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2/20/18

Britain: FM Boris Johnson talking 'total nonsense' about EU, European Commission president Juncker says - by Jon Stone

Boris Johnson is talking “total nonsense” by claiming EU chiefs wants to turn the bloc into superstate, the President of the European Commission has said.
 
Asked for his response to comments made by the Foreign Secretary, Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters in Brussels that he was “strictly against” an EU superstate.

“Some in the British political society are against the truth, pretending that I am a stupid, stubborn federalist, that I am in favour of a European superstate,” Mr Juncker told a press conference.

“I am strictly against a European superstate. We are not the United States of America, we are the European Union, which is a rich body because we have these 27, or 28, nations.

“The European Union cannot be built against the European nations, so this is total nonsense.”

During the EU referendum campaign Mr Johnson had accused EU leaders like Mr Juncker of wanting to create a superstate similar to the ones sought by Hitler or Napoleon, but “by different methods" 

Recently the Britsh  Foreign Secretary gave a speech claiming that Brexit represented a “natural desire for self-government of the people, by the people, for the people” and a break from EU politicians’ plan to “create an overarching European state as the basis for a new sense of European political identity”.

Read more: Boris Johnson talking 'total nonsense' about EU, European Commission president Juncker says | The Independent

Spain: The Troubling Legal And Political Uncertainty Facing Catalonia- by Javier García Oliva Javier García Oliva

What exactly is happening in Catalonia? The territory is one of the Comunidades Autónomas, a category of Spanish sub-state entities, and amongst all of them, Catalonia already enjoys a higher degree of autonomy and powers than most of its peers. But its political nature and future are being hotly debated. Anybody could be forgiven for struggling to disentangle the twisted strands of the current Catalan saga, which shows no signs of reaching a conclusion any time soon. For those of us in the UK, the problem is exacerbated by a tendency on the part of the Anglophone ( British and American) media to grossly over-simplify, and therefore distort, what is in reality an extremely complicated picture.

There has been a trend towards portraying the political conflict as a David and Goliath struggle between the cultural and linguistic minority who make up the Catalan region, and the mighty central state authorities in Madrid. However, as might be anticipated, this easy narrative is one which will not withstand even the lightest of scrutiny. The real position is indeed far more nuanced, and there are multiple shades of grey. At present, neither the group of pro-independence parties in control of the Catalan Parliament, nor the Government headed by Mariano Rajoy, the President of the Spanish executive in Madrid, are covering themselves with much glory, but the ongoing crisis can still teach the wider world lessons about negotiating constitutional reform, and there are some valuable insights which Britain might gain in contemplating both Brexit and the future of Scotland.

In short, neither the pro-independence nor the pro-Spain parties within the Catalan Parliament emerged with a working majority, and interestingly, support for the pro-independence options has declined, albeit slightly, since the previous election. After some turmoil, the pro-independence faction managed to gain effective control, because the left-wing and anti-austerity party Podemos refused to vote with the pro-Spanish grouping and claimed to be neutral towards both sides. Interestingly, Podemos’ official position is in favour of a unified Spain, although with the proviso that a lawful referendum should be arranged for Catalonia. However, as the pro-unity parties had coalesced around Ines Arrimadas, from the centre right party Ciudadanos, Podemos were unhappy with the possible implications for social and economic policy.

In light of this, the desire of pro-independence politicians in Catalonia to dismantle constitutional protections to further their own political ends cannot be praised, or even justified, and those with political power must defer to the courts and the rule of law if a liberal democracy is to function as such. Equally, it is unquestionable that this can only work if legitimate and functional channels are found to discuss and debate constitutional reform, and where necessary, move it forward.

For the complete report click here: The Troubling Legal And Political Uncertainty Facing Catalonia

USA AND THE STATE OF AMERICAN CIVILIZATION: After Parkland: Murder By Congress - by Alon Ben-Meier

Nothing can assuage the agony and the unbearable pain that parents feel when their child is lost to an outrageous and utterly senseless attack that could have been prevented.

When will lawmakers face the bitter truth that America is at war with itself? A de-facto civil war is consuming us from within. Firearms are mercilessly robbing the lives of 33,880 each year—nearly five times more than American soldiers killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined (4,530 and 2,408 respectively).

On average, 93 people are killed from gun violence every day, and at least 239 school shootings have occurred across the United States since 2012; a majority of the over 400 casualties are children under the age of 19.

And yet, after every such unconscionable carnage, you hear our derelict political leaders suggesting that it is not the right time to talk about gun control laws when the families and friends of the victims are agonizing about the loss of their loved ones.

When will the right time come? How much more pain and suffering must our own fellow citizens endure before we act?

Shame on every single House and Senate member who each year takes millions in blood money as a political contribution from the National Rifle Association to ensure their re-election.

Perhaps only when some of these lawmakers lose a child of their own will they begin to grasp the excruciating pain that parents bear when their telephones ring, only to be told that their child was just gunned down at school by a random shooter. Yes, every lawmaker should stop and think how it really feels. But then again, are they even capable of feeling?

The Book of James says it best: “Faith without works is dead.” Without action, “thoughts and prayers” cannot be counted on to stop random mass killings; this has been proven by history time and again. The occasion for condolences and prayers expired a long while ago.


Read more: After Parkland: Murder By Congress - The Globalist

2/19/18

EU: Social Media - Facebook and Twitter weak on protecting users, says EU - by Nikolaj Nielsen

The European Commission is demanding that US-based social media giants Facebook and Twitter fully respect European consumer protection laws.

The demand is part of a list of consumer complaints filed last March against the two, including Google+, for broadly failing to meet EU rules when it comes to tackling online scams, removing content, and allowing people to delete accounts.

Chief EU commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters in Brussels on Thursday (15 February) that Facebook and Twitter "have only partially met [EU's] requests". Only Google+ appears to have complied with the demands.

In a statement, EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova said it was "unacceptable" that Facebook and Twitter are yet to make their platforms safer for people.

"EU consumer rules should be respected and if companies don't comply, they should face sanctions," she said. Only national authorities can impose sanctions such as fines.

Many of the complaints stem from people in Europe who have been victims of fraud, unwanted subscriptions and other online scams.

National consumer protection authorities want to make it easier to report and request the removal of such scams, but Facebook and Twitter have only provided them with an email address.

The commission says the standards need to be met to protect certain rights, like being able to withdraw from an online purchase, or lodge complaints in Europe rather than in the United States where the firms are based.

The pressure comes amid other plans to get the firms to be more proactive in removing illegal content.

In April, the commission is set to unveil a so-called 'New Deal for Consumers.'

The move is a follow up to a proposal floated last September, and aims to get companies to remove xenophobic and racist speech or anything deemed to incite terrorism.

Read more:  - byFacebook and Twitter weak on protecting users, says EU

Italy - Elections: Italian scientists speak up in support of EU - by Ersilia Vaudo Scarpetta

As Italy's elections loom amid a hike in euroscepticism, the country's scientific community is raising its voice - saying Europe's a place where they can find opportunities.

At ESTEC, the European Space Agency's research and technology centre in the Netherlands, scientists of 22 different nationalities work together to design and test satellites. And one in five is Italian.

"In other countries researchers are better paid than in Italy, so they prefer to stay at home. While in Italy those who want to do research are often forced to look for opportunities abroad," said Franco Ongaro, ESTEC Director.

Europe's a hot topic in Italy's elections, with the campaigning divided between pro-EU parties and populist movements, who accuse the block of limiting national sovereignty.

"Alone we wouldn't be as successful as we are with the 22 countries together. If we can land on a comet 500 million kilometres away after a 10-year journey, it is thanks to the alchemy of these differences, coming together to pursue common objectives," commented Ersilia Vaudo Scarpetta, Chief Diversity Officer at the European Space Agency.

Read more: Italian scientists speak up in support of EU | Euronews

US Economy: Trump's America will be saddled with debt – like his bankrupted hotels were - by Richard Wolffe

Once upon a time, conservatives said they hated Barack Obama because of his budget deficits. They said he was destroying America and its future, which made them very angry indeed. They were so mad about all those Obama debts that they invented a new party, and named it after the revolutionaries who opposed a nasty British king.

The Tea Party was a collection of strange people, including one candidate who promised she wasn’t a witch. But the strangest thing happened after Obama moved out of the White House, and an orange man moved in. That was when conservatives all across America decided they didn’t actually hate debt and deficits after all.

That was just one of the many ways Donald Trump made everyone happy in America all over again. Another one was the stock market, which sometimes goes up and sometimes goes down. Everyone was happy when it went up, and nobody talked about it when it went down.

Donald Trump knows a lot about debt because he has created so much of it himself. He’s like a grand wizard of debt because he has magically escaped from several dark boxes of it. He also knows a few grand wizard types and thinks they are some very fine people
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Grand Wizard Trump first learned his magic debt spells when he built a palace called the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. He called it the eighth wonder of the world, and it certainly was wonderful how the business went bankrupt a year after it opened. Five other Trump palaces went bankrupt the next year, but he waved his wand and everything turned out fine. For him.

