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12/8/18

France: French Protests fueled by populists and Russian backed internet bloggers as extremists put centrism to the torch - by Max Boot

France: Extreme Right-Wing Populists cheered on by the Kremlin
Weekend after weekend, French President Emmanuel Macron is dealing with sometimes violent protests from a populist movement known as the gilets jaunes (yellow vests). The protesters were galvanized by a plan to raise gasoline taxes, but they are still out in the streets even though the gas tax increase has been suspended. Now they’re demanding, among other things, default on the public debt, exit from the European Union and NATO, and less immigration. I’m dealing with a piece of the online fallout — and in the process learning a dispiriting lesson about how hard it is for a political leader to pursue a moderate path in an age of extremes.

On Dec. 3, amid pictures of burning cars and tear gas in Paris, I woke up to find incessant Twitter criticism of an article I’d written. This was hardly shocking; I’m attacked online all the time. What surprised me was that I was being attacked for a Commentary article published 18 months earlier, shortly after Macron’s election. I posted it on Twitter on June 15, 2017, with the headline: “To defeat populism, America needs its own Macron — a charismatic leader who can make centrism cool.”

This tweet has now earned me a torrent of online abuse. Sean Davis, the co-founder of a pro-Trump website, tweeted: “This 2017 column is a riot.” The right-wing actor James Woods retweeted the article with the gloating tag line: “Twitter is beautiful.” Left-wing journalist Glenn Greenwald apparently thought my article was so ridiculous he retweeted it without any comment at all. Breitbart’s former London editor wrote: “This aged well, didn’t it, @maxboot?”

I asked the information warfare expert Molly McKew what was going on. She replied: “Major Russian info campaign on the Yellow Jackets/Vests protests, so you just kicked the wrong hornets. Over the weekend all the ‘Syria’ accounts were tweeting about how French had snipers on the rooftops to shoot the demonstrators.” The Hamilton 68 website, which tracks Russian disinformation online, confirmed that two of the top Russian hashtags were “giletsjaune” and “France.” Among the Russians cheerleading the protests online is the notorious fascist and pro-Putin ideologue Alexander Dugin. Meanwhile, Russian state media outlets such as RT were hyping chaos in Paris as if it were a “color” revolution.

BuzzFeed reports that the “yellow vests” emerged out of “Anger Groups” that popped up on Facebook to channel the grievances of “fed up” rural, working-class French people — the Gallic version of President Trump’s deplorables or the tea party. Just as in the United States, their online propaganda included a great deal of misinformation. Activists circulated a picture of cars stranded on a highway, claiming it showed German motorists who had abandoned their cars to protest fuel taxes. In fact, the picture was likely of a traffic jam in China. Another popular meme claimed that a 2016 government decree had invalidated the French constitution and that everything that has happened since, including the gas tax, is illegitimate.

There is no evidence that I have seen that Russia social media ignited the protests, but they certainly added fuel to the fire.

But Macron’s desire to curb global warming (the goal of the higher gas tax), his support for the European Union and NATO, his unabashed elitism (he once worked for the Rothschild investment bank, a bogeyman for anti-Semites), and his clashes with Trump have made him a target of the far right, too. Trump himself applauded the protests, falsely claiming they are chanting, “We want Trump.” The right would like to see Marine Le Pen take over; the left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon. The Kremlin would prefer either one to a centrist who will stymie its designs to divide Europe.

Read more: In France and online, extremists put centrism to the torch - The Washington Post

Germany: AKK says Merkel to remain Chancellor for 3 years

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer says Merkel is safe, for now

Canada - China relations strained: "free Huawei executive or else" says China

Free Huawei executive or face consequences, China warns Canada -

Read more at:
http://aje.io/kytjn

The Liberal Delusion - by Marc Saxer

There’s this prevalent idea that we have to take a firm stand against right-wing populism. Yet all the anti-populist hashtags, public un-invites, and goodwill gigs of recent years have done nothing to halt its rise. 

Clearly, we need a more effective strategy, and the path to finding it begins by asking a simple question: whose values are actually being defended here?

For as long as it is part of cultural class warfare, the fight against the far right will never be won. The frontline runs between middle-class groupings, which is why – even in these times of extreme inequality – the debate focusses on questions of morals and identity, not wealth distribution.

For much of recorded human history, questions about who we are and where we are going have been the domain of priests and philosophers. Today, however, it is academics and creatives who are providing answers.

