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6/30/14

Soccer: Plan to Replace American Football With Soccer 'On Track,' Says Europe :by Andy Borowitz

A ten-year European plan to gradually phase out American football in the United States and replace it with soccer is “very much on track,” a spokesman for the European Union confirmed today.

The E.U. spokesman, Alf-Jergen Holmboe, said the replacement of American football with soccer was the third in a three-step plan to transform the U.S. into a European country.

“The first two steps were electing a socialist President and instituting national health care,” he said. “Once soccer replaces football, our work will be done.”

Holmboe said that the E.U. could take no credit for the legalization of gay marriage in the United States, but called it “a very welcome development.” He added, “Once a country has socialism, national health care, and gay marriage, soccer is usually next.”

The spokesman offered no timetable for eliminating baseball, but indicated that it was “in the works.”

Read more: Plan to Replace American Football With Soccer 'On Track,' Says Europe : The New Yorker

6/29/14

"Britain on road to disaster": Cameron’s EU ‘debacle’ proves he is a threat to British economy, says Miliband

David Cameron poses a “real and present danger” to the economy because his doomed bid to block Jean-Claude Juncker leads Britain towards an exit from the European Union that could put up to three million jobs and thousands of businesses at risk, Ed Miliband said today. 

Note EU-Digest:  When will Britain understand that the "power" of the British Empire has come to an end and that their only chance to remain a valuable player on the world's political and economic scene is in participation with the other 27 members of the EU.

Read more: Cameron’s EU ‘debacle’ proves he is a threat to British economy, says Miliband | The Times

European Aircraft Industry: Airbus poised to revamp A330 with Rolls-Royce

A330 and Rolls-Royce
Airbus is set to upgrade its A330 with engines provided exclusively by Rolls-Royce, setting the stage for a bitter new phase in a battle for wide-body jet orders with Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, people familiar with the matter said.

The move accelerates a growing interdependence between the European firms on large jets, with General Electric GE.N - the main alternative A330 engine supplier - no longer in the running for the $2 billion "A330neo" revamp, they said on Thursday.

Shares in Airbus and Rolls-Royce both rose as much as 1.8 percent against a flat market in early Friday trading.
The people, asking not to be named, said the provisional selection of Rolls as sole supplier for the revamped A330neo, offering up to 14-15 percent in fuel savings with the help of new wingtips, remains subject to Airbus Group board approval.

Exclusive: Airbus poised to revamp A330 with Rolls-Royce | Fox Business

Iraq: Target ISIS: First batch of Russian fighter jets arrives in Iraq

The first delivery of Russian Sukhoi fighter jets arrived in Iraq on Saturday, the country’s Defense Ministry said. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is hoping the jets will make a key difference in the fight against ISIS.

The Iraqi Ministry of Defense on Sunday confirmed receiving five Su-25 fighter jets in accordance with the deal with Moscow. The jets were delivered by a Russian An-124 transport plane in a dismantled state, and are expected to be set up and become operational within 3-4 days.

“The Sukhoi Su-25 is an air-ground support and anti-terrorism mission aircraft. In these difficult times, we are in great need of such aircraft. With God’s help, we will be able to deploy them to support our ground forces on a mission against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant militants within the next 3-4 days,” Iraqi Army Lieutenant General Anwar Hamad Amen Ahmed told RT’s Ruptly news agency at an airport receiving the jets.

 Read more: Target ISIS: First batch of Russian fighter jets arrives in Iraq — RT News

Soccer World Cup: Netherlands beat Mexico 2-1 to qualify for quarters

Netherlands qualified for the quarter-finals defeating Mexico 2-1 when Klaas-Jan Huntelaar made the decisive goal on a penalty kick in extra time here on Sunday. Earlier, the first half ended goalless but just after the second half began Mexico made a breakthrough when Giovani dos Santos netted a goal in the 48th minute.

However, Wesley Sneijder leveled the score 1-1 just two minutes before the end and The Netherlands emerged victorious in the fourth minute during an extra time.

The Netherlands is the third team to reach the quarter-finals after Brazil and Columbia.

Read more: Netherlands beat Mexico 2-1 to qualify for quarters - thenews.com.pk

Britain: CBI warning over economic future if Britain leaves the EU

The head of the country’s biggest business group has claimed that Britain remaining a full member of the European Union is “fundamental” to the UK’s economic success.

John Cridland, the director general of Britain’s biggest business group, CBI, told the Observer that the UK’s membership of the EU “supports jobs, drives growth, and boosts our international competitiveness”.

He said the EU is the UK’s biggest export market and that it “remains fundamental to our economic future”.

Cridland’s comments come as David Cameron warned that Jean-Claude Juncker’s appointment as president of the EU Commission would make it harder to persuade the UK’s public to remain in Europe in the run up to the promised in/out referendum in 2017.

Read more: CBI warning over economic future if Britain leaves the EU - UK Politics - UK - The Independent

6/28/14

EU should reconsider its trade negotiations with the US - by Prof Renato Flores

Isn’t it high time for Brussels – provided a modern and bold leadership is chosen for the Commission – to seriously reconsider these not exactly transparent negotiations – a gesture that would boost its (reasonably distrusted) international image, and the ensuing business opportunities, everywhere outside the North American lands?

Read more: EU should reconsider its trade negotiations with the US - FT.com

Russia: Moscow wants EU to have good relations with US but make its own decisions

Russia wants the European Union to have good relations with the United States but to make decisions on its own, Sergey Lavrov said. Russia is ready for consultations with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine on adapting economic policies following those countries’ association with the European Union, Russia’s Foreign Minister said. "For almost a year now, we have been prepared for consultations of this kind," he said.

Read more: Moscow wants EU to have good relations with US but make its own decisions - Lavrov - News - Politics

6/27/14

Journalism and Republican Rhetoric: Ann Coulter’s Latest Column Is A Parody Of People Who Hate Soccer -by Ashley Burns

As each day goes by, it becomes more and more difficult to ignore all of the professional trolls and sh*t-stirrers out there in the mainstream media. Between Skip Bayless and Jay Mariotti, I’m surprised that I haven’t been locked away in a dark room, miles below the surface while I scratch “LeBron James is not clutch” onto every square inch of the walls, using only my fingernails as writing utensils.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to train myself in an almost ninja-like way to ignore all of the political writers out there from both parties and beyond, because life is just too short to worry about what fart-sniffing partisan cheerleaders have to say about what’s going to end this world.

But then Ann Coulter had to go and mess with the growing respect and appreciation for soccer that casual American sports fans have been experiencing in this 2014 FIFA World Cup, and the lady broke me on the morning of the U.S. Men’s National Team’s most important match of all-time.

 Last night, she published a new column, “America’s Favorite National Pastime: Hating Soccer,” on her website, and it is a milestone in trolling the likes of which Mariotti only wishes he could pull off.

There is basically no way that this hilariously and pitifully ignorant screed wasn’t written as parody, because it had me cracking up from her very first point about how there is no individual glory in soccer.


Like a really bad stand-up comic at a casino in a rural town with a name you can’t pronounce or a complaint to the FCC about the way people answer questions on Family Feud, I ask that you just try to appreciate this for the sake of comedy, because there’s no way the people who actually believe Coulter’s latest rant can ever be brought back from the deepest end. Check it out, journalism students with minors in political science, because this is a course in taking it to the next level.

Read more: Ann Coulter’s Latest Column Is A Parody Of People Who Hate Soccer

EU's new President Jean-Claude Juncker - Profile

Jean-Claude Juncker
Among EU government leaders only the UK and Hungarian prime ministers voted against him at an EU summit on 27 June.

