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11/20/17

EU Parliament warns Poland on rule of law —

In the vote, the Parliament decided by 438 votes to 152 to prepare a formal request that the Council activate the preventive mechanism provided for in Article 7.1.of the Treaty. If the risk persists and the Polish authorities refuse to comply with the EU recommendations, the procedure might lead to the suspension of Poland's voting rights in the Council.

Specific concerns were voiced about the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary and fundamental rights.

The resolution calls on the Polish authorities to uphold the common European values listed in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union and in the Polish Constitution. It urges Poland:

    not to proceed the new laws unless they fully guarantee the independence of the judiciary to implement all EU Commission and Venice Commission recommendations in full,
    to comply with the EU Court of Justice order to "immediately suspend large-scale logging" in the ancient Bialowieza forest,
    to respect the right of freedom of assembly,
    to strongly condemn the "xenophobic and fascist march that took place in Warsaw" on Saturday,11    November 2017, and
    to take a firm stand on women's rights, by providing free and accessible contraception without discrimination and making emergency contraception available without medical prescription.


Under Parliament's Rules of Procedure (Rule 83), its Civil Liberties Committee now needs to draw up a "reasoned proposal", the document required to call on the Council to trigger the rule of law mechanism in response to a "clear risk of a serious breach" of European values by the Polish authorities.

This is only the second time that the European Parliament has taken formal steps to call on the Council to start the Article 7 procedure. The first was taken in May 2017 with respect to Hungary. The procedure is still under way.

The dialogue between the Commission and the Polish authorities is conducted under the "rule of law" procedure initiated in January 2016.

Read more: EU Parliament warns Poland on rule of law — EUbusiness.com | EU news, business and politics

Islam: France to ‘prevent’ Muslim Public street prayers in Paris suburb

France’s interior minister announced on November 19 that Muslims will no longer be allowed to pray in a street north of Paris.

“They will not have prayers on the street, we will prevent street praying,” Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told Questions Politics (Franceinfo, France Inter, Le Monde).

As reported by the Agence France-Presse (AFP), prayers in the street have taken place every Friday in the multiethnic suburb of Clichy-la-Garenne since March to protest the closure of a popular local mosque that had operated in a government building but since been turned into a library.

In response, worshippers accused the authorities of not offering suitable land to build a new mosque and the interior minister acknowledged the need for an alternative: “Muslims must have a place of worship to pray.”

A local Muslim association has said it intends to hold prayers in the city centre next Friday.

According to AFP, the row about prayer space saw around 100 local French politicians attempt to block worshippers on November 10, disrupting the crowd by singing the French national anthem.

The rightwing mayor of Clichy, Remi Muzeau, has argued that another mosque already exists north of the town, but mosque leaders have dismissed that idea as unviable, arguing it is too small and has poor transport links.

Read more: France to ‘prevent’ Muslim street prayers in Paris suburb

Germany: German coalition talks collapse- by Peter Teffer

The liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) pulled out of coalition talks in Germany on Sunday (19 November), leading to an uncertain political future for the EU's largest member state.

The move is a blow to Angela Merkel, leader of the centre-right CDU and chancellor of Germany since 2005, who was expected to lead the coalition government for a fourth time.

But talks between CDU, its Bavarian sister party CSU, the Greens, and FDP, progressed slowly and missed a self-imposed deadline last Thursday.

FDP's leader Christian Lindner said on Sunday that after weeks of talks, there were still many open issues and conflicting goals, but "no common basis for trust".

"It is better not to rule than to rule wrongly," said Lindner around midnight on Sunday.

Read more: German coalition talks collapse

11/19/17

EU: Ireland is caught between Brexiteers and Brussels - by Joe McCarth

In a letter to the Guardian Joe McCarthy writes "Rafael Behr’s brilliant evisceration of the UK government’s shambolic handling of Brexit makes for depressing reading from the Dublin side of the Irish Sea (As Tories slug it out, does anyone care about Ireland?, 15 November). However, the suspicion remains here that the problem is not just with London but with Brussels too.

Brexit was initially met with anger by most Irish people but the upset receded as everyday life got in the way. Now it is back, and the island of Ireland is staring down the barrel of a hard border. These are glum and worrying times. Ireland is caught between undoubtedly ignorant rightwing Eurosceptic British politicians and the mammoth Brussels bureaucracy.

Europe will let us down if it feels it is absolutely necessary to do so for its own prosperity and survival. In 2011, the European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet warned the Irish finance minister Michael Noonan that a “bomb would go off” in Dublin if Ireland dared to burn bondholders.

 The Irish people have been solely carrying the massive debt burden of our banking collapse ever since – including, scandalously, the huge losses of international speculative investors.

When push comes to shove, will Ireland be a sacrificial lamb for Brussels in the Brexit negotiations as it was during the banking crisis in 2011? Quite possibly yes. The only difference this time, it seems, is that we might be sacrificed primarily for long-term political, rather than financial, stability in the wider European Union “family”."

Read more: Ireland is caught between Brexiteers and Brussels | Letters | World news | The Guardian

The Rich and Poor Gap: Societies Are Headed Toward Revolution, Suggests Inequality Study

There’s a common thread tying together the most disruptive revolutions of human history, and it has some scientists worried about the United States. In those revolutions, conflict largely boiled down to pervasive economic inequality. On Wednesday, a study in Nature, showing how and when those first divisions between rich and poor began, suggests not only that history has always repeated itself but also that it’s bound to do so again — and perhaps sooner than we think.

In the largest study of its kind, a team of scientists from Washington State University and 13 other institutions examined the factors leading to economic inequality throughout all of human history and noticed some worrying trends. Using a well-established score of inequality called the Gini coefficient, which gives perfect, egalitarian societies a score of 0 and high-inequality societies a 1, they showed that civilization tends to move toward inequality as some people gain the means to make others relatively poor — and employ it. Coupled with what researchers already know about inequality leading to social instability, the study does not bode well for the state of the world today.

“We could be concerned in the United States, that if Ginis get too high, we could be inviting revolution, or we could be inviting state collapse. There’s only a few things that are going to decrease our Ginis dramatically,” said Tim Kohler, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and a professor of archaeology and evolutionary anthropology in a statement.

Currently, the United States Gini score is around .81, one of the highest in the world, according to the 2016 Allianz Global Wealth Report.

Kohler and his team had their work cut out for them, as studying inequality before the age of global wealth reports is not a straightforward task. It’s one thing to measure modern day economic inequality using measures of individual net worth, but those kind of metrics aren’t available for, say, hunter-gatherers chasing buffalo during the Paleolithic. To surmount this obstacle, the researchers decided to use house size as a catch-all proxy for wealth, then examined the makeup of societies from prehistoric times to modern day using data from 63 archaeological digs

Overall, they found that human societies started off fairly equal, with the hunter-gatherer societies consistently getting Gini scores around .17. The divide between rich and poor really began once humans started to domesticate plants and animals and switch to farming-based societies. Learning to till the land meant introducing the concept of land ownership, and inevitably, some people ended up as landless peasants. Furthermore, because these societies no longer lived as nomads, it became easier to accumulate wealth (like land) and pass it down from generation to generation.

The Gini scores got higher as farming societies got bigger. The small scale “horticultural” farmers had a median Gini of .27, and larger-scale “agricultural” societies moved up to .35. This pattern continued until, oddly, humans moved into the New World — the Americas. Then, over time, the researchers saw that Gini scores kept rising in Old World Eurasia but actually hit a plateau in the Americas. The researchers think this plateau happened because there were fewer draft animals, like horse and water buffalo, in the New World, making it harder for new agricultural societies to expand and cultivate more land.

Overall, the highest-ever historical Gini the researchers found was that of the ancient Old World (think Patrician Rome), which got a score of .59. While the degrees of inequality experienced by historical societies are quite high, the researchers note, they’re nowhere near as high as the Gini scores we’re seeing now.  

A global report from Credit Suisse showed that modern humans are continuing the trends set by our predecessors: Now, the report showed, half of the world’s wealth really does belong to a super-rich one percent, and the gap is only growing. Historically, Kohler says in his statement, there’s only so much inequality a society can sustain before it reaches a tipping point. Among the many known effects of inequality on a society are social unrest, a decrease in health, increased violence, and decreased solidarity. Unfortunately, Kohler points out, humans have never been especially good at decreasing inequality peacefully — historically, the only effective methods for doing so are plague, massive warfare, or revolution.

Read more: Societies Are Headed Toward Revolution, Suggests Inequality Study | Inverse

USA: Americans remain downbeat, 34% U.S. heading in right directio - by John Whitefoo

Just 34% of American voters think the U.S. is heading in the right direction. This is a slight two-point increase from the 32% who said the same thing in the last week of October.

During much of the last year of Barack Obama’s presidency, the number of Americans who though the country was going in the right direction was in the mid- to upper-20s. In the first month of Donald Trump’s presidency, it climbed to the mid- to upper-40s.

Meanwhile, 60% of American voters think the U.S. is heading down the wrong track; that’s two points lower from the end of October.

Among American voters who “strongly approve” of the job Trump is doing, 81% think the country is going in the right direction. At the other end of the spectrum, 97% of American voters who “strongly disapprove” of the president’s job performance say the U.S. is on the wrong track.

Last year at this point, 30% of voters said the nation was heading in the right direction, while 63% said it was derailing and running down the wrong track.

Before Trump won the White House, Democrats were, as one would expect, more likely than Republicans and independent voters to think the U.S. was heading in the right direction.

Fast-forward to today, and a whopping 82% of Democrats think the nation is heading down the wrong path. Compare that to 52% of Republicans who believe the U.S. is heading in the right direction.

Republicans might be getting more pessimistic; that’s actually down seven points (from 59%) from the end of October.

Read more: Americans remain downbeat, 34% U.S. heading in right direction

Electric Vehicles: Tesla unveils electric Semi truck, new Roadster

American automaker Tesla unveiled a new electric semitractor-trailer simply called the Semi, and a roadster at an event in Hawthorn, California, U.S., on Nov. 16. CEO Elon Musk stated that production for the Semi would commence in 2019 and customers can put down a $5,000 deposit for the electric truck.

Read more: Tesla unveils electric Semi truck, new Roadster

Social Media - the monster called Facebook: Instagram, WhatsApp and 13 other companies Facebook has - by Gabrielle Olya

Since Facebook launched in 2004, it has grown to become the biggest social networking site on the planet. With 2.1 billion users, Facebook's stock is worth $180 a share, and the company has a valuation of over $500 billion. Mark Zuckerberg's tech giant has grown dramatically, in part because of the strategic shopping it has done along the way.

Over the years, Facebook has completed 65 mergers and acquisitions involving everything from facial-recognition technology companies to other major social networking platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp.

Although many of Facebook's acquisitions have been for undisclosed amounts, the prices that have been revealed range from $200,000 all the way up to $22 billion.

Read more: Instagram, WhatsApp and 13 other companies Facebook has acquired

11/18/17

Spain-Catalonia: Puigdemont, the doomed architect (who is now also wasting Belgian Taxpayers money) – by Jorge Valer

For some, ousted "president" Carles Puigdemont is the architect of a new independent Catalan Republic.

For others, he is just a coward who led his citizens to chaos and ruin, and fled to Belgium. Today, he got his day in court.

At two o’clock, Puigdemont rolled up to the scaffolding-enshrined Justice Palace in Brussels to put his fate in a Belgian judge’s hands.

But history tells us that builders have a dubious reputation in the neighbourhood. The land exportation required to construct the Justice Palace, arguably the largest building of the 19th century, was so massive that ‘architect’ one of the worst insults you could hear in Brussels at that time.

The Belgian judge would not rule on Puigdemont’s skills and vision as a builder of a new nation. But whether he should be sent back to Spain to face trial on five charges, including rebellion and sedition, as the Spanish authorities requested.

The first hearing concluded with little progress. The judge scheduled another session for 4 December to decide whether Puigdemont and the four member of his dismissed government who escaped with  him should be extradited to Spain.

One charge, corruption, was dismissed, which was seen as a victory by the defence, given that it would have triggered an automatic repatriation to Spain.

The decision could come in mid-December but the two-appeal system in Belgium would postpone the final verdict to early next year.

The defence argued that Puigdemont cannot return to Spain because his fundamental rights would not be respected. But the European Arrest Warrant would make it very hard for the Catalan and his former team to escape extradition.

Still, the Belgian prosecutor did his homework and asked his Spanish colleagues last week how the sacked Catalan government’s rights would be ensured.

He reminded them that the principle of “mutual trust”, the bedrock of the EAW, is not enough for a Belgian judge to comply with Madrid’s request.

Note EU-Digest: The fact of the matter is that Mr. Puigdemont did not comply with the constitutional law of Spain, caused public unrest, hurt the Spanish economy in doing so, and now, not only wasting the Spanish taxpayers money for the trouble he created - but in addition also that of the Belgian taxpayer, who have in fact been saddled up paying for Puigdemont's court case, and consequently, thereby also financing his Catalonia "pipe dream" propaganda from Belgium. It is high time for Belgium to stop this nonsense and waste of money. Mr. Puidemont and his cohorts should be extradited to Spain as soon as possible, where they can be prosecuted under Spanish law - as they should.     

Read more: The Brief: Puigdemont, the doomed architect – EURACTIV.com

Climate Control: Germany slams Dutch call for more ambitious EU climate goal

Germany's outgoing environment minister said on Friday (17 November) that a Dutch proposal to increase the EU's emissions reduction target to 55 percent was "unrealistic".

"I don't think that the European Union will be capable of achieving this," minister Barbara Hendricks told this website at a press conference in Bonn, on the final day of international climate talks.

She spoke a day after newly-appointed Dutch minister for economic affairs and climate, Eric Wiebes, came to Bonn to find support for an increased climate ambition within the bloc.

In October 2014, EU leaders agreed that the EU should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030, compared with 1990 levels.

Wiebes wants to raise that reduction target to 55 percent, the same figure which Germany has set for itself.

"Germany wants to reduce by 55 percent and I'm quite convinced that we'll be able to achieve this," said Hendricks.

But she said "all of the EU" would not be able to do the same.
"We could be more ambitious, going a bit beyond the 40 percent already agreed, but I think 55 percent will not be realistic."

Read more: Germany slams Dutch call for more ambitious EU climate goal

Brexit: How To Stop Brexit (And Make Britain Great Again) — by Nick Clegg

There is nothing remotely inevitable about Brexit – except that it will be deeply damaging if it happens. Extricating Britain from Europe will be the greatest challenge this country has faced since the Second World War.

And as negotiations with the EU expose the promises of the Brexit campaign to have been hollow, even some Brexit-voters now wish to exercise their democratic right to change their mind, seeing that the most pragmatic option is to … stop. It would certainly be the best thing for Britain. But how can it be done?

Haven't the people spoken? No. In this indispensable handbook, Nick Clegg categorically debunks the various myths that have been used to force Brexit on Britain, not by 'the people' but by a small, extremely rich, self-serving elite, and explains precisely how this historic mistake can be reversed – and what you can do to make sure that it is.

This indispensable handbook offers readers of every political allegiance non-partisan ways to pull together in response to the greatest crisis in a generation, reunite our country and prevent national decline.

Get this booklet now online..