Watch “Scarlett Johansson – Trust in Me (Lyrics) Video 2016 From -The Jungle Book Song” on YouTube

BBC News: California hit by ‘bombogenesis’, biggest storm in years

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California hit by ‘bombogenesis’, biggest storm in years –

Today’s Holiday:Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri

Today’s Holiday:
Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri

Hadaka Matsuri means, literally, “naked festival”. The young men who participate are naked except for traditional white loincloths known as fundoshi. Sometimes the participants in Hadaka Matsuri immerse themselves in a river beforehand to purify themselves. Occasionally several semi-naked young men will carry a mikoshi, or portable shrine, in the form of a horse, rice bale, or sake barrel into the river with them.:

Today’s Birthday:Yoko Ono (1933)

Today’s Birthday:
Yoko Ono (1933)

Ono is a Japanese artist, musician, author, and peace activist best known for her marriage to John Lennon of the Beatles. She was raised in Japan and the US, where she started exploring conceptual and performance art. A member of the Fluxus movement, Ono developed a reputation as an avant-garde filmmaker, conceptual artist, performance artist, and experimental musician. Her 1964 Cut Piece, a commentary on identity, gender issues, suffering, and loneliness, invited the audience to do what?:

This Day in History:Race Car Driver Dale Earnhardt Dies in Daytona 500 Crash (2001)

This Day in History:
Race Car Driver Dale Earnhardt Dies in Daytona 500 Crash (2001)

Earnhardt was a seven-time champion and one of NASCAR’s most successful drivers when he was killed at the 2001 Daytona 500 race. In the final lap, his car veered abruptly down the track and made contact with two others before hitting a concrete retaining wall head-on at about 160 mph (258 km/h). He was killed instantly. In the wake of the tragedy, NASCAR launched an intensive safety campaign and the Florida Legislature passed the Earnhardt Family Protection Act changing what laws?:

Quote of the Day:Henry Fielding

Quote of the Day:
Henry Fielding

I never reasoned on what I should do, but what I had done; as if my Reason had her eyes behind, and could only see backwards.:

Article of the Day:Star Clusters

Article of the Day:
Star Clusters

A star cluster is a group of related stars usually held together by gravity. Globular clusters are densely packed groups of hundreds of thousands of very old stars. Open clusters are smaller, scattered groups of younger stars. Until recently, astronomers wrestled with a great cosmological mystery: according to theories of stellar evolution, it appeared that some globular clusters were actually older than the universe itself. How was this paradox resolved?:

Word of the Day:disputant

Word of the Day:

Definition: (noun) One engaged in a dispute.
Synonyms: eristic, controversialist
Usage: Other tribes of the new federation took sides with the original disputants or set up petty revolutions of their own.:

Watch “The Jungle Book – I wanna be like you w/lyrics” on YouTube

BBC News: Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong arrested in South Korea

I saw this on the BBC and thought you should see it:

Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong arrested in South Korea –

BBC News: Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine attack prompts Pakistan security crackdown

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Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine attack prompts Pakistan security crackdown –

France 24 : Could Trump unite the divided countries of Latin America?

Could Trump unite the divided countries of Latin America?

Due to President Donald Trump’s protectionist politics, Latin American countries are rallying together. In fact, the USA’s hostility could lead to an historic reconciliation between the region’s key organisations, the Pacific Alliance and Mercosur.

Trump’s win in the United States sparked unprecedented outrage in Latin America. 

As the new American president introduces aggressive policies on immigration and tradetargetting Mexico, Latin American countries have expressed solidarity with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Nieto publicly thanked Latin American governments on 14 February for their support in the increasingly bitter war of words with Trump. 

As early as January 25, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa publicly stated his support for Nieto when he said, “the solution to stopping immigration isn’t walls or borders.”

The Argentinian and Brazilian presidents, Mauricio Macri and Michel Temer, voiced their support on February 6th, by stating that the South American free trade bloc Mercosur would further strengthen its ties to Mexico. 

According to the Colombian daily El Espectador, Uruguay, Bolivia and Chile have also sent similar signals.

Reconciliation and free trade 

The Trump issue and the apparent US mistreatment of their Mexican neighbour could lead to a landmark reconciliation between two competing Latin American organisations. 
Currently the countries of Latin America are split between the Mercosur (or Mercosul) and Pacific Alliance organisations. Mercosur, formed in 1991, includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela (current suspended), as well as five associate members. The Pacific Alliance consists of four countries: Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

Historically, the two organisations are rivals. 

As Olivia Ronsain, a specialist in international relations and economics, remarked in a note on Diploweb, the two organisations are built on different models: “We believe that the Pacific Alliance is destined to become, in the short-term, a free trade zone, since it has eliminated 92% of customs barriers,” she explained. “The Alliance aims to evolve into a common market… Unlike Mercosur, the Pacific Alliance is not meant to be a customs union since it will not set up a common external tariff.”

Meanwhile, Mercosur was founded in the 1990s at the instigation of the progressive governments of Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela. Mercosur has a political purpose beyond economic and customs integration, making it more similar to the European Union, if on a smaller scale.

The situation has changed in recent years: 2015 saw the end of Cristina Kirchner’s time in office in Argentina and the beginning of the presidency of Mauricio Macri. In Brazil, Dilma Rousseff was removed from power in 2016 and Michel Temer took over the presidency. The two new leaders are much more open to liberalism and free trade than their predecessors, and therefore much more open to a practical mutually beneficial relationship with the Pacific Alliance.

Macri took a step in this direction last year when he attended the Pacific Alliance’s annual meeting as an observer. His presence sent a clear and unambiguous signal.

Opposing Trump with economic unity

The leaders of Argentina and Chile, Mauricio Macri and Michelle Bachelet are, respectively, currently the temporary presidents of Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance, and they are determined to use their positions to bring the two organisations closer together. That closeness could eventually lead to a merger.

The election of Trump may well accelerate the process.

Indeed, on February 12, the foreign ministers of Argentina and Chile announced a large-scale meeting of the ministers of both organisations in April “to deal with the protectionist pressures” from the United States. 

“We want to signal our willingness to move towards more openness, integration and investment,” said Heraldo Muñoz, the Chilean foreign minister.

However, any potential merger is still far off. 

The next few months will be decisive, and the merger may well not happen, as the approaches of the two organisations differ. Chile, for example, has already signed nearly 180 bilateral free trade agreements: how could these existing treaties be made compatible with more closed economies, such as those of Mercosur members Brazil and Argentina?

Saving the Transpacific Partnership Agreement

Trump’s protectionism also seriously undermines the Transpacific Partnership Agreement, even though the USA was originally the driving force. 

The free-trade treaty aimed to remove tariffs between the Pacific countries, bringing together Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, the United States, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. But on February 26, 2017 President Trump announced the unilateral withdrawal of the US from the agreement, in adherence to one of his campaign promises.

The US withdrawal could mean the death of the treaty, but Chile, as president of the Pacific Alliance, wants to ensure its future. Chile has called for an extraordinary meeting of the 12 members, to be held on March 14-15 March. China and South Korea have also been invited to the meeting, as their economies stand to be affected if the treaty comes into force.

The objective is to provide new markets for Latin American products.

According to the Peruvian newspaper La Prensa, the logic is simple: in the face of the closure of the US market to Latin American exports, the countries of the Pacific Alliance and Mercosur now want to look in other directions, such as Europe and the emerging economies of Asia.

France 24 : US ‘Day Without Immigrants’ to protest Trump’s policies

US ‘Day Without Immigrants’ to protest Trump’s policies

US ‘Day Without Immigrants’ to protest Trump’s policies

US ‘Day Without Immigrants’ to protest Trump’s policies

Organizers in cities across the United States have asked immigrants to skip school, work, and desist from shopping on Thursday to demonstrate the crucial role they play in the American economy and way of life.

Actions to mark “A Day Without Immigrants” are unfolding in cities including Philadelphia, Washington, Boston, Houston, Chicago and New York. The protest gained momentum onsocial media and by word of mouth. Organizers expect thousands of people to participate or show solidarity with workers.

The nationwide event is a response to the policies of US President Donald Trump, whose month-old administration has pledged to increase the deportation of immigrants living in the country illegally. Trump campaigned on building a wall along America’s southern border with Mexico and blamed high unemployment on immigration. As president, he has called for a ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries from coming into the US.

Some of the US capital’s finest restaurants are putting their money where their mouths are: shutting down for a day to protest President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant policies.

“For one single day on a weekday, we must come together and unite in absolute resistance in order to reject the system dictating the launch from dehumanization and blatant oppression of those that are not straight, white, natural-born citizens,” reads the social media call to action.

The shutdown aims to show the world “how crucial we are to the basic fundamentals of the United States’ economy,” according to a Facebook post.

The initiative kicked off recently without a central organizer, staying under the radar until some high-profile restaurants in Washington announced their participation, helping the movement gain momentum.

Eateries in New York and Philadelphia have also said they will participate in the one-day protest.

Washington-based José Andrés — an immigrant from Spain who became an award-winning celebrity chef and built a restaurant empire — said on Twitter he is closing five of his establishments to show support for workers.

Doors at one of his restaurants, China Chilcano, remain open to customers, giving employees who do not wish to protest the option to work, his management said.

Some restaurant owners said their employees would be paid, while other workers would take the day off. Andrés did not specify what the case would be at his restaurants.

Andrés is in a legal battle with Trump that came after the chef pulled out of plans to open a restaurant in the real estate mogul’s Washington hotel. Andrés cited the Republican’s anti-immigrant comments on the campaign trail as his reason for backing out.

Undocumented immigrants made up about nine percent of employees in the hotel and restaurant industry in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center.

In Massachusetts, the Davis Museum at Wellesley College said that through February 21 it would remove or shroud all the museum’s artwork created or donated by immigrants.

In New Mexico, the state with the largest percentage of Hispanic residents in the nation, school officials worried that hundreds of students would stay home on Thursday.

“We respectfully ask all parents to acknowledge that students need to be in class every day to benefit from the education they are guaranteed and to avoid falling behind in school and life,” principals with the Albuquerque Public Schools wrote in a letter to parents.

Students who take part in the protest will receive an unexcused absence, Albuquerque school officials said.

Organizers in Philadelphia said they expect hundreds of workers and families to participate.