Crucially Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel backed his bid - after some hesitation - as did the centre-left leaders of France and Italy.

There are many voices in the European Parliament too who argue that Mr Juncker should get the job. The parliament believes the choice of European Commission president now has to reflect the election result.

Yet he is a controversial figure in the EU, as a leading advocate of deeper EU integration, and is often called a "federalist"
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A veteran of Brussels deal-making, he headed the powerful Eurogroup - the eurozone finance ministers - at the height of the eurozone crisis, when crucial decisions were taken about austerity and bailout conditions.

He was prime minister of Luxembourg from 1995 to 2013 and one of the architects of the euro.

But according to Pierre Leyers, financial editor of the daily Luxemburger Wort, it is misleading to call him a "federalist". "He wants deeper integration, but not a European superstate," he told the BBC.

Mr Leyers argues that coming from a tiny country has enhanced Mr Juncker's influence in the EU, odd though that may seem to people unfamiliar with Brussels politics.

Luxembourg was a founding member of the community which became the EU and, sandwiched between France and Germany, "it had no choice but to try to be on good terms with its neighbours", Mr Leyers said.

 "So some Luxembourg politicians were always good negotiators and diplomats, to get France and Germany together."

The drive for post-war reconciliation shaped Mr Juncker's political views.

But some of his past remarks have raised eyebrows, suggesting a less than firm commitment to democracy.

Ahead of the French vote on the European Constitution in 2005 he said: "If it's a Yes, we will say 'on we go', and if it's a No we will say 'we continue'"
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And in 2011 he said "monetary policy is a serious issue - we should discuss this in secret, in the Eurogroup... I am for secret, dark debates".

His greatest EU challenge has been shoring up the eurozone since the 2008 financial crash, when Greece's colossal debts, and those of other struggling eurozone countries, threatened the very survival of the single currency.

Mr Juncker is a strong advocate of a European "solidarity" union - an EU that strives to raise living standards in its poorest regions and sectors.

He has not explained how an EU-US free trade deal might impact on EU social protection policies, which currently cost the EU many billions through support for farmers and projects to help poor communities.

He claimed that such a deal would give each European an extra 545 euros (£443; $742) - an exaggeration, according to a fact check by Eurovision, which hosted the debate.

He has also defended the Common Agricultural Policy, saying agriculture employs about 30 million Europeans. But the UK government is among the many critics who say the CAP is wasteful and want more of the EU budget spent on digital technologies, research and investment in small businesses.

Mats Persson, director of the Open Europe think-tank, says Mr Juncker is associated with the EU of the 1980s and 1990s, echoing a criticism attributed to UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

After an election that saw a surge in support for Eurosceptic parties, that connection with past EU policies may be a disadvantage, Mr Persson told the BBC, adding that Mr Juncker was "sidelined quite a bit during the eurozone crisis" and "ran a vague election campaign".

However, Mr Juncker is not vague about the political risks of taking tough economic decisions. He once said "we all know what to do, we just don't know how to get re-elected after we've done it"

EU-Digest



Sayonara Britain: EU backs Juncker to head Commission in blow to UK

EU leaders in Brussels have nominated former Luxembourg PM Jean-Claude Juncker to be president of the European Commission, in a blow to the UK.

Prime Minister David Cameron called it "a serious mistake". "This is going to be a long, tough fight," he said.
He had pushed for a vote on Mr Juncker - breaking with tradition - and 26 out of 28 countries backed him.

Only Mr Cameron and Hungarian PM Viktor Orban voted against him. Mr Juncker is also likely to win a vote by Euro MPs.

It is the most powerful job in Brussels - the Commission drafts EU laws, oversees national budgets, enforces EU treaties and negotiates international trade deals.

Mr Cameron believes Mr Juncker is too much in favour of closer political union and might block EU reform.
"This is a bad day for Europe... it hands new power to the European Parliament," Mr Cameron said. "This whole process has simply reinforced my conviction that the EU has to change."

Read more: BBC News - EU backs Juncker to head Commission in blow to UK

EU Unity: U.K. Loses Big Vote On The Future Of Europe — Now What? - by Marilyn Geewax

The European Union made history Friday by bringing three of Russia's neighbors — Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova — under its economic tent.

The of trade agreements will push European influence deep into a region that Russia would like to dominate. In light of recent Russian aggression in Ukraine, that's a big deal.

But in Brussels, Belgium, generated a second major headline later in the day.

Leaders of the European Union's 28 member states voted on the next president of the European Commission, which serves as the EU's executive branch.

The president sets the policy agenda, enforces rules and represents Europe abroad — so it's the most powerful position in the EU. Friday's vote ended up 26-2 in favor of Jean-Claude Juncker, a former prime minister of Luxembourg.

But the outcome matters because the losing votes belonged to the United Kingdom and Hungary. And they were deeply, totally, seriously opposed to Juncker — so much so that his victory could trigger an eventual reconfiguring of the EU in ways not favorable to the U.S.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron sees Juncker as a political fixer, a crony-type politician with a reputation for drinking too much and defending the EU bureaucracy too vigorously. And the U.K. and Hungary fear that Juncker wants to take away too many powers from sovereign states.

The 26 leaders who voted for Juncker insist that , they had to nominate the Luxembourger, who will now go on to get rubber-stamp approval from the European Parliament in mid-July.

After the vote, Cameron called the outcome "a serious mistake" and promised to . He said pushing reforms would involve "a long, tough fight."

Read more: U.K. Loses Big Vote On The Future Of Europe — Now What? : The Two-Way : NPR

6/26/14

The Banking Industry:Out-of-control Central Banks are Buying Up the Planet - by Ellen Brown:

When the US Federal Reserve bought an 80% stake in American International Group (AIG) in September 2008, the unprecedented $85 billion outlay was justified as necessary to bail out the world’s largest insurance company.

Today, however, central banks are on a global corporate buying spree not to bail out bankrupt corporations but simply as an investment, to compensate for the loss of bond income due to record-low interest rates. Indeed, central banks have become some of the world’s largest stock investors
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Central banks have the power to create national currencies with accounting entries, and they are traditionally very secretive. We are not allowed to peer into their books. It took a major lawsuit by Reuters and a congressional investigation to get the Fed to reveal the $16-plus trillion in loans it made to bail out giant banks and corporations after 2008.

What is to stop a foreign bank from simply printing its own currency and trading it on the currency market for dollars, to be invested in the US stock market or US real estate market?  What is to stop central banks from printing up money competitively, in a mad rush to own the world’s largest companies?

Apparently not much. Central banks are for the most part unregulated, even by their own governments. As the Federal Reserve observes on its website:
[The Fed] is considered an independent central bank because its monetary policy decisions do not have to be approved by the President or anyone else in the executive or legislative branches of government, it does not receive funding appropriated by the Congress, and the terms of the members of the Board of Governors span multiple presidential and congressional terms.
As former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan quipped, “Quite frankly it does not matter who is president as far as the Fed is concerned. There are no other agencies that can overrule the action we take.”

Read more: Out-of-control Central Banks are Buying Up the Planet | Alternet

America’s rotting empire: Billionaires galore and a crumbling infrastructure - by CJ Werleman

“The game is rigged,” writes Senator Elizabeth Warren in her new book A Fighting Chance. It’s rigged because the rich and their lobbyists have rigged the rules of the game to their favor. The rules are reflected in a tax code and bankruptcy laws that have seen the greatest transfer of wealth from the middle class to the rich in U.S. history.

The result?

