SINCE THE RAPTURE OCCURS BEFORE THE FUTURE 7 YR TREATY IS SIGNED, I WONT BE AROUND TO HAVE THE ACTUAL TREATY SIGNING. BUT UNTIL THEN THIS SITE IS DEDICATED TO THE BEGININGS OF THE ISRAELI / ARAB PEACE PROCESS. AND AS CLOSE TO THE 7 YEAR SIGNING THAT WE GET BEFORE THE RAPTURE OF THE SAVED TO HEAVEN. UNTIL WE MEET JESUS IN THE CLOUDS BODILY, AND COME TO EARTH 7 YRS LATER.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER SAYS FOCUSED ON GUN BACKROUND CHECKS,NOT BANS.

JEWISH KING JESUS IS COMING AT THE RAPTURE FOR US IN THE CLOUDS-DON'T MISS IT FOR THE WORLD.THE BIBLE TAKEN LITERALLY- WHEN THE PLAIN SENSE MAKES GOOD SENSE-SEEK NO OTHER SENSE-LEST YOU END UP IN NONSENSE.GET SAVED NOW- CALL ON JESUS TODAY.THE ONLY SAVIOR OF THE WHOLE EARTH - NO OTHER. 1 COR 15:23-JESUS THE FIRST FRUITS-CHRISTIANS RAPTURED TO JESUS-FIRST FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT-23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.ROMANS 8:23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.(THE PRE-TRIB RAPTURE)

LUKE 21:28-29
28 And when these things begin to come to pass,(ALL THE PROPHECY SIGNS FROM THE BIBLE) then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption (RAPTURE) draweth nigh.
29 And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree,(ISRAEL) and all the trees;(ALL INDEPENDENT COUNTRIES)
30 When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand.(ISRAEL LITERALLY BECAME AND INDEPENDENT COUNTRY JUST BEFORE SUMMER IN MAY 14,1948.)

JOEL 2:3,30
3 A fire devoureth (ATOMIC BOMB) before them;(RUSSIAN-ARAB-MUSLIM ARMIES AGAINST ISRAEL) and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them.
30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.(ATOMIC BOMB AFFECT)

ZECHARIAH 14:12-13
12 And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet,(DISOLVED FROM ATOMIC BOMB) and their eyes shall consume away in their holes,(DISOLVED FROM ATOMIC BOMB) and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.(DISOLVED FROM ATOMIC BOMB)(BECAUSE NUKES HAVE BEEN USED ON ISRAELS ENEMIES)(GOD PROTECTS ISRAEL AND ALWAYS WILL)
13 And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the LORD shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbour.(1/2-3 BILLION DIE IN WW3)(THIS IS AN ATOMIC BOMB EFFECT)

EZEKIEL 20:47
47 And say to the forest of the south, Hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree: the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein.

ZEPHANIAH 1:18
18 Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD'S wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.

MALACHI 4:1
1 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven;(FROM ATOMIC BOMBS) and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

And here are the bounderies of the land that Israel will inherit either through war or peace or God in the future. God says its Israels land and only Israels land. They will have every inch God promised them of this land in the future.
Egypt east of the Nile River, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, The southern part of Turkey and the Western Half of Iraq west of the Euphrates. Gen 13:14-15, Psm 105:9,11, Gen 15:18, Exe 23:31, Num 34:1-12, Josh 1:4.ALL THIS LAND ISRAEL WILL DEFINATELY OWN IN THE FUTURE, ITS ISRAELS NOT ISHMAELS LAND.12 TRIBES INHERIT LAND IN THE FUTURE

After Church of Holy Sepulchre shut, Jerusalem suspends church tax collections-Government sets up committee to resolve disputes that sparked angry protests by churches in the capital-By TOI staff-FEB 27,18

The Jerusalem municipality will suspend a controversial move to tax church-owned properties until a new government committee finds a solution to the issue, which has sparked angry protests from the churches, including the shuttering of Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Prime Minister’s Office said Tuesday.The government will also suspend all pending legislation regarding church land until the committee examines the issue, the statement said.“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat have agreed to establish a professional team led by Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, with the participation of all relevant parties, to formulate a solution for the issue of municipal taxes on properties owned by churches that are not houses of worship,” the statement said.“The team will negotiate with the representatives of the churches to resolve the issue,” it said, adding that “as a result, the Jerusalem Municipality is suspending the collection actions it has taken in recent weeks.“Israel is proud to be the only country in the Middle East where Christians and believers of all faiths have full freedom of religion and worship,” the statement said. “Israel is home to a flourishing Christian community and welcomes its Christian friends from all over the world.”There was no immediate reaction from the churches, which had taken the drastic step of shutting one of Christianity’s holiest sites in protest.A decades-long agreement between the churches and the state has prevented the Jerusalem municipality from collecting property tax from Christian institutions.However, the city recently decided, citing a legal opinion, that the exemption for churches applies only to properties used “for prayer, for the teaching of religion or for needs arising from that.”Barkat said the churches owed more than NIS 650 million ($186.3 million) on their commercial operations.The announcement comes as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre remained closed for a third day in protest at the tax measures and a controversial proposed law.Christian leaders closed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Sunday at noon in a rare move, locking out thousands of pilgrims and tourists seeking to visit what Catholic and Orthodox Christians see as the holiest site in Christianity.The church is built where many Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. Custody of it is shared by the Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic denominations.After the church was shuttered, lawmakers on Sunday postponed for a week a Knesset committee debate on a bill that would allow Israel to confiscate land sold by the churches to private developers in cases where homes had been built on the lands.The advancement of the legislation, initiated by Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria and backed by the Justice Ministry, is fiercely opposed by church leaders, who have decried what they see as attempts by Israel to limit their ability to buy and sell their only real assets — real estate.Azaria says her bill seeks to protect hundreds of Israelis, largely in Jerusalem, whose homes are located on land that, until recently, was owned and leased to them by the churches, principally the Greek Orthodox Church — in most cases under 99-year contracts signed in the 1950s between the church and the state, via the Jewish National Fund.The contracts state that when the leases run out, any buildings on them will revert back to the church. Residents expected that the leases would be extended. But in recent years, in order to erase massive debts, the Greek Orthodox Church has sold vast swaths of real estate to private investors, and nobody knows whether they will renew the leases, and if so, under what conditions.Sue Surkes and AFP contributed to this report.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre stays shut for 3rd day in protest-Thousands of pilgrims locked out of Christian holy site as leaders battle municipality tax measures, Knesset bill-By AFP and Sue Surkes-TOI-FEB 27,18

