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6/30/15

Europe’s Attack On Greek Democracy - by Joseph Stiglitz

The rising crescendo of bickering and acrimony within Europe might seem to outsiders to be the inevitable result of the bitter endgame playing out between Greece and its creditors. In fact, European leaders are finally beginning to reveal the true nature of the ongoing debt dispute, and the answer is not pleasant: it is about power and democracy much more than money and economics.

Of course, the economics behind the program that the “troika” (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) foisted on Greece five years ago has been abysmal, resulting in a 25% decline in the country’s GDP. I can think of no depression, ever, that has been so deliberate and had such catastrophic consequences: Greece’s rate of youth unemployment, for example, now exceeds 60%.

Read more: Europe’s Attack On Greek Democracy

6/28/15

EU politicians should take their head out of the sand and start smelling the roses - by RM

It's decision time for the EU
Europe must stop waffling in its attempts to move ahead towards more political and economic integration. It needs to do so if if it wants to project an image of a more credible and united entity.

Turning the clock back to individual statehood status, with every nation its own  borders and currency would mean instant suicide in today's world of Super Powers, including, China, the USA, and to a certain extend also Russia. These countries are all lying at the doorstep of EU's "weakling countries", ready to "gobble" them up.

If the EU falls apart, so would the present influence of each member state which they presently have under the powerful combined "nations umbrella" of the EU. Prosperity as EU citizen's now have enjoyed for many years would end not only abruptly, but also in a brutal fashion.

A solution, to solidify and further strengthen the European Union as a major world power, and to create even more economic prosperity for its citizens will require, not only for some of the member nation states politicians to abandon nationalistic pipe-dreams and look at the "big picture", but also to encourage them into making some dramatic changes to the structure of the EU. This would also include abolishing policies and treaties which have been unproductive, costly and caused more harm than good.

These changes could be achieved based on the following outline:

1) By referendum on a new EU constitution, which incorporates the following provisions:

a) establish the EU citizen as a full partner and decission-maker in all matters of government - by increasing the powers of the EU parliament, giving them the political authority to appoint the EU commission, based on the outcome of election results of the European parliamentary elections.

b) establishing a second chamber in the European parliament where all chairmen of local member state parliaments would be represented, having the power by majority vote to approve or oppose any resolution or proposal submitted by the EU Parliament or EU President.

c) the election of a EU President by universal vote, covering every member state of the European Union.

2) establishment of a permanent and strong European defense force

a) the defense force budget based on the proportional contribution in money and manpower (GDP and population) of all EU member states

b) review of all present military alliances by the EU (including those of individual member states) and establish a common EU defense force policy

3) establishing a common EU foreign policy based on:

a) the EU's economic and political interests and alliances with countries supporting EU's policies

b)  the projection of a neutral position in relation to the geopolitical policies and interests of other nations

c) seeking economic alliances instead of military alliances

It is high time European politicians take their head out of the sand and start smelling the roses.

EU-Digest



6/27/15

EU-US Trade Pact: Poll shows majority of Europeans not in favor of all aspects potential EU - US trade agreement

A recent EU-Digest poll conducted from  May through June as to EU citizens concerns related to a potential Trans Atlantic Trade Pact  (TTIP) between the EU and the EU shows that all respondents in this poll voiced concerns about the possibility that this EU-US trade pact could be providing US corporations access/controls over EU Public Health, Communications, Education, Insurance, Water and Energy services.

A new EU-Digest poll, which runs from the 27th of June till the end of July focuses on the overall state of "health" of the EU, given the challenges it faces and its ability to tackle these problems,

The new EU-Digest poll is also quite relevant, given the possibility of a Greek economic default and the impact it could have on the EMU and the EU as a whole.

EU-Digest 

Greece debt crisis: Tsipras announces bailout referendum

Is the party over for Greece?
Greece will hold a referendum on 5 July on a controversial bailout deal with foreign creditors, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has announced. 

In a televised address, he described the plan as "humiliation" and condemned "unbearable" austerity measures demanded by creditors.

The Greek government earlier rejected the proposals, aimed at avoiding the country defaulting on its debt.

Greece has to make a €1.5bn ($1.7bn; £1.06bn) IMF debt repayment on 30 June.

In the speech, Mr Tsipras said: "These proposals, which clearly violate the European rules and the basic rights to work, equality and dignity show that the purpose of some of the partners and institutions was not a viable agreement for all parties, but possibly the humiliation of an entire people."

"The people must decide free of any blackmail," he added.

Read more: Greece debt crisis: Tsipras announces bailout referendum - BBC News

6/26/15

Islam: Potential Saudi Arabia "implosion" could happen sooner than later

On June 26 there were three Muslim terrorist attacks: in France, Tunisia, and Kuwait, killing a large numbers of innocent civilians.

And all this during Ramadan.

There is no way this can be explained away by saying "oh but those are radicalized Muslims, or it is the fault of foreign intervention."  All the signs are there - change must come and is already coming to Islam in a spiritual way.

Spiritual forces from within and outside Islam will either modify or dispose of the religion as a fake. This in a very similar way as Maarten Luther, against all odds, broke the "radical" grip the Vatican Catholic Church had on many Christian countries in Europe during the 1500's.

One can foresee a scenario whereby Saudi Arabia, the present custodian of two holy mosques, could  "implode" within 10 years. As will other countries in the area.

Change will not come without pain, but it will come and can not be stopped.

EU-Digest

Muslim Terrorism: Tunisia Attack Kills at Least 37 at Beach Resort Hotel -by F. Samti and C. Gall

At least one gunman disguised as a vacationer attacked a placid seaside resort in Tunisia on Friday, killing at least 37 people at a beachfront hotel — many of them foreign tourists — before he was shot to death by security forces.

It was the second major terrorist attack in a little more than three months targeting the Tunisian tourist industry. It sent shockwaves through the country, which was still recovering from the first assault, a massacre at a museum in the heart of the capital in March. President Beji Caid Essebsi rushed to the resort and promised tough new security procedures.

The audacity of the assailant, armed with a Kalashnikov rifle, suggested a sharp escalation from the relatively low-level political violence that has bedeviled Tunisia since its Arab Spring revolt four years ago.


Read more: Tunisia Attack Kills at Least 37 at Beach Resort Hotel - The New York Times

Muslim Terrorists: France launches terror inquiry after decapitated body found in factory attack

France has launched a terrorism investigation after police found a decapitated body and a flag with Islamist inscriptions following an attack in which a man seemingly tried to blow up a factory belonging to a US gas company.

“It is a terror attack. There is no doubt about it,” the French president, François Hollande, told reporters in Brussels before leaving a European council summit to return to Paris.

A decapitated body with a message written on it was found at the scene in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon in the south-east of the country, Hollande said. Various reports identified the dead man as the manager of a transport firm, whose company often made deliveries to the Air Products factory.

A suspected attacker arrested at the scene worked for the dead man’s company, according to a series of reports.

Bernard Cazeneuve, France’s interior minister, said the suspect’s identity had yet to be confirmed, but he was thought to be called Yassin Salhi. The minister added: “This person was under investigation for radicalisation but this investigation was not renewed in 2008. He had no police record.”

Reports said Salhi worked at the same company as the beheaded victim. The suspect was believed to have hung the man’s head on a fence or gate before driving a vehicle into a warehouse filled with gas canisters, causing an explosion, a local newspaper, Dauphiné Libéré, said. Two people were hurt in the blast.

Read more: France launches terror inquiry after decapitated body found in factory attack | World news | The Guardian

6/25/15

USA: Supreme Court's Obamacare decision and 2016 -by Brett LoGiurato

The Supreme Court handed the Obama administration a significant victory on Thursday, when it upheld a key provision of the Affordable Care Act that allows the federal government to keep distributing subsidies to help low-income Americans buy health insurance.

But the decision's ramifications could be felt in the 2016 election and beyond, especially if a Republican wins the White House next year.

That's because the Supreme Court not only ruled the federal subsidies are legal under the Affordable Care Act, but it also did not leave any ambiguity that would allow a future administration to interpret the law differently.

The Supreme Court has definitively determined that the federal government can provide subsidies under the law.
 

Greece: Weekend deadline for Greece after negotiations draw blank - by Ian Traynor, Jennifer Rankin, Helena Smith

Greece’s creditors have set the country a weekend deadline to avoid default and stay in the eurozone, after more than 24 hours of non-stop Brussels negotiations at the highest level resulted in stalemate.

After talks between Athens and its creditors failed to reach an agreement on Thursday, a further meeting of eurozone finance ministers will be held on Saturday in a bid to achieve a breakthrough. With the German chancellor Angela Merkel insisting that a deal must be reached before markets open on Monday morning, Greece is now running out of time to secure an accord and make a €1.6bn payment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday.

Following a 24-hour period that involved three rounds of talks between Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and Greece’s creditors, as well as two sessions of eurozone finance ministers, officials described the situation as entrenched and immobilised.

“They can talk and talk, but the gap does not narrow,” said an EU official. “Both sides are in their trenches.” Arriving at an EU leaders’ summit on Thursday evening that threatened to be overshadowed by the Greek crisis, Merkel said Greece had “gone backwards” on some issues.

Read more: Weekend deadline for Greece after negotiations draw blank | Business | The Guardian

6/24/15

USA -NSA SPYING: Obama pledges to end ′unacceptable′ tactics after France spying row - LOL

US President Barack Obama spoke with his French counterpart, Francois Hollande, on Wednesday after reports emerged that his government spied on French leaders, a statement from the French president's office said.

"President Obama reiterated unequivocally his firm commitment … to end the practices that may have happened in the past, and that are unacceptable among allies," the statement said.

The two presidents discussed "the principles that should govern relations between allies in the domain of intelligence."

French intelligence officials will visit Washington some time soon to discuss the matter, the statement added.
Obama made a similar pledge to Germany in 2013 after former CIA contractor Edward Snowden leaked confidential information about the extent of the US National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance. The documents showed that the NSA has tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone.

Note  EU-Digest: "end the practices that may have happened in the past, and that are unacceptable among allies" LOL


Read more: Obama pledges to end ′unacceptable′ tactics after France spying row | News | DW.COM | 24.06.2015

Turkey: first hung parliament since 2002 sworn in - by Catherine Hardy

Turkey’s first hung parliament since 2002 was recently sworn in in Ankara.

The pressure is on to get the majority to sing from the same sheet. Failure by the largest party, the AK, to form a government will stoke uncertainty in the country at a critical time.

The 550-member assembly has a record 98 women in its ranks. It is also ethnically diverse, with Kurds, Armenians and Roma among a number of minority groups represented.

All four main political parties have pledged to avoid a leadership vacuum. However, this may be easier said than done as they remain at odds on many areas of policy and procedure.

A more united front was on show before the ceremony as flowers were laid at the monument to Ataturk, the man known as the father of modern Turkey.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is soon expected to set a deadline of 45 days for a government to be formed.

Read more: Turkey: first hung parliament since 2002 sworn in | euronews, world news

Greece: Tsipras summoned to Brussels for emergency talks over Greek bailout deal - by I Traynor, J. Rankin , H.Smith

Greece’s prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, arrives in Brussels on Wednesday for critical talks with the country’s creditors as the outlines of the latest proposed deal to avoid bankruptcy threatens to unravel, worsening the crisis.

In advance of the third meeting of eurozone finance ministers in less than a week, Tsipras was summoned to the office of Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, to try to thrash out remaining differences.

Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, and Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who runs the Eurogroup committee of finance ministers, are to confront Tsipras about the tax rises and spending cuts he tabled on Monday in the hope of securing more bailout funds for Greece and avoiding a default next week.

The Eurogroup meeting on Wednesday is aimed at preparing an agreement that would be rubber-stamped by an EU summit on Thursday, averting the eurozone’s first default and keeping the currency bloc intact.

Read more: Tsipras summoned to Brussels for emergency talks over Greek bailout deal | World news | The Guardian

US NSA SPYIING CHARGES: France’s Hollande Calls Defense Cabinet Meeting After NSA Spying Claims - by S. Schechner and W. Horobin

French President François Hollande plans to convene top defense advisers on Wednesday after WikiLeaks published documents that purportedly show that the U.S. spied on him and his two predecessors.

The six documents, also published late Tuesday by two French publications, describe purported U.S. surveillance of internal deliberations and conversations of Mr. Hollande and former French presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac.

The White House late Tuesday said that it is not now spying on Mr. Hollande and that it would not undertake such surveillance against him in the future. The statement did not deny that spying had taken place in the past.

“We do not conduct any foreign intelligence surveillance activities unless there is a specific and validated national security purpose,” said Ned Price, White House National Security Council spokesman. “This applies to ordinary citizens and world leaders alike.”

It wasn’t immediately possible to authenticate the documents, which span a period from 2006 to 2012. WikiLeaks has leaked documents in the past that were later authenticated.

Mr. Hollande’s office said Wednesday’s meeting would seek to “evaluate the nature” of the leaked documents and “draw useful conclusions.”

An aide to Mr. Sarkozy told the Associated Press that the former president considers these methods unacceptable, especially from an ally. Mr. Chirac didn’t immediately comment, the AP reported.

The latest leak detailing alleged U.S. spying on European allies is likely to worsen simmering trans-Atlantic tensions over surveillance.

Note EU-Digest - with friends like this who needs any enemies?

Read more: France’s Hollande Calls Defense Cabinet Meeting After NSA Spying Claims - WSJ

6/23/15

Beer Breweries: The Netherlands overtakes Belgium as a brewing heartland

There are now more brewers in the Netherlands than traditional beer country Belgium, RTL news says on Tuesday. Dutch beer website Cambrinus.nl calculates there are 311 official brewers in the Netherlands and, says RTL, there are 263 in Belgium. Cambrinus has been monitoring the domestic beer industry since 1985. ‘Our list does not include private individuals who brew 40 litres in their kitchen because there are an awful lot of them,’ the site’s Jan Ausems told RTL. Both the Netherlands and Belgium have 172 brewers but the Netherlands has 139 ‘beer companies’, which produce beer according to their own recipe via a third party, RTL said. Belgium only has 91 third party brewers. Most beer companies and breweries are in Noord-Holland province, the website says.

