partner, a transsexual, wants contact with girl
  • By Vanessa Allen: 3 June 2015

A transexual man went to court yesterday for the right to contact the child of his former lesbian partner. He brought the civil case despite having no biological connection with the nine-year-old girl.

Identified only as Alice, she was born to two lesbians who used donor sperm from a man also in a same-sex relationship. Family tree: The transsexual partner of a former lesbian lover of a nine-year-old's natural mother has been refused access to see the girl after a judge found that her life was complicated enough



'Complicated': The transsexual partner of a former lesbian lover of a nine-year-old's natural mother has been refused access to see the girl after a judge found that her life was complicated enough.

The couple – known as Rachel and Helen – split up when she was three. Rachel, who was Alice’s natural mother, was sectioned with schizophrenia and Helen entered a relationship with Matthew, the man who has brought the case. When he met Helen he was a woman having treatment to live as a man.

They were together for four years – Alice living with them – and he claims she called him ‘daddy’ and he became her effective stepfather. They split up in 2013 and Matthew has had no contact with Alice, who has been diagnosed with autism, for almost a year. Having completed his gender reassignment, Matthew asked the Family Court to allow him to apply for an order for contact with Alice.

Judge Bellamy was asked to rule on the case of the 'complicated family' with two gay parents, a lesbian step-mother and transsexual 'stepfather'. His request was opposed by both Helen and Rachel, who said Alice had started to call herself Daniel and claim she was a boy while living with Matthew.


Helen was said to be very concerned that he encouraged Alice to wear boys’ clothes and told her to avoid playing with ‘gender appropriate toys’. She told the court in London that Matthew had been ‘controlling and verbally and mentally abusive’ during their relationship, and that his testosterone treatment had made him aggressive. Helen, who suffers from a personality disorder and has limited mobility, said she did not want Alice to stay overnight at the home of Matthew and his new partner, James.

Rachel, who had been Helen’s civil partner, said Alice already had contact with both her mothers and her biological father, the gay sperm donor. In a statement to the court, Rachel, who is now living in the community in supported accommodation, said: ‘It is time to put the dangerous drama of the past behind her once and for all. She must be allowed to simply settle down. She has all that she needs.’
Matthew, who also has psychiatric problems, said Alice knew he used to be a woman but had only known him as a man.

His sex change had been explained to her ‘in an age-appropriate way’, the court was told. Matthew denied that he had encouraged her to call herself Daniel or say she was a boy. He said he had played a central role in helping to raise her. Deputy High Court Judge Clifford Bellamy said Matthew had applied to the court for permission to ask for an order for contact with Alice.

The judge said he accepted that Matthew may have become a ‘social and psychological parent’ to Alice but said his contact application could be ‘potentially damaging’ for an autistic child.
Such an order would require months of psychiatric assessments, social services reports and court hearings and would be stressful for the family, he said. The judge refused Matthew’s contact request, saying: ‘There is a risk of Matthew’s application disrupting Alice’s life to such an extent that she would be harmed by it.

‘Alice’s story is an example of the different ways in which modern family life is formed. Modern family life can be complicated.’ None of the family can be identified for legal reasons and the judge said he had changed the names of everyone involved to protect Alice’s anonymity.

The judge, sitting at the High Court in London, denied the transsexual 'stepfather' should not have contact

Source Daily Mail :-  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3109128/Modern-family-life-complicated-says-judge-case-involving-four-parents.html#ixzz3daXfeYWp 

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Denmark moves closer to a cashless society


by DOUG BOLTON   Thursday 07 May 2015



Denmark has moved one step closer to becoming the world's first cashless society, as the government proposes scrapping the obligation for retailers to accept cash as payment.

The Danish government has said that as of next year, business such as clothing retailers, restaurants and petrol stations should no longer be legally bound to accept cash payments.

The proposal is part of a package of economic growth measures, which are being released ahead of this year's Danish election. It aims to reduce costs and increase productivity for Danish businesses.

Finansrådet, a Danish finance industry lobbying group, says the change would free retailers from the cost of security, and the burden of managing change and notes.
Although it seems like a drastic step, the Danes are already moving away from paper and metal money.

Almost a third of the population uses an official Danske Bank app called MobilePay - it links your mobile to other users' phones or to a sensor at the till, allowing you to confirm payments with a simple swipe on your smartphone's screen.

Similar technologies like Paym are available in the UK, which allows users to transfer money to others by entering their mobile number. Google Wallet turns your phone into a contactless card, allowing you to tap your device against readers to transfer money - however, it is currently only available in the USA.
But both of these technologies are still yet to see the level of adoption that MobilePay has in Denmark.

There are fears that moving to totally cashless payments could increase the risk of fraud - in Sweden, a nation with one of the highest numbers of bank transactions per person in the European Union, cases of card fraud have doubled in the last decade.

However, Danske Bank has taken steps to fight fraud, by linking individuals' MobilePay accounts to their national insurance numbers.
The change would need to be approved in a vote at the Folketing, the Danish parliament, but the timing of the vote has not yet been set.
However, in a country where cashless payments are so common, it looks unlikely that the proposal will face much opposition.
The Nordic countries of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland lead the world in cashless payments - cash payments for even the smallest items, such as a packet of chewing gum, are commonplace.

In 2013, a Swedish bank robber left empty-handed, after he found out that the Stockholm bank he held up did not carry any cash.

