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5/31/15

US Police - US police officers kill more than two people a day

US police have reportedly shot and killed 385 people over the past five months, a rate of more than two per day, reports the Washington Post. The figure is much higher than typical federal counts.

The analysis is based on data the Washington Post newspaper is compiling on every fatal police shooting in 2015. The investigation also includes information about every officer killed by gunfire while on duty over the past five months.

“We are never going to reduce the number of police shootings if we don't begin to accurately track this information,” said Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation, a not-for-profit organization committed to improving law enforcement.

Federal Bureau of Investigation records for the past decade show the occurrence of around 400 fatal police shootings per year, or an average of 1.1 deaths a day.

The death rate reported in the Washington Post newspaper on Saturday is more than twice that cited by the federal government over the past decade.

Read more: Report: US police officers kill more than two people a day | News | DW.DE | 31.05.2015

IS THE LOTTERY RIGGED ? YES IT IS !

You may have heard that you are more likely to be hit on the head by a meteorite than to win the lottery. This is certainly so. 

Assuming that the game is honest, the odds are roughly one in several hundred million. Even with these odds, lottery commissions are not satisfied. The lottery is rigged.

The giant multi-state and individual state lotteries are more fixed than pro wrestling. The jackpots go up and up, with no winners.  People get lottery fever. Millions nationwide are willing to wait in a line just like the ones for bread in the former Soviet Union for the pipe dream of striking it rich.   

The rigging works like this: super computers keep track of each combination sold, and then the ping-pong balls are weighted to assure that a losing combination comes up. On rare occasions, all possible combinations are sold, and they must let someone win. Only then is the game honest.

Why? The lottery, which is a state-run version of the Mafia's numbers racket, is a great money grab scam, as long as it brings in more than it pays out. In the past, lotteries were abolished because they lost money. 
 
The worst part of this is whom it hurts. The poor and desperate are the most common victims of lottery fever.  Children go hungry and senior citizens go without their medication because of it. People prone to gambling addiction also blow huge sums.

We spoke with an employee at a state lottery agency. We can not reveal his name or even which state, as some of the same gangsters who ran the numbers racket now run the lottery, and they would kill him.
 
“Yes, I personally am involved in it. Lottery ping-pong balls have a small valve, like a basketball or soccer ball, only it’s very tiny, and nearly invisible. We use a hypodermic needle to inject heavier-than-air gasses such as radon into the balls we don’t want to come up. At first, we tried helium in the ones we did want to rise, but they jumped up so quickly that it was obvious. Lotteries are raking in much more than if the games were honest, and people don’t know they have literally no chance!”

“If you think about it logically, you certainly don’t play anyway. You are betting that you can predict which six of 45 or more balls are going to come out of the hopper. In some games, the order even matters! It’s a sucker’s bet, and that’s when it’s honest! Most drawings are rigged, making the odds zero in infinity! The lottery is not only a tax on people who don’t understand math; it is an unfair and unjust tax. Didn’t we have the American Revolution over taxes like that?”
You read it here first.

In other words - you can better throw your money in the fire than play the lottery.

Read more: THE LOTTERY IS RIGGED

The Lotto Allusion: Loto, Scratch Lottery results are not random - computers can make you feel they are random and real

A geological statistician Mr. Srivastava living in Toronto, was working in his office in June 2003, waiting for some files to download onto his computer, when he discovered a couple of old lottery tickets buried under some paper on his desk. The tickets were cheap scratchers—a gag gift from his squash partner—and Srivastava found himself wondering if any of them were winners. He fished a coin out of a drawer and began scratching off the latex coating. “The first was a loser, and I felt pretty smug,” Srivastava says. “I thought, ‘This is exactly why I never play these dumb games.'”

The second ticket was a tic-tac-toe game. Its design was straightforward: On the right were eight tic-tac-toe boards, dense with different numbers. On the left was a box headlined “Your Numbers,” covered with a scratchable latex coating. The goal was to scrape off the latex and compare the numbers under it to the digits on the boards. If three of “Your Numbers” appeared on a board in a straight line, you’d won. Srivastava matched up each of his numbers with the digits on the boards, and much to his surprise, the ticket had a tic-tac-toe. Srivastava had won $3. “This is the smallest amount you can win, but I can’t tell you how excited it made me,” he says. “I felt like the king of the world.”

Delighted, he decided to take a lunchtime walk to the gas station to cash in his ticket. “On my way, I start looking at the tic-tac-toe game, and I begin to wonder how they make these things,” Srivastava says. “The tickets are clearly mass-produced, which means there must be some computer program that lays down the numbers. Of course, it would be really nice if the computer could just spit out random digits. But that’s not possible, since the lottery corporation needs to control the number of winning tickets. The game can’t be truly random. Instead, it has to generate the illusion of randomness while actually being carefully determined.”

As a trained statistician with degrees from MIT and Stanford University, Srivastava was intrigued by the technical problem posed by the lottery ticket. In fact, it reminded him a lot of his day job, which involves consulting for mining and oil companies. A typical assignment for Srivastava goes like this: A mining company has multiple samples from a potential gold mine. Each sample gives a different estimate of the amount of mineral underground. “My job is to make sense of those results,” he says. “The numbers might seem random, as if the gold has just been scattered, but they’re actually not random at all. There are fundamental geologic forces that created those numbers. If I know the forces, I can decipher the samples. I can figure out how much gold is underground.”

The North American lottery system is a $70 billion-a-year business, an industry bigger than movie tickets, music, and porn combined. These tickets have a grand history: Lotteries were used to fund the American colonies and helped bankroll the young nation. In the 18th and 19th centuries, lotteries funded the expansion of Harvard and Yale and allowed the construction of railroads across the continent. Since 1964, when New Hampshire introduced the first modern state lottery, governments have come to rely on gaming revenue. (Forty-three states and every Canadian province currently run lotteries.) In some states, the lottery accounts for more than 5 percent of education funding.

While approximately half of Americans buy at least one lottery ticket at some point, the vast majority of tickets are purchased by about 20 percent of the population. These high-frequency players tend to be poor and uneducated, which is why critics refer to lotteries as a regressive tax. (In a 2006 survey, 30 percent of people without a high school degree said that playing the lottery was a wealth-building strategy.) On average, households that make less than $12,400 a year spend 5 percent of their income on lotteries—a source of hope for just a few bucks a throw.

The tic-tac-toe lottery is seriously flawed. It took Srivastava  a few hours of studying his tickets and some statistical sleuthing, but he discovered a defect in the game: The visible numbers turned out to reveal essential information about the digits hidden under the latex coating. Nothing needed to be scratched off—the ticket could be cracked if you knew the secret code.

The trick itself is ridiculously simple. (Srivastava would later teach it to his 8-year-old daughter.) Each ticket contained eight tic-tac-toe boards, and each space on those boards—72 in all—contained an exposed number from 1 to 39.

As a result, some of these numbers were repeated multiple times. Perhaps the number 17 was repeated three times, and the number 38 was repeated twice. And a few numbers appeared only once on the entire card. Srivastava’s startling insight was that he could separate the winning tickets from the losing tickets by looking at the number of times each of the digits occurred on the tic-tac-toe boards. In other words, he didn’t look at the ticket as a sequence of 72 random digits.

