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EU-Turkish Relations: Erdogan victory puts icy Turkey-EU relations in deep freeze - by Luke Baker

Sunday's resounding victory by the ruling AK Party in Turkey's local elections, undiminished by what some call an authoritarian turn by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, is likely to put already cool relations between Ankara and Brussels in the chiller.

After months of revelations of high-level corruption and the furore caused by the government's blocking of Twitter and YouTube, Turkey finds itself at sharp odds with the European Union, which it has been negotiating to join since 1999.

Too much has been invested in the process to call talks off - trade, energy and infrastructure links make it as hard to break off as to push ahead. But the EU is very unlikely to nudge Ankara's accession hopes along until Erdogan shows he is prepared to protect civil liberties, justice and the rule of law - and govern like a mainstream European prime minister.

As if to underline that point, the European Commission delivered a terse statement within hours of final results showing AKP won 46 percent of the nationwide vote, a significantly higher tally than many expected.

"Following the overall worrying developments which have taken place over the past three months,  Turkey ... now urgently needs to re-engage fully in reforms in line with European standards," a Commission spokeswoman said.

"It also needs to reach out to all citizens, including those which are not part of the majority vote, in order to build the strongest possible engagement on reforms needed to make progress on EU accession."

There is scant evidence Erdogan is listening, or feels he needs to. As leader of a country of nearly 75 million people which acts as an energy and trade hub and an anchor in an often unstable region, he sees Turkey as holding an upper hand.

His attitude to EU membership since coming to power has been summed up as "Europe needs Turkey more than we need them". That self-confidence will only have been reinforced by Sunday's results, which give him a powerful mandate.

"He'll be feeling 500 feet tall today, which makes him ruthless and able to do anything," said Amanda Paul, a Turkey expert at the European Policy Centre, a Brussels think-tank.

"It's a lot of power in the hands of a man who has become increasingly unpredictable and authoritarian," she said, suggesting it would have an impact on EU relations.

Read more: Erdogan victory puts icy Turkey-EU relations in deep freeze | Reuters

Turkey: How Erdogan’s jubilant victory speech targeted his two biggest enemies - by Adam Taylor

On Sunday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was jubilant. His AK Party had established relatively healthy results in municipal elections with 44 percent of the vote. It's an important step for Erdoğan, who is hoping to cement his leadership ahead of this summer’s presidential election and the parliamentary elections scheduled for next year.

From the outside,  Erdoğan had looked vulnerable in recent month. Bans placed on YouTube and Twitter seemed like desperate measures after almost a year of street protests. Erdoğan's strident victory speech Sunday evening seemed to confirm a different tactic.

As I wrote Saturday, Erdoğan's social media ban is a means-unto-an-end for his real targets: The "deep state" working within the Turkish government he suspects of recording and leaking conversations between top-level AKP associates, and the Gülen movement, the religious organization suspected of orchestrating a corruption probe that has ensnared many of his allies.

Erdoğan's speech was full of allusions to his enemies, both conflating them and targeting them specifically. Here's how he began:

Read more: How Erdogan’s jubilant victory speech targeted his two biggest enemies

Climate change costs seen as steep but tough to tally

The economic and financial impact of global warming is complex and not well understood. In some scenarios there would be economic benefits for countries that get warmer and wetter and consequently more fertile agriculturally. Drier weather in some regions would result in sharply lower crop yields.

Read more: Climate change costs seen as steep but tough to tally - Business - CBC News


The Netherlands - Food quality: "Meat safety in Netherlands cannot be guaranteed" - by Karin Bosteels

Consumers cannot derive too much safety from meat that is offered for sale in the Netherlands. That is the remarkable conclusion of the newest report from the Dutch Research Board for Safety.

Companies believe economic reasons to weigh out on the safety of a product, that is the damning conclusion of the "Risks in the meat chain" report", published by the Dutch Research Board for Safety. It appears that hygiene rules are often ignored, because of a lack of education or a lack of time. 

Meat fraud is ever-present, the Board stated. Meat can suddenly change composition on paper and waste meat can be "turned into" meat for human consumption all of a sudden. The horse meat security has not been guaranteed because of this fraud sensitivity, the Board says clearly.

The Netherlands do have an official office that has to assure food safety, called the Nederlandse Voedsel- en Warenautoriteit, but it has "under-performed a lot".

The Research Board believes this to be the result of "constant reorganizations and cutbacks", leaving little means to actually have an impact on the meat industry. "This is why the NVWA has lost authority", a claim to which the organization stated that it is working on "structural improvements of its oversight capabilities".

Read more: "Meat safety in Netherlands cannot be guaranteed" | Retail Det

Ukraine: U.S. sends top general back to Europe over Ukraine crisis - by Alexei Anishchuk and Lesley Wroughton

America's top general in Europe has been sent back early from a trip to Washington in what the Pentagon on Sunday called a prudent step given Russia's "lack of transparency" about troop movements across the border with Ukraine.

General Philip Breedlove, who is both NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the head of the U.S. military's European Command, arrived in Europe Saturday evening. He had been due to testify before Congress this week.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel considered Breedlove's early return "the prudent thing to do, given the lack of transparency and intent from Russian leadership about their military movements across the border," a Pentagon spokesman said. Washington says there are 40,000 Russian troops on Ukraine's borders.

The pentagon announcement came as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minist
er Sergei Lavrov met in Paris seeking to hammer out the framework of a deal to reduce tensions over Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region.

They aim to develop a proposal conceived by Kerry and Lavrov at earlier sessions, with Western leaders considering broader sanctions against Russia that would target vital sectors of its economy including its mainstay oil and gas industry.

Ideas on the table included a deployment of international monitors in Ukraine, the withdrawal of Russian forces from Crimea and the border zone around Ukraine, and the launch of direct talks between Moscow and the government in Kiev.

"Today, we expect Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov to continue the discussion they've been having in the interest of finding concrete ways to de-escalate the conflict," a senior U.S. State Department official said.

Kerry and Lavrov hoped to build on a phone call on Friday between presidents Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama, according to senior U.S. officials, to defuse the worst East-West confrontation since the Cold War ended two decades ago.

Read more: U.S. sends top general back to Europe over Ukraine crisis | Reuters

France Elections: Black Sunday for France's Socialists as far-right breaks through - by Angus MacKinnon

France's ruling Socialist Party suffered humiliating losses Sunday in a local vote marked by breakthrough successes for the far-right National Front and the historic election of a first female mayor of Paris.

On a day dubbed "Black Sunday" by one Socialist lawmaker, the National Front (FN) won control of at least eight towns and was on track to claim 1,200 municipal council seats nationwide, its best ever showing at the grassroots level of French politics.

It was also a night to savour for France's main opposition, the centre-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

The party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy performed strongly across the country, seizing control of a string of towns and cities, including some once considered bastions of the left.