America has the most billionaires in the world, but not a single U.S. city ranks among the world’s most livable cities. Not a single U.S. airport is among the top 100 airports in the world. Our bridges, road and rail are falling apart, and our middle class is being guttered out thanks to three decades of stagnant wages, while the top 1 percent enjoys 95 percent of all economic gains.

A rigged tax code and a bloated military budget are starving the federal and state governments of the revenue it needs to invest in infrastructure, which means today America looks increasingly like a second rate nation, and now new data shows America’s intellectual resources are also in decline.

For the past three decades, the Republican Party has waged a dangerous assault on the very idea of public education. Tax cuts for the rich have been balanced with spending cuts to education. During the New Deal era of the 1940s to 1970s, public schools were the great leveler of America. 

They were our great achievement. It was universal education for all, but today it’s education for those fortunate enough to be born into wealthy families or live in wealthy school districts. The right’s strategy of defunding public education leaves parents with the option of sending their kids to a for-profit school or a theological school that teaches kids our ancestors kept dinosaurs as pets.

“What kind of future society the defectors from the public school rolls envision I cannot say. However, having spent some time in the Democratic Republic of Congo—a war-torn hellhole with one of those much coveted limited central governments, and, not coincidentally, a country in which fewer than half the school-age population goes to public school—I can say with certainty that I don’t want to live there,” writes Chuck Thompson in Better off Without Em.

Read more: America’s rotting empire: Billionaires galore and a crumbling infrastructure - Salon.com

Iraq at risk again: A primer on how we got here so fast - by Connie Cass

It’s crumbling so quickly. Just two and a half years after American troops came home, Iraq is back in crisis. And chaos in Iraq, a diverse nation that stands as a buffer zone between the mostly Sunni Mideast and mostly Shiite Iran, is troubling around the world. There were plenty of warnings, of course.

How did we get there so fast? 

A.D. 632: The centuries-old split between the Shia and Sunni Islamic denominations dates to the death of the Prophet Muhammad and a dispute over who should succeed him as leader of the Muslims. Sunnis are the largest branch of Islam but Shiites outnumber them in Iraq and make up the overwhelming majority of neighboring Iran.
 
1916: The uneasy borders dividing the Middle East were set during World War I, when the French and the English divvied up the lands of the defeated Ottoman Empire with little regard for religious or ethnic differences. Through wars and upheaval, the national borders they drew have pretty much held, largely by the force of autocratic rulers.
 
2003: A U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein and mayhem broke out. Saddam had ruthlessly held the nation together for more than two decades, favoring his fellow Sunnis while wiping out multitudes of Shiites and Kurds. 
 
Americans, flush with the fervor that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the U.S., hoped to replace Hussein with a friendly democracy. They met waves of bombings, massacres and kidnappings in sectarian fighting that peaked in 2006 and 2007, when additional U.S. troops began arriving and helped to temporarily.

2011: A return to factional warfare has been feared ever since U.S. troops pulled out after nearly nine years in Iraq. Americans urged Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to craft a government that would share power among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds and heal the national wounds. It didn’t work out. Sunnis complain they are excluded, imprisoned and abused by al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government. 

Kurds have focused on building up their oil-rich autonomous enclave in northern Iraq.
2013: The situation in Iraq began deteriorating rapidly. Sunni protesters took to the streets, al-Qaida-inspired militants stepped up their attacks, and fighting from a civil war in Syria spilled over the border into Iraq.

The Islamic State’s bold and bloody sweep through northern and western Iraq this year belies its relatively small numbers — probably fewer than 10,000 fighters, according to U.S. intelligence estimates.
 
How could a force that size take Fallujah, site of the biggest battle of the Iraq War, and capture Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq?
 
For one thing, it’s the home team. Many residents of the Sunni heartland prefer the insurgents to al-Maliki’s government. That might change later if the group begins to enforce its Taliban-style version of Islamic law.
 
The Iraqi army is awash in corruption, desertion and battered morale. Many Sunni and Kurd soldiers and police feel little loyalty to Baghdad; they balk at fighting and killing their own people. When Islamic State fighters moved into Mosul, a security force of some 75,000 troops and police collapsed and scattered.
 
The Islamic State also appears to be getting help from Sunni tribes and elements of Saddam’s old Baath Party. The insurgents rolled into Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit without opposition.
 
Despite its threats, the Islamic State probably isn’t big enough to overrun Baghdad, the Shiite-heavy capital city of seven million people, much less conquer all of Iraq.
 
The real fear is that their campaign will spark a wider Sunni uprising, incite retaliation by Shiite militias and start a full-out religious war that could spread across the Middle East.
 
Read more: by CONNIE CASS  Read more: South Florida Times: Miami , Broward, Palm Beach, Breaking News & Weather at SFLTimes.com

EU: Russia pressures Moldova and Ukraine ahead of signing of E.U. Association Agreement - by Michael Birnbaum

A new showdown is looming over former Soviet states’ ties to Europe — the same trigger that has ignited months of violence in Ukraine.

With some of those states planning to sign a landmark deal Friday that will draw them closer to the European Union, the Kremlin is beaming out urgent warnings about the consequences.

Russia has said it will flex its considerable muscle to squeeze any nation in the former Soviet orbit that seeks a future with Europe.

Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia are facing intense pressure ahead of the signing of the deal, including threats of export bans and tightened immigration rules, as well as the specter of strengthened separatist movements.

But the warnings may be backfiring, with leaders in all three countries saying Moscow’s ominous tone demonstrates more than ever why they need to pick a different path.

In Moldova, where decaying Austro-Hungarian mansions in the capital, Chisinau, testify to the once-grand heritage of Europe’s now-poorest nation, leaders say they are committed to the agreement, even if it makes their nation more impoverished in the short term in the event of a Russian backlash.

Read more: Russia pressures Moldova and Ukraine ahead of signing of E.U. Association Agreement - The Washington Post

Croatia: The EU’s new economic laggard - by Tony Barber

The slow, painful healing of the Greek economy after a catastrophic debt crisis raises an interesting question. Which country now holds the title of No.1 Economic Basket Case of the European Union?

The answer is surely Croatia. It is a small country (4.3m people, not even 1 per cent of the 28-nation EU’s 506m inhabitants) that did not join the EU until last July. It is not a eurozone member. It has gorgeous islands and beaches where life seems distinctly pleasant. So Croatia and its economic troubles often slip under everyone’s radar.

But Croatia is now in its sixth successive year of recession. During this time it has lost almost 13 per cent of its gross domestic product. Unemployment is about 17 per cent of the workforce, and among young people the rate is close to 50 per cent.

This is a social disaster not very different from what has happened over the past five years in Greece and Spain. In Croatia, as in Greece, there is an inefficient public sector that keeps people in jobs that serve no obvious public purpose beyond disguising true levels of unemployment.

This problem is magnified by a shortage of private sector companies capable of creating jobs by competing successfully in EU markets.

Clearly, the general weakness of the European economy explains some of Croatia’s difficulties. But not all of them. When Moody’s, the credit rating agency, cut Croatia’s sovereign debt to junk status last year, it cited the government’s “reform inertia” as one reason for its action. It was a fair assessment.

Read more: The EU’s new economic laggard | The World

U.S. Economy Shrinks by Most in Five Years - by Jonathan Hous

Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, fell at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.9% in the first quarter, the Commerce Department said in its third reading of the data Wednesday.

That was a sharp downward revision from the previous estimate that output fell at an annual rate of 1%. It also represented the fastest rate of decline since the recession, and was the largest drop recorded since the end of World War II that wasn't part of a recession. 

To be sure, many signs since March, including reports of growth in consumer spending, business investment and hiring, indicate the first quarter doesn't mark the start of a new recession. And revisions in future years could alter the first-quarter figure.

Read more: U.S. Economy Shrinks by Most in Five Years - WSJ

6/25/14

Ukraine: Business groups oppose any new sanctions on Russia

As the Obama administration threatens Russia with new sanctions, some business groups are pushing back on the idea.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers are preparing a newspaper ad saying that potential sanctions on Russian energy, defense and financial sectors might hurt U.S. businesses and workers.

"We are concerned about actions that would harm American manufacturers and cost American jobs," says Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, in the ad.

Read more: Business groups oppose any new sanctions on Russia

EU-US Trade Talks: Thorny Issues Revealed in US-EU Trade Talks

US & EU - US Agriculture Secretary was in the European Union last week, emphasising the importance of agricultural trade in negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). Stumbling blocks to progress appear to include GM crops, hormones in beef and food processing technology.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was in Europe last week meeting with agricultural trade officials and stakeholders to expand US agricultural trade and to emphasise the importance of agriculture’s role in the T-TIP currently being negotiated, according to the US National Chicken Council in its Washington Report.

Mr Vilsack met with officials in Brussels, Luxembourg, Paris and Dublin to make the US case on disputed issues in farm trade, as the Obama administration and European Union work on negotiations in T-TIP.

The US Agriculture Secretary stressed the benefits that the trade agreement could have on both the US and EU economies.

However, grounds for disagreement on agricultural issues are numerous including issues regarding genetically modified (GM) crops and food processing techniques.

Meeting with reporters, Mr Vilsack said that if “sound science” shows such products and practices to be safe, European consumers should have the option of purchasing the food that results.

He said: “If we are truly interested in feeding the world, truly interested in doing so with less pesticides and chemicals and truly interested in doing so with more inclement weather and more intense weather patterns because of climate change, we are going to have to adopt science.”

Read more: Thorny Issues Revealed in US-EU Trade Talks - The Pig Site

EU's Radical Right: Le Pen, Wilders fail to put together far-right group in European parliament - by Thomas Seymat

Far-right parties accross Europe have failed to set up a political group in the European Parliament, it’s been claimed.

Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Freedom Party, said in a statement: “The Freedom Party wants to form a parliamentary group but not at any price.”

Wilders added the group’s intended cooperation with Polish right-wing party KNP – which has been accused of anti-Semitism and misogyny – was “a bridge too far” for him.

Contacted by euronews for a comment on the matter, a KNP spokesperson had not answered by the time of publication.

Despite him pledging to continue cooperating with his prospective allies, Wilders’ decision leaves Italy’s Lega Nord, Belgium’s Vlaams Belang, Austria’s FPÖ, and France’s Front National hanging, two countries short of the required representation from seven nations.

Read more: Le Pen, Wilders fail to put together far-right group in European parliament | euronews, world news

Egypt - Kangaroo Courts: International outrage at Egypt court decisions, but no sanctions whatsoever

International outrage at Egypt’s crackdown on dissent has grown on Monday.

High level United Nations officials have condemned the sentencing in Egypt of three Al Jazeera journalists to lengthy prison sentences and the death sentences handed down to 183 Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters.

“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned by recent court decisions in Egypt, particularly the death sentences for 183 people and the sentencing journalists from Al Jazeera to lengthy jail terms, proceedings that clearly appear not to meet the basic fair trial standards,” said Stephan Dujarric, spokesperson for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

The verdict has been criticised by leaders across the globe.

US Secretary of State John Kerry called the the courts decision “chilling” and “draconian”.

Read more: International outrage at Egypt court decisions | euronews, world news

6/24/14

USA: Republican Party In Disarray - GOP Director of Hispanic Outreach Quits and Becomes Democrat

When Republicans appointed Pablo Pantoja to State Director of Florida Hispanic Outreach for the Republican National Committee, they hoped he would be able to bridge the sizable gap that only expanded during the 2012 elections, when the state’s 4.7 million Hispanic voters supported

Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by a  20 percent margin.

But after months of inaction by Congressional Republicans on comprehensive immigration reform and stiff resistance by  Republican-leaning groups like the Heritage Foundation, Pantoja has had  enough; recently, he announced via email that he was leaving the party and registering as a Democrat:

Read more: GOP Director of Hispanic Outreach Quits and Becomes Democrat | Alternet

6/23/14

Netherlands: Is the economic crisis in the Netherlands nearly over?

 Currently, one third of Dutch people think the financial crisis that began in 2008 is over, while for around one fifth of the population, it is even going well.

The people who think this way, however, are mostly educated men with above-average incomes.

This comes from statistics published by the National Institute for Family Finance Information (Nibud). According to them, the rest of the Netherlands does not think the crisis is over, with one fifth finding it even worse.

While increasing confidence is apparent, the continuing caution is expressed in consumer spending: in 2013, 70 per cent of Dutch people economised on their expenditure, and nearly that same amount say they will continue to do so in the coming year.

It’s also seen in the latest numbers on social security recipients: the numbers have been growing in the Netherlands for several years and have now reached the same levels as the late 1990s, with 426.000 people receiving social security in the first quarter of 2014

Read more: Is the economic crisis in the Netherlands nearly over? | News

Juncker appears set to be named European Commission president despite Anglo-Saxon opposition- by Suzanne Lynch

There is growing expectation that Jean-Claude Juncker will be named as the next president of the European Commission at next week’s summit of EU leaders in Brussels, though a decision on the other EU top jobs is likely to be deferred until next month.

British prime minister David Cameron is facing an uphill battle to garner a blocking minority against the appointment of the former Luxembourg prime minister, with Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi expected to lend support to Mr Juncker. The nomination of Juncker emerged as a bargaining tool between the EU and Italy earlier this week, with the Italian prime minister pushing for greater flexibility in meeting deficit and debt targets set by Brussels in exchange for support for Juncker

French president François Hollande will today host a mini-summit of centre-left EU leaders today in Paris, which will be attended by Mr Renzi, Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann and Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt among others. German chancellor Angela Merkel is understood to be favouring the early appointment of Mr Juncker in a bid to avoid a prolonged public debate that has already strained relations between London and Berlin.

While the European Parliament must approve the next commission president next month, no such approval is needed for the appointment of the head of the European Council or High Representative post.

Read more: Juncker appears set to be named European Commission president - European News | Latest News from Across Europe | The Irish Times - Sat, Jun 21, 2014

6/22/14

Britain - Spy agencies: Government's defence of surveillance unconvincing, says ex-watchdog - by Vikram Dodd

The government's arguments for justifying the mass monitoring of the internet are "unconvincing" and based on exploiting "loopholes" in legislation, the former chief surveillance inspector has said.

Sam Lincoln, who served for seven years as the head of the Office of Surveillance Commissioners, said the revelations by Edward Snowden had damaged public confidence, and security establishment arguments were not being accepted by sections of the public.

In his first interview since standing down, Lincoln told the Guardian that such intrusive powers were necessary tools, but reforms were needed to the law and to the watchdogs overseeing surveillance systems. He said steps had to be taken to ensure public trust and that regulation could keep pace with new Big Brother technologies.

On Tuesday the government's top security official, Charles Farr, said searches on Google on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as well as supposedly private messages on social media among UK citizens can be monitored by the security services because they are legally judged to be "external communication

Read more: Government's defence of surveillance unconvincing, says ex-watchdog | World news | The Guardian

Mobile Overseas Charges: Avoid costly overseas phone costs with global Wi-Fi device

Travelers cannow  easily rent a sleek little device for $12.95 or less per day that will work with phones, tablets, laptops, etc. The charges are only for the days used once it's in use. You just go online, order it, and you'll get it delivered to your home in a couple of days (so you have to plan ahead). And of course, once you've returned to the U.S., you mail it back.

