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Politics Policy

Surely France isn’t wooing Washington away from that “special relationship.” Right?

@Bershidsky More stories by Leonid Bershidsky
10
Corrected

Don’t mess with the R.A.F.

Photographer: Matthew Chattle/Barcroft Media, via Getty Images

A leaked letter from U.S. Defense SecretaryJames Mattisto his U.K. counterpart Gavin Williamsonsuggests that the U.S. is unhappy with U.K. military spending.Mattis even appeared to hint that France mighttake the U.K.’splace as the preferredmilitary partner unless the Brits get their act together.

But wait a minute: Of NATO members, isn’t the U.K. an A student when it comes to defense spending? According to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, only the U.S. and barely solvent Greece spent a greater share of economic output on defense last year. Moreover, unlike most other NATO members, the U.K. has consistently spent more than 2 percent of its gross domestic product on the military, never failing to fulfill the obligationthat U.S. President Donald Trump has held up as a measure of loyalty to the alliance.

Spending As Promised?

Ten biggest military spenders in NATO in terms of GDP share

Source: NATO

In absolute terms, too, it’s the second-biggest defense spender in NATO afterthe U.S., with $55 billion in last year’s outlay. And it’s not spending most of its budget on personnel, the way Turkey and many of the smaller alliance members do; at 22 percent of the total, its equipment spending share is closer to France’s 24 percent and the U.S.’s 28 percent than to pacifist Germany’s 14 percent.

So if the U.S. has a problem with the U.K.’s commitment, could it be satisfied with any of its allies at all? And could Mattis be serious about France, which has chronically failed to spend 2 percent on the military? Didn’t French President Emmanuel Macron, soon after taking office last year, causethe head of the French armed forces, General Pierre de Villiers, to quit in disgust over proposed budget cuts?

Mattis, however,does have somevalid reasons to be “concerned,” as his letter states, about the U.K.’s continued ability to provide a “critical military foundation” for diplomatic success.

The U.K.’s ability to maintain defense spending of more than 2 percent GDP is in question. Earlier this year, the International Institute for Strategic Studies published its annual Military Balance, claiming the U.K.’s actual military outlaylast year amounted to 1.98 percent of its GDP because the U.K. economy increased faster than the defense spending. In recent years, the U.K. has only stuck to the 2 percent rule by changing what it includes in the calculation — military pensions, the defense ministry’s revenues, the costs of intelligence services. NATO has accepted the accounting changes because they’re generally in line with U.S. practice and because it’s understandably interested in showing compliance among its members. Adjusted for inflation, the U.K. spends less on its military today than in 2010.

Trump Administration
Floral Silk Tie Sales Up to 50 Tommy Hilfiger W8AGsDdVrC
156.0K

Kristin Mink was having lunch with her toddler in Washington, D.C., when she noticed who was sitting three tables over: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

In a video posted to her Facebook account, Mink walks up to Pruitt and an unidentified companion and confronts him over his record of environmental deregulation and open corruption . According to Mink’s video, the confrontation occurred at Teaism in downtown Washington on Monday.

“Hi, I just wanted to urge you to resign because of what you’re doing to the environment and our country,” Mink says. “This is my son. He loves animals. He loves clean air. He loves clean water. Meanwhile, you’re slashing strong fuel standards for cars and trucks, for the benefit of big corporations.”

Pruitt’s smile turns to a frown as Mink speaks, and he glances nervously to the man sitting across from him.

“You’ve been paying about 50 bucks a night to stay in a D.C. condo that’s connected to an energy lobbying firm, while approving their dirty sands pipeline,” Mink continues, reading from notes. “We deserve to have somebody at the EPA who actually does protect our environment, somebody who believes in climate change and takes it seriously, for the benefit of all of us, including our children.”

Mink concluded: “So, I would urge you to resign before your scandals push you out.”

The video does not show Pruitt getting up and leaving the restaurant, but according to Mink, Pruitt and his two security guards left the restaurant before she returned to her seat.

Staff at Teaism could not immediately confirm whether Pruitt visited the restaurant on Monday, but said he had been seen there a few weeks ago.

This story is just the latest in an ongoing series of concerned citizens confronting Trump administration officials while dining out in public.

Mink responded to a text message from Splinter with this statement:

As soon as my husband pointed out Pruitt sitting there, I knew instantly that I had to say something to him, it was just a question of what. His actions are the source of so much of my despair for my child’s future and frankly the future of humanity. He’s literally sacrificing our air and water, the well-being of coastal communities, all kinds of unique natural resources, for short-term personal gains. Buying stupid crap like a soundproof phone booth for his office and first-class plane tickets with taxpayer dollars, living in housing discounted for him by an energy group while he does favors for their clients. I honestly don’t know how he sleeps at night.

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Dead spruce tress stand alongside W. Susitna Pkwy near Big Lake, AK on Friday April 6, 2018. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

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A fast-trackedSusitna Valley timber venture some callthe salvation of the Mat-Su's foundering port won local government approval Tuesday amid concerns about public process and log truck traffic.

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly backed the complex proposal in a 5-2 vote near midnight.

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The deal hinges on a 24,000-acre borough timber sale known as Chijuk Creek, off Oilwell Road in the Trapper Creek area about 22 miles southwest of Talkeetna and 30 miles northwest of Willow. Logswould be trucked to the government-owned portat Point MacKenzie and shipped to China.

The pace of the project and lack of competitive bids drew sharp criticism, as did a flurry of last-minute changes.

A transportation plan required before 20 to 30 trucks a day can start hauling logs was submitted just hours before Tuesday's meeting.

An amendment approved minutes before the final vote also exempts the sale from a section of borough code that calls for public input, fair-market valuation and competitive bidding.

"I have no confidence in the process that just took place," said Assembly member Jim Sykes, who cast one of two "no" votesand had called for open bids on the sale.

Others, however,cheered theprospect for new timber jobs, the removal of spruce bark beetle-killed forests and the potential for long-sought revenues for the cash-strapped, government-owned port.

Dead spruce tress stand alongside W. Susitna Pkwy near Big Lake, AK on Friday April 6, 2018. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

"These guys are seriously committed and they're seriously going to dump a bunch of money into this community," said Randy Chivers, owner of Got Wood Alaska trucking company in Wasilla.

Spruce beetle damage along Willow-Fishhook Road, June 2017. (U. S. Forest Service)

Thetimber is owned by logger Charlie Nash, who sued the borough and won a state Supreme Court decision before settling in 2013. Nash's suit came after the borough terminated the sale for not cutting enough trees and leaving others behind.

Locals say timber is still rotting on the ground, though Nashsaid people forget he poured millions of dollars into road improvements.

A new company,Denali Timber Management, formed late last year by a third-generation Northwest timber manager,would be in charge of logging and getting the logs to the port. A New Zealand firm, TPT Forest Products Ltd., secured markets in China for logs.

All but one of10 prior borough timber sales elicited no bids because of high transportation costs and no local markets, officials say.

Theyestimate the project could drum up nearly $900,000 a year for the port, which is losing $800,000 to $1.5 million each year.

The Assembly voted Tuesday to approve two separate contracts for the timber sale at $31.50 an acre — as establishedfive years ago in the Nash settlement — and a lease at Port MacKenzie that gives Denali exclusive rights to export logs to Pacific Rim countries for three years.

Denali's transportation plan must still get planning department approval before the contractsbecome effective. A 30-day comment period just opened.

The borough is requiring a $150-per-acre reforestation bond and a $100,000 performance bond, according to a five-page fact sheet distributed Tuesday. The borough also added Denali to the timber sale contract with Nash.

The contractors must maintain Oilwell Road in at least the same condition so costs don't increase to the local taxing district, the fact sheet says.

Denali owner Eric Oien told the Assembly he expects to make various safety upgrades, including adding a large trailer parking lot at Amber Lake 12 miles up Oilwell Road.

The Alaska Division of Forestry still needs to approve the timber sale. The state has 30 days to respond to an operations plan submitted March 12.

Citizenspacked Assembly chambers for the meeting, spilling into the hallway outside.

Numerous people testified before the vote about the lack of timefor fully vetting the proposal and the public safety threat posed by heavy log truck traffic on narrow, rutted Oilwell Road.

Kathy Ernst, a 45-year Trapper Creek resident and EMT,accusedthe borough of "contracts changed secretly" and said exempting the sale from an entire section of code established to protect the public set a bad precedent.

"I do not want to respond to an accident between a logging truck and a bus," Ernst said. "I've been on those kinds of calls."

The Trapper Creek Community Council, the advisory body located closest to the sale, hasn't had time totake a position on the sale.

The Point MacKenzie Community Councilhas concerns about log trucks adding more wear to Point MacKenzie Road, council president Gary Foster told the Assembly.

The first seven miles of road haven't been resurfaced in a decade, Foster said. "You can't continue to put enterprise out there and not do something."

Several Assembly members put the credit or blame for the deal's fate on the borough's manager, John Moosey,who faces his next performance review in May.

Sykes chastised the manager for quietly adding a week to the Chijuk timber sale contract late lastFriday while the Assembly sorted through documents thinking it expired April 15.

But Assembly member Matthew Beck said his support for the proposal reflected his faith in Moosey.

"We're putting a lot of trust in the manager if we pass this tonight to make sure the work he's given us, that he holds true to it," Beck said before the vote. "He's proven over the past five years that he can get some things done and be trustworthy."

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by Weronika Naklicka in , Partners
May 1, 2018 0 comments

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Rotterdam, 26 April 2018 – during the Rotterdam Capital Days event, VentureCafé’s Executive Director Anoesjka Imambaks announced that InnovationQuarter hasjoined the group of investors in Dutch Virtual Reality start-up Telemedia. TheRotterdam-based spin-off from national research institute TNO enables a significantincrease in the quality of Virtual Reality services and a reduction in the requiredbandwidth for streaming VR content. Tilemedia’s clearVR technology removes one ofthe biggest obstacles preventing Virtual Reality from becoming widely accessible. Withthe capital injection, which is further boosted by a recent innovation loan granted by theNetherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO), Tilemedia has close to € 2 mln. available foraccelerating its development and expanding its sales and marketing activities.

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