In a rare consolation for President Francois Hollande's party, the Socialists held on to control of Paris, where Anne Hidalgo, 54, will become the first female mayor of the French capital after a victory that was far more comfortable than anyone had expected.

But Limoges, a town that had been run by the left for 102 years, fell to the UMP, as did Toulouse, the Champagne capital Reims and Saint Etienne, as well as dozens of other smaller urban centers.

Read more: Black Sunday for France's Socialists as far-right breaks through - Yahoo News

Turkey: Eight deaths during democratically dubious local elections in Turkey - why are EU and US not reacting ?

While the EU and the US are screaming "bloody murder" about the Crimea referendum, one of their most important NATO partners Turkey is holding it's own  local elections which can not be described as being held under ideal democratic circumstances/

According to the pollster Konda, Erdogan's Justice and Development Party stood at 46 percent support in the run-up to Sunday's vote despite the recent scandals.

The opposition Republican People's Party polled at 27 percent, while the Nationalist Movement Party and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party garnered a combined 22 percent.

The ruling AKP and their leader Erdogan has basically taken over control of the Turkish judiciary system and purged 7,000 people from the police and judiciary in response to anti-graft raids that targeted businessmen close to the prime minister last  December.

Last month, an audio recording was leaked in which Erdogan apparently tells his son Bilal to hide large sums of money.has also made him ban social media Twitter and YouTube.

Turkey also remains the country with the largest number of journalist in jail globally.

What is amazing in all this however, however, is that neither the EU nor the US has made much fuss about the situation in Turkey, except for some indirect' "off the cuff"  remarks.

Neither the EU or the US has also sent polling station observers to the recent  elections... 

Consequently there is "something fishy going on  in Denmark" when it comes to the EU and the US having to deal with Turkey on the issues of Democracy, Human rights and  freedom of expression.



Turkey: AKP faces tough test in Turkey's local polls - by Osman Kaytazoglu

Turkey is going to the polls in local elections on March 30. The vote comes amid allegations of government corruption and bribery, debates about a so-called "parallel state", and with government moves to block Twitter and YouTube heavily criticized.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party [AKP] have come out of each general election since the party was first elected to power in 2002 with more votes than before, securing nearly 50 percent of the vote in 2011 general elections.

But this election may represent the AKP’s biggest challenge to date, and is being described as a litmus test for upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. The main parties fielding candidates are Erdogan’s AKP, the main opposition party Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the pro-Kurdish Justice and Development Party (BDP).

The local elections first garnered attention with anti-government Gezi Park protests in June 2013, when thousands of people descended on a park in central Istanbul against the municipality’s gentrification plans.

The elections have been dominated by a new scandal that began on December 17 last year, when three AKP cabinet ministers’ children were arrested on corruption charges, and several government figures were implicated in graft probes.

Turkey’s main opposition party, the Republic People’s Party (CHP), has tried to make sure the graft probe remains at the centre of the election process. "The state’s conscience woke up on December 17," CHP leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, said, referring to when the first arrests were made.

Erdogan blamed rival Fethullah Gulen, the US-based head of the Gulen movement, for the recent controversies, and their feud has dominated the headlines. Erdogan described the Gulen movement as "a threat to national security" and called the Gulen movement "a terrorist organisation".

Recent opinion polls show that people are confused about the public AKP-Gulen feud. While 60 percent of Turkish people believe the corruption allegations are true, 57 percent also think that the graft probe is a coup attempt targeting Erdogan.

Ahead of the polls, various audio recordings have also leaked, with the latest reportedly showing top government and security officials discussing launching military operations into Syria. The Turkish government banned Twitter and YouTube over these leaks.

Read more: AKP faces tough test in Turkey's local polls - Europe - Al Jazeera English

Ukraine: Russia rules out intention to invade Ukraine

Russia's foreign minister says Moscow has "absolutely no intention" of ordering its armed forces to cross over the Ukrainian border, in a statement that appears to rule out an invasion of mainland Ukraine following Russia's seizure of Crimea.

"We have absolutely no intention and no interests in crossing the Ukrainian border," Sergei Lavrov told Russian state television on Saturday.

"We (Russia and the West) are getting closer in our positions," he added, saying recent contacts had shown the outlines of a "possible joint initiative which could be presented to our Ukrainian colleagues".

Lavrov's comments came after US President Barack Obama urged his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to withdraw troops from near the Ukraine border, in the first direct contact between the two leaders since the Crimea takeover.

The White House said on Saturday that Obama had urged Putin, in a "frank and direct" telephone conversation, to ease tensions by removing troops, and respond to proposals for a diplomatic solution put forward by the US earlier this week.

Al Jazeera's Alan Fisher reporting from Washington DC, said: "It is really about trying to push forward, get some sort of diplomatic solution that everyone can live with. No one is going to get exactly what they want out of this, but Barack Obama believes that the diplomacy is the way ahead."

Read more: Russia rules out intention to invade Ukraine - Europe - Al Jazeera English


Italian Austerity Measures: Italy sets up eBay page to sell govt owned cars

The Italian government has set up an eBay page to auction off non-essential government sedans, which have become a symbol of the state's wasteful spending.

Premier Matteo Renzi has pledged to sell 151 vehicles by April 16.

The eBay page on Thursday promised the first 25 vehicles would go online "in the coming hours."

Among the offerings, according to business daily Il Sole 24 Ore: a 2007 Alfa Romeo, with a starting price of 5,000 euros ($A7,480).

Renzi modelled the auction on one he organised as Florence mayor.

His predecessors in Rome have reduced the number of official cars almost by half, to 6200, in the past four years.

Read more: Italy sets up eBay page to sell govt cars | The Australian

Greece prepares to vote on new austerity bill

DPA reports that Greek pharmacies remained closed across the country on Friday as lawmakers prepared to vote over the weekend on a new austerity bill, which would liberalise the sector.

Pharmacists, who have locked-up their shops until at least Monday, say the measures, which include deregulating pharmacy licenses and creating pharmacy chains and outlets in supermarkets, would put them out of business.

"What does the government want to do? Put us all out on the street begging for money," said pharmacist Giorgos Papakonstantinou, who insists the new law would wipe out independent shops such as the one he owns near Syntagma Square.

The protests come hours before the government is scheduled to submit new legislation to parliament which would scrap market trading regulations to make the economy more competitive.
Parliament will vote on the bill Sunday. It will pave the way for the release of 10 billion euros of aid from international lenders.

Unions announced they will hold protests to coincide with the vote and will hold a general strike on April 9.
Aside from liberalising retail stores, the new law also allows longer shelf-life for milk. Until now Greece is the only country in the EU that limits the shelf life of fresh milk, which the country's bailout lenders say prevents imports.

The European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund agreed last week on the release of long-delayed emergency loans, after seven months of negotiations.

The next bailout tranche is due to be released "well before" Greece faces a large bond redemption in May, an EU official said in Brussels on Thursday.