Read more at DutchNews.nl: The Netherlands overtakes Belgium as a brewing heartland http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2015/06/the-netherlands-overtakes-belgium-as-a-brewing-heartland/
There are now more brewers in the Netherlands than traditional beer country Belgium, RTL news says on Tuesday. Dutch beer website Cambrinus.nl calculates there are 311 official brewers in the Netherlands and, says RTL, there are 263 in Belgium. Cambrinus has been monitoring the domestic beer industry since 1985. ‘Our list does not include private individuals who brew 40 litres in their kitchen because there are an awful lot of them,’ the site’s Jan Ausems told RTL. Both the Netherlands and Belgium have 172 brewers but the Netherlands has 139 ‘beer companies’, which produce beer according to their own recipe via a third party, RTL said. Belgium only has 91 third party brewers. Most beer companies and breweries are in Noord-Holland province, the website says.

Read more at DutchNews.nl: The Netherlands overtakes Belgium as a brewing heartland http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2015/06/the-netherlands-overtakes-belgium-as-a-brewing-heartland/
There are now more brewers in the Netherlands than traditional beer country Belgium, RTL news says on Tuesday. Dutch beer website Cambrinus.nl calculates there are 311 official brewers in the Netherlands and, says RTL, there are 263 in Belgium. Cambrinus has been monitoring the domestic beer industry since 1985. ‘Our list does not include private individuals who brew 40 litres in their kitchen because there are an awful lot of them,’ the site’s Jan Ausems told RTL. Both the Netherlands and Belgium have 172 brewers but the Netherlands has 139 ‘beer companies’, which produce beer according to their own recipe via a third party, RTL said. Belgium only has 91 third party brewers. Most beer companies and breweries are in Noord-Holland province, the website says.

Read more at DutchNews.nl: The Netherlands overtakes Belgium as a brewing heartland http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2015/06/the-netherlands-overtakes-belgium-as-a-brewing-heartland/
There are now more brewers in the Netherlands than traditional beer country Belgium, RTL news says on Tuesday. Dutch beer website Cambrinus.nl calculates there are 311 official brewers in the Netherlands and, says RTL, there are 263 in Belgium. Cambrinus has been monitoring the domestic beer industry since 1985.

‘Our list does not include private individuals who brew 40 litres in their kitchen because there are an awful lot of them,’ the site’s Jan Ausems told RTL. Both the Netherlands and Belgium have 172 brewers but the Netherlands has 139 ‘beer companies’, which produce beer according to their own recipe via a third party, RTL said. Belgium only has 91 third party brewers.

Most beer companies and breweries are in Noord-Holland province, the website says.

Read more: The Netherlands overtakes Belgium as a brewing heartland - DutchNews.nl

EU Economy: Eurozone on the road to recovery

The eurozone recovery is growing stronger according to the influential poll of purchasing managers.

The report delivers figures of a four year high for the zone.

The French manufacturing sector has been singled out for praise and low oil prices have helped.

Mike Ingram is market strategist for BGC: says : ‘‘For a number of years the ECB was effectively asleep at the wheel and helped to drive the euro zone into something a deflationary funk.

The two biggest factors have been the decline in oil prices and the decline in the euro, those are really the two biggest drivers of the improvement in the euro zone economy over the last 12 months.’‘

The economies of Austria, Italy,Spain the Netherlands, Ireland, and Greece also showed improvements.

It is estimated that the region is on track to expand by 2 percent later this year.

Read more: Eurozone on the road to recovery | euronews, economy

EU-Digest Special Report: "What Borders Mean to Europe" - by George Friedman

The following special report " What Borders Mean to Europe - by Gearge Friedman" was published by EU-Digest. with the permission of the Global Stratford Intelligence Group .

"Europe today is a continent of borders. The second smallest continent in the world has more than 50 distinct, sovereign nation-states. Many of these are part of the European Union. At the core of the EU project is an effort to reduce the power and significance of these borders without actually abolishing them — in theory, an achievable goal. But history is not kind to theoretical solutions.

Today, Europe faces three converging crises that are ultimately about national borders, what they mean and who controls them. These crises appear distinct: Immigration from the Islamic world, the Greek economic crisis and Ukraine would seem to have little to do with each other. But in fact they all derive, in different ways, from the question of what borders mean.

Europe's borders have been the foundation both of its political morality and of its historical catastrophes.

The European Enlightenment argued against multi-national monarchies and for sovereign nation-states, which were understood to be the territories in which nations existed. Nations came to be defined as groupings of humans who shared a common history, language, values and religion — in short, a common culture into which they were born. These groups had the right of national self-determination, the authority to determine their style of government and the people who governed. Above all, these nations lived in a place, and that place had clear boundaries.

The right of national self-determination has created many distinct nations in Europe. And, as nations do, they sometimes distrust and fear one other, which occasionally leads to wars. They also have memories of betrayals and victimizations that stretch back for centuries before the nations became states. Some viewed the borders as unjust, because they placed their compatriots under foreign rule, or as insufficient to national need.

The right of self-determination led inevitably to borders, and the question of borders inevitably led to disputes among states. Between 1914 and 1945, Europeans waged a series of wars about national boundaries and about who has the right to live where. This led to one of the greatest slaughters of human history.

The memory of that carnage led to the creation of the European Union. Its founding principle was that this kind of massacre should never happen again. But the union lacked the power to abolish the nation-state — it was too fundamental to the Europeans' sense of identity. And if the nation-state survived, so did the idea of place and borders.

f the nation-state could not be abolished, however, then at least the borders could lose their significance. Thus two principles emerged after World War II: The first, predating the European Union, was that the existing borders of Europe could not be changed.

The hope was that by freezing Europe's borders, Europe could abolish war. The second principle, which came with the mature European Union, was that the bloc's internal borders both existed and did not exist. Borders were to define the boundaries of nation-states and preserved the doctrine of national self-determination, but they were not to exist insofar as the movement of goods, of labor and of capital were concerned. This was not absolute — some states were limited in some of these areas — but it was a general principle and goal. This principle is now under attack in three different ways.

The Movement of Muslims in Europe


The chaos in the Middle East has generated a flow of refugees toward Europe. This is adding to the problem that European nations have had with prior Muslim migrations that were encouraged by Europeans. As Europe recovered from World War II, it needed additional labor at low cost. Like other advanced industrial countries have done, a number of European states sought migrants, many from the Islamic world, to fill that need.

At first, the Europeans thought of the migrants as temporary residents. Over time, the Europeans conceded citizenship but created a doctrine of multiculturalism, which appeared to be a gesture of tolerance and was implicitly by mutual consent, given that some Muslims resisted assimilation. But this doctrine essentially served to exclude Muslims from full participation in the host culture even as they gained legal citizenship. But as I have said, the European idea of the nation was challenged by the notion of integrating different cultures into European societies.

Partly because of a failure to fully integrate migrants and partly because of terrorist attacks, a growing portion of European society began perceiving the Muslims already in Europe as threatening. Some countries had already discussed resurrecting internal European borders to prevent the movement not only of Muslims, but also of other Europeans seeking jobs in difficult economic times. The recent wave of refugees has raised the matter to a new level.

The refugee crisis has forced the Europeans to face a core issue. The humanitarian principles of the European Union demand that refugees be given sanctuary. And yet, another wave of refugees into Europe has threatened to exacerbate existing social and cultural imbalances in some countries; some anticipate the arrival of more Muslims with dread. Moreover, once migrants are allowed to enter Europe by any one country, the rest of the nations are incapable of preventing the refugees' movement.