Read more: Trump's America will be saddled with debt – like his bankrupted hotels were | Richard Wolffe | Opinion | The Guardian

2/18/18

US Economy Is in Danger of Overheating and Exploding Into Financial Crisis - by Desmond Lachman

My long career as a macro-economist both at the IMF and on Wall Street has taught me that it is very well to make bold macro-economic calls as long as you do not specify a time period within which those calls will occur. However, there are occasions, such as today, when the overwhelming evidence suggests that a major economic event will occur within a relatively short time period. On those occasions it is very difficult to resist making a time-sensitive bold economic call.

So here goes. By this time next year, we will have had another 2008-2009 style global economic and financial market crisis. And we will do so despite Janet Yellen's recent reassurances that we would not have another such crisis within her lifetime.

There are two basic reasons to fear another full-blown global economic crisis soon: The first is that we have in place all the ingredients for such a crisis. The second is that due to major economic policy mistakes by both the Federal Reserve and the U.S. administration, the U.S. economy is in danger of soon overheating, which will bring inflation in its wake. That in turn is all too likely to lead to rising interest rates, which could very well be the trigger that bursts the all too many asset price bubbles around the world.

Read more: US Economy Is in Danger of Overheating and Exploding Into Financial Crisis | Economic Intelligence | US News

USA - Florida Massacre: Emma Gonzalez's passionate anti-gun speech calls out politicians and tells trump he should take action instead of money from NRA

The strong message of a student who survived the mass shooting at a Florida high school this week reverberated across social media Saturday after a passionate speech at an anti-gun rally.

Emma Gonzalez's name was trending on Twitter for much of the afternoon as she took on President Trump, the National Rifle Association, politicians and every argument against tightening gun laws, starting a chant of "shame on you!" in the crowd of hundreds at the rally in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 

The deaths of 17 students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday has started the familiar debate on gun laws after a mass shooting — but what's different is students are leading the charge and becoming a powerful voice.

Emma's speech caused a firestorm at the rally and on social media, many calling her a hero and a new leader in the fight against gun violence.

Note EU-Digest: Bravo Emma Gonzalez, Hopefully the students of America will organize a mass Rally in Washington against the NRA and politicians who have accepted donations from the NRA for political gain, and for strong Gun Control laws. 

Read more: Emma Gonzalez's passionate anti-gun speech calls out politicians

Israel: Netanyahu has lies, but not a policy - a Haaretz Editorial

Despite the police recommendations to charge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with bribery, the Trump administration is trying to convey business as usual regarding the peace plan. The message from the White House is that this is an “internal Israeli matter,” and as proof, Donald Trump and Netanyahu are to meet in Washington on March 5. But this doesn’t mean Washington hasn’t begun to realize who it’s dealing with.

Even before the recommendations were made public, Trump told the daily Israel Hayom that he was “not necessarily sure that Israel is looking to make peace.” Netanyahu can boast of his diplomatic achievements to his heart’s content, but the more time passes, the more the masks fall away and the disputes come to light, all of which stem from the same source: Netanyahu has no policy. As in the domestic arena, so too in the international arena, Netanyahu knows only how to divide and conquer. He can’t act for the good of anything but his own survival.

It’s hard to believe that anyone in Israel – certainly anyone on the settler right – was shocked to hear the White House’s sweeping denial of the lies Netanyahu sold Likud last week about discussions he was supposedly having with the United States over annexation of the settlements.

An honest and responsible leader would courageously admit that he’s against annexation and help Israelis give up impossible and immoral dreams of sovereignty over the West Bank. He would draw up a possible plan of secure existence that doesn’t involve military control over another people. 

 Read more: Netanyahu has lies, but not a policy - Haaretz Editorial - Israel News | Haaretz.com

The Netherlands: Hollywood in the Netherlands - by Manja van Kesteren

With its iconic canals and canal houses, windmills and fields of tulips, Dutch scenery can make for a pretty picture.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that Hollywood has stopped by a couple of times over the years.

Here are some Hollywood blockbusters that have been (partially) filmed in the Netherlands:

Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)
Ocean’s Twelve (2004)
The Fault in Our Stars (2014)
Dunkirk (2017)
The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017)

To promote film production in the Netherlands, and to attract big Hollywood productions to the country, the Netherlands Film Production Incentive was introduced in 2014. To qualify for a 35 percent cash rebate, feature films must incur at least 75 percent of their production costs within the Netherlands, and they are required to spend 100.000 euros on local production costs as well.

Since its introductio the incentive has contributed to over 200 projects, including 98 film productions from abroad. Thanks to the program, Dunkirk received a sum of 1,2 million USD, and the Hitman’s Bodyguard took home 960.000 USD.

Read more and see the film clips:The Netherlands: Hollywood in the Netherlands - by Manja van Kesteren