Eurogroup finance ministers are expected to discuss Greece's latest reform pledges when they meet in Athens next week, with a view to formally concluding the agreement by the second half of April.

The eurozone's rescue fund still has 10.1 billion euros (13.8 billion dollars) available for Greece.

Greece has been granted 240 billion euros in bailout loans since 2010. In exchange, it is required to cut public spending and implement economic reforms.

Read more: Greece prepares to vote on new austerity bill - Finance News - London South East

Turkey: Move to block YouTube ahead of elections points to growing censorship

The Turkish authorities’ move today to block access to YouTube on the eve of Sunday’s elections, and not long after they restricted access to Twitter, smacks of a wider pre-meditated crackdown on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said.

According to media reports, Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs cited national security concerns when it sought an administrative order to block the video-sharing platform – allegedly to prevent further circulation of a taped recording of discussions between senior Turkish officials on Syria.

“The Turkish government appears to be itching for pretexts to close down websites because of their capacity to mobilize dissenting opinion and broadcast embarrassing material,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International's researcher on Turkey.

“Coming just days before Turkey goes to the polls and in the wake of Prime Minister Erdoðan’s strident criticism of YouTube, this is clearly nothing more than a crude attempt at government censorship that will only generate deeper distrust and frustration.

“Even if the Turkish authorities have legitimate concerns about some of the content that might appear, it is completely disproportionate to enforce a blanket YouTube ban in the entire country. Access to YouTube must be restored immediately and the authorities must stop blocking sites that expose abuses and provide a platform for dissenting views.”

Read more: Turkey: Move to block YouTube ahead of elections points to growing censorship | Amnesty International

The Netherlands; Party over: US Secret Service agents sent home over drunken Netherlands incident

Three agents from the US secret service responsible for protecting President Obama in Amsterdam this week have been sent home after a night of drinking. The incident happened just a day before the president’s arrival.

One of the agents was found drunk and passed out in a hotel hallway by hotel staff on Sunday morning, according to the people familiar with the incident who spoke on condition of anonymity, reported the Washington Post.

The hotel workers immediately alerted the US embassy in the Netherlands, which then informed senior agents on the presidential trip, including its director, Julia Pierson.

The same source added that the other two agents were also involved in the incident who “didn't intervene despite being in a position to assist the drunken agent or tamp down his behavior.”
The agency “did send three employees home for disciplinary reasons,” confirmed Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan, adding that they were put on administrative leave pending an investigation. However, he declined to comment further on the case.

All three men are GS-13-level agents of the elite Secret Service’s Counter Assault Team, known as CAT, which is responsible for ‘the last line of defense’ for the president, according to Washington Post sources.

One of those involved in a drunken incident was a ‘team leader’ on counter­assault, however, he “was not in a supervisory position in the agency,” added the source.

Read more: Party over: US Secret Service agents sent home over drunken Netherlands incident — RT News

China - Freedom of Speech: Michelle's Message to China about Free Speech gets censored by China

The First Lady’s of the US on a trip through China also spoke of freedom of expression and the Internet during a speech at Peking University. It was a brave step because she knew it’s a hot topic for the Chinese regime.

China consumes a staggering amount of man-hours and money just to monitor, block and filter communications of half a billion users. China is third in the world for throwing journalists in jail, behind Turkey and Iran, with 32 journalists in prison.

She said: “It’s so important for information and ideas to flow freely over the Internet and through the media, because that’s how we discover the truth,” she said. “That’s how we learn what’s really happening in our communities and our country and our world.”

Mrs. Obama's specific remarks were censored by China’s news agency, but circulated in social media. America’s mainstream media praised the First Lady for speaking out on this issue.

Bravo Mrs Obama. 

Turkey: Local elections to determine Erdogan's future

Turkish citizens going to the polls for local elections will decide on far more than new mayors. After corruption and censorship scandals, they are also going to vote on the future of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Istanbul, the 15-million-metropolis where Recep Tayyip Erdogan started his political career as the city's mayor 20 years ago, is going to play a decisive role in Turkey's local elections on Sunday (30.03.2014). If Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) were to lose here, it would translate to a serious blow to the prime minister's power.

Mustafa Sarigul is prepared to deal that blow to Erdogan. The 57-year-old mayor of Istanbul's wealthy district of Sisli is on the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) ticket and faces Erdogan's fellow party member and ruling city mayor Kadi Topbas in elections.

 Polls suggest it's going to be a neck-and-neck contest. During the campaign, Sarigul has promised to introduce free Wi-Fi across the city and provide free public transport for students - a clear signal that he wants to win over Turkey's young generation. According to Erdogan, Sarigul is an "anarchist."

Recent corruption allegations have taken their toll on Erdogan. Every other day, new embarrassing recordings of phone conversations have been leaked online - taped conversations between Erdogan and other government officials on bribery or how to put pressure on the media.

Erdogan has called it a conspiracy orchestrated by the movement of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is currently living in the United States. The Gulen movement used to support the AKP but is now at odds with the government.

Erdogan has blamed Gulen supporters for launching a major corruption probe and sacked several thousand police officials, judges and prosecutors believed to be linked to the Gulen movement. Last week Erdogan shut down popular micro-blogging site Twitter to prevent further revelations. Telecommunications authorities on Thursday also enacted "administrative measures" against the YouTube video site. Erdogan's supporters have said such steps are necessary to protect the state while his opponents argue Erdogan launched an attack on democracy and that his actions represent a sign of panic and an increasingly authoritative style of politics.

Fethi Acikel, a professor of political science at Ankara University, said Erdogan's harsh and polarizing demeanor was a carefully calculated strategy. After the protests in Gezi Park last summer, the prime minister tried to aim for a strong Turkish presidential system by applying "controlled pressure" on society, Acikel told DW. Instead of the current, rather weak presidential position, Erdogan was pushing for a powerful head of state, similar to the French or US system - with himself at the helm.

But his plan didn't work out as he intended as more and more Turkish citizens turned away from him. Eight people died during the Gezi protests and polarization in society continued to increase. Corruption allegations fueled the anger even more, because they pointed to the party's alleged dark side. "That's why the local elections are a referendum so to speak on the AKP's nepotistic, corrupt and authoritarian politics," Acikel said.

Read more: Local elections to determine Erdogan's future | Europe | DW.DE | 27.03.2014


Alternative Energy: Want a competitive Europe? Embrace renewables

Last week, on  March 19, one day ahead of the European Heads of States and Governments’ discussions on the 2030 climate and energy framework proposals, the European renewable energy associations jointly called on EU leaders to fully grasp the long-term benefits of an ambitious nationally binding EU renewable energy target. 