Read more: The Liberal Delusion • Social Europe

12/7/18

GERMANY: Angela Merkel's CDU elects Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK) as the new CDU party leader


Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s final speech as leader of her party was met with an 11-minute standing ovation on Friday.

The address marked the beginning of her gradual exit from both German politics and the world stage. Merkel has led the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) since 2000, and been the country's chancellor since 2005.

“It is now the time to open a new chapter, it was a great pleasure for me, it was an honor,” Merkel said as she concluded her speech. Delegates held up signs reading: “Thank You, Boss.
Merkel, 64, later handed the baton to a successor at the party congress in Hamburg.


Kramp-Karrenbauer — who often goes by her initials AKK — got about 52 percent of the vote in in a run-off with Friedrich Merz, a former lawmaker who left politics to work as a corporate lawyer.

German party leaders, including Merkel, have traditionally been selected through backroom deals and faced no competition during confirmation votes at party conventions.

But for the first time since 1971, CDU delegates were on Friday given the opportunity to elect their new party leader from among several candidates.

Like Merkel, Kramp-Karrenbauer represents the more moderate wing of their party. The 56-year-old (born 9 August 1962) is a mother of three who previously served as the governor of the small German state of Saarland.
The two other candidates who hoped to replace her for the CDU post had both openly criticized some of the chancellor’s policies in the past.

Jens Spahn, Germany's 38-year-old health minister, repeatedly spoke out against Merkel's open-door migration policy which resulted in the arrival of nearly a million refugees.

Read more: Angela Merkel's CDU elects Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as party leader

EU Parliamentary Elections: Europe dials up pressure on tech giants over election security

 The European Union has announced a package of measures intended to step up efforts and pressure on tech giants to combat democracy-denting disinformation ahead of the EU parliament elections next May.

The European Commission Action Plan, which was presented at a press briefing earlier today, has four areas of focus: 1) Improving detection of disinformation; 2) Greater co-ordination across EU Member States, including by sharing alerts about threats; 3) Increased pressure on online platforms, including to increase transparency around political ads and purge fake accounts; and 4) raising awareness and critical thinking among EU citizens.

The Commission says 67% of EU citizens are worried about their personal data being used for political targeting, and 80% want improved transparency around how much political parties spend to run campaigns on social media.

Note EU-Digest: Google, Facebook and Twitter will be required to give monthly updates to the EU on tackling fake news from Russia in the lead-up to the 2019 EU elections, European regulators said Wednesday.

Read more at: Europe dials up pressure on tech giants over election security | TechCrunch

United Nations - "US and Israel get a black eye at the UN": In blow to U.S. administration and Israel, UN fails to pass anti-Hamas resolution - by Amir Tibon and Noa Landau

 The resolution condemning Hamas, which was presented by the U.S. before the UN General Assembly on Thursday, fell short of the required two-thirds majority and failed to pass.

The resolution condemning Hamas, which was presented by the U.S. before the UN General Assembly on Thursday, fell short of the required two-thirds majority and failed to pass.

Read more: In blow to U.S. administration and Israel, UN fails to pass anti-Hamas resolution - U.S. News - Haaretz.com

USA: The Trump and Tillerson feud - look who is calling the kettle black

How Trump feud with who he calls 'dumb as a rock' Rex Tillerson erupted -

US-China Relations: Let’s Take a Closer Look at That Huawei Arrest - by Joe Nocera

 When you grow up in the U.S., and then devote your career to writing about domestic corporations, you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the rule of law, or why it matters. It’s like the air you breathe — you just assume it’s always going to be there.

Yes, the U.S. legal system has plenty of flaws, but you could always count on companies accused of wrongdoing getting their day in court. The government might try to block a merger, but the rationale was invariably based on its interpretation of antitrust law, not on a president’s disapproval. When a corporate executive was accused of a crime, it was because prosecutors had legitimate reasons to believe the executive did something illegal.

The rule of law provides the assurance that so long as you abide by the law, no one is going to arrest you arbitrarily, or take your company away for an illegitimate reason. Investors know they can safely invest their money.

I stopped taking the rule of law for granted in 2010, when I began writing about Mikhail Khodorkovsky. You may recall him as the original oligarch, Russia’s richest man in the early 2000s. By the time I started to focus on him, he had long since been stripped of his company, Yukos, and had spent seven years in a Siberian prison. Indeed, he was then on trial for a new set of “crimes”; if found guilty — hardly in doubt — his sentence would likely be extended by at least a decade.