Five of Sweden's six big banks now operate cashless branches where possible, and some predict the country could become cashless by 2030.

Source:-

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/denmark-moves-closer-to-a-cashless-society-10231995.html

Monday, 26 January 2015

First UK school specifically for gay and transgender pupils planned

.

A school catering to only lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people could be open within three years. The backers say it would provide a safe haven from discrimination.

The school is to be based in Manchester and will offer 40 full time places, and 20 part time places for students who wish to also attend a mainstream state school. .

According to the school’s founders, the need to open the institution was “about saving lives” and helping vulnerable young people who would be at risk at an ordinary state school. .

“Despite the laws that claim to protect gay people from homophobic bullying, the truth is that in schools especially, bullying is still incredibly common and causes young people to feel isolated and alienated, which often leads to truanting and, in the worst-case scenarios, to suicide,” Amelia Lee, the strategic director for LGBT North West, told the Guardian. .

“This is not about making a little, safe enclave away from the real world: we work with 9,000 mainstream pupils and 1,000 teachers a year to help educate them about homosexuality. In addition, the support this new school will offer to part-time pupils could happen in their mainstream school, if that’s what they want,” she added. .

The school’s development comes as the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and Manchester City Council discuss how it can provide services and support for LGBT young people. .

Last September, 14-year-old Elizabeth Lowe committed suicide in a Manchester park because she was scared of coming out as gay to her parents. .

“We have an education system that sets up 5 percent to 10 percent of pupils to fail through fear and structure, because it routinely fails to recognize and incorporate the needs of young people struggling with their identities. We can either hope every school is going to be inclusive, or we can recognize we are not there yet and so, for the moment, we need more specialized schools,” Lee said. .

While the school will operate as an ordinary state institution, it will also emphasize personal skills and confidence building. The school will be part of Manchester’s Joyce Layland LGBT Centre, which provides support to the LGBT community in the city. .

“We are only too aware of how some schools leave their LGBT and questioning students to flounder and we know the high level of attempted suicides,” she said. “We strongly support this exciting and important venture,” said Sue Saunders, the national chair of Schools Out UK..

A spokesperson for Manchester City Council confirmed talks were taking place to open a dedicated school, as well as expanding services to help LGBT young people..

“One of their development ambitions is around how they might make additional educational support available to LGBT young people. We’ve had an initial discussion with them about that, but there are no current plans that we’re aware of to open a LGBT school in the city,” the spokesperson said. .

http://rt.com/uk/223351-manchester-lgbt-school-plan/">manchester-lgbt-school-plan/

New York powerbroker Sheldon Silver

by Nate Raymond
Thursday 22nd January 2015


Longtime Assembly Speaker is iconic Lower East Side Politician


(Reuteres) —  New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, one of the state’s most powerful politicians for more than two decades, was charged on Thursday with pocketing $4 million from bribery and kickback schemes.


Silver, a Democrat who has served as the highest-ranking state assemblyman since 1994, was accused in a federal criminal complaint in New York, as authorities moved to seize $3.8 million in proceeds tied to the alleged corruption
.
The 70-year-old Silver, a licensed lawyer who represents Manhattan’s Lower East Side, is known as one of Albany’s three most powerful men, alongside Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. He has been a leading voice in years of negotiations over state budgets and key legislation.


The Assembly canceled its Thursday session following Silver’s arrest, less than two weeks after the new legislative session opened.


Silver would lose his seat if convicted of any of five felony counts and faces a maximum of 20 years of prison on each count.


He became the latest addition to a long line of New York politicians implicated in corruption scandals. At least 30 New York politicians have faced legal or ethics charges since 2000.
“As today’s charges make clear, the show-me-the-money culture of Albany has been perpetuated and promoted at the very top of the political food chain,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara told reporters.


At a brief court appearance on Thursday afternoon, a judge released Silver on a $200,000 bond.
Asked for a comment outside the courtroom, he said, “I am confident that after a full hearing and due process I will be vindicated for these charges.”


Despite some calls for Silver’s resignation, Albany Democrats emerged from a private meeting on Thursday to declare their support for him, with Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle saying the members “overwhelmingly” stood behind Silver.


Cuomo has not commented on the arrest, but said in an interview with the New York Daily News that it was “a bad reflection on government,” adding that he didn’t know enough to form a judgment about the case.


Another prominent Democrat, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, said he did not think Silver should step down, citing his “due process rights.”


“In my experience with Shelly Silver, I’ve seen integrity and public service,” de Blasio told reporters, according to a transcript released by his office.


In 2013, Cuomo launched an anticorruption panel called the Moreland Commission to probe wrongdoing in the state’s capital.


But he abruptly shut the commission down in March, drawing criticism from Bharara, whose office took possession of its files to continue any investigations.


The commission’s work was merged with an ongoing federal probe of Silver’s outside income initiated in June 2013, the criminal complaint said.


Silver had long listed New York personal injury firm Weitz & Luxenberg on his financial disclosure forms as a source of income for representing its clients in cases.


But the complaint said over $3 million of his income was for referring asbestos sufferers from a doctor whose research had been secretly provided $500,000 in state funds at Silver’s direction, as well as other benefits.


Prosecutors said Silver also received $700,000 in kickbacks by steering real estate developers with business before the legislature to another law firm, identified by its defense lawyer as Goldberg & Iryami.


“He simply sat back and collected millions of dollars by cashing in on his political office,” Bharara said.


Weitz & Luxenberg in a statement said it had cooperated with the investigation and was “not aware of any improprieties whatsoever.” Michael Ross, a lawyer for Goldberg & Iryami, declined comment on the allegations.


The complaint did not name the doctor but said he had created a mesothelioma research center at a New York university hospital.


Details in the complaint match those of Robert Taub, a professor at Columbia University. In 2011, the assembly passed a resolution, sponsored by Silver, honoring Taub for his contributions to mesothelioma treatment.


A spokesman for Columbia said it had no knowledge of the allegations and will cooperate with the investigation. Taub did not respond to a request for comment.


After surrendering to authorities in lower Manhattan at about 8 a.m., a somber-looking Silver headed to nearby federal court, wearing a dark suit and a black hat, his car mobbed by reporters and photographers.


“It is unfortunate that the prosecutors chose to pursue this as a criminal case,” Silver’s attorney, Steven Molo, said by email. “We intend to vigorously contest the charges and Mr. Silver looks forward to his day in court.”


Silver’s longtime Senate counterpart, Joseph Bruno, was acquitted in May at a retrial on bribery charges.


One of Silver’s predecessors as speaker, Mel Miller, was convicted of corruption in the early 1990s, but the conviction was overturned by a federal appeals court.


Two former state Senate Democratic leaders, John Sampson and Malcolm Smith, are also facing criminal charges.


http://forward.com/articles/213246/new-york-powerbroker-sheldon-silver-charged-with/

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Putin’s speech at the Valdai Club



-[ full transcript]


Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, friends, it is a pleasure to welcome you to the XI meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club.


It was mentioned already that the club has new co-organisers this year. They include Russian non-governmental organisations, expert groups and leading universities. The idea was also raised of broadening the discussions to include not just issues related to Russia itself but also global politics and the economy.

 I hope that these changes in organisation and content will bolster the club’s influence as a leading discussion and expert forum. At the same time, I hope the ‘Valdai spirit’ will remain - this free and open atmosphere and chance to express all manner of very different and frank opinions.

Let me say in this respect that I will also not let you down and will speak directly and frankly. Some of what I say might seem a bit too harsh, but if we do not speak directly and honestly about what we really think, then there is little point in even meeting in this way. It would be better in that case just to keep to diplomatic get-togethers, where no one says anything of real sense and, recalling the words of one famous diplomat, you realise that diplomats have tongues so as not to speak the truth.

We get together for other reasons. We get together so as to talk frankly with each other. We need to be direct and blunt today not so as to trade barbs, but so as to attempt to get to the bottom of what is actually happening in the world, try to understand why the world is becoming less safe and more unpredictable, and why the risks are increasing everywhere around us.

Today’s discussion took place under the theme: New Rules or a Game without Rules. I think that this formula accurately describes the historic turning point we have reached today and the choice we all face. There is nothing new of course in the idea that the world is changing very fast. I know this is something you have spoken about at the discussions today. It is certainly hard not to notice the dramatic transformations in global politics and the economy, public life, and in industry, information and social technologies.

Let me ask you right now to forgive me if I end up repeating what some of the discussion’s participants have already said. It’s practically impossible to avoid. You have already held detailed discussions, but I will set out my point of view. It will coincide with other participants’ views on some points and differ on others.

As we analyse today’s situation, let us not forget history’s lessons. First of all, changes in the world order – and what we are seeing today are events on this scale – have usually been accompanied by if not global war and conflict, then by chains of intensive local-level conflicts. Second, global politics is above all about economic leadership, issues of war and peace, and the humanitarian dimension, including human rights.

The world is full of contradictions today. We need to be frank in asking each other if we have a reliable safety net in place. Sadly, there is no guarantee and no certainty that the current system of global and regional security is able to protect us from upheavals. This system has become seriously weakened, fragmented and deformed. The international and regional political, economic, and cultural cooperation organisations are also going through difficult times.

Yes, many of the mechanisms we have for ensuring the world order were created quite a long time ago now, including and above all in the period immediately following World War II. Let me stress that the solidity of the system created back then rested not only on the balance of power and the rights of the victor countries, but on the fact that this system’s ‘founding fathers’ had respect for each other, did not try to put the squeeze on others, but attempted to reach agreements.

The main thing is that this system needs to develop, and despite its various shortcomings, needs to at least be capable of keeping the world’s current problems within certain limits and regulating the intensity of the natural competition between countries.

It is my conviction that we could not take this mechanism of checks and balances that we built over the last decades, sometimes with such effort and difficulty, and simply tear it apart without building anything in its place. Otherwise we would be left with no instruments other than brute force.

What we needed to do was to carry out a rational reconstruction and adapt it the new realities in the system of international relations.

But the United States, having declared itself the winner of the Cold War, saw no need for this. Instead of establishing a new balance of power, essential for maintaining order and stability, they took steps that threw the system into sharp and deep imbalance.

The Cold War ended, but it did not end with the signing of a peace treaty with clear and transparent agreements on respecting existing rules or creating new rules and standards. This created the impression that the so-called ‘victors’ in the Cold War had decided to pressure events and reshape the world to suit their own needs and interests. If the existing system of international relations, international law and the checks and balances in place got in the way of these aims, this system was declared worthless, outdated and in need of immediate demolition.

Pardon the analogy, but this is the way nouveaux riches behave when they suddenly end up with a great fortune, in this case, in the shape of world leadership and domination. Instead of managing their wealth wisely, for their own benefit too of course, I think they have committed many follies.