"The European economy is exposed to volatile fossil fuel prices and insecure fossil fuel imports, especially in these days of geopolitical turmoil at our borders. It must confront climate change. It is facing international competition in sectors of strategic importance for Europe’s growth. In view of the European Council meeting tomorrow, the renewable energy associations emphasise the need for a sustainable and cost-efficient energy mix that can help Europe tackle these challenges. According to the European Commission’s own Impact Assessment, the proposals that the Heads of States will discuss tomorrow are not the ones that would bring the most benefits by 2030. 

While a 2030 framework based on a truly ambitious and binding renewable energy target would deliver major savings, such as an additional €260 billion in avoided fossil fuel imports, and 568,000 more jobs1, the discussion has been pre-formatted to only consider the least ambitious pathway. 

An ambitious 2030 climate and energy framework based on a binding national renewable EU energy target is not only justified from a macro-economic viewpoint, but it is also crucial for businesses and investors. Both 

Europe’s economy and its citizens would greatly benefit from a strong commitment of EU leaders towards the energy transition. Such commitment needs to go beyond a simple volatile CO2 price and thus drive investments into clean energy technologies. EU citizens would this way benefit from a secure and clean energy supply, healthier living conditions and a boosted job market, while the European economy would enjoy a competitive and stable energy framework for the years to come. 

The European renewable energy associations thus call on the Heads of States and Governments to fully reap the benefits of a more sustainable energy system and to agree on an ambitious nationally binding EU renewable energy target for 2030."

Read more: 2030-Joint-Press-Release.pdf

‘Made in China': The World's Factory is Losing Its Shine

China, the 'world's factory', is losing its shine. And to a great extent this has been the result of the rise in workers' wages in most major cities. How has this happened?

Although the international financial crisis saw a minimal increase in the basic wage in 2009 in China, a wave of big wage increases nevertheless materialized in 2010. The 12th Five-Year Plan emphasized that residents' income should grow commensurately with economic development and that labor wages should grow commensurately with labor productivity. As a result, many provinces raised the minimum wage for workers.

According to basic salary statistics issued by China Labor Consult, 16 provinces raised their minimum wage in the first six months of this year alone, and most of the increases were of over 20%. According to the table on the right-hand side comparing the 16 cities, Sichuan saw the highest raise, of 38%, a heart-breaking figure for employers, while Shenzhen had the highest basic salary of RMB$1,500 per month, a frightening figure for factory owners.

Wage increases are now very much on the corporate agenda as a result of fierce competition for labor. The situation is particular severe in coastal regions where the cost of living is much higher than in inland cities. Workers are now less willing to travel a long way to earn what is only enough for their daily necessities.
The new industrial regions of the inland cities now also engage in inter-provincial competition for labor, while factories along the coastal strip have been lowering their admission standards for workers simply to recruit more labor. Higher wages of course are another important factor. For example, one Shenzhen company announced it would raise the basic wage by as much as 20%. Some industry experts forecast that wages will increase by 20% or even 30% annually over the next five years.

Read more: Tradegood - ‘Made in China'

Airlines Industry: Is Ryanair Serious About $10 Flights Between US And Europe?

Ryanair, Europe’s biggest and most profitable airline, just announced a new business model that would see the no-frills carrier work to expand into the United States with airfare as low as $10 on select transatlantic flights.

The airline’s colorful and headline-loving chief executive, Michael O’Leary, spoke of his ambitious plans at the Irish Hotels Federation conference in Meath earlier this week, saying that he’d offer tickets from Europe to New York and Boston for just 10 euros ($13.70) and flights back starting at only $10 (7.30 euros).

If it sounds way too good to be true, keep in mind that a $10 fare comes with a big asterisks that will likely make the price look about 25 percent heftier when all is said and done. O’Leary himself is the first to admit that he’ll charge for everything from booking to baggage and seat selection.

“We can make money on 99 cent fares in Europe,” he enthused at the hotels conference, according to the Irish Independent. “Not every seat will be 10-euro of course, there will also need to be a very high number of business or premium seats.”

Is Ryanair Serious About $10 Flights Between US And Europe?

Capitalism: Has Anglo-American Capitalism Run Out of Steam? - by George Irvin

The Real News Network has published an interesting interview with SEJ author George Irvin about inequality in the UK and the US and the wider question of whether Anglo-American Capitalism has run out of steam. Watch the full interview : click on the link below below.

Read more: Has Anglo-American Capitalism Run Out of Steam?

Energy Supplies: 'EU`s choosing Azerbaijan as main energy source positive factor for Malta also'

Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat has said the European Union`s choosing Azerbaijan as the main energy source is a positive factor for his country too.

Speaking to journalists in Brussels, Muscat hailed the energy projects carried out by Azerbaijan`s state oil firm, SOCAR, in Malta.

Maltese Enemalta Corporation chose Electro Gas consortium, part of whose shares belong to SOCAR, for construction of a new power plant, AzerTAc reports.

 Read more: News.Az - 'EU`s choosing Azerbaijan as main energy source positive factor for Malta too'

EU-US Relations: Obama’s Anemic Speech in Europe - by Roger Cohen

Having pivoted to Asia and done the de rigueur minimum over several years to keep the trans-Atlantic alliance off life-support, Barack Obama awakened with a jolt to Europe this week and, on his first visit to Brussels as president, spoke of “inseparable allies” with a shared mission to demonstrate that Russia cannot “run roughshod over its neighbors.”

Shaken from a view of Europe as a kind of 20th-century yawn, Obama spoke of freedom and the ideas that bind the United States and Europe still in an ongoing “contest of ideas” against autocracy and “brute force.” He rightly rejected the notion that this is “another Cold War that we’re entering into,” noting that President Vladimir Putin of Russia represents “no global ideology.”

Better late than never: The Russian president has benefited from the perception of a United States in full-tilt, war-weary retrenchment; of American red lines turning amber and then green; of a divided European Union; and a hollow NATO living more on the past than any vision of a 21st-century future. Obama has been making up for lost ground.

Still, his Brussels speech, presented as a capstone of his visit and one of those Obama specials designed to offset with eloquence a deficit of deeds, was a poor performance overall, a jejune collection of nostrums about binding values of free-market Western societies and their appeal to the hearts (and pocketbooks) of people throughout the world, not least Ukrainians.

The problem is not that these propositions are untrue. The United States and the European Union are still magnets to the poor and disenfranchised of the earth. The problem is not even that an argument that the Iraq war (with its myriad dead) is somehow more defensible than Crimea is impossible to win. The problem is Obama needed to be more honest. 

The fact is the Western democracies he was exalting have been failing to deliver, and autocrats of the world, bare-chested Putin included, benefit indirectly from the resulting disenchantment.

“Now is not the time for bluster,” Obama intoned. “The situation in Ukraine, like crises in many parts of the world, does not have easy answers nor a military solution.”

This is true. But nor is it a time for clichés about the wonders of democracy, freedom, open-market economies, the rule of law and other underpinnings of the West. Not when democracy seems blocked, freedom sometimes selective, open markets cruel and the law harshest on those who have least.

