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EU unveils plans for a ‘capital markets union’

The EU has unveiled a new plan to encourage companies to tap difference sources of investment.

The European Commission says firms rely too heavily on banks for funding.

It reckons they should explore alternatives, such as venture capital.

The end goal would be to create a single European market for raising capital.

“In the US, SMIs get about five times as much funding from the capital markets or non-bank financing as they do here in the EU. And if our venture capital markets were as well developped as they are in the US companies could have raised an extra 90 billion euros over the past five years,” said Britain’s Jonathan Hill, the EU commissioner for financial stability.

Read more: EU unveils plans for a ‘capital markets union’ | euronews, Europe

Faith: How personal manifestations of Faith can become a source of conflict.

It is always amazing to see how large numbers of people from different religions always feel the need to show, by some outward manifestation, to which religion they belong.

Jews wear the Kippah. Christians often use the Cross around their neck as an ornament, and many Muslim women wear the Burka.

In a sense one can safely say that these public manifestations of Faith have nothing to do with the definition of Faith and as a matter of fact can often  become a source of  conflict.

The definition of Faith is really quite clear: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Or as it is also said, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you”.

Maybe something to think about when we talk about Peace on Earth?

EU- Digest

Palestinian flag raised at the United Nations headquarters for the first time

The Palestinian flag was raised for the first time at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

The ceremony took place weeks after the UN General Assembly passed a motion to allow the flag and that of the Vatican to be raised.

Israel voted against the motion along with the United States and six other countries.
Watching the ceremony was the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas. Earlier he had addressed the UN General Assembly.

In his annual speech he said it was unconscionable that the question of Palestinian statehood remained unresolved.

“As long as Israel refuses to cease settlement activities and to release the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners in accordance with our agreements, they leave us no choice but to insist that we will not remain the only ones committed to the implementation of these agreements.

Read more: Palestinian flag raised at the United Nations headquarters for the first time | euronews, world news

Middle East - Syria: Russia confirms first airstrikes in Syria

Russia said it launched its first airstrikes in Syria Wednesday, though both the US and France expressed doubts over Moscow’s claims only Islamic State group positions had been targeted. Moscow gave Washington just an hour’s notice of the strikes, which set in motion Russia’s biggest show of force in the region since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, a US official said.

Targets in the Homs area appeared to have been struck. But French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said “initial indications" show the airstrikes did not target zones controlled by the Islamic State group.

Fabius told reporters in New York that “verification is underway" to determine what the Russian strikes targeted, but that it currently appears they may have targeted zones held by Syrian opposition forces, who Moscow considers terrorists seeking to overthrow its long-time ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

An unnamed US defence official told the AFP news agency that so far none of the strikes had targeted the IS group and that “what we have seen is strikes against Syrian opposition”.

Read more: Europe - Russia confirms first airstrikes in Syria - France 24


European Economy: Future of SMEs: Europe’s economic powerhouses

Small and medium businesses (SMEs) are the heart of Europe’s economy but some have not survived the financial crisis and many others have had to innovate to have any kind of a future. Real Economy travelled to Italy to meet some of those who have risen to that challenge, often tapping into new sources of financing when lending from the banking sector was drying up.

There are some 21 million SMEs in Europe, supplying about 85% of jobs. All that entrepreneurship allows Europe to control one fifth of world trade and that’s why it’s so important to understand these economic powerhouses and why they are so critical.

It works something like this: Jack has a micro-sized glass making company, which employs less than 10 people and makes around two million euros a year. Jack then supplies his glass to Greg’s small company which makes mosaics – Greg has earnings of less than 10 million and fewer than 50 employees. Greg then sells his mosaics to Linda who is a medium-sized mosaic and tile seller. She has 250 people or less on her payroll and her business makes 50 million euros.

However, if any of them are taken over, linked to or partnered with a large company, or are 50% owned by universities or local authorities they may no longer be considered SMEs. Jack, Greg, Linda and others like them create 2 out of every 3 jobs in Europe. Companies like theirs make up 9 out of 10 businesses in Europe, creating the value added that drives our growth.

Read more: Future of SMEs: Europe’s economic powerhouses | euronews, real economy

The Netherlands: A nation of tall cheese-eaters

The Dutch drink a lot of milk, eat a lot of cheese, and are now the tallest people in the world. Could there be a connection? The author of a new book on the Netherlands, Ben Coates, explains how the Dutch became not only voracious but also very discerning cheese eaters.

Earlier this year, a museum in Amsterdam was the scene of a terrible crime. Doing their rounds at the end of a busy day, curators were horrified to discover that one of their most prized exhibits - a small shiny object glittering with 220 diamonds - was missing. A security video showed two young men in baseball caps loitering near the display case, but the police had no other leads. The world's most expensive cheese slicer was gone.

In some countries, a theft from the national cheese museum might sound like the plot for an animated children's film. In the Netherlands, however, cheese is a serious business. For the Dutch, cheeses, milk, yoghurts and other dairy products are not only staple foods but national symbols, and the bedrock of a major export industry.

The Netherlands' love of all things dairy is largely a consequence of its unique geography. Four hundred years ago, much of the country lay under water, and much of the rest was swampy marshland. "The buttock of the world", was how one 17th-Century visitor described it, "full of veines and bloud, but no bones". Over the next few centuries though, the Dutch embarked on an extraordinary project to rebuild their country. Thousands of canals were dug, and bogs were drained by hundreds of water-pumping windmills.

Some of the new land was built on, but large areas were also allocated to help feed the growing population of cities like Amsterdam. Silty reclaimed soil proved perfect for growing rich, moist grass, and that grass in turn made perfect food for cows. Thousands of the creatures soon were grazing happily on reclaimed land.

The country's most popular breed - the black and white Friesian - became world famous. At one point, a Friesian called Pauline Wayne even lived at the White House, providing fresh milk for President William Howard Taft and giving personal "interviews" to the Washington Post.

Read more: A nation of tall cheese-eaters - BBC News

The EU Refugee Crises: Refugees And Reform In Europe - by Mohamed A. El-Erian

There is a simple truth beneath the growing human tragedy of Europe’s refugee crisis, and the European Union cannot address the massive influx of exhausted, desperate people in a manner compatible with its values unless governments and citizens acknowledge it. Simply put, the historic challenge confronting Europe also offers historic opportunities. The question is whether Europe’s politicians – who have failed to deliver on far less complicated issues over which they had a lot more control – can seize the moment.

The scale of the challenge is immense, with the flow of refugees extremely difficult to monitor and channel, let alone limit. Fleeing war and oppression, tens of thousands of people are risking life and limb to find refuge in Europe – a phenomenon that will continue as long as chaos persists in countries of origin, such as Syria, and countries facilitating transit, such as Iraq and Libya.

In the meantime, Europe’s transport networks are under stress, as are shelters, border crossings, and registration centers. Common asylum policies – including, for example, the basic rule that asylum-seekers should be registered at their point of entry into the EU – are not functioning or are being bypassed. And the cherished concept of effortless travel within the border-free Schengen Area is under threat.

These problems are aggravated by coordination failures. Attitudes toward refugees vary widely across countries, with Germany taking a particularly enlightened approach that contrasts sharply with Hungary’s notably heartless one. Some countries, such as the Czech Republic, have blocked deals to share the burden fairly among European Union members, including through mandatory quotas.

Europe has the opportunity to turn today’s refugee crisis into a catalyst for renewal and progress. Let us hope that its politicians stop bickering and start working together to take advantage of this opening. If they fail, the momentum behind regional integration – which has brought peace, prosperity, and hope to hundreds of millions of people – will weaken considerably, to the detriment of all.