Who controls Europe's external borders? Does Spain decide who enters Spain, or does the European Union decide? Whoever decides, does the idea of the free movement of labor include the principle of the free movement of refugees? If so, then EU countries have lost the ability to determine who may enter their societies and who may be excluded. For Europe, given its definition of the nation, this question is not an odd, legal one. It goes to the very heart of what a nation is, and whether the nation-state, under the principle of the right of national self-determination, is empowered to both make that decision and enforce it.

This question does not merely concern Muslims. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the Ostjuden — the Jews coming into Western Europe as they fled czarist edicts — raised the same challenge, even though they sought more vigorously to assimilate. But at that point, the notion of borders was unambiguous even if the specific decision on how to integrate the Jews was unclear. In many countries, the status of minorities from neighboring nations was a nagging question, but there were tools for handling it.

The Muslim issue is unique in Europe only to the extent that the European Union has made it unique. The bloc has tried to preserve borders while sapping them of significance, and now there is an upsurge of opposition not only to Muslim immigration, but also to the European Union's understanding of borders and free movement.

The Greek Crisis

The question of borders is also at the heart of the Greek crisis. We see two issues: one small, the other vast. The small one involves capital controls. The European Union is committed to a single European financial market within which capital flows freely. Greeks, fearing the outcome of the current crisis, have been moving large amounts of money out of Greece into foreign banks.

They remember what happened during the Cyprus crisis, when the government, capitulating to German demands in particular, froze and seized money deposited in Cypriot banks. Under EU rules, the transfer of deposits in one country of the bloc, or even outside the bloc, is generally considered legitimate. However, in the case of Cyprus, the free movement of capital across borders was halted. The same could conceivably happen in Greece.

In any event, which is the prior principle: the free movement of capital or the European Union's overarching authority to control that flow? Are Greek citizens personally liable for their government's debt — not merely through austerity policies, but also through controls imposed by the Greek government under European pressure to inhibit the movement of their money? If the answer is the latter, then borders on capital can be created temporarily.

The larger issue is the movement of goods. A significant dimension of this crisis involves free trade. Germany exports more than 50 percent of its gross domestic product. Its prosperity depends on these exports. I have argued that the inability to control the flow of German goods into Southern Europe drove the region into economic decline.

Germany's ability to control the flow of American goods into the country in the 1950s helped drive its economic recovery. The European Union permits limits on the movement of some products, particularly agricultural ones, through subsidies and quotas. In theory, free trade is beneficial to all. In practice, one country's short-term gain can vastly outweigh others' long-term gains. The ability to control the flow of goods is a tool that might slow growth but decrease pain.

The essential principle of the European Union is that of free trade, in the sense that the border cannot become a checkpoint to determine what goods may or may not enter a country and under what tariff rule. The theory is superb, save for its failure to address the synchronization of benefits. And it means that the right to self-determination no longer includes the right to control borders.

Ukraine and the 'Inviolability' of Borders

Finally, there is the Ukraine issue — which is not really about Ukraine, but about a prior principle of Europe: Borders cannot be allowed to change. The core of this rule is that altering borders leads to instability. This rule governed between 1945 and 1992.

Then, the fall of the Soviet Union transformed the internal borders of Europe dramatically, moving the Russian border eastward and northward. The Soviet collapse also created eight newly free nations that were Soviet satellites in Central and Eastern Europe and 15 new independent states — including Russia — from the constituent parts of the Soviet Union. It could be argued that the fall of the Soviet Union did not change the rule on borders, but that claim would be far-fetched. Everything changed.

Then came the "velvet divorce" of Slovakia and the Czech Republic, and now there are potential divorces in the United Kingdom, Spain and Belgium.

Perhaps most importantly, the rule broke down in Yugoslavia, where a single entity split into numerous independent nations, and, among other consequences, a war over borders ensued. The conflict concluded with the separation of Kosovo from Serbia and its elevation to the status of an independent nation. Russia has used this last border change to justify redrawing the borders of Georgia and as a precedent supporting its current demand for the autonomy and control of eastern Ukraine. Similarly, the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia shifted dramatically as the result of war. (On a related note, Cyprus, divided between a Turkish-run north and a Greek-run south, was allowed into the European Union in 2004 with its deep border dispute still unsettled.)

Since the end of the Cold War, the principle of the inviolability of borders has been violated repeatedly — through the creation of new borders, through the creation of newly freed nation-states, through peaceful divisions and through violent war. The principle of stable borders held for the most part until 1991 before undergoing a series of radical shifts that sometimes settled the issue and sometimes left it unresolved.

The Europeans welcomed most of these border adjustments, and in one case — Kosovo — Europeans themselves engineered the change.

It is in this context that the Ukrainian war must be considered. Europe's contention, supported by America, is that Russia is attempting to change inviolable borders. There are many good arguments to be made against the Russians in Ukraine, which I have laid out in the past. However, the idea that the Russians are doing something unprecedented in trying to redraw Ukraine's borders is difficult to support. Europe's borders have been in flux for some time.

That is indeed a matter of concern; historically, unsettled borders in Europe are precursors to war, as we have seen in Yugoslavia, the Caucasus and now Ukraine. But it is difficult to argue that this particular action by Russia is in itself a dramatically unprecedented event in Europe. The principle of national self-determination depends on a clear understanding of a nation and the unchallenged agreement on its boundaries.

The Europeans themselves have in multiple ways established the precedent that borders are not unchallengeable.

There are two principles competing. The first is the European Union's desire that borders be utterly permeable without the nation-state losing its right to self-determination. It is difficult to see how a lack of control over borders is compatible with national self-determination. The other principle is that existing borders not be challenged. On the one hand, the union wants to diminish the importance of borders. On the other hand, it wants to make them incontestable.

Neither principle is succeeding. Within Europe, more forces are emerging that want to return control over borders to nation-states. In different ways, the Muslim immigrant crisis and the Greek crisis intersect at the question of who controls the borders. Meanwhile, the inviolability of borders has been a dead letter since the fall of the Soviet Union.

The idea of borders being archaic is meaningful only if the nation-state is archaic. There is no evidence that this is true in Europe. On the contrary, all of the pressures we see culturally and economically point to not only the persistence of the idea of nationality, but also to its dramatic increase in Europe. At the same time, there is no evidence that the challenge to borders is abating. In fact, during the past quarter of a century, the number of shifts and changes, freely or under pressure, has only increased. And each challenge of a national border, such as the one occurring in Ukraine, is a challenge to a nation's reality and sense of self.

The European Union has promised peace and prosperity. The prosperity is beyond tattered now. And peace has been intermittently disrupted — not in the European Union, but around it — since the Maastricht Treaty was signed in 1992 to create a common economic and monetary union. All of this is linked to the question of what a border represents and how seriously we take it. A border means that this is my country and not yours.

This idea has been a source of anguish in Europe and elsewhere. Nevertheless, it is a reality embedded in the human condition. Borders matter, and they matter in many different ways. The European crisis, taken as a whole, is rooted in borders. Attempting to abolish them is attractive in theory. But theory faces reality across its own border."

The above report was published by EU-Digest with the permission of the Global Stratford Intelligence Group

6/22/15

EU-US Trade Negotiations: Pace of EU-U.S. trade talks rest on vote – by Doug Palmer

A House vote on Friday could set the stage for a flurry of new trade agreements over the next six years — or potentially put U.S. trade negotiations in the deep freeze until the next president takes office in 2017.

