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USA Global Image: Top German diplomat: 'We no longer recognize our America' - by David Rising

Germany's foreign minister slammed the "America first" approach of President Donald Trump's administration Saturday, saying that close U.S. ties with a strong European Union are as much in Washington's interest as they are in Europe's.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told world leaders and defense officials at the Munich Security Conference that with the United States no longer the only indisputable superpower, it makes sense for Washington to count on traditional partners in Europe for help.

"Our strength in Europe is not sufficient for this. Neither the EU nor the U.S. can go it alone. We have to count on our friends and our partners," he said.

Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, met one-on-one with Gabriel after his speech. McMaster reassured the forum that the United States still is strongly committed to its traditional alliances, but emphasized that "we must all share responsibility."

"International peace and prosperity depends on all nations," McMaster said. "For this reason, President Trump has called for stronger alliances and partnerships based on shared values, shared interests, shared responsibilities and shared burdens."

No country in Europe has benefited as much from American help as Germany since World War II, Gabriel said. He said the country "eagerly learned" principles of democracy, multilateralism, international law and free trade from the relationship with the U.S.
"Maybe this can explain why we Germans in particular are so perturbed when we look across the Atlantic — because we no longer recognize our America," he said. "Is it deeds, is it words, is it tweets we should look at to measure America?"

He urged a return to greater joint cooperation, saying now is not the time for "just pursuing individual national interests."
Read more: The Tribune

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The Netherlands: Turkey summons Dutch diplomat over Armenian genocide motion

The Turkish government called on the Dutch charge d‘affaires in Ankara on Saturday to express its anger at two bills proposed by the Christian Union party, the first of which would formally classify the events of 1915, when 1.5 million ethnic Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Empire, as a genocide.

 The second bill would call on a Dutch official to be present during the annual remembrance day in Armenia on April 24. At present, 23 countries, including Russia, recognize the 1915 killings as a genocide. The Turkish authorities, however, dispute the Armenian version of events, arguing that there were atrocities on both sides, and bitterly contest all charges of genocide.

 ead more: Turkey summons Dutch diplomat over Armenian genocide motion — RT Newsline

Social Media: Facebook loses Belgian privacy case, faces fine up to $125 million

A Belgian court threatened Facebook with a fine of up to 100 million euros ($125 million) if it continued to break privacy laws by tracking people on third party websites.

In a case brought by Belgium's privacy watchdog, the court also ruled on Friday that Facebook had to delete all data it had gathered illegally on Belgian citizens, including people who were not Facebook users themselves.

Facebook, which will be fined 250,000 euros a day or up to 100 million euros if it does not comply with the court's judgment, said in a statement it would appeal the ruling.

"Facebook informs us insufficiently about gathering information about us, the kind of data it collects, what it does with that data and how long it stores it," the court said.

"It also does not gain our consent to collect and store all this information," it added in a statement.

The social media group uses different methods to track the online behavior of people if they are not on the company's web site by placing cookies and invisible pixels on third party web sites, the court said.

Read more: Facebook loses Belgian privacy case, faces fine up to $125 million

USA - the Russian investigation - the noose is tightening: Indictment Makes Trump’s Hoax Claim Harder to Sell - by Mark Landler and Michael D. Shea

He brushed it off as a hoax. He mused that it might be China, or a guy from New Jersey, or “somebody sitting on their bed who weighs 400 pounds.” He said President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had assured him it wasn’t true. And, he added, “I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it.

President Trump has never stopped belittling the charge that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. But on Friday, with the indictment of 13 Russians for orchestrating a vast, well-funded operation to interfere in the election, those denials collided with a mountain of evidence arrayed by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

For Mr. Trump, who has tried to discredit Mr. Mueller’s investigation as a politically motivated witch hunt, it was a direct assault on the version of reality that he has sought tirelessly to create.

By laying out a meticulous case for how Russia tried to tip the electoral scales toward Mr. Trump in 2016, Mr. Mueller has made it much harder for the president to dismiss the investigation as mere politics. He may also have made it harder for Mr. Trump to fire Mr. Mueller himself, since, as some Democratic lawmakers argued, that would look like an attempt to help Russia further undermine American democracy.

On Friday afternoon, after Mr. Trump left Washington for his Palm Beach, Fla., estate, the White House issued a defiant statement claiming that the investigation had uncovered no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“It’s time we stop the outlandish partisan attacks, wild and false allegations, and far-fetched theories, which only serve to further the agendas of bad actors, like Russia, and do nothing to protect the principles of our institutions,” the president said in a statement.

Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, argued that any attempts to remove Mr. Mueller or Mr. Rosentein “will have to be seen as a direct attempt to aid the Russian government in attacking American democracy.”

Read more: Indictment Makes Trump’s Hoax Claim Harder to Sell - The New York Times


Turkey-German Relations: Journalist Deniz Yücel returns to Germany after release from Turkish prison

Deniz Yücel arrived in Berlin on Friday evening after spending one year in a Turkish prison, held without formal charges on terror allegations. He was reunited with colleagues and friends upon his arrival at Berlin's Tegel Airport after departing Istanbul a few hours earlier on a chartered Aerowest plane.

The release of the German-Turkish journalist and his homecoming fulfilled a long-standing demand from the German government. However, five Germans and more than 100 Turkish journalists currently remain in Turkish prisons.

In addition, Turkey's Anadolu agency reported Friday that a court — in the same building that ordered Yücel's release — had sentenced six journalists to life in prison without parole for crimes against the state. The journalists, who include prominent figures such as Ahmet Altan, his brother Mehmet Altan and Nazli Ilicak, were accused of involvement in the July 2016 coup attempt, the first individuals to be charged in relation to the failed takeover.

Read more: Journalist Deniz Yücel returns to Germany after release from Turkish prison | News | DW | 16.02.2018

EU Economy: Euro area international trade in goods surplus € 2 5 . 4 bn ($31.52 bn). December 2017

The first estimate for euro area (A19) exports of goods to the rest of the world in December 2017 was €180.7 billion, an increase of 1.0% compared with December 2016 (€179.0 bn).

Imports from the rest of the world stood at €155.3 bn, a rise of 2.5% compared with December 2016 (€151.4 bn). As a result, the EURO  area recorded a €25.4 bn surplus in trade in goods with the rest of the world in December 2017, compared with +€27.6 bn in December2016.

EURO area  trade rose to €142.4 bn in December 2017, up by 2.8% compared with December 2016


Netherlands Parliament Recognizes Armenian Genocide - but Government so far takes no action

The lower house of the Dutch parliament, local known as the Tweede Kamer, passed two resolutions on Thursday with a majority vote one recognizing the Armenian Genocide, the other calling on its foreign minister to visit Armenia in April to observe the anniversary of that crime.

According to NLTimes, both motions were submitted by ChristenUnie party parliament member Joel Voordewind. All four coalition parties supported the motions.

The Netherlands has not recognized the Genocide thus far, however, the majority of the parliament voted on Thursday to change that course and officially recognize the events of 1915 as Genocide.

Note: This is a very controversial issue which happened more than 100 years ago and the Netherlands Government would act wisely to refrain from taking any further action on the issue until more research is avaible.



EU: Changing Europe revives interest in an EU military and eventually mean Nato's days are numbered

EU Defence Force becomes more and more likely
Early plans for a European army failed in the wake of World War II.

EU states have since taken numerous small steps to integrate their armed forces, bringing the idea of a Europe-wide military ever closer to reality.

Military treaties for a joint European army were signed just a few years after the end of the Second World War.

A defense cooperation pact laid out the details, from acquiring new uniforms to implementing a clear command structure. France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg would supply the European Army with soldiers. A European commissioner's office made up of nine representatives would send the troops to the front line, but officials would be monitored by a European assembly of MEPs from participating states.

After the end of the European Defense Community (EDC) in 1954, plans fora European army were put on the back burner for decades, until recent events revived the idea. US President Donald Trump's lack of interest in Europe, the increased threat posed by Russia and the UK's looming withdrawal from the EU have given the military project new impetus.

The first major step was late last year, when 25 EU member states agreed to the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) on the integration of national militaries into an EU force.

This cooperation strives for joint armaments projects and a closer cooperation between the armed forces themselves. Going by the wishes of EU defense ministers, PESCO could set the groundwork for a European military. At the same time, the willingness to cooperate is on the rise at the bilateral level.

Founded in 1989, the Franco-German Brigade is the only bi-national military organization in the world. Its roughly 6,000 soldiers are stationed in four locations in Germany and three in France.

Jägerbataillon 291 (291st Light Infantry Battalion) in Alsace is the bonly combat unit of Germany's military, the Bundeswehr, permanently stationed outside the country. Soldiers of both nations serve together,but only in the supply and support company and on command levels — all bother units are divided by nation.

In 1995, only a few years after the Franco-German Brigade was founded, Germany and the Netherlands established the German/Netherlands Corps, which commands a Dutch and German division of just over 40,000 soldiers.

At the beginning, only leadership positions were filled by soldiers from both countries, but now Germany and the Netherlands are linking the units of both armed forces further down the chain of
command. Germany's Panzerbataillon 414 (414th Tank Battalion) was attached to the Dutch 43rd Mechanized Brigade in 2016. The Germanb battalion also includes a Dutch company of 100 soldiers who are trained to work with German tanks.

This is the first time that German and Dutch units have integrated forces from the company to the divisional level, similar to the kind of integration envisioned by ECG planners in 1950s. German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen called it a "prime example of how to build a European defense union."

The motivation for increased military integration extends beyond strengthening political ties. EU countries want to save costs and share access to military capabilities other states may lack.

This year marks the beginning of the integration of the entire German See bataillon (Naval Forces Protection Battalion) — consisting of some 800 troops —binto the Dutch Navy, as agreed in 2016.

The Dutch support ship HNLMS Karel Doorman, which is used for amphibious operations, is part of this cooperation. The Dutch Navy had been running the vessel with a reduced crew due to budget constraints, and Germany provided a partner to help operate it.

Regardless of the motivations, EU countries are increasingly recognizing the need to accelerate closer military cooperation within the bloc. This not only applies to smaller nations like the Netherlands, but also to EU heavyweights like France and Germany.

Note EU-Digest: US President Donald Trump's lack of interest in Europe, the increased threat posed by Russia and the UK's looming withdrawal from the EU have given the EU military project new impetus to creating its own independent defense force and also the recent fact that Ankara has signed a defense deal with Moscow, could eventually mean that NATO's days are numbered. 

Read more: Changing Europe revives interest in an EU military | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 15.02.2018

International tourism is booming, but not to the US - main reasons - Donald Trump Presidency and Gun violence?

Donald Trump and Gun Violence in US seen as main culprits
CNBC reported recently that international tourism is growing at its fastest clip in seven years, but the U.S. is on pace for its sharpest drop in foreign travelers since the wake of the recession.

It's a worrying trend for the travel and retail industries. International travelers tend to stay longer and spend more than their domestic counterparts.

In the first seven months of 2017, the U.S. took in 41 million international visitors, a 4 percent decline from the year-earlier period, according to the Commerce Department. That follows a more than 2 percent drop a year earlier.

It's a worrying trend for the travel and retail industries. International travelers tend to stay longer and spend more than their domestic counterparts.

Tourism and retail industry leaders recently launched the Visit U.S. Coalition, which wants backing from the Trump administration to help stem the decline. The coalition was founded by U.S. Travel, a lobbying group whose members include Marriott International and Macy's.

"Fewer visitors means fewer hotel stays, fewer meals eaten in our restaurants, fewer goods purchased in our retail stores, and fewer visits to our national attractions. It also means fewer American jobs and a loss to our economy," said Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, a coalition member. "We are committed to working together with the Administration to balance a welcome message with strong security to ensure we don't fall behind to other countries."

Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel, called some of President Donald Trump's rhetoric "not helpful" but stopped short of blaming him or his policies for the drop directly. Dow pointed to a strong dollar and competition from other nations
The White House did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

Note EU-Digest: Many experts in the travel industry are blaming the decline on Donald Trump's continuous nationalistic remarks and hostility towards immigrants, and the increasing gun violence in America by local terrorists.


USA Florida Parkland shooting: - Many US policians have blood on their hands: The NRA and gun lobby invested millions in Trump and other Republicans in 2016 and they are tied to the NRA hands and feet

At least 17 high school students are believed dead in a school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The suspect, a 19-year-old former student, had threatened his peers before, and collected guns at home, students told the Miami Herald.

The US’s political response to these tragic incidents has become rote—Republicans offer up “thoughts and prayers,” Democrats demands new legislation that stands no chance of passing.

America’s gun lobby has deep pockets. The National Rifle Association and its affiliates spent over $50 million in political advertisements in the last US general election, boosting Republicans who promised to support the NRA and targeting Democrats who propose stricter gun laws.

In fact, the pro-gun lobby spent over twice as much to fight Democrats ($34.5 million), as it did to support Republicans ($14.5 million). President Donald Trump, who tweeted his condolences to Parkland parents on Wednesday, was the biggest beneficiary of those ad dollars.

Separately, the NRA and affiliated pro-gun groups donated millions directly to individual politicians in Congress as well. Paul Ryan, Ryan Zinke, and Martha McSally were among the biggest recipients in 2016:

The NRA has a dedicated lobbyist, Marion Hammer, in Florida. She has helped make Florida a “laboratory for generating new types of gun protections,” as NPR host Terry Gross explained last year.

This year, Hammer is pushing for legislation that would prevent local sheriffs from testifying for gun control laws in uniform. Meanwhile, Republican politicians in the state are pushing to allow guns in elementary schools and airports.

Read more: Parkland shootng: The NRA and gun lobby invested millions in Trump and other Republicans in 2016 — Qua