Instead, he categorized each number according to its frequency, counting how many times a given number showed up on a given ticket. “The numbers themselves couldn’t have been more meaningless,” he says. “But whether or not they were repeated told me nearly everything I needed to know.” Srivastava was looking for singletons, numbers that appear only a single time on the visible tic-tac-toe boards. He realized that the singletons were almost always repeated under the latex coating. If three singletons appeared in a row on one of the eight boards, that ticket was probably a winner.

The next day, on his way into work, he stopped at the gas station and bought a few more tickets. Sure enough, all of these tickets contained the telltale pattern. The day after that he picked up even more tickets from different stores. These were also breakable. After analyzing his results, Srivastava realized that the singleton trick worked about 90 percent of the time, allowing him to pick the winning tickets before they were scratched.

His next thought was utterly predictable: “I remember thinking, I’m gonna be rich! I’m gonna plunder the lottery!” he says. However, these grandiose dreams soon gave way to more practical concerns. “Once I worked out how much money I could make if this was my full-time job, I got a lot less excited,” Srivastava says. “I’d have to travel from store to store and spend 45 seconds cracking each card. I estimated that I could expect to make about $600 a day. That’s not bad. But to be honest, I make more as a consultant, and I find consulting to be a lot more interesting than scratch lottery tickets.”

What’s most disturbing, perhaps, is that even though Srivastava first brought these flaws to the attention of the authorities in 2003, they continue to appear. A few months ago, Srivastava bought some scratch tickets at convenience stores in Toronto.

\He started out with a Bingo ticket, which featured an elaborate hook. After a day of statistical analysis, Srivastava was able to double his chances of choosing a winning ticket. (Normally, 30 percent of the tickets feature a payout—he was able to select winners approximately 60 percent of the time.) “That might not sound very impressive, since I’m still going to buy plenty of losers,” Srivastava says. “But it’s a high enough percentage that one could launder money effectively.”

In one of his most recent trials, conducted at the request of Wired, Srivastava identified six unscratched tickets as probable winners out of a set of 20 cards. If the tickets were uncrackable, approximately two of them should have been winners. Instead, Srivastava ended up with four. The odds of this happening by chance are approximately one in 50. And yet he’s done it multiple times with a variety of Bingo and Super Bingo games. 

EU-Digest





5/30/15

Middle East: Fighting ′Islamic State′: Ideology vs rationalism

Would you be willing to die for your country? This is a question that first might occur to a young person facing the possibility of being conscripted into the army of the country where they live. Like those young people in Lithuania, for example, where the country's parliament recently voted overwhelmingly in favour of reintroducing the draft.

The move means that thousands of young men between the ages of 19 and 26 could soon be forced into national service for a period of up to nine months and could therefore be swapping their university lectures for military drills, their text books for guns.

A Baltic state bordering part of Russia, Lithuania is bolstering its army due to "today's geopolitical environment" (read, the Ukraine crisis), the government argues.

"If there is a threat, then a country will review its commitment to things like conscription. It's not about the nation, but the sense of security," says Peter Quentin, a research fellow specializing in land warfare studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London. "A key determinant [in how people feel about conscription] is not nationality, but a sign of the times."

Read more: Fighting ′Islamic State′: Ideology vs rationalism | Home | Life Links | DW.DE | 30.05.2015

5/29/15

Internet: United Nations Deems Encryption Necessary For Freedom In Digital Age - by Jeff Stone

The United Nations' Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued a new report saying encryption, or encoding messages so that only the desired recipient can read them, is necessary to protect the right to freedom of expression throughout the world. The report went on to warn that countries around the world are increasingly engaged in efforts to weaken private Internet security.

The 18-page report from special rapporteur David Kaye was published Thursday and is due to be presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council in June.

“Encryption and anonymity, and the security concepts behind them, provide the privacy and security necessary for the exercise of the right to freedom of expression in the digital age,” Kaye wrote. “Such security may be essential for the exercise of other rights, including economic rights, privacy, due process, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and the right to bodily integrity.”

The U.N. approved of decryption as long as it's done on a “case-by-case basis.” This is only the latest update in an ongoing debate over the best way for countries to balance security and personal privacy. Almost every prominent member of the U.S. law enforcement and intelligence communities have claimed that their inability to access users' smartphones and electronic communication – including users suspected of no wrongdoing – creates a threat for all Americans.

Most notably, Apple and Google entered the conversation when, by making it impossible for themselves to decode users' smartphone passcodes, they turned on encryption for millions of phones across the world. FBI Director James Comey was furious, and suggested that lawmakers may introduce a law to force companies to install so-called surveillance backdoors to give the government a point of entry.
Apple, Google and others signed a letter to President Obama earlier this month asking him to forego any executive action that would make back doors mandatory. 

Read more: United Nations Deems Encryption Necessary For Freedom In Digital Age

Economics: The Economist Who Realized How Crazy We Are - by Michael Lewis

I'm not sure we're living in an age of disruption, or just an age that badly wants to think itself disruptive, but either way there's been a lot of rethinking going on the past decade or so. The biggest upheavals have come in industries in which managers have always made decisions more or less by gut instinct: political campaigns, health care, military campaigns, professional sports.

The obvious cause of the turmoil is the availability of ever-cheaper computing power: People looking for an edge in any business can now gather and analyze all sorts of previously unobtainable or unanalyzable data.

The less obvious cause is an idea, that the data might trump the expertise of managers. People (even experts) and industries (even old ones) can make big, systematic mistakes. You don't set out to find better ways to value professional baseball players if you believe that the market already knows everything there is to know about their value.

Read more: The Economist Who Realized How Crazy We Are - Bloomberg View

EU politics: Europe’s populist parties aren’t done by a long shot - by Eric Reguly

If there were a single image that summed up the quick rise of Europe’s anti-establishment parties, is was the one of Alexis Tsipras and Pablo Iglesias together, on stage, at an anti-austerity rally in Athens just before the Jan. 25 Greek election. Wearing their trademark open-neck blue shirts – no neckties ever for them – their arms were outstretched, as if in celebration, as the crowd cheered them on.

Mr. Tsipras, the leader of the radical left Syriza party, would win that election; Mr. Iglesias, leader of Podemos (We Can), the Spanish equivalent to Syriza, would top the polls in Spain, much to the distress of the mainstream parties.

The image implied that the populist revolution had arrived in Europe, where the centre-right and centre-left parties that had ruled for decades were in full retreat as voters grew angry at the stalled recovery, the harsh austerity measures and the obscene unemployment levels.

But could January have been the peak of the populist movement? Shortly thereafter, Syriza was riven by infighting as its efforts to make a breakthrough with its bailout masters in Brussels and Berlin went nowhere. Podemos’s rise stalled as spring approached. In Britain, the UK Independence Party, whose goal is to yank Britain out of the European Union, won only one seat in the May 7 election; even UKIP’s leader, Nigel Farage, got shut out. Beppe Grillo’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement, Italy’s biggest opposition party, lost momentum. While the Euroskeptic Finns Party placed second in Finland’s election, their vote tally fell by two points.

Investors have applauded the apparently flattening popularity curve of the protest parties. Bond yields, with a little help from the European Central Bank’s ultra-easy monetary policy, have sunk throughout the euro zone. The rage against the middle-party machine seemed less shrill as the economy improved. The falling euro and oil prices, and the ECBs €1.1-trillion ($1.3-trillion) quantitative easing program, helped.

Not so fast. Rumors that the populist surge is over might be exaggerated, greatly so.

Read more: Europe’s populist parties aren’t done by a long shot - The Globe and Mail

US removes Cuba from list of state sponsors of terror - BBC News

The United States has removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The move eliminates a major obstacle toward restoring diplomatic ties. The change allows Cuba to conduct banking in the United States, among other activities.

President Barack Obama announced a historic thaw with Cuba in December, but the US trade embargo against the country remains, and may only be ended by Congress.

The removal has been one of Cuba's key demands, as leaders from both countries have repeatedly met to negotiate the details of restoring diplomatic relations, including the opening of embassies in Washington and Havana.

The action comes as signs of difficulty were seen in recent talks between US and Cuban diplomats.

Read more: US removes Cuba from list of state sponsors of terror - BBC News

Turkey: Off The Ballot But With Much At Stake, Turkey's President Fights For More Power

Turkey's June 7 election will elect 550 members of parliament, but it's really all about one man who isn't even on the ballot: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The election could make history as Erdogan pushes for unprecedented power. Erdogan ran for president last summer, faced with the end of his three-term limit as prime minister, and now seeks to change the constitutional order. Under Erdogan's vision, his newly elected position as president, a mostly ceremonial role, would become the most powerful ruling position in Turkey.

While Erdogan is constitutionally required to remain above party politics as president, that hasn't stopped him from campaigning as if he's running for office himself. With enough votes, Erdogan and his Islamist-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP) could create a super-presidency in which he could rewrite the constitution in his favor.

Turks will take to the polls June 7 to determine their country's future. Click on link below for a breakdown of the major issues surrounding this landmark election in Turkey.

Read more: Off The Ballot But With Much At Stake, Turkey's President Fights For More Power

5/28/15

Fifa Scandal or Politics on Steroids ?: Why is the US policing a global game ?

The BBC asked in one of their recent programs - "America does not even like football, or so many people think. Why is it leading the charge against alleged Fifa corruption?"

Good question.

At dawn, Swiss police rounded up seven Fifa officials at the behest of US authorities who have conducted a massive investigation into corruption at football's governing body.
So how did a country where football is more niche than entrenched come to police the world's beautiful game?

"Too many countries are cowed by Fifa," said Alexandra Wrage, a former Fifa anti-bribery adviser who resigned in protest from the organization.

"As with international bribery more generally, the US Department of Justice has said they'll step up to investigate corruption if others won't," she said.

It is not clear what specific event - if any - prompted the US investigation. Some have pointed to the United States' failed bid in late 2010 to host the the 2022 World Cup, and suspicions that bribes were paid to encourage votes for Qatar.

Note EU-Digest:The US involvement in Fifa is questionable and looks much more like politics gone on steroids. Everyone is aware bribery in sports has been going on for years now, not only in the FIFA globally, but also in just about every sector of US sports.  Another possible point of this US contention could be that Russia will be hosting the next World Cup in 2018!  The country submitted its candidacy in early 2009 and was selected by the FIFA Executive Committee in Zurich on December 2, 2010, beating out England and joint bids from Portugal/Spain and Belgium/Netherlands. 

Who knows, the US might be wanting to turn this decision for Russia to host the 2018 world cup around by proving bribery charges favored the selection of Russia and in that way indirectly also punish Russia for the Ukraine crises.

Another aspect, and maybe the most important one, is that the commercial benefits of hosting a World cup and all the perks that come with it involves major corporate involvement and profits. 

This complicates matters even more, since corporate money these days,  more often than not,  usually controls political action.   

EU-Digest 


Finland, Russia's Neighbor, Says Reserves Right Despite Neutrality To Join NATO

Finland’s new Prime Minister will appoint a government cabinet this week, which may take the neutral Nordic country, Russia’s neighbor, in a new direction: towards NATO. In a recent policy statement, the new center-right coalition government said that the country may join NATO “at any time” over the next four years, shifting dramatically from its traditional neutral stance.

The move, which comes just a week after 900,000 Finnish reservists were sent letters to ensure they could be quickly contacted in the event of war, will likely surprise onlookers in Moscow who believed that the inclusion of the nationalist party and anti-NATO Finns Party in the new three-member coalition would see interest in joining the alliance waver.

"The previous government made sure that it did not apply for NATO membership during its time in office,” said Teija Tiilikainen, the director of the Finnish Institute for International Affairs, speaking to Defense News. “The new government's policy is different, it keeps the issue alive and the option open. It will be interesting to see how all this develops.”

Four years ago, when Finland’s previous government came to power, NATO membership was deliberately ruled out. Even two years ago, the subject was seldom discussed as a serious or necessary option for Finland. However. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014, the Kremlin’s continued involvement in the Ukraine war, and increased military activity in international waters and air space around Europe has seen public opinion shift.

A poll taken in September 2014 by Finnish-based pollster YLE showed that 43 percent of the Finnish public perceived Russia as a danger, up by 20 percentage points from March, when Russia annexed Crimea.

"All recent polls show that Finns are becoming increasingly concerned about Russian aggression in the region and want a stronger defense," said Kari Sundström, a Stockholm, Sweden-based political analyst. "Finns also want a higher level of spending for the military. Although majority backing for NATO membership is still lacking, over 55 percent of Finns support the holding of a referendum to decide the issue.”

Finland’s neighbor to the west, Sweden, announced Tuesday that it is ready to defend against any Russian aggression.  Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Leuven said that the Scandinavian country has “a plan of action” and “a possible solution in the case of Russian provocations in the air.”

Read more: Neutral Finland, Russia's Neighbor, Reserves Right To Join NATO As New Government Takes Power

Insurance Industry: Many Americans unclear whether domestic health insurance plan works outside the US

A surprising number of Americans are unclear whether their health insurance works outside the US, according to a new InsureMyTrip survey.

 Over twenty-five percent polled were not sure whether their domestic health insurance plan would cover any doctor or hospital visits while traveling outside the USA.

Thirty-nine percent said their domestic health insurance would provide coverage, while thirty-four percent believed their insurance plan would offer no coverage.

EU-Digest

USA - Killer Poison On The Loose: ‘No risk’ says Pentagon after anthrax error

A US military laboratory based in Utah is under investigation after mistakenly sending live anthrax bacteria to nine commercial labs and an air base in South Korea.

The shipments which were part of a military research project continued for a full year before the error was noticed.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims no one was at risk although four people have been started on preventative measures.

When anthrax becomes airborne, it can cause a deadly illness.That occurred in 2001, when anthrax sent through the US mail to government and media targets killed five people.

The mishap comes 11 months after scores of CDC employees were potentially exposed to live anthrax spores when the Center similarly mishandled samples.

Note EU-Digest: this is not only extremely incompetent but also dangerous to people around the world, not withstanding the assurances the Pentagon has been giving to the contrary, which do not have a record of always being accurate.  

Read more: ‘No risk’ says Pentagon after anthrax error | euronews, world news

5/27/15

Britain: 10 Questions for the Labour Party - by David Held

Following a largely unexpected election defeat, David Held poses 10 questions for the Labour Party with significance far beyond Britain. 

The UK general election was tumultuous and the results, particularly for Labour and the Liberal Democrats, disastrous. Of course, the position of Labour is better than that of the Liberal Democrats, but the combined fate of their decline is disheartening and disorienting for anyone on the centre- left.

The surprise and shock of the outcome to many was, of course, fuelled by the false trail of expectations led by the polls. But when all is said and done the results were seismic.

Into the chasm of failure have stepped would-be leaders with manifestos and numerous commentators, nearly all offering instant solutions that would push the party further to the left, centre or right. I have read countless attempts to tell the Labour party where they went wrong. The enemies of the party bask in the glow of these fragilities while everyone else seems to rush in with ready-made solutions.

The rush to provide instant solutions to tomorrow’s problems is mistaken and will not help rebuild the crumbled edifice of Labour. Instead, I think the failure of Labour raises some very important questions, which need to be thought through carefully.

This is a moment for deliberation about the key questions ahead; not a moment for false closure which will produce the semblance of a new direction without the foundations of one. The questions have to be right before answers sought.

For complete report click here: 10 Questions for the Labour Party | Global Policy Journal - Practitioner, Academic, Global Governance, International Law, Economics, Security, Institutions, Comment & Opinion, Media, Events, Journal

FIFA: US officials blast FIFA 'World Cup of Fraud' - by Don Emmert

US officials on Wednesday said FIFA executives arrested earlier in Switzerland had corrupted global football as US and Swiss authorities launched separate and vast inquiries into the sport’s world governing body.

Seven of the most powerful figures in global football faced extradition to the United States on corruption charges after their arrest on Wednesday in Switzerland, where authorities also announced a criminal investigation into the awarding of the next two World Cups, in Russia and Qatar respectively.

"The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States," Attorney General Loretta Lynch told a press conference in New York on Wednesday.
"It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks," she said, flanked by top FBI and US tax agency representatives.

Reacting to the move by US prosecutors, FIFA chief Sepp Blatter said he was determined to “root out any wrongdoing in football” and that the investigations would help reinforce measures that had already been taken internally. “We will ensure that those who engage in [misconduct] are put out of the game,” Blatter said in a statement.

Read more: france 24 - US officials blast FIFA 'World Cup of Fraud' - France 24

Britain: Cameron embarks on delicate European charm offensive - "do what I say or else"

BREXIT
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron this week faces a delicate task when he embarks on a whirlwind diplomatic tour to try to convince European leaders to help him push for a string of EU reforms to scale back Brussel's overriding political powers. The tour comes on the back of Cameron’s campaign pledge to reshape Britain’s ties with the European Union, which helped his Conservative Party win an outright majority in the May 7 elections.

Under pressure from eurosceptics, the British prime minister promised in 2013 to hold a referendum on whether Britain should leave Europe by 2017 if he won the general election.

On Wednesday, Queen Elizabeth II confirmed the government’s plans to hold an in-or-out EU vote as she read out a list of proposed legislation at the State Opening of Parliament in London.

“My government will renegotiate the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union and pursue reform of the European Union for the benefit of all member states,” the queen said in her speech.

Yves Bertoncini, director of the Paris-based think-tank Institut Jacques Delors, said that while “Denmark and the Netherlands are expected to lend Cameron a supportive ear when it comes to (curbing) migration… Germany and Sweden, who need migration for the sake of their economies, are sure to be opposed”.

Given that Cameron will need unanimous support from EU’s members in order to push through any treaty changes, Bertoncini said the British premier is dealing with “a real challenge” to get everyone on board.

If Cameron fails to show his electorate that he has been able to renegotiate Britain’s position ahead of the referendum, Britain could very well be heading towards an EU exit – but without any of the necessary alliances in place, Bertoncini said.

“The United Kingdom would find itself in a hopeless situation, and be pressured from all corners. Neither the Europeans nor the Americans have any interest in losing this powerful ally in the heart of Europe.”

Read more: Europe - Cameron embarks on delicate European charm offensive - France 24

EU officials say Greece not close to debt deal

A Greek government official was quoted by news agencies Reuters and AFP as saying on Wednesday that his country and its creditors had started drafting a technical-level agreement, pointing to progress in long-running talks to unlock more financial aid for the cash-strapped southern eurozone nation.

"At the Brussels Group of credit negotiators, procedures to draw up a staff-level agreement are beginning," the government source said.

This is the closest that Greece and its creditors have come to a deal to unlock 7.2 billion euros ($7.8 billion) of bailout loan money in roughly four months of talks.

Read more: EU officials say Greece not close to debt deal | Business | DW.DE | 27.05.2015

EU: Poll shows majority EU citizens want refugees stopped before they cross Mediterranean - by RM

Europeans want refugees stopped at departure points
In a recent poll conducted by EU-Digest in April and May 88.89%  polled said refugees and migrants should be stopped before they make the dangerous Mediterranean crossing.

Only 11.11% said that those reaching EU shores should be processed as legal immigrants.

No one  polled felt that the EU had done an effective job so far in coping or dealing with this momentous problem

The new recently posted EU-Digest poll (May 27 thru June 27) focuses on the increased concerns surrounding the secretive Transatlantic Trade Negotiations ( TTIP) between the European Union and the USA.

Critics say this controversial trade deal presently being negotiated will remove safety standards on a large number of essential products, including agricultural products, pesticides, food and medicines, as well as dismantle financial regulations designed to prevent banks from creating another financial crisis, to mention just a few.

The agreement would also make it easier for multinationals to sue governments and could lead to significant slashes in EU regulatory laws related to environmental pollution controls and a variety of safety and health standards.


EU-Digest

5/26/15

TTIP: EU dropped pesticide laws due to US pressure over TTIP, documents reveal

US trade officials pushed EU to shelve action on endocrine-disrupting chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility to facilitate TTIP free trade deal.

EU moves to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility were shelved following pressure from US trade officials over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal, newly released documents show.

Draft EU criteria could have banned 31 pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). But these were dumped amid fears of a trade backlash stoked by an aggressive US lobby push, access to information documents obtained by Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe show.

On 26 June 2013, a high-level delegation from the American Chambers of Commerce (AmCham) visited EU trade officials to insist that the bloc drop its planned criteria for identifying EDCs in favour of a new impact study.

Minutes of the meeting show commission officials pleading that “although they want the TTIP to be successful, they would not like to be seen as lowering the EU standards”.
The TTIP is a trade deal being agreed by the EU and US to remove barriers to commerce and promote free trade.

Responding to the EU officials, AmCham representatives “complained about the uselessness of creating categories and thus, lists” of prohibited substances, the minutes show.

The US trade representatives insisted that a risk-based approach be taken to regulation, and “emphasised the need for an impact assessment” instead.

On 2 July 2013, officials from the US Mission to Europe visited the EU to reinforce the message. Later that day, the secretary-general of the commission, Catherine Day, sent a letter to the environment department’s director Karl Falkenberg, telling him to stand down the draft criteria.