Read more: Obama’s Anemic Speech in Europe -


The Netherlands: Geert Wilders compared with Nazi propaganda master Joseph Goebbels

Wilders a reborn Goebbels?
The German Press Agency (DPA) has compared the statements that Wilders made during a speech, to those of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.made in Germany during the Second World War.

Last week, Wilders gave a speech at a PVV campaign event, in The Hague. During his speech he asked the audience: "In this city...and in the you want more or less Moroccans?". The audience replied with: "Less, less, less!" while applauding loudly. The DPA claims that Wilders rhetoric is comparable to the same statements that Goebbels made during his Sportpalast speech, in 1943.

During Goebbels speech, he averted from his written textand began to mention the complete "extermination" of the Jews. In his written text of the speech, he wrote the word "solution" and fittingly stopped himself before completing his statement. "Solution" referred to the term "final solution" and was seen as a less harsher term to describe the true intentions of the Nazi regime.

After basking in the applause from his PVV party supporters, Wilders said: "Good, we can arrange that.".

Last week, Wilders had also stated during a visit to The Hague that with PVV leadership, the city would have "with less expense and if possible less Moroccans.".

Read more: Geert Wilders compared with Nazi propaganda master Joseph Goebbels - Minneapolis Community Activism |

EU: Why Europeans should think Big and think Bold "instead of harnessed by outdated capitalism" by Yanis Varoufakis

After the United States had lost its surpluses, some time in the late 1960s, the system of fixed exchange rates and highly regulated capital movements, which had nurtured capitalism’s Golden Age, was condemned. Its inevitable collapse could not but push the dollar down, release the bankers from their thirty-year-old restraints, and wind back rights and services that labour had wrestled from capital since the war.

In 2008, the pyramids of private money, that Wall Street and the City of London had built on the back of this constant tsunami of capital, crashed and burned. At first, continental Europeans smiled, allowing themselves an ‘I told you so’ moment, directed at the Anglo-saxons who had spent a decade or two sneering at the Continent’s antiquated commitment to manufacturing. Alas, that moment proved very brief. Soon, they realised that their own banks were replete with toxic assets and that their bankers had been allowed to run debts (or ‘leverage’) twice as great as those in the Anglo-sphere. Put simply, Mrs. Thatcher bubble had been surreptitiously exported to Frankfurt, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Brussels etc. As had the ‘model’ of building up competitiveness by squeezing wages until the local economies, behind the glitzy suburbs and the globalised jet set, were in a permanent state of slow-burning recession.

Post-2008, while the United States and Britain sought to bailout the bankers with a combination of taxpayers’ money and quantitative easing that aggressively sought to re-inflated the deflated toxic assets, Europe was making a meal of the same project. Having rid themselves of their central banks, the Eurozone’s politicians did their utmost to shift all the stressed bank assets onto the shoulders of the weakest amongst the taxpayers, thus causing a horrid recession and putting the European Union on a path leading toward certain disintegration.

Nevertheless, and despite the significant differences between Britain and the Eurozone, the broad picture remains the same: The establishment responded to the financial crisis by inflating bank and real estate assets (that were best left alone) and squeezing the majority of the population with soul and income sapping austerity. In short, the Thatcher model on steroids.

Growth is not the issue. The Left understands that there are many things whose growth must be stumped: toxic waste, toxic derivatives, ponzi finance, coal production, consumption that leaves the consumer unfulfilled and the planet worse for ware, etc. No, the issue is eclectic growth in the technologies and goods that contribute to a more successful life on a sustainable planet. The Left has always known that markets are terrible at providing these technologies and goods sustainably, and in a manner that sets prices at a level reflecting their value to humanity. What the Left was never very good at was in the conversion of that gut feeling into workable policy that the beneficiaries of this policy (i.e. the vast majority) would back.

A spectre is haunting Europe. It is the spectre of Bankruptocracy. A curious regime of rule by the bankrupt banks. A remarkable political arrangement in which the greatest extractive power (vis-à-vis other people’s income and achievements) lies in the hands of the bankers in control of the financial institutions with the largest ‘black holes’ on their asset books. It is a regime that quick-marches the majority of innocents into the trap of austerity-driven hardship that serves the guilty few, while Parliament and civil society are held at ransom. While 2008 was meant to raise ‘regulatory standards,’ we now know that nothing of substance has been done to reform finance.

This is not to say that we are anywhere near ready to replace capitalism. Indeed, realism commands us to recognise that, if anything, Bankruptocracy is well and truly in command of the European continent and the only political forces on the march are those of the bigoted, ultra Right. The Left must not err again, as it did in the 1930s, thinking that capitalism’s great crisis will naturally lead to something better. It may very well bring about the most hideous dystopia. This is why it is of the essence to stabilise capitalism (through banking regulation, a link between central banks and public investment, and a wider social safety net) while struggling to revive democracy at the local, national and European levels. Our success in this limited but crucial goal is a prerequisite for forging a sustainable future in which most people are gainfully employed in innovative enterprises of which they are the sole shareholders.

Read more: Why Europeans should think Big and think Bold

Technology shakes up US economy - by Robin Harding

New technologies are transforming the structure of the US economy but creating only modest numbers of jobs, according to the biggest official survey of businesses, conducted only once every five years.

Read more: Technology shakes up US economy -

China, France sign major business deals on President Xi's visit

Beijing and Paris signed scores of deals on Wednesday worth 18 billion euros ($25 billion) on the second day of a lavish state visit by the Chinese president, in what Francois Hollande said would bring much-needed growth.

Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan have been given VIP treatment on a nostalgia-tinted trip to France marking the 50th year of full diplomatic ties between the two countries -- a visit due to culminate with a concert at the Versailles palace on Thursday.

On Wednesday afternoon, after kicking off his trip in the eastern city of Lyon, Xi travelled to Paris where he met with Hollande and signed a raft of deals.

"Eighteen billion euros of contracts -- that is jobs, growth and, most of all, significant prospects for the coming years," Hollande said during a joint press declaration with Xi.

By far, the biggest deal was a Chinese order for 70 Airbus planes worth more than $10 billion.
The order covers the purchase of 43 mid-range A320 planes and 27 long-haul A330s, the European aviation giant said.

China had already announced its intention to purchase the planes but subsequently froze the order due to a row over EU plans to impose a carbon emissions levy on airlines.

The Chinese leader is on his first-ever European tour and after visiting The Netherlands and France will head to Germany and Belgium.

Read more: China, France sign major business deals on President Xi's visit - Channel NewsAsia

Ukraine: Europe Begins to Rethink Cuts to Military Spending - by Steven Erlanger

President Obama spent Wednesday in Brussels talking up the importance of the security relationship between Europe and the United States, but it is considered unlikely that Russia’s seizure of Crimea will prompt increased European military spending at a time of economic anemia and budget cuts.