U.S. union groups have made the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership pact public enemy No. 1 in their effort to defeat the “fast-track” trade bill headed to floor for a vote. But rejection of the trade promotion authority legislation would also endanger trade talks with Europe, negotiations aimed at eliminating tariffs on environmentally friendly goods and promising recent efforts to revive long-stalled world trade talks.

“This is really about the United States and its role in the world,” said Scott Miller, a trade analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “What the bill really does is give whoever the next president will be a stronger hand in helping to lead the economic side of foreign policy.”

Read mre: Pace of EU-U.S. trade talks rest on vote – POLITICO

Greece's day of destiny takes bizarre turn with phantom eurozone summit - by Ian Traynor

Greece’s date with destiny started with its upstart prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, being slapped on the face. It is the customary gesture of endearment from Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European commission. It means the two men are friends, despite Juncker saying at the weekend he no longer trusted Tsipras.

And the day that was supposed to arrest Greece’s collapse into bankruptcy, and prevent the euro’s diminution, ended more than 12 hours later on Monday evening with the bizarre spectacle of a phantom summit.Monday’s hotly awaited emergency gathering of eurozone leaders, called last Thursday evening to fix the Greek crisis or at least to attach sticking plasters to Greece’s bleeding wounds, had nothing to decide and no real agenda to discuss.

For that to happen, the finance ministers of the single currency bloc who gathered earlier in the afternoon had to assess the chances of a deal and make their recommendations to the leaders. They could not do that, said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who chaired the session, because they did not have enough time to study what Athens was proposing. Their minions would have to negotiate hard and come back later in the week.

Read more: Greece's day of destiny takes bizarre turn with phantom eurozone summit | Business | The Guardian

The Netherlands: 10 great things to do in the Netherlands this week: June 22-28

From giant spiders and horticulture on film to Hungarian music and trick cyclists, here’s our pick of the week’s best things to do.

Read more at DutchNews.nl: 10 great things to do in the Netherlands this week: June 22-28 http://www.dutchnews.nl/features/2015/06/10-great-things-to-do-in-the-netherlands-this-week-june-22-28/
From giant spiders and horticulture on film to Hungarian music and trick cyclists, here’s our pick of the week’s best things to do.

Read more at DutchNews.nl: 10 great things to do in the Netherlands this week: June 22-28 http://www.dutchnews.nl/features/2015/06/10-great-things-to-do-in-the-netherlands-this-week-june-22-28/
From giant spiders and horticulture on film to Hungarian music and trick cyclists, here’s our pick of the week’s best things to do.

Read More: 10 great things to do in the Netherlands this week: June 22-28 - DutchNews.nl

6/21/15

Greece: Creditors offer Greece six-month bailout reprieve as Tsipras weighs response - by J. Hoopera and I.Traynor

Greece’s international creditors are aiming to strike a deal to stop Athens defaulting on its debt and possibly tumbling out of the euro by extending its bailout by six months and supplying up to €18bn (£12.9bn) in rescue funds.

The negotiators representing Greece’s lenders are also proposing to pledge debt relief for the austerity-battered country – but officials stressed that a breakthrough hinged on a positive response from the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras.

Negotiations were continuing on Sunday night, hours ahead of crucial gatherings of eurozone finance minsters and leaders in Brussels, which Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, François Hollande, the French president, and Tsipras are expected to attend. All three leaders spoke over the weekend, with contributions from European commission head Jean-Claude Juncker.

Read more: Creditors offer Greece six-month bailout reprieve as Tsipras weighs response | World news | The Guardian

Europe Takes Over Putin TV - by Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

In what is arguably the most significant move against Russian wealth and influence in Europe, Belgium, France and Austria today all froze various assets belonging Russian state-owned enterprises in connection to civil case the Kremlin lost a year ago and for which it has refused to ante up damages.

The winner of that case, Yukos, once Russia’s largest oil company, was awarded $50 billion in July 2014 after an international arbitration court found that it had had its own assets expropriated by the Russian government over a decade ago.

The freeze affects the state wire service TASS, the state media holding company Rossiya Segodnya, and other state media abroad.

“We are working on this issue within the framework of a common government policy,” TASS said in a press statement, refusing to provide more details.

Read more: Europe Takes Over Putin TV - The Daily Beast

6/20/15

US Politcs :" the GOP :Hates Talking About Hate: Conservatives Can’t Confront Racism in Charleston Shooting

Leading conservatives, desperate to show they’re also victims, are rushing to define a white man’s killing of nine black people as an attack on Christianity.

In the 24 hours after the massacre inside Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church, GOP politicians and members of the conservative commentariat have tried to explain Dylann Storm Roof’s motivations on a spectrum that runs from merely murky to the explicitly anti-religious.

They have taken pains to avoid the abundant evidence that Roof was a sadly familiar figure: a young man motivated by racism to violence.

Louisiana Governor and passive presidential aspirant Bobby Jindal inserted the shruggie icon into the debate, averring that we should defer to the expertise of police detectives in sussing out the connection between Roof’s documented history of racist sympathies and his perhaps coincidental murdering of black people: “Law enforcement will figure out what his so-called motivations were.”

Read more: Why the GOP Hates Talking About Hate: Conservatives Can’t Confront Racism in Charleston Shooting - The Daily Beast

Ukrainian Nationalist Leader Calls For Concentration Camps, Bombing Pro-Russian Rebels - by Morgan Winsor

Ukrainian nationalist leader Dmytro Korchynsky called on the government to bomb residential areas in war-torn Donbass and create concentration camps for residents living in the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. Korchynsky, who heads the Ukrainian Bratstvao (Brotherhood) party, said the United States successfully used this method during the Second World War, and Ukrainians should act as the Americans did in the occupied territories, Sputnik News reported.

“During World War II, the U.S. preserved all the democratic institutions – elections and so on. Nevertheless, several million American citizens were deported to special concentration camps,” Korchynsky said in a live broadcast on a Ukrainian TV channel Thursday, according to Sputnik News. “U.S. citizens of Japanese origin, because they were potentially dangerous.”

Note EU-Digest: how crazy can you get - just ask Dmytro Korchynsky.


Read more: Ukrainian Nationalist Leader Calls For Concentration Camps, Bombing Pro-Russian Rebels

Danish centre-right opposition wins election, PM quits party

Danish voters ousted Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt in an election on Thursday and handed power to an opposition centre-right alliance including huge gains for a eurosceptic, anti-immigrant party.

Opposition leader Lars Lokke Rasmussen said he would try to form a government but is likely to have to make big concessions to ensure support from the right-wing Danish Peoples’ Party (DF), which ended up with more votes than his Liberal Party.

With all of the votes counted on the mainland, the centre-right won 90 seats in parliament to 85 seats for the centre-left bloc of Thorning-Schmidt, who wrongly gambled that an economic upturn would win her re-election. Denmark’s first female prime minister, elected in 2011, Thorning-Schmidt conceded defeat and quit as party leader after the vote.

DF, the second-biggest party behind Thorning-Schmidt’s Social Democrats, has supported the Liberals in government before and its backing gives the centre-right led by Rasmussen its overall majority.
“Tonight we have been given an opportunity, but only an opportunity, to take leadership in Denmark,” Rasmussen told supporters in parliament.

Read Danish centre-right opposition wins election, PM quits party

NATO commander advocates arming Baltic and Eastern Europe to deter Russia-" Bad Idea"

The standoff between Russia and NATO countries prompted the NATO to build a case for arming its member states in Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

"The NATO should begin an arms deployment offensive for Baltic countries and allies in the east, before stationing heavy weapons in eastern Europe," NATO's Central and Eastern Europe Commander Hans-Lothar Domröse told "Die Welt" newspaper in an interview on Friday.

"We need to furnish our allies with modern and effective weapons like helicopters, howitzers, tanks, anti-aircraft rocket systems and heavy machines and train them to use the equipment," Domröse added.

Note EU-Digest::  Isn't it high time to stop all all this sable rattling . No need to go back to the cold war. Restoring peace by military force certainly has not been a success story for NATO or the US.  

Read more: NATO commander advocates arming Baltic and Eastern Europe to deter Russia | News | DW.DE | 19.06.2015

6/19/15

Prepare yourself for a world of constant surveillance by insurance companies

Nest, a connected-appliance company owned by Google, announced yesterday that it has partnered with insurance companies to offer discounts to customers willing to share data generated by Nest’s smoke detector.

According to Quartz reporter Alice Truong, who attended the Nest launch event, the data shared with insurance companies is just to make sure that Wi-Fi, batteries, and sensors are working properly. In return, American Family Insurance and Liberty Mutual, two insurance companies, will offer customers discounts on their premiums, amounting to about 5%.

On the face of it, this makes sense. Insurance companies are in the business of measuring—and, where possible, minimizing—risk. If they can be assured that a homeowner is taking steps to avoid a fire, then they can be more confident offering insurance. And the lower risk of a fire can be reflected in a lower price to the insurance buyer.

Consumers have long been accustomed to sharing their financial information with credit rating agencies and, more recently, their web browsing and mobile phone data with the advertising and marketing industries. Now, it is the actuaries who want to know what you’re up to.

In some cases, such tracking makes insurance possible for people who otherwise had no access to it. In South Africa, one company offers life insurance to HIV-positive people so long as they agree to regular blood tests and anti-retroviral medication. It is in the best interests of the company to keep its policyholders healthy.

The most widespread use of tracking has been for auto insurance. Progressive, an American insurer, provides discounts of between 10% and 15% to customers who agree to share data on their driving habits with the company. In Italy and the UK, this usage-based insurance has been growing in popularity, with up to a fifth of all car insurance policies linked to tracking.

A report (pdf) about usage-based car insurance published last year by Deloitte predicted that the auto industry was just the beginning: “Before too long the use of sensory technologies that permit behavioral underwriting by insurers is likely to be expanded beyond auto insurance into homeowners, life and health coverages, and perhaps even non-auto commercial lines as well, such as workers’ compensation.”

That future is creeping into view. The worry is that if such forms of insurance become mainstream, sharing data may no longer be optional in practice: instead of a discount for those who do, there may be penalties for those who don’t. “In the end, serving the ‘naysayers’ may become a specialty market niche for some carriers,” the Deloitte report suggested.\\

EU-Digest

6/18/15

Germany: EU launches legal proceedings against German road toll - Jakub Adamowicz

Germany then has eight weeks to reply. If the two sides cannot agree, the matter case goes all the way to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The legal proceedings mean that the Commission believes the planned road toll scheme is against EU law as it would only charge foreigners and motorists whose vehicles are not registered in Germany.

"A toll system can only be compliant with European law if it respects the fundamental treaty principle of non-discrimination," European Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said in a statement.

"We have serious doubts that this is the case in the final text of the relevant German laws. We are now acting swiftly to clarify these doubts through an infringement procedure in the interest of EU citizens," she continued.

Read more: EU launches legal proceedings against German road toll | News | DW.DE | 18.06.2015

Curtain Time for Greece? Hope in short supply as Greece, EU seek bailout deal

Optimism was in short supply Thursday over the prospects of a deal that might prevent Greece’s bankruptcy as eurozone finance ministers gathered for a keenly awaited meeting in Luxembourg, with both sides refusing to budge on their demands.

With Greece fast approaching a potential default on June 30 and amid signs that Greeks are withdrawing money from their banks, officials acknowledged that a Greek exit from the euro was now being discussed.

Pierre Moscovici, the European Union’s top economy official, said the eurozone meeting will be “very difficult” but that he hoped everyone turns up “with cool heads and the political will to succeed”.

Read more: france 24 - Hope in short supply as Greece, EU seek bailout deal - France 24

6/17/15

Languages - EU: English becoming the main language spoken in the EU

A recent survey showed that in the EU, where there are some 40 languages and dialects spoken, 51% of the population now mainly communicate in the English language. Other major languages people communicate in are German (32%), French (24%), Italian (16%) and Spanish (15%).
This number of people communicating in English is expected to increase every year.  becoming


US healthcare insurance companies want to raise rates up to 50% or more

A growing number of major healthcare insurance carriers have started filing requests for 2016 rate hikes with their state insurance departments. 

A number of those rate hike requests will not only silence
many Obamacare defenders, they will indicate just how unaffordable the Affordable Care Act has become.
 
One report stated: “BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee . . . said it lost $141 million from exchange-sold plans, stemming largely from a small number of sick enrollees. ‘Our filing is planned to allow us to operate on at least a break-even basis for these plans, meaning that the rate would cover only medical services and expenses—with no profit margin for 2016,’ said spokeswoman Mary Danielson.”

Similar losses have prompted some carriers to request huge increases. CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield in Maryland has requested increases of 30.4% on average over current premium rates.

Puting these raises into perspective. A family paying € 266.00 a month could see their premiums jump up to € 347.00 a month.

That’s a total annual increase of € 972.00

EU-Digest

France: Napoleon, one of the founding fathers of Europe?

Napoleon, for his opponents, was considered a troublemaker, the one who triggered wars. His fall gave birth to the treaties and conventions of Paris and Vienna, where his contemporaries tried to banish the specter of war in Europe.

At its peak in 1811, the French Empire had accumulated up to 130 departments, from Hamburg to Rome.

According to his conquests, Napoleon had managed to unite this vast area by governing rules of conduct. Napoleon once stated, “There are in Europe more than 30 million French, 15 million Spaniards, 30 million Germans.

I had wanted to do for each of these peoples a single national body.” But it was precisely the desire to enforce his vision that a European coalition against him brought about the emperor’s downfall.

Read more: Napoleon, one of the founding fathers of Europe? | euronews, world news

6/16/15

Britain: Muslim Council of Britain says government hampering anti-Isis efforts - by Vikram Dodd

The government has hampered the fight against extremism by shunning key Muslim groups, one of Britain’s largest Islamic organisations said today.

Miqdaad Versi, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said his group could have helped combat the appeal of Islamic State to young Britons, if the government had ever talked to them.

His comments came after concerns mounted over Islamic State’s continued ability to lure Britons, amid fears a family of 12 from Bradford may be on their way to join the extremist group.

The last Conservative-led government decided it would not engage with alleged non-violent extremists, and viewed the MCB as one despite it being one of the largest Islamic organisations in Britain.

The policy is being continued now that the Conservatives have a majority The last years of Labour’s rule saw also the government keep the MCB at arms length.

Versi, who speaks for the MCB on terrorism and security issues, said: “It is important government does not talk just to those who agree with it.

Read more: Muslim Council of Britain says government hampering anti-Isis efforts | UK news | The Guardian

EU Refugee Policy - EU ′ducking out′ of responsibility for refugees, author says

According to the UNHCR, more than 50 million people are displaced; many millions are refugees. Comparatively few actually make their way to Europe; last year, about 276,000 tried to cross the borders irregularly - most of them by boat across the Mediterranean.

Deutsche Welle: "Shipwreck - the failure of European refugee policy" is the title of the book you wrote with Wolfgang Grenz and Stefan Kessler, it's just been published in Germany. Why did you decide to write abut a topic that's constantly in the news? 

Julian Lehmann: We thought it would be a good idea to team up the knowledge we have and come up with something readable for a broad audience that combines our perspectives. I work from the perspective of a think tank and with a legal background, my colleagues are or were in advocacy organizations. The title? Literally, it's not only a shipwreck of failing policies but obviously of what we see happening every day in the Mediterranean.

What, then, is fundamentally wrong with refugee policies in Europe?
On the abstract level, there is a huge gap between the rhetoric of refugee protection and the reality of securing safe entry for asylum seekers. There is also a lack of will to treat what is a collective action problem - the only way you can deal with such a problem is collectively. So we, the EU, say we're not responsible for asylum seekers unless they're on the brink of drowning. We have also failed to develop means of sharing responsibility that are worth the name.

Can this shipwrecked EU 'refugee policy' boat be pulled back from the brink?
If the EU wanted to regain credibility, it would undertake steps that demonstrate its acceptance of refugee protection as a common purpose. It would mount a commonly funded, bigger search and rescue operation - that would absolutely be the very first step - it would dump those military plans against smugglers, it would agree at least on a temporary quota system to assist Italy, it would support Turkey and other countries of refuge by harboring Syrian refugees with resettlement, and it would consolidate the asylum system in the member states. We do make these calls in the book.

Read more: EU ′ducking out′ of responsibility for refugees, author says | Europe | DW.DE | 16.06.2015

US Presidential Elections - A Republican stampede: US billionaire Donald Trump throws hat in race for White House

US business tycoon Donald Trump declared Tuesday he was running for the White House, promising to make America “great again”. “I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created,” Trump said in a launch speech at his Trump Tower skyscraper in Manhattan.

"Our country is in serious trouble. We don't have victories anymore," he said. "When was the last time anyone saw us beating, let's say, China in a trade deal. They kill us. I beat China all the time."

"When did we beat Japan at anything? They send their cars over by the millions and what do we do?"

The businessman, whom Forbes values at $4.1 billion, said "the United States has become a dumping ground for everybody else's problems."

The 69-year-old is considered a wildcard candidate in an increasingly crowded Republican pool of contenders seeking the presidency in 2016.

Eleven Republicans so far have announced they are running for next November’s election, the latest being former Florida Governor Jeb Bush who launched his candidacy on Monday.

Read more: france 24 - US billionaire Donald Trump announces run for White House - France 24

France's Le Pen announces new far-right bloc in EU parliament

Far-right parties from France, Italy and the Netherlands claimed on Monday that they will create a new anti-EU group in the European Parliament. If it is formed, it will be the second Eurosceptic grouping in the parliament.

The new parliamentary group is called “Europe of nations and freedom” and will be formed on an anti-immigration and anti-euro platform. It will unite deputies from the French National Front (FN), Dutch Freedom Party (PVV), the Freedom Party of Austria (FPO), Italy's Northern League and Flemish nationalist group Vlaams Belang, all of which share right-wing ideologies.
 
The National Front statement said that deputies from other countries are also going to join the new bloc but no further details were given.

"The formation of a group in the European Parliament has succeeded! Great news and an historic moment," PVV leader Geert Wilders said in Twitter, welcoming the foundation of the group.

Read more: France's Le Pen announces new far-right bloc in EU parliament — RT News

The Netherlands: The 'King of Bling' is coming to Almere on Saturday June 20

On Saturday June 20 the "King of Bling" is coming to Almere

The King of Bling is a funny comical show – for young and old - about King Midas, a King, who could turn everything he touched into gold.

The two hour musical is fast moving and full of spectacle and colour - and all this in a spectacular setting with beautiful costumes. 

The lyrics and all the songs in the show are in Dutch.

Tickets (€2,00) can be bought at the location of the show: Basisschool “Dukdalf”, Makassarweg 68, Almere Buiten, or odered by sending an e-mail with your name and address to  kingbling488@yahoo.com, also, please include the number of tickets you want to order.

Buy one ticket and get another one free. - just in case you want to take along a friend or a family member.

Reserved tickets can be picked-up and paid for at the location of the show: Basisschool “Dukdalf”, Makassarweg 68, Almere Buiten, between 14:30 – 14:45 . The show begins at 15.00 .

NEDERLANDS

King of Bling komt naar Almere op zaterdag 20 juni

Een grappige, muzikale komedie – geschikt voor jong en oud - over Koning Midas, de koning die alles in goud veranderde.

Deze 2 uur durende musikale presentatie verplaats zich in een snel tempo. En dit alles in een prachtige 'setting' met mooie kostuums. De voorstelling zowel de liedjes zijn in het Nederlands.

Kaartjes (á €2,00) kunnen van tevoren besteld worden: Om uw kaartjes te bestellen stuur een e-mail naar kingbling488@yahoo.com met vermelding van uw naam, adres en het aantal kaartjes dat u wilt bestellen.

Koop 1 kaartje en krijg het 2e kaartje gratis (om iemand anders uit te nodigen.)

Gereserveerde kaartjes kunt u aan de kassa bij de Basisschool “Dukdalf”, Makassarweg 68, Almere Buiten, betalen en ophalen tussen 14:30 – 14:45 . De voorstelling begint om 15.00.

EU-Digest 

Coffee hits the spot: How coffee changed the world - by Tom Oder

Hundreds of years before Starbucks became a hot spot for making social and business connections over lattes and laptops, thriving coffeehouses of a much different type were widely popular in the Arab world.

Those first coffeehouses were in the holy city of Mecca in present-day Saudi Arabia. Nothing like them had ever existed.

These were public places, known as kaveh kanes, where people gathered for the same reasons they go to Starbucks today, for coffee and conversation, to discover and share the news of the day, and to conduct business. They also enjoyed music, but not through earbuds plugged into mobile devices, of course.

Those early Arabian coffeehouses were vibrant places that pulsated with singing and dancing performers gyrating to the rhythm of Middle Eastern music.

Then, as now, thousands of pilgrims from all over the world visited Mecca each year. When they returned home in those long ago times, they took with them stories about the "wine of Araby," as coffee was once called. But Arab leaders didn't want to lose their monopoly on the coffee trade.

To prevent coffee from being cultivated elsewhere and to make sure that stories were all the pilgrims took home, the imams banned the export of coffee beans. Dutch traders circumvented these export restrictions in 1616, and the world hasn't been the same since.

What is known from historical records is that the first substantiated knowledge of the wonders of the coffee tree or the drinking of coffee occurred in the mid-15th century in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen. The Arabs were not only the first to cultivate coffee and the first to turn coffee beans into a drinkable liquid but also the first to begin the coffee trade. By the sixteenth century, coffee was known in Persia, Egypt, Syria and Turkey.

By the late 1600s, the Dutch started growing coffee outside of the Arab world, first in a failed attempt at Malabar in India and then, in 1699, in Batavia in Java in what is now Indonesia. It didn't take long before Dutch colonies became the main suppliers of coffee to Europe, where people had heard stories from travelers to the Near East of an unusual black beverage.
The first coffeehouses outside of the Ottoman Empire appeared in Europe in Venice in 1629. The first coffeehouse opened in England in Oxford in 1652, and by 1675 there were more than 3,000 coffeehouses in the country. Lloyd's of London was Edward Lloyd's Coffee House, before it was a global insurance company.
The first coffeehouse opened in Paris in 1672 and then perhaps the city's most famous coffeehouse, Café Procope, opened in 1686 (sketched at right in 1743). It was a popular meeting place during the French Enlightenment, arguably the birthplace of the encyclopedia and is still open today.
Interestingly, coffee wasn't popular at first with everyone in Europe. Some called it the "bitter invention of Satan," and the clergy in Venice condemned it. Pope Clement VIII was asked to intervene and, finding it to his liking, gave coffee Papal approval.
Customs of the day did not always approve of women in coffeehouses. Women were banned from many of these early European coffeehouses, particularly in England and France. Germany, however, did allow women to frequent them.
The first coffeehouses in the New World appeared in the mid-1600s in New York, Philadelphia, Boston and other towns of the British colonies. Even so, tea was the preferred drink. That changed forever when the colonists revolted against King George in 1773 by dumping tea into Boston Harbor during the Boston Tea Party, which was planned in a coffeehouse, the Green Dragon. Both the New York Stock Exchange and the Bank of New York started in coffeehouses in what is today known as Wall Street.

6/15/15

US Presidential Elections: Jeb Bush Announces White House Bid, Saying ‘America Deserves Better.’ - by M.Barbaro and J. Martin

Jeb Bush, the son and brother of a president, offered himself up as the most accomplished leader in the 2016 field, declared war on Washington’s political culture and insisted that his family name gave him no singular claim to the Oval Office as he formally entered the race for the White House on Monday.

As his mother, Barbara, the former first lady, looked on, Mr. Bush directly confronted the central doubt looming over his campaign: that he presents the latest incarnation of a tired dynasty and is entitled to the Republican nomination by virtue of his surname.

“Not a one of us deserves the job by right of resume, party, seniority, family, or family narrative,” Mr. Bush said inside a community college gymnasium. “It’s nobody’s turn. It’s everybody’s test.”

In declaring his presidential bid before a cheering crowd at Miami Dade College, Mr. Bush promised to remove Washington as an obstacle to effective government and economic prosperity by declaring that “America deserves better.”

Note EU-Digest: as RT wrote earlier: "The 2016 US Presidential vote is shaping up to be a contest between Hillary Clinton, Democrat and Jeb Bush, Republican – which is further evidence of the soap opera that is US democracy, replete with comedy, farce, and intrigues of dynastic rule.

Both dynasties are drenched in blood and both symbolize the role of money, patronage, and elite Ivy League universities when it comes to the distribution of economic and political power in the land of the free."

Read more: Jeb Bush Announces White House Bid, Saying ‘America Deserves Better.’ - The New York Times

Russia says will retaliate if U.S. weapons stationed on its borders - by Gabriela Baczynska and Wiktor Szary

A plan by Washington to station tanks and heavy weapons in NATO states on Russia's border would be the most aggressive U.S. act since the Cold War, and Moscow would retaliate by beefing up its own forces, a Russian defense official said on Monday.

The United States is offering to store military equipment on allies' territory in eastern Europe, a proposal aimed at reassuring governments worried that after the conflict in Ukraine, they could be the Kremlin's next target.

Poland and the Baltic states, where officials say privately they have been frustrated the NATO alliance has not taken more decisive steps to deter Russia, welcomed the decision by Washington to take the lead.

But others in the region were more cautious, fearing their countries could be caught in the middle of a new arms race between Russia and the United States.

"If heavy U.S. military equipment, including tanks, artillery batteries and other equipment really does turn up in countries in eastern Europe and the Baltics, that will be the most aggressive step by the Pentagon and NATO since the Cold War," Russian defense ministry official General Yuri Yakubov said.

"Russia will have no option but to build up its forces and resources on the Western strategic front," Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

He said the Russian response was likely to include speeding up the deployment of Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave bordered by Poland and Lithuania, and beefing up Russian forces in ex-Soviet Belarus.

Read more: Russia says will retaliate if U.S. weapons stationed on its borders - Yahoo News

6/14/15

Ukraine: While Middle East is falling apart US now storing heavy weapons and tanks in Eastern Europe

Some 200 years ago Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz said "War is a mere continuation of politics by other means."  It still holds truth today.

And...as we all know, politics are very much influenced by the corporate lobby and interest groups.

In the case of the US, the military industrial complex plays a major role in the political decision procress.

Even though the extravagant US military budget was cut according to The Wall Street Journal over the past four years from $721 billion, to "just" $560 billion -- It still provides a huge market for the Pentagon's new weapons systems, and a lot of revenue "up for grabs" by the defense contractors.

If you look, however, at the track record  of the US military, which was sent into war by the political establishment, the results, overall have been dismal.

Just this 21st century alone, the US, assisted by a "coalition of the willing" (some have called them willing  "lap dogs"), fought three wars, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

What these wars had in common is that each time, the US and their "allies"  scored what they thought was a stunning victory -- they quickly also found out that victory was a brief mirage on the road to defeat.

Today's results of the disastrous US Middle East  policy, which goes way back in time, is really starting to "bear fruit",  specially when we watch the recent boatloads of Middle Eastern and North African refugees arriving on the shores of Europe.

When former US President George W. Bush announced in 2003, on the US aircraft carrier SS Abraham Lincoln, that the combat operations in Iraq were over, while he proudly stood under a  "Mission accomplished" banner, he could not have been more wrong, specially if we look at the aftermath of that war today.

As someone said at the time of the Bush victory announcement, "confidence is the feeling you have before you fully understand the situation."

And here we go again, as the US announced on Saturday, June 13, that it plans to store heavy military equipment in the Baltics and Eastern European nations to "reassure allies made uneasy by Russian intervention in Ukraine, and to deter further aggression", a senior U.S. official said.

Several questions arise? What is the EU Commission and Parliament saying about this. Are they just sitting back and letting the US steam-role them into another military escapade?

Isn't it time Europe starts to do some serious thinking about the fact that always blindly "following the leader" is maybe not the right way to go forward? Or, that the real issue at stake in Europe is the Ukraine crisis and the future of America’s role as Europe’s security guarantor.

EU-Digest

Canada: Mel Hurtig keeps fighting with new self-published book on Stephen Harper - by Roy Macgreggor

Thirteen days before his 83rd birthday, Mel Hurtig is on a roll.

Last week it was American Pharoah ’s victory in the Belmont Stakes, a low-odds (3-5) win that put an extra $1,000 in his pocket.

“I don’t bet a lot,” says Mr. Hurtig from his Vancouver home, “but I do bet on the Ryder Cup, which I always win, and the World Series, which I always win. This is the first time I have ever bet on the horses, but I took one look at that guy in the Kentucky Derby and I said, ‘That guy’s going to go all the way.’”

The lucky roll continued this week with word that his book on a very different sort of pharaoh – Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper – has hit the 25,000 mark in sales, a truly remarkably tally for a self-published book that Mr. Hurtig didn’t want to give to certain publishers and certain other publishers didn’t want to touch.

Mel Hurtig has never pulled a punