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2/14/16

US Press constantly negative towards Europe - Why doesn't Europe pay them back in kind?

Most of the time when you pick up an American newspaper or hear a review about the EU on US TV and Radio networks, it usually is a negative, derogatory or slanted story. 

Case in point: The American conservative thinker recently wrote:" Europe is on fire, in a social and financial crisis of its leaders’ own making. Its public places are now spectacles of the obscene, and its women are sexual objects for a predatory race of invaders. Its social systems are stretched to the breaking point by belligerent "refugees" who are devouring their host countries at will, while Europe’s leaders defend the invaders and blame their own citizens."

"Islam is now controlling most of Europe, either actively, or passively, due to the absence of any response from local governing authorities -- a curious void of law and order.  “Peace in our time” has now given way to the “Religion of Peace.” 

What utter nonsense.

It is amazing Eururope is not reacting to all this undermining and mostly unfounded nonsense more aggressively? 

After all, if Europe has a refugee and an ISIS problem today, it has had a lot, if not everything to do with the war the conservative "father and son" Bush US presidency teams started in the Middle East against Iraq. Worst of all - these wars were based on totally fictitious reasons.When will the US press start talking about that?

It is high time the EU takes a very close look at its foreign policy objectives and adapts it to fit the real needs of Europe, not only those of the US, especially when it concerns the Middle East or the EU's relationship with Russia

EU-Digest

2/13/16

USA: I Will Miss Barack Obama - by David Brooks

President Barack Obama
As this primary season has gone along, a strange sensation has come over me: I miss Barack Obama. Now, obviously I disagree with a lot of Obama’s policy decisions. I’ve been disappointed by aspects of his presidency. I hope the next presidency is a philosophic departure.

But over the course of this campaign it feels as if there’s been a decline in behavioral standards across the board. Many of the traits of character and leadership that Obama possesses, and that maybe we have taken too much for granted, have suddenly gone missing or are in short supply.

The first and most important of these is basic integrity. The Obama administration has been remarkably scandal-free. Think of the way Iran-contra or the Lewinsky scandals swallowed years from Reagan and Clinton.

We’ve had very little of that from Obama. He and his staff have generally behaved with basic rectitude. Hillary Clinton is constantly having to hold these defensive press conferences when she’s trying to explain away some vaguely shady shortcut she’s taken, or decision she has made, but Obama has not had to do that.

He and his wife have not only displayed superior integrity themselves, they have mostly attracted and hired people with high personal standards. There are all sorts of unsightly characters floating around politics, including in the Clinton camp and in Gov. Chris Christie’s administration. This sort has been blocked from team Obama.

Second, a sense of basic humanity. Donald Trump has spent much of this campaign vowing to block Muslim immigration. You can only say that if you treat Muslim Americans as an abstraction. President Obama, meanwhile, went to a mosque, looked into people’s eyes and gave a wonderful speech reasserting their place as Americans.

He’s exuded this basic care and respect for the dignity of others time and time again. Let’s put it this way: Imagine if Barack and Michelle Obama joined the board of a charity you’re involved in. You’d be happy to have such people in your community. Could you say that comfortably about Ted Cruz? The quality of a president’s humanity flows out in the unexpected but important moments.

Third, a soundness in his decision-making process. Over the years I have spoken to many members of this administration who were disappointed that the president didn’t take their advice. But those disappointed staffers almost always felt that their views had been considered in depth.

Obama’s basic approach is to promote his values as much as he can within the limits of the situation. Bernie Sanders, by contrast, has been so blinded by his values that the reality of the situation does not seem to penetrate his mind.

Take health care. Passing Obamacare was a mighty lift that led to two gigantic midterm election defeats. As Megan McArdle pointed out in her Bloomberg View column, Obamacare took coverage away from only a small minority of Americans. Sanderscare would take employer coverage away from tens of millions of satisfied customers, destroy the health insurance business and levy massive new tax hikes. This is epic social disruption.

To think you could pass Sanderscare through a polarized Washington and in a country deeply suspicious of government is to live in intellectual fairyland. President Obama may have been too cautious, especially in the Middle East, but at least he’s able to grasp the reality of the situation.

Fourth, grace under pressure. I happen to find it charming that Marco Rubio gets nervous on the big occasions — that he grabs for the bottle of water, breaks out in a sweat and went robotic in the last debate. It shows Rubio is a normal person. And I happen to think overconfidence is one of Obama’s great flaws. But a president has to maintain equipoise under enormous pressure. Obama has done that, especially amid the financial crisis. After Saturday night, this is now an open question about Rubio.

Read more: I Miss Barack Obama - NYTimes.com

Cold war: Russian PM Medvedev says new cold war is on

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has said strains between Russia and the West have pushed the world "into a new cold war".

"On an almost daily basis, we are being described the worst threat - be it to Nato as a whole, or to Europe, America or other countries," Mr Medvedev said.

He cited Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg's speeches and films depicting Russia starting a nuclear war.
"Sometimes I wonder if this is 2016 or 1962," Mr Medvedev said.

The Cold War was a period of ideological confrontation between the former Soviet Union and Western countries. It began after World War Two and ended with the collapse of the Soviet-led communist camp in the 1989.

The 45 years of tension were marked by espionage and proxy wars involving client states - all undertaken with the knowledge or fear of the nuclear catastrophe that actual war would bring.
The Nato alliance was established in 1949 to protect Western countries.

Read more: Russian PM Medvedev says new cold war is on - BBC News

Greece - EU gives Greece three months to fix borders

The European Union took a step on Friday February 12 towards suspending its cherished free-travel Schengen zone for two years by setting a deadline for Greece to stem the chaotic influx of migrants into the bloc.

EU ministers give Greece three months to fulfil 50 recommendations to put its house in order - a target that officials and diplomats acknowledged few expect Athens to meet.

If it fails, the members of the zone will be able to trigger a hitherto unused mechanism to impose longer-term checks on internal frontiers for up to four periods of six months on the grounds that security on a part of the zone's external frontier has broken down.

"The point is not locking Greece out of Schengen. The point is, if the external border is not being controlled, it allows member states to keep the controls that are in place on their own internal borders," said an EU official.

"If you don't do this you are in a lawless zone and controls could last forever," the official added.

Greece said it had done what it could to control the influx of refugees from Syria and other migrants: "The massive mixed migration flow is of a nature that would put the external border control of any member state under severe pressure," it said.

Greece, the main gateway to Europe for more than a million refugees and migrants last year, has been overwhelmed by the influx and other EU states have increasingly criticised Athens for not managing the flows properly.

"The overall functioning of the Schengen area is at serious risk," the European Council, which brings together EU countries' governments, said after adopting the 50 recommendations for Greece, that include improving registration, sea border surveillance and border checks.

The EU ministers imposed the deadline on Friday by out-voting Athens' rejection of a formal notice from the EU executive that it was "seriously neglecting its obligations" to
control its part of the zone's external frontier.

Four central-eastern EU states will discuss on Monday offering more help to Macedonia, which is the main route migrants and refugees take as they move north from Greece towards wealthier European states.

Read more: Europe - EU gives Greece three months to fix borders - France 24

Cameron meets Merkel in last pre-summit referendum talks - by Robert Hackwill

British Prime Minister David Cameron has visited Germany for talks with Angela Merkel, among the last he’ll have before an EU summit next week when he hopes to agree a deal with Britain’s partners on reforms.

The substance of what has been conceded and agreed on is unclear, but Cameron says that Britain is not only seeking to preserve its interests as reforms will benefit everyone.

“If by working together we can achieve these changes then I will unequivocally recommend that Britain stays in a reformed European Union on these new terms,” he said.

Fears are rising the British public has had enough and will vote to leave in this year’s referendum. The refugee crisis has changed many previously pro-European minds.

“You all know my opinion. I want the UK to be an active part of a successful EU also in the future…This is our German interest and , I can only say this softly, I think this is also in the British interest but also surely in the interest of all of Europe,” said Chancellor Merkel in the splendid banqueting hall of Hamburg town hall.

Britain is seeking to restrict benefit eligibility for certain migrants, and have more say in the running of its affairs from Brussels. Some members support the British position, while others are very sceptical of anything that weakens the sacred principle of free movement.

Read more: Cameron meets Merkel in last pre-summit referendum talks | euronews, world news

2/12/16

Middle East: "George W.Bush a war criminal?" How the Gulf and Iraq Wars resulted in the rise of Isis and the refugee stream into Europe

It has been an unbelievable 25 years ago since George H. W. Bush started the West on the adventure that still isn’t over in Iraq and Afghanistan or Syria for that matter. There are American soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East right now who weren’t even born when Bush the Elder declared the Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait to be an intolerable situation and sent roughly half a million Americans halfway around the world to reverse it.

Perhaps even more directly relevant to Sunni grievances and the rise of Isis, was the US-run prison system, which started with rampant abuses at Abu Ghraib and evolved into mass detention, albeit of both major sects. Sunni jihadis said the prison system was their most effective organising tool.

As the EU today  fights among itself which country is more humane than the other, with millions of refugees streaming across the borders into Europe no one dared to point their finger towards the US, or its former leader George W. Bush, as the ultimate culprit for  all the drama going on today in the Middle East.  

Twenty-five years down the road is not a bad moment to stop and ask, What the heck was that all about? And what did we accomplish for our pains, especially the sacrifices of individual American and  he "alliance of the willing " soldiers?

We now say “Thank you for your service” to anyone in a military uniform. This is a nice new civic custom that hasn’t, to many peoples surprise, turned into an interest-group free-for-all. What about policemen? And firemen? Or the immigrants who keep Southern California and many Northern European countries "shiny"?

Aren’t we grateful to them for their service? Sure, but the US has elevated its military to a higher and special pedestal.  I’ve never understood how one by honoring dead and wounded troops is able to perpetuate mistaken wars, in which their numbers can only increase.

EU-Digest

Syria: Kerry: Diplomats agree to ′full cessation of hostilities′ in Syria within a week

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced the agreement in Munich early on Friday, raising hopes that a diplomatic breakthrough could provide humanitarian relief to Syrians and lead to a pause in fighting.

In an agreement that Kerry described as "ambitious," the United States and Russia alongside more than a dozen other world powers agreed to a "cessation of hostilities" within a week and the acceleration and expansion of humanitarian aid to areas besieged by both regime and rebel forces.

The test is now to implement an agreement on paper into reality on the ground, Kerry said.

Read more: Kerry: Diplomats agree to ′full cessation of hostilities′ in Syria within a week | News | DW.COM | 11.02.2016

Wood Pulp Industry: Eastport, Maine company hopes to boost wood fiber exports to Europe - by Johanna S. Billings

Low Grade Wood Fiber for a variety of uses
In Maine, USA, an Eastport firm’s efforts will create a new market for low-grade fiber that will help the entire wood pulp industry in Maine, a company official says.

Stephean Chute, managing director of Phyto-Charter Inc., said the firm plans to export cull — waste wood unsuitable for paper and pulp mills in Maine — to Europe, where the wood fiber will be used for heating and generating electricity. No such market for low-grade wood chips exists in Maine or the United States, he said.

The Phyto-Charter Shipboard Heat Treating System is designed to work on board a ship while it is in dock. An airtight chamber is created in the ship’s hold, where moisture-laden air is recirculated until the humidity level inside the chamber reaches 100 percent. The humidity level must be maintained for 30 minutes and, during this process, chips are heated to 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit), he said.

“The system] is adaptable to any ship. We don’t modify any ships,” Chute said. “We don’t have to own [ships]. We’re just chartering. It’s the only way to do it.”

Wood products have not been exported to Europe since the European Union enacted its current regulations in 2000, he said. Phyto-Charter’s system is the first since then that meets regulations for treating wood chips for sending them to Europe, Chute said.

In late 2014, Phyto-Charter shipped to Ireland samples of treated wood chips that were certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as being treated according to the European standards, he said. The USDA will continue to monitor and certify shipments when the company officially starts up its export operations.

Countries in the European Union have developed what Chute called an “aggressive” strategy to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent and have 20 percent of its energy needs met by renewable sources by 2020.

“Europe has adopted a very aggressive set of incentives for switching to renewables,” Chute said, adding that wood chips are considered renewables. Phyto-Charter is “part of the solution” in Europe, he said.
Chute declined to say exactly who his customers were or whether he has contracts in place. He said the wood supply mostly would come from harvesters in Maine, though some may also come from pulp and paper mills.

“Eastport, Maine, is the closest deep-water port to European markets of all the continental U.S.,” Chute said. “Eastport is the closest port where the forest meets the ocean.”

Chris Gardner, executive director of the Eastport Port Authority, said he is “happy” to see Phyto-Charter making progress in its work. He said the port authority has been working with Phyto-Charter since 2009.
“What we are doing is putting Eastport in a position to show we can be of great assistance to the pulp and paper industry,” Gardner said.

Phyto-Charter also plans to ship out of Eastport because the port authority invested in a bulk cargo conveyor system to assist with loading ships. The project was part of a port expansion in 2010 and 2011.

The state kicked in a $4.5 million transportation grant and $2.25 million came from the federal government, Gardner said. The port authority put up the rest of the total expansion cost, which he said Thursday was between $8 million and $10 million. Phyto-Charter will run the ship loading system at the port, he said.

EU-Digest