NATO and the European Union regard the Russian move in Ukraine as a wake-up call, a reminder that hard power can easily trump 21st-century assumptions about Europe as a sphere of trade, international law and cooperation.

Despite the newly militant tone, NATO members will continue to spend paltry amounts on defense, experts say. But there is likely to be a slowdown in cuts and a renewed debate on how that money is spent. That debate has already started in Britain.

Read more: Europe Begins to Rethink Cuts to Military Spending -


Crimea: Obama Assures NATO but says" Force Won’t Be Used in Crimea" - by M. D. Shear and a Smale

President Obama vowed on Tuesday that the United States would use its military to come to the defense of any NATO country that is threatened, sending a warning to the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, about the consequences of further aggression along the border with Eastern Europe.

“We will act in their defense against any threats,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference in The Hague. “That’s what NATO is all about. When it comes to a potential military response, that is defined by NATO membership.
The president said the United States and other world powers rejected Russia’s annexation of Crimea, a region of Ukraine that voted to secede on March 16. But he acknowledged that military force would not be used to return that region to Ukraine, which is not a member of NATO.

Read more: Obama Assures NATO but Says Force Won’t Be Used in Crimea -

Salmonella - why can Denmark eradict Salmonella and the US can't ? - by Lynne Terry

The Oregonian and OregonLive recently published a series about how Denmark managed to eradicate salmonella in its chicken meat after a surge of illnesses.

We also posted a story from the perspective of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with experts saying the Danish model could be imposed on the U.S. poultry industry because of its size and food safety system.

Many commenters who weighed in didn't buy that argument, however. Here's what some people said about that and other topics.

Read more: Contaminated chicken: U.S. lacks Denmark's will to eradicate salmonella: readers comment |

Obama in Europe: A friendly visit? - "or corporste takeover?" - by David Cronin

The European Union's chief representatives will be eager to cuddle up for photographs - perhaps even selfies - with Barack Obama when he pays his first presidential visit to Brussels this week.

Amid all the backslapping, the "friction" of the recent past will be politely overlooked. Why let a beautiful friendship be spoiled by a little snooping on Angela Merkel's phone calls or an American diplomat's use of an expletive to insist the EU keeps its nose out of Ukraine?

As it happens, the superficial harmony engendered by such occasions reflects how both sides are literally singing from the same hymn sheet on one key dossier: the planned trans-Atlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP). This hymn sheet was written for them by an exclusive club of the world's top corporations.

Much of the preparatory work for that agreement - currently under negotiation - has been done by the Trans-Atlantic Business Council. Between them, its member companies have caused or contributed to ecological catastrophes (ExxonMobil), a cancer pandemic (British American Tobacco, Philip Morris) and a financial crisis (Deutsche Bank). 

The leaders of these firms are not the kind of people I'd trust to determine the kind of world in which my daughter will grow up. Yet they were given such a task in 1995, when they were effectively hired as economic advisers by the US government and the EU.

The demands reflect a broader agenda. Whereas trade agreements have traditionally involved the reduction of taxes levied on imported goods, the objective for these talks is to destroy or dilute regulations that constrain corporate power.
To advance this objective, big business is seeking that a specialised court system be established so that it can obtain financial compensation for laws that jar with the pursuit of profit. The system would institutionalise inequality. It would be reserved for the global elite; ordinary folk would have no access to it.

Officially known as "investor-to-state dispute settlement", the idea is modelled on provisions in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Since NAFTA entered into force 20 years ago, corporations have availed of it to try and undo the hard-won gains of social and environmental activists. 

Lone Pine Resources, a US company, is currently using it in an attempt to overturn Quebec's moratorium on the extraction of shale gas by the hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking") technique.

The only discernible environmental benefit from the trans-Atlantic accord is that it has already encouraged a considerable amount of recycling. The arguments trotted out in favour of it appear to have been cobbled together from NAFTA-era studies.

Read more:  Obama in Europe: A friendly visit? - Opinion - Al Jazeera English


Eurozone business activity still on the upswing, key index shows

Business activity in the eurozone expanded in March for the ninth month in a row, a key indicator showed Monday, adding to hopes that the currency bloc is on the road to economic recovery.

The London-based research group Markit said its closely watched Purchasing Managers‘ Index (PMI) for the region‘s manufacturing and service sectors clocked 53.2 - just slightly below the 32-month high of 53.3 that it had hit a month earlier.

Analysts had expected a more pronounced slackening of pace to 53.1. All readings above 50 indicate expansion in business activity.

"The ongoing upturn in business activity in March rounds off the eurozone‘s best quarter since the second quarter of 2011," Markit chief economist Chris Williamson said in a statement.

Particularly encouraging was the fact that France, the eurozone‘s second-largest economy, saw growth return to its output and new orders, the research group said.

"The improvement in the PMI to a two-and-a-half year high in March adds hope that a fully fledged recovery will be evident in France by the second quarter," Williamson said.

Read more: Eurozone business activity still on the upswing, key index shows | EUROPE ONLINE

Ukraine crisis: G7 summit side talks to focus on defiant Russia

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will sit down with his G7 colleagues tonight — conspicuously excluding Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The meeting will discuss Russia’s actions in Crimea, and whether that country should be permanently expelled from the G8.

Leading into tonight's gathering, Harper called for strong action against Russia, adding, "We need to be prepared to take that action for the long term.”

Read more: Ukraine crisis: G7 summit side talks to focus on defiant Russia - Politics - CBC News

Ukraine: Obama, in Europe, Says Allies ‘United’ on Ukraine

President Obama began a four-day visit to Europe on Monday with a quick tour of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, home to many of the masterworks of Rembrandt and other celebrated Dutch painters, before starting a series of critical consultations with allies about the fast-moving situation in Ukraine.

Mr. Obama’s trip is already being overshadowed by the actions of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. The country’s forces seized another Ukrainian military base in Crimea early Monday, as Mr. Obama and other world leaders gathered in the Netherlands. Mr. Obama has called an emergency meeting of the Group of 7 industrial nations that will convene here Monday evening.

“Europe and America are united in our support of the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people,” Mr. Obama said in a brief statement after touring the museum with Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister.

Mr. Obama made the remarks while standing in front of “The Night Watch,” Rembrandt’s depiction of a group of 17th-century militiamen. Mr. Obama called it “easily the most impressive backdrop I’ve had for a press conference.” After leaving the museum, Mr. Obama headed to The Hague for the start of a summit meeting on nuclear security with 52 other world leaders.

Read more: Obama, in Europe, Says Allies ‘United’ on Ukraine - NYTimes.comb - ,


Alternative Energy: Wind-Power: Fort Lauderdale uses federal grant for wind-powered turbines

Traveling north on I-95 just south of Oakland Park Boulevard, motorists may have noticed four large spinning wind turbines. Turns out the heavily-trafficked location was not chosen by accident.

Fort Lauderdale recently installed four, 20-foot green wind blades that sit atop a 70-foot pole near I-95 not only to help power electric cars , but also to display its energy initiative. The city looked at various locations, but found Mills Pond Park, 2201 NW Ninth Ave., provides not only the necessary space with few permitting and zoning hurdles, but also a place where the city can showcase the turbines and educate the public on alternative energy.

"Mills Pond is such a popular park and so many families that go there, we thought it would be a good learning opportunity for kids to see and to ask questions," said Susy Torriente, assistant city manager for Fort Lauderdale. "It's a perfect location to catch people's attention and start talking about different types of energy."

Installing the charging striations was made possible by a federal grant the city received from the Department of Energy. The city researched various studies and saw a growing need for electric car charging stations.

"It's about planning for the future," Torriente said. "As more time passes, there's going to be more of a need for those kinds of amenities and we need to start thinking about alternative energy sources."

While enjoying the park, officials hope park users will also charge their electronic car >batteries which they can do for free.

Fort Lauderdale also produced information fliers on the city's website and at Mills Pond Park to help educate residents about the features of the wind turbines and how they operate.

"It allowed us to do something very different and innovative," Torriente said.

or more information, visit


Turkey: Erdogan defies quagmire of scandal in Turkey

The Turkish political scandals of the last few months have many anticipating the municipal election on March 30. But the risk that Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AKP party will lose the election appears low.

As Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan faces his worst political crisis ever, the Turkish people are preparing for municipal elections on March 30. Ever since the Gezi Park protests began last May, demonstrators have taken to the streets on an almost weekly basis to protest against Erdogan and his ruling AKP party. They have called for the government's resignation, and some no longer recognize Erdogan as the country's legitimate leader.

For his critics, the reasons are obvious: one political scandal has followed the other. A public corruption scandal which came to light on December 17 got the ball rolling. On that day, a number of high-ranking politicians, business leaders and sons of political ministers were arrested and accused of bribery, illegal gold transactions with Iran and of profiting from illegal construction projects. Erdogan reacted by forcing out judges, prosecutors and police officers.

In February, the scandals began piling up as a number of recorded phone calls were published online. In one, former Interior Minister Muammer Guler, who was replaced in December after his son was detained as part of the corruption investigation, can allegedly be heard speaking with his son.
The recording is said to be proof that Guler and his son were involved in illegal business transactions with Iranian businessman Reza Zerrab, one of the main suspects of the corruption investigation. The phone call is said to have taken place on the morning of December 17, but Guler continues to deny the authenticity of the recording.

The situation became even more precarious when Erdogan was publicly linked with the corruption scandal. For weeks, alleged wiretapped conversations between the Turkish leader and his son have been circulating on YouTube, the most controversial surfacing on February 24. In the recording, Erdogan is said to have urged his son Bilal to hide huge sums of money on December 17.

After all the scandals surrounding the AKP government, the upcoming municipal election is seen less as a vote by government critics and more of a test. The main opposition party CHP has called the vote a race between "haram" and "halal"; under Islamic law, everything designated haram is prohibited, while that which is halal is permitted.

Among the general population, the mood is mixed. Former anti-government Gezi Park protesters appear unsure. "Every government is corrupt, in a way. Erdogan and his AKP party have brought the Turkish economy so far forward. I don't know who else to vote for. Maybe I just won't vote," said a 35-year-old former protester, speaking with DW.

Emre Gonen, a political scientist at the European Institute at Istanbul's Bilgi University, believes the AKP has a good chance of winning the election. Gonen told DW that the scandals will not really affect the election results, adding that although the AKP could lose some support the scandals "will not make the party lose the election."

In the last decade, said Gonen, Turkey has benefited from economic, social and political stability. Over the last 30 years, he said the country has seen turmoil, attempts at military coups and the presence of the military in civilian politics. "All this has been gradually solved within the AKP government period, and that has created a deep sense of confidence among the voters," he said.

Despite the current domestic problems, Gonen said the AKP still has at least 40 percent support in the polls. "Forty percent is an enormous support in any given democracy today. It will definitely require a dependable alternative political force to make the AKP go back into the opposition," he said. And in Turkey, that is currently nowhere in sight.
Read more: Erdogan defies quagmire of scandal in Turkey | Europe | DW.DE | 21.03.2014

European Commission: A decisive step towards the banking union

Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who is chairing the intergovernmental conference on certain aspects of the single resolution fund, also participated in the negotiations.

"On behalf of the Presidency, I should like to warmly welcome today's agreement on this key element of Europe's banking union. I sincerely hope that it will open the way for approval by both Parliament and Council within the timeframe we have set on account of the forthcoming European elections," said Greek Minister for Finance Yannis Stournaras.

"The agreed text will now be submitted to the member states, and I hope that they will be able to support it", said the Minister.

The single resolution mechanism regulation will be a key element of Europe's future banking union. It will establish a single resolution board, which will have broad powers in cases of bank resolution, and a single resolution fund

The purpose of the mechanism is to ensure orderly resolution of failing banks while minimising impact on taxpayers and the real economy. In principle the resolution mechanism will apply to all banks in the euro area and in those EU countries that choose to participate.

"Together we have made a very important step in restoring confidence in banks as well as in the eurozone. And this at an unprecedented speed. With the banking union, risks will be pushed back to where they belong: to the ones that are taking the risks and benefit from the risks - the financial sector - and not to the tax payer, " said Eurogroup President J.Dijsselbloem.

Once the agreed text of the regulation is approved, the intergovernmental agreement on the functioning of the single resolution fund will be concluded too. 

The complete text of the regulation will be finalised in the coming days and submitted to the Permanent Representatives Committee for agreement. 

The Complete Statement by Minister Yannis Stournaras on the Single Resolution MechanismPDF

Aircraft Industry: World's Biggest Aircraft Is Funded by Iron Maiden's Frontman - by Alexander George

the Airlander Heavy Haul Air Vehicle
It looks like a sketch from Howard Hughes’ notebooks, but this massive air ship is real, and currently the biggest aircraft ever produced. It can also be remote-controlled and land on water. And the lead singer of Iron Maiden is an investor.

The HAV 304 “Airlander” is just over 300 feet long. That’s nearly 60 feet longer than a Boeing 747, 80 feet longer than the Spruce Goose, and 30 feet longer than the Antonov An-225, the previous title-holder for the world’s largest aircraft.

The flying leviathan was produced by British aeronautics firm Hybrid Air Vehicles, and it’s being considered for commercial and rescue applications–at around $100 million each.

The Airlander’s design is more complex and functional than its Hindenberg aesthetics would indicate. The hull’s shape produces the same aerodynamic lift as an airplane wing, and a series of enormous bladders are filled with inert helium to get it airborne. Four turbocharged, V8 diesel engines produce 350 horsepower a piece and power the propellers.

