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8/31/15

Germany - Merkel warns that refugee crisis tests Europe′s core ideals

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the refugee crisis facing Europe was testing the core ideals of universal rights at the heart of the European Union.

She added that the migrant crisis presented Germany with a major challenge, which would not be resolved anytime soon, and urgesd citizens to show flexibility and patience.

"We stand before a huge national challenge. That will be a central challenge not only for days or months but for a long period of time," Merkel said during a major press conference in Berlin, marking the end of parliament's summer break.

Read more: Merkel warns that refugee crisis tests Europe′s core ideals | News | DW.COM | 31.08.2015

Global Economy: US and Chinese Economies are in "lockstep" and this could spell major trouble for US

Let no one fool you - specially not the Wall Street "news makers.

Both the US and Chinese Economies are in lockstep and the US economy could get  in big trouble because of that.

The investment relationship that has blossomed between China and the U.S., even though it has benefited both countries, has also made both of their economies very dependent on each other, but the US more so than China.

Chinese companies have started  more companies or joint ventures in the U.S., thereby increasing the number of Americans working for Chinese firms.In a sense China has now also become a supplier of secondary capital to the USA, in addition to the regular  US debt they have been buying up..

Another alarming fact is that based on the present (June 2015 figures) US debt to China stands at $1.272 trillion,.

That's roughly one-fifth of the $6.175 trillion held by foreign countries. The rest of the $18 trillion debt is owned by either the American people, or by the U.S. government itself.

The United States has thus allowed China to become one of its biggest bankers, to provide the American people low consumer prices.

This selling of debt to China is mainly used by the US to help the US economy to grow by funding federal government programs. It has also kept  U.S. interests rates artificially low. However, what very people want to talk about, specially the financial world, is that China's increasing ownership of U.S. debt is shifting the economic balance of power in China's favor.

China's position as America's largest banker also gives it considerable political leverage. Consequently every now and then China threatens to sell part of its US debt holdings. It knows that, if it did so, U.S. interest rates would rise, which would slow U.S economic growth to a trickle.

As China grew economically stronger it has also been calling for a new global currency to replace the dollar, which is presently used in most international transactions. China usually makes this call whenever the U.S. lets the value of the US dollar drop, which makes the debt China holds less valuable.

China certainly is not so stupid to call in its US debt all at once. If it did so, the demand for the dollar would plummet like a rock. A dollar collapse would disrupt international markets worse than the 2008 financial crises and China's economy would suffer along with everyone else's.

It's more likely that China will slowly begin selling off its US Treasury holdings.

Bottom line the financial poker game between the two most powerful economic players in the world is certainly not over yet, but China is holding some very powerful cards in its hand.

The financial world better sit up and start smelling the roses.

EU-Digest


Turkey: What Tunisia Could Teach Turkey About Democracy - by Marc Champion

When it comes to democracy, perhaps Tunisia should now be teaching Turkey.

After the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, it seemed as if it would be the other way around. Then, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, now president, toured the region in triumph, promoting the so-called Turkish model of reconciling Islamism with democracy to produce prosperity. He even publicly advised Egypt's short-lived Muslim Brotherhood government to adopt a secular constitution, much to its irritation.

The Arab Spring, of course, quickly turned to nightmare -- except in Tunisia. Ennahda, that country's iteration of the Brotherhood, chose to share power and form a coalition with secular parties, rather than try to rule alone and impose its views. That consensual approach to politics has made Tunisia a target for attack by extremist groups, such as Islamic State, and the country has struggled to return to pre-2011 growth rates.

Still, Ennahda's choice has made Tunisia the sole democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring, and the country has avoided the civil strife experienced in Libya, Egypt, Syria and Yemen.
Erdogan has now chosen the opposite path.

Read more: What Tunisia Could Teach Turkey About Democracy - Bloomberg View

Refugees: Austria says 200 refugees, 5 smugglers stopped in border operation

Austrian authorities have uncovered around 200 asylum seekers and arrested five people traffickers as part of a new operation along the country’s borders, a senior interior ministry official said on Monday.