We have entered a period of differing interpretations and deliberate silences in world politics. International law has been forced to retreat over and over by the onslaught of legal nihilism. Objectivity and justice have been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. Arbitrary interpretations and biased assessments have replaced legal norms. At the same time, total control of the global mass media has made it possible when desired to portray white as black and black as white.

In a situation where you had domination by one country and its allies, or its satellites rather, the search for global solutions often turned into an attempt to impose their own universal recipes. This group’s ambitions grew so big that they started presenting the policies they put together in their corridors of power as the view of the entire international community. But this is not the case.

The very notion of ‘national sovereignty’ became a relative value for most countries. In essence, what was being proposed was the formula: the greater the loyalty towards the world’s sole power centre, the greater this or that ruling regime’s legitimacy.

We will have a free discussion afterwards and I will be happy to answer your questions and would also like to use my right to ask you questions. Let someone try to disprove the arguments that I just set out during the upcoming discussion.

The measures taken against those who refuse to submit are well-known and have been tried and tested many times. They include use of force, economic and propaganda pressure, meddling in domestic affairs, and appeals to a kind of ‘supra-legal’ legitimacy when they need to justify illegal intervention in this or that conflict or toppling inconvenient regimes. Of late, we have increasing evidence too that outright blackmail has been used with regard to a number of leaders. It is not for nothing that ‘big brother’ is spending billions of dollars on keeping the whole world, including its own closest allies, under surveillance.

Let’s ask ourselves, how comfortable are we with this, how safe are we, how happy living in this world, and how fair and rational has it become? Maybe, we have no real reasons to worry, argue and ask awkward questions? Maybe the United States’ exceptional position and the way they are carrying out their leadership really is a blessing for us all, and their meddling in events all around the world is bringing peace, prosperity, progress, growth and democracy, and we should maybe just relax and enjoy it all?

Let me say that this is not the case, absolutely not the case.

A unilateral diktat and imposing one’s own models produces the opposite result. Instead of settling conflicts it leads to their escalation, instead of sovereign and stable states we see the growing spread of chaos, and instead of democracy there is support for a very dubious public ranging from open neo-fascists to Islamic radicals.

Why do they support such people? They do this because they decide to use them as instruments along the way in achieving their goals but then burn their fingers and recoil. I never cease to be amazed by the way that our partners just keep stepping on the same rake, as we say here in Russia, that is to say, make the same mistake over and over.

They once sponsored Islamic extremist movements to fight the Soviet Union. Those groups got their battle experience in Afghanistan and later gave birth to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. The West if not supported, at least closed its eyes, and, I would say, gave information, political and financial support to international terrorists’ invasion of Russia (we have not forgotten this) and the Central Asian region’s countries. Only after horrific terrorist attacks were committed on US soil itself did the United States wake up to the common threat of terrorism. Let me remind you that we were the first country to support the American people back then, the first to react as friends and partners to the terrible tragedy of September 11.

During my conversations with American and European leaders, I always spoke of the need to fight terrorism together, as a challenge on a global scale. We cannot resign ourselves to and accept this threat, cannot cut it into separate pieces using double standards. Our partners expressed agreement, but a little time passed and we ended up back where we started. First there was the military operation in Iraq, then in Libya, which got pushed to the brink of falling apart. Why was Libya pushed into this situation? Today it is a country in danger of breaking apart and has become a training ground for terrorists.

Only the current Egyptian leadership’s determination and wisdom saved this key Arab country from chaos and having extremists run rampant. In Syria, as in the past, the United States and its allies started directly financing and arming rebels and allowing them to fill their ranks with mercenaries from various countries. Let me ask where do these rebels get their money, arms and military specialists? Where does all this come from? How did the notorious ISIL manage to become such a powerful group, essentially a real armed force?

As for financing sources, today, the money is coming not just from drugs, production of which has increased not just by a few percentage points but many-fold, since the international coalition forces have been present in Afghanistan. You are aware of this. The terrorists are getting money from selling oil too. Oil is produced in territory controlled by the terrorists, who sell it at dumping prices, produce it and transport it. But someone buys this oil, resells it, and makes a profit from it, not thinking about the fact that they are thus financing terrorists who could come sooner or later to their own soil and sow destruction in their own countries.

Where do they get new recruits? In Iraq, after Saddam Hussein was toppled, the state’s institutions, including the army, were left in ruins. We said back then, be very, very careful. You are driving people out into the street, and what will they do there? Don’t forget (rightfully or not) that they were in the leadership of a large regional power, and what are you now turning them into?

What was the result? Tens of thousands of soldiers, officers and former Baath Party activists were turned out into the streets and today have joined the rebels’ ranks. Perhaps this is what explains why the Islamic State group has turned out so effective? In military terms, it is acting very effectively and has some very professional people. Russia warned repeatedly about the dangers of unilateral military actions, intervening in sovereign states’ affairs, and flirting with extremists and radicals. We insisted on having the groups fighting the central Syrian government, above all the Islamic State, included on the lists of terrorist organisations. But did we see any results? We appealed in vain.

We sometimes get the impression that our colleagues and friends are constantly fighting the consequences of their own policies, throw all their effort into addressing the risks they themselves have created, and pay an ever-greater price.