A church in Jerusalem believed by many to have been built at the site of Jesus’s burial remained closed for a third day Tuesday as Christian leaders protested against Israeli tax measures and a controversial proposed law.Christian leaders closed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Sunday at noon in a rare move, leaving thousands of pilgrims and tourists seeking to visit what Catholic and Orthodox Christians see as the holiest site in Christianity locked out.The leaders announced that they were closing the venerated house of prayer until further notice to protest Jerusalem municipality efforts to charge churches back taxes on properties not used for worship, as well as draft Knesset legislation to confiscate church land sold to private developers.The church is built where many Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. Custody of it is shared by the Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic denominations.A decades-long agreement between the churches and the state has prevented the Jerusalem municipality from collecting property tax from Christian institutions.However, the city recently decided, citing a legal opinion, that the exemption for churches applies only to properties used “for prayer, for the teaching of religion or for needs arising from that.”Responding to comments made by the Greek patriarch on Sunday about the city’s “scandalous collection notices” and “orders of seizure of Church assets, properties and bank accounts,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said the taxes would only be collected on properties where the churches run businesses.“The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, like other places of worship owned by all churches, are exempt from property tax — that is not changing and will continue,” he said.But the churches owed more than NIS 650 million ($186.3 million) on commercial operations, he added.In response to the closure of the Holy Sepulchre church, lawmakers on Sunday postponed for a week a Knesset committee debate on a bill that would allow Israel to confiscate land sold by the churches to private developers in cases where homes had been built on the lands.The advancement of the legislation, initiated by Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria and backed by the Justice Ministry, is fiercely opposed by church leaders, who have decried what they see as attempts by Israel to limit their ability to buy and sell their only real assets — real estate.Azaria says her bill seeks to protect hundreds of Israelis, largely in Jerusalem, whose homes are located on land that, until recently, was owned and leased to them by the churches, principally the Greek Orthodox Church — in most cases under 99-year contracts signed in the 1950s between the church and the state, via the Jewish National Fund.The contracts state that when the leases run out, any buildings on them will revert back to the church. Residents expected that the leases would be extended. But in recent years, in order to erase massive debts, the Greek Orthodox Church has sold vast swaths of real estate to private investors, and nobody knows whether they will renew the leases, and if so, under what conditions.

Coalition partners spar over ultra-Orthodox draft bill-After Liberman says he'll only support legislation backed by Defense Ministry, religious MK says he will 'topple the coalition over this law'-By TOI staff-FEB 27,18

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman doubled down Tuesday on his opposition to a proposed bill exempting ultra-Orthodox students from the military draft, prompting a religious lawmaker to say his party will no longer vote for “bizarre laws” if legislation on the matter was not advanced.“Regarding Haredi enlistment, Yisrael Beytenu’s position is clear and transparent: We will only support legislation put together by the professional team established by the Defense Ministry,” Liberman wrote on Facebook.His remark came a day after his party threatened to vote against the bill, saying the proposed legislation must be approved by ministers before being brought to the chamber for an initial vote.Ultra-Orthodox lawmakers, meanwhile, were seeking to expedite the legislation and bring it to the plenum on Wednesday for its preliminary reading. They were leveraging their support for the 2019 state budget — set for its final votes in the coming weeks — on the passage of their bill. The draft bill would still require another three plenary votes before becoming law.Addressing the other coalition parties, Liberman said political agendas should be put to the side on the issue of conscription.“I ask you to maintain only one agenda: The IDF and the security of the citizens of the State of Israel,” he said. “As a member of the coalition, Yisrael Beytenu is prepared to compromise and be flexible on many issues, except one — the security of the State of Israel.”Liberman said any attempt to forward a bill not backed by his party “will encounter firm resistance.”Hitting back at Liberman, a United Torah Judaism lawmaker said the party would withhold its support for other pieces of legislation.“We won’t vote anymore for the bizarre laws that you present,” said MK Moshe Gafni at a meeting of the Knesset Finance Committee, which he chairs. He was seated next to Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who heads the ultra-Orthodox Shas party.It wasn’t clear which laws Gafni was calling “bizarre.”Gafni said the ultra-Orthodox parties would bring the vote to a plenum reading on Wednesday, despite Yisrael Beytenu’s opposition.“This is a total crisis, not a mini-crisis,” Gafni later told Israel Radio. “I will topple the coalition over this law.”The coalition party leaders were set to discuss the new enlistment legislation during their weekly meeting on Sunday, but the issue was not raised as UTJ’s Yaakov Litzman skipped the meeting to attend the funeral of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, the influential leader of a fiercely anti-draft offshoot of Lithuanian ultra-Orthodoxy.The looming showdown between secular Yisrael Beytenu and the ultra-Orthodox parties could pave the way for a fresh crisis in the government, already destabilized by mounting corruption investigations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.According to Hebrew media reports on Friday, the rabbinical council that governs much of the decision-making in United Torah Judaism reportedly instructed its lawmakers to vote against the budget — the passing of which is a high priority of the prime minister and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who want to secure it as early as possible — as long as the army exemption law is not promoted.Gafni was mum on Tuesday when asked whether UTJ would vote against the budget.In September 2017, the High Court of Justice struck down a law exempting ultra-Orthodox men engaged in religious study from military service, saying it undermined the principle of equality before the law. However, the court suspended its decision for a year to allow for a new arrangement to be put in place, giving the government the option to pass a new law.Earlier this month, UTJ and Shas reportedly threatened to bring down the government after Netanyahu told them he would not currently support a new version of the repealed military draft law.The issue of ultra-Orthodox enlistment has been a contentious one in Israel, revolving around a decades-old debate as to whether young ultra-Orthodox men studying in yeshivas, or seminaries, should be called up for compulsory military service like the rest of Israel’s Jewish population. After reaching the age of 18, men must serve for 32 months and women for 24.Netanyahu is facing possible indictments in two separate corruption scandals, while two additional scandals have entangled several people close to him. His coalition partners have thus far stuck by him, but some analysts have predicted he may be pushed into calling early elections to shore up support as his legal woes pile up.

Minister apologizes for comparing rival to Hamas in 2015 election campaign-Jewish Home party chief Naftali Bennett brands as 'inappropriate, unjustified and wrong' his video targeting MK Yossi Yonah, who accepts apology-By Michael Bachner-TOI-FEB 27,18

Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday apologized for publishing a campaign video three years ago that denounced opposition Zionist Union candidate Yossi Yonah as sympathetic to the Palestinian terror organization Hamas.“I’m sorry for that, it was inappropriate, unjustified and wrong,” Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, told Yonah, who is now a MK, during a meeting of the Knesset’s Finance Committee.The clip, aired ahead of the 2015 general elections, starts with an image of the Hamas logo and menacing music. Then a quote appears: “There’s no difference between the Jewish Holocaust Day and the Palestinian Nakba.” The line, written in broken Hebrew, suggesting it was written by Arabs, refers to the “catastrophe” that for Palestinians is Israel’s creation in 1948.Images of the Holocaust and violent Palestinian uprisings emerge, followed by more controversial statements, such as “Respect for Zionist soldiers who refuse to serve in the occupied territories” and “As long as there is occupation there will be terror,” mixed with footage of Palestinian protests.“This is not Hamas! This is Yossi Yona [from] the Labor party headed by [Isaac] Boujie [Herzog]” reads this campaign video posted online by Jewish Home party chairman Naftali Bennett in 2015 (photo credit: screen grab YouTube)-At the end of the one-minute clip, it says: “This is not Hamas! This is Yossi Yonah [from] the Labor party headed by [Isaac] Boujie [Herzog].”“I was appalled, I was angry, I was hurt,” Yonah, an Ivy League-educated social activist and a professor of the philosophy of education at Ben Gurion University, told The Times of Israel at the time. “Though I am critical and sometimes some of my comments were provocative, they were never stated with any desire or wish for this place to unravel. This place, Israel, is dear to me.”Most of the statements attributed to him in the video are either total fabrications or partial statements ripped out of context, Yona asserted at the time. Only one statement attributed to him was accurately reflected in the clip, and he has since retracted it, he added. The Times of Israel reached a similar conclusion after looking up some of the statements.Several lawmakers interrupted Bennett while he made the apology, and MK Mickey Rosenthal, Yonah’s party member, then told them “this is a very human moment, the minister is saying things from the heart.”Committee chairman MK Moshe Gafni also praised Bennett, saying that he had “acted remarkably,” and that participants should have let him do it “without background noise.”Yonah, for his part, told Bennett he accepted the apology.“I appreciate the statement, accept your apology and hope this will be a preface for restraining our remarks,” he said.Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

Beit Shemesh strips off ‘modesty’ signs in nighttime operation-City workers escorted by elite police unit after a previous attempt to remove gender segregation notices was cut short by scuffles-By TOI staff-FEB 27,18

Municipal workers took down “modesty” signs in Beit Shemesh early Tuesday morning, carrying out a December High Court of Justice ruling ordering their removal.The city workers were accompanied by officers from Jerusalem’s Special Patrol Unit, who prevented ultra-Orthodox onlookers from interfering with the work, the Ynet news site reported.An attempt to remove the signs, which instruct men and women to walk on separate sides of the street, in December was cut short “due to violent disorderly conduct” by ultra-Orthodox men, the municipality said at the time.The court ruling came in response to a municipality appeal in July of a lower court order to remove the signs. The court ruled the signs, which justices say discriminate based on gender, must come down by December 12.Beit Shemesh, a city of some 110,000 people 19 miles west of Jerusalem, was to have been fined NIS 10,000, nearly $3,000, for every day the signs remained posted.In its appeal, the municipality said the signs demanding conformity to ultra-Orthodox dress are just “ideological signs.”Beit Shemesh was first ordered to remove the signs in 2015, when the High Court said that they “cause serious harm to human dignity, equality, personal choice and autonomy,” Ynet reported.Two years later, when the signs were not removed, the women who filed the original lawsuit turned to an administrative court to enforce the ruling.Beit Shemesh has seen conflict between ultra-Orthodox, non-ultra-Orthodox and secular residents over restrictions on women’s dress and gender-segregated seating on public buses. In a widely publicized incident in 2011, an 8-year-old Orthodox girl was spat on by ultra-Orthodox men on her way to school for her perceived immodest dress.JTA contributed to this report.

Bill that could bar left-wing groups from schools passes first reading-'Breaking the Silence law' would empower education minister to ban NGOs 'that work to damage the IDF' from educational institutions-By Alexander Fulbright-TOI-FEB 27,18

A bill empowering the education minister to ban organizations critical of the Israeli military from entering schools passed its first reading in the Knesset on Monday.The legislation, voted in by a 35-23 margin, will now head to the Knesset Education Committee before it is brought to a second and third reading and signed into law.The legislation was first proposed in 2016 amid intense public debate over the legitimacy of left-wing groups operating in Israel. It is primarily directed at the Breaking the Silence organization, but would give the education minister the power to ban any groups “that work to damage the IDF” from entering academic institutions.The bill was proposed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) in December 2016 after three high school principals ignored his guidelines on prohibiting the organization from speaking to students.During the Knesset vote, Jewish Home MK Shuli Mualem–Refaeli, the bill’s sponsor, accused Breaking the Silence of seeking to “undermine” Israel’s existence through its actions.“The goal of Breaking the Silence and all organizations like it is not to correct but rather to undermine the existence of the State of Israel [and] harm IDF officers and soldiers,” she said. “The foolish attempt to attribute to IDF soldiers a lust to murder children — not in our schools.”The bill was criticized by opposition lawmakers, namely from the left-wing Meretz party.“Soldiers who gave the best years of their lives to the state want to tell the truth,” said MK Mossi Raz. “There is a limit to silencing voices.”Breaking the Silence said in response to the Knesset vote that it is Bennett who is harming Israeli soldiers.“Those who hurt IDF soldiers are politicians like Bennett, who send us to control the Palestinians and are silent when settlers routinely attack soldiers and Palestinians. Naftali, get off the hilltops and realize — the only way to stop us is to end the occupation,” it said on Twitter.Founded in 2004 by a group of veteran Israeli army combatants, Breaking the Silence collects reports, usually anonymously, about alleged abuses by soldiers in the West Bank and Gaza. It has often locked horns with the Israeli political and military brass and its critics have denounced its reports as dishonest, inaccurate, and part of an advocacy campaign intended to harm Israel’s image overseas.In recent years, a number of right-wing lawmakers have sought to advance legislation seemingly meant to curtail the group’s activities. For example, the Knesset approved the so-called “NGO Law” in June 2016, which obligates certain nonprofit groups — including Breaking the Silence — to declare all their foreign funding.Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

EU urges Poland to respond to rule of law concerns By Eszter Zalan-EUOBSERVER

BRUSSELS, Today, 16:11-EU ministers discussed rule of law concerns in Poland on Tuesday (27 February) and called on the country's right wing government to address the bloc's worries over its undermining of the independence of the Polish judiciary.The European Commission invoked Article 7 of the EU treaty, a sanctions procedure against a member state, for the first time last December – arguing that Poland's overhaul of the judiciary puts it under political control and breaches EU values.The EU executive's vice president Frans Timmermans, who is dealing with rule of law concerns on behalf of the bloc, updated ministers and urged Warsaw to come forward with its responses to the commission's concerns."A dialogue is only useful if it produces results, so we are looking forward to Poland's reaction to our recent proposals and the fourth recommendations we sent in December," Timmermans said."I remain hopeful we will see positive proposals, I have no indication what will be in the proposals," Timmermans said.On the basis of the Polish response, which Timmermans are expected "shortly", the commission will decide its next moves.Timmermans said if Warsaw's reaction includes concrete proposals, the commission will work to come to an agreement with Poland. Otherwise it will push member states to take action."It depends on the [Polish] document, […] if it offers us possibilities to start really working on the issues, I don't want to come back to the council with half-work, if there is very little we can do, then I would like to be back to the council very soon," the Dutch politician said.-Charm offensive-Days before the commission's decision to trigger Article 7, Mateusz Morawiecki, a new prime minister for the ruling Polish Law and Justice party (PiS) took office, and launched a charm offensive in Brussels.But the change is style has not brought real progress in talks. Dialogue is ongoing, but it seems the commission has lost its appetite to fight as member states are reluctant to sanction one another .If there is no progress in talks, the commission could propose to move forward with enacting the sanctions by a qualified majority of member states' votes.However, it is unclear if the commission could find 22 member states who would support its position. Hungary has already said it would veto any sanction against Poland.-'No serious threat'-Poland's EU affairs minister Konrad Szymanski said his country will present a so-called "white book" soon, explaining its position on all thirteen laws concerned and will expect member states to have their own opinion on that, rather than copy the commission's views."We will expect from member states that they develop their own assessment of this situation and really consider whether it has anything to do with any serious risk of a serious breach of the rule of law. In our view, there is no such serious risk, such serious threat. So there is no ground to conclude this procedure [Article 7] in a way that would be confrontational vis-a-vis Poland," the EU minister said after the meeting."We certainly do not share this far-reaching opinion on what consequences of these legal acts would have for the Polish legal order. Today we expect a better understanding of that," Szymanki added.He did not however said when Warsaw will address the commission's concerns.The commission gave three months to the Polish government to address concerns, and Warsaw is planning to respond to the EU executive's recommendations by the 20 March deadline."We have some concrete issues […] but we don't dispute the right of a member states to reorganise its judicial systems. However the need for reform can never be an excuse to enhance political control over the judiciary, […] the separation of powers is a fundamental principle of the EU," Timmermans reiterated.Nineteen member states spoke out during the meeting in favour of the commission's efforts. German state minister Michael Roth said on his way into the meeting: "we hope that we can come to a reasonable solution, but if that doesn't happen, we'll have to talk about additional measures".

Selmayr's promotion 'perfectly normal', Commission says By Eric Maurice-EUOBSERVER

BRUSSELS, 26. Feb, 17:50-The European Commission insisted on Monday (26 February) that the appointment of its new secretary general was "perfectly normal and legal" despite secrecy surrounding the move last week."It's all according to the rules, the letter and the spirit of the rules," commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein told journalists.Martin Selmayr, the powerful and sometimes controversial head of cabinet of commission president Jean-Claude Juncker was appointed last Wednesday during the weekly meeting of the commissioners.On Sunday, French daily Liberation said that the move was irregular, because Selmayr did not have the necessary rank of director general or deputy director general before the meeting started.Selmayr was first appointed deputy secretary general. Then the secretary general Alexander Italianer resigned and Selmayr was within minutes appointed to the EU executive's highest administrative position.According to Liberation, no other member of the college of commissioners than Juncker was aware of the move, including the commissioner in charge of human resources Guenther Oettinger.The French daily also suggested that, given the timing, Selmayr did not get through the usual procedure.Winterstein said that "each and every one" of the "stringent and difficult" steps in the procedure were passed by Selmayr and that Juncker's right-hand man was "the best candidate".He said that the opening for the deputy secretary was published on 31 January, and that two people, including Selmayr, applied for the job. The spokesman added that Selmayr went to the commission's evaluation centre on 15 February, had an interview and evaluation on 16 February, followed by an interview with Oettinger.He did not specify however when Selmayr was interviewed by Oettinger.He defended Selmayr's appointment as secretary general within minutes of Italianer's resignation by the need to avoid a "gap" at the top of the institution."What you certainly don't want to have is the most important position being vacant for any period of time, he said.He said that disclosing in advance that Italianer would leave "would have hampered [his] effectiveness".Last week, however, Juncker said that he knew since appointing him in 2015 that Italianer would quit his post on 1 March 2018.The commission spokesman argued that "decisions of such scale are taken with the required confidentiality", but declined to say since when Selmayr knew about the timing of Italianer's resignation.He also did not deny claims that commissioners were not aware of the planned move before last Wednesday's meeting."There was the interview with the commissioner in charge, Guenther Oettinger. That's all I can say. And the college discussed it on Wednesday," he said.'Cloak and dagger operation' He added that "the college started at 9.30 and then they discussed this issue, took note of all the facts and then took their decision."Claims that Selmayr's double appointment was a done deal are strengthened by the fact that a press conference by Juncker and Oettinger to announced the move was announced in an email sent to journalists at 9.39, while commissioners were supposed to be discussing it."They kept their cards close to their chest," an official noted last Wednesday, referring to the Juncker cabinet's secret preparations.It was a "cloak and dagger operation," said Green MEP Sven Giegold, who asked for a investigation by the European Parliament."It is unacceptable to put important staffing decisions on the agenda of the college of commissioners without proper advance [notice]," he said in a statement, adding that "the allocation of top positions in public institutions without an open tender is a bad habit."

Opinion-On cybersecurity, Europe must act now By Mart Laar-EUOBSERVER

Tallinn, 26. Feb, 11:08-A spectre is haunting the world – the cyber spectre.This menace can reveal itself under different faces, taking the form of criminality, terrorism or state-sponsored activity – often using several faces together and masking its true intentions.Over 200,000 victims in more than 150 countries across the globe were hit last year by Wannacry, probably the most significant cyber attack to date.Among them were large corporations such as Telefonica and hospitals in the UK, which had to cancel or delay medical procedures.The NotPetya attack a month later is estimated to have cost companies more than $1.2bn (€975,000). We have seen election campaign hacks in 2016 and 2017 where attacks were used to delegitimise the electoral process or cast a shadow over elected representatives.By now it is becoming clear that the threats cyber attacks pose are real. Luckily, while cyber threats may be inevitable, their paralysing impact is not.But fighting them is new for us.Some governments have closed their eyes, hoping that the menace will go away. It will not. It will only become stronger.No borders-Other governments are more diligent, creating their own ways and institutions for response. Unfortunately the spectre does not recognise borders, which is why the NotPetya, that seemed first to be targeting primarily Ukraine, spread fast and closed businesses in Estonia while the systems that caused this were located in France.We can win this war only if we stand united. NATO has by now officially recognised cyberspace as a domain of operations, confirming that a cyberattack on any of its allies will be considered an act of war. But cyber threats are significantly larger than military, often fought by non-military means.The former Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves, whose country in 2007 witnessed one of the first massive cyber attacks in the world, recently made a proposal to create a worldwide alliance to fight cyber threats.A timely proposal, but realising it can take more time than we actually have.We must act immediately, using existing structures and, where necessary, taking a step further. Europe has become a major player in fighting cyber threats.The EU solidarity clause is valid in the case of a cyber attack, too, not only in the case of conventional threats. Luckily, today in EU we do no longer lack the tools, we just have to be able to use them.-EU response-In September, the Commission published the renewed EU cyber security strategy.The Estonian presidency in the council acted quickly upon the commission's proposals and adopted council conclusions in November, followed by adoption of the concrete action plan to implement the EU cybersecurity strategy in December.For us to be able to convincingly deter cyber threats, the EU agreed last year on its framework that will allow to use all EU common foreign policy tools as a response to cyber attacks – from diplomatic demarches to economic sanctions.Now the politicians of Europe must be ready to use it. But experience and understanding of cyber threats among various member states are too different.What for some is everyday reality seems to others like a fantasy from another world. We do not have time to wait for everybody to get on board, we must act now.In the EU, this action can be taken, if needed, in the form of enhanced cooperation.It is a procedure where a minimum of nine member states are allowed to establish advanced integration or cooperation inside the EU.One may argue that the EU´s recently established Permanent Structured Defence Cooperation (Pesco) should provide a suitable platform for stepping up cyber defence cooperation as well.But although there are two cyber-related projects among the initial list of projects under Pesco, the whole area of cyber security is so much broader and brings together so many civilian elements that cooperation under Pesco will never be enough.For core challenges, enhanced cooperation would allow the participating countries to put in place rules for decreasing possibilities of cyber attacks, such as exchanging information more actively, widening the NIS directive list of essential services to areas protecting our way of life, such as democratic elections and government systems.This would allow the member states to coordinate common responses to possible attacks and, importantly, attribute the attacks to perpetrators.Cyber 'hygiene' Member states could launch an investment program to R&D centres, which provide for solutions in cyber security and massive cyber education programs not only for experts but also for the general public, raising awareness in cyber hygiene.By following simple rules, we can significantly decrease the risks of becoming a target of future attacks.The Wannacry attack could easily have been avoided by basic security practices, such as replacing outdated software and installing critical updates.Estonia managed to keep the impact of WannaCry to almost zero by a large-scale targeted campaign in cooperation with private sector, asking people to stop using the obsolete system containing a critical vulnerability.From enhanced cooperation, we could take the next move: forming a cyber defence alliance, including members from other parts of the world, as cyber threats recognise no borders.With such steps, Europe can lead the fight for the future. In the past, Europe has always been successful when it succeeded in seeing current problems as opportunities for the future.A similar opportunity is now open for us.Mart Laar is a former Estonian prime minister (1992-1994 and 1999-2002)

EU agrees budget to focus on defence, security and migration By Eszter Zalan-EUOBSERVER

BRUSSELS, 23. Feb, 22:08-EU leaders agreed on Friday (23 February) to spend more on defence, security and "stemming illegal migration" in the next long-term budget, European Council chief Donald Tusk said.After leaders held their preliminary discussion of the first post-Brexit budget, Tusk told reporters that many European heads of government were ready to contribute more money to the next budget cycle, that runs 2021-27."All the leaders approached [the budget] with open minds, rather than red lines," he stated.Tusk however said that the EU Commission's ambitious deadline for reaching an agreement by the end of this year seemed "really difficult".The EU executive wants to conclude talks by the next European elections in May 2019, however, haggling over the budget usually takes more than two years.Germany's Angela Merkel said the debate was "constructive", and said leaders will decide how fast to move with agreeing to the EU budget after the commission's proposal will be published in May.The German chancellor also warned cuts will have to be made to "bureaucratic" policies, like agriculture.One of the countries that does not want to pay more after the UK leaves the EU, the Netherlands' PM Mark Rutte, said the bloc needs to modernise and reform existing programs to finds more money."We, in any case, do not want our contribution to rise," he said.-Conditionality-EU leaders also discussed the possibility of linking EU funds to migration and respecting the rule of law.Donald Tusk told reporters the discussion was less toxic than many had speculated in the run up to the summit.Member states that benefit from cohesion funds earlier warned against using EU money aimed for reducing economic differences across the EU for integrating migrants or for punishing countries that breach EU rules.After the discussions Tusk said that he had only heard "positive reactions", and that the concept was not questioned by any leader who spoke.Tusk said that Poland's premier Mateusz Morawiecki also said he was ready to support conditionality, adding that it should be built a very objective criteria."The possible conditionality was less controversial than expected," Tusk said - adding that the debate at this point was very general.France's president Emmanuel Macron had a strong warning to those who infringe EU values, something Poland had been accused of by the commission."It would be matter of good sense to halt the payment of some [EU] funds where is there is a breach of our values," Macron said.

U.S. threatens action against Iran after Russia U.N. veto-[Reuters]-By Michelle Nichols-YAHOONEWS-February 27, 2018

UNITED NATIONS/TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - The United States threatened unilateral action against Iran on Monday after Russia vetoed a western bid for the United Nations Security Council to call out Tehran for failing to prevent its weapons from falling into the hands of Yemen's Houthi group."If Russia is going to continue to cover for Iran then the U.S. and our partners need to take action on our own. If we're not going to get action on the council then we have to take our own actions," U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley told reporters during a visit to Honduran capital Tegucigalpa.Haley did not specify what kind of action could be taken.The Russian veto was a defeat for the United States, which has been lobbying for months for Iran to be held accountable at the United Nations, while at the same time threatening to quit a 2015 deal among world powers to curb Iran's nuclear program if "disastrous flaws" are not fixed."Obviously this vote isn't going to make the decision on the nuclear deal. What I can say is it doesn't help," Haley said. "That just validated a lot of what we already thought which is Iran gets a pass for its dangerous and illegal behavior."President Donald Trump warned European allies last month that they had to commit by mid-May to work with Washington to improve the pact. Britain drafted the failed U.N. resolution in consultation with the United States and France.The initial draft text - to renew the annual mandate of a targeted sanctions regime related to Yemen - wanted to include a condemnation of Iran for violating an arms embargo on Houthi leaders and include a council commitment to take action over it.'NO ILLUSIONS' In a bid to win Moscow's support, the draft that was vetoed had been weakened to simply "note with particular concern" the violation, which was reported to the council by U.N. experts monitoring sanctions. It received 11 votes in favor, two against - Russia and Bolivia - while China and Kazakhstan abstained.Russia has questioned the findings of the U.N. experts report, which was submitted to the council in January.A council resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by Russia, China, the United States, France or Britain to pass. Following the failed vote on the British draft, the council adopted a rival Russian draft that did not mention Iran and simply renewed the U.N. sanctions regime on Yemen for a year.A senior Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged that the international community - and in particular, the Europeans - needed to do more to voice their concerns about Iran's behavior."We don't have any illusions with regard to Iran's policy towards Israel, Iran's role in the region ... and also what they do in terms of constructing ballistic missiles," the diplomat said. "What we're trying, and have to do ... is to actually make these points even clearer than in the past."A proxy war is playing out in Yemen between Iran and U.S. ally Saudi Arabia. A Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, backing government forces fighting Iran-allied Houthi rebels. Iran has denied supplying the Houthis weapons.After the Security Council voted on Monday, Iran's mission to the United Nations accused the United States and Britain of misusing the council "to advance their political agenda and put the blame of all that happens in Yemen on Iran."(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Grant McCool and Michael Perry)

Sessions says Justice Dept. inching closer to banning bump stocks-[Reuters]-YAHOONEWS-By Sarah N. Lynch-February 27, 2018

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Tuesday the Justice Department will be ready soon to announce a decision on bump stocks, and hinted that the department's lawyers believe the device can be banned through new regulations.In remarks to state attorneys general from around the country, Sessions said his department's lawyers see a legal path to ban bump stocks, despite prior legal opinions to the contrary by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)."We will have an announcement on that soon," he said, in remarks to the National Association of Attorneys General."We believe in that, and we have had to deal with previous ATF legal opinions, but our top people in the Department of Justice have believed for some time that we can through regulatory process not allow the bump stock to convert a weapon from a semiautomatic to a fully automatic."Sessions' remarks came about a week after President Donald Trump pledged in the wake of the mass shooting at Parkland High School in Florida to ban bump stocks, a gun accessory that enables a rifle to shoot hundreds of rounds a minute.The device came under scrutiny after a gunman in October who used a bump stock device killed 58 people and wounded hundreds of others as they attended a country music concert in Las Vegas.Authorities said Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock’s ability to fire hundreds of rounds per minute over a 10-minute period from his 32nd-floor hotel suite was a major factor in the high casualty count.In December, the ATF launched a review into possibly banning the device through regulations and asked the public for comment.At issue is the definition of the term “machine gun” and whether bump stocks fall under that definition.In a 2010 legal opinion by the ATF, the bureau determined that bump stocks could not be regulated under the Gun Control Act or the National Firearms Act.In a subsequent 2013 letter to Congress, the ATF reiterated that position, saying, "ATF does not have the authority to restrict their lawful possession, use, or transfer."Given some of the legal questions surrounding the ATF's authority, some members of Congress have proposed legislation explicitly banning the device. To date, such legislation has not advanced.(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Florida Sheriff's Office could be sued over deputy's inaction: experts-[Reuters]-By Tina Bellon-YAHOONEWS-February 27, 2018

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Sheriff's Office in Broward County, Florida, could be sued over the failure of one of its deputies to enter a high school while a gunman was killing 17 people earlier this month, legal experts said.Law enforcement officers are generally immune to legal claims over inaction, as courts have held they need to be able to make decisions without fear of liability.However, the Sheriff's Office and Deputy Sheriff Scot Peterson could fall under a "special relationship" exception because Peterson was specifically assigned to protect Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, said Timothy Lytton, a law professor at Georgia State University who has written a book on gun litigation."The children and teachers justifiably relied on him and his unique level of knowledge to protect them," Lytton said.The deputy's failure to enter the school during the shooting has added to criticism of law enforcement officials over warnings that accused shooter Nikolas Cruz posed a threat.To succeed, any lawsuit over Peterson's conduct would need to show that if he had intervened lives would have been saved.On Monday the Sun-Sentinel newspaper in Broward County cited Peterson's lawyer Joseph DiRuzzo as saying that the deputy had acted appropriately based on his belief that gunshots were coming from outside the school.DiRuzzo declined to comment to Reuters.Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel has said that Peterson should have entered the school and killed the shooter.Lytton said Israel's statements "provide a strong basis on which to go forward with a lawsuit" and that plaintiffs lawyers would argue the sheriff's assessment outweighs Peterson's in showing the deputy acted negligently.The Sheriff's Office did not respond to a request for comment.Peterson, 54, who had been assigned to Stoneman Douglas High School as an armed school resource officer since 2009, resigned on Thursday rather than face suspension after an internal investigation was launched.Florida Department of Education data showed that just over 1,500 such officers were assigned to schools during the 2015-2016 school year, the latest figures available.Andrew McClurg, a law professor with the University of Memphis who has expertise in gun laws, said Peterson's position as a school resource officer meant he owed a duty to students and staff, putting him outside the broad immunity enjoyed by police officers.Along with the sheriff's comments, guidelines by the Broward Sheriff's Office for so-called active shooter situations would further support liability claims, said John Berry, a Virginia lawyer who defends police officers.The Sheriff's Office's standard procedures, revised in March 2016 and viewed by Reuters, allow for a sole deputy to confront an active shooter to preserve life without waiting for backup or seeking a supervisor's approval.Similar procedures have been adopted by many of the roughly 18,000 U.S. police departments in response to active shooters who often kill the majority of their victims soon after opening fire, said Pete Blair, executive director of the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University.Berry said he expected any lawsuits to be quickly settled, given strong public sympathy for victims of the Florida shooting.Public pressure could also factor into how much victims and their families would receive. Under Florida law, damages awards against state government agencies are capped at $300,000 per claimant.McClurg said he expected the state legislature to waive that cap for the Parkland shooting. "Given the politics of this case, I would not want to be a legislator opposed to doling out more money for the victims," he said.(Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by Anthony Lin)

U.S. House speaker says focused on gun background checks, not bans-[Reuters]-By Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell-YAHOONEWS-February 27, 2018

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican leaders in Congress said on Tuesday they were not likely to arm teachers or raise the minimum age for buying semi-automatic rifles in a sign that two of President Donald Trump's proposals may not get far on Capitol Hill after a deadly Florida school shooting.House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said Republicans are focused on improving background checks for potential gun buyers but not interested in preventing Americans from owning certain types of weapons - an idea fiercely opposed by gun-rights groups like the National Rifle Association.“We shouldn’t be banning guns from law abiding citizens," Ryan said at a news conference. "We should be focusing on making sure that citizens who should not get guns in the first place don’t get those guns."The long-simmering debate over gun laws was reignited by a Feb. 14 massacre that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, an affluent suburb of Fort Lauderdale.Since then, Trump has floated a wide range of ideas to prevent similar shootings, including improving mental-health treatment to banning "bump stocks" that enable semi-automatic rifles to fire hundreds of rounds per minute.Ryan said the House was unlikely to act on two of Trump's more controversial proposals. One would allow teachers to carry firearms in the classroom and another would raise the minimum purchase age for military-style assault rifles from 18 to 21.State and local governments should be allowed to decide whether to arm teachers, Ryan said.The 14 students and three adult educators killed in Florida were shot with a semi-automatic AR-15-style assault weapon. Authorities say it was purchased legally last year by the accused gunman, Nikolas Cruz, when he was 18 years old.(Writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Bill Trott)

Twenty states sue federal government, seeking end to Obamacare-[Reuters]-YAHOONEWS-February 27, 2018

(Reuters) - A coalition of 20 U.S. states sued the federal government on Monday over Obamacare, claiming the law was no longer constitutional after the repeal last year of its requirement that people have health insurance or pay a fine.Led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, the lawsuit said that without the individual mandate, which was eliminated as part of the Republican tax law signed by President Donald Trump in December, Obamacare was unlawful."The U.S. Supreme Court already admitted that an individual mandate without a tax penalty is unconstitutional," Paxton said in a statement. "With no remaining legitimate basis for the law, it is time that Americans are finally free from the stranglehold of Obamacare, once and for all," he said.The U.S. Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether the Trump administration would defend the law in court.The individual mandate in Obamacare was meant to ensure a viable health insurance market by forcing younger and healthier Americans to buy coverage.Republicans have opposed the 2010 law formally known as the Affordable Care Act, the signature domestic policy achievement of Trump's Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, since its inception.Paxton and Schimel, both Republicans, were joined in the lawsuit by 18 states including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Utah and West Virginia. It was filed in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Texas.(Reporting by Eric Beech in Washington)

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