Read more: Refugees And Reform In Europe » Social Europe


Middle East: Obama, Putin clash over role for Assad in Syria

US President Barack Obama and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin both called for cooperation on to bringing an end to the war in Syria, but clashed over whether any peace plan should include support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Addressing the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York, Obama said the US would be willing to work with both Russia and Iran to find a solution to the bloodshed that has ravaged Syria since civil war broke out more than four years ago.

“The United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict,” Obama said.

However, he added: “But we must recognise that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the pre-war status quo.”

Read more: france 24 - Obama, Putin clash over role for Assad in Syria - France 24

Syria: The Equation Changes As Germany's Merkel Makes a Move - by Kenneth Courtis

Angela Merkel’s recent statement that any resolution of the war in Syria requires the engagement of all major regional parties including Iran and Saudi Arabia could well break the stalemate on the Syria issue.

She has clearly stated that no solution could be achieved without the involvement of the government of Syria, led by President Assad.

With her move, the German Chancellor and leader of Europe has acknowledged that to date the Western policy of working to destabilize and to topple the government of Syria has been a failure.

It has been part of the dynamic which has allowed Daesh and other extremist groups to take root and expand across the region.

Germany is now saying that refusing to involve Assad in any negotiations is futile.

With her move, Merkel effectively endorsed the position that President Putin and many others, including the governments of China, Iran, India and Syria itself have maintained for many painful months as Syria, indeed the entire region, has sunk deeper and deeper into tragic chaos, death and destruction.

Read more: Syria: The Equation Changes As Germany's Merkel Makes a Move - The Globalist

USA: SEAL Team 6: A Secret History of Quiet Killings and Blurred Lines - by M.Mazzetti, N. Kulish, C. Drew, S.F. Kovaleski, S.D. Naylor and J.Ismay

They have plotted deadly missions from secret bases in the badlands of Somalia. In Afghanistan, they have engaged in combat so intimate that they have emerged soaked in blood that was not their own. 

On clandestine raids in the dead of the night, their weapons of choice have ranged from customized carbines to primeval tomahawks.

Around the world, they have run spying stations disguised as commercial boats, posed as civilian employees of front companies and operated undercover at embassies as male-female pairs, tracking those the United States wants to kill or capture.

Those operations are part of the hidden history of the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, one of the nation’s most mythologized, most secretive and least scrutinized military organizations. 

Once a small group reserved for specialized but rare missions, the unit best known for killing Osama bin Laden has been transformed by more than a decade of combat into a global manhunting machine.

When suspicions have been raised about misconduct, outside oversight has been limited.

Joint Special Operations Command, which oversees SEAL Team 6 missions, conducted its own inquiries into more than a half-dozen episodes, but seldom referred them to Navy investigators. “JSOC investigates JSOC, and that’s part of the problem,” said one former senior military officer experienced in special operations, who like many others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity because Team 6’s activities are classified.
Even the military’s civilian overseers do not regularly examine the unit’s operations. “This is an area where Congress notoriously doesn’t want to know too much,” said Harold Koh, the State Department’s former top legal adviser, who provided guidance to the Obama administration on clandestine war.

Waves of money have sluiced through SEAL Team 6 since 2001, allowing it to significantly expand its ranks — reaching roughly 300 assault troops, called operators, and 1,500 support personnel — to meet new demands. 

 But some team members question whether the relentless pace of operations has eroded the unit’s elite culture and worn down Team 6 on combat missions of little importance. The group was sent to Afghanistan to hunt Qaeda leaders, but instead spent years conducting close-in battle against mid- to low-level Taliban and other enemy fighters. Team 6 members, one former operator said, served as “utility infielders with guns.”

Read more: SEAL Team 6: A Secret History of Quiet Killings and Blurred Lines - The New York Times

The Netherlands: More than 440,000 Dutch citizens call for referendum on US influenced Ukraine-EU treaty

A Dutch citizens’ initiative to force a non-binding referendum on a far-reaching treaty between Brussels and Ukraine had gathered 446,000 signatures already  by early Sunday evening.

The campaign to hold a referendum was launched by shock blog Geenstijl, think-tank Forum voor Democratie and the Burgercomite EU association earlier this month. In 2014, the Dutch approved legislation to allow ‘advisory referendums’ on controversial topics, if supporters can gather 300,000 signatures. The Dutch parliament has already voted in favour of the treaty.

The aim of the treaty is to foster political relationships and kickstart economic integration and supporters say it shifts Ukraine away from Russia and more towards the wes

Most of the Dutch citizens who voted in favor of holding a referendum say the treaty will cost Dutch taxpayers billions of euros and that the EU’s expansion drive is having an adverse impact on democracy in the Netherlands. They also argue that the Dutch parliament no longer does what its own voters want, but are driven by US influenced Brussels’ interests.

Some of the supporters of the referendum are also saying that the present Ukraine government came to power illegally and is basically a US creation to increase their influence in Eastern Europe..

In The Hague, politicians congratulated the organisers of the lobby, RTL news reported, even though the ruling Labour party, the Christian Democrats and D66 all reiterated their support for the treaty.

The Socialists and anti-immigration PVV parties are opposed and PVV leader Geert Wilders has already said he will campaign for a ‘no’ vote. The electoral council will now check the results to make sure the signatures are genuine. Once it gives the green light for the referendum, it must be held within six months.

This means the referendum vote is likely to take place during the Dutch presidency of the EU, which starts in January 2016.



Brazil to slash carbon emissions by 37% by 2025: Rousseff

In her UNGA address on Sunday, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff pledged to slash Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions by 37 per cent.

“The contribution of Brazil will be a reduction of 37% of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Our ambition is to reach a reduction of 43% by 2030. The base year in both cases is 2005,” said Rousseff.

Outlining her vision for a global climate change agreement on Sunday, Rousseff stressed on the importance of a “common response”.

“Our obligations should be ambitious and consistent with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. The Paris Conference is a unique opportunity for us to shape a common response to the global challenge of climate change,” the President said.

Brazil’s “energy mix is among the cleanest in the world” she claimed while adding that Latin America’s biggest economy has “reduced deforestation in the Amazon rainforest by 82%”.

“Brazil is one of the few developing countries to commit to an absolute goal for emissions reduction. In spite of having one the world’s largest populations and GDPs our goals are just as ambitious, if not more so, than those set by developed countries,” Rousseff noted.

Read more: Brazil to slash carbon emissions by 37% by 2025: Rousseff | The BRICS Post

USA: Ignoring science isn't a Republican problem. It's an American problem.- by Dan Rather

How many times have you heard that lately from politicians who are trying to duck questions about important scientific topics like climate change and vaccines?  So many times that it's even become a Wikipedia entry.

But what does that phrase even mean? I'm not a cardiologist.

So I go to one to have my heart checked. I'm not an electrician, so I hire one to rewire my house. I trust people who have training in those fields to give me advice on important things. You're right, Mr. or Ms. Presidential Candidate, you are not a scientist. So, why won't you listen to the men and women who are?

I grew up in an age where children were crippled and died from diseases like polio and measles, and now we have Donald Trump irresponsibly repeating long-discredited links between vaccines and autism. It's an offense to reason. Equally, so was the reaction of the two doctors on stage, Rand Paul and Ben Carson.

Sure, if you read their words, they support vaccines, yet raise questions about the timing of giving vaccines that is without scientific merit. Moreover, their tone is apologetic and equivocal. About vaccines! These are medical advances that have done more to alleviate human suffering than anything ever conjured by the ingenuity of the human mind.

The stated position of almost every Republican candidate flies in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence. The only "debate" over climate change in essentially the entire world occurs in the United States. I can hear some Democrats I know thinking this anti-science farce is a Republican problem.

But when I talk to scientists about this frightening trend, they don't just mention climate change. They bring up things like Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs); most of the anti-GMO heat comes from the political left.

If you excoriate climate change deniers along the lines that there is overwhelming scientific evidence for manmade climate change, you can't ignore the fact that that same scientific consensus exists on the safety of GMOs. You can argue that GMOs aren't as important a problem as climate change. And that may be true. But the anti-science spirit remains the same, and that is dangerous. This isn't to say we can't have a debate about how we use GMOs or how we respond to climate change. We just can’t ignore the science.

Vaccines, climate change, GMOs. If you are a Republican reading this you are likely to criticize me for at least one of these issues; if you are a Democrat, maybe another.

Why has science become political? Many intelligent people have written about this issue and surely there are many factors — loss of faith in authority, suspicion of big corporations, a general political balkanization. I am in no position to judge the relative influence of these components. But let me add another on which I feel qualified to weigh in on: my own profession, the press.

It's not just that we don't understand the facts, or that we hype certain "advances" that are more PR than science, or that we shy away from covering important stories because they're "too complicated." It's that we don't even do a good job explaining how scientific research works. We don't understand how data should be analyzed or what a scientific consensus actually means. And with cuts to newsrooms and "specialized beats," it's only getting worse. There are some science news outlets and individual reporters at media companies big and small that do a great job.  If I were to generously grade the "mainstream media" on science coverage, I would give us a C -..

Read more: Ignoring science isn't a Republican problem. It's an American problem.

Spain: Opinions split in Madrid about Catalan regional vote

If the pro-independence bloc wins Sunday’s (September 28) regional election in Spain’s Catalonia region, it has said it will start a process that will lead to a unilateral declaration of separation from Spain in 2017.

As voting continued in Catalonia, euronews correspondent Carlos Marlasca spoke to people on the streets of the Spanish capital, Madrid.

“I’m against this process,” said one woman, “because I think Spain should remain united. I like the unity”.
“From my point of view, things must change,” said her companion. “I don’t know if they should be independent or not, but I agree the relations between both sides should change”.

“I hope the best option will prevail, both for the Catalans and for Spain in general,” she said.

“And even if the ‘yes to independence’ wins, I don’t think Catalonia will split from Spain,” said her friend.
“During the last few years we have seen a lot of anger and hate between the two sides. And only the future generations will be able to fix it,” suggested another man.

Euronews correspondent Carlos Marlasca reported: “The apparent calm in the Spanish capital contrasts with the period of instability that could follow the vote in Catalonia.

“The results of these elections will undoubtedly be one of the recurring arguments used by political forces with December’s general elections in sight.”

Read more: Opinions split in Madrid about Catalan regional vote | euronews, world news

Terrorism Islamist threat forces Putin′s hand

It's been a good week for President Vladimir Putin. Apparently all is quiet in eastern Ukraine, he opened a new Grand Mosque in Moscow that will accommodate up to 10,000 people and he's had conversations with Israeli and Arab leaders about his peace plans for the Middle East and Russia's role in Syria. And right about now his aides will be polishing the speech he's set to deliver to the United Nations in New York next week.

It's expected that the speech will present a plan similar to that he proposed in 2012 to ease Syria's President Bashar al-Assad out of power and may also outline his plan for a coalition of nations who will band together and fight the "Islamic State" (IS) group.

Analysts have speculated that Putin is either attempting to strut large on a global stage and provide some kind of counterbalance to a US-centric world, or that he's protecting his military assets and naval access to the Mediterranean from Syria, or that he's trying to divert attention away from the annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine. And there may be elements of those involved but there's also much more to it than that.

Russia has approximately 20 million Muslims as part of its indigenous population, most are in the Volga-Urals region or in the caucuses in republics like Dagestan and Chechnya where it's already fought two wars with separatists. Its close neighbors include a number of Muslim republics including Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Iran and Afghanistan.

And over the past few years it's had its fair share of terrorist incidents attributed to Muslim extremists. I won't name all of them but here's a few in no particular order: the 2011 Domodedovo Airport bombing (37 killed), the 2010 Moscow metro bombing (36 killed), the 2004 Beslan school bombing (385 killed), the 2002

Moscow theatre siege, the 2013 Volgograd bombings, the 2004 almost simultaneous bombings aboard two aircraft that killed 89, and the 1999 apartment block bombings that killed almost 300 and were the justification for the second Chechen war. (It's alleged that the apartment bombings were plotted by the then KGB to justify its second war.) In total almost 3,000 Russian have been killed as a result of about 105 terrorist actions from 1994-2004 according to Johnston's Archive - a research site that pulls together figures from various sources.

Read more: Islamist threat forces Putin′s hand | Europe | DW.COM | 27.09.2015

Americas - New York Francophiles delight as Times Square turns French

An all-American landmark was transformed into a den of French clichés on Saturday as dozens of French artists, entrepreneurs and restaurateurs moved into Times Square to exhibit at what organisers have christened the “Best of France” festival. T

hree blocks on Manhattan’s busy Broadway were blocked off to make room for the tourism, fashion and food fair, housing dozens of food and drinks tents, a mini pétanque (French boules) court and a giant replica of the Statue of Liberty (lest we forget the French gave the statue to the US in 1886).

Hundreds of thousands of Francophiles attended on the first day alone, swarming around a Président stand for a free slice of French bread and butter before a troop of cancan dancers from the Moulin Rouge -- who were performing in New York for the very first time -- outshone the allure of the staple treat.

A thoroughly friendly event, public displays of co-adulation between France and the US were at some points overbearing.

The festival opened with the national anthems of both countries (performed by a full choir, no less), before the world’s largest US and French flags were unfurled, and later in the day, a gushing Hollywood-esque dramatic film applauded the US’s rescue of France in World War II.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius officially opened the event before heading back to the UN General Assembly (presumably for more challenging encounters). “It’s really important to show the diversity of French talent,” he told FRANCE 24. “It's all about quality and creativity.”

Read more: Americas - New York Francophiles delight as Times Square turns French - France 24


Spain - Hysteria on Steroids: Will Catalonia’s Regional Elections Lead to the Breakup of Spain? -  Bécquer Seguín and Sebastiaan Faber

 When Pep Guardiola, a former star player for the Spanish national soccer team and now one of the world’s most successful club managers, announced in July that he’d joined the electoral coalition in favor of Catalan independence, Spain’s interior minister couldn’t hold back his excitement. “When they take off their masks,” said Jorge Fernández Díaz, “we see that the [Catalans] who played and triumphed with the Spanish national soccer team surely did not do so out of patriotism, but out of greed. Some people have money as their god.”

With a single salvo, Fernández Díaz managed to question Guardiola’s integrity and invoke the age-old stereotype of Catalonia as a region of calculating money-grubbers. For many Catalans, the statement confirmed the central government’s utter lack of understanding of and respect for their culture and identity.

On September 27, for the third time in five years, Catalonia will be holding regional elections. Many have defined the elections as a de facto referendum on independence. The interior minister’s candor showcases the bull-in-a-china-shop approach that the ruling, conservative Partido Popular (PP) has taken to Catalonia’s demand for self-determination. Spain’s federalist center-left hasn’t fared any better.