The rear and forward props push it forward, but the Airlander’s design allows for “zero-energy” lift during long-distance flight and it can hover for 21 days straight, albeit while burning about 818 gallons of fuel per day. Top speed? A modest 100 mph, but that’s still impressive for something tipping the scales at 38 tons and designed to haul many more tons of cargo.

On the bottom, the “skids landing system” is made of pneumatic tubes that inflate to allow the Airlander to land on sand, water, or dry land, all without the need for an airstrip. Because it’s heavier than air, it doesn’t need anyone on the ground to pull it to the earth, unlike last century’s helium ships. All these features make it perfectly suited for disaster relief, or–more likely–transporting heavy equipment for oil or mining companies.

Read more: World's Biggest Aircraft Is Funded by Iron Maiden's Frontman | Autopia |

NSA Spyy Scandal: Snowden's NSA leaks begin to impact IBM, Sales force, Google, other tech companies - by Eric Van Susteren

Edward Snowden’s revelations on the NSA’s spying activities of U.S. tech companies' customers is beginning to hit them – hard,  according to the New York Times.

“It’s clear to every single tech company that this is affecting their bottom line,” Daniel Castro, a senior analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Center, told the Times.

Castro predicts that the United States’ cloud computing industry could lose $35 billion by 2016, and tech research firm Forrester said the losses could be as high as $180 billion, or 25 percent of industry revenue.

Already tech companies are shifting their spending to accommodate international clients who might be concerned about their privacy. IBM said it would build 15 new data centers internationally to get companies who are sensitive about their data to use their services. The cost? $1.2 billion. has similar plans.

Tech execs at many Silicon Valley companies have said they were unaware of the extent that the government was tapping into their user data when the PRISM scandal first broke. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Google's Larry Page and others have insisted they were only complicit in the government’s requests when it was required of them by a court order.

Still, many people and companies continue to be suspicious of tech companies’ role in the controversy, and this week the NSA's general counsel  said the companies knew the agency was collecting the data.
As a result, tech industry leaders say they’re not even being considered in some contracts and losing business.

Read more: Snowden's NSA leaks begin to impact IBM, Salesforce, Google, other tech companies - SiliconValley Business Journal


Turkey - let's get real - a far bigger and more serious problem than Crimea - by RM


While the world  focuses on Crimea and the comical  "tick-tac-toe" between President's Obama and Putin,  there is another geo-political  problem, which in terms of scope and strategic importance to the West, is far more critical than Crimea

That problem is called Turkey, on the opposite side of Crimea, with the Black Sea in between .

Here we are now facing a corrupt and paranoid PM and his government, who have gone power crazy and totally out of control, taking Turkey down the road of potentially violent public disturbances and economic meltdown.

Even though, in all fairness Erdogan's accession on to Turkey's political scene more than 10 years ago "raised many eyebrows right from the start, most Turks gave him the benefit of the doubt and overlooked Erdogan's hard-line reputation, and the religious undertone of his AKParty given the apparent prosperity the country was experiencing under his leadership.   

Then came a change, the "Genie got out of the bottle", and the AKparty and Erdogan became more and more dictatorial, eliminating all forces of opposition, including those in the powerful Turkish military, the press and many other organizations. 

The situation got even worse after Erdogan  got into a "spat" with his Guru and Mentor, Muhammed Fethullah Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania, USA, as an exile and from there also  controls a global network of schools and organizations under the banner  "Moderate and Peaceful Islam.".   

Obviously back in Pennsylvania Muhammed Fethullah Gülen, was not very happy his "pupil"  Erdogan had stopped listening to him and rumors and evidence began circulating about the billions Erdogan and his croonies in government had swindled.

Erdogan pointed his finger at his former buddy Muhammed Fethullah Gülen claiiming that it was him who had created a  parallel state within the state that wanted to topple his government. 

Unfortunately for Erdogan despite his illegitimate reshuffling of thousands of police officers and hundreds of judges and prosecutors, he nor his government were able to track down a single piece of evidence of what he called a "parallel state".

In light of all these signs of corruption, it has also become evident to many people in Turkey that the whole parallel state argument by Erdogan  was an imagined enemy that Erdogan, like Don Quixote, used in his fight against the "windmills".

But Erdogan still has quite a few cards to play. As a result of the Turkish electoral and voting system Erdogan and his party still control the Turkish parliament.  Consequently Erdogan's AKParty is approving new laws on a daily basis to consolidate and strengthen his grip on every level of the Turkish  society. 

Mr Erdogan's other major fobia is that he is totally intolerant of criticism from whatever source it comes and has not hesitated to use his powers to have anyone he considers "a threat to the Republic" thrown into jail. 

Turkey now has more journalists in prison than just about any other country in the world.

Turkey ranked 154th out of 180 countries surveyed in the World Press Freedom Index released by the Reporters Without Borders Association on Feb. 12, even behind China and  war-torn nations such as Afghanistan and Iraq.  The report noted further that “the Gezi Park revolt highlighted the repressive methods used by the security forces, the increase in self-censorship and the dangers of the prime minister’s populist discourse,” 

More recently, audio recordings that appear to be of Erdogan have shown how deeply he is involved in government corruption, were posted on Twitter by an anonymous account holder, just weeks before the March 30 local elections in the country. 

 Even though Erdogan denied that these recordings were legitimate he apparently decided it was better to be 'safe than sorry' and just get rid of Twitter altogether. 

On Thursday, March 20 Erdogan made good on his promise to wipe out Twitter in his country, and Turkish tweeters are now reporting that they are unable to access the service.

Twitter published a message on its service that same day advising users in Turkey that it was still possible to send Tweets on twitter using mobile phone text messaging.

Erdogan has previously also called social media a "menace to society" and threatened to ban YouTube and Facebook.  Last year, at least 25 people were arrested for tweeting messages of protests against Erdogan and his government. It now also appears that Facebook is being shut down in Turkey.

Indeed, the world, and particularly the EU should wake up and "smell the roses"  about the situation in Turkey, 

Like it or not, Turkey is a powerful economic ally of the West, a member of NATO and a candidate member of the EU with a population of 81.7 million. 

In contrast Crimea and its  2.3 million people, which since 700 BC  has been changing hands many times including being part of the Cimmerians, Bulgars, Greeks, Scythians, Romans, Goths, Huns, Khazars, Kievan Rus, the Byzantine Empire, Venice, Genoa, Kipchaks, the Golden Horde, the Ottaman Empire, the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, Germany, Ukraine and now Russia again. 

Crimea or Turkey - Come on EU Commission and EU-Parliament - You don't need to be Einstein to figure that one out ?

As to Crimea, let's be frank - Crimeans voted fair and square they don't want to be part of Ukraine anymore. Maybe the simple solution would be for President Obama to shake hands with President Putin, wish Crimea well, and tell  President Putin not to start messing with Ukraine in the future,  or else. 

Let's get real - its time to focus on Turkey. .