The way it works is that you take said neat little device, turn it on and set it next to your phone/laptop/tablet and onto the Internet you'll go.

Read more: Avoid costly overseas phone costs with global Wi-Fi device - Los Angeles Times

Britain Cameron faces defeat in bid to thwart Juncker European presidency - Toby Helm,

David Cameron is to demand that fellow EU leaders explain their decision to back Jean-Claude Juncker as the next European Commission president this week after they appeared to give up on finding an alternative.

Downing Street made clear last night that the prime minister, angry at attempts to push a decision through in the face of UK opposition, will force an unprecedented vote at an EU summit on Friday and ask heads of government to explain why they are not willing to consider other names.

Herman van Rompuy, president of the European council, who was charged with banging heads together to find an alternative to the former Luxembourg prime minister, will meet Cameron and Nick Clegg in London on Monday. But EU officials say the talks will be more about how to salvage some form of agreement about other EU positions – including portfolios for UK and other commissioners – and a form of wording about the EU's priorities under the new commission, than a chance to discuss rival candidates to succeed outgoing commission president José Manuel Barroso.

Cameron's failure – which he hopes to turn into a heroic lone stand against his EU counterparts – to block Juncker comes as an Opinium/Observer poll finds far more people saying they would vote to leave the EU under current rules than to stay in.

Read more: Cameron faces defeat in bid to thwart Juncker European presidency | World news | The Observer

Soccer - Brazil: 2014 World Cup: Belgium advances with late goal over Russia - Mike Singer

Both teams were locked in a 0-0 stalemate before Belgian wizard Eden Hazard found Divock Origi cutting towards the goal in the 88th minute. Hazard fed the second-half sub (on for the ineffective Romelu Lukaku) and Origi, 19, buried the Belgians' best chance all morning.

The win guarantees a spot in the knockout rounds for Belgium, after its opening-match 2-1 win over Algeria. Russia, now with just one point, will face Algeria in the final match but it will also need help from Belgium against South Korea.

The game began at a furious pace but slowed considerably as exhaustion set in. Russia botched its best chance late in the first half when Alexander Kokorin couldn't find the goal off a perfect cross with his head. A late blast that darted across the box from sub Andrey Eshchenko would be their best chance in the second half.

Defenses dominated as neither team could string together many passes inside the box. The Russians played outstanding defense against Dries Mertens and Kevin De Bruyne, while Belgium's defense thwarted Russia's strong attacking midfield. It didn't necessarily live up to the billing of the best Group H match, but Belgium is through knowing it took care of business.

Read more: 2014 World Cup: Belgium advances with late goal over Russia - CBSSports.com

Iraq: Kerry Hints That U.S. Would Support New Leader for Iraq - Michael R.Gordon

Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting Cairo on the first leg of a trip to try to rally Arab support on the Iraq crisis, said on Sunday that it was important for Iraqis to “find leadership” that could bridge the deep sectarian divides in the country, apparently sending a subtle signal that the United States was open to the selection of a new prime minister there.

The formal American position, which Mr. Kerry underscored at a news conference with his Egyptian counterpart, is that the United States is not in the business of picking Iraq’s leaders.

But without mentioning Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq by name, Mr. Kerry noted that the Kurds, the Sunnis and some Shiites had registered unhappiness with Iraq’s political leadership, as has Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the influential Shia spiritual leader who has spoken out about the need to avoid the mistakes of the past in Iraq.

Read more: Kerry Hints That U.S. Would Support New Leader for Iraq - NYTimes.com

Italy to push for 'United States of Europe' when it holds the EU presidency - by Martin Banks and Nick Squires

Italy will use its presidency of the European Union to push for a "United States of Europe," the prime minister has said. Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, has said that Italy will push for a "United States of Europe" during its six-month EU presidency, in a move likely to raise hackles in Britain.

Launching an appeal to convince European leaders to show "that a stronger and more cohesive Europe is the only solution to the solve the problems of our time", Mr Renzi said: "For my children's future I dream, think and work for the United States of Europe."

 He further called for "courageous leaders" to work towards achieving that goal - something that Britain has always objected to. In 1988 Margaret Thatcher, then prime minister, dismissed the idea that the United States might be a model for the future of Europe and David Cameron is actively trying to prevent the election of a committed federalist, Jean-Claude Juncker, to the head of the European Commission. Italy takes over the rotating EU presidency from Greece on July 1.

Its job will be to steer the EU at a time when the so-called "European Project" is coming under renewed attack, in the wake of an EU-wide surge in support for Eurosceptic parties in the recent European elections.

Mr Renzi, whose country will preside over the EU until December, said the only effective response to the outcome of the European elections is to offer "an idea of Europe that corresponds to an attractive adventure, rather than just a financial or economic exercise." He said it was vital to show that the EU "is not only a common past but a common destiny."

Read more: Italy to push for 'United States of Europe' when it holds the EU presidency - Telegraph

6/21/14

European Aircraft Industry: How can Airbus widen the appeal of the A380? - by Murdo Morrison

Emirates Airbus-380
Airbus sensed it could be a long haul, but almost a decade after the world’s largest airliner took to the skies for the first time, A380 sales remain underwhelming.

Although, at 324, orders are edging towards acceptability seven years after entry into service, the A380 has yet to become a game-changer in the long-haul market the way the Boeing 747 was in the 1970s and 1980s.

One airline, Emirates, has put the A380 at the heart of its fleet strategy. But for other blue-chip carriers, from British Airways to Singapore Airlines, the quadjet remains a niche product, filling a role on the densest trunk routes.

Some see Emirates’ faith in the A380 as a good thing for Airbus – the Dubai-based airline has stuck with the type even after cancelling a deal in June for 70 of Toulouse’s other big widebody, the A350.

Emirates’ commitment for 50 more superjumbos at November 2013’s Dubai air show takes its total orders to 140 – more than four in 10 of all A380 sales, and well over a quarter of the backlog. However, sceptics view the Gulf carrier’s unique business model as evidence that the A380 will struggle to replace even the dozens of 747s still in service – let alone find customers in new market segments.

For Airbus, the great hope is that passengers wowed by the roomy environment – and not just the novelty – of the airliner will convince existing A380 operators, and possibly their competitors, to place further orders
Read more> ANALYSIS: How can Airbus widen the appeal of the A380? - 6/20/2014 - Flight Global

Body Buiding: Mr Denmark is named Mister World 2014, but sorry, ladies, he's taken!

So here he is everyone - Mr Denmark beat 45 other hot hopefuls - including the UK's Mr England, Mr Wales and Mr Northern Ireland - to win the coveted Mister World 2014 prize.

The final was held on Sunday at the Riviera International Conference Centre in Torquay, 
Devon.

The world's most desirable man' is super-ripped carpenter Nicklas Pedersen, 23  from from Brondby in Copenhagen.

EU Presidential Election: Left-wing leaders back Juncker for top Europe job

Jean-Claude Juncker's bid to head the European Commission has received a boost with the backing of nine left-wing heads of government.

The leaders said it was important to respect the spirit of the European parliament elections, which had returned a centre-right majority.

Mr Juncker is the centre-right's candidate for the post.

The announcement is expected to further isolate the UK government, which opposes Mr Juncker's candidacy.
The nine leaders met in Paris at the invitation of French President Francois Hollande, ahead of a summit next week.

The summit will decide who is to head the Commission, the European Union's executive body.

Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged the UK will oppose "right up to the end" the candidacy of former Luxembourg leader Jean-Claude Juncker to be European Commission president.

He has said Mr Juncker was too pro-federalist and the appointment would make EU reforms harder to achieve.

Read more: BBC News - Left-wing leaders back Juncker for top Europe job

USA NSA Spy Scandal: Europe's High Court Will Look at Facebook's Possible Role in NSA Spying - by Carol Matlack

Did Facebook (FB) illegally let the U.S. National Security Agency spy on its European users? That question is to be considered by the European Union’s highest court, after an Irish judge questioned whether data that the social network transferred from Europe to its U.S. servers might have fallen into the hands of the spy agency.

In a ruling today, Irish High Court Judge Gerard Hogan asked the European Court of Justice to decide whether Irish regulators should investigate the data transfers, which have been permitted under a transatlantic agreement that assumes U.S. privacy protections are comparable to those in the EU.

 Privacy advocates, led by an Austrian law student named Max Schrems, contend that Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s Prism program showed that the agency conducted “mass and largely unsupervised surveillance” of Facebook users’ data.

Schrems took Ireland’s national data regulator to court after it refused to consider his complaint and dismissed his arguments as “frivolous and vexatious.” But Judge Hogan said Snowden’s disclosures had “exposed gaping holes in contemporary U.S. data protection practice” that could undermine the U.S.-EU agreement.

He asked the European court to determine whether an investigation of Facebook’s data transfers was warranted in light of the disclosures. The case was filed in Ireland because Facebook’s European operations are headquartered there.

Read more: Europe's High Court Will Look at Facebook's Possible Role in NSA Spying - Businessweek

Iraq - To Bomb Or Not To Bomb - “Iraq is not going to be a perfect place”

On the day that fighters for the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) occupied part of a city close to Baghdad, Barack Obama announced a bold plan. It had nothing to do with the Middle East: the president plans to create the world’s largest marine reserve in the Pacific.

The administration also announced a comprehensive framework to eliminate seafood fraud. At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Republicans in Congress were absorbed by the race for the position of majority whip in the House (see article), and enraged by the disappearance of e-mails from officials at the Internal Revenue Service responsible for singling out conservative groups for special scrutiny (see article).

There were few reminders that six and a half years ago America had 180,000 troops stationed in Iraq to prevent the country from slipping into civil war, as now seems to be happening 

Read More: Foreign policy: “Iraq is not going to be a perfect place” | The Economist

6/20/14

EU Economy: Sport as a growth engine for EU economy

Sport is an important economic sector in the EU in its own right, with a share in the national economies which is comparable to agriculture, forestry and fisheries combined. Moreover, its share is expected to rise in the future. 

Overall the sports sector accounts for 2% of the EU global GDP, while the total employment generated by sports activities is 7.3 million-equivalent to 3.5% of the total EU employment. Despite these impressive figures, the economic impact of the sport-related industries is often underestimated.

To underpin the role of sport-related industry as an economic driver, a High Level Meeting of stakeholders on the impact of sport and sport-related industries took place in Brussels. The meeting was aimed at taking stock of the progress made since the first meeting of the European Sport Industries on 21 January 2014. 

Furthermore, the meeting offered the opportunity to present an industry-led Action Plan on the economic impact of sport and sport-related industries. The meeting highlighted the role of sport as a powerful lever for innovation, industrial competitiveness and employment.


Read more: EUROPA - PRESS RELEASES - Press release - Sport as a growth engine for EU economy

Florida unemployment rises to 6.3 percent- by Jeff Hartington

Florida's jobs market took a spring swoon, but not enough to derail expectations of a continued recovery.
The unemployment rate in May rose slightly from 6.2 percent to 6.3 percent as the state lost a substantial 17,900 jobs, the steepest drop in the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Year over year, though, Florida still has 218,800 more jobs, up 2.9 percent, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity reported Friday.

Tampa Bay, meanwhile, saw its jobless rate jump from 5.9 percent to 6.2 percent as it lost 5,900 jobs.

A year ago, Tampa Bay was leading the state among metros in job creation. Now, with 22,700 jobs created year-over-year, it ranks fourth behind Orlando, Miami-Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Jacksonville, up 21,000 jobs since last May, is nipping at its heels.

Economists tracking Florida widely dismissed the May numbers as an off-month that should not hamper the state's slow recovery.

Mekael Teshome, PNC Bank's Florida economist, dubbed the dip "statistical noise… In the overall fundamentals, Florida's economy is gaining momentum"
Read more: Florida unemployment rises to 6.3 percent | Tampa Bay Times

Smartphones: Amazon Phone May Be a Tough Sell in Europe — When It Arrives - by Mark Scott

People outside the United States hoping to get their hands on Amazon’s new smartphone will have to wait awhile.

During the much-anticipated announcement of the company’s Fire handset, little attention was given to Amazon’s international operations, which deliver about 40 percent of its annual sales.

At first, the smartphone will only be available in the United States as part of an exclusive deal with AT&T.

Amazon is in talks with several European companies, including Vodafone of Britain and Telefónica of Spain, though no deal has been finalized to bring the phone to Europe, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Representatives of Vodafone and Telefónica declined to comment, while a representative for Amazon was not immediately available to comment.

When Amazon eventually takes its new phone abroad, it is likely to face an uphill battle to lure Europeans away from their devices in favor of an untested competitor aimed at linking users to Amazon’s e-commerce empire.

Online retail spending in Europe remains less developed than in America. And despite efforts by other tech giants like Microsoft to break into the smartphone market, Europeans still favor devices made by the existing market leaders, Apple and Samsung.
 
Read more: Amazon Phone May Be a Tough Sell in Europe — When It Arrives - NYTimes.com

Iraq: Opinion: Dick Cheney's amazing chutzpah on Iraq - by Paul Waldman

You have to hand it to Dick Cheney. How many people, knowing what has happened in Iraq over the last 12 , would dare to write an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal containing this line: "Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many" -- and not be talking about George W. Bush? The man has chutzpah.

The op-ed in question was co-written with Cheney's daughter Liz, former State Department worker and failed Senate candidate. The two are forming a new organization, the Alliance for a Strong America.

Of all the former Bush administration officials who have emerged in the last few days to blame the deteriorating situation in Iraq on Barack Obama, one might think Cheney would be among the last.

It's one thing to turn on your TV and hear that Obama is a dangerous weakling from people like Paul Wolfowitz and William Kristol, the ones who told us that war with Iraq would be cheap and easy, then bring a wave of peace and democracy across the Middle East.
But Cheney?

Cheney was the war's chief propagandist, who told the American public more spectacular falsehoods than anyone, including Bush himself. Cheney was the one who told us in 2002 that "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us."

Read more: Opinion: Dick Cheney's amazing chutzpah on Iraq - CNN.com

Football: Why Americans Call Soccer 'Soccer' - by Uri Friedman

New Zealand's largest newspaper is deeply conflicted. With the World Cup underway in Brazil, should The New Zealand Herald refer to the "global round-ball game" as "soccer" or "football"? The question has been put to readers, and the readers have spoken. It's "football"—by a wide margin.

We in the U.S., of course, would disagree. And now we have a clearer understanding of why. In May, Stefan Szymanski, a sports economist at the University of Michigan, published a paper debunking the notion that "soccer" is a semantically bizarre American invention. In fact, it's a British import. And the Brits used it often—until, that is, it became too much of an Americanism for British English to bear.

The story begins, like many good stories do, in a pub. As early as the Middle Ages, Szymanski explains, the rough outlines of soccer—a game, a ball, feet—appear to have been present in England. But it wasn't until the sport became popular among aristocratic boys at schools like Eton and Rugby in the nineteenth century that these young men tried to standardize play. On a Monday evening in October 1863, the leaders of a dozen clubs met at the Freemasons' Tavern in London to establish "a definite code of rules for the regulation of the game.”

They did just that, forming the Football Association. The most divisive issue was whether to permit "hacking," or kicking an opponent in the leg (the answer, ultimately, was 'no').

Read more: Why Americans Call Soccer 'Soccer' - Uri Friedman - The Atlantic

6/19/14

Economics: Why We Don’t Need 19th Century Inequality To Generate Growth - by Joel Suss

In an interview with EUROPP’s editor Stuart Brown and British Politics and Policy at LSE’s editor Joel Suss, C discusses the rise in income and wealth inequality outlined in his book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, and what policies should be adopted to prevent us returning to the kind of extreme levels of inequality experienced in Europe prior to the First World War. Professor Piketty recently gave a lecture at the LSE, the video of which can be seen online here.

Your research has shown that inequality is rising and that without government action this trend is likely to continue. However, are we correct to assume that inequality is a fundamentally negative development in terms of its consequences on society?

There is no problem with inequality per se. In actual fact, up to a point inequality is fine and perhaps even useful with respect to innovation and growth. The problem is when inequality becomes so extreme that it no longer becomes useful for growth. When inequality reaches a certain point it often leads to the perpetuation of inequality over time across generations, as well as to a lack of mobility within society. Moreover, extreme inequality can be problematic for democratic institutions because it has the potential to lead to extremely unequal access to political power and the ability for citizens to make their voice heard.

Read more:Why We Don’t Need 19th Century Inequality To Generate Growth - Social Europe Journal

6/18/14

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Iraq: 10 years ago we told you not to wage war in Iraq, who will stop the bloodshed now? – by Faiza Iqbal

It was a chilly February morning in 2003 when my sister and I trudged into central London with a couple of school friends to voice our utter revulsion at the upcoming Iraq invasion that was being planned by Tony Blair and George Bush.

Where people from all walks of life; the elderly, the disabled, the very young and very frail out in the millions to scream at the top of their lungs,
 ‘No war! No war!’
The atmosphere was electric and people rallied together with a unified message knowing full well that war would completely destroy the region.

So more than ten years later, it seems that our worst fears have only come true with a terrorist faction called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) sweeping across Iraq in a most brutal manner; beheading anyone or anything that stands in their way. This particular group is so deadly in their methods that even Al-Qaeda has tried to avoid being associated with them.

Iraq’s two main cities, Mosul and Tikrit, are now under militant control and yesterday, a third city, Tal Afar has been invaded by these military fighters who are trying to merge their group from Syria and Iraq to form a separate nation for Sunnis. Whatever their plans, the presiding Iraqi army and police force have been powerless to stop the invaders and have even resorted to fleeing their posts as the militants now have their eyes set on Baghdad.

So it came as no surprise when this week the US and the UK ruled out military invasion to support those helpless Iraqis caught up in this storm. It angered me so much because the Americans and the British were supposed to help the Iraqis when they originally invaded in 2003 from a supposed mad, tyrant.  Instead, their country has been destroyed by 10 years of war and now looks set to be embroiled in even more bloodshed.

Tony Blair, refusing to take responsibility for his botched Iraq invasion, now says the militant uprising had nothing to do with him, instead, pinning it on an overflow of terrorist factions from Syria. The whole basis of the 2003 Iraq invasion was on the pretence of weapons of mass destruction being discovered which were, of course, never found. When Iraq’s leadership was overtaken by a Shia government, a spate of violent car bombings began which have continued to terrorise the Iraqis.

The car bombings pale in significance compared to the carnage that Iraq is now witnessing. This instability now threatens to destroy the region and could even result in a split in the country as a way of preventing further sectarian violence.

In a surprise move, Barack Obama is now considering the prospect of talks with Iran, its archenemy, as a way of finding some way to resolve the crisis. However, time is of the essence and the militants are advancing at a rapid pace, and with extreme precision towards Baghdad and its surrounding cities. It is, of course, needless to say that the oil fields that America is so desperately trying to protect remain relatively unscathed. It will be interesting to see how well America and Iran will cooperate with each other given Israel’s concern about the latter’s nuclear development programme and general animosity that exists between the two nations.

Read more: 10 years ago we told you not to wage war in Iraq, who will stop the bloodshed now? – The Express Tribune Blog

6/17/14

Sweden: Wish you were here: Summer in Sweden is a special time to visit Scandinavia - by Sarah Turnerby

Sweden is the land of the midnight sun and in June those wonderful twilight evenings stretch out for untold fun.

It’s a special time to visit Scandinavia – with midsummer parties and beach bonfires to enjoy.

One of the largest countries in Europe, there’s plenty to explore – and with a bit of ingenuity, you can keep costs down.

There are plenty of no-frills flights so it’s easy to get there too.

Skane is the part of Sweden closest to Denmark and it’s a hugely popular destination for foodies.
This organic farm has delicious local produce – and bicycles to borrow to ensure you work up an appetite with a beach close by.

Sweden’s second city, Gothenburg, also has anarchipelago and the island of Vrango has a new guest house this year – and you’ll get to stay in boathouses overlooking the water.

Hot tubs,renting kayaks and fishing tours are also on the menu. The seafood is great.

Energy: Norway Offers Gas to European Union; Serbia Tells Sergei Lavrov South Stream Construction Will Begin

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Serbia will continue construction of the South Stream pipeline in July as Norwegian gas company Statoil told the European Union it will help with gas supplies. Russia cut off gas to Ukraine on Monday, which could affect Europe’s gas supply. "We can increase somewhat but we cannot replace Russian gas," CEO Helge Lund said.

Gazprom is the dominant force in the natural gas market at 16% and Statoil is barely behind with 14% of the market share. Europe receives 30% of its gas from Gazprom and half of those pipelines run through Ukraine. CEO Alexei Miller said Gazprom will continue to provide gas to Europe, but made a snide remark that Ukraine might take some for them and he will not make up the difference.

Norway is not in the EU and it does not look like it will happen any time soon. The country rejected the referendum in 1972 and 1994 and in 2013, and a poll showed less than 20% of Norwegians want to join the EU. However, Norway does belong to the European Economic Area and European Free Trade Area. In 1998,

Trade from Norway to the EU amounted to €91.85 billion" while the “EU’s exports to Norway amounted to €43.58 billion.”

Russia is looking to bypass Ukraine and wants to open the South Stream pipeline, which would travel through the Black Sea into Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, and Austria. It should be completed in 2015, but the EU said the pipeline might break the bloc’s rules and “is concerned that the contracts for the Bulgarian portion of South Stream were not awarded transparently.

” Bulgaria, which receives almost 90% of all gas from Russia, suspended work on June 8. Serbia did not want to stop construction, but Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Energy Zorana Mihajlovic said the country might have to halt because of Bulgaria.

But, as much as Serbia wants to join the EU, the country has ties to Russia. Gazprom owns 51% of Serbian company NIS. Lavrov visited Serbia on Tuesday and said despite the setbacks, Serbia assured him South Stream construction will begin on schedule.

"We confirmed our readiness for South Stream and the need to carry it out as it is the only realistic project for gas security in southeastern Europe," Lavrov said. "All agreements remain in force and no changes have occurred. We consider that everything will proceed as planned."

Read more: Norway Offers Gas to European Union; Serbia Tells Sergei Lavrov South Stream Construction Will Begin

Middle East: Let’s trace chaos in Iraq back to its roots - H.A. Hellyer

“What just happened? Terrorists who are too extreme by al-Qaeda’s standards suddenly overtook Iraq? Wow, that was totally unexpected!”

Except, of course – it wasn’t unexpected at all. That’s part of the problem.

Iraq is back in the world’s news – for reasons no Iraqi would sympathize with. The last time there was a country that so possessed the strategic planners in Western capitals for its housing of terrorism was in 2001 and that country was Afghanistan.

Afghanistan was the then home of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, sheltered by the Taliban forces. But in truth, despite the horror that then came to bear on the U.S. on 9/11, the seeds for something quite different – and potentially far worse – have been sown on Iraqi soil.

The “blame” game is now out in full force – the Iraq War of 2003, pitched as part of the “war on terror,” is being saddled with the responsibility for creating this situation. The “cop-out” game is also being played in full force, with former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who led the UK into the war alongside the United States, describing as “bizarre” the notion that the war essentially led to this outcome. It’s not that either of these arguments is right – they’re actually both wrong.

Read more: Let’s trace chaos in Iraq back to its roots - Al Arabiya News

Iraq: Maliki stands with Sunni leaders, appealing for Iraqi unity

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki broadcast a joint appeal for national unity on Tuesday with bitter Sunni critics of his Shi'ite-led government - a move that may help him win U.S. help against rampant Islamists threatening Baghdad.

Just hours after Maliki's Shi'ite allies had angrily vowed to boycott any cooperation with the biggest Sunni party and his government had accused Sunni neighbor Saudi Arabia of backing "genocide", the premier's visibly uncomfortable televised appearance may reflect U.S. impatience with its Baghdad protege.

In a rerun of previous failed efforts at bridging sectarian and ethnic divisions, Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders met behind closed doors and then stood frostily before cameras as Maliki's Shi'ite predecessor Ibrahim al-Jaafari read a statement denouncing "terrorist powers" and supporting Iraqi sovereignty.

U.S. President Barack Obama is considering military options to push back al Qaeda splinter group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has swept the Sunni north of the country over the past week as the Shi'ite-led army has crumbled.

But in return Washington want Maliki to do more to address the widespread sense of political exclusion among minority Sunnis which ISIL has exploited to win support among tribal leaders and former followers of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.


Read More: Maliki stands with Sunni leaders, appealing for Iraqi unity | Reuters

Brazil and Mexico: World Cup tie seems fitting for off-field rivals 

Going into the game, Brazil was favored to beat Mexico on Tuesday in the group stage of the FIFA World Cup.

The atmosphere had been decidedly friendly as tens of thousands of fans from both sides met in the streets in a lighthearted rivalry.

At the stadium, the chants from the Mexican crowd could be heard rising above those of the Brazilians at times: “Si se puede” (“Yes, we can”) and the refrain from the song “Cielito Lindo”—“Ay, ay, ay, ay, canta y no llores” (“Ay, ay, ay, ay, sing and don’t cry”).

In the end, there was no need for tears from either side. The game ended in a scoreless tie — fitting, perhaps, for two countries who remain locked in another type of competition.

Read more Brazil and Mexico: World Cup tie seems fitting for off-field rivals - Los Angeles Times

6/16/14

EU Parliament: Conservatives propose Muslim for European Parliament President

The conservative ECR group has proposed Sajjad Haider Karim, who in 2004 became the first British Muslim MEP, to be the next European Parliament President. However, the candidacy appears to be a long shot.

Sajjad Karim, nominated as European Parliament Presidential candidate by the European Conservatives and Reformists’ group (ECR), has written to the leaders of all the main groups in the European Parliament seeking their backing.

He said that the image of the EU in the world had been tainted by the recent European elections, with the rise of extremist parties.

“I ask the group leaders: is it not now time to reinstate our values of tolerance, acceptance and diversity”, writes Karim, who was born in Blackburn, Lancashire, of Pakistani descent.  He adds he is relying on a track record of 20 years experience, as an elected public official, 10 of which have been served here in the European Parliament.

“I have served diligently working across groups and political divides always seeking consensus and delivery,” writes Karim, who was elected in 2004 for the Liberal Democrats, but joined the Conservative Party in November 2007.

Read more: Conservatives propose Muslim for European Parliament President | EurActiv

Soccer World Cup: US beats Ghana 2-1 in team's opening Group G game at World Cup

Clint Dempsey scored in the first minute and rookie substitute John Brooks scored a late game winner as the U.S. defeated Ghana 2-1 Monday in the World Cup opener for both.

The victory gave the Americans a measure of revenge against the tiny West African county that knocked them out of the previous two World Cups and put the U.S. and Germany on top of the Group G, with Ghana and Portugal at the bottom.

Dempsey's goal came on a low shot just 32 seconds into the match. Ghana dominated much the rest of the game, and Andre Ayew leveled in the 82nd minute.

Just four minutes later, Brooks --  a 21-year-old who came on at halftime because Matt Besler was injured -- scored off a corner from Graham Zusi. It was the first time an American sub had ever scored in the World Cup.

Dempsey's goal made him the first U.S. player to score in three different World Cups and was the fastest ever scored by an American in the tournament.

Read more: US beats Ghana 2-1 in team's opening Group G game at World Cup | Fox News

Stock Market: Are Stocks Overvalued? The Uncertain Certainty Of Known Unknowns

Being a stocks-for-the-long-run kind of guy, I normally hate questions like this, since almost no one can make these short-swing calls profitably.  The people who make money in the stock market are the ones who buy and hold and take their lumps along the way. That’s the whole game in one sentence.

In the aftermath of the financial panic of 2008, global central bankers – feeling called to play their part on the world-historical stage and above all not wanting the planet to fall into Great Depression 2.0 on their watch — flooded the world with liquidity in an effort to combat deflation and save the financial system from itself.   This was what I was taking to Carolin about: how the great Godzilla of global deflation that stomped on Tokyo now threatened to come ashore in Brussels and topple the Eurozone.

Since central bankers have grabbed the controls, we no longer inhabit a “natural” economic environment, but instead live in a hot house terrarium where Ph.D.s pull the strings.

Problem: In this new looking-glass land, we don’t know what the conventional metrics mean.  Are stock prices justifiably high, or is their value in fact unknown, because we don’t know what the rate of interest is?

When interest rates turn so many other gears in the machine, it is hard to tell what is an artifact or an epiphenomenon – for investors, and now, ironically, for the central bankers themselves as they try to read and interpret the dials.  We — and they — don’t have a set of equations to translate from the domed Astroturf on which we now find ourselves back to the green green grass of the natural world.  We invest in a Heisenberg world of uncertainty. There is always risk and uncertainty, of course — this is the stock market we are talking about, after all — but this is the uncertain certainty of known unknowns.

For Exhibit ‘A’, consider the low volume and low volatility.  Imagine the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, normally vibrant with thousands of buyers and sellers haggling over goods.  Then one day you go and there are only a few hundred people around, talking quietly.  Is that a good sign, because the market has settled down?  Or does it feel ominous?

To give credit, the central bankers have forestalled another great global depression.  They have bought time.  The predictions of their worst critics have not come to pass.  We are not awash in runaway inflation – unless the bubble is in now in risky assets like stocks, bonds and real estate, where we just don’t recognize it as such.

Read more: Are Stocks Overvalued? The Uncertain Certainty Of Known Unknowns