Konrad Kogler, director general for public security at the ministry, said: “In the hours since we started implementing these measures that we agreed with Germany, Hungary and Slovakia, we have been able to get more than 200 refugees out of such vehicles and we have been able to detain five smugglers.”

Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner, speaking at the same news conference, said checks being undertaken along the Austrian border were not classic border controls.
“We are not in violation of Schengen,” she said.

Read more: Austria says 200 refugees, 5 smugglers stopped in border operation - The Globe and Mail

USA - Donald Trump 2016: Europeans are obsessed with the brash real estate mogul - by Nicholas Vinocur

Since the real estate mogul made a shocking surge to the top of the Republican presidential polls in the U.S., Europe has fixated on the unapologetic showman, churning out a steady stream of news coverage and commentary.

The Continent has its share of outrageous personalities on the political right of center: Britain’s Nigel Farage, Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, France’s family Le Pen. But Trump fits many perceived European stereotypes of America: excess, vulgarity, ignorance, superficiality, love of wealth, to name a few.

“Trump represents the America that we love to hate,” said Marie-Cécile Naves, a sociologist and author of “Le nouveau visage des droites américaines” (“The New Face of the American Right”). “He is our negative mirror image, a man we see as brutal, who worships money and lacks culture — someone who lets us feel a bit superior about being European.”

In Europe’s capitals, feelings of superiority sometimes translate as concern for an ignorant American public that Trump, described by Britain’s Observer newspaper as a “malign buffoon,” is supposedly exploiting. “His constituency is ignorance,” the Observer wrote on Aug. 9 in an unsigned editorial. “In this, he is heir to a long, inglorious American tradition.”

In France, editorialist Alexandre Vatimbella called him a “provocative clown” whose brand of populism was dangerous for democracy, while Germany’s newspapers have reached a consensus around the label “Großmaul,” or loudmouth.

Read more: Donald Trump 2016: Europeans are obsessed with the brash real estate mogul

8/30/15

Middle East: Israels Real Problem - by Jacob L. Shapiro

To listen to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the U.S.-Iran nuclear accord is a catastrophic development for the Jewish state. From Netanyahu's perspective, it is a "bad deal" — one that paves the way for Iran to develop its own nuclear weapons and take a step toward fulfilling the wish of erstwhile Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that Israel should vanish from the arena of time.

It's not just Netanyahu. Across the spectrum, Israeli politicians express fear. Isaac Herzog, leader of the Labor Party, told journalist Jeffrey Goldberg that the Iran deal would "unleash a lion from its cage." Another of Netanyahu's main political rivals, centrist Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid party, has said there is no difference between the opposition and the coalition when it comes to the Iran deal; the Israeli political establishment uniformly opposes the agreement.

There can be no doubt that the Iran deal is a challenge for Israel. But the fact is that even if Iran developed a nuclear weapon — and Stratfor believes Iran has more of an interest in appearing to develop a weapon than in actually obtaining one — such a development would not represent an existential threat to Israel. For one thing,

Israel's own nuclear weapons are the region's worst kept secret, and for all its bluster Iran is not immune from the military doctrine of mutually assured destruction. Furthermore, strained as U.S.-Israeli relations are right now, the United States would not tolerate an Iranian attack on so close an American ally, and Tehran has no interest in inviting American retaliation.

Israel's greatest existential threats are internal, not external. The breakdown of the rule of law, the weakening of political institutions and the loss of a nationally shared purpose are challenges Israel faces now, and they are more threatening than Tehran's rhetoric. Iran cannot destroy Israel in the current geopolitical environment. Only Israel can destroy itself.

Read more at Stratfor Global Intelligence

Middle East: Situation in Yemen 'catastrophic and getting worse'

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has described the humanitarian situation in Yemen as "catastrophic" and getting worse by the day after a three-day visit to the war-stricken country.
Peter Maurer, the president of the ICRC, also expressed shock at the level of suffering he had witnessed during stops in the capital Sanaa and the southern port city of Aden and said that no one in the country had been spared by the conflict.
At least 3,800 people have been killed and more than 19,000 injured since the beginning of a Saudi-led airstrike campaign at the beginning of April in support of government loyalists fighting Houthi rebels.
“The humanitarian situation is nothing short of catastrophic,” said Maurer. “Every family in Yemen has been affected by this conflict. The people are facing immense hardship. And it is getting worse by the day.”
“The world needs to wake up to what is going on,” he added.
- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/catastrophic-situation-yemen-says-icrc-president-1712149992#sthash.TepkKzCE.dpuf
The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has described the humanitarian situation in Yemen as "catastrophic" and getting worse by the day after a three-day visit to the war-stricken country.
Peter Maurer, the president of the ICRC, also expressed shock at the level of suffering he had witnessed during stops in the capital Sanaa and the southern port city of Aden and said that no one in the country had been spared by the conflict.
At least 3,800 people have been killed and more than 19,000 injured since the beginning of a Saudi-led airstrike campaign at the beginning of April in support of government loyalists fighting Houthi rebels.
“The humanitarian situation is nothing short of catastrophic,” said Maurer. “Every family in Yemen has been affected by this conflict. The people are facing immense hardship. And it is getting worse by the day.”
“The world needs to wake up to what is going on,” he added.
- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/catastrophic-situation-yemen-says-icrc-president-1712149992#sthash.TepkKzCE.dpuf
The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has described the humanitarian situation in Yemen as "catastrophic" and getting worse by the day after a three-day visit to the war-stricken country.

Peter Maurer, the president of the ICRC, also expressed shock at the level of suffering he had witnessed during stops in the capital Sanaa and the southern port city of Aden and said that no one in the country had been spared by the conflict.

At least 3,800 people have been killed and more than 19,000 injured since the beginning of a Saudi-led airstrike campaign at the beginning of April in support of government loyalists fighting Houthi rebels.

“The humanitarian situation is nothing short of catastrophic,” said Maurer. “Every family in Yemen has been affected by this conflict. The people are facing immense hardship. And it is getting worse by the day.”

Read more: Situation in Yemen 'catastrophic and getting worse' | Middle East Eye

US Presidential Elections: Trump Change - the Donald edges higher

This week, Donald Trump made headlines with a political rally in a football stadium and his televised confrontation with Univision activist/commentator Jorge Ramos. Rasmussen Reports’ latest Trump Change survey shows belief that Trump will be the next Republican presidential nominee inching up among both GOP voters and voters in general.

A new national telephone survey finds that 59% of Likely Republican Voters now believe Trump is likely to be their party’s nominee for president in 2016, up barely from 57% a week ago.  But the latest finding includes 29% who say a Trump nomination is Very Likely, a view shared last week by just 25%. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

This compares to 27% of Republicans who felt a Trump nomination was likely when he formally announced his candidacy in mid-June. At that time, only nine percent (9%) felt Trump was Very Likely to be the GOP nominee.

Among all likely voters, 49% now think Trump is likely to be the eventual nominee, with 21% who say it’s Very Likely. This overall finding is unchanged from a week ago, but only 17% thought Trump was Very Likely to be nominated in that survey. Forty-six percent (46%) say Trump is not likely to be the nominee, including 21% who feel it is Not At All Likely.

Read more: Trump Change - Rasmussen Reports™: ShareThis

Egypt: Peter Greste calls Egypt court ruling a ‘travesty of justice’

Australian journalist Peter Greste told FRANCE 24 that he was “devastated” and “appalled” by an Egyptian court’s decision on Saturday to sentence him and two Al-Jazeera colleagues to three years in prison, calling it a “travesty of justice”.

The court convicted Greste and his colleagues, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, in a retrial on charges of operating without a press license and broadcasting “false” news harmful to Egypt.

Greste, who was deported in February, was sentenced in absentia, while Fahmy, a naturalised Canadian who has given up his Egyptian citizenship, and Mohamed, an Egyptian, were remanded in custody following the trial.

“I’m shocked. I’m appalled at this and I’m absolutely devastated. This is a travesty of justice, there’s no other way of putting it,” Greste told FRANCE 24 by telephone.

“Throughout this whole trial, for the more than 18 months that this legal process has been under way, the prosecutor has had plenty of time to come up with evidence to confirm the allegations,” he said, adding that none was ever produced.

Greste went on to publicly challenge the prosecutor in the case to present evidence that he and his colleagues had produced false news.

“We haven’t seen that to date and I would like to know what it is that the court thinks that we lied about,” he said.

Greste also stepped up pressure on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to issue a pardon. Sisi discussed this possibility in an interview with FRANCE 24 in November.

Read More: france 24 - Video: Peter Greste calls Egypt court ruling a ‘travesty of justice’ - France 24

8/29/15

The Netherlands: KLM bans Ukrainian pianist from in-flight playlist after complaint over her political activism

Dutch airline KLM has removed tracks by a Ukrainian musician from its in-flight entertainment system after complaints from a passenger involved in a group dedicated to ostracizing her.

Valentina Lisitsa, a Ukrainian-born American classical pianist, rose to worldwide prominence through a YouTube following and has performed with the Rotterdam Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

But after the armed coup removed an elected government in Kiev last year and the country was plunged into a civil war, she also capitalized on her social media voice to advocate against the policies of the new government. Her opinions, mostly expressed through her Twitter account, put her at odds with many Ukrainians, living both in their home country and abroad.

One such opponent, who goes by the name “Inna Thorn” online, complained to KLM about the fact that its in-flight entertainment system contains tracks performed by Lisitsa. She alleged that Lisitsa was a “terrorist sympathizer” and had praised the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in July 2014.

“I was so happy not to think about Putin trolls and Lisitsa and her hatred for a bit, and then during last hour of transcontinental KLM flight an unpleasant surprise. Imagine ))) I was wide awake right away. I am a regular KLM customer and KLM is to hear from me soon,” Thorn wrote.

Read more: KLM bans Ukrainian pianist from in-flight playlist after complaint over her political activism — RT News

Malta: Major protest against the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

A huge Trojan horse – the infamous horse that hid thousands of Greek fighters to overthrow the city of Troy – has been erected in Valletta this morning to protest against the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), “a dangerous deal that puts the interests of big businesses before the rights of EU citizens.”

The giant inflatable Trojan horse was installed by Friends of the Earth Malta and the Front Against TTIP (Malta) during the launch of a week of activities aimed at increasing awareness about the TTIP.

The organisations said the TTIP would enable food safety rules to be amended with the aim of facilitating trade – even to the detriment of the environment and the general public.

Urging the government, political parties, and Maltese MEPs to support their call against the trade agreement, the organisations insisted that the EU-US deal contains “hidden dangers” that could be detrimental to the environment and for the general public.

The organisations said that the TTIP would set up mechanisms that will enable big businesses to sue states for compensation if any new state regulations are seen as harmful to investment and profits.

“TTIP may reduce the possibility of restricting genetically modified organisms and the use of hormones and other chemicals in factory-farmed animals. Proposed legislation will be evaluated by its merit towards increasing trade, rather than increasing quality of life or environmental protection,” said Martin Galea de Giovanni, FoE Malta Director and member of the Front.

“The Front is against setting up of alternative, ‘compromise’ mechanisms that will still give the power to big business to sue states for compensation if any new state regulations are seen as harmful to investment and profits. This will make regulatory innovation slower and less ambitious.”

The Front Against TTIP (Malta) is made up of left-wing think tank Zminijietna, Moviment Graffiti, Association of Federative Socialist, GWU Youth, Friends of the Earth Malta, Partit Komunista Malti, Garden of Knowledge (Malta), ADZ - Green Youth, Malta Organic Agriculture Movement (MOAM), Greenhouse Malta, Gaia Foundation, and Alternattiva Demokratika. 

Read more: Trojan horse erected in protest against ‘dangerous’ EU-US trade agreement - MaltaToday.com.mt

Religious Discrimination - Migrants crisis: Slovakia 'will only accept Christians'

Slovakia says it will only accept Christians when it takes in Syrian refugees under a EU relocation scheme.
The country is due to receive 200 people from camps in Turkey, Italy and Greece under the EU plan to resettle 40,000 new arrivals.

Interior ministry spokesman Ivan Netik said Muslims would not be accepted because they would not feel at home.

The UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) called on countries to take an "inclusive approach" to relocation.
But Mr Netik denied the move was discriminatory and said it was intended to ensure community cohesion.

Note EU-Digest: whatever way the Slovaks want to call what they are doing - it is discrimination with a capital D and should be unacceptable by the EU.

Read more: Migrants crisis: Slovakia 'will only accept Christians' - BBC News

Turkish Elections - Turkey forms interim government with pro-Kurdish party

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday approved the makeup of the provisional government that will run the country until November 1 elections, including for the first time pro-Kurdish MPs.

 "Our president... approved the interim cabinet formed under the leadership of Prime Minister Mr Davutoglu," the presidency said in a statement after a nearly one-hour meeting between Erdogan and Premier Ahmet Davutoglu.

The two pro-Kurdish lawmakers are from the People's Democratic Party (HDP), marking the first time a Kurdish party has been represented in the government.

The newly appointed cabinet will not have to undergo a vote of confidence in parliament, as required in the constitution. The president's approval is considered enough for interim governments.

Erdogan called new elections after Davutoglu – whose ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its overall majority in parliament in June polls – failed to form a coalition government with the opposition.

He appointed Davutoglu to form an interim "election government" which according to the constitution must be made up of all parties represented in parliament.

It is the first time in modern Turkish history that post-election talks on forming a coalition government have failed.

Read more: Europe - Turkey forms interim government with pro-Kurdish party - France 24

Greek economy defies expectations

Despite the debt and political crisis in Greece the country’s economy is defying expectations

The government may be in crisis with new elections on the horizon after former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras stood down, but there is at least some good news to report on the business front.

Second Quarter GDP growth has been revised up, yes up, to 0.9 percent from the initial reading of 0.8, surprising analysts.

There is a caveat. The figures reflect a time before capital controls came in. Their impact will only be seen in the third quarter reading.

Nevertheless it is good news. Consumer spending rose 1.1 percent in the second quarter and imports went down by 4.9 percent.

One of the most important sectors sustaining Greece is tourism. Visitors are still flocking to the country and its islands at the rate of over 20 million per year.

The country’s problems are far from over however with more possible political turmoil on the horizon.
Read more: Greek economy defies expectations | euronews, economy

Archeology: Europe's oldest prehistoric town unearthed in Bulgaria

Archaeologists in Bulgaria say they have uncovered the oldest prehistoric town found to date in Europe.

The walled fortified settlement, near the modern town of Provadia, is thought to have been an important centre for salt production.

Its discovery in north-east Bulgaria may explain the huge gold hoard found nearby 40 years ago.

Archaeologists believe that the town was home to some 350 people and dates back to between 4700 and 4200 BC.

That is about 1,500 years before the start of ancient Greek civilisation.
The residents boiled water from a local spring and used it to create salt bricks, which were traded and used to preserve meat.

Salt was a hugely valuable commodity at the time, which experts say could help to explain the huge defensive stone walls which ringed the town.

Read more: Europe's oldest prehistoric town unearthed in Bulgaria - BBC News