“We suggest that as other DGs [directorate-generals] have done, you consider making a joint single impact assessment to cover all the proposals,” Day wrote. “We do not think it is necessary to prepare a commission recommendation on the criteria to identify endocrine disrupting substances.”

The result was that legislation planned for 2014 was kicked back until at least 2016, despite estimated health costs of €150bn per year in Europe from endocrine-related illnesses such as IQ loss, obesity and cryptorchidism – a condition affecting the genitals of baby boys
.
A month before the meeting, AmCham had warned the EU of “wide-reaching implications” if the draft criteria were approved. The trade body wanted an EU impact study to set looser thresholds for acceptable exposure to endocrines, based on a substance’s potency.

“We are worried to see that this decision, which is the source of many scientific debates, might be taken on political grounds, without first assessing what its impacts will be on the European market,” the chair of AmCham’s environment committee wrote in a letter to the commission. These could be “dramatic” the letter said.

In a high-level internal note sent to the health commissioner, Tonio Borg, shortly afterwards, his departmental director-general warned that the EU’s endocrines policy “will have substantial impacts for the economy, agriculture and trade”.

The heavily redacted letter, sent a week before the EU’s plans were scrapped continued: “The US, Canada, and Brazil [have] already voiced concerns on the criteria which might lead to important repercussions on trade.”

The series of events was described as “incredible” by the the Green MEP Bas Eickhout. “These documents offer convincing evidence that TTIP not only presents a danger for the future lowering of European standards, but that this is happening as we speak,” he told the Guardian.

A commission spokesperson insisted that health and environmental concerns would be fully addressed, despite pressure from industry or trade groups.

“The ongoing EU impact assessment procedure is not linked in any way to the TTIP negotiations,” the official said. “The EU will proceed to the adoption of definitive criteria to identify endocrine disruptors, independently from the further course of our TTIP negotiations with the US.”

Note EU-Digest: "the statement by the commission spokesperson on the issue, however,  does not sound very convincing"

Read more: EU dropped pesticide laws due to US pressure over TTIP, documents reveal | Environment | The Guardian

USA - Democracy on the rocks? The Super Rich Have a New Way to Buy Elections - by Robert Faturechi and Jonathan Stray

US Super PAC's
Super PACs bankrolled by a single donor quadrupled their share of overall fundraising in 2014. And there’s no sign of letup in ’16.

The wealthiest Americans can fly on their own jets, live in gated compounds and watch movies in their own theaters.

More of them also are walling off their political contributions from other big and small players.

A growing number of political committees known as super PACs have become instruments of single donors, according to a ProPublica analysis of federal records. During the 2014 election cycle, $113 million—16 percent of money raised by all super PACs—went to committees dominated by one donor.

That was quadruple their 2012 share.

The rise of single-donor groups is a new example of how changes in campaign finance law are giving outsized influence to a handful of funders.

The trend may continue into 2016. National Review recently reported that Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination would be boosted not by one anointed super PAC but four, each controlled by a single donor or donor family.

The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling helped usher in the era of super PACs. Unlike traditional political action committees, the independent groups can accept donations of any dollar size as long as they don’t coordinate with the campaign of any candidate.

The Super Rich Have a New Way to Buy Elections - The Daily Beast

Healtcare USA on the ropes: Senate GOP prepared to replace Obamacare subsidies - Jennifer Haberkorn and Rachael Bade

Preparing for a Supreme Court decision that could strike down Obamacare’s subsidies for nearly 7.5 million people this summer, Senate Republicans are coalescing around a plan to resurrect them — at a steep price for the White House.

With several Senate Republicans facing tough reelections, and control of the chamber up for grabs, 31 senators have signed on to a bill written by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) that would restore the subsidies for current Obamacare enrollees through September 2017. But the administration would have to pay a heavy price — the bill would also repeal Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates and insurance coverage requirements.

“In that moment of what could be political chaos, we’re offering such a reasonable proposal that solves a mess,” Johnson said. “It fixes a mess caused by a sloppily written law, unlawfully implemented. All we’re asking for is a little bit of freedom back, which would be, I think, pretty popular,” Johnson said. Even Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is backing Johnson’s measure, along with the rest of the chamber’s GOP leaders.

Johnson, who’s got a tight race in 2016, says the legislation would be a bridge to ensure that consumers can keep the insurance they have — a promise that President Barack Obama was widely criticized for breaking in 2014.

But even if Johnson could somehow persuade Obama and Senate Democrats to accept his plan — a herculean task — the bigger problem will be his Republican colleagues in the House.

The growing divide between the two chambers leaves the GOP in an awkward spot. The court could gut Obamacare in June, handing Republicans a long-sought victory they couldn’t achieve legislatively. But without a backup plan that the whole party supports, the GOP has no way to blunt the political damage if millions of Americans lose the ability to pay for their health insurance.

Note EU-Digest; It seems like the Republican's opposition against just about everything the present Administration proposes or has proposed has reached a level now which can be earmarked as purely destructive.

Read more: Senate GOP prepared to replace Obamacare subsidies - Jennifer Haberkorn and Rachael Bade - POLITICO

Banking Industry: Forex manipulation further undermines trust in international banking

A new scandal undermining the reputation of international banking has been added to a long list of previous cases. Under the spotlight this time is a group of leading institutions in Europe and the US.
Analysts say a regulatory void underlies the accusations and subsequent multi-million dollar fines resulting from foreign exchange market manipulations.

As the British financial control authority issued one of the most expensive fines in its history, experts expressed the view that it may not be the last scandal in the sector.

Trust is now at a tipping point as investors consider changing their investment to other trading destinations.

American and British authorities, fined six international banks a total of around $6 billion – about 5.5 billion euros – for manipulating foreign exchange rates. JP Morgan, Citigroup, Barclays. and Royal Bank of Scotland confirmed their attempts to manipulate currencies, in which prices of daily transactions averaged five trillion dollars.
Read more: Forex manipulation further undermines trust in international banking | euronews, Business Middle East

5/25/15

Russia - Putin enacts law banning ‘undesirable’ NGOs

Russian President Vladimir Putin officially enacted a controversial law banning “undesirable” non-governmental organisations, the Kremlin said Saturday, in a move condemned by human rights groups and the United States.

The law allows authorities to bar foreign civil society groups seen as threatening Russia’s “defence capabilities” or “consitutional foundations” and go after local activists working with them, the Kremlin statement said.

Supporters presented the law as a “preventative measure”, necessary after the wave of Western sanctions put in place over the Ukraine conflict.

Under the law, passed by the Russian parliament this week, authorities can ban foreign NGOs and go after their employees, who risk up to six years in prison or being barred from the country.

It also allows them to block the bank accounts of the organizations until the NGOs “account for their actions” to the Russian authorities.

Lawmakers cited the need to stop “destructive organisations” working in Russia, which could threaten the “value of the Russian state” and stir up “colour revolutions”, the name given to pro-Western movements seen in some former Soviet republics over the last several years.

Note EU-Digest : The move by the Russian government might also be a reaction to the CIA recently announced sweeping changes to how it operates, in the biggest shake-up in the US intelligence agency’s 70-year history. Ten new mission centres and the re-assignment of thousands of spies. The new units or ‘mission centres’ are intended to focus on specific challenges or geographical areas.

Insiders say competition between agencies whitin the CIA has led to intelligence hoarding and the re-organization aims to increase the flow of information which previously fell through bureaucratic cracks. Under the current structure spies and analysts are kept separate.

It is not clear when the changes will be implemented but the re-organization is likely to take several years.

Read more: france 24 - Putin enacts law banning ‘undesirable’ NGOs - France 24

Italy - European Airline Industry: Thousands of air passengers grounded during Alitalia strike

Thousands of people were suffering the consequences on Monday of a 24-hour strike of pilots and cabin crews at Italy’s flagship carrier Alitalia.

The strike hit the airline’s entire network, except for operations at Bari, Brindisi and Genoa. The ANPAC union is asking for the company to confirm in writing that jobs won’t be lost when a solidarity contract expires in February.

Alitalia cancelled 130 flights and attempted to contact 12,600 passengers to offer alternative flights or refunds, but many of them were not reached in time.

Thousands of air passengers grounded during Alitalia strike | euronews, world news

Tax Evasion: Switzerland publishes names of foreign tax evaders

Switzerland has reportedly published the names of foreigners wanted for tax frauds after requests from Russia, France, Germany, India and other countries. This may mark the end of Swiss bank privacy tradition, dating back to the 1930s.

After the government of Switzerland received numerous formal requests from foreign tax authorities, it decided to list the names, birthdates and nationalities of alleged tax evaders in its federal newspaper, Deutsche Welle said, citing Swiss media Sonntagszeitung.
 
The data will be publicly available on the Internet, which will allow the people on the list to protest the publication in court.

Banks have little interest in seeking customers who no longer keep their accounts in Switzerland, said Alexandre Dumas, a Swiss federal tax authority official.

Read more: Switzerland publishes names of foreign tax evaders – reports — RT Business

Poland: Conservative Duda wins Poland's presidential vote

Conservative challenger Andrzej Duda has won Poland's presidential election and ousted the incumbent in a runoff vote, according to official results.

Duda, a right-wing member of the European Parliament, won with 51.55 percent of the vote, the State Electoral Commission said on Monday.

President Bronislaw Komorowski, allied with the ruling pro-business Civic Platform, garnered 48.45 percent in the second round of voting on Sunday, with a turnout was 55.34 percent.

Duda, a 43-year-old lawyer with experience in the government, will be take office in August.
Poland's president is the head of the armed forces, and can propose and veto legislation. In foreign policy, the president's role is chiefly ceremonial.

Read Conservative Duda wins Poland's presidential vote - Al Jazeera English

Spain: Madrid residents react to Spain’s political shake-up

Although Spain’s ruling People’s Party (PP) got more votes than any other party in Sunday’s (May 24) regional and local elections, it and the rival Socialists will need to negotiate coalitions with the new minority parties in most regions and more than 8,000 towns and cities.

“I think that the citizens have spoken and they will continue speaking and we will continue speaking,” said one female resident. I’m very proud of the fact that Madrid and Barcelona are at the start of a new era.”

“People have said that the PP may have received the most votes, but now they need to move on from mistakes of the past, and open a dialogue and look for other solutions,” said an elderly man.

At the PP headquarters in Valencia, dozens of shocked supporters, many of them young activists, fought back tears at the news their party would likely lose control of the city to a left-wing coalition.

Read more:Madrid residents react to Spain’s political shake-up | euronews, world news

5/24/15

The Netherlands: S&P Raises Outlook on Netherlands - by Lisa Beilfuss

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services on Friday raised its outlook on the Netherlands to positive from stable, citing a broadening economic recovery.

S&P affirmed the country’s double-A-plus rating, which is one step below triple-A.

The credit ratings firm said the positive outlook reflects a one-in-three probability that it could raise its ratings on the Netherlands within the next 24 months if economic growth prospects improve further.
S&P said it expects the Dutch economy to expand by about 1.7% annually through 2017, up from 0.9% growth last year and more than the firm predicted six months ago. The European Commission has projected 1.6% growth this year and 1.7% growth next year.

The firming of the eurozone’s growth prospects will continue to support demand for Dutch goods and services, S&P said, adding that demand from trading partners outside the eurozone should be supported by euro depreciation.

Read more: S&P Raises Outlook on Netherlands - WSJ

Spain set for change as voters look to oust traditional parties in local polls

Voters across Spain are casting ballots in regional and municipal elections with an outcome likely to mark the end of the country’s dominant two party system.

The electorate are said to be tired of corruption and economic malaise and look set to vote for smaller parties and political mavericks.

Sitting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his Popular Party are expected to lose majorities in most of the 10 regions they control.

The Socialists, led by Pedro Sanchez, are unlikely to benefit from the suspicion in which the current government is held with the public looking to go further by voting for Podemos and Ciudadanos (Citizens Party), the new kids on the block.

The battle for the capital Madrid symbolises the mood in Spain with the Popular Party in real danger of losing a majority it has held for two decades.

Likewise in Barcelona where an anti-eviction campaigner is on course to to upset the formally dominant Convergence and Union Party.

Read more: Spain set for change as voters look to oust traditional parties in local polls | euronews, world news

5/23/15

Eurovision Song Contest 2015 in Vienna, Austria : Sweden Wins

It's happening! It's happening! Come join DW for a wild evening of musical madness - Eurovision 2015 in Vienna.

To watch go to: http://www.eurovision.tv/page/webtv?program=132913

For the recap of all the songs : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwqDObiQrMY

Read and see more: LIVE - Eurovision Song Contest 2015 in Vienna, Austria | Culture | DW.DE | 23.05.2015

Turkey: Upcoming Elections - Dark Clouds Over Turkey

With two weeks to go before a crucial parliamentary election in Turkey, tensions are rising and some critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fear a new crackdown is starting to ensure that his Justice and Development Party wins.

That kind of brute manipulation of the political process would be a serious mistake, further weakening the country’s battered democracy and tainting whatever victory might emerge.

After more than a decade of amassing power as Turkey’s leader, Mr. Erdogan could be on the verge of realizing his dream of changing the Constitution to make the president, rather than the prime minister, the leading political authority. His party, known as A.K.P., would have to win 330 seats in Parliament on June 7 — a three-fifths majority — to take a proposed constitutional change to a referendum.

The party won only 326 seats in the last election in 2011, and on Friday Reuters reported that the most recent poll by the research firm Konda suggests that support for A.K.P. has declined. 

Mr. Erdogan has a long history of intimidating and co-opting the Turkish media, but new alarms were set off this week when criminal complaints were filed against editors of the Hurriyet Daily News and its website over a headline Mr. Erdogan had objected to.

Read more: Dark Clouds Over Turkey - NYTimes.com

Gay Community: Ireland Votes to Legalize Gay Marriage in Historic Referendum

Ireland became the first country in the world to vote in favor of legalizing gay marriage Saturday after a resounding victory for "Yes" campaigners.

At final count, 62 percent voted in favor of legalizaing gay marriage in the country, while 38 percent voted against it. Nearly 2 million people voted, with more than 1.2 million voting "yes" and 734,300 voting "no." 

A celebratory mood had come over Dublin even before the official results were announced around 7 p.m. local time, with tallies for each constituency displayed on big screens to thousands watching from Dublin Castle's sun-soaked central square. 

The large crowd spontaneously broke into Ireland's national anthem as they awaited the final tally.
Earlier, David Quinn, the director of the conservative Iona Institute and leader of the "No" campaign — which sought to prevent Ireland's constitution from being amended to permit same-sex marriage — conceded defeat and congratulated the 'Yes' side. 

The poll pitted liberal forces against Ireland's conservative Catholic foundation.

Read more: Ireland Votes to Legalize Gay Marriage in Historic Referendum - NBC News.com

Suriname Elections: (Poll) Party Suriname president Bouters,former dictator and convicted drug fugitive,seems to have upper hand

Desi Bouterse the colorful dictator-turned-president who has ruled Suriname ( a former Dutch colony) on and off since 1980, is looking to consolidate power when the small South American country holds general elections on Monday.

A convicted drug trafficker who has been a coup leader and an international fugitive, Bouterse is seeking to dispense with his alliance with one-time nemesis Ronnie Brunswijk and preside over the first non-coalition democratic government in Suriname's history. 

Bouterse's National Democratic Party (NDP) formed a government after the last elections in 2010 by forging a motley mega-coalition, returning him to power for the second time since his 1980-1987 military government.

But after the coalition fell apart, the NDP decided to go it alone this time, buoyed by strong standings in opinion polls.

The party needs to win at least 26 seats in the 51-member National Assembly to govern alone, and 34 seats to re-elect Bouterse -- the president is chosen by a two-thirds majority of parliament.

The main opposition is the V7, a coalition of six parties that accuses Bouterse of massive corruption and has a broad ethnic base in the racially diverse country whose 500,000 people have roots in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.

The third main group, and possible power-broker, is the Alternative Combination alliance led by Brunswijk, a former guerrilla leader who fought a civil war against Bouterse's military government before teaming up with his former foe in 2010.

The party's base are the Maroons, the descendants of fugitive slaves who set up settlements in the Surinamese interior.

The smallest country in South America, Suriname was colonized by the British and Dutch and gained independence from the Netherlands in 1975.

Five years later, a group of sergeants led by Bouterse overthrew prime minister Henck Arron and installed a military government.

Whether in his dictator's fatigues and sunglasses or his sharp president's suit, Bouterse, 69, has loomed large over the country's politics ever since.

His regime put down two counter-coups and rounded up and executed 15 opponents in 1982, an event known as the "December killings."

Bouterse stepped down in 1987, but returned to power in 1990 in a second bloodless coup.
After leaving power a second time, Bouterse was indicted and court-martialed for the December killings, but his coalition passed a controversial amnesty law in 2012 that aborted the trial.

The president and his family have faced a host of other legal woes, adding to the country's reputation for drug running, money laundering and graft.

The Netherlands convicted him in absentia of cocaine smuggling in 1999, but he remained free because Suriname does not extradite its citizens.

Earlier this year, a Dutch court rejected his third bid to have the conviction overturned.

In March, a US court sentenced his son Dino, who had served as his father's top counter-terrorism official, to 16 years in prison on charges of trying to aid and arm Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah and conspiring to import cocaine into the United States.

Bouterse has shrugged off these scandals and bolstered his popularity with expanded social welfare programs, free university education and lavish spending on infrastructure projects such as bridges, schools and housing.

The V7, formerly known as the New Front, accuses him of corruption and populism, and warns the tab for these projects will hurt when it arrives.

It also blames the NDP for an energy crisis it says was caused by shady deals with US-based aluminum giant Alcoa for the Afobaka hydroelectric dam, which generates most of the mineral-rich, upper-middle-income country's power.

In all, seven parties and four coalitions are vying for the ballots of 350,000 registered voters, who will also elect their district and local representatives.

Polls open at 7:00 am (1000 GMT) and close 12 hours later.

The first, partial results are expected at 10:00 pm, with a projection of the full results early Tuesday.


5/22/15

US Fast Food: the hamburger you eat is produced by people who earn "poverty level" wages

Fast food workers in the US have gained momentum in their struggle for higher wages. But economists warn that the industry could cut some workers out altogether by increasing automation. pauve

More than 1,000 McDonald's employees protested outside the fast food giant's annual shareholders meeting in Chicago on Thursday, where they submitted a petition signed by more than a million people, demanding an hourly wage of $15 and calling on the company to support the right to unionize.

For nearly three years now, a nationwide movement of fast food workers has been demanding higher wages. These workers often earn the legal minimum, which ranges from state to state in the US, but is normally $7.25 per hour or higher.

There are more than three million fast food workers in the US, making them one of the largest occupational groups in the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But they are also some of the lowest paid workers.

Read more: Will US fast food workers fight for $15 backfire? | News | DW.DE | 22.05.2015

Freedom of Expression: Russia threatens block on Google, Twitter, Facebook

 Google, Twitter and Facebook face being blocked in Russia after being warned against violating the country's controversial blogging laws.

Russia's media authority Roskomnadzor sent letters to the U.S. tech giants this week asking them to comply with internet rules.

Read more: Russia threatens block on Google, Twitter, Facebook

Iraq: US Voters Remain Cool to Boots on the Ground in Iraq says poll

Regardless of Republican rhetoric a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 35% of Likely U.S. Voters now favor sending combat troops back to Iraq as part of an international coalition to fight ISIS. That’s down from 40% two months ago and from a high of 52% in early February.

Read more: Voters Remain Cool to Boots on the Ground in Iraq - Rasmussen Reports™

EU leaders meet with ex-Soviet partners in Riga

The European Union has gathered in Latvia to meet with eastern countries and bolster ties. Russia has warned that the meeting "mustn't hurt" its interests.

But Donald Tusk, former prime minister of Poland and current European Council president, dismissed Russia's "bullying tactics" after arriving in Riga.

"The Eastern Partnership is not a beauty contest between Russia and the European Union. But let me be frank: beauty does count," Tusk said at the start of the summit. "If Russia was a bit softer, more charming, more attractive, perhaps it wouldn't have to compensate its shortcomings by destructive, aggressive and bullying tactics against its neighbors."

Read more:EU leaders meet with ex-Soviet partners in Riga | News | DW.DE | 21.05.2015

Britain: Explained Cameron and the EU: what does a Brexit mean?

The Conservative Party, led by British Prime Minister David Cameron, beat all expectations to win a parliamentary majority in the UK’s general election on May 7.

It raises the prospect of Britons getting the chance to vote in an in/out referendum on EU membership before the end of 2017.

Cameron will be hoping that this gamble will pacify the Eurosceptic wing of his party and finally see off the threat of Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party (Ukip).

Tory infighting over Europe saw the last two Conservative premiers, John Major and Margaret Thatcher, pushed out of office by rebel ministers and backbench MPs.

Cameron says he will only offer the British public the chance to vote on severing all ties with Brussels once he has secured a series of reforms from the 28-member bloc.

Note EU-Digest: Wishful thinking by Mr. Cameron who seems to forget that the only reason he won the election was because he was the best candidate among all the terrible candidates put together. 

Read more: Explained Cameron and the EU: what does a Brexit mean? | euronews, world news

5/21/15

Burqa : Women’s rights overlooked in the name of racial “tolerance” .

