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1/23/17

EU-US Relations: – Will Trump matter for the EU’s policy priorities?

In Europe, as in much of the rest of the world including large parts of the United States, Donald Trump’s election conjured up a plethora of doomsday scenarios. It was quickly assumed, for example, that the US would pull out of the COP21 Paris Agreement. Bolstering EU defence capabilities was suddenly proclaimed an urgent priority in light of the uncertain continued commitment the new US administration could be expected to show towards NATO. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) was also declared dead and parallels with Brexit were drawn. And finally there were fears that the migration crisis would be exacerbated by Trump’s pledge to block Syrian (Muslim) refugees from entering the US, including from Europe.

Now, two months after Trump’s election, it is time for Europe to recover from its initial state of shock and assess the possible implications of a Trump presidency on EU policy priorities. Trump’s election might have profound effects on the US, and indeed the world, but it is not likely to dramatically alter the EU’s international priorities (and may even, as recently argued by Daniel Gros, have a positive impact on the European Monetary Union). Looking at areas such as trade, climate change, the refugee crisis, Brexit and defence, the fact of the matter is that, at least as things now appear to stand, Trump’s election should have only a marginal impact on the EU’s policy priorities. To demonstrate why, we consider in turn each of these five important policy areas.

TTIP - Climate policy - Refugee crisis - Brexit- Security and defense 

Given the role that the EU plays on the international scene, no US presidential election will leave the EU, and indeed the world, unaffected. However, the fundamental international challenges Europe faces and thus the priorities of the EU in the areas we have analysed predated his election – and are likely to only be marginally influenced by his administration. Many of these challenges, such as climate change, trade, the refugee crisis and security, are likely to remain after his departure. 

For complete details click here: EUROPP – Will Trump matter for the EU’s policy priorities?

US White House Comedy Center: Sean Spicer at press briefing: ‘Our intention is never to lie to you’ - by Jenna Johnson

White House press secretary Sean Spicer acknowledged Monday that there were some problems with the explanation he gave over the weekend for why he considers President Trump's inauguration audience the largest ever, but he continued to stand by the assertion.

Spicer said figures he provided Saturday about the number of trips taken on Metro during the inauguration were at odds with numbers provided by the Metro system itself. He said the numbers he used were not made up but were given to him by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, which received them from an “outside agency.”

Beyond the number of people at the ceremony in Washington on Friday, Spicer clarified that his definition of a viewing audience does not just include those standing on the Mall or watching on television but also the “tens of millions” who watched online.

Read more: Sean Spicer at press briefing: ‘Our intention is never to lie to you’ - The Washington Post

Europe’s new “Indispensable Nations”- by Joschka Fischer

After the shock of the United Kingdom’s Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States in 2016, this will be a decisive year for Europe. Upcoming parliamentary elections in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and possibly Italy will decide whether the European Union will hold together, or whether it will disintegrate under the neo-nationalist wave sweeping the West.

Meanwhile, the Brexit negotiations will begin in earnest, providing a glimpse of the future of the EU-UK relationship. And Trump’s inauguration on January 20 may someday be remembered as a watershed moment for Europe.

Judging by Trump’s past statements about Europe and its relationship with the US, the EU should be preparing for some profound shocks. The incoming US president, an exponent of the new nationalism, does not believe in European integration.

Here he has an ally in Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has long tried to destabilize the EU by supporting nationalist forces and movements in its member states. If the Trump administration supports or turns a blind eye to those efforts, the EU – sandwiched between Russian trolls and Breitbart News – will have to brace itself for challenging times indeed.

The consequences for the EU will be even more serious if, in addition to setting the US relationship with Russia on a new foundation, Trump continues to call into question America’s security guarantee for Europe. Such a move would be at the expense of NATO, which has institutionalized the US security umbrella for more than six decades. Europeans would suddenly find themselves standing alone against a Russia that has increasingly employed military means to challenge borders, such as in Ukraine, and to reassert its influence – or even hegemony – over Eastern Europe.

We will soon know what comes next for NATO, but much harm has already been done. Security guarantees are not just a matter of military hardware. The guarantor also must project a credible message that it is willing to defend its allies whenever necessary. Thus, such arrangements depend largely on psychology, and on a country’s trustworthiness vis-à-vis friends and foes alike. When that credibility is damaged, there is a growing risk of provocation – and, with it, the threat of escalation into larger crises, or even armed conflict.

Given this risk, the EU should now shore up what it has left with respect to NATO and focus on salvaging its own institutional, economic, and legal integration. But it should also look to its member states to provide a second security option.

The EU itself is based on soft power: it was not designed to guarantee European security, and it is not positioned in its current form to confront a hard-power challenge. This means that it will fall to its two largest and economically strongest countries, France and Germany, to bolster Europe’s defense. Other countries such as Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Spain, and Poland will also have a role to play, but France and Germany are indispensable.

Of course, living in continental Europe means having Russia as a neighbor, and neighborly relations, generally speaking, should be based on peace, cooperation, and mutual respect (especially when one’s neighbor is a nuclear power). But Europeans cannot harbor any illusions about Russia’s intent. The Kremlin approaches foreign policy as a zero-sum game, which means that it will always prioritize military strength and geopolitical power over cooperative security arrangements.

Russia does not view weakness or the lack of a threat from its neighbors as a basis for peace, but rather as an invitation to extend its own sphere of influence. So, power asymmetry in Eastern Europe will lead only to instability. If Europe wants a stable, enduring peace, it first must ensure that it is taken seriously, which is clearly not the case today. Europe can credibly strengthen its security only if France and Germany work together toward the same goal, which they will have an opportunity to do after their elections this year.

EU diplomats used to murmur off the record that Germany and France would never see eye to eye on military and financial issues, owing to their different histories and cultures. But if security conditions take a turn for the worse, that may no longer be the case. Indeed, reaching a compromise on both sides of the Rhine should not be so difficult: France undoubtedly has the experience to lead on defense; and the same goes for Germany on financial matters.

If pursuing this European security option prompts the US to renew its own security guarantee, so much the better. Meanwhile, the EU should also forge a post-Brexit cooperative strategic arrangement with the UK, whose geopolitical position and security interests will remain unchanged.The old EU developed into an economic power because it was protected beneath the US security umbrella. But without this guarantee, it can address its current geopolitical realities only by developing its own capacity to project political and military power. Six decades after the Treaty of Rome established the European Economic Community, history and current developments are pushing France and Germany to shape Europe’s future once again.

Read more: Europe’s new “Indispensable Nations”

1/22/17

Anti-Trump Protests: Over 1 million join anti-Trump women's marches worldwide-by Nancy Benac


Anti-Trump Demonstrations around the world
In a global exclamation of defiance and solidarity, more than 1 million people rallied at women's marches in the nation's capital and cities around the world Saturday to send President Donald Trump an emphatic message on his first full day in office that they won't let his agenda go unchallenged.

"Welcome to your first day, we will not go away!" marchers in Washington chanted

Many of the women came wearing pink, pointy-eared "pussyhats" to mock the new president. Plenty of men joined in, too, contributing to surprising numbers everywhere from New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles to Mexico City, Paris, Berlin, London, Prague and Sydney.

The Washington rally alone attracted over 500,000 people according to city officials — apparently more than Trump's inauguration drew on Friday. It was easily one of the biggest demonstrations in the city's history, and as night fell, not a single arrest was reported.

The international outpouring served to underscore the degree to which Trump has unsettled people in both hemispheres.

"We march today for the moral core of this nation, against which our new president is waging a war," actress America Ferrera told the Washington crowd. "Our dignity, our character, our rights have all been under attack, and a platform of hate and division assumed power yesterday. But the president is not America. ... We are America, and we are here to stay."

Turnout in the capital was so heavy that the designated march route alongside the National Mall was impassable. Protesters were told to make their way to the Ellipse near the White House by way of other streets, triggering a chaotic scene that snarled downtown Washington. Long after the program had ended, groups of demonstrators were still marching and chanting in different parts of the city.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer had no comment on the march except to note that there were no firm numbers for turnout.

Note EU-Digest:  As one participant noted during the Washington Rally: "This is not only just a rally, this is the beginning of a revolution to end the takeover of America by a delusional  President supported by corporate interests and a corrupt political system.
Thousands of women took to the streets of European capitals to join "sister marches" in Asia against newly installed U.S. President Trump ahead of a major rally in Washington expected to draw nearly a quarter of a million people.

Waving banners with slogans like "Special relationship, just say no" and "Nasty women unite," British demonstrators gathered outside the American embassy in Grosvenor Square before heading to a rally in central Trafalgar Square.

Worldwide some 670 marches were held, according to the organizers' website which says more than two million marchers protested against Trump, who was sworn in as the 45th U.S. president on this past Friday.

Read More: Over 1 million join anti-Trump women's marches worldwide

1/21/17

US Environmental Data: Hackers downloaded US government climate data and stored it on European servers as Trump was being inaugurated

As Donald Trump was sworn into office as the new president of the US on Jan. 20, a group of around 60 programmers and scientists were gathered in the Department of Information Studies building at the University of California-Los Angeles, harvesting government data.

A spreadsheet detailed their targets: Webpages dedicated to the Department of Energy’s solar power initiative, Energy Information Administration data sets that compared fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, and fuel cell research from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, to name a few out of hundreds.

Many of the programmers who showed up at UCLA for the event had day jobs as IT consultants or data managers at startups; others were undergrad computer science majors. The scientists in attendance, including ecologists, lab managers, and oceanographers, came from universities all over Southern California. A motley crew of data enthusiasts who assemble for projects like this is becoming something of a trend at universities across the country: Volunteer “data rescue” events in Toronto, Philadelphia, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Michigan over the last few weeks have managed to scrape hundreds of thousands of pages off of EPA.gov, NASA.gov, DOE.gov, and whitehouse.gov, uploading them to the Internet Archive. Another is planned for early February at New York University.

Hackers, librarians, scientists, and archivists had been working around the clock, at these events and in the days between, to download as much federal climate and environment data off government websites as possible before Trump took office. But suddenly, at exactly noon on Friday as Trump was sworn in, and just as the UCLA event kicked off, some of their fears began to come true: The climate change-related pages on whitehouse.gov disappeared. It’s typical of incoming administrations to take down some of their predecessor’s pages, but scrubbing all mentions of climate change is a clear indication of the Trump administration’s position on climate science.

“We’re having a heart attack,” said Laurie Allen on Friday afternoon. Allen is the assistant director for digital scholarship in the University of Pennsylvania libraries and the technical lead on a recent data-rescuing event there. “In the last four days I think we’ve been working 22 hours a day, because we were hearing that these precise changes were going to happen.”

“I wish we had been wrong about our concerns. But this is what we internally had predicted and prepared for,” added Bethany Wiggin, the director of the environmental humanities program at Penn and another organizer of the data-rescuing event.

Over the first 100 days of the new administration, a volunteer team of programmers will be scanning government websites and comparing them to the archived, pre-Trump versions, to check for changes. “We’ll be letting people know what the changes exactly are. We hope to produce a weekly report on changes,” Wiggin says, perhaps in the form of a newsletter.

Read more: Hackers downloaded US government climate data and stored it on European servers as Trump was being inaugurated

Donald Trump: The U.S. descends into brutality as the real-life Archie Bunker is sworn in as president: - by Neil Macdonald

The 45  th President of the USA
Taken as a photo, a moment in time, what's happened on the steps of the U.S. Capitol is concussive; a palimpsest from a rougher, crueler era that was merely painted over, rather than transformed, by the progressive advances that so many people assumed would continue, inevitably, with every passing year.

But it's not a moment. The investiture of President Donald Trump is a natural development the nation has been building toward for half a century.

A friend assigns its origin to the '70s sitcom All in the Family, which, she says, made it all right — even funny — to say out loud the things that people had been shamed into murmuring quietly, in private. You know, shamed by political correctness.

Actually, Archie Bunker's open bigotry was as a liberal fantasy, orchestrated by producer Norman Lear, the ideological ancestor of Aaron Sorkin.

Yes, there were laughs every time Archie unleashed another opinion about "your fags," or "your Jews," or "your spades," but his role was that of the racist dunce, always schooled in the end by the innocent decency of his wife Edith, or an actual encounter with one of the minorities he casually belittled.

But All in the Family did, for the first time, shine a light on the deaf slanging between conservatives – Archie – and liberals, represented by Archie's educated, progressive son-in-law Michael Stivic.

The show petered out after eight years, its novelty gone. It was surpassed by reality – a polity that just kept getting more vicious, eventually leaving its banks and flooding the U.S. with the hatred-soaked, nearly murderous discourse that buoyed Trump and floated him into the White House.
Real-life Archie

As of today, the real-life Archie is president, the most powerful man in the world, immune to shaming or schooling. He actually feeds on it.

In retrospect, it's easy to pick out events that deepened the national odium: the emergence of Fox News, the 9/11 attacks, the 2008 economic catastrophe.

"Nearly murderous," incidentally, is not meant as hyperbole. Violent conflict becomes possible when two sides begin to dehumanize each other, and it's not even controversial to suggest that has happened in the U.S.

Fake news on the internet, which used to be called conspiracy theories, is most often framed to accomplish exactly that. Falsely suggesting Barack Obama was born elsewhere (Africa) and is likely the enemy (a Muslim) was the theory pushed by so long by Trump, a clear effort to dehumanize.

In fact, Trump explicitly declared in one of his most elegant tweets from 2014 that the other side, the "haters and losers" who oppose him, are genetically inferior, or as he put it: "They cannot help the fact that they were born fucked up!"

The man from North Carolina who opened fire at Comet Ping Pong Pizza here in D.C. did so because he believed a conspiracy theory — "Pizzagate" — about Hillary Clinton running a child sex ring out of the restaurant. He was not crazy — just stupid, armed and nurtured on a bunkered ideology.

Conservatives reading this will at this point have already stopped reading, having decided that this is just more lying by the dishonest elite media, which is in the thrall of the elite radical left.

Actually, if the media is in thrall, it's to the status quo and the establishment, and, judging by some of the fawning at his recent events, to Trump.

But it is true that urban liberals regard Trump-nation conservatives as coarse, offensive, mildly defective mouth-breathers.

In Bethesda, Md., where I once lived, I cannot remember having met a single social conservative or gun advocate. The Tea Party was regarded as aliens. Those people lived in Virginia, across the Potomac River from Bethesda, where they shun liberals in exactly the same manner, avoiding any social contact, despising from afar.

And this is their moment.

They're not just ascendant, they've beaten the living daylights out of liberals, urinated on their bruised bodies, sliced off their ears and poured sugar into their gas tanks.

They're crowding wolfishly into comments sections on news sites, proclaiming the end of political correctness, saying that minorities need to learn to live like minorities, demanding an end to "negative news" and elitist fact-checking.

They want to know why the dishonest, lying media can't get it through their heads that YOU LOST.

DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND? THE ELITES LOST! YOU. LOST. AND MERYL STREEP IS OVERRATED.

Even Obama has stopped declaring that "there is no blue America and red America. There is only the United States of America." That was aspirational drivel. Inspiring, perhaps, but unmoored from reality.

Such Obama-type voices as still exist are talking rapprochement, telling liberals that they must at least listen to the people who voted Trump.

That's not going to happen. It's impossible to know how Trump and Congressional Republicans are going to govern, but what matters most to Trump nation is that the beat down continues.

Do whatever you want, just give us more tweets about losers and haters and dishonest lying liars.

Nominally, a presidential inauguration is a moment for the nation to come together and celebrate the peaceful handover of power to a democratically elected leader.

Nowadays, that's just a fantasy gurgled by unctuous television anchors. More than 60 Congressional Democrats are boycotting the ceremony.

Liberals will turn away from Trump's inaugural speech, holding onto the fact that Clinton harvested close to three million more votes than the new president, imagining a day four or eight years from now when someone like Senator Elizabeth Warren takes the oath, and payback can begin.

And as long as there is still any comity out there to pulverize, the American descent into brutality will continue.

Read more: The U.S. descends into brutality as the real-life Archie Bunker is sworn in as president: Neil Macdonald - CBC News | Opinion