“Our goal is to highlight the need for Philadelphia to expand policies that stop criminalizing communities of color,” said Erika Almiron, executive director of Juntos, a nonprofit group that works with the Latino immigrant community. “What would happen if massive raids did happen? What would the city look like?”

The call to boycott comes after last week’s series of immigration raids that rounded up some 680 people — three-quarters of them with a criminal record — for expulsion.

The raids stirred worries in immigrant communities but were not out of line with similar actions carried out under former President Barack Obama.

At least 11 million people are living in the US illegally.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

BBC News: Trump launches stinging attack on media

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Trump launches stinging attack on media –

BBC News: Zuckerberg: my Facebook manifesto to re-boot globalisation

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Zuckerberg: my Facebook manifesto to re-boot globalisation –

BBC News: Trump relaxes US policy on Middle East two-state solution

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Trump relaxes US policy on Middle East two-state solution –

France 24 : ‘Hold off’ on settlements, Trump tells Netanyahu

‘Hold off’ on settlements, Trump tells Netanyahu

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday asked Israel’s prime minister to “hold off” on building settlements on land the Palestinians claim for their future state, yet held back from explicitly endorsing a future Palestinian state.

After weeks of dancing around the issue of expanded Israeli settlements, Trump made the request to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint news conference at the White House preceding their private discussions. It is Netanyahu’s first trip to Washington since Trump became president.

Speaking at a joint news conference, Trump vowed to work toward a peace deal between Israel and Palestinians but said it would require compromise on both sides and it would be up to the parties themselves ultimately to reach an agreement.

“I’d like to see you pull back on settlements for a little bit,” Trump told Netanyahu. The right-wing Israeli leader later insisted that Jewish settlements were “not the core of the 
conflict” and made no commitment to reduce settlement building.

While Trump’s call echoed that of past US presidents, who’ve considered Israeli housing construction in east Jerusalem and the West Bank an obstacle to a Mideast peace deal, the American leader broke with his predecessors on the idea of a two-state agreement. While such an accord may have once appeared to be the “easier of the two” options, Trump said he’d be open to alternatives if the two sides propose something better.

But the US leader offered no details or clarifications of his position. Giving a convoluted response to a question on whether he backed a two-state solution, he suggested that he could abide by whatever the two parties decided.

“I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like,” he said.

No clarity on moving US Embassy to Jerusalem

Setting a congenial tone for the visit, Trump greeted Netanyahu earlier Wednesday on a red carpet rolled out to the White House driveway. The two leaders smiled, shook hands and chatted amiably before heading inside the executive mansion, accompanied by US First Lady Melania Trump and Netanyahu’s wife, Sara.

The two leaders were to discuss peace efforts as well as Iran and Trump’s campaign pledge to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Relocating the embassy would signal American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a move that would infuriate the Palestinians. They claim the eastern sector of the city, captured by Israel in the 1967 war, as their capital.

Trump said Wednesday he’d like to see the embassy moved but that he is studying the issue closely.

American presidents have struck a delicate balance in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, stressing the close US friendship with Israel and lavishing the Jewish state with bountiful aid. But recent presidents have also called out Israel for actions seen as undermining peace efforts, such as expanding settlements.

On Tuesday, a senior White House official told the Associated Press that Trump is eager to begin facilitating a peace deal between the two sides and hopes to bring them together soon.

It will be up to the Israelis and Palestinians to determine what peace will entail, said the official, who was not authorised to publicly discuss the leaders’ session before it took place and spoke on condition of anonymity. Peace, not a two-state solution, is the goal, the official said.

State Department officials said they were not aware of any policy shift on the desirability of an agreement establishing an independent Palestine side-by-side with Israel – long the bedrock of US policy in the region.

Three officials said the department was seeking clarification from the White House’s comments, which came as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was having dinner with Netanyahu on Tuesday. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. 


My Duck Today 

My Duck today

My Chakra today no.1 

My Chakra today no.1

Happy Valentine’s Day from Joshua Tree National Park!

Happy Valentine’s Day from Joshua Tree National Park!

Happy Valentine’s Day from Joshua Tree National Park!
[NPS Photo/Lacy Ditto; a small cactus paddle that resembles a heart and 5 unopened blossoms grown from a larger cactus paddle]


Tilman RiemenschneiderMary in Mourning, 1505Sculpture, woodMainfränkisches Museum, Wurzburg

Another sweet shot for Valentine’s Day: a pair of Maroon-bellied Parakeets. (Photo by Glenn Bartley Nature Photography)

Another sweet shot for Valentine’s Day: a pair of Maroon-bellied Parakeets. (Photo by Glenn Bartley Nature Photography)

Today’s Holiday:Lupercalia

Today’s Holiday:

This was an ancient Roman festival during which worshippers gathered at a grotto on the Palatine Hill in Rome called the Lupercal. The sacrifice of goats and dogs to the Roman deities Lupercus and Faunus was part of the ceremony. Luperci (priests of Lupercus) dressed in goatskins and, smeared with the sacrificial blood, would run about striking women with thongs of goat skin. This was thought to assure them of fertility and an easy delivery. The name for these thongs—februa—meant “means of purification” and eventually gave the month of February its name.:

Today’s Birthday:Susan Brownell Anthony (1820)

Today’s Birthday:
Susan Brownell Anthony (1820)

Anthony was a pioneer in the US women’s suffrage movement. The daughter of an abolitionist, she was well-educated and campaigned tirelessly for abolition and suffrage, attempting to secure laws to protect women’s rights. In 1869, she and fellow suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton formed the National Woman Suffrage Association. She helped edit a history of the movement and purchased copies for American and European universities. In 1872, she was arrested days after doing what?:

This Day in History:Decimal Day (1971)

This Day in History:
Decimal Day (1971)

Financial calculations using the old currency of the UK were complicated, as one pound was made up of 240 pence or 20 shillings, a shilling was equal to 12 pence, and the half-crown was worth two shillings and sixpence. After considering decimalization for over a century, Parliament passed the Decimal Currency Act in 1969. The pound was to be divided into 100 “new pence,” and a massive publicity campaign was launched in the weeks leading up to Decimal Day. How did people react to the change?:

Quote of the Day:Ambrose Bierce

Quote of the Day:
Ambrose Bierce

In matters of thought and conduct, to be independent is to be abnormal, to be abnormal is to be detested.:

Article of the Day:The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel

Article of the Day:
The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel

Michel was a German woman who died in 1976 while undergoing exorcism treatments for demonic possession. She began suffering from seizures and depression when she was 16, the symptoms of which were not eased by conventional medical treatment. Convinced her condition was the result of demonic possession, Michel began a series of hour-long exorcism sessions that lasted nearly a year and ended with her death. Why were her parents and the priests who performed the exorcisms convicted of manslaughter?:

Word of the Day:jamboree

Word of the Day:

Definition: (noun) A noisy celebration.
Synonyms: gala, blowout
Usage: Mary could not bear to miss the party and begged her mother for permission to attend the jamboree.:

From Kristen Ritter: BONFIRE is a dark and twisted suspense novel and it’s coming out this November. 

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT! Thrilled to announce that my first novel will be released in November! It’s a major passion project of mine and I’ve been working on it for a very long time. It’s been torture keeping it a secret! 

BONFIRE is a dark and twisted suspense novel and it’s coming out this November. I am so proud of it and can’t WAIT for you to read it. Stay tuned for lots more info, teasers, giveaways and more… #BonfiretheBook @paperlanternlit @crownpublishing

France 24 : White House voices doubts over two-state solution ahead of Netanyahu meeting

White House voices doubts over two-state solution ahead of Netanyahu meeting

The Trump administration suggested Tuesday that peace between the Israelis and Palestinians may not come in the form of a two-state solution — a position that could represent a dramatic shift from Barack Obama, who said he saw no alternative.

Speaking to reporters ahead of PresidentDonald Trump‘s meeting Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a senior White House official said Trump is eager to begin facilitating a peace deal between the two sides and hoping to bring them together soon.

But the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the meeting beforehand, said it will be up to the Israelis and Palestinians to determine what peace will entail — and that peace, not a two-state solution, is the goal.

For decades, the U.S. position has been that Israelis and Palestinians must work through direct negotiations to establish two states living side by side, with Palestinians to ultimately create an independent state. All serious peace negotiations in that have time have assumed that the two-state solution was the basis for future peace.

State Department officials expressed surprise at the comments and said Tuesday they were not aware of any policy shift on the desirability of a two-state solution. Three officials said the department was seeking clarification from the White House comments, which came as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was having dinner with Netanyahu. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

During his final White House news conference, Obama warned that the moment for a two-state solution “may be passing” and said the “status quo is unsustainable.”

It was not clear if the White House had intended to declare a major shift in policy during the hastily arranged briefing Tuesday night.

Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with Trump at the White House Wednesday. The two leaders will hold a joint press conference before convening for meetings and a working lunch. The prime minister will then head to Capitol Hill for meetings with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Trump takes pride in his deal-making skills and said during his campaign that he’d love the challenge of negotiating a Mideast agreement. He has appointed his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to lead the effort.

The official said the visit was meant to mark a new, closer relationship between Israel and the United States, which grew strained during the Obama years.

Trump and Netanyahu are likely to discuss peace efforts as well as expanded Israeli settlements, Iran and Trump’s campaign pledge to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The latter would signal U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a move that would infuriate Palestinians. They claim the eastern sector of the city, captured by Israel in 1967, as their capital.

American presidents have long struck a delicate balance addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, stressing the close U.S. friendship and lavishing the Jewish state with aid. But recent presidents also have tried to negotiate, and they have called out Israel for actions seen as undermining peace efforts, such as expanding settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Trump told The Associated Press during his campaign that he wanted to be “very neutral” and try to get both sides together. But his tone became decidedly more pro-Israel as the campaign progressed. He has spoken disparagingly of Palestinians, saying they have been “taken over” by or are condoning militant groups. Some of his top aides challenge the legitimacy of Palestinian demands for a state.

After repeatedly clashing with Obama for eight years, capped by a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements, Netanyahu seemed relieved by Trump’s arrival. Trump slammed the U.S. decision to abstain from the U.N. vote, saying in December that Israel is being treated “very, very unfairly.”

Now in office, however, Trump has been forced to reevaluate and revisit his position on a number of issues — including those relating to Israel.

After initially greeting Israel’s settlement announcements with a shrug, Trump appears to be having second thoughts. In an interview with a pro-Netanyahu Israeli daily Friday, Trump said, “I am not somebody that believes that going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace.”

While the meeting is expected to be much warmer than Netanyahu’s famously tense encounters with Obama, the Israeli leader will still need to tread with caution on sensitive issues like Israeli settlement construction, Iran and the war in Syria.

In dealing with such a divisive president, Netanyahu will also face some potential pitfalls. Key constituencies, including congressional Democrats and many American Jews, oppose Trump’s policies, while at home Netanyahu is under pressure from his hard-line allies to push for policies that Trump may not support.

“Netanyahu seeks to shift the discussion in the U.S.-Israel relationship away from settlements and peace and back to Iran so that he can put off the difficult political decisions that would roil his coalition and put his rule in jeopardy,” said Yousef Munayyer, a political analyst and executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

“The challenge to Netanyahu is domestic,” Munayyer added. “He spent so much time arguing that Obama was the problem that now that we are in the post-Obama era, his right-wing coalition partners want to exploit the moment and take huge steps that would further isolate Israel, trigger international condemnation from other corners, and potentially destabilize the land and Israeli politics.”

Ahead of the visit, Netanyahu said he would handle ties with the U.S. in a “prudent manner,” but he steered clear of specifics.

The Israeli prime minister is also scheduled to have breakfast Thursday with Vice President Mike Pence before departing back to Israel.


France 24 : French air force deploys eagles to intercept drones

French air force deploys eagles to intercept drones

The French army is using birds of prey to take down drones to protect its air bases as well as to secure public airspace in case a drone poses a threat.

Eagles were first used by the Dutch police force to intercept drones used by criminals andterrorists. Inspired by this success, the French military began training eagles for military programmes.

The pilot programme started last spring at Mont de Marsan air base in southwestern France with a team of four raptors – three females and one male. They are taught from a very young age until they become fully-trained at around 8 months, when they reach full maturity. The eagles used in France are bred using artificial insemination since eagles are a protected species and harvesting wild eggs is strictly forbidden.

Part of the training involves familiarising the eagles with the sight of drones. Even before they hatch, the eagles are surrounded by drones so they become part of their natural environment. Eventually they are taught to associate drones with being fed.

“A drone means food for these birds,” Gerald Machoukow, the military base’s falconer, told FRANCE 24’s Fanny Allard. “Now they automatically go after them.”

The falconers also try to reproduce the conditions under which a bird will chase its prey. Since they normally begin a hunt by swooping down from a great height, these eagles are trained to take off from rooftops or man-made towers.

Criminal drones

The drones being targeted are small, weighing less than 2kg, and are readily available on the commercial market. Nevertheless, their use in sensitive zones – including during demonstrations and around airports – has led to accidents that prompted France and other countries to introduce restrictions on unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.

Furthermore, these battery-powered drones can be used for criminal purposes – they are large enough to contain an explosive charge, carry a camera to make illegal recordings, or smuggle weapons or mobile phones into a prison. A radioactive drone once landed on the roof of the Japanese prime minister’s office.

The use of off-the-shelf drones carrying makeshift bombs has also become more common in war zones. Last October, an Islamic State group drone packed with explosiveskilled Kurdish fighters and injured a member of the French special forces.

According to the squadron commander of France’s aviation safety service, eagles are very reliable in stopping drones. “Just as a soldier with a gun can sometimes miss a target, eagles can also miss their targets – but it’s rare,” he said.

Animal welfare concerns

Royal eagles, which can hunt prey up to 25kg – the size of a deer – are often used by the programme due to their strength.

In the Netherlands, the use of eagles in police work sparked animal welfare concerns among falconers. When eagles intercept a drone, a pressure of 250kg per square centimetre is exerted on their claws.

Dutch police told the NRC daily newspaper that their eagles have so far not suffered any problems from intercepting small drones, but that larger drones may damage their claws. Eagles in the French programme wear kevlar and leather claw coverings as a protective measure.

The programme has been successful enough that the French air force has decided to expand the team with four more eagles by the summer. The first official report on the programme will be released in June.

France 24 : NATO is ‘bedrock’ for US, says Trump’s defence chief

NATO is ‘bedrock’ for US, says Trump’s defence chief

New Pentagon chief James Mattis said Wednesday that NATO was a “fundamental bedrock” for the United States as he tried to reassure allies concerned about President Donald Trump’s commitment.

“The alliance remains a fundamental bedrock for the United States and for all the transatlantic community, bonded as we are together,” Mattis said as he met his counterparts in Brussels for the first time.

“And as President Trump has stated, he has strong support for NATO,” added the former marine general, who has himself previously served with the alliance.

“I am here to listen to my fellow ministers, to have an open conversation among friends and allies, about where we’re going and our shared level of commitment.”

That message, delivered as Mattis stood alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, comes amid mixed signals from Trump and as chaos swirls in Washington. The Pentagon chief made no references to the abrupt forced resignation Monday of Michael Flynn, the US national security adviser, over his pre-inauguration discussions with Russia, and what the change may mean for US policy toward Moscow.

“I haven’t changed what I’m heading there for,” Mattis told reporters traveling with him to the NATO gathering. “It doesn’t change my message at all.”

The allies’ interest and concern about the latest furor in Washington was evident early on as officials crowded around televisions at the NATO meeting to watch Mattis’ initial appearance with Stoltenberg. Ministers immediately clustered around the retired Marine general as he entered the meeting room.

In public statements, however, NATO leaders brushed aside questions about the turmoil in Washington.

Stoltenberg said he has spoken to Trump twice on the phone, and has gotten the same reassurance from Mattis and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

“They have all conveyed the same message to me as they have conveyed to other leaders in NATO countries, and that is that the United States will stay committed to the trans-Atlantic partnership,” Stoltenberg said.

Nevertheless, Mattis also urged that “all who benefit from the best defense in the world carry their proportionate share of the necessary cost to defend freedom.” The US wants allies to increase their military funding to the benchmark goal of 2 percent of gross domestic product. Some NATO members have been slowly moving toward that.

He also was expected to press for greater assistance, including additional trainers, in the military campaigns in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

During his Senate confirmation hearing last month, Mattis said he wanted the US to “maintain the strongest possible relationship with NATO.”

Trump has criticised NATO as “obsolete,” repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and threatened that the US might not defend allies that don’t fulfill their financial obligations as NATO members. This discourse has clearly alarmed European leaders – particularly those in the east – who are looking for some clarity from Mattis.

Such comments are playing into fears that Trump will ease US sanctions imposed on Moscow after it annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014 and supported an insurgency in eastern Ukraine. Another concern is decreased US military support for Eastern European allies near Russia’s border who worry about possibly being the next target for an increasingly confident Putin.

PM May says Trump ‘100 percent’ behind NATO

In recent weeks, Trump’s public statements on NATO have softened somewhat.

After meeting Trump, British Prime MinisterTheresa May told reporters that he assured her he was “100 percent” behind NATO. A joint statement issued after Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke by telephone said the two agreed on the “fundamental importance that the NATO alliance has for trans-Atlantic relations” and the need for all members to pay their fair share. Trump made similar comments in a call with French President Francois Hollande.

Only four countries other than the US — Britain, Estonia, Greece and Poland — are meeting NATO’s 2 percent spending target. Many are increasing their budgets in response to Russia’s actions.

Still, the US spends more on its armed forces than all the others combined. Washington also pays more than 22 percent of NATO’s commonly funded budget.

The US also would like to see an increased NATO commitment in Afghanistan, where forces have been fighting the Taliban since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Washington wants more trainers in Afghanistan, where about 8,400 American troops are still deployed.

There also will be discussions about how to accelerate the newer, US-led campaign to defeat the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. 

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)

eastern screech owl 

eastern screech owl

eastern screech owl 

Watch “Nat King Cole – Happy New Year” on YouTube

Nat King Cole – Happy New Year Lyrics

happy new year

the snow makes teardrops on my window
the wind blows memories through my hall
and I am all alone on new year’s eve
the time i need you most of all

the gay ones don their silly paper hats
and blow their stupid little h*rns
at midnight they will all be singing,? auld lang syne?
but the sad ones sit alone before the fire and sip a gl*ss of lonely wine

i wish you a happy new year darling
may your new love be bright and fair
i hope, he’ll do those special things for you
that i would do if i were there

i love the days we spent together
before the old year lost its shine
i’ll keep that memory locked within my heart
that happy new year, you were mine

BBC News: Theresa May ‘looking forward’ to Trump state visit

I saw this on the BBC and thought you should see it:

Theresa May ‘looking forward’ to Trump state visit –

Lucrezia di Medicis , BRONZINO

Lucrezia di Medicis , BRONZINO

El rapto de Europa. Vladimir Fokanov

El rapto de Europa. Vladimir Fokanov

Frida Kahlo, Letter

Frida Kahlo, Letter

Iartă-mi toate banalitățile pe care ți le scriu, dar eu cred că în iubire nu există lucruri deștepte sau banalități. Iubirea e ca un parfum, ca o furtună, ca o ploaie. Știi, cerule al meu, ploaia ta se scurge peste mine, și eu, ca pământul, ți-o primesc.

Frida Kahlo

France 24 : US blacklists Venezuela’s vice president for drug trafficking

US blacklists Venezuela’s vice president for drug trafficking

The United States blacklisted Venezuela’s Vice President Tareck El Aissami for drug trafficking, the first crackdown by the Trump administration against a top official in President Nicolas Maduro’s government for money laundering and the drug trade.

The U.S. Department of Treasury said it designated El Aissami for sanctions under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. His associate, Samark Jose Lopez Bello, was targeted for providing material assistance and financial support for El Aissami’s activities, Treasury said in a statement.

Treasury also targeted 13 companies owned or controlled by Lopez Bello or other parties that comprise an international network spanning the British Virgin Islands, Panama, Britain, the United States and Venezuela.

“El Aissami facilitated shipments of narcotics from Venezuela, to include control over planes that leave from a Venezuelan airbase, as well as control of drug routes through the ports of Venezuela,” a senior U.S. administration official told a conference call with reporters.

The Treasury Department said El Aissami oversaw or partially owned narcotics shipments of more than 1,000 kilograms from Venezuela on multiple occasions, including shipments to Mexico and the United States.

Another U.S. administration official estimated the value of property blocked in Miami was worth “tens of millions of dollars.”

Another official suggested the value of the property seized was not commensurate with the salary of a public official.

U.S. officials called Lopez Bello a “key frontman” used by El Aissami to handle financial matters and purchase assets.

The Venezuelan government did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Maduro frequently accuses U.S. officials of trying to smear his administration.

U.S. officials denied that Monday’s designations had anything to do with El Aissami’s prominent political role. He is a former minister of interior and of justice.

“The designation is a result of a years long investigation of narcotics trafficking by OFAC. The designation is not aimed at Venezuela or any specific sectors of the Venezuelan economy,” the senior official said.

As a result of these actions, Americans are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions or otherwise dealing with individuals and entities, and any assets they have under U.S. jurisdiction are frozen.

Decision praised by lawmakers

The move is a departure from the so-called “soft landing” approach taken by former president Barack Obama’s White House, which at times had clashed with efforts by the U.S. Justice Department and Drug Enforcement Agency, working with informants in Venezuela to nab influential government officials for money laundering and drug trafficking.

Since 2015, the Obama administration had sought to use behind-the-scenes diplomacy to ease acrimony with Caracas and the fallout of a string of U.S. drug indictments against Venezuelan officials, such as Nestor Reverol, the head of Venezuela’s National Guard.

Senior administration officials declined to say whether President Donald Trump had personally signed off on the sanctions or whether he was involved in the decision.

Typical drug trafficking designations would not normally rise to the level of the president for approval, but the blacklisting of a top government official of another country is far more sensitive than typical designations.

The sanctions are the first test of how the rocky relationship between the ideological foes evolves under Trump. The unpopular Venezuelan president has so far treaded carefully with Trump.

While he blasted the Republican as a “thief” and “bandit” during the U.S. election campaign, Maduro later cooled his rhetoric and said Trump deserved to be given a chance and in any case “won’t be worse than Obama”.

El Aissami, whom local media report is of Syrian and Lebanese extraction, grew up poor in the Andean state of Merida and went on to study law and criminology.

He has been both a lawmaker and a state governor for the ruling Socialist Party before being tapped vice-president last month.

Venezuelan opposition groups have long accused El Aissami of repressing dissent, participating in drug trafficking rings, and supporting Middle East groups such as Hezbollah.

Thirty-four Republican and Democratic members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives sent a letter to Trump on Feb. 8 urging him to act against Venezuelan officials.

Their letter referred to El Aissami, noting that his recent appointment as executive vice president put him in line to become Venezuela’s next leader.

That, they said, “is extremely troubling given his alleged ties to drug trafficking and terrorist organizations.”

In a joint statement Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat, called Monday’s move “long overdue” and praised the Trump administration for “acting quickly and decisively” against the Maduro government.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio said in a statement he hoped Monday’s designations were “only the beginning” of a move to pressure the Venezuelan government to stop illicit activities and free political prisoners amid its crackdown on the opposition.



Omul trebuie să trăiască, nu să existe.Jack LondonO seară luminoasă, plină de grație, frumusețe, odihnă și iubire!

BBC News: Mexico steps up help for citizens in US after Trump win

I saw this on the BBC and thought you should see it:

Mexico steps up help for citizens in US after Trump win –

BBC News: Mexico warns citizens in US after woman deported

I saw this on the BBC and thought you should see it:

Mexico warns citizens in US after woman deported –

Lumina tricolorului. Protestul din 12 februarie 2017. București, Piața Victoriei. Foto: Octav Dragan

Lumina tricolorului. Protestul din 12 februarie 2017. București, Piața Victoriei. Foto: Octav Dragan

The branch of hope

The branch of hope

My Chakra today 

My Chakra today

France 24 : Romanian anti-government protests enter twelfth day

Romanian anti-government protests enter twelfth day

Thousands of protesters braved the cold to march in Romania’s main cities on Saturday, angered by government attempts to water down anti-corruption laws.

In the capital Bucharest, where a major rally is planned for Sunday, around 3,000 people gathered at the seat of government despite sub-zero temperatures.

“We are resisting, we aren’t going away” yelled the protesters, who are calling for the left-leaning Social Democrat government, which only took power in December, to stand down

Another 8,000 people took part in protests in the rest of the country, according to the national Agerpres news agency.

These included 3,000 in Timisoara, in the west, and around 2,500 at protests in towns of Cluj and Sibiu.

Saturday’s demonstrations, the 12th consecutive day of protests against the government, took place despite the administration backing down over a planned controversial decree which would have made abuse of power a crime punishable by jail only if the sums involved exceeded 200,000 lei (44,000 euros, $47,500).

The demonstrations, the largest since the ousting and summary execution of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989, have also continued despite the resignation on Thursday of justice minister Florin Iordache.

Romania joined the European Union in 2007 and Brussels has long taken Bucharest to task over slow progress dealing with corruption and organised crime.

The country has intensified the fight against corruption in recent years with the creation of a prosecutor attached to the DNA anti-corruption agency, which has become one of the most popular government agencies following the conviction of several ministers and senior officials.

Graft watchdog Transparency International ranked Romania below all but three of its fellow EU states in a January report based on public perception of the prevalence of corruption. Worldwide, the country ranked 57th.

A counter-demonstration in support of the government also took place in Bucharest on Saturday, but mustered only a few hundred people in front of the presidential palace.


My Chakra today 

My Chakra today 

My pot with flowers today 

My pot with flowers today

France 24 : Coalition strike targets top IS group recruiter Kassim

Coalition strike targets top IS group recruiter Kassim

French jihadist Rachid Kassim, suspected of inspiring several attacks in France, was targeted in a coalition air strike near the Iraqi city of Mosul, but his death is not yet confirmed, the Pentagon said Friday.

Earlier in the day, several French media reports had reported Kassim‘s death.

“We can confirm that coalition forces targetedRashid Kassim, a senior ISIS operative, near Mosul in a strike in the past 72 hours,” said Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway.

“We are currently assessing the results of that strike and will provide more information when it becomes available.”

In Paris, a high-ranking official involved in counterterror operations told AFP on condition of anonymity there was not “absolute confirmation” of his death, but that the probability was high.

Kassim, who is in his 30s, is believed to have inspired an attack last year in which a senior French policeman and his partner were knifed to death and another in which an elderly priest’s throat was cut.

He is suspected of using the encrypted Telegram app to direct attacks on France from IS-controlled territory in Iraq or Syria.

Originally from Roanne in the Loire Valley, Kassim is suspected of guiding the attacks in France from Syria and has launched on the internet numerous murderous appeals.

Dressed in fatigues with a turban on his head, the black-bearded Kassim was seen in July in an IS propaganda video in which he praised the attacker in the Nice truck massacre that killed 86 people on the July 14 Bastille Day holiday.

US-backed Iraqi forces are currently battling to take back the remaining western districts of Mosul that are still under IS control.

France, which is taking part in the US-led, anti-IS coalition in Iraq and Syria, has been the target of a series of jihadist attacks since 2015 that left 238 people dead.


France 24 : Trump considers ‘brand new order’ on travel ban

Trump considers ‘brand new order’ on travel ban

US President Donald Trump is considering issuing a new executive order banning citizens of certain countries traveling to the United States after his initial attempt to clamp down on immigration snarled to a halt amid political and judicial chaos.

Trump announced the possibility of a “brand new order” that could be issued as soon as Monday or Tuesday, in a surprise talk with reporters aboard Air Force One late on Friday, as he and the Japanese premier headed to his estate in Florida for the weekend.

His signaling of a possible new tack came a day after an appeals court in San Franciscoupheld a court ruling last week that temporarily suspended Trump’s original Jan. 27 executive order banning travel from seven majority-Muslim countries.

Trump gave no details of any new ban he is considering. He might rewrite the original order to explicitly exclude green card holders, or permanent residents, said a congressional aide familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified. Doing that could alleviate some concerns expressed by the courts.

A new order, however, could allow Trump’s critics to declare victory by arguing he was forced to change course in his first major policy as president.

Whether or not Trump issues a new order, his administration may still pursue its case in the courts over the original order, which is still being reviewed by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told reporters late on Friday that taking the case to the Supreme Court remained a possibility, after another White House official said earlier in the day the administration was not planning to escalate the dispute.

“Every single court option is on the table, including an appeal of the Ninth Circuit decision on the TRO (temporary restraining order) to the Supreme Court, including fighting out this case on the merits,” Priebus said.

“And, in addition to that, we’re pursuing executive orders right now that we expect to be enacted soon that will further protect Americans from terrorism.”

Rewrite order

Trump’s original order, which he called a national security measure meant to head off attacks by Islamist militants, barred people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days, except refugees from Syria, who were banned indefinitely.

The abrupt implementation of the order plunged the immigration system into chaos, sparking a wave of criticism from targeted countries, Western allies and some of America’s leading corporations, especially technology firms.

A federal judge in Seattle suspended the order last Friday after its legality was challenged by Washington state, eliciting a barrage of angry Twitter messages from Trump against the judge and the court system. That ruling was upheld by an appeals court in San Francisco on Thursday, raising questions about Trump’s next step.

An official familiar with Trump’s plans said if the order is rewritten, among those involved would likely be White House aide Stephen Miller, who was involved in drafting the original order, as well as officials of the National Security Council, Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security.

It is not clear if a new order from Trump would immediately put a travel ban back in place, or if those who have filed lawsuits, including the state of Washington, would succeed in asking the same judge for another hold.

Should Trump issue a new order, he is still likely to face legal challenges, as opponents could ask the court to let them amend their complaints, said Alexander Reinert, a professor at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law in New York.

‘We need speed’

On Air Force One, Trump addressed the San Francisco court fight, saying: “We will win that battle. The unfortunate part is that it takes time statutorily… We need speed for reasons of security.”

The matter could move forward next week. An unidentified judge on the 9th Circuit on Friday requested that the court’s 25 full-time judges vote on whether the temporary block of Trump’s travel ban should be reheard before an 11-judge panel, known as en banc review, according to a court order. The 9th Circuit asked both sides to file briefs by Thursday.

In a separate case on Friday, Justice Department lawyers argued in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia against a preliminary injunction that would put a longer hold on Trump’s executive order than the Seattle court ruling, but focused solely on visa holders.

Judge Leonie Brinkema asked the administration for more evidence of the threat posed by citizens of the seven countries.

Aboard the flight with Trump were his wife Melania, daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie. The Trumps landed in the evening and went to their Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach.