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3/1/15

Turkey - Jailed PKK leader urges Kurdish separatists to lay down arms against Turkey

The jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) on Saturday urged the separatists to take a "historic" decision to lay down arms, a key step in efforts to end Turkey's long-running Kurdish insurgency.

Reading a statement live on television, Sirri Sureyya Onder, a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), relayed a message from Abdullah Ocalan calling on the Kurdish rebels to hold a congress on disarmament in the spring.

"We are in the process of ending the 30-year of conflict in the form of a perpetual peace, and our primary goal is to reach a democratic solution," Onder quoted Ocalan as saying in a joint press conference with Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan.

"I'm calling on the PKK to hold an extraordinary congress in the spring months to take the strategic and historic decision on disarmament," Ocalan's message said.

Read more Turkey Europe - Jailed PKK leader urges Kurdish separatists to lay down arms against Turkey - France 24

U.S. Struggles to Build a Strong Infrastructure - ranks 12th in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report for 2014-15 - by Albert R. Hunt

If Washington were a rational place, a major measure to rebuild roads, bridges, ports and airports would be a slam dunk.

Few doubt the need. The United States has underinvested in infrastructure: It was ranked 12th in The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report for 2014-15. Road repair needs are pervasive, a quarter of bridges require upgrades and the fast-rail system falls further behind other countries every year.

There is a broad consensus that infrastructure investment is a significant job-creator. It is embraced by the Chamber of Commerce, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and many governors and mayors of both parties.

Republican congressional leaders want selective big accomplishments to prove they can govern. President Obama wants a few more successes in his final years. Infrastructure is one of the very few areas where they are on roughly the same page.

Moreover, the Highway Trust Fund, which finances federal transportation projects, expires in May.
Yet there is little reason to be sanguine. There likely will be a short-term fix for the highway fund. But the necessary longer-term systemic investments will be kicked down the road, a casualty of partisan gridlock.

Read more: U.S. Struggles to Build a Strong Infrastructure - NYTimes.com

Venezuela President Maduro imposes mandatory visas for US citizens

President Nicolas Maduro announced on Saturday that his government was implementing a new visa system for all US citizens.

"In order to protect our country… I have decided to implement a system of compulsory visas for all Americans entering Venezuela," Maduro said, adding that there would be a review and reduction of US diplomatic staff in Caracas.

Maduro did not specify when the changes for tourist visas would take place, but said his country would charge the same amount as the US charges for Venezuelan citizens.

Speaking at the Miraflores presidential palace in the capital, Caracas, Maduro said that there were only 17 diplomats from his country in the US, while the Americans had about 100 working in Venezuela.

The leader addressed US President Barack Obama directly, saying he had "arrogantly" refused talks to resolve issues.

"I am very sorry, Mr. President, that you have gone down this dead end," Maduro said.
 
READ MORE: Venezuela President Maduro imposes mandatory visas for US citizens | News | DW.DE | 01.03.2015

2/28/15

USA - the Keystone Project - Obama vetoes world's dirtiest oil pipeline-by Steve Benson

Following through on his vow to drill down and sink the Keystone Pipeline, President Obama finally did so, justifying its nixing on the grounds that supporters hadn't followed long-standing procedure for demonstrating that the pipeline -- a centerpiece of the GOP's devotion to profits over planet -- was in the national interest.

House Speaker John Boehner called the president's move "a national embarrassment." Congressional override is unlikely, since the Repubs need Dems to do it.

The plan for the pipeline was to chug millions of gallons of Canadian tar sands crude some 1,700 miles down through the heartland of America and into the pockets of corporations. Environmentalists said no. Republicans said it was the end of business-as-usual as we know it.

 Read more: Obama vetoes world's dirtiest oil pipeline

Russia to Take $50 Billion From Reserve Fund This Year to Plug Swelling Deficit

Russia plans to spend more than $50 billion from its emergency Reserve Fund in 2015 as falling oil prices and a slumping economy cause the government's deficit to rise.

First Deputy Finance Minister Tatiana Nesterenko said Friday the government would ask parliament to allow the spending of up to 3.2 trillion rubles ($52.36 billion) from the Reserve Fund in 2015, including 500 billion rubles already envisaged in the budget.

The increase means that Russia could spend well over half of the fund, currently worth $85 billion, in a single year — a rapid run-down of the fiscal buffers that underlines the precarious state of government finances.

Russia is presently revising its budget for this year, which was based on the assumption the oil price would be $100 per barrel — well above its current level of around $60 per barrel. Ministers have previously said the budget will now assume an average oil price of $50 per barrel.

Read more: Russia to Take $50 Billion From Reserve Fund This Year to Plug Swelling Deficit | Business | The Moscow Times

Palestine: Italy urges recognition of Palestinian state

Italian MPs have backed a non-binding resolution that urges the government to recognise Palestine as a state.

Italy’s Chamber of Deputies voted by 300 to 45 to pass the motion presented by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party.

But they failed to back a move supported by the left wing Left Ecology and Liberty party that would have “fully and formally recognised the Palestinian State.”

While most developing countries recognise Palestine as a state, most Western European nations do not, supporting the Israeli and US positions that an independent Palestinian state should emerge from negotiations with Israel.Middle East:

Read more: Italy urges recognition of Palestinian state | euronews, world news

Global Economy: Globalisation And Technology Drive Insecurity - by Paul Sweeney

People are insecure. Young people worry about getting a decent job, finding a secure home and having to pay off the vast debts run up in the decade of uber-liberal economic policies of European governments to 2007.

Elderly people worry about their security in old age, access to decent health care, about their children getting jobs or being forced to emigrate.

A recent Eurofound study concluded that 14% of jobs in Europe are high-paid good jobs; 37% are well-balanced good jobs; 29% are poorly balanced jobs; and 20% are poor quality jobs. Thus almost half of all those at work are not in good jobs.

Yet we have never had such high incomes or wealth. This is in spite of the six years of the Great Recession. Total national income is substantially higher than what it was a generation ago. Yet only a generation ago too, jobs and pensions were more secure, homes were easier to find and health care was not such a big worry.

What has led to today’s insecurity? The big drivers of insecurity are globalisation and technology. They have shifted low skilled jobs and now even middle income jobs offshore, created intense competition, change and uncertainty. They give great power to large corporations, while undermining the power of states and of organised labour. Crucially, they have also changed the nature of politics.

Globalisation and technology have been key drivers in the three-decade-long (a generation) decline in the share of national income of workers and the self-employed and its corresponding shift to wealthy people and corporations A few countries like Ireland witnessed the boom of catching up with the rest of Europe for 20 years, when overall earnings rose so the seismic shift in income was not so evident, but thanks to the Great Recession, it now is.

Both globalisation and technology have reduced labour’s bargaining power through offshoring, through sectoral shifts in employment from manufacturing to services, from large units to smaller ones and to autonomous, self-employed working. It has facilitated the massive decline in corporate governance – in the way firms are run and what their objectives are. It boosted the pay of the elite to extraordinary levels that have nothing to do with performance. Both have also facilitated financialisation – where finance rules the real economy.

Globalisation has also reduced financial disclosure, blurring our knowledge of the real ownership and control of business. It has led to the privatisation of swathes of public services, and these privatised public services are increasingly run by big, non-competing oligopolies. It has facilitated increased tax evasion and tax avoidance on unprecedented scales by the wealthy and by large companies. The Luxleaks and HSBC exposures are only the tip of this iceberg of tax cheating on an industrial scale in some countries.

Read more: How Globalisation And Technology Drive Insecurity

European Aircraft Industry: Enders’ game at Airbus reaps rich rewards in 2014

If any industry is a barometer of global economic health it is the aircraft and airlines businesses, and Airbus has just released figures suggesting the sky’s the limit.

Although its military arm is flagging, with 6400 jobs in Germany at risk and continuing problems with its A400 military transport leading to Airbus looking for a buyer, commercial planes are doing very well.

However with the A380 it has a trump card, the world’s largest passenger plane which is interesting more and more clients.

With its 2014 annual report, the company has broken several records.
Jon Davies, euronews: “Joining me now from Munich is the Airbus CEO Tom Enders. Mr. Enders, earnings are up 60%, are  you100% happy with the report?”

Tom Enders:  “I’m 100% happy, it was a pretty good year in 2014, we met most of our operational targets, the commercial momentum was very strong, we achieved major milestones and I think that reflects pretty well in the ebit, in the free cash flow which is very important for us, and certainly in the earnings.”

Read more: Enders’ game at Airbus reaps rich rewards in 2014 | euronews, corporate

The Pantheon of Human Liberty: Edward Snowden and the Great Removal - by Thomas L. Knapp

Thomas Paine
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden continues to loom large in the world’s daily news. Revelations from the trove of data he disclosed to journalists roll out on a near-weekly basis, followed by denials and excuses from politicians and bureaucrats he exposes as responsible for rights violations around the world. Citizenfour, a documentary covering his heroic actions on behalf of the public, just grabbed the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

It’s easy to get lost in the minutiae of Snowden’s individual disclosures. And that’s OK. Each disclosure tells us something important about those who rule us. But there’s more to it than the details. There’s a bigger picture.

In a February 23 “Ask Me Anything” discussion on Reddit, Snowden encapsulated that bigger picture. “[W]e the people,” he wrote, “will implement systems that provide for a means of not just enforcing our rights, but removing from governments the ability to interfere with those rights” (emphasis Snowden’s).

That’s the whole ballgame right there, folks. The purpose of political government has never been, as the US Declaration of Independence claims, “to secure these rights [life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness] … deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The purpose of political government has always been to monopolize violations of rights and to use those violations to redistribute power, control and wealth from you to the political class.

Many — perhaps most — of us don’t get it. Sometimes Snowden himself doesn’t seem quite sure of it. But the politicians know it deep down in their guts.

When the world’s panicked potentates and powermongers squeal that people like Snowden make it more difficult for them to “protect” us, what they really mean is that people like Snowden unlock and open the doors of the cages we’re kept in.

The politicians aren’t afraid of bad actors getting in. They’re afraid of us getting out. Worse, they’re afraid that while we’re out, we’ll realize we never needed them. They fear that the final shred of the emperor’s clothes — the notion that the state is a “necessary evil” — will fall away, revealing them to us in all their nakedness as the unnecessary evil they’ve always been. And that fear is fully justified.

Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden (among others; Barrett Brown and Ross Ulbricht also come immediately to mind) have earned their places as central figures in the pantheon of human liberty.

They will one day be revered (indeed, they already are among many) as modern-day Thomas Paines.

Paine’s work brought down the British Empire in one small corner of Earth; it also inspired and informed the revolution in France. The effects reverberate across more than two centuries of human history down to this very day. Snowden and those others are in the process of completing Paine’s mission by bringing down the global political class’s preferred governance model of the last 400 years, the Westphalian nation-state.

Snowden’s Great Removal is in progress and unstoppable. It deserves our enthusiastic embrace.

Read more: Edward Snowden and the Great Removal » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

Medical Breakthrough? Enlisting Viruses as Commandos in a War on Cancer - Mike Hale

Friday night’s HBO  “Vice Special Report: Killing Cancer” is a change of pace in several ways. The topic is less sexy and more universal than the “Vice” norm, and the approach is straightforward and relatively calm. 

With a little more hedging and a more modulated and dressed-up correspondent, it could just as well be on “60 Minutes” or PBS.

The reporter in this case is Shane Smith, the Vice co-founder, chief executive and alpha dog, sporting a black T-shirt and an unregenerate Canadian accent. He begins the 40-minute report by explaining how cancer has touched his own life, then drops in on four hospitals doing revolutionary research into the use of retrofitted viruses — for the common cold, measles, smallpox and H.I.V. — to identify and attack cancerous cells.

Mr. Smith points out that the use of H.I.V. and T-cells to fight leukemia by Dr. Carl June at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia was first widely publicized in a series of articles in The New York Times, and the “Vice” report can be seen as a wide-ranging and poignant follow-up. Documenting the case of Emily Whitehead (also known as Emma), the first child to receive the experimental treatment, it juxtaposes film of the bald, sad-eyed 6-year-old girl with the currently healthy Emily, still cancer-free more than two years later. Interviewed by Mr. Smith, she concentrates on the charm bracelet she’s stringing, clearly tired of talking about being sick.

The methods Mr. Smith reports on are only at the clinical-trial stage — Dr. June speculates that his T-cell therapy might be publicly available by 2016 — and presumably there’s little data so far on relapse rates. Mr. Smith slips in qualifiers, citing “seemingly miraculous results,” but he’s clearly a believer, not afraid of using the word “cure.” The doctors themselves are more cautious — one says, “We know we’re on the right path” — but still, there are Dr. June’s limited but impressive results: complete remission in 90 percent of 39 children with leukemia.

Lately, Vice Media has been in the news over a lavish dinner paid for by Mr. Smith as well its metastasizing corporate presence in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The return of its television series, which begins a third season next Friday with more typical topics including the militarization of police forces and the way gang violence in Central America drives immigration to the United States, may be a welcome diversion.

Read more: Enlisting Viruses as Commandos in a War on Cancer - NYTimes.com

2/27/15

Terrorism:"Jihadi John’ Whose Real Name is Mohammed Emwazi Wanted Dead or Alive

Mohammed Emwazi alias Jihadi John
The world knows him as “Jihadi John,” the masked man with a British accent who has beheaded several hostages held by the Islamic State and who taunts audiences in videos circulated widely online.

But his real name, according to friends and others familiar with his case, is Mohammed Emwazi, a Briton from a well-to-do family who grew up in West London and graduated from college with a degree in computer programming.

He is believed to have traveled to Syria around 2012 and to have later joined the Islamic State, the group whose barbarity he has come to symbolize.

 The families of hostages killed by ISIL have been reacting to the naming of a British militant who fronted some of the beheading videos.

Will Mohammed Emwazi be killed, captured by the people chasing him or has his discovery become a liability for ISIS who will execute him themselves - or is this all a hoax - lets not hope so.

Some are calling for Mohammed Emwazi, known as Jihadi John, to be caught alive to face justice.
 The Kuwaiti-born man first appeared in a video in 2013 showing the murder of US journalist James Foley.

The victim’s mother, Diane Foley, told reporters: “He (Emwazi) did have the benefits of a comfortable upbringing and yet he’s using gifts and talents for such hatred and brutality.”

EU-Digest


France - France wants imams to learn secular values as part of new anti-radicalisation push

France said Wednesday it will encourage imams to take civics lessons amid fears of growing radicalisation among its Muslim community. But could the country be jeopardizing its secularist tradition by treading on religious ground?

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Wednesday outlined plans to combat radicalisation among France’s large and diverse Muslim community, with the emphasis of the reforms placed on opening channels of dialogue between the government and Muslim leaders.

Cazeneuve said France would establish a new forum for dialogue that would include the participation of the official French Muslim Council (CFCM), as well as imams and intellectuals who represent a wider section of Muslims living in the country. The minister said better protecting Mosques and Muslim centres amid an escalation in Islamophobic attacks was also on the agenda.

However, one announcement drew particular attention: the French government will push imams to take university-level civics classes. French authorities are acutely aware of the conundrum this last reform poses. France’s staunchly-defended laicité, its strict interpretation of the division between church and state, prevents the government from intervening in the organisation of a religious group.

Cazeneuve was quick to underscore that the diploma in French secularism would not be mandatory for imams, unless they were Muslim chaplains working in prisons or the military.

Read more: France - France wants imams to learn secular values as part of new anti-radicalisation push - France 24

Russia: Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov shot dead in Moscow

A leading Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov has been shot dead in Moscow.

According to several Russian news agencies, the 56-year-old former deputy prime minister was gunned down while walking with a woman near the Kremlin.

He is said to have been shot four times by several people who got out of a car.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and during Boris Yeltsin’s time in charge at the Kremlin, Nemtsov made his name as a western orientated free market reformer.

More recently, he co-founded the anti-Putin movement Solidarity, with chess champion Garry Kasparov, in an effort to unite various opposition groups.

Four years ago, he was sentenced to 15 days in jail after taking part in a New Year’s Eve opposition rally.

Note EU-Digest: Mr. Nemtsov was also working on a report about Russia's involvement in Ukraine.

Read more: Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov shot dead in Moscow | euronews, world news

Energy Prices - Another drop for oil?

OilPrice.com reports that oil prices have stabilized somewhat around the $60 per barrel mark, and over the past few weeks oil has shown less volatility than what we have grown used to in the preceding six or seven months.

But another swoon could be just over the horizon. That is because oil producers are starting to run out of storage. As production has soared and global demand has failed to keep up, oil producers have been diverting oil into storage tanks at a remarkable rate since last summer.

The latest EIA data shows that weekly inventories jumped by another 7.7 million barrels, with total inventories now having reached 425.6 million barrels. That is the
highest level of oil sitting in storage in over 80 years, and more than 20% higher than the five-year average.

The data is also important because it highlights two things. First, oil production has not leveled off yet, despite several months of prices sitting below the breakeven mark for many producers. But also, the data indicates that U.S. producers may soon start to top off storage tanks. If production does not decline and oil storage capacity begins to run out, the glut of oil on the market could worsen pretty quickly, sending prices down once again.


Rig counts continue to decline amid weak prices. Data from North Dakota shows that drillers are retreating to core production areas, or “sweet spots.” The number of North Dakota rigs in operation has fallen from 190 to 121, dipping below a key threshold of 130 that state regulators believe is critical to keeping production from contracting. But importantly, rig counts have fallen much quicker in the periphery, with rigs becoming increasingly concentrated in just four North Dakota counties that account for 89% of the state’s production. Still, the core areas are not necessarily safe, and a few more months of weak prices could finally lead to a drop in production.

On the other side of the world, the Russian Arctic is also seeing a pullback in activity. Although the culprit is not entirely, or even primarily, the collapse of oil prices, Russian state-owned firm Rosneft has
announced plans to postpone exploration of 12 Arctic licenses. Rosneft had ambitious plans to tap Arctic oil with the help of several international oil majors, but western sanctions have forbidden the involvement of those firms. While the Russian government originally scoffed at western sanctions when they were introduced last year, the major delay to Russia’s Arctic dreams demonstrates that the West’s ploys are having a bite.  


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