If there’s a hierarchy in the hallowed halls of our nation’s tertiary institutions whenever a potential clash of ideology arises, it goes something like this: Muslims and then women. In that order.

This is an environment in which even the most passionate of women’s advocates can be rendered mute by a suggestion they are engaging in anti-Islam rhetoric.

An environment in which the very same people who will argue at length about how female pop stars are coerced into wearing skimpy clothing due to the patriarchy will shy away from a frank discussion about the pressures brought to bear on other women to wear a burqa, niqab or hijab.

Analysing the archaic double-standards and obstacles faced by women across the world is all well and good until you risk offending the sensibilities of Muslim men. And let’s face it, it is only ever the men.

When was the last time you heard a Muslim woman seriously claim to be offended that anyone would dare to suggest she should sit where she wants? Or wear what she chooses? Somehow it’s always a man who steps forward to defend a woman’s “right” to be treated as a second-class citizen.

Last October freelance journalist Alison Bevege wrote an opinion piece for The Daily Telegraph in which she detailed how she was not permitted to sit in the front of the room at a public meeting in Sydney organised by Hizb ut-Tahrir.

“Like Mississippi blacks in the 1950s sent to the back of the bus for the colour of their skin, I was segregated due to my gender,” she observed.

Which is pretty much how events unfolded at the University of Western Sydney last Thursday night when men and women were asked to sit apart at an event organized by the Muslim Students’ Association.

Note EU-Digest : With all respect for anyone's religious believes, but Islam really could do with a face-lift the Christian had back in the 1500's when Martin Luther told the Catholic Pope that he was not God's representative on earth, that God lives within us and not above us, and that Women and Men are both equal in God's eyes.

Women’s rights overlooked in the name of racial “tolerance” | Herald Sun

Middle East: - Syria: ISIL controls more than half of Syria after seizing Palmyra

More than 100 pro-Syrian government fighters have been reported killed as ISIL captured all of the historic city of Palmyra, according to the British-based Syrian observatory for Human rights.

The Islamic extremist group has control of the military airbase, prison and intelligence headquarters, and it has also entered the city’s historic sites, though there are no reports of destruction so far.

The taking of Palmyra means that more than half of Syrian territory is now under ISIL control.

The group already controlled wide tracts of the north and east, though these areas were mostly desert. This is the first time they have seized a large population centre directly from Syrian pro-government forces.

One resident said they had inside help:

Read more: ISIL controls more than half of Syria after seizing Palmyra | euronews, world news

5/20/15

Freedom of the Press: ​Americans, Europeans want non-MSM coverage of intl. news poll results show

Getting their international news only from mainstream media is not what the majority of Americans and Europeans want, an opinion poll shows. Some 60 percent desire alternative sources of news coverage.

The only country among the five polled by the British company ICM Research for Sputnik news radio, in which less than half of respondents said they would like to have an alternative source of information on world affairs, was France. Forty-nine percent of the people there said they would be ‘quite interested’ or ‘interested a lot’ in it.
 
Greeks were on the other side of the spectrum, with over 80 percent vying for such a source. The US and UK were level at 57 percent, while Germany ran at 55 percent, Sputnik reported.

The majority of Europeans - UK, French, German and Greek residents among them - distrust mainstream media coverage of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, a recent poll targeting over 4,000 people, reveals.

Greeks appear to have showed the least faith in their domestic media, with a total of 76 percent saying they were ‘fairly’ or ‘totally distrustful’ of mainstream reports on Ukraine. In Germany, the same opinion was shared by 57 percent of respondents.

Britons, on the other hand, have great trust in the mainstream media’s handling of the situation. As many as 55 percent of respondents stated they put a fair amount of trust in the coverage of events in eastern Ukraine by British media. Some 33 percent said it was biased, however.

In France, 47 percent of respondents said they don't trust the Ukraine conflict coverage.

EU-Digest
 



Turkish Elections: Ahead of Turkey's Crucial Election, Citizens Take Action to Protect Their Vote - by Karabekir Akkoyunlu

Many things are at stake in Turkey's upcoming parliamentary poll on June 7: Will the Kurds overcome the world's highest election threshold of 10% to enter the parliament as a party for the first time? Or will the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) win enough seats to change the constitution and introduce the system of strong presidentialism that President Tayyip Erdoğan has long wanted?

It is a historic moment where a single vote could possibly shape the course of Turkey's bloodiest conflict and its future regime type, with repercussions beyond the country's borders. With so much hanging on the outcome, this is also a crucial test for Turkey's embattled electoral system.

Turkey has never become an 'advanced' democracy: For decades, political contestation took place in the shadow of military tutelage, now being replaced with an illiberal populism under Erdoğan and the AKP. Its record on civil liberties and human rights has been bleak. Yet ever since the country held its first competitive multiparty election in 1950, the ballot box has taken on a quality as one of Turkey's few non-contested institutions to the point of becoming sacrosanct.

Politicians have routinely accepted defeat and handed over power peacefully. Turnout has been traditionally high, as well as popular trust in declared results. The fact that it has preserved this most basic democratic institution despite all other shortcomings has set Turkey apart from many of its neighbors, where elections have been thoroughly rigged or did not take place at all.

That core institution is now in jeopardy. A major survey has found that public trust in the electoral process has deteriorated sharply: only 48% believe that the upcoming poll will be conducted fairly (comparable to the level of trust for elections in Russia), down from 70% in 2007 (on par with the US). The OSCE has cited concerns about fairness and transparency and recommended appointing observers for the June election.

In part, this is a result of the country's deepening political polarization and party tribalism. It also reflects the rising number of fraud allegations at polling stations in recent elections. In an insecure political atmosphere driven by wild conspiracy theories, high level corruption scandals and judicial vendettas that can land the losers in prison, more voters appear convinced that office holders will do whatever necessary to hold on to power.

Read more: Ahead of Turkey's Crucial Election, Citizens Take Action to Protect Their Vote | Karabekir Akkoyunlu

International Banking Fraud: Six top banks fined for forex, Libor abuses

US and British regulators have slapped massive fines on six major global banks for rigging the foreign exchange market and Libor interest rates. They called the banks' frauds 'brazen schemes' to harm clients.

In a settlement announced by the US Justice Department on Wednesday, the banks agreed to pay close to $6 billion (5.3 billion euros) in fines for their manipulations.

The deal included guilty pleas from UK-based Barclays Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland, as well as US banks JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup. They admitted to conspiring to manipulate the massive currency market.

Switzerland's UBS also pleaded guilty - in its case for one count of wire fraud in connection with Libor interest rate manipulations. However, the Justice Department granted the Swiss bank conditional immunity for cooperating with the investigation.

Together, the five banks agreed to a record $2.5 billion in criminal penalties, the largest set of antitrust fines ever obtained by the Department of Justice.

In addition, these five banks, plus the Bank of America, will pay more than $1.8 billion in fines to the US Federal Reserve over "unsafe and unsound practices" in forex markets.

Note EU-Digest: If someone steals a bar of chocolate in a grocery store, he or she can go to prison for a week including paying a fine. These banker crooks just pay a fine out of the billions they already stole from you and me and continue their life.
 
Read more: Six top banks fined for forex, Libor abuses | Business | DW.DE | 20.05.2015