Kim — Not Trump — Was Right About Summit Ending

❝ North Korea had the more accurate take on what happened at the summit with President Donald Trump before talks failed, according to an official with the U.S. State Department.

❝ The president claimed Thursday that he had walked away from negotiations in Hanoi after Kim Jong Un demanded that all sanctions against the nation be lifted…“Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that,” Trump said. “We had to walk away from that…”

But Pyongyang representatives called a late-night news conference later that day to correct Trump’s statements, saying that Kim wanted only economic sanctions imposed since 2016 lifted — and not any concerning weapons. In exchange, Kim offered to shut down the nation’s main nuclear complex — and was prepared to offer in writing a permanent halt to the nation’s nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests, according to his officials

❝ North Korea’s account of the sanction issue was accurate, a State Department official said Friday in a briefing to the media. The Associated Press reported that Kim had sought the lifting of only United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed since March 2016 — not sanctions going back decades. The concession would have removed sanctions on a range of goods, but not weapons.

But, then, Trump might not have returned home in time to address the Freedom Floggers Whip and Chain Society in Maryland.

The near-to-medium-term future of gene editing Is being decided now

…Hundreds of scientists are gathered in Washington, D.C. for the international summit on genome editing. The three-day conference will discuss the ethical and appropriate use of all genome-editing technologies, but it will likely pay close attention to the newest and arguably easiest method, CRISPR-Cas9, known colloquially as just CRISPR.

The technology has been at the center of scientists’ minds worldwide since April, when Chinese researchers reported that they used the tool to edit nonviable human embryos, or ones that have no chance of developing into human beings. The summit, which started early this morning, is sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, as well as the Royal Academy, and will include researchers from the United States, Great Britain, and China as well as representatives from at least 20 countries worldwide.

The group plans to discuss many direct applications of the CRISPR technique, including the ability to perform genome editing both on human embryos to treat a specific disease as well as to implement gene drive, which would introduce new genes into a few organisms that would then pass that change on to future generations.

Why is this conference so important?

Currently, the rules regarding the use of genome editing tools are hard to follow and as Nature reported back in October, vary by country…This conference is also the first of its kind and could therefore guide how future research using CRISPR and other gene editing tools will unfold…

Many researchers have already publically stated where they stand on the use of gene-editing techniques. But this summit could likely provide a regulatory approach to help researchers around the world—as a team—navigate how they will use the CRISPR technique over the next several years and decades in an effort to regulate, but not limit, scientists abilities to use this technique for the greatest medical need.

On paper, given the naturally conservative pace of science, nothing drastic should result in the near-term. By drastic, of course, I mean political interference of the George W. Bush-class. Every self-important-preacher and populist pundit will stick their oar into the discussion as soon as they realize [1] the import of easy human genome editing and [2] the political dynamic they can raise to benefit their own profit and power.

Christian imitation Boy Scouts ban gays – they ban Mormons and Jews, too

Ban Gays, Ban Mormons, Ban Jews – leaders in Christian ideology, they say!

The DC summit, organized by the conservative Family Research Council Action, is headlined by no fewer than seven GOP presidential candidates. For many years, the Boy Scouts have had a place of honor at the event, presenting the American flag as the color guard. This year, though, the Scouts are nowhere to be found. In their place are boys from Trail Life USA, the outdoor adventure and character development group created last year as a Christian alternative to the Boy Scouts. Joining them were American Heritage Girls, the religious alternative to the Girl Scouts.

Trail Life was founded by a religious-right activist from Florida, associated with James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, who was active fighting the Boy Scout policy change. The group’s official policy on gays says:

We believe that homosexuality is sinful and immoral, as is any sexual activity outside of the sanctity of marriage between a Man and a Woman. Consistent with this belief, we have specific policies that address membership and sin in both youth and adult members.

Trail Life also excludes Mormons and Jews

The booting of the Boy Scouts from the event isn’t all that surprising. The Family Research Council, which sponsors the Values Voter Summit, has been an ardent opponent of the Boy Scouts’ acceptance of gays. Earlier this year, FRC head Tony Perkins lamented that the Boy Scouts were moving “away from their moral standard of being morally straight and clean and moving into open homosexuality.” He claimed that both the Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts “are done” as organizations because of their acceptance of gays.

A regular speaker at the event, Mat Staver, with the legal group Liberty Counsel, said last month that the change in policy at the Boy Scouts meant that “you are going to have all kinds of sexual molestation. This is a playground for pedophiles to go and have all these boys as objects of their lust. This is insane, and we need to literally abandon the Scouts because the Scouts, unfortunately, have abandoned us.”

The proto-fascists who have assigned themselves the mantle of American Conservativism can rest assured they haven’t been abandoned by the political hacks who really count on their votes, their money, their support: Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Lindsay Graham, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump all showed up. They don’t have a problem with groups banning religions in the name of religious liberty.

BRICS development bank ready to roll

The New Development Bank being launched by the BRICS group of emerging economies plans to raise money both on local markets and internationally…

The bank, with an initial capital of $50 billion, is being introduced at an organisational summit of the BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – in the Russian city of Ufa…

Kundapur Vaman Kamath, 67, a former executive with India’s largest private bank, ICICI Bank, was appointed president of NDB in May this year. The bank is headquartered in Shanghai, China.

The bank, which the BRICS countries see as an alternative to the World Bank, will have its capital expanded to $100 billion within the next couple of years. It plans to issue its first loans, yet to be agreed, in April – a plan K.V. Kamath said was on track…

He added that the NDB will seek international and local agencies ratings – a necessary step for issuing debt…

K.V. Kamath added that there were no specific deals yet in the pipeline and no limit had been set on the size of loans.

The size of the loan “will depend on what is the structure of the loan, what is a need of a borrowing country and then we will look at it,” he said.

One positive side of global growth is the new capability of banking based in developing nations – for developing nations. Not the least of which is the absence of colonial-era strictures required by present and former imperial governments.

Dronie on the Jungfrau

Click to enlarge

Jungfrau is a mountain in the Bernese Alps of Switzerland. It rises 13,642 feet high. Nine climbers with the outfitting company Mammut reached the peak. Using a drone with a fisheye lens, they captured a photo of themselves, locked arm in arm, around the peak.

This is one of many outstanding photos that Mammut has staged in the Alps. You can see the rest here, and you really should.

The Jungfrau is a beautiful mountain and standing along with the Monch adjacent to one of the most fearsome climbs in the world – The Eiger. Spent a couple of delightful summers camped below the Eiger while my mate Clyde reconnoitered for a climb of the North Face. Ate lots of tree-ripened apricots from the orchard we camped in. 🙂

Thanks, Ursarodinia

BRICS nations found bank to rival Western-dominated World Bank and IMF

The so-called BRICS countries agreed to form an international development bank with aspirations to challenge the dominance of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa said Tuesday that the New Development Bank will start with $50 billion in capital and $100 billion as a currency reserve fund for liquidity crises…

Still, the BRICS bank, which could add more member nations, represents a bid to expand the influence of the BRICS emerging markets and act as a counterbalance to institutions run by the U.S. and other developed nations…

As developing countries began playing a larger role in the world economy, their leaders repeatedly complained that they have not been given correspondingly larger voices in international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF, both based in Washington. The U.S. typically appoints the World Bank president, and European countries appoint the IMF chief.

“International governance structures designed within a different power configuration show increasingly evident signs of losing legitimacy and effectiveness,” said the official statement signed by the BRICS leaders, who met in Fortaleza, Brazil, on Tuesday. “We believe the BRICS are an important force for incremental change and reform of current institutions toward more representative and equitable governance.”

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma hammered out some of the final details before signing the agreement Tuesday.

Among the terms are that the bank will be in Shanghai, its first president will be from India, and the first chair of the board of directors will be from Brazil…

Analysts expect that other countries – like Indonesia, Mexico or Turkey – will join the bank over time. Certainly, they and their neighbors have no shortage of conflicts with restrictions important to the fiscal bears directing the IMF or the World Bank.

I doubt anyone expects either of the banks under the thumb of the US [and to a lesser extent, the EU] to modernize, to actively support the developing nations in any goal beyond being a source of cheap labor, raw materials, for Western corporations.

Stodgiest political cowards in the hemisphere put marijuana legalization up for discussion


A comprehensive report on drug policy in the Americas released Friday by a consortium of nations suggests that the legalization of marijuana, but not other illicit drugs, be considered among a range of ideas to reassess how the drug war is carried out.

The report, released by the Organization of American States walked a careful line in not recommending any single approach to the drug problem and encouraging “flexibility.”

Prompted by President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia at the Summit of the Americas last year to answer growing dissatisfaction and calls for new strategies in the drug war, the report’s 400 pages mainly summarize and distill previous research and debate on the subject.

But the fact that it gave weight to exploring legalizing or de-penalizing marijuana was seized on by advocates of more liberal drug use laws as a landmark and a potential catalyst for less restrictive laws in a number of countries…

The report said “the drug problem requires a flexible approach,” and “it would be worthwhile to assess existing signals and trends that lean toward the decriminalization or legalization of the production, sale and use of marijuana.

“Sooner or later decisions in this area will need to be taken,” it said. “On the other hand, our report finds no significant support, in any country, for the decriminalization or legalization of the trafficking of other illicit drugs…”

“The region’s leaders expressed their frustration with the limits and exorbitant costs of current policies and their hunger for a fuller, more creative debate,” said John Walsh, a drug policy analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights group.

But the United States has so far rejected legalization as a solution to drug violence…A State Department spokesman, William Ostick, said “blah, blah, blah”

Yes, the OAS statement on decriminalizing is rather like the American Institute of CPA’s noting that little solid-state hand calculators work as well as pencil and paper and may be faster. Still, even an acknowledgement of solutions without prior approval from the US State Department is an achievement for the OAS.

Love motels rescue UN environment summit shortage of beds

A place to relax after a hard day of diplomacy

Rio de Janeiro motel owner Secundino Lema is gearing up for a different kind of guest in June when thousands of visitors will be in his city to discuss the future of the planet.

The erotic chairs that usually grace the rooms in his three establishments, Hawaii, Skorpios and Serramar are going. But the mirrors on the ceiling and jacuzzis are staying.

Mr Lema, along with other owners of Rio’s 320 “love hotels”, is stepping in to help the authorities fill a huge need in the Brazilian city – the chronic lack of accommodation.

It is estimated that some 50,000 people, including world leaders, will be in Rio de Janeiro for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, but there are only 30,000 rooms available in what might be termed more conventional hotels…

He agreed to charge $160 a night, much less than what is now being asked by the few hotels still with rooms available. It is also less than he would expect to earn from the couples who usually pay to rent his rooms for periods of four, six or 12 hours.

Mr Lema, who says he is doing this “for the city”, also agreed with the authorities that he would not offer rooms by the hour while the UN summit was on. That means turning down the 2,000 guests he would normally put up in his 170 bedrooms.

It will be awkward not being able to receive our usual clients during this period, but I hope they understand the need to host people from abroad,” Mr Lema said.

The sole exception to the motel owners’ response to civic need is the day before the conference begins – Dia dos Namorados or Lovers’ Day is an annual tradition that brings love motel occupancy to a peak.

A brief huzzah for civic good coming from a part of the business community rarely recognized for positive contributions by the political establishment of any country.