Australian news, and some related international items

Today’s Crisis Over Ukraine ACURA ViewPoint

Today’s Crisis Over Ukraine    ACURA ViewPoint Jack F. Matlock, Jr.:   American Committee for the Us- Russia Accord

February 14, 2022   Today we face an avoidable crisis that was predictable, actually predicted, willfully precipitated, but easily resolved by the application of common sense.

We are being told each day that war may be imminent in Ukraine………………………….

I cannot dismiss the suspicion that we are witnessing an elaborate charade, grossly magnified by prominent elements of the American media, to serve a domestic political end. ……………………..

Was the crisis avoidable?……………………………………..   In fact, the decision to expand NATO piecemeal was a reversal of American policies that produced the end of the Cold War…………………………

Willfully precipitated?   Adding countries in Eastern Europe to NATO continued during the George W. Bush administration (2001-2009) but that was not the only thing that stimulated Russian objection. At the same time, the United States began withdrawing from the arms control treaties that had tempered, for a time, an irrational and dangerous arms race and were the foundation agreements for ending the Cold War. 
Easily resolved by the application of common sense?

The short answer is because it can be. What President Putin is demanding, an end to NATO expansion and creation of a security structure in Europe that insures Russia’s security along with that of others is eminently reasonable. He is not demanding the exit of any NATO member and he is threatening none. By any pragmatic, common sense standard it is in the interest of the United States to promote peace, not conflict. To try to detach Ukraine from Russian influence—the avowed aim of those who agitated for the “color revolutions”—was a fool’s errand, and a dangerous one. Have we so soon forgotten the lesson of the Cuban Missile Crisis?1

Now, to say that approving Putin’s demands is in the objective interest of the United States does not mean that it will be easy to do. The leaders of both the Democratic and Republican parties have developed such a Russophobic stance (a story requiring a separate study) that it will take great political skill to navigate the treacherous political waters and achieve a rational outcome.

President Biden has made it clear that the United States will not intervene with its own troops if Russia invades Ukraine. So why move them into Eastern Europe? Just to show hawks in Congress that he is standing firm? For what? Nobody is threatening Poland or Bulgaria except waves of refugees fleeing Syria, Afghanistan and the desiccated areas of the African savannah. So what is the 82nd Airborne supposed to do?……….

Jack F. Matlock served as US ambassador to the USSR (1987-1991). A member of the board of director of ACURA, he writes from Singer Island, Florida.

February 15, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ambassador suggested that Ukraine might drop its bid for NATO membership – but he was quickly corrected.

Ukrainian ambassador forced to walk back claims nation could drop NATO bid,  By Vladimir Isachenkov and Stephen Coates, The Age February 14, 2022  Ukraine could drop its bid to join NATO to avoid war with Russia, the BBC quoted the country’s ambassador to Britain as saying, in what would amount to a major concession to Moscow in response to the build-up of Russian troops on its borders.

However, the ambassador walked back his remarks in a later interview as President Volodymyr Zelensky’s spokesman insisted that aspirations to join NATO and the European Union remain the absolute priority to the country.

Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko told the BBC on Monday morning (UK time) that Ukraine was willing to be “flexible” over its goal to join the Atlantic military alliance, a move Russian President Vladimir Putin has said would be a trigger for war.

We might – especially being threatened like that, blackmailed by that, and pushed to it,” Prystaiko, Ukraine’s foreign minister until 2020, was quoted as saying when asked if Kyiv could change its position on NATO membership.

Shortly after his remarks made headlines around the world, Prystaiko returned to the BBC to state that the former Soviet republic would not be reconsidering its attempt to join the military alliance, after a spokesman for the Ukrainian President said the ambassador needed to clarify what he meant…………..

Ukraine is not a NATO member but has a promise dating from 2008 that it will eventually be given the opportunity to join, a step that would bring the US-led alliance to Russia’s border.

Putin has been arguing that Ukraine’s growing ties with the alliance could make it a launch pad for NATO missiles targeted at Russia. He has said Russia needs to lay down “red lines” to prevent that………

Moscow denies it is planning an attack, calling the military manoeuvres exercises, but it has issued written demands that NATO forgo any further expansion eastwards including Ukraine. NATO members have rejected the demand……….

February 15, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Julian Assange appeals to the Supreme Court,

Julian Assange appeals to the Supreme Court,, Kate Goold, 03 FEBRUARY 2022.

In December 2021, the High Court ruled that Julian Assange could be extradited to the USA, reversing a previous decision of Westminster Magistrates’ Court that extradition would be unjust or oppressive due to Mr Assange’s mental condition.

The ruling of the High Court was based on a package of diplomatic assurances provided by the US government about how and where Mr Assange would be detained if extradited and/or convicted. The assurances had been provided after the Magistrates’ Court found that Mr Assange was at a high risk of suicide if imprisoned in the very harsh regime that can be imposed on prisoners, who are considered a threat to national security, by the US. These fresh assurances were said by the USA to be sufficient to meet that concern, and the High Court agreed.

Among the assurances were undertakings that Mr Assange would not, at this time, be subject to Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), restricting his correspondence, visits and use of the telephone, nor detained at USP Florence ADMAX (ADX), a maximum-security prison in Colorado.

Crucially, however, these assurances were subject to the caveat that the US retained the power to impose such conditions if Mr Assange were to commit any future act that meets the tests for the imposition of SAMs or designation to ADX.

Application to the Supreme Court

As anticipated, Mr Assange sought permission to appeal the High Court judgment to the Supreme Court on the basis that there is a point of law of general public importance involved in the decision. He argued that the Supreme Court’s guidance was required on three questions of law regarding the assurances.

Firstly, he submitted that the Supreme Court ought to consider the question of whether a court can consider assurances that are introduced for the first time on appeal.

The second and third questions related to the caveat in the assurances concerning future acts. Mr Assange questioned whether it could be lawful to allow for potential exposure to conditions under SAMs or in ADX if the imposition of those prison regimes was judged by the US authorities to be justified by his own conduct. In Mr Assange’s case, this was said to be particularly important because conduct could involve speech, and also because it was accepted that he suffers from a severe mental condition.

On 24 January 2022, only the first question was certified by the High Court as an issue of general public importance:

In what circumstances can an appellate court receive assurances from a requesting state which were not before the court of first instance in extradition proceedings.

In the view of the High Court, this point of law is settled, but the High Court has certified a point of law of general public importance with regards to the provision of assurances at a later stage in proceedings, as the Supreme Court has not yet considered this specific question. The High Court concluded that the Supreme Court should have an opportunity to do so, since assurances are at the heart of many extradition proceedings and are increasingly relied on.

In extradition proceedings, assurances are not currently classed as ‘evidence’, but as ‘issues’, and therefore do not necessarily attract the same scrutiny. This also means they can be introduced after all evidence has been heard and tested.

The Supreme Court itself will now decide whether or not it should hear the appeal on this point.

Extradition practitioners largely welcome Supreme Court guidance on this point as late assurances designed to alleviate the court’s concerns about human rights violations following extradition have become a highly contentious issue, especially when provided by States with a poor record in human rights themselves.

It is of note that the High Court refused to certify the point of law with regards to future acts and did not appear to be overly concerned regarding the conditional nature of the diplomatic assurances provided. Mr Assange’s lawyers argued that the principle of absolute protection against inhuman or degrading treatment, contrary to Article 3, should also apply in cases where an individual’s mental condition is such that even if they are moved to a severe regime due to their behaviour (including speech), extradition should still be barred as oppressive (s91 Extradition Act) because the severity of the regime will cause such a deterioration in their mental health. The assurances provided do not rule out this possibility. This would have been an interesting issue for the Supreme Court to have considered, but that opportunity is no longer available.

Wider issues

Meanwhile, Mr Assange is likely to appeal to the High Court those grounds where he was unsuccessful before the District Judge at Westminster, as he was unable to cross appeal while the US appealed the District Judge decision. These grounds will largely focus on political motivation, freedom of speech and fair trial issues. If leave to appeal on the certified point is refused by the Supreme Court, Mr Assange still therefore has an opportunity to appeal to the High Court and his fight continues.

February 15, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal | Leave a comment

Robot ventures inside radioactive ruins of Fukushima power plant

Robot ventures inside radioactive ruins of Fukushima power plant, 9 News, 

By Raffaella Ciccarelli • Producer 14 Feb 22, Melted nuclear fuel has been filmed in the bowels of Unit 1 of Japan’s Fukushima Power Plant as a remote controlled submarine navigated the radioactive ruins of the plant.

The remote-controlled device took to waters surrounding the plant on February 9 as part of ongoing clean-up efforts by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO).

It comes more than a decade after the plant’s catastrophic meltdown in 2011……………………

In 2016 Japan Times reported the area inside the reactors were contaminated by 530 sieverts of radiation per hour.

Exposure to 10 sieverts is fatal to a human, with death occurring within weeks.

Clean-up efforts are ongoing and TEPCO has a decommissioning target of 2051.

It’s been estimated it will take 30 more years and $106 billion to remove intact nuclear fuel at the bottom of the plants.

February 15, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Three years on, Morrison’s electricity underwriting scheme still has nothing to show — RenewEconomy

In 2019, Angus Taylor shortlisted a dozen power projects to improve grid reliability and cut electricity costs – three years later, not one has been built. The post Three years on, Morrison’s electricity underwriting scheme still has nothing to show appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Three years on, Morrison’s electricity underwriting scheme still has nothing to show — RenewEconomy

February 15, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Crossbenchers urge switch to electric transport to boost Australia’s energy security — RenewEconomy

Federal independents call for Australia to tackle fuel security challenges through switch to locally-made EVs, and renewably powered manufacturing. The post Crossbenchers urge switch to electric transport to boost Australia’s energy security appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Crossbenchers urge switch to electric transport to boost Australia’s energy security — RenewEconomy

February 15, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

WA switches on rooftop solar switch-off rules, sparks call for faster grid reform — RenewEconomy

WA becomes Australia’s second state where AEMO can remotely switch off residential rooftop solar systems to keep the grid stable. But did it have to be this way? The post WA switches on rooftop solar switch-off rules, sparks call for faster grid reform appeared first on RenewEconomy.

WA switches on rooftop solar switch-off rules, sparks call for faster grid reform — RenewEconomy

February 15, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Highly exaggerated:” Experts debunk Coalition coal and gas jobs claims — RenewEconomy

Grattan Institute fact-checks Morrison government claims that Queensland coal and gas ban would risk 53,000 jobs and $A85 billion in investment. The post “Highly exaggerated:” Experts debunk Coalition coal and gas jobs claims appeared first on RenewEconomy.

“Highly exaggerated:” Experts debunk Coalition coal and gas jobs claims — RenewEconomy

February 15, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

February 14 Energy News — geoharvey

NRDC Analysis On Build Back Better: ¶ “West Virginia To See Thousands Of New Jobs From Build Back Better Act” • The Senate’s passage of the policies in the Build Back Better Act, which the House has passed, would enable West Virginia to invest in climate solutions that could lead to over 70,000 direct jobs, […]

February 14 Energy News — geoharvey

February 15, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment