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2/28/15

USA - the Keystone Project - Obama vetoes world's dirtiest oil pipeline-by Steve Benson

Following through on his vow to drill down and sink the Keystone Pipeline, President Obama finally did so, justifying its nixing on the grounds that supporters hadn't followed long-standing procedure for demonstrating that the pipeline -- a centerpiece of the GOP's devotion to profits over planet -- was in the national interest.

House Speaker John Boehner called the president's move "a national embarrassment." Congressional override is unlikely, since the Repubs need Dems to do it.

The plan for the pipeline was to chug millions of gallons of Canadian tar sands crude some 1,700 miles down through the heartland of America and into the pockets of corporations. Environmentalists said no. Republicans said it was the end of business-as-usual as we know it.

 Read more: Obama vetoes world's dirtiest oil pipeline

Russia to Take $50 Billion From Reserve Fund This Year to Plug Swelling Deficit

Russia plans to spend more than $50 billion from its emergency Reserve Fund in 2015 as falling oil prices and a slumping economy cause the government's deficit to rise.

First Deputy Finance Minister Tatiana Nesterenko said Friday the government would ask parliament to allow the spending of up to 3.2 trillion rubles ($52.36 billion) from the Reserve Fund in 2015, including 500 billion rubles already envisaged in the budget.

The increase means that Russia could spend well over half of the fund, currently worth $85 billion, in a single year — a rapid run-down of the fiscal buffers that underlines the precarious state of government finances.

Russia is presently revising its budget for this year, which was based on the assumption the oil price would be $100 per barrel — well above its current level of around $60 per barrel. Ministers have previously said the budget will now assume an average oil price of $50 per barrel.

Read more: Russia to Take $50 Billion From Reserve Fund This Year to Plug Swelling Deficit | Business | The Moscow Times

Palestine: Italy urges recognition of Palestinian state

Italian MPs have backed a non-binding resolution that urges the government to recognise Palestine as a state.

Italy’s Chamber of Deputies voted by 300 to 45 to pass the motion presented by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party.

But they failed to back a move supported by the left wing Left Ecology and Liberty party that would have “fully and formally recognised the Palestinian State.”

While most developing countries recognise Palestine as a state, most Western European nations do not, supporting the Israeli and US positions that an independent Palestinian state should emerge from negotiations with Israel.Middle East:

Read more: Italy urges recognition of Palestinian state | euronews, world news

Global Economy: Globalisation And Technology Drive Insecurity - by Paul Sweeney

People are insecure. Young people worry about getting a decent job, finding a secure home and having to pay off the vast debts run up in the decade of uber-liberal economic policies of European governments to 2007.

Elderly people worry about their security in old age, access to decent health care, about their children getting jobs or being forced to emigrate.

A recent Eurofound study concluded that 14% of jobs in Europe are high-paid good jobs; 37% are well-balanced good jobs; 29% are poorly balanced jobs; and 20% are poor quality jobs. Thus almost half of all those at work are not in good jobs.

Yet we have never had such high incomes or wealth. This is in spite of the six years of the Great Recession. Total national income is substantially higher than what it was a generation ago. Yet only a generation ago too, jobs and pensions were more secure, homes were easier to find and health care was not such a big worry.

What has led to today’s insecurity? The big drivers of insecurity are globalisation and technology. They have shifted low skilled jobs and now even middle income jobs offshore, created intense competition, change and uncertainty. They give great power to large corporations, while undermining the power of states and of organised labour. Crucially, they have also changed the nature of politics.

Globalisation and technology have been key drivers in the three-decade-long (a generation) decline in the share of national income of workers and the self-employed and its corresponding shift to wealthy people and corporations A few countries like Ireland witnessed the boom of catching up with the rest of Europe for 20 years, when overall earnings rose so the seismic shift in income was not so evident, but thanks to the Great Recession, it now is.

Both globalisation and technology have reduced labour’s bargaining power through offshoring, through sectoral shifts in employment from manufacturing to services, from large units to smaller ones and to autonomous, self-employed working. It has facilitated the massive decline in corporate governance – in the way firms are run and what their objectives are. It boosted the pay of the elite to extraordinary levels that have nothing to do with performance. Both have also facilitated financialisation – where finance rules the real economy.

Globalisation has also reduced financial disclosure, blurring our knowledge of the real ownership and control of business. It has led to the privatisation of swathes of public services, and these privatised public services are increasingly run by big, non-competing oligopolies. It has facilitated increased tax evasion and tax avoidance on unprecedented scales by the wealthy and by large companies. The Luxleaks and HSBC exposures are only the tip of this iceberg of tax cheating on an industrial scale in some countries.

Read more: How Globalisation And Technology Drive Insecurity

European Aircraft Industry: Enders’ game at Airbus reaps rich rewards in 2014

If any industry is a barometer of global economic health it is the aircraft and airlines businesses, and Airbus has just released figures suggesting the sky’s the limit.

Although its military arm is flagging, with 6400 jobs in Germany at risk and continuing problems with its A400 military transport leading to Airbus looking for a buyer, commercial planes are doing very well.

However with the A380 it has a trump card, the world’s largest passenger plane which is interesting more and more clients.

With its 2014 annual report, the company has broken several records.
Jon Davies, euronews: “Joining me now from Munich is the Airbus CEO Tom Enders. Mr. Enders, earnings are up 60%, are  you100% happy with the report?”

Tom Enders:  “I’m 100% happy, it was a pretty good year in 2014, we met most of our operational targets, the commercial momentum was very strong, we achieved major milestones and I think that reflects pretty well in the ebit, in the free cash flow which is very important for us, and certainly in the earnings.”

Read more: Enders’ game at Airbus reaps rich rewards in 2014 | euronews, corporate

The Pantheon of Human Liberty: Edward Snowden and the Great Removal - by Thomas L. Knapp

Thomas Paine
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden continues to loom large in the world’s daily news. Revelations from the trove of data he disclosed to journalists roll out on a near-weekly basis, followed by denials and excuses from politicians and bureaucrats he exposes as responsible for rights violations around the world. Citizenfour, a documentary covering his heroic actions on behalf of the public, just grabbed the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

It’s easy to get lost in the minutiae of Snowden’s individual disclosures. And that’s OK. Each disclosure tells us something important about those who rule us. But there’s more to it than the details. There’s a bigger picture.

In a February 23 “Ask Me Anything” discussion on Reddit, Snowden encapsulated that bigger picture. “[W]e the people,” he wrote, “will implement systems that provide for a means of not just enforcing our rights, but removing from governments the ability to interfere with those rights” (emphasis Snowden’s).

That’s the whole ballgame right there, folks. The purpose of political government has never been, as the US Declaration of Independence claims, “to secure these rights [life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness] … deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The purpose of political government has always been to monopolize violations of rights and to use those violations to redistribute power, control and wealth from you to the political class.

Many — perhaps most — of us don’t get it. Sometimes Snowden himself doesn’t seem quite sure of it. But the politicians know it deep down in their guts.

When the world’s panicked potentates and powermongers squeal that people like Snowden make it more difficult for them to “protect” us, what they really mean is that people like Snowden unlock and open the doors of the cages we’re kept in.

The politicians aren’t afraid of bad actors getting in. They’re afraid of us getting out. Worse, they’re afraid that while we’re out, we’ll realize we never needed them. They fear that the final shred of the emperor’s clothes — the notion that the state is a “necessary evil” — will fall away, revealing them to us in all their nakedness as the unnecessary evil they’ve always been. And that fear is fully justified.

Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden (among others; Barrett Brown and Ross Ulbricht also come immediately to mind) have earned their places as central figures in the pantheon of human liberty.

They will one day be revered (indeed, they already are among many) as modern-day Thomas Paines.

Paine’s work brought down the British Empire in one small corner of Earth; it also inspired and informed the revolution in France. The effects reverberate across more than two centuries of human history down to this very day. Snowden and those others are in the process of completing Paine’s mission by bringing down the global political class’s preferred governance model of the last 400 years, the Westphalian nation-state.

Snowden’s Great Removal is in progress and unstoppable. It deserves our enthusiastic embrace.

Read more: Edward Snowden and the Great Removal » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

Medical Breakthrough? Enlisting Viruses as Commandos in a War on Cancer - Mike Hale

Friday night’s HBO  “Vice Special Report: Killing Cancer” is a change of pace in several ways. The topic is less sexy and more universal than the “Vice” norm, and the approach is straightforward and relatively calm. 

With a little more hedging and a more modulated and dressed-up correspondent, it could just as well be on “60 Minutes” or PBS.

The reporter in this case is Shane Smith, the Vice co-founder, chief executive and alpha dog, sporting a black T-shirt and an unregenerate Canadian accent. He begins the 40-minute report by explaining how cancer has touched his own life, then drops in on four hospitals doing revolutionary research into the use of retrofitted viruses — for the common cold, measles, smallpox and H.I.V. — to identify and attack cancerous cells.

Mr. Smith points out that the use of H.I.V. and T-cells to fight leukemia by Dr. Carl June at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia was first widely publicized in a series of articles in The New York Times, and the “Vice” report can be seen as a wide-ranging and poignant follow-up. Documenting the case of Emily Whitehead (also known as Emma), the first child to receive the experimental treatment, it juxtaposes film of the bald, sad-eyed 6-year-old girl with the currently healthy Emily, still cancer-free more than two years later. Interviewed by Mr. Smith, she concentrates on the charm bracelet she’s stringing, clearly tired of talking about being sick.

The methods Mr. Smith reports on are only at the clinical-trial stage — Dr. June speculates that his T-cell therapy might be publicly available by 2016 — and presumably there’s little data so far on relapse rates. Mr. Smith slips in qualifiers, citing “seemingly miraculous results,” but he’s clearly a believer, not afraid of using the word “cure.” The doctors themselves are more cautious — one says, “We know we’re on the right path” — but still, there are Dr. June’s limited but impressive results: complete remission in 90 percent of 39 children with leukemia.

Lately, Vice Media has been in the news over a lavish dinner paid for by Mr. Smith as well its metastasizing corporate presence in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The return of its television series, which begins a third season next Friday with more typical topics including the militarization of police forces and the way gang violence in Central America drives immigration to the United States, may be a welcome diversion.

Read more: Enlisting Viruses as Commandos in a War on Cancer - NYTimes.com

2/27/15

Terrorism:"Jihadi John’ Whose Real Name is Mohammed Emwazi Wanted Dead or Alive

Wanted Dead or Alive Mohammed Emwazi alias Jihadi John
The world knows him as “Jihadi John,” the masked man with a British accent who has beheaded several hostages held by the Islamic State and who taunts audiences in videos circulated widely online.

But his real name, according to friends and others familiar with his case, is Mohammed Emwazi, a Briton from a well-to-do family who grew up in West London and graduated from college with a degree in computer programming.

He is believed to have traveled to Syria around 2012 and to have later joined the Islamic State, the group whose barbarity he has come to symbolize.

 The families of hostages killed by ISIL have been reacting to the naming of a British militant who fronted some of the beheading videos.

Will Mohammed Emwazi be killed, captured by the people chasing him or has his discovery become a liability for ISIS who will execute him themselves - or is this all a hoax - lets not hope so.

Some are calling for Mohammed Emwazi, known as Jihadi John, to be caught alive to face justice.

The Kuwaiti-born man first appeared in a video in 2013 showing the murder of US journalist James Foley.

The victim’s mother, Diane Foley, told reporters: “He (Emwazi) did have the benefits of a comfortable upbringing and yet he’s using gifts and talents for such hatred and brutality.”

EU-Digest


France - France wants imams to learn secular values as part of new anti-radicalisation push

France said Wednesday it will encourage imams to take civics lessons amid fears of growing radicalisation among its Muslim community. But could the country be jeopardizing its secularist tradition by treading on religious ground?

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Wednesday outlined plans to combat radicalisation among France’s large and diverse Muslim community, with the emphasis of the reforms placed on opening channels of dialogue between the government and Muslim leaders.

Cazeneuve said France would establish a new forum for dialogue that would include the participation of the official French Muslim Council (CFCM), as well as imams and intellectuals who represent a wider section of Muslims living in the country. The minister said better protecting Mosques and Muslim centres amid an escalation in Islamophobic attacks was also on the agenda.

However, one announcement drew particular attention: the French government will push imams to take university-level civics classes. French authorities are acutely aware of the conundrum this last reform poses. France’s staunchly-defended laicité, its strict interpretation of the division between church and state, prevents the government from intervening in the organisation of a religious group.

Cazeneuve was quick to underscore that the diploma in French secularism would not be mandatory for imams, unless they were Muslim chaplains working in prisons or the military.

Read more: France - France wants imams to learn secular values as part of new anti-radicalisation push - France 24

Russia: Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov shot dead in Moscow

A leading Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov has been shot dead in Moscow.

According to several Russian news agencies, the 56-year-old former deputy prime minister was gunned down while walking with a woman near the Kremlin.

He is said to have been shot four times by several people who got out of a car.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and during Boris Yeltsin’s time in charge at the Kremlin, Nemtsov made his name as a western orientated free market reformer.

More recently, he co-founded the anti-Putin movement Solidarity, with chess champion Garry Kasparov, in an effort to unite various opposition groups.

Four years ago, he was sentenced to 15 days in jail after taking part in a New Year’s Eve opposition rally.

Note EU-Digest: Mr. Nemtsov was also working on a report about Russia's involvement in Ukraine.

Read more: Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov shot dead in Moscow | euronews, world news

Energy Prices - Another drop for oil?

OilPrice.com reports that oil prices have stabilized somewhat around the $60 per barrel mark, and over the past few weeks oil has shown less volatility than what we have grown used to in the preceding six or seven months.

But another swoon could be just over the horizon. That is because oil producers are starting to run out of storage. As production has soared and global demand has failed to keep up, oil producers have been diverting oil into storage tanks at a remarkable rate since last summer.

The latest EIA data shows that weekly inventories jumped by another 7.7 million barrels, with total inventories now having reached 425.6 million barrels. That is the
highest level of oil sitting in storage in over 80 years, and more than 20% higher than the five-year average.

The data is also important because it highlights two things. First, oil production has not leveled off yet, despite several months of prices sitting below the breakeven mark for many producers. But also, the data indicates that U.S. producers may soon start to top off storage tanks. If production does not decline and oil storage capacity begins to run out, the glut of oil on the market could worsen pretty quickly, sending prices down once again.


Rig counts continue to decline amid weak prices. Data from North Dakota shows that drillers are retreating to core production areas, or “sweet spots.” The number of North Dakota rigs in operation has fallen from 190 to 121, dipping below a key threshold of 130 that state regulators believe is critical to keeping production from contracting. But importantly, rig counts have fallen much quicker in the periphery, with rigs becoming increasingly concentrated in just four North Dakota counties that account for 89% of the state’s production. Still, the core areas are not necessarily safe, and a few more months of weak prices could finally lead to a drop in production.

On the other side of the world, the Russian Arctic is also seeing a pullback in activity. Although the culprit is not entirely, or even primarily, the collapse of oil prices, Russian state-owned firm Rosneft has
announced plans to postpone exploration of 12 Arctic licenses. Rosneft had ambitious plans to tap Arctic oil with the help of several international oil majors, but western sanctions have forbidden the involvement of those firms. While the Russian government originally scoffed at western sanctions when they were introduced last year, the major delay to Russia’s Arctic dreams demonstrates that the West’s ploys are having a bite.  


EU-Digest







 

2/26/15

Madonna attacks intolerance and says Europe ‘feels like Nazi Germany’

Madonna has lashed out at intolerance in Europe, saying it is now so high in France and across the continent that “it feels like Nazi Germany”.

Speaking to French radio station Europe 1 in an interview to be aired on Friday morning, Madonna said “antisemitism is at an all-time high” in France and elsewhere in Europe, and likened the atmosphere to the period when German fascism was on the ascent.

“We’re living in crazy times,” the 56-year-old singer said, calling the situation “scary,” and lamenting what she described as France’s lost tradition of welcoming diversity and honouring freedom.

“It was a country that embraced everyone and encouraged freedom in every way, shape or form – artistic expression of freedom,” Madonna said. “Now that’s completely gone.

“France was once a country that accepted people of colour, and was a place artists escaped to, whether it was Josephine Baker or Charlie Parker.”

In fact, Parker only visited France briefly to play concert engagements, and unlike jazz legends such as Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke and Dexter Gordon, never took up French residency.

The globally acclaimed entertainer also spoke out in 2012 when she denounced the rise of xenophobia and extreme-right parties in Europe.

She said her earlier comments were made when “I was receiving a lot of criticism and threats from Marine Le Pen” and her National Front party, which Madonna described as “fascist”.

Read more:: Madonna attacks intolerance and says Europe ‘feels like Nazi Germany’ | World news | The Guardian

Corporate Tax Evasion: Activists look to take bite out of McDonalds for EU tax avoidance - by Obert Hackwill

:America’s fast food giant McDonalds is being accused of setting up an elaborate tax avoidance scheme.

Labour unions backed by the War on Want charity have asked the European Commission to expand an existing investigation into Fiat and Amazon to include the burger chain, and look into where more than a billion euros of unclaimed tax went between 2009 and 2013. They say revenues were routed through low-tax Luxembourg, making royalty payments to a subsidiary.

“More and more companies do it, it’s becoming almost impossible to supervise the companies, while millions of citizens have to pay their taxes everywhere,” says the European Union Public Services’ Federation’s Pablo Sanchez.

McDonalds insists its actions have respected existing legislation and that it has done nothing wrong. The fast-food firm adds its tax bill last year in France alone was over a billion euros.

Read more: Activists look to take bite out of McDonalds for EU tax avoidance | euronews, world news

US Jews brace for Netanyahu’s ‘ill-advised’ Congress speech

By accepting a Republican invitation to address the US Congress next week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not only upset the White House and the Democrats, he’s also rattled America’s largely liberal Jewish community.

“Like an increasing number of American Jews, I want to make it clear that Netanyahu does not speak for me,” wrote Rabbi David Teutsch in the Huffington Post last week, adding that he had never spoken out publicly against a sitting Israeli official before but could not ignore the “train wreck” that he considers Netanyahu’s speech on March 3 to be.

“Netanyahu's decision to accept Republican leaders' invitation to address Congress [which did not involve consultations with the White House, thereby “breaching protocol”] has dealt a major blow to the long-time United States-Israel alliance,” said Teutsch, who heads the Philadelphia-based Center for Jewish Ethics. “Taking the Republican side is an attack on President Obama and the Democratic Party.”

Unlike their Israeli and even American counterparts, American Jews are overwhelmingly Democratic, progressive, and steadfast in their support of President Barack Obama. According to a Pew survey published in October 2013, 70 percent of Jews count themselves as Democrats or leaning towards the Democratic Party, while only 22 percent identify as Republican or GOP-leaning.

The survey also revealed that while generally wary of publicly criticising the Jewish State, most US Jews disagree with the current Israeli administration on fundamental Middle Eastern issues, including Iran, Palestinian statehood and ongoing settlement construction.

Only 17 percent of American Jews support the continued construction of settlements in the West Bank – a policy which has thrived under Netanyahu. Just 38 percent said they felt the Israeli government under Netanyahu was making “a sincere effort to establish peace with the Palestinians”.

A poll in November 2014 meanwhile found that among that same demographic, 57 percent approved of Obama's performance as president.

So it comes as little surprise that a move which has pitted the Israeli prime minister against the US president has left many Israeli Jews feeling frustrated.

Read more Americas - US Jews brace for Netanyahu’s ‘ill-advised’ Congress speech - France 24

Israel: Has Netanyahu Finally Gone Too Far With His Contempt for Obama? - by Kevin Drum

I keep wondering if it's ever possible for Benjamin Netanyahu to go too far. He's treated President Obama with truly astonishing levels of contempt and disdain for nearly his entire tenure, and he's done it in the apparent belief that his political support in the US is so strong and so bipartisan that he'll never be held to account for it. And so far he hasn't been.

But what about his latest stunt? The fact that John Boehner invited him to address Congress is hardly surprising. Boehner needed to poke Obama in the eye to demonstrate his conservative bona fides, and this was a perfect opportunity since he knew Netanyahu would deliver plenty of trash talk about Obama's Iran policy.

But the fact that Netanyahu kept the invitation a secret from the administration and failed to even notify them he was planning a visit—well, that's a whole different story. As former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk put it, "Netanyahu is using the Republican Congress for a photo-op for his election campaign....Unfortunately, the US relationship will take the hit. It would be far wiser for us to stay out of their politics and for them to stay out of ours."

And it turns out that even two Fox News hosts agree. Max Fisher relays the story:
Two prominent Fox News hosts, Chris Wallace and Shepherd Smith, harshly criticized Boehner and Netanyahu on Friday for secretly arranging a Netanyahu speech to Congress that is transparently aimed at undermining President Obama, and set up without the White House's knowledge.

Read more: Has Netanyahu Finally Gone Too Far With His Contempt for Obama? | Mother Jones

2/25/15

Turkey: Recep Erdogan vision for Turkey undermined by domestic strife - By Jacob Resneck

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has a vision for a “new Turkey” where he would preside over the country and build a regional military, political and cultural powerhouse from his sprawling new $600 million presidential palace in the capital of Ankara.

But brawls in parliament over Mr. Erdogan’s proposal to give more power to the security services, growing charges of his authoritarianism and blowback over his perceived reluctance to confront the Islamic State militants have become hurdles in the way of Turkish leader’s lofty strongman ambitions.

At a time when the Obama administration could desperately use Ankara’s aid in its struggles across the Turkish border in Iran and the Syrian-based Islamic State, Turkey and its Islamist president seem far more consumed by domestic strife and internal political struggles than by the broader violence and rising chaos in the region it once dreamed of dominating.

“When you put all things together, the place of the president seems not particularly secure,” Bilgi University political scientist Ilter Turan told The Washington Times. “The president seems to be in a paranoid mood where he sees a conspiracy against him and his government often backed by foreign powers.”

Mr. Erdogan, who has dominated the Turkish political scene for more than a decade as prime minister and now as president, is pushing a security bill that would allow for arbitrary searches, detentions without charges and liberal rules of engagement that would allow police to use live ammunition at demonstrations if protesters hurl Molotov cocktails and provoke other violence.

Turkey’s opposition parties and international human rights groups have condemned the proposal. In a country once seen as a model for Islamic democracy in the region, heated exchanges among lawmakers debating the bill devolved into fisticuffs and thrown chairs in parliament twice last week.

Read more: Recep Erdogan vision for Turkey undermined by domestic strife - Washington Times

Terrorism: Australia warns women IS no 'romantic adventure'

A worrying number of Australian women are heading to Iraq and Syria to become so-called Islamic State group "jihadi brides", Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Thursday, warning against notions of a "romantic adventure".

At least 110 Australians have left to fight alongside militants in the Middle East and security officials said between 30 and 40 women were among them or were actively supporting the group in Australia.

"Sadly we are seeing a younger cohort seeking to join the conflict in Syria and Iraq and an increasing number of young females," Bishop said, responding to the high-profile case this week of three British teenage girls heading to Syria.

"This defies logic. Family and friends need to reach out to young people at risk before it's too late."

She cited the case of 22-year-old Amira Karroum who left her Sydney home just before Christmas and died in fighting in Syria. "Her death was not martyrdom, it was a tragic senseless loss," said Bishop.

Read more: Flash - Australia warns women IS no 'romantic adventure' - France 24

EU seeks energy autonomy amid Moscow and Kyiv′s gas dispute

The EU announced plans to re-haul its energy sector on Wednesday.

The European Commission's vice president for energy affairs, Maros Sefcovic, spoke of a "very deep energy transition." Sefcovic called it "undoubtedly the most ambitious energy project" since the formation of the European Coal and Steel Community - the EU's precursor - more than 50 years ago.

Read more: EU seeks energy autonomy amid Moscow and Kyiv′s gas dispute | News | DW.DE | 25.02.2015

Spanish Economy: Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy talks up economic recovery in state of the nation address

Spain’s Prime Minister, gave his annual state of the nation address to the lower house of Spain’s Parliament.

Two thousand and fifteen is a critical year for the prime minister and his centre right People’s Party.

There is a general election in December preceded by local and regional polls in the spring. The electioneering it would appear has got underway.

Read more: Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy talks up economic recovery in state of the nation addresss

Islam: Muslims Must Learn to Define Themselves - by Dean Obeidalla

The inspirational Muslim-Jewish action n Norway recently has to serve as a model for the majority of Muslims who want peace.
You may have heard by now about the event over the weekend where more than 1,000 Muslims joined hands and formed a “peace ring” around a synagogue in Oslo, Norway in sub-zero temperatures. Why? Because the Muslims in that city wanted to make it clear they oppose anti-Semitism. As one of the Muslim organizers, Zeeshan Abdullah, explained: “There’s still hope for humanity, for peace and love, across religious differences and backgrounds.”

So with the Muslims standing side by side with Jews, Norway’s chief Rabbi Michael Melchior sang the traditional song marking the end of the Sabbath. The head of Norway’s Jewish community organization, Ervin Kohn, added, “It is unique that Muslims stand to this degree against anti-Semitism and that fills us with hope… particularly as it’s a grassroots movement of young Muslims.”

This was truly an inspirational event. One that helps define Islam accurately, as opposed to the way ISIS and al Qaeda are striving to define the faith.

This story, happily, did end up going viral. But another story about Muslims this weekend made bigger headlines and top-lined media websites across the country. That was the threat made by the Somali terrorist group Al Shabaab that it was targeting shopping malls in North America, including the Mall of America in Minneapolis. The Norway event got loads of play in social media, and to some extent the traditional media. But the mall threat was top-of-the-hour news everywhere.

EU-Digest

Turkey gets first Christian TV station: by Julia A. Seymour

For the first time, millions of people in Turkey watching government-regulated satellite television will be able to find Christian programming.

Shows created by SAT-7 TÜRK, a satellite TV ministry reaching the Middle East and North Africa, began broadcasting on Turkey’s most-watched satellite, Türksat 4A, in recent weeks, Mission Network News announced. The new channel airs dramas, documentaries, and worship programs, as well as content for women and youth. 

“We are overwhelmed and truly believe it is a miracle that we can finally broadcast on Türksat,” SAT-7 Executive Director Melih Ekener said in a press release. Ekener also said the company had been hoping and praying satellite access since 2006, when it began airing SAT-7 ARABIC.

Note EU-Digest: As Christian TV Comes to Turkey, Martin Luther the great Christian reformer from the 1500's, who modernized Christianity and broke away from the hardline Orthodox Vatican Catholic Church, did away with Latin "only" being spoken from the Pulpit (which no one could understand}, fought for women's rights and abolished celibacy for nuns and priests, comes to mind.

Martin Luther made many profound statements. On what we would today consider freedom of speech he said: "If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.” On faith he said::“We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” .

Turkey today is a Muslim Nation, but 100 years ago Turkey’s Christian minority made up 25 to 30 percent of the population, this has now dwindled to between 100,000 and 200,000 believers, mostly from the Syrian, Greek, Russian, and Armenian Orthodox traditions. 

Christians around the world hope and pray that this first Christian TV station in Turkey will not only reflect truly modern biblical interpretation and teaching, but also inspire their Muslim Brothers and Sisters to follow Martin Luther's footsteps in seeking refreshing non violent ways to also modernize Islam and may God bless them in these efforts.

Read more: WORLD | Turkey gets first Christian TV station | Julia A. Seymour | Feb. 23, 2015

2/24/15

North Sea Oil and gas industry leaders warn: slump in investment could devastate North Sea - by Mark Williamson

Oil and gas firms will slash investment in the North Sea by around 80 per cent in coming years following the oil price slump potentially leaving parts of the area abandoned, industry leaders have warned.

The cuts in spending could result in billions of barrels resources going unrecovered including 1.7 billion held in existing fields, it is feared.

The warning follows publication of the latest survey of North Sea firms by Oil & Gas UK. This shows the fall in the oil price since June is taking a heavy toll on the area, where firms have radically cut their investment plans over the last year.

The industry body found the UK North Sea industry spent £5.3bn more than it got from oil and gas sales last year, the worst result since the 1970s. The tax take for the UK Government fell by 40 per cent to £2.8bn, the lowest level in more than 20 years.

Oil & Gas UK found annual investment in projects like bringing new fields into production is set to fall from a record £14.8 billion last year to just £2.5bn in 2018.

With the industry facing greater uncertainty than ever, Oil & Gas UK said a number of projects that have been approved may yet be cancelled.

Malcolm Webb, chief executive of Oil & Gas UK, said the survey painted a bleak picture of conditions in an industry that supports hundreds of thousands of highly skilled jobs. Many of these are in Scotland.

Read more: Oil and gas industry leaders warn: slump in investment could devastate North Sea | Herald Scotland

France - Mystery drones fly over US embassy, Paris landmarks

At least five drones were spotted flying over central Paris landmarks during the night and the operators have not been apprehended, a security source said Tuesday.


The first drone sighting was near the US embassy in the French capital. The Eiffel Tower, the Place de la Concorde and the Invalides military museum "were also flown over" in the early hours of Tuesday, the source said.

"It could be a coordinated action but we don't know for now," the source, who asked not to be identified, said. "We did everything to try and catch the operators but they were not found," another source close to the investigation said.

France has experienced a series of mysterious drone appearances in the last few months. On January 20, a pilotless aircraft briefly went over the presidential palace in Paris, while around 20 drones were earlier seen flying above nuclear power plants.

Read mpre" France - Mystery drones fly over US embassy, Paris landmarks - France 24

Greece: Reading The Greek Deal Correctly - by K. Galbraith

On Friday as news of the Brussels deal came through, Germany claimed victory and it is no surprise that most of the working press bought the claim. They have high authorities to quote and to rely on. Thus from London The Independent reported:
several analysts agreed that the results of the talks amounted to a humiliating defeat for Greece.
No details followed, the analysts were unnamed, and their affiliations went unstated – although further down two were quoted and both work for banks. Many similar examples could be given, from both sides of the Atlantic.

The New Yorker is another matter. It is an independent magazine, with a high reputation, written for a detached audience. And John Cassidy is an analytical reporter. Readers are inclined to take him seriously and when he gets something wrong, it matters. Cassidy’s analysis appeared under the headline, “How Greece Got Outmaneuvered” and his lead paragraph contains this sentence:
Greece’s new left-wing Syriza government had been telling everyone for weeks that it wouldn’t agree to extend the bailout, and that it wanted a new loan agreement that freed its hands, which marks the deal as a capitulation by Syriza and a victory for Germany and the rest of the E.U. establishment.
In fact, there was never any chance for a loan agreement that would have wholly freed Greece’s hands. Loan agreements come with conditions. The only choices were an agreement with conditions, or no agreement and no conditions. The choice had to be made by February 28, beyond which date ECB support for the Greek banks would end. No agreement would have meant capital controls, or else bank failures, debt default, and early exit from the Euro. SYRIZA was not elected to take Greece out of Europe. Hence, in order to meet electoral commitments, the relationship between Athens and Europe had to be “extended” in some way acceptable to both.

Read more: Reading The Greek Deal Correctly

Israel: Leaked documents allege Israel PM and Mossad differ on Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the United Nations in 2012, in which he warned Iran was a year away from being able to make a nuclear bomb is at odds with his intelligence service.

The apparent difference of opinion has been highlighted in documents leaked to the television channel Al Jazeera.

Showing a sketch of a bomb to UN delegates the Israeli PM called on the world to draw a “clear red line” over Iran’s nuclear programme to make it back down.

The Mossad leaked document stated Iran was not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons.
An Israeli official said there was, “no discrepancy” between the accounts.

Read more: Leaked documents allege Israel PM and Mossad differ on Iran | euronews, world news

2/23/15

Airline Companies: Air Europa to buy 14 more Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes- by Tim Brown

ir Europa has placed an order for 14 additional Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes, valued at $3.6bn, taking its total order of the widebody aircraft to 22.
The order of the Boeing 787-9 was booked in December 2014 and was previously attributed to an unidentified customer on the Boeing Orders & Deliveries website.
Air Europa now has a combined total of 22 787-8s and 787-9s on order as it continues its transition to an all-Boeing long-haul fleet.
“Since its beginning, Air Europa has always operated the most contemporary airplanes available to the market. With the steps we are taking, we will become an airline with the most modern fleet in the world,” said Juan Jose Hidalgo, president of Globalia, the parent company of Air Europa, speaking at a press conference held in Madrid.
“The first 787-8 Dreamliners will start to arrive in 2016, this will allow us to grow both the number of flights and destinations we will operate to by around 50 percent.”
- See more at: http://www.themanufacturer.com/articles/air-europa-to-buy-additional-3-6bn-worth-of-boeing-787-dreamliner-planes/#sthash.HTTe97zY.dpuf
ir Europa has placed an order for 14 additional Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes, valued at $3.6bn, taking its total order of the widebody aircraft to 22.
The order of the Boeing 787-9 was booked in December 2014 and was previously attributed to an unidentified customer on the Boeing Orders & Deliveries website.
Air Europa now has a combined total of 22 787-8s and 787-9s on order as it continues its transition to an all-Boeing long-haul fleet.
“Since its beginning, Air Europa has always operated the most contemporary airplanes available to the market. With the steps we are taking, we will become an airline with the most modern fleet in the world,” said Juan Jose Hidalgo, president of Globalia, the parent company of Air Europa, speaking at a press conference held in Madrid.
“The first 787-8 Dreamliners will start to arrive in 2016, this will allow us to grow both the number of flights and destinations we will operate to by around 50 percent.”
- See more at: http://www.themanufacturer.com/articles/air-europa-to-buy-additional-3-6bn-worth-of-boeing-787-dreamliner-planes/#sthash.HTTe97zY.dpuf
Air Europa has placed an order for 14 additional Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes, valued at $3.6bn, taking its total order of the widebody aircraft to 22.

The order of the Boeing 787-9 was booked in December 2014 and was previously attributed to an unidentified customer on the Boeing Orders & Deliveries website.

Air Europa now has a combined total of 22 787-8s and 787-9s on order as it continues its transition to an all-Boeing long-haul fleet.

“Since its beginning, Air Europa has always operated the most contemporary airplanes available to the market. With the steps we are taking, we will become an airline with the most modern fleet in the world,” said Juan Jose Hidalgo, president of Globalia, the parent company of Air Europa, speaking at a press conference held in Madrid.

“The first 787-8 Dreamliners will start to arrive in 2016, this will allow us to grow both the number of flights and destinations we will operate to by around 50 percent.”

However, the safety issues which have plauged the Boeing 787 Dreamliner since its launch in 2007 have continued.

And in a further embarrassment for Boeing, a video released by Al Jazeera in September last year showed many of its own staff at its South Carolina Boeing 787 Dreamliner manufacturing site have very little confidence in the quality of the aircraft.

According to the video, posted above, 10 out of 15 randomly interviewed Boeing staff members revealed they would not fly in the aircraft due to safety concerns. 

However, the safety issues which have plauged the Boeing 787 Dreamliner since its launch in 2007 have continued. And in a further embarrassment for Boeing, a video released by Al Jazeera in September last year showed many of its own staff at its South Carolina Boeing 787 Dreamliner manufacturing site have very little confidence in the quality of the aircraft. According to the video, posted above, 10 out of 15 randomly interviewed Boeing staff members revealed they would not fly in the aircraft due to safety concerns. - See more at: http://www.themanufacturer.com/articles/air-europa-to-buy-additional-3-6bn-worth-of-boeing-787-dreamliner-planes/#sthash.HTTe97zY.dpuf
ir Europa has placed an order for 14 additional Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes, valued at $3.6bn, taking its total order of the widebody aircraft to 22.
The order of the Boeing 787-9 was booked in December 2014 and was previously attributed to an unidentified customer on the Boeing Orders & Deliveries website.
Air Europa now has a combined total of 22 787-8s and 787-9s on order as it continues its transition to an all-Boeing long-haul fleet.
“Since its beginning, Air Europa has always operated the most contemporary airplanes available to the market. With the steps we are taking, we will become an airline with the most modern fleet in the world,” said Juan Jose Hidalgo, president of Globalia, the parent company of Air Europa, speaking at a press conference held in Madrid.
“The first 787-8 Dreamliners will start to arrive in 2016, this will allow us to grow both the number of flights and destinations we will operate to by around 50 percent.”
- See more at: http://www.themanufacturer.com/articles/air-europa-to-buy-additional-3-6bn-worth-of-boeing-787-dreamliner-planes/#sthash.HTTe97zY.dpuf
Read more: Air Europa to buy 14 more Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes

The Netherlands: Europol chief says more cooperation needed to counter terror - by Mike Corder

Intelligence and law enforcement agencies across the European Union have to cooperate better to fight against the threat of terrorism, the head of EU police organization Europol said Monday.

Speaking at a meeting with foreign journalists in the Netherlands, Europol Director Rob Wainwright said his organization can help track extremists, their arms and cash across borders as the continent ramps up its counter terror operations in the aftermath of the deadly attacks this year in Paris
and Copenhagen.

Europol has built up a database of about 3,000 people who traveled to fight in Syria and Iraq — though Wainwright says the number is likely much higher.

Read more: Europol chief says more cooperation needed to counter terror








Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2015/02/23/4006014/europol-chief-says-more-cooperation.html#storylink=cpRead more: THE HAGUE, Netherlands: Europol chief says more cooperation needed to counter terror | World | The State

Hungary: Orban loses ‘supermajority’ in Hungary parliament

A by-election in Hungary has dealt a blow to Prime Minister Viktor Orban who’s faced accusations of being power hungry.

His governing Fidesz party has lost its three-quarters parliamentary majority after an independent candidate secured a win of the Vezprem county constituency.

Attila Magyar, our correspondent in Budapest explained what the by-election win meant:
“This result is mainly symbolic. Still, only a few people expected that an opposition candidate could win. A year ago a similar election saw the ruling right wing party take a 20 percent lead in this county.”

Zoltan Kesz won support from several opposition parties to allow him to run – including the Socialists.He’s vowed to be a true critic of the government.

Read more : Orban loses "supermajority" in Hungary parliament

Middle East - Turkish military enters Syria to evacuate soldiers, relocate tomb

Turkey launched an overnight military operation into neighbouring Syria to evacuate troops guarding an Ottoman tomb and to move the crypt to a new location, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Sunday.

Davutoglu said nearly 600 troops and 100 tanks and armored personnel carriers were involved in the operation. One group crossed into Syrian territory to reach the tomb, just over the border near the town of Kobane, while a second group took control of an area near the Turkish border where authorities plan to move the tomb.

Read Middle East - Turkish military enters Syria to evacuate soldiers, relocate tomb - France 24

France deploys aircraft carrier against ISIS in Iraq

France has deployed its Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier against the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in Iraq, as part of the US-led military campaign, French media report, citing government officials.

"The integration of the Charles de Gaulle in the operation... (in Iraq) begins this morning," a member of Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian's staff told AFP.

READ MORE: France deploys aircraft carrier against ISIS in Iraq - ministry — RT News

2/22/15

NSA Spying Revealed in Award Winning Documentary - Edward Snowden "Citizenfour" wins Oscar:

“CitizenFour” after winning the Gotham Award for best documentary, just hours after winning the New York Film Critics Award, tonight also won an Oscar.

Laura Poitras’ film documents her initial meeting in Hong Kong with Snowden, as well as journalist Glenn Greenwald.

It’s an uncommonly intimate view of what became a historic and much debated act: Snowden leaking National Security Agency documents that revealed their previously undisclosed collection of phone and email records, foreign government information, and classified corporate strategies. 

Edward Snowden presently lives in Russia, but also applied for asylum in the European Union. On June 14, 2013 the US department of Justice charged Edward Snowdon with two counts of violating the Espionage Act and theft of government property.

EU-Digest

Greece: No feelgood victory for Germany in debt clash with Greece

Germany's 7-1 drubbing of Brazil in the football World Cup last summer was uncomfortable to watch, even for jubilant Germans whose cheers turned to sheepish smiles as the goals piled up.

The bailout extension deal that Germany and its European partners clinched with Greece on Friday after weeks of public jousting between the countries had a similar feel.

In the end, it looked like a total triumph for the Germans, who forced Alexis Tsipras, Greece's new leftist prime minister, to swallow virtually all of their demands.

But it was not a feel-good victory, nor one that bodes well for a single currency bloc struggling to emerge from a half-decade of financial and economic crisis, and increasingly threatened by populist political forces on the right and left.

Read more:  ekathimerini.com | No feelgood victory for Germany in debt clash with Greece

Russia: 40,000 attend Moscow pro-Putin rally

Tens of thousands of strongman Vladimir Putin's supporters rallied Saturday near the Kremlin walls, a year after protests in neighbouring Ukraine led to the fall of its pro-Russian president.

Police said up to 40,000 people turned out with around 1,000 attending a similar rally in the second city of Saint Petersburg. Critics claimed many were paid to attend or bussed in.

"Yankee go home and take the Maidan with you," read one massive banner referring to Ukraine's pro-Western uprising that came to be known as the Maidan protests.

Read more: 40,000 attend Moscow pro-Putin rally - Yahoo News

Greece submits reform proposals to Brussels in an effort to avoid Grexit

Greek media reports the leftist-led government has submitted a letter to Brussels, listing reforms it hopes will save the country from bankruptcy.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is expected to finalise the proposal on Monday (February 23) – the original deadline for the list – but had earlier said he was confident it would get the green light from Greece’s main international creditors.

The country’s future in the euro zone now lies in the hands of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Read more: Greece submits reform proposals to Brussels in an effort to avoid Grexit | euronews, world news

Italy: Matteo Renzi stands firm at Italy′s helm

Three years ago, I stood in the majestic office of Matteo Renzi in Florence's imposing Palazzo Vecchio and listened to the then 37-year-old mayor of the Renaissance city wax enthusiastic about a lost Leonardo da Vinci painting,

"The Battle of Anghiari," which Renzi said was very likely located on a hidden inner wall underneath a fresco in the palace. He told me that within days city hall would hold a press conference with an exciting announcement about the masterpiece.

At the time, Italy's mammoth debt threatened to derail the euro, Berlusconi had unceremoniously stepped down as prime minister, and Mario Monti was heading up an interim technocrat government.

Despite the dire mood in the country, Renzi expressed as much faith in his fellow Italians - well, most of them - as he did that the Leonardo masterpiece would soon be uncovered.

Read more: Matteo Renzi stands firm at Italy′s helm | Europe | DW.DE | 22.02.2015

2/21/15

In Turkey, Even Snow Can Be Tainted by Politics - by Ceylan Yeginsy

“You are free to throw snowballs at this window,” the signs say in the Kadikoy district on the Asian side of Istanbul, and not because the shopkeepers here love the sound of breaking glass.

It is all about a freak snowstorm, a quick temper, a deadly encounter and — inevitably — politics.
A two-day blizzard had dropped 24 inches of snow on Istanbul before it finally let up on Thursday, catching off guard a city of 14 million that rarely gets more than a short-lived dusting.

Traffic and transport ground to a halt. Trees fell and blocked roads. Schools and businesses shut down, leaving the people of the city free to pour outdoors in search of snowy fun.

Some took to the hilly back streets on makeshift sleds made of brooms, trash bags and sheet plastic. Some built Turkish-style snowmen with fezzes on their heads and red peppers for noses. And some filled buckets with hand-packed snowballs, in preparation for the friendly neighborhood free-for-alls they knew would soon erupt.

Read more: In Turkey, Even Snow Can Be Tainted by Politics - NYTimes.com

USA: The president's patriotism: It's complicated

 Rudi Giuliani a former mayor of New York City and failed presidential candidate, has caused a little stir by questioning Barack Obama's love of country. "I do not believe—and I know this is a horrible thing to say—but I do not believe that the president loves America," he said on Wednesday, at a private dinner to promote the presidential prospects of Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin. "He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country."

The reaction to Mr Giuliani's comments have been swift and decisive. Pundits from the left have been quick to suggest that Mr Giuliani is making an elliptical comment about Mr Obama's race, alien paternity and/or Indonesian school days. Amy Davidson of the New Yorker asks, "[W]as Giuliani just suggesting to the audience that there was something different about Obama?

 And what might that be?" Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post speculates that Mr Giuliani is channeling the ideas of Dinesh D'Souza, a conservative polemicist who insists that Mr Obama, animated by his Kenyan father's anti-colonial politics, sees America as a malign neocolonial power. The gist of these comments is that it's simply outrageous to call Mr Obama's love of country into question—of course he loves his country!—and that Mr Giuiliani's urge to do so can only reflect some kind discomfort with Mr Obama's skin-tone and pedigree, or at least a demagogic willingness to exploit the racism and xenophobia latent in the dark conservative heart.

The reaction from the right is, predictably enough, rather different. Kevin Williamson of the National Review questions whether Mr Obama even likes America. Mr Williamson mentions Michelle Obama's admission that she was never "really proud" of her country until her husband was elected president, as well as Mr Obama's long-time association with Jeremiah Wright, a Chicago pastor best known for a rousing sermon noting the moral outrage of America's history of slavery, racial apartheid, brutality toward natives, and so on.

Given the centrality of white supremacy, sexism and oligarchic capitalism in America's history, at least according to leftists, "there is very little that a man with Barack Obama’s views and proclivities should love about the country," writes Mr Williamson, "beyond the fact that its people are so vulnerable to insipid sentimentality that they twice elected him president."

One might observe in response that progressives, in addition to acknowledging the injustice and venality inherent in the American experience, tell a story of progress in the struggle against these evils. The hopeful narrative of the progressive realisation of America's founding ideals supplies left-leaning Americans with ample basis for patriotic affection. That said, Mr Williamson's tendentious comments seem to contain more insight about Mr Giuliani's controversial remarks than do the knee-jerk liberal accusations of race-baiting.

READ MORE: The president's patriotism: It's complicated | The Economist

Greece: ‘End of austerity’? Greece claims bailout battle victory, warns hard time not over

The Greek prime minister says a new agreement to extend the country’s bailout voids the previous administration’s austerity commitments. The politician said, “we won the battle, but not the war,” but believes further difficulties lie ahead.

Alexis Tsipras made the comments in a televised statement on Saturday. He spoke of the “important success” of Greece being able to negotiate a funding agreement with eurozone ministers, which will see the bailout extended by four months.

The PM hailed this as, “the end of austerity and the bailout,” as Athens was able to severe ties with the ‘hated’ Troika group, which was responsible for making sure the country stuck to its bailout conditions and repay its international creditors.

Read more: ‘End of austerity’? Greece claims bailout battle victory, warns hard time not over — RT News

Middle East: Tunisians protest against terrorism in Tunis

An anti-terrorism protest has drawn large crowds in Tunis.

Chanting “Free Tunisia, out with terrorism”, the rally took place under a heavy police presence.

It comes shortly after Islamist militants linked to Al-Qaeda killed four soldiers on Wednesday. Both Nidaa Tunis and the Islamist party Ennahda called for supporters to join the march.

Basma Khalfaoui who became a popular icon of the anti-terrorism movement after her husband was assassinated in 2012 said, “Condemnation is not enough , but it is a means to express our rejection of this phenomenon and our unity in the face of it. There are other measures which should be taken by the government especially the interior ministry and the head of government.”

The government are currently considering a new raft of anti-terror measures which many are keen to see enforced.

Since the Jasmine revolution in 2011, Tunisia has been waging a campaign against Islamist insurgents who are entrenched in the Chaambi mountain range.

Read more: Tunisians protest against terrorism in Tunis | euronews, world news

ISIS: Official says mission to retake Mosul from ISIS could begin in April

The operation to retake Iraq’s second largest city from Islamic State militants will likely begin in April or May and will involve about 12 Iraqi brigades, or between 20,000 and 25,000 troops, a senior U.S. military official said Thursday.

Laying out details of the expected Mosul operation for the first time, the official from U.S. Central Command said five Iraqi Army brigades will soon go through coalition training in Iraq to prepare for the mission. Those five would make up the core fighting force that would launch the attack, but they would be supplemented by three smaller brigades serving as reserve forces, along with three Peshmerga brigades who would contain the Islamic State fighters from the north and west. The Peshmerga are Kurdish forces from northern Iraq.

The official said there also would be a Mosul fighting force, largely made up of former Mosul police and tribal forces, who would have to be ready to go back into the city once the army units clear out the Islamic State fighters.

Included in the force would be a brigade of Iraqi counterterrorism forces who have been trained by U.S. special operations forces. The brigades include roughly 2,000 troops each. The official was not authorized to discuss the operation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymit
 
Read more: Official says mission to retake Mosul from ISIS could begin in April | Chicago

2/20/15

UKRAINE - New round of talks on Ukraine crisis to be held in Paris

The foreign ministers of Russia, Germany and Ukraine will gather Tuesday in Paris to discuss  the Ukraine crisis, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Friday, as President François Hollande welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel for talks.

News of the fresh round of diplomacy on Ukraine next week came as Hollande and Merkel warned that fresh sanctions could be implemented if the “Minsk II” ceasefire deal signed February 12 in the Belarusian capital continues to be ignored.

"The ceasefire has been violated several times. It must now be fully respected along the entire front line," Hollande told a joint press conference with Merkel following bilateral talks in Paris on Friday.
Hollande said that “every country that doesn’t keep its word” risks sanctions.

The ceasefire, brokered by France and Germany and signed by Russia and Ukraine, came into effect at midnight on Saturday, but any hopes of bringing an end to the conflict that has ravaged eastern Ukraine for the past year were quickly dashed as fighting continued to rage between government and rebel forces.

Read more - New round of talks on Ukraine crisis to be held in Paris - France 24

BRICS Banking: ​Russia ratifies $100bn BRICS New Development Bank

The Russian State Duma has ratified the $100 billion BRICS bank that’ll serve as a pool of money for infrastructure projects in Russia, Brazil, India, China and South Africa, and challenge the dominance of the Western-led World Bank and the IMF.

The New Development Bank is expected to start fully functioning by the end of 2015, according to the Russian Finance Ministry.
  
Russia has agreed to provide $2 billion dollars from the federal budget for the bank over the next seven years.

It will have three-tiers of corporate governance, with a Board of Governors, Board of Directors and a President.

The bank’s board of directors will hold its first meeting in Ufa in Russia in April. Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov is likely to become the bank’s first Chairman of the Board of Governors, according to Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak talking on the Russia 24 TV channel.

The decision to establish the BRICS bank, along with a $100 billion reserve currency pool, was made in July 2014. Each of the five member countries is expected to allocate an equal share of the $50 billion startup capital that will be expanded to $100 billion.
 
The bank will be headquartered in Shanghai, India will serve as the first five-year rotating president, and the first Chairman of the Board of Directors will come from Brazil.
 
​Read more: Russia ratifies $100bn BRICS New Development Bank — RT Business

Fighting ISIS - British “mercenaries” join fight against Islamic State militants

According to Britain's Observer newspaper James Hughes, 24, from Reading, Berkshire, is in Rojava, northern Syria, helping to defend the beleaguered city of Kobani on behalf of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, the YPG.

He claims to have served in the British army and to have carried out three tours of Afghanistan during five years’ service.

According to his Facebook profile, Hughes appears to be fighting Islamic State forces alongside his friend Jamie Read, 26, from Newmains, north Lanarkshire.

Read’s Facebook page reveals that he trained with the French army and he describes having been involved in fierce gunfights against jihadists last week.

Both men say they are not being paid for their involvement in the campaign.

The Home Office said that it does “not hold data on British nationals fighting with the Kurds in Syria/Iraq” however security experts estimate that about 500 Britons have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight for jihadists.

Britain’s Daily Telegraph reports their legal status has been called into question by Britain’s former solicitor general who believes they could be “charged with murder”.

Read more: British “mercenaries” join fight against Islamic State militants | euronews, world news

Israel-USA Relations: Iran - Obama Plays Hardball with Israel? by Mark H. Gaffney

Finally. After many years of official hypocrisy, a US president appears to be playing hardball with Israel. The other day,the US government declassified a 1987 report have been a critic of President Obama, but one has to admire the timing of the release which I suspect was ordered by the White House.

Next month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to speak before Congress, at the behest of House speaker Boehner, and the topic of Netanyahu’s address reportedly will be Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

The fact that neither Speaker Boehner nor the Israeli government first cleared the speech with the White House has become controversial, and for good reason. Several prominent members of Congress, among them Senator Leahy, have already indicated they will boycott the speech, which will be a transparent attempt at an end run around the president.Israeli PM

Netanyahu is a smooth talker, but he is in no position to lecture Iran or any other state about nuclear weapons. The just-declassified report shows up Netanyahu for what he is, a liar.The declassified 1987 report indicates that from the 1980s on the US was well-informed about Israel’s hidden nuclear agenda. Israel’s nuke program is evidently a carbon copy of the US program.

We know that Israel smuggled nuclear technology (triggers, known as krytrons) out of the US, highjacked a ship on the high seas loaded with uranium ore, deceived US inspectors, and much more, all the while lying about its true intentions.It also appears that Israel provided the IAEA with phony documents about Iran’s nuclear program.

Timing is everything in politics. With the report now public, Obama will be in a stronger position to apply pressure on Israel to sign the NPT and open its nuclear sites to IAEA inspectors; or face the prospect of losing US economic and military aid. Why? Because a US law (the Symington amendment of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act) bars the US from giving aid to nations that engage in clandestine nuclear weapons proliferation. For many years, the US chose to ignore the law.

But now that Netanyahu plainly intends to stir up trouble for Obama in Congress over Iran, the president has apparently decided to take off the kid gloves. If Obama follows through, and I hope he does, it will the smartest policy move of his presidency.

The president deserves all the support that we the people can give him on this issue.The timing of the 1987 report was no coincidence either. No doubt it was occasioned by a three-page expose that appeared in the London Sunday Times in 1986, based on evidence provided by an Israeli whistleblower named Mordechai Vanunu.The stunning Times expose featured inside photos and details about Israel’s top-secret plutonium separation plant buried 80 feet below the Negev desert. For years, Israel had claimed that its Dimona nuclear plant was peacefully generating electricity.

But Vanunu showed this was a deception.For his courage Vanunu suffered a fate worse than death. Kidnapped by Israeli agents, he was taken back to Israel in chains and convicted of treason in a kangaroo court. The man of conscience spent 18 years in Ashkelon prison, 11 of them in solitary confinement, during which time he endured terrible abuse by his Israeli handlers.Though Vanunu was released in 2004, he remains under house arrest in Israel to this day; a shocking example of double jeopardy.

I want to personally thank Mordechai Vanunu for the incredible courage he has shown over many years, which now finally appears on the verge of bearing positive fruit>."Never doubt that one brave man can change the world. Vanunu did. He will be remembered for his strength in the service of truth, while Netanyahu may well become notorious as the dissembler who destroyed Israel’s credibility.

EU-Digest

Greece and eurozone agree on draft accord

An agreement between Athens and the 19 eurozone finance ministers was confirmed on Friday evening in Brussels, the third round of such talks in a week.

Few details were released immediately following the announcement. According to the Associated Press news agency, the eurozone agreed to extend Greece's loan by four months in exchange for Athen's agreeing to avoid unilateral actions that might affect the budget.

Greece has until Monday to present a list of reform measures it plans to implement.
Earlier a source from the Greek government had referred to "an initial agreement on a joint draft text" between the partners, with the details still to be worked out.

Athens still awaits a formal decision made over the 240-billion-euro ($273-billion) bailout program, due to run out on February 28.

Greece is asking for a six-month loan extension from its European creditors, in an effort to avoid a potentially disastrous exit from the euro.

The country needs almost 12 billion euros ($14 billion) to help finance bond repayments by August.

Read more: Greece and eurozone agree on draft accord | News | DW.DE | 20.02.2015

2/19/15

Crime in trhe EU: The Netherlands Falls Victim to Violent Crime - by Sierra Rayne

With the recent news that the Dutch goverment will be prosecuting Geert Wilders, the leader of the Party for Freedom, for hate speech once again, even a cursory review of what is happening in the Netherlands reveals why Wilders is so concerned. His nation is becoming unrecognizable and deteriorating rapidly.

Over the past 20 years, the violent crime rate has increased an astounding 83 percent in the Netherlands. Almost all of this increase took place before 2005 -- indeed, since 2005 there has been a slight decline in the Dutch violent crime rate, but the levels are still astronomical compared to those seen in the early to mid-1990s.

Between 1993 and 1995, the Dutch unemployment rate increased sharply but the violent crime rate was essentially unaffected. From 1995 to 2011, the unemployment rate fell from 7.1 percent to just 2.5 percent, and the violent crime rate exploded upwards. Since 2008, the jobless rate has increased rapidly, but the violent crime rate has declined modestly -- albeit still at nearly twice 1993 levels.

Real per capita GDP has fallen 5 percent since 2008, and violent crime also declined, whereas from 1993 to 2005 the real per capita GDP increased by almost 30 percent while the violent crime rate also increased 111 percent. 

Attempting to assign causation for an increasing violent crime rate on increased per capita wealth generation would be inconsistent with the general experience among wealthy nations over this time frame (aka, invalid).

Changes in income inequality also won't explain the massive increase in the Dutch violent crime rate during the last two decades. The income shares for the top 10 percent and top 1 percent have hardly changed over this period.

What has changed in a consistent manner with the Dutch violent crime rate is the percentage of population that is classified as "international migrant stock"

Read more: Blog: The Netherlands Falls Victim to Violent Crime

Israel: Netanyahu: Israel knows details of proposed U.S.-Iran deal

Israel's prime minister said Thursday he knows the details of the deal being forged with Iran over its nuclear program and asked "what is there to hide" after the United States. said it was withholding some information on the talks.

Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks come a day after the Obama administration said it is keeping some specifics from Israel because it fears the close U.S. ally has leaked sensitive information to try to scuttle the talks — and will continue to do so.

Netanyahu has angered the White House with his open opposition to a deal he believes threatens Israel's existence, and by accepting a Republican invitation to address Congress about Iran in early March without consulting the White House, a breach of diplomatic protocol.

The planned speech has caused an uproar in Israel as well, coming just two weeks before national elections. Netanyahu has rejected the criticism, saying it is his duty to lobby against the nuclear deal.

READ MORE; Netanyahu: Israel knows details of proposed U.S.-Iran deal - World - CBC News

France: Paris mayor says much to learn from US melting pot

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said Wednesday at the White House that promoting “a more inclusive city” would help counter radicalisation. 

She also confirmed a defamation suit against Fox News for saying areas of Paris were "no-go zones" for non-Muslims.

Hidalgo is among representatives of 60 countries attending the three-day summit on countering violent extremism, which has been in the pipelines for months but acquired greater significance after recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Copenhagen.

On Wednesday, she told delegates in the US capital that cities such as Paris should aim for “the exact opposite of the no-go zones dreamed up by certain parties”, referring to last month’s widely ridiculed claim by Fox News that there are parts of Paris where police and non-Muslims fear to tread.

Hidalgo, 55, later confirmed that the French capital had filed a legal complaint against the US television channel for defamation. “I cannot let a lie of such gravity go unpunished,” she told reporters. “Paris is a city of opportunities, progressive and humanist.”

Read more: Americas - Paris mayor says much to learn from US melting pot - France 24