Colleagues, this period of unipolar domination has convincingly demonstrated that having only one power centre does not make global processes more manageable. On the contrary, this kind of unstable construction has shown its inability to fight the real threats such as regional conflicts, terrorism, drug trafficking, religious fanaticism, chauvinism and neo-Nazism. At the same time, it has opened the road wide for inflated national pride, manipulating public opinion and letting the strong bully and suppress the weak.

Essentially, the unipolar world is simply a means of justifying dictatorship over people and countries. The unipolar world turned out too uncomfortable, heavy and unmanageable a burden even for the self-proclaimed leader. Comments along this line were made here just before and I fully agree with this. This is why we see attempts at this new historic stage to recreate a semblance of a quasi-bipolar world as a convenient model for perpetuating American leadership. It does not matter who takes the place of the centre of evil in American propaganda, the USSR’s old place as the main adversary. It could be Iran, as a country seeking to acquire nuclear technology, China, as the world’s biggest economy, or Russia, as a nuclear superpower.

 Today, we are seeing new efforts to fragment the world, draw new dividing lines, put together coalitions not built for something but directed against someone, anyone, create the image of an enemy as was the case during the Cold War years, and obtain the right to this leadership, or diktat if you wish. The situation was presented this way during the Cold War. We all understand this and know this. The United States always told its allies: “We have a common enemy, a terrible foe, the centre of evil, and we are defending you, our allies, from this foe, and so we have the right to order you around, force you to sacrifice your political and economic interests and pay your share of the costs for this collective defence, but we will be the ones in charge of it all of course.” In short, we see today attempts in a new and changing world to reproduce the familiar models of global management, and all this so as to guarantee their [the US’] exceptional position and reap political and economic dividends.

But these attempts are increasingly divorced from reality and are in contradiction with the world’s diversity. Steps of this kind inevitably create confrontation and countermeasures and have the opposite effect to the hoped-for goals. We see what happens when politics rashly starts meddling in the economy and the logic of rational decisions gives way to the logic of confrontation that only hurt one’s own economic positions and interests, including national business interests.

Joint economic projects and mutual investment objectively bring countries closer together and help to smooth out current problems in relations between states. But today, the global business community faces unprecedented pressure from Western governments. What business, economic expediency and pragmatism can we speak of when we hear slogans such as “the homeland is in danger”, “the free world is under threat”, and “democracy is in jeopardy”? And so everyone needs to mobilise. That is what a real mobilisation policy looks like.

Sanctions are already undermining the foundations of world trade, the WTO rules and the principle of inviolability of private property. They are dealing a blow to liberal model of globalisation based on markets, freedom and competition, which, let me note, is a model that has primarily benefited precisely the Western countries. And now they risk losing trust as the leaders of globalisation. We have to ask ourselves, why was this necessary? After all, the United States’ prosperity rests in large part on the trust of investors and foreign holders of dollars and US securities. This trust is clearly being undermined and signs of disappointment in the fruits of globalisation are visible now in many countries.

The well-known Cyprus precedent and the politically motivated sanctions have only strengthened the trend towards seeking to bolster economic and financial sovereignty and countries’ or their regional groups’ desire to find ways of protecting themselves from the risks of outside pressure. We already see that more and more countries are looking for ways to become less dependent on the dollar and are setting up alternative financial and payments systems and reserve currencies. I think that our American friends are quite simply cutting the branch they are sitting on. You cannot mix politics and the economy, but this is what is happening now. I have always thought and still think today that politically motivated sanctions were a mistake that will harm everyone, but I am sure that we will come back to this subject later.

We know how these decisions were taken and who was applying the pressure. But let me stress that Russia is not going to get all worked up, get offended or come begging at anyone’s door. Russia is a self-sufficient country. We will work within the foreign economic environment that has taken shape, develop domestic production and technology and act more decisively to carry out transformation. Pressure from outside, as has been the case on past occasions, will only consolidate our society, keep us alert and make us concentrate on our main development goals.

Of course the sanctions are a hindrance. They are trying to hurt us through these sanctions, block our development and push us into political, economic and cultural isolation, force us into backwardness in other words. But let me say yet again that the world is a very different place today. We have no intention of shutting ourselves off from anyone and choosing some kind of closed development road, trying to live in autarky. We are always open to dialogue, including on normalising our economic and political relations. We are counting here on the pragmatic approach and position of business communities in the leading countries.

Some are saying today that Russia is supposedly turning its back on Europe - such words were probably spoken already here too during the discussions - and is looking for new business partners, above all in Asia. Let me say that this is absolutely not the case. Our active policy in the Asian-Pacific region began not just yesterday and not in response to sanctions, but is a policy that we have been following for a good many years now. Like many other countries, including Western countries, we saw that Asia is playing an ever greater role in the world, in the economy and in politics, and there is simply no way we can afford to overlook these developments.

Let me say again that everyone is doing this, and we will do so to, all the more so as a large part of our country is geographically in Asia. Why should we not make use of our competitive advantages in this area? It would be extremely shortsighted not to do so.

Developing economic ties with these countries and carrying out joint integration projects also creates big incentives for our domestic development. Today’s demographic, economic and cultural trends all suggest that dependence on a sole superpower will objectively decrease. This is something that European and American experts have been talking and writing about too.

Perhaps developments in global politics will mirror the developments we are seeing in the global economy, namely, intensive competition for specific niches and frequent change of leaders in specific areas. This is entirely possible.

There is no doubt that humanitarian factors such as education, science, healthcare and culture are playing a greater role in global competition. This also has a big impact on international relations, including because this ‘soft power’ resource will depend to a great extent on real achievements in developing human capital rather than on sophisticated propaganda tricks.

At the same time, the formation of a so-called polycentric world (I would also like to draw attention to this, colleagues) in and of itself does not improve stability; in fact, it is more likely to be the opposite. The goal of reaching global equilibrium is turning into a fairly difficult puzzle, an equation with many unknowns.

So, what is in store for us if we choose not to live by the rules – even if they may be strict and inconvenient – but rather live without any rules at all? And that scenario is entirely possible; we cannot rule it out, given the tensions in the global situation. Many predictions can already be made, taking into account current trends, and unfortunately, they are not optimistic. If we do not create a clear system of mutual commitments and agreements, if we do not build the mechanisms for managing and resolving crisis situations, the symptoms of global anarchy will inevitably grow.

Today, we already see a sharp increase in the likelihood of a whole set of violent conflicts with either direct or indirect participation by the world’s major powers. And the risk factors include not just traditional multinational conflicts, but also the internal instability in separate states, especially when we talk about nations located at the intersections of major states’ geopolitical interests, or on the border of cultural, historical, and economic civilizational continents.

Ukraine, which I’m sure was discussed at length and which we will discuss some more, is one of the example of such sorts of conflicts that affect international power balance, and I think it will certainly not be the last. From here emanates the next real threat of destroying the current system of arms control agreements. And this dangerous process was launched by the United States of America when it unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, and then set about and continues today to actively pursue the creation of its global missile defence system.

 Colleagues, friends, I want to point out that we did not start this. Once again, we are sliding into the times when, instead of the balance of interests and mutual guarantees, it is fear and the balance of mutual destruction that prevent nations from engaging in direct conflict. In absence of legal and political instruments, arms are once again becoming the focal point of the global agenda; they are used wherever and however, without any UN Security Council sanctions. And if the Security Council refuses to produce such decisions, then it is immediately declared to be an outdated and ineffective instrument.

Many states do not see any other ways of ensuring their sovereignty but to obtain their own bombs. This is extremely dangerous. We insist on continuing talks; we are not only in favour of talks, but insist on continuing talks to reduce nuclear arsenals. The less nuclear weapons we have in the world, the better. And we are ready for the most serious, concrete discussions on nuclear disarmament – but only serious discussions without any double standards.

What do I mean? Today, many types of high-precision weaponry are already close to mass-destruction weapons in terms of their capabilities, and in the event of full renunciation of nuclear weapons or radical reduction of nuclear potential, nations that are leaders in creating and producing high-precision systems will have a clear military advantage. Strategic parity will be disrupted, and this is likely to bring destabilization. The use of a so-called first global pre-emptive strike may become tempting. In short, the risks do not decrease, but intensify.

The next obvious threat is the further escalation of ethnic, religious, and social conflicts. Such conflicts are dangerous not only as such, but also because they create zones of anarchy, lawlessness, and chaos around them, places that are comfortable for terrorists and criminals, where piracy, human trafficking, and drug trafficking flourish.

Incidentally, at the time, our colleagues tried to somehow manage these processes, use regional conflicts and design ‘colour revolutions’ to suit their interests, but the genie escaped the bottle. It looks like the controlled chaos theory fathers themselves do not know what to do with it; there is disarray in their ranks.

We closely follow the discussions by both the ruling elite and the expert community. It is enough to look at the headlines of the Western press over the last year. The same people are called fighters for democracy, and then Islamists; first they write about revolutions and then call them riots and upheavals. The result is obvious: the further expansion of global chaos.

Colleagues, given the global situation, it is time to start agreeing on fundamental things. This is incredibly important and necessary; this is much better than going back to our own corners. The more we all face common problems, the more we find ourselves in the same boat, so to speak. And the logical way out is in cooperation between nations, societies, in finding collective answers to increasing challenges, and in joint risk management. Granted, some of our partners, for some reason, remember this only when it suits their interests.

Practical experience shows that joint answers to challenges are not always a panacea; and we need to understand this. Moreover, in most cases, they are hard to reach; it is not easy to overcome the differences in national interests, the subjectivity of different approaches, particularly when it comes to nations with different cultural and historical traditions. But nevertheless, we have examples when, having common goals and acting based on the same criteria, together we achieved real success.

Let me remind you about solving the problem of chemical weapons in Syria, and the substantive dialogue on the Iranian nuclear programme, as well as our work on North Korean issues, which also has some positive results. Why can’t we use this experience in the future to solve local and global challenges?

What could be the legal, political, and economic basis for a new world order that would allow for stability and security, while encouraging healthy competition, not allowing the formation of new monopolies that hinder development? It is unlikely that someone could provide absolutely exhaustive, ready-made solutions right now. We will need extensive work with participation by a wide range of governments, global businesses, civil society, and such expert platforms as ours.

However, it is obvious that success and real results are only possible if key participants in international affairs can agree on harmonising basic interests, on reasonable self-restraint, and set the example of positive and responsible leadership. We must clearly identify where unilateral actions end and we need to apply multilateral mechanisms, and as part of improving the effectiveness of international law, we must resolve the dilemma between the actions by international community to ensure security and human rights and the principle of national sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of any state.

Those very collisions increasingly lead to arbitrary external interference in complex internal processes, and time and again, they provoke dangerous conflicts between leading global players. The issue of maintaining sovereignty becomes almost paramount in maintaining and strengthening global stability.

Clearly, discussing the criteria for the use of external force is extremely difficult; it is practically impossible to separate it from the interests of particular nations. However, it is far more dangerous when there are no agreements that are clear to everyone, when no clear conditions are set for necessary and legal interference.

I will add that international relations must be based on international law, which itself should rest on moral principles such as justice, equality and truth. Perhaps most important is respect for one’s partners and their interests. This is an obvious formula, but simply following it could radically change the global situation.

I am certain that if there is a will, we can restore the effectiveness of the international and regional institutions system. We do not even need to build anything anew, from the scratch; this is not a “greenfield,” especially since the institutions created after World War II are quite universal and can be given modern substance, adequate to manage the current situation.

This is true of improving the work of the UN, whose central role is irreplaceable, as well as the OSCE, which, over the course of 40 years, has proven to be a necessary mechanism for ensuring security and cooperation in the Euro-Atlantic region. I must say that even now, in trying to resolve the crisis in southeast Ukraine, the OSCE is playing a very positive role.

In light of the fundamental changes in the international environment, the increase in uncontrollability and various threats, we need a new global consensus of responsible forces. It’s not about some local deals or a division of spheres of influence in the spirit of classic diplomacy, or somebody’s complete global domination. I think that we need a new version of interdependence. We should not be afraid of it. On the contrary, this is a good instrument for harmonising positions.

This is particularly relevant given the strengthening and growth of certain regions on the planet, which process objectively requires institutionalisation of such new poles, creating powerful regional organisations and developing rules for their interaction. Cooperation between these centres would seriously add to the stability of global security, policy and economy. But in order to establish such a dialogue, we need to proceed from the assumption that all regional centres and integration projects forming around them need to have equal rights to development, so that they can complement each other and nobody can force them into conflict or opposition artificially. Such destructive actions would break down ties between states, and the states themselves would be subjected to extreme hardship, or perhaps even total destruction.

I would like to remind you of the last year’s events. We have told our American and European partners that hasty backstage decisions, for example, on Ukraine’s association with the EU, are fraught with serious risks to the economy. We didn’t even say anything about politics; we spoke only about the economy, saying that such steps, made without any prior arrangements, touch on the interests of many other nations, including Russia as Ukraine’s main trade partner, and that a wide discussion of the issues is necessary. Incidentally, in this regard, I will remind you that, for example, the talks on Russia’s accession to the WTO lasted 19 years. This was very difficult work, and a certain consensus was reached.

Why am I bringing this up? Because in implementing Ukraine’s association project, our partners would come to us with their goods and services through the back gate, so to speak, and we did not agree to this, nobody asked us about this. We had discussions on all topics related to Ukraine’s association with the EU, persistent discussions, but I want to stress that this was done in an entirely civilised manner, indicating possible problems, showing the obvious reasoning and arguments. Nobody wanted to listen to us and nobody wanted to talk. They simply told us: this is none of your business, point, end of discussion. Instead of a comprehensive but – I stress – civilised dialogue, it all came down to a government overthrow; they plunged the country into chaos, into economic and social collapse, into a civil war with enormous casualties.

Why? When I ask my colleagues why, they no longer have an answer; nobody says anything. That’s it. Everyone’s at a loss, saying it just turned out that way. Those actions should not have been encouraged – it wouldn’t have worked. After all (I already spoke about this), former Ukrainian President Yanukovych signed everything, agreed with everything. Why do it? What was the point? What is this, a civilised way of solving problems? Apparently, those who constantly throw together new ‘colour revolutions’ consider themselves ‘brilliant artists’ and simply cannot stop.

I am certain that the work of integrated associations, the cooperation of regional structures, should be built on a transparent, clear basis; the Eurasian Economic Union’s formation process is a good example of such transparency. The states that are parties to this project informed their partners of their plans in advance, specifying the parameters of our association, the principles of its work, which fully correspond with the World Trade Organisation rules.

I will add that we would also have welcomed the start of a concrete dialogue between the Eurasian and European Union. Incidentally, they have almost completely refused us this as well, and it is also unclear why – what is so scary about it?

And, of course, with such joint work, we would think that we need to engage in dialogue (I spoke about this many times and heard agreement from many of our western partners, at least in Europe) on the need to create a common space for economic and humanitarian cooperation stretching all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.

Colleagues, Russia made its choice. Our priorities are further improving our democratic and open economy institutions, accelerated internal development, taking into account all the positive modern trends in the world, and consolidating society based on traditional values and patriotism.

We have an integration-oriented, positive, peaceful agenda; we are working actively with our colleagues in the Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, BRICS and other partners. This agenda is aimed at developing ties between governments, not dissociating. We are not planning to cobble together any blocs or get involved in an exchange of blows.

The allegations and statements that Russia is trying to establish some sort of empire, encroaching on the sovereignty of its neighbours, are groundless. Russia does not need any kind of special, exclusive place in the world – I want to emphasise this. While respecting the interests of others, we simply want for our own interests to be taken into account and for our position to be respected.

We are well aware that the world has entered an era of changes and global transformations, when we all need a particular degree of caution, the ability to avoid thoughtless steps. In the years after the Cold War, participants in global politics lost these qualities somewhat. Now, we need to remember them. Otherwise, hopes for a peaceful, stable development will be a dangerous illusion, while today’s turmoil will simply serve as a prelude to the collapse of world order.

Yes, of course, I have already said that building a more stable world order is a difficult task. We are talking about long and hard work. We were able to develop rules for interaction after World War II, and we were able to reach an agreement in Helsinki in the 1970s. Our common duty is to resolve this fundamental challenge at this new stage of development.

Thank you very much for your attention.

 

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Web giants unite to fight online hate



By Marcus Dysch, September 23, 2014

Internet giants Twitter, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have pledged to work harder to tackle online hatred after agreeing a deal with a leading antisemitism watchdog.

The companies endorsed a series of pledges on Monday following talks in California with the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism.

Described by one insider as a "game-changing" development, the agreement will see the companies increase efforts to stop the proliferation of racist and abusive comments on their sites.

The technology firms are all members of the ICCA's working group on cyber hate. The Anti-Defamation League is a co-convenor of the group. The taskforce has been leading collaborative efforts with politicians, lawyers and the business world to force racism and hatred from the web.

Under the agreement, the companies have committed to introduce more user-friendly reporting systems, and will respond quicker to allegations of abuse. They will also enforce tougher sanctions against those who post abusive messages.

More work will now take place between the companies to develop further ideas on tackling online hate speech and create educational materials.

An ICCA spokeswoman in London said: "This is very significant. It's the first time solutions have been found. If we have the big players then the others will follow. It's not too much to say it's a game-changer."

British members of the working group travelled to Los Angeles last week to strike the deal. Labour MP John Mann joined Superintendent Paul Giannasi, of the Ministry of Justice's Hate Crime Unit, and Mike Whine of the Community Security Trust, in California.

Mr Mann, ICAA chair, said: "We welcome this development and will continue to work with the industry, governments and parliaments to implement these best practices and work against the spread of hatred on the internet."

Mr Whine said: "The internet has facilitated and encouraged the spread of hate speech. The impact is of mounting concern to governments, their criminal justice agencies and civil society alike.

"These new agreed best practices are a significant step forward. They follow five meetings in Silicon Valley which CST helped prepare and facilitate."

Source: Jewish Chronicle Online

http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/123231/web-giants-unite-%EF%AC%81ght-online-hate

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No prizes for guessing who the real haters are [Ed]. This lot are never satisfied! {Ed]

Friday, 12 September 2014

Lebanon envoy withdraws in protest at Israel remarks


Daily Star (Lebanon) - Thursday 11th September 2014

BEIRUT: U.S. Senator Ted Cruz was booed offstage during a dinner for the Middle East's Christian conference in Washington D.C., with his pro-Zionists comments causing many Lebanese figures to withdraw in anger, including the Lebanese ambassador to the U.S.


“Christians have no greater ally than Israel,” Sen. Ted Cruz said, addressing a crowd of Arab Christian figures at a fundraising dinner for the non-profit organization ‘In Defense of Christians’ in Washington D.C.

Billed as a keynote speaker at the event, Cruz switched the topic from defending Christians in the Middle East against terrorism, to the need to form an alliance between Christians and Jews, which he identified as “people of good faith”.

“Tonight, we are all united in defense of Christians. Tonight, we are all united in defense of Jews,” he said. “Together, against those who would persecute and murder those who dare disagree with their religious teachings.”

As part of the controversial speech that led to the withdrawal of Ambassador Antoine Chedid, Cruz evoked the old argument that whoever disliked the state of Israel was anti-Semitic and did not follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.

“Those who hate Israel hate America,” he said, while crowd began to turn against him. “Those who hate Jews hate Christians. If those in this room will not recognize that, then my heart weeps.

“If you hate the Jewish people you are not reflecting the teachings of Christ,” he added, addressing an audience representing the Christian churches of the Middle East, including Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai.

The republican senator from Texas, who was a member of George W. Bush’s electoral campaign in 1999, also used the podium to equate fundamentalist groups massacring Christians in Iraq and Syria, to Palestinian and Lebanese groups fighting Israel.

“Religious bigotry is a cancer with many manifestations,” he said. “ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, state sponsors like Syria and Iran, are all engaged in a vicious genocidal campaign to destroy religious minorities in the Middle East.”

Criticizing those who he said “try to parse different manifestations of [one] evil,” Cruz argued about the similarities of the mentioned groups, seemingly ignoring the varied battlefields, history, context and at times aggressive enmity between many of them.

“Sometimes we are told not to loop these groups together,” he added, “...that we have to understand their so called nuances and differences.”

“But hate is hate, and murder is murder,” he said. “Our purpose here tonight is to highlight a terrible injustice, a humanitarian crisis.”

Cruz’s comments on the region were too extreme for the audience, and provoked a round of cries that firmly asked him to leave.

“Stop it, stop it, enough,” and “Out, out, leave the stage!” were some of the shouts aimed at the senator, which prompted IDC’s president, Toufic Baaklini, to join Cruz on stage and ask the crowd to listen.

After failing in attempts to be heard, the senator announced “if you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you. Good night and God bless,” before walking off the stage, with some carrying on the shouts and others applauding his departure.

In addition to Chedid’s protest, media reports said that Future Movement MPs Jean Ogassapian, Atef Majdalani and former MP Ghattas Khoury all withdrew from the conference.

The reports said that while Patriarch Gregory III Laham had also intended to withdraw, Patriarch Rai called on the participants to avoid the tension and prioritize the conference’s success over some individual statements.

Source Daily Star:

 http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2014/Sep-11/270331-us-senator-booed-offstage-at-the-me-christian-conference.ashx#axzz3D5pnPc9z