France & Iran Combine Forces to Defend Iran Nuclear Deal to U.S.A.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and French leader Emmanuel Macron launched a joint defence of the Iranian nuclear deal on Monday but expressed differences on how to move forward as US President Donald Trump weighs up whether to scrap it.

The Kremlin said Putin and Macron were both calling for “strict observance” of the hard-fought 2015 agreement after a phone call between the two leaders.

Macron’s office however said that while the pair agreed on the need to “preserve the gains from the agreement”, the French leader was also pushing for international talks on a potential wider deal.

“The president expressed his desire for discussions on controlling (Iran’s) nuclear activity after 2025, in close cooperation with Russia, other permanent members of the UN Security Council, European and regional powers,” the French statement said.

Trump has a May 12 deadline to decide on whether or not to walk away from the deal, which he has derided as “insane” partly because its restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities begin expiring in 2025.

Moscow has previously said there was “no alternative” to the agreement and that Tehran’s position on the issue was paramount. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has rejected any suggestion of rewriting the deal.

The agreement, thrashed out between Tehran and six world powers after fraught negotiations, saw Iran agree to freeze its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

But Trump has called for it to be altered or scrapped.

Macron has positioned himself as an emissary for European officials seeking a compromise that would keep the deal intact. He has previously suggested an additional deal that extends Iran’s nuclear restrictions.

But after a state visit to the US this week, he admitted he had failed to secure any promise from Trump to keep the deal alive.

Major European powers Britain, France and Germany all remain committed to the pact, saying it is the best way to keep Tehran from getting a nuclear bomb.

– ‘Hi, Vladimir’ –

Along with urging fresh negotiations on Iran, Macron called for international talks on the wars in Syria and Yemen with the support of Russia.

He “indicated his wish for Russia to play a constructive role in all of these questions to avoid tensions mounting in the region”, the statement said, in a nod to increasingly cold relations between Russia and the West.

The French president, who has argued for keeping European communications open with Moscow despite tensions over the war in Syria, is due to visit Russia on May 24 and 25.

A video posted to Macron’s official Twitter account showed him calling Putin from his plane en route to Australia, in which he addresses the Russian leader warmly as “Vladimir” using the informal form of “you”.

“Hi Vladimir, how are you?” he is heard saying. “Thanks for agreeing to this phone call, I wanted to talk to you to take stock of the situation.”

Aside:  Trump and Macron planted a tree — but where did it go?
The photograph was seen around the world: US President Donald Trump and France’s Emmanuel Macron, gilded spades in hand, shovelling dirt over a young sapling.

A week ago, at the beginning of Macron’s visit to Washington, the French president joined his American counterpart to throw handfuls of soil on the roots of a young oak tree as the their respective first ladies looked on

It was a symbolic gesture: the tree came from a northern French forest where 2,000 US Marines died during the First World War.

But a few days later, the plant was nowhere to be seen.

Amid fervent speculation, France on Sunday came through with an explanation: the tree, now not just a plant but a symbol of US-French relations, had been placed in quarantine.

“It is a quarantine which is mandatory for any living organism imported into the US,” Gerard Araud, French ambassador to America, wrote on Twitter.

“It will be replanted afterwards.”

When a follower fired back that the caution seemed a bit late — given that the tree had already been planted — the diplomat went on to confirm that the roots had been enclosed in plastic.

 

Photo: Iran’s Atomic Energy Research Center at Bonab is investigating the applications of nuclear technology in agriculture.

Supreme Court’s Decision Protects From Dangerously Confusing & Vague “Aggravated Felony” Statute

Yesterday, April 17, 2018, in Sessions v. Dimaya, No. 15-1498, the Supreme Court (in a 5-4 decision) held that 18 U.S.C. § 16’s residual clause is unconstitutionally vague. At issue in the case, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides that a noncitizen convicted of an “aggravated felony” after entering the United States will be deported. 8 U.S.C. §§ 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), 1229b(a)(3), (b)(1)(C).

Under the INA, an “aggravated felony” includes, among other offenses, a “crime of violence” as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 16 (excluding a purely political offense) for which the term of imprisonment is at least one year. The term “crime of violence” under § 16 is defined as “(a) an offense that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, or (b) any other offense that is a felony and that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.” Subsection (b) is typically referred to as a residual clause.

A majority of the Court held that a straightforward application of Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015) resolved this case. In Johnson, the Supreme Court held that a similar residual clause found in the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), violated the Constitution’s guarantee of due process. In that case, the residual clause was used to increase a criminal defendant’s sentencing range. Although the specific language of the residual clause in § 16(b) was not identical to the residual clause of § 924(e), the Court held that it suffered the same infirmities.

Specifically, the Court found two features of the residual clause in both statutes conspired to make them unconstitutional: determining an “ordinary case” and determining the risk posed by the crime. The majority rejected the government’s attempts to distinguish the two clauses.

Justice Gorsuch joined with Justices Kagan, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor, in finding the residual clause unconstitutionally vague.

Although Justice Gorsuch filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, he did not join in all parts of the opinion authored by Justice Kagan. Chief Justice Roberts filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, joined. Justice Thomas filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Kennedy and Alito joined in part.

The TED Conference On Big Ideas Is Putting Its Money Where Its Mouth IsIs

The big-idea Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) Conference is now backing up its talk on world-changing innovations with big money.

The organizers of the conference known for deep thinking discussions announced Wednesday it has raised $400 million for projects with “the potential to create massive, global change.”

The new initiative known as the Audacious Project will replace the annual $1 million TED prize awards which have been allocated since 2005, with a hefty bump in funding.

TED organizers say the project will fund “collaborative philanthropy for bold ideas” and announced the first awards to organizations working on innovative ideas for health care, justice, agriculture and the environment.

“In some ways, it’s the most ambitious thing TED has ever been involved with,” TED curator Chris Anderson said before taking to the stage to announce the project in Vancouver.

“It’s like trying to recreate what an IPO does, but instead of investing in shares to make money we are investing in dreams to make change.”

Inside TED, they coined the acronym “APO,” for Audacious Project Offering.

Anderson has encouraged TED’s influential community to act on big ideas that win their hearts or minds at annual conferences.

Each year, the project will identify up to five ideas that stand out as “thrillingly bold” with a credible path to execution.

Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of legendary Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, took to the TED stage to help unveil the project, saying it could change millions of lives for the better by turning bold ideas for good into action.

“We must dream alongside and amplify those voices,” she told the TED audience.

TED said pledges for the project came from Skoll Foundation, Virgin Unite, Dalio Foundation, The Bridgespan Group and others.

– Oceans to Heavens –

The slate of those being backed by the project consisted of The Environmental Defense Fund; The Bail Project; GirlTrek; Sightsavers, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

US-based Bail Project will manage a nationwide fund to help people post bond to get out of jail while their guilt or innocence is determined.

The Environmental Defense Fund wants to track methane pollution from space with a network of satellites.

“Cutting methane emissions from the global oil and gas industry is the fastest thing we can do right now to put the brakes on climate change,” said EDF president Fred Krupp.

The Woods Hole institution plans to uncover the secrets of a mysterious layer of ocean some 200 to 1,000 meters (600 to 3,000 feet) deep considered integral to the marine food ecosystem and the earth’s climate.

GirlTrek in the US will train activists to improve the health of black women by getting them walking more.

Sightsavers aims to eliminate trachoma, a treatable disease that can blind people and remains a bane in low-income communities.

“We are in a moment where humans more than ever what to change the future,” Anderson said.

“The money is out there; people want to spend it on good ideas.”

– Daring to dream –

Anyone in the world is free to pitch their dreams online at an audaciousproject.org website with a handful picked annually, according to TED.

“We are looking for projects that are capable of impacting at least millions of lives in some way, or at a planetary scale,” Anderson said.

“Almost the single biggest hope is that this process unlocks dreams that entrepreneurs never dared put forward before.”

Since starting as an intimate gathering on the California coast 34 years ago, TED has grown into a global media platform with a stated devotion to “ideas worth spreading.”

TED has a massive following for its trademark presentations in which speakers strive to give “the talk of their lives” in 18 minutes.

The theme of the annual TED conference this week in Vancouver is “Age of Amazement,” but with a keen eye on unintended consequences.

Saudis Destroy New Missile In Attack By Yemen On Saudi Civilians

Saudi air defences intercepted a missile fired by Yemeni rebels at the kingdom’s southern city of Jizan on Thursday, the Saudi-led coalition fighting the rebels said, the latest in a series of such attacks.

“The missile was fired at Jizan indiscriminately with the aim of hitting civilian areas,” a coalition spokesman told the official Saudi Press Agency.

“It was successfully intercepted… and the debris fell on a residential neighbourhood… but no casualties or damage was reported.”

A missile was launched from Sadaa, the stronghold of Iran-backed Huthi rebels in northern Yemen, the coalition added.

The attack was claimed by the rebels via their news outlet Al-Masirah.

The strike comes after Saudi forces on Wednesday said they intercepted rebel ballistic missiles fired at Riyadh and the south of the kingdom, where two drones were also shot down.

Yemen’s Shiite Huthi rebels have said their cross-border barrage marked the launch of what their leadership has dubbed “the year of ballistics”.

Saudi Arabia has since March 2015 led a coalition of Arab states fighting to roll back the Huthi rebels in Yemen and restore its neighbour’s internationally-recognised government to power.

Riyadh has repeatedly accused arch-rival Tehran of providing the missiles and threatened retaliation against Iran.

Tehran has denied making any arms deliveries and has said the Saudi accusations are a smokescreen intended to divert attention from its deadly bombing campaign against rebel-held areas.

Nearly 10,000 people have since been killed in the conflict, in what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Civilian casualties from coalition air strikes have drawn criticism from human rights groups, and in October the UN placed the coalition on a blacklist for killing and maiming children.

UC Berkley Develops New Technology To Make Superior Lithium Batteries Cheap As Dirt

Lithium-based batteries use more than 50 percent of all cobalt produced in the world. These batteries are in your cell phone, laptop and maybe even your car. About 50 percent of the world’s cobalt comes from the Congo, where it’s largely mined by hand, in some instances by children.  Cobalt is expensive.

But now, a research team led by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, has opened the door to using other metals in lithium-based batteries, and have built cathodes with 50 percent more lithium-storage capacity than conventional materials.

“We’ve opened up a new chemical space for battery technology,” said senior author Gerbrand Ceder, professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Berkeley. “For the first time we have a really cheap element that can do a lot of electron exchange in batteries.”

The study will be published in the April 12 edition of the journal Nature. The work was a collaboration between scientists at UC Berkeley, Berkeley Lab, Argonne National Lab, MIT and UC Santa Cruz.

In today’s lithium-based batteries, lithium ions are stored in cathodes (the negatively charged electrode), which are layered structures. Cobalt is crucial to maintaining this layered structure. When a battery is charged, lithium ions are pulled from the cathode into the other side of the battery cell, the anode.

The absence of lithium in the cathode leaves a lot of space. Most metal ions would flock into that space, which would cause the cathode to lose its structure. But cobalt is one of the few elements that won’t move around, making it critical to the battery industry.

In 2014, Ceder’s lab discovered a way that cathodes can maintain a high energy density without these layers, a concept called disordered rock salts. The new study shows how manganese can work within this concept, which is a promising step away from cobalt dependence because manganese is found in dirt, making it a cheap element.

“To deal with the resource issue of cobalt, you have to go away from this layeredness in cathodes,” Ceder said. “Disordering cathodes has allowed us to play with a lot more of the periodic table.”

In the new study, Ceder’s lab shows how new technologies can be used to get a lot of capacity from a cathode. Using a process called fluorine doping, the scientists incorporated a large amount of manganese in the cathode. Having more manganese ions with the proper charge allows the cathodes to hold more lithium ions, thus increasing the battery’s capacity.

Other research groups have attempted to fluorine dope cathodes but have not been successful. Ceder says his lab’s work on disordered structures was a big key to their success.

Cathode performance is measured in energy per unit weight, called watt-hours per kilogram. The disordered manganese cathodes approached 1,000 watt-hours per kilogram. Typical lithium-ion cathodes are in the range of 500-700 watt-hours per kilogram.

“In the world of batteries, this is a huge improvement over conventional cathodes,” said lead author Jinhyuk Lee, who was a postdoctoral fellow at Ceder’s lab during the study, and is now a postdoctoral fellow at MIT.

The technology needs to be scaled up and tested more to see if it can be used in applications like laptops or electric vehicles. But Ceder says whether or not this technology actually makes it inside a battery is beside the point; the researchers have opened new possibilities for the design of cathodes, which is even more important.

“You can pretty much use any element in the periodic table now because we’ve shown that cathodes don’t have to be layered,” Ceder said. “Suddenly we have a lot more chemical freedom, and I think that’s where the real excitement is because now we can do exploration of new cathodes.”