 In late August, former Socialist Prime Minister Felipe González published an open letter in El País, unambiguously titled “To the Catalans,” comparing the pro-independence movement to Italian Fascism and German Nazism, implying that the Catalans had allowed themselves to be seduced by devious political leaders.

Read more: Will Catalonia’s Regional Elections Lead to the Breakup of Spain? | The Nation

Netherlands launches billion-euro small business fund - by Janene Van Jaarsveldt

Small and medium sized enterprises in the Netherlands now have a new opportunity to get a loan – the Netherlands Investment Institution has opened its Commercial Loan Fund, which has about 1 billion euros available to issue loans to SMEs.

Half of that money comes from six institutional investors – Aegon, ASR, Pension Fund Metal & Engineering, Pension Fund PGB, NN and the European Investment Fund, NOS reports. These investors contributed a total o 480 million euros. Banks contributed the other half. The Fund was established last year with the help of the Ministry of Economic Affairs. It aims to encourage investment in SMEs by bringing supply and demand of loans together.

According to the Netherlands Investment Institution, NLII, up until now there were a number of barriers standing in the way of SMEs getting loans. For example, the loans the companies need are too small to be of interest to institutional investors. Or banks being unable to approve a loan because they have too much money outstanding with a company or sector.

The NLII wants to resolve these problems by bundling the loans together, making it more attractive to institutional investors, and making half of the money come from the fund and half from the banks, giving banks more room to lend money. The fund gives loans of between 5 million and 25 million euros, with banks contributing an equal amount. The investors investing in the Fund receive a market interest rate on their investment.

“We are enabling entrepreneurs to make use of a new and additional funding channel worth about 1 billion euros. At the same time, institutional investors re getting a new opportunity to invest directly in the Dutch economy through the Commercial Loan Fund”, according to NLII director Loek Sibbing.

Read more: Netherlands launches billion-euro small business fund - NL Times

Canada: How Saudi Arabia, and a $15B armoured vehicle deal, became an election issue - by Mark Gollom

The issue of whether Canada should be involved in such a deal with a country with a poor human rights record carried forward Friday. Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, as he did the night before, defended the $15-billion deal that Canada helped secure last year, under which the London, Ont.-based manufacturer General Dynamics Land Systems will sell armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

At a campaign stop in Rivière-du-Loup, Que., Harper was asked whether he was putting Canadian jobs ahead of human rights concerns.

"As I've said in the debate, it's frankly all of our partners and allies who were pursuing that contract, not just Canada. So this is a deal frankly with a country, and notwithstanding its human rights violations, which are significant, this is a contract with a country that is an ally in the fighting against the Islamic State.

A contract that any one of our allies would have signed," he said.

"We expressed our outrage, our disagreement from time to time with the government of Saudi Arabia for their treatment of human rights, but I don't think it makes any sense to pull a contract in a way that would only punish Canadian workers instead of actually expressing our outrage at some of these things in Saudi Arabia."

Note EU-Digest: what a weak excuse by Stephen Harper. It shows once again that most Conservatives, where ever they may be  always choose money over principles.

Read more: How Saudi Arabia, and a $15B armoured vehicle deal, became an election issue - Politics - CBC News


A United EU is closer than you think - The people want it. The elites are the obstacle - by Miguel Otero-Iglesias

There is a strong consensus on the eurozone crisis among economists and political analysts both in Europe and the United States: for the eurozone to endure, it would need to develop into a fiscal union and, consequently, a political one. In the same breath, however, influential commentators argue that this is politically unfeasible in the current context of a heightened North-South divide within Europe.

And there seems to be a strong consensus among pundits that political union in Europe is a pipe dream.
The problem is that this oft-repeated assertion — usually invoked as if it were irrefutable — is thrown at audiences without a shred of evidence to back it. The naysayers simply point to the latest European parliamentary elections as clear evidence of a rising tide of Euroskepticism.

In doing so, they err, for they equate Eurocritics with Euroskeptics. The French National Front and UKIP are against the very concept of the EU; but they should not be confused with Spain’s Podemos, Syriza in Greece, and the Italian Five Star Movement, who are against this EU in particular.

There is a big difference. If you give Alexis Tsipras, Pablo Iglesias or Beppe Grillo the chance of having a federal and democratic union, with a Commission president directly elected by the peoples of Europe, they would very likely sign up to it. Give it to Nigel Farage or Marine Le Pen, however, and they would laugh in your face. That is the difference between Eurocritics and Euroskeptics.

Even among the Euroskeptics, the anti-EU rhetoric has a voting ceiling. Europe’s main political divide is not between those for or against the EU, but between those who are more cosmopolitan — and largely in favor of further integration under the principle of subsidiarity — and those who would like to withdraw behind their national borders.

That is why the National Front, UKIP and Alternative for Germany have switched from anti-EU rhetoric to anti-immigration discourse. They realize that their potential voters are not anti-European, but rather those who have lost out from globalization. Euroskeptics comprise no more than 15-20 percent of the electorate of any European country. In Germany, the EU’s largest member state, the figure is even lower.

That Euroskeptics are no more than 20 percent does not necessarily mean that the remaining 80 percent are keen to create a United States of Europe; far from it. However, the figure does call into question the widespread assertion that political union in Europe is impossible. There is little conclusive evidence on the subject. However, data from the Eurobarometer — the closest we have to a gauge for measuring public opinion in Europe — suggest that Europeans want more, not less, integration.

The difference is whether they live or not in the eurozone. While 67 percent of those within the zone are in favor of the euro, only 35 percent outside it are. In the UK the figure is 20 percent, but in Germany it rises to 74 percent. The same can be said about having a European identity. Up to 62 percent of those in the eurozone feel that they are European as well as their own nationality, but outside the eurozone the figure is 53 percent. Not surprisingly, only 39 percent of Britons feel European (compared with 64 percent of the French).

"For or against a European economic and monetary union with one single currency, the euro" 67% said yes,, 26 % said no, and 7% said they don't know.

"Do you see yourself as Nationality only; European and Nationality; European only; or Don't know;"-  61% considered themselves European and national, 34 % said they were more nationally oriented, 2 % said they considered themselves only European and 1% did not know./

Overall, the limited evidence available strongly suggests that Britons do not want further integration, but that all other Europeans, especially those in the eurozone, are more open to the idea. Fortunately, the Eurobarometer asks two more specific questions on the topic.

One is whether more decisions should be taken at the EU level. In that respect, ‘only’ 48 percent of Europeans are in favor, so enthusiasm about giving more power to Brussels is tepid. However, there are still more in favor than against (40 percent). Yet again there is a difference between the percentages within the eurozone — 50 percent — and those outside — 43 percent. 

The second, and more important question, is whether the EU should develop into a federation of nation states. Here, only 41 percent are in favor, but, again, those against are even fewer, at 34 percent. A whopping 25 percent just do not know. 

It may well be that the peoples of Europe (especially in the eurozone) want more integration, but that it is their national governmental elites that are holding back because they stand to lose the most from a greater degree of union.

For the latest  EU Barometer polls click here 

Sweden Education:11 reasons students pick Stockholm University

Students and researchers from all over the world come to study at Stockholm University - and lately applications are sky-rocketing. But what makes it so special?
Stockholm University is already the largest institute of higher education in Sweden - and it's growing quickly. In fact, applications to international courses and programmes at Stockholm University have more than doubled in the past year.

So what’s the deal? What is it that draws thousands of students from all corners of the globe to Stockholm University each year?

The Local headed to campus to find out.

Read More On What They Found Out:  11 reasons students pick Stockholm University - The Local

EU Economy: Digital single market for Europe

The strategy is the EU's plan to create a free and secure digital single market in which people can shop online across borders and businesses can sell across the EU wherever they are in the EU. It seeks to expand the EU's digital economy to offer consumers better services at better prices and to help businesses grow.      

The strategy, which was published by the Commission on 6 May 2015, has three objectives:
  • making it easier for consumers and businesses to access online products and services across Europe
  • improving conditions for digital networks and services to grow and thrive
  • boosting the growth of the European digital economy
Read more: Digital single market for Europe - Consilium

Antimicrobial resistance - Compassion in World Farming

This briefing provides an overview of on-farm antibiotic usage in the UK. It outlines the steps taken by a number of other European countries to address and reduce antibiotic use in farming systems, and sets out three recommendations for the UK Government to take in order to address the growing public health crisis of antibiotic resistance.

The causal link between on-farm antibiotic administration and human resistance is widely acknowledged by organisations including the World Health Organisation and the European Food Standards Agency.

Read more: Antimicrobial resistance | Compassion in World Farming


Auto Industry: VW Still More Popular Than GM, Chrysler

Volkswagen has confessed to equipping millions of diesel cars with software intended to fool emissions tests, especially in the United States, but so far the German auto company is hanging in there popularity-wise. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

The survey of 1,000 American Adults was conducted on September 22-23, 2015 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. 

Read more: VW Still More Popular Than GM, Chrysler - Rasmussen Reports™

Islam: A self-criticism of Islamic world by top Turkish official in Mecca - by Murat Yetkin

Today is the first day of the two biggest festivities of Islam, Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, also marking the completion of the annual pilgrimage around Kaaba in Mecca.

Leading Turkish pilgrims in Mecca this year, Mehmet Görmez, Turkey’s Religious Affairs (Diyanet) Director, delivered a khutbah (sermon) and a prayer there Sept. 23, on the eve of the festivities’ start.

Pleading for the mercy of God, Görmez said it was no one but Muslims who are responsible if there are those who think that this religion of God’s grace was a “religion of fear.”

Underlining that Muslims start every action in the name of God, Görmez said, “But [Muslims] failed to do our works with justice, mercy and love. We called violence as jihad, oppression as victory.”

Though there is no direct reference in his prayer, which could be counted as a self-criticism in the name of Muslims around the world, the words of Görmez came after a speech he delivered in Ankara on Aug. 17, when he condemned movements like al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) as being of “terrorism” and all good Muslims should “unite against their deception.”

“This fact cannot be ignored as provocations of ‘exterior conspirators,’” Görmez continued. “We have to ask ourselves: ‘What have we done wrong that those provocations have found ground?’” That was a follow-up of a report by the Diyanet on Aug. 10, under the title “Aims, Activities and Islamic Understanding of the Terrorist Organization Daesh,” referring to ISIL by its Arabic initials.

The message of Görmez coincided with the reopening of the Central Mosque in Moscow by Russian President Vladimir Putin, which was joined by Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan among political leaders from countries with Muslim populations.

At such a conjuncture, the self-criticism of Turkey’s top religious official is actually a strong criticism against radical movements using terrorism in the name of Islam. On this day of festivities, in different parts of world, they are actually Muslims of different sects and different shades of radicalism killing each other.

 Without drawing a thick red line between violence and politics in the name of jihad (whatever their root causes be), the political leaders in the Islamic world are likely to fail in their efforts to give an end to the current re-generation of violence in the name of faith.

Read more: A self-criticism of Islamic world by top Turkish official in Mecca - MURAT YETKİN

Saudi Arabia: 10 Reasons the EU should Oppose the Saudi Monarchy - by Medea Benjamin

During the discussion on the Iran nuclear deal, it has been strange to hear US politicians fiercely condemn Iranian human rights abuses while remaining silent about worse abuses by US ally Saudi Arabia. Not only is the Saudi regime repressive at home and abroad, but US weapons and US support for the regime make Americans complicit. So let's look at the regime the US government counts as its close friend.

1. Saudi Arabia is governed as an absolutist monarchy by a huge clan, the Saud family, and the throne passes from one king to another.The Cabinet is appointed by the king, and its policies have to be ratified by royal decree. Political parties are forbidden and there are no national elections.

2. Criticizing the monarchy, or defending human rights, can bring down severe and cruel punishments in addition to imprisonment. Ali al-Nimr was targeted and arrested at the age of 17 for protesting government corruption, and his since been sentenced to beheading and public crucifixion. Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for writing a blog the government considered critical of its rule. Waleed Abulkhair is serving a 15-year sentence for his work as a human right attorney. New legislation effectively equates criticism of the government and other peaceful activities with terrorism.

The government tightly controls the domestic press, banning journalists and editors who publish articles deemed offensive to the religious establishment or the ruling authorities. Over 400,000 websites that are considered immoral or politically sensitive are blocked. A January 2011 law requires all blogs and websites, or anyone posting news or commentary online, to have a license from the Ministry of Information or face fines and/or the closure of the website..

3. Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world, killing scores of people each year for a range of offenses including adultery, apostasy, drug use and sorcery. The government has conducted over 100 beheadings this year alone, often in public squares.

4. Saudi women are second-class citizens. The religious police enforce a policy of gender segregation and often harass women, using physical punishment to enforce a strict dress code. Women need the approval of a male guardian to marry, travel, enroll in a university, or obtain a passport and they're prohibited from driving. According to interpretations of Sharia law, daughters generally receive half the inheritance awarded to their brothers, and the testimony of one man is equal to that of two women.

5. There is no freedom of religious. Islam is the official religion, and all Saudis are required by law to be Muslims. The government prohibits the public practice of any religion other than Islam and restricts the religious practices of the Shiite and Sufi Muslim minority sects. Although the government recognizes the right of non-Muslims to worship in private, it does not always respect this right in practice. The building of Shiite mosques is banned.

6. The Saudis export an extremist interpretation of Islam, Wahhabism, around the globe. Over the past three decades, Saudi Arabia spent $4 billion per year on mosques, madrassas, preachers, students, and textbooks to spread Wahhabism and anti-Western sentiment. Let's not forget that 15 of the 19 fanatical hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks were Saudis, as well as Osama bin Laden himself.

7. The country is built and runs thanks to foreigner laborers, but the more than six million foreign workers have virtually no legal protections. Coming from poor countries, many are lured to the kingdom under false pretenses and forced to endure dangerous working and living conditions. Female migrants employed in Saudi homes as domestic workers report regular physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

8. The Saudis are funding terrorism worldwide. A Wikileaks-revealed 2009 cable quotes then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying "Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide....More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Lashkar e-Tayyiba and other terrorist groups." In Syria the Saudis are supporting the most extreme sectarian forces and the thousands of volunteers who rally to their call. And while the Saudi government condemns ISIS, many experts, including 9/11 Commission Report lead author Bob Graham, believe that ISIL is a product of Saudi ideals, Saudi money and Saudi organizational support.

9. The Saudis have used their massive military apparatus to invade neighboring countries and quash democratic uprisings. In 2011, the Saudi military (using US tanks) rolled into neighboring Bahrain and brutally crushed that nation's budding pro-democracy movement. In 2015, the Saudis intervened in an internal conflict in Yemen, with a horrific bombing campaign (using American-made cluster munitions and F-15 fighter jets) that has killed and injured thousands of civilians. The conflict has created a severe humanitarian crisis affecting 80 percent of the Yemeni people.

10. The Saudis backed a coup in Egypt that killed over 1,000 people and saw over 40,000 political dissidents thrown into squalid prisons. While human rights activists the world over where condemning the brutal regime of Al Sisi, the Saudi government offered $5 billion to prop up the Egyptian coup leader.

The cozy US relationship with the Saudis has to do with oil, weapons sales and joint opposition to Iran. But with extremism spreading through the globe, a reduced US need for Saudi oil, and a thawing of US relations with Iran, now is the time to start calling for the US government to sever its ties with the Saudi monarchs.

  Read more: 10 Reasonsthe EU  should Oppose the Saudi Monarchy | Medea Benjami

EU-We Should Not Be Afraid Of Refugees - it will pay off in the long-run by doing it right - by Angel Gurria

Europe is facing an historic moment. By the end of this year, the number of people applying for asylum in the European Union will exceed one million. The human cost of this refugee crisis is appalling. Yet, in all but a handful of cases, the response of Europe’s governments has been tentative, at best: acknowledging the need to do more, while fearing the implications.

Some politicians fear the burden that migrants will impose on local communities and taxpayers. Others fear extremists masquerading as genuine refugees. Above all, many are scared of public opinion, which – for all the heart-warming scenes of welcome and support for asylum-seekers – remains hesitant and even hostile to the prospect of still more migrants from war-torn, troubled countries, especially if they practice a different religion.

European leaders cannot afford to be afraid. The refugee crisis is not one from which they can opt out. No magic wand will empower leaders to transport more than a million people back across the Aegean and the Bosphorus to Mosul and Aleppo, or across the Mediterranean to Eritrea, Somalia, and Sudan.

The reintroduction of border controls and the construction of fences may buy time for over-stretched countries, but no one can seriously expect to keep out people who are so desperate to move. Given the dire conditions in the countries from which they are fleeing, perhaps half of the asylum-seekers will qualify for
residency under even the strictest rules. So, whatever the sensitivity or ambivalence of public opinion, European leaders will have to find a bold, coordinated, and unified response.

There are three challenges. The first is to agree on a fair allocation of refugees within Europe; despite their vast numbers, these desperate people must be provided with shelter, food, and support. This will be difficult enough.

The second challenge is to start the process of integrating refugees into Europe’s societies and economies. Some refugees will find it relatively easy to find jobs. A university-educated Syrian civil engineer arriving in Munich will need to learn some German; but, once this is done, he or she is unlikely to have to wait too long before employers come knocking. Other asylum-seekers have lower levels of education, and many may well be traumatized by their experience of war and exodus. It will take time and effort to integrate them

and many voters will be skeptical of the process, especially given that successful integration or assimilation will not come cheap.

However, paying the price to accept and integrate today’s asylum-seekers could reap significant benefits for the Europe of tomorrow. Our work at the OECD shows that migration, if well managed, can spur growth and innovation. Unfortunately, in the past, migration has not always been well managed: migrants have been concentrated in ghetto-like conditions, with few public services or employment prospects.

Note EU-Digest: this is a renewed opportunity for Europe to do migration right - we should not blow it this time. 

Read more: We Should Not Be Afraid Of Refugees » Social Europe

Refugees: EU leaders pledge 1 billion euros to help stem the tide of refugees

European leaders ended their emergency summit in Brussels claiming to have put feuding over migrant quotas behind them. The talk was more of ‘pulling together’.

Immediately after the summit, Germany’s Angela Merkel said all participants of the EU meeting recognised the scale of the refugee problem, sending a signal of unity.

The main result has been a pledge of at least one billion euros for Syrians displaced into refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey and more help for those host countries. The money will go specifically to aid agencies on the frontline of the refugee crisis. The proposal is a push to ease factors driving the migrants to Europe in the first place. But the EU Council President Donald Tusk said more:

“It is clear that the greatest tide of refugees and migrants is yet to come. Therefore we need to correct the policy of open doors and windows. Now the focus should be on the proper protection of our external borders and on external assistance to refugees and the countries in our neighbourhood.”

Read more: EU leaders pledge 1 billion euros to help stem the tide of refugees | euronews, world news


Tusk tells EU leaders to end migrant blame game

European Council President Donald Tusk has called for an end to the "recriminations" and mix-ups at the EU leaders' summit on refugees. Brussels has launched action against 19 states for breaking common asylum rules. 

Read more: Tusk tells EU leaders to end migrant blame game | News | DW.COM | 23.09.2015

Slovakian PM Refuses to Implement EU Refugee Quota Plan - by Felicity Capon

European governments' decision on Tuesday to overrule several EU member states opposed to mandatory refugee quotas and force through a deal that will see 120,000 asylum seekers resettled across the European Union over two years has provoked an angry reaction from the Slovakian prime minister who told the parliament in Bratislava he would not implement the plan.

A tense summit between EU leaders dedicated to the greatest migration crisis to face Europe since WWII gets underway in Brussels on Wednesday, at the bequest of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia all voted against mandatory quotas, putting them at odds with Germany and France who are pushing for the resettlement scheme.

Read more: Slovakian PM Refuses to Implement EU Refugee Quota Plan

The Netherlands: Foreign tourists in the Netherlands often unable to use their local debit and credit cards - by RM

Foreign Credit and Debit cards not easy to use in Holland
The Netherlands is not very "Tourist Friendly" when it comes to tourists wanting to use their debit or credit cards for local purchases.

Most of the time they are unable to pay with their credit/debit cards for purchases or expenses in local stores, restaurants,gas stations, train stations, toll roads,  hotels or super-markets.

US bank credit or debit cards, even those with a "chip" or "pin-code" usually won't work in the Netherlands and basically force the owner of that card  to take out cash from a local ATM. This automatically results in high bank charges for these transactions by the credit card holder's own local bank in addition to potential exchange charges in the Netherlands.

As one tourist, who wanted to pay for a raincoat she bought in a local department store in the city of Almere, but had all her cards declined, said in desperation - "this must be the first country in the world where the banking system and stores don't want to make it easy for tourists to pay for their goods with a debit or credit card."


ECB: Draghi: More risks to growth outlook have emerged - by Jenny Cosgrave

QE ?
Further downside risks to euro area's growth and inflation outlook have emerged as a result of currency headwinds and weakness in commodity prices, President of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi warned.

Draghi said slowing growth in emerging markets, a stronger euro and the fall in oil prices were the main factors hurting the outlook for growth, but that more time was needed to assess if the central bank would release further monetary stimulus as a result.

"As a result, renewed downside risks to the outlook for growth and inflation have emerged. For many of these changes, it is too early to judge with sufficient confidence whether they will cause lasting slippage from the trajectory that we initially expected inflation to follow when we decided to expand our asset purchase programme in January," Draghi said in a speech addressed to the European Parliament's Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs.

The central bank chief also said that it was too soon to determine how bad the loss of growth in emerging markets was and whether the economic situation seen in the region was temporary or permanent.

"We will therefore monitor closely all relevant incoming information and its impact on the outlook for price stability," he added.

The Frankfurt-based ECB committed to pump some 1.1 trillion euros into the currency bloc earlier in the year in an effort to revive the euro zone's drooping economy and lackluster inflation outlook.

Read more: Draghi: More risks to growth outlook have emerged

NATO signs agreements with Ukrainian government

NATO’s secretary general has taken part in a meeting of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, during which a number of agreements were signed.

They included partnership in communications and agreement on the status of NATO’s Mission in Ukraine. Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko said he might bring up the issue of peacekeepers in the Donbass at the upcoming UN General Assembly.

“Russian troops are present in Ukraine. And they continue to support separatists with training, with equipment, with command and control. And therefore I call on Russia to withdraw all its forces from Eastern Ukraine and to fully implement the Minsk agreements,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Russia continues to deny involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, but from being more than 60% against NATO membership before fighting began, Ukrainian public opinion has changed dramatically.

“About 64% of Ukrainian voters said they would vote for joining NATO. They indicated: the main reason for joining was that it would guarantee the safety of the country in future. The second reason was that NATO membership would be the first step on the road to join the EU,” said Sociologist Maria Zolkina from the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation.

Earlier Poroshenko and Stoltenberg reviewed troops at the Peacekeeping and Security Centre of the Ukrainian army in Lviv in western Ukraine. however NATO once again declined to supply Ukraine with weapons.

“Petro Poroshenko has announced that Ukraine will hold a referendum on joining the military alliance.

However, the poll will not take place in the near future. Before the referendum is held, the state needs to implement a number of serious reforms. First of all, Ukraine should reestablish peace and stability in its eastern regions and bring Ukrainian Armed Forces in line with NATO standards,” reports euronews’ Maria Korenyuk.

Read more: NATO signs agreements with Ukrainian government | euronews, world news


Aircraft Industry: China-Russia Plane Deal: Airliner Co-Development Agreement By End Of 2015 - by Tim Marcin

Models of the ARJ21 regional jet from Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China are displayed at the Aviation Expo China 2015 in Beijing, Sept. 16, 2015. The Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China and Russia's United Aircraft Corporation are set to sign an agreement on developing a wide-body airliner by the end of the year.  
Russia and China are set to sign an agreement to co-develop a wide-bodied airliner by the end of 2015, China Daily reported Monday. The deal, apparently long in the works, would bring together two state-run aircraft companies in an attempt to take on Europe's Airbus and the United States' Boeing.

The deal with China's Commercial Aircraft Corp., or Comac, which would outline initial profit sharing and responsibilities, was scheduled to be signed by the end of the year. Further details would be decided upon by March of next year, said Yury Slyusar, president of Russia's state-controlled United Aircraft Corporation, according to the report from China Daily.

"So far, the project has proceeded well, and we plan to determine the technical requirements, specifications and outsourcing methods in March," Slyusar said, according to China Daily.

United Aircraft Corporation and Comac have been working on the joint development deal since May 2014, Reuters reported. Russia had been gauging interest in developing a wide-body airliner with China since 2012, but Comac initially expressed a lack of interest.

Read more: China-Russia Plane Deal: Airliner Co-Development Agreement By End Of 2015 Planned

Germany: VW scandal - What′s the dirt on diesel engines?

There are two crucial differences between diesel fuel and gasoline. The former is far less flammable, and as a result it contains more energy. A cubic meter of diesel will yield around 9800 kilowatt-hours of work, and the same amount of gasoline yields just 8760 kWh.

This means, rather obviously, that diesel engines are more efficient, because less fuel is needed to run them. Additionally, diesel is cheaper than gasoline, because there is much more of it at refineries when compared to other natural gas products, for instance, kerosene and benzene.

The low flammability of diesel makes the fuel more secure in car engines; however, it also means that diesel engines must be designed differently. While a gas-powered engine is injected with a mixture of air and gasoline by the carburetor itself, the pistons of a diesel engine are filled at first with air or a combination of air and exhaust. This is compressed to 20 bars of pressure and heated to 900 degrees Celsius, and then the diesel fuel is injected into the combustion chamber. Fine droplets of diesel are evaporated and ignited.

The higher efficiency of a diesel engine is due not only to the fuel's higher energy density; the compression of a diesel engine bay is much higher, which also accounts for its higher degree of efficiency.

Read more: VW scandal - What′s the dirt on diesel engines? | Sci-Tech | DW.COM | 22.09.2015

Greece: Thomas Piketty Responds To Surprise Greek Election Result - by Thomas Piketty

In the wake of a surprise re-election of Alexis Tsipras and Syriza, Thomas Piketty discusses the need for a more active approach from European leaders when it comes to the Greek question – and for a eurozone parliament to be established.

Europe need to make up for lost time. Until now, Europe has obstinately refused to talk seriously about restructuring Greece’s debt. That was what caused the downfall of the last government.

Europe had in effect implied that it would reconsider the debt as soon as the Greeks managed to balance their budget with a small primary budget surplus – which meant Greece would have more revenues than public spending. But when the Greeks appealed for help in December 2014, Europe said “no”.

That is what ultimately opened the path for Alexis Tsipras.

And the situation continued. Between January and July 2015, Europe refused to reopen talks. Now it’s September and the new support package that was discussed this summer has led to the further postponement of debt negotiations. If Europe insists on repayment, there will be fresh crises and the problem will not be resolved.

Europe has other problems to tackle. There is the migrant crisis and the wider economic situation. Europe, Germany and France can’t exist in a permanent state of crisis. Europeans need to adjust their position. And for that to happen, France needs to have more courage – others too. Perhaps the elections in Spain at the end of this year will change things. All these elements can combine to influence majority politics in Europe when it comes to the Greek question.

Read More: Thomas Piketty Responds To Surprise Greek Election Result

Internet: EU lawmakers fight cries of ‘digital protectionism - by Adam Sneed

As Europe’s digital chief heads stateside today, a coalition of EU lawmakers is speaking out against accusations that their continent is engaging in “digital protectionism.” Those claims have come from a number of American officials and executives — including President Barack Obama — in light of Europe’s efforts to unify its digital market as well as regulatory actions against Apple, Google, Amazon and others.

“As Members of European Parliament we are surprised and concerned about the strong statements coming from U.S. sources about regulatory and legislative proposals on the digital agenda for the EU,” they write in a statement to be released today, signed by more than 50 lawmakers. “The political debates on the way forward are not a 'Transatlantic rift' and should not be made into one. Rather they represent different views and beliefs that run right through our societies. We consider close cooperation between the EU and the U.S. as vital in a changing world.”

EU commissioner for digital affairs, told The Wall Street Journal over the weekend. He’s starting a U.S. trip today to meet with government officials and Silicon Valley executives, including Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, where he’ll try to ease concerns that the EU’s actions are targeting the American tech sector ( Oettinger is scheduled to speak more on the subject Thursday morning at the Center for Transatlantic Relations

Read more: EU lawmakers fight cries of ‘digital protectionism - POLI

EU-Middle East: ISIS Defectors Reveal Frustration Over Corruption, Atrocities and Sunni Infighting - by Jack Moore

An increasing number of ISIS fighters are becoming disillusioned with the group and defecting from its ranks, according to a new study published on Monday. Furthermore, Western governments should protect these defectors from reprisals and legal "disincentives" to encourage them to speak out about the group, the study says.

A report published by the London-based International Center for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) at King's College London, entitled Victims, Perpetrators, Assets: The Narratives of Islamic State Defectors, argues that governments and activists should "recognize the value and credibility" of defectors speaking out against the group and should assist in their "resettlement" and "safety."

The jihadi monitoring think tank, which has tracked foreign fighters traveling to and from the terror group's self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria, has recorded 58 defectors in total but says that these only "represent a small fraction" of the total number as there are many more who are unwilling to come forward for fear of reprisals or imprisonment.

Read more: ISIS Defectors Reveal Frustration Over Corruption, Atrocities and Sunni Infighting: Study


Goldman Sachs and the Vatican: Two Cultures of Infallibility - by Stephan Richter

From the perspective of Goldman’s management, the recent path of the Catholic Church is probably the most nightmarish thing to think about — assuming their imagination and sense of seriousness reaches this far.

Look at the long list of parallels: None, of course, is more powerful — and disastrous — than Goldman’s and the Vatican’s unceasing belief in the doctrine of infallibility.

The rot, one says, starts at the top — and in the age of democracy and participatory learning, no organization can successfully hold onto the belief that, as far as dealings with the outside world are concerned, its staff members are really incorrigible.

I am not suggesting that there isn’t plenty of rigorous debate about the organizations’ direction and business (or spiritual) practices — but it occurs strictly in the inner sanctum.

The instrument of doubt plays a role in both organizational learning cultures. However, it is viewed solely as a method of rigorous inquisition to come to a decision internally, which — once made — is upheld externally with a united front. One for all, all for one.

With regard to interactions with the outside, such a frame of mind can quickly result in presenting a fiercely clannish, if not secretive, front. That unquestioned commitment to the cause, 24x7x365, surely breeds a strong internal culture, but it also makes the organization as a whole ripe for systemic denial. In short, wrongdoing simply cannot occur because we are perfect, aren’t we?

What Goldman must realize is that the Vatican had tried to hush things up. It simply could not happen here, it argued. But the harder and longer it tried, the more pushback there was among the victims.

It is simply inconceivable that a firm with the breadth and depth of Goldman’s client dealings in the markets — and its relentless hunger for profit maximization — did not leave behind a lot of broken china.

The second applicable lesson for Goldman which the Vatican’s troubles foreshadow is this: While child molestation and sexual abuse are definitely qualitatively different charges than manipulating financial markets, the ultimate fallout of denial on one’s reputation, financial well-being and inner morale may well be the same.

It all starts with the inner logic of the real temptation — “overlooking” the respective crime in question. Regarding the internal culture of the two organizations, there are stunning parallels.

Both cultures are rooted in an intense sense of loyalty to the “company.” Both firms’ staff members have a strong sense of mission, even though one is very much focused on the immaterial, while the other is very material-minded.

Readmore: Goldman Sachs and the Vatican: Two Cultures of Infallibility - The Globalist

The Netherlands - Insurance Industry: Family doctors can work together to make deals with insurers

The Dutch consumer and markets authority ACM is to give family doctors and other health practitioners more leeway to work together to negotiate fees with health insurance companies.

The ACM’s chairman Chris Fonteijn told the NRC at the weekend that doctors and physiotherapists can work together if it is in the interests of the patient. What they may not do is divide up areas between them, boycott a health insurer as a group or stop new doctors setting up practices, Fonteijn said. In addition, doctors who do break competition laws will be given a warning before the ACM issues fines, he said.

The Dutch consumer and markets authority ACM is to give family doctors and other health practitioners more leeway to work together to negotiate fees with health insurance companies. The ACM’s chairman Chris Fonteijn told the NRC at the weekend that doctors and physiotherapists can work together if it is in the interests of the patient.

What they may not do is divide up areas between them, boycott a health insurer as a group or stop new doctors setting up practices, Fonteijn said. In addition, doctors who do break competition laws will be given a warning before the ACM issues fines, he said.

Read more: Family doctors can work together to make deals with insurers: ACM -

US Presidential Elections: Ben Carson: the US president should not be a Muslim - by Martin Pengelly

Religiously, the concept of the separation of church and state has practically no hold in Islamic thinking. The idea is entirely foreign to most Islamic orthodoxy, and even if a political party were secular in name, they dare not forsake the basic tenets of Islam.

In his NBC interview, Carson was asked: “So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the constitution?”
“No,” he said, “I don’t, I do not.”

Article VI of the US constitution states: “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

The first amendment to the constitution begins: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”

Carson, a Christian, is a member of the Seventh Day Adventist church. In October, he will publish a new book, written with his wife Candy Carson and entitled A More Perfect Union: What We the People Can Do to Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties.

Note EU-Digest:  At least Ben Carson had the courage to make this statement and make clear that Islam is inherently and by definition inconsistent with the separation of church and state. With very few exceptions (Turkey) religiously, the concept of the separation of church and state has practically no hold in Islamic thinking.

The idea is entirely foreign to most Islamic orthodoxy, and even if a political party were secular in name, they dare not forsake the basic tenets of Islam.

Read more: Ben Carson says no Muslim should ever become US president | US news | The Guardian


Greek election live: Alexis Tsipras celebrates victory - as it happened

With most of the ballot papers counted, Syriza is leading with a 35.5% share of the vote compared with 28.2% for the centre-right New Democracy party. Speaking in Athens, Tsipras declared the election a victory for the people. “This victory belongs to the people and those who dream of a better tomorrow and we’ll achieve it with hard work,” he said.

Jubilant supporters, clearly relieved at the result, took to the streets in celebration, with many singing and dancing outside Syriza’s main election marquee in central Athens.

Tsipras told supporters that he would tackle endemic corruption in the country. “The mandate that the Greek people have given is is a crystal clear mandate to get rid of the regime of corruption and vested issues,” he said. “We will show how effective we will be. We will make Greece a stronger place for the weak and vulnerable, a fairer place.”

Read more:Greek election live: Alexis Tsipras celebrates victory - as it happened | World news | The Guardian

Russia - Deutsche Bank ends Russian operations

Deutsche Bank has confirmed its closing part of its business in Russia as a result of sanctions and investigations into share trades.

The German firm says the move is part of a review of its global structure. Its corporate banking and securities will close while its corporate finance and markets businesses will operate from international hubs instead.

The closure will lead to the loss of some 200 jobs.

Read more: Deutsche Banks ends Russian operations | euronews, economy

CUBA-Vatican: Under the white robe a shrewed politician with objectives that have little to do with Christianity

Astrid Prange writes in the German DW - "Can praying be sin? In Cuba, one definitely does not need to respond to this question with a 'no.' Pope Francis, the third leader of the Catholic Church to travel to Cuba, prays politically.

His calls for help from heaven could help re-shape the foundations of the one-party system established by the old revolutionaries.

During his visit to Cuba, the Pope has urged Cubans to freely practice their religion, a right that is included in the Cuban constitution, but often disregarded in practice. He aims to push for the renovation of existing churches and the construction of new ones and for Internet access for parishes so they can establish their own media. He has been hinting that the Catholic Church could, once again, run schools, universities and hospitals.

Pope Francis' demands are more than just a "mediation prize" for the Vatican's successful diplomacy, which has encouraged the rapprochement between Havana and Washington. They are also telling us that religious freedom means more than just holding church services, worshiping saints and taking part in processions without worrying about the secret police.

Religious freedom is a human right that touches the innermost selves of people and is one the pillars of an open-minded, democratic society. In Cuba, the growing political influence of the Vatican can become a catalyst for reforms. Years ago, when the Soviet Union was falling apart, the Catholic Church was striving for this role. Now it seems like the Church's time has come.

And if that were not enough: once again, the Catholic Church is going down in Latin American history. In the 1960s and 1970s, revolutionary liberation theology, a religious movement in the New World, startled the cardinals in Rome. Now, liberation theology - personified in Pope Francis - has arrived in the Vatican and has put the old socialist revolutionaries in Havana in an uneasy state.

Read moreA holy revolution: Pope Francis in Cuba | Opinion | DW.COM | 20.09.2015