Which brings me to the American president, Donald Trump. Ever since he took office, pundits have been writing about how he has caused the erosion of important democratic norms. As a business journalist, I’ve been equally horrified by his undermining of the rule of law as it applies to business.

Trump wants the U.S. Postal Service to raise the rate it charges Amazon.com Inc. to deliver packages purely to punish its chief executive Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post. His constant criticism of CNN may have influenced the Justice Department to oppose AT&T’s merger with Time Warner, which owns the cable network. Just last week, Trump called for General Motors Co. — and General Motors alone — to be stripped of a federal subsidy for electric cars because he is angry it is closing some factories in the Midwest. (The government later said he wanted to end the subsidy for all companies.)

Which brings me to the American president, Donald Trump. Ever since he took office, pundits have been writing about how he has caused the erosion of important democratic norms. As a business journalist, I’ve been equally horrified by his undermining of the rule of law as it applies to business.
Trump wants the U.S. Postal Service to raise the rate it charges Amazon.com Inc. to deliver packages purely to punish its chief executive Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post. His constant criticism of CNN may have influenced the Justice Department to oppose AT&T’s merger with Time Warner, which owns the cable network. Just last week, Trump called for General Motors Co. — and General Motors alone — to be stripped of a federal subsidy for electric cars because he is angry it is closing some factories in the Midwest. (The government later said he wanted to end the subsidy for all companies.)

Which brings me to the American president, Donald Trump. Ever since he took office, pundits have been writing about how he has caused the erosion of important democratic norms. As a business journalist, I’ve been equally horrified by his undermining of the rule of law as it applies to business.
Trump wants the U.S. Postal Service to raise the rate it charges Amazon.com Inc. to deliver packages purely to punish its chief executive Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post. His constant criticism of CNN may have influenced the Justice Department to oppose AT&T’s merger with Time Warner, which owns the cable network. Just last week, Trump called for General Motors Co. — and General Motors alone — to be stripped of a federal subsidy for electric cars because he is angry it is closing some factories in the Midwest. (The government later said he wanted to end the subsidy for all companies.)

China is furious, accusing the U.S. of “resorting to despicable hooliganism” and demanding Meng’s release. That’s to be expected. What I didn’t expect was the absence of any outcry in the U.S. Commentators have focused on the arrest’s effect on tech stocks, and on its potential to further damage U.S.-China relations. But no one seems outraged at the possibility that the U.S. nabbed a top Chinese executive as a proxy for a company it may want to punish.

Note EU-Digest :  As the article notes "the absence of any outcry in the U.S. is amazing - Commentators mainly focused on the arrest’s effect on tech stocks, and on its potential to further damage U.S.-China relations. But no one seems outraged at the possibility that the U.S. nabbed a top Chinese executive as a proxy for a company it may want to punish. As to the possibility that this Huawei executive is being arrested because the company might be installing spyware in their software?  Who can say that Microsoft and other US tech companies don't do the same on behalf of the US government".

Read more: Let’s Take a Closer Look at That Huawei Arrest - Bloomberg

12/6/18

Britain: Ditch Meaningful Vote And Back Second Brexit Referendum, Tony Blair Tells Theresa May - by Rachel Wearmouth

Referendum 2 - Britain's future generations can't be sacrificed
Theresa May should ditch the seemingly-doomed parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal and immediately switch to backing a second referendum, Tony Blair has said. 

The former prime minister said a re-run should include just two options: remain “with a renewed offer from Europe” on immigration and a Canada-style hard Brexit.

The Labour grandee said May’s only route out of Brexit gridlock was to “go back to the people” as a Commons compromise was becoming increasingly impossible.

It comes as the deal the government has negotiated with the EU faces a resounding defeat, with as many as 100 MPs – from Labour, the SNP and May’s own backbenches – set to reject it in a showdown on Tuesday.

Blair went on: “Personally I don’t see what the point is of plunging along and being defeated very heavily.

Read more: Ditch Meaningful Vote And Back Second Brexit Referendum, Tony Blair Tells Theresa May | HuffPost UK

Canada: Trudeau denies political motivation arrest Huawei executive

Huawei arrest: Justin Trudeau denies political motivation -

Note EU-Digest: stop the BS Mr Trudeau !

Saudi- US Relations: A Guide to Saudi Arabia’s Influence in Washington - by Emma Ashford

At this point, the evidence that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman knew about—and likely ordered—the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is compelling. After CIA Director Gina Haspel’s presentation to Congress earlier this week, Senator Bob Corker told reporters that a jury would find the prince guilty “in thirty minutes.” The only holdout is the president, who continues to stand by his statement that “we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi.”

His support for Saudi leadership remains unwavering, even in the face of opposition from media, Congress and his own intelligence agencies.

Indeed, between special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation’s increasing focus on Gulf money, and Trump’s repeated support for the Saudis and Emiratis in regional and international affairs, you’d be forgiven for thinking that perhaps it’s these states—not Russia—who have undue influence over the president. While there is no suggestion so far of quid pro quo between the president and his friends in the Gulf, the shady connections built during and after the 2016 election have combined with a broader network of money, personal ties, and some genuine policy agreements to produce what is perhaps the most pro-Saudi administration in U.S. histor

The United States has long pursued a generally pro-Saudi policy in the Middle East, a legacy of the Cold War when the United States relied heavily on the Saudis to push back against Soviet influence. Saudi Arabia’s geopolitical importance–and its position as the world’s swing producer of oil–has often led U.S. policymakers to minimize criticism of Saudi Arabia. Even as fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were shown to be Saudi citizens, for example, the George W. Bush administration pushed to maintain the close U.S.-Saudi relationship while privately criticizing Saudi support for religious extremism. The Trump administration, however, has taken the United States’ selective vision on Saudi Arabia to new extremes.

In May 2018, The New York Times reported that the Mueller investigation into foreign influence in the 2016 election was looking at not just Russian, but possible Middle Eastern influence: Diplomats from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), it appeared, had facilitated meetings between Russian officials, mercenary-for-hire Erik Prince, and members of the Trump transition team. The lens quickly widened to include adviser to the Emirati government George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman who helped to set up meetings at Trump Tower with an envoy for Saudi and Emirati leaders, and key officials including Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner.

In addition, the special counsel is apparently interested in Nader’s work on behalf of Saudi and Emirati leaders, funneling at least $2.5 million in Gulf money to Republican donor Elliott Broidy. Some of it appears to have been used for anti-Qatar lobbying following the blockade of that country in June 2017: A separate New York Times report in May 2018 pointed to two Washington, D.C., conferences featuring anti-Qatar views held by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and the Hudson Institute.

The Gulf states have been among the biggest spenders at Trump hotels and resorts since he was elected. In August of this year, the Trump hotel in New York finally reversed a two-year trend of falling revenues when Mohammed bin Salman’s extensive entourage paid premium prices for a last-minute stay. The Saudi government has also been among the biggest spenders at Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel, spending $270,000 in 2016 alone.

Though the Trump Organization has promised that all profits received from foreign governments at these properties will be donated to the Treasury, ethics experts dispute the methods used for calculating these profits, suggesting that the president continues to profit from foreign spending. Several of Trump’s most influential backers–such as Broidy or the investor Tom Barrackalso profit handsomely from business ties and interests in the Gulf States.

The secrecy surrounding Trump’s financial affairs makes it difficult to know exactly how extensive these ties are. During the firestorm following Khashoggi’s death, Trump tweeted that he had no financial interests in Saudi Arabia. As various journalists noted, the statement could be technically truein other words, no investments physically located within the country’s boundaries—while still misleading, given the Trump hotels’ many Saudi customers. And as always, Trump’s family members further complicate the picture. Over the last few years, for example, the Kushner family’s attempts to refinance or sell their disastrous New York real estate holdings included a failed attempt to secure funding from Qatar–a fact that’s hard not to see as relevant when evaluating Kushner’s unusual hostility toward Doha.

Read more: A Guide to Saudi Arabia’s Influence in Washington | The New Republic

China-US relations: Arrest Meng Wanzhou, executive of Huawei, not favorable to improving relations China - US

Huawei arrest: China demands release of Meng Wanzhou

Note EU-Digest: Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada at the request of the US, who wants her extradited to US because of business dealings Huawei has with Iran. For those who might have forgotten - the US (Trump Administration) unilattery broke off relations with Iran, when the Trump Administration pulled out of the International Nuclear Agreement, signed between Iran and many other nations around the world, including the EU and the US. Hopefully Canada (Trudeau) will show some "backbone", by not extraditing her to the US, specially since all the other co-signers of the International Nuclear Agreement, including the EU and Canada, are still respecting the agreement with Iran.

Read more at 

USA: Trump wants "noble nations" to build new liberal order.

Trump wants 'noble nations' to build 'new liberal order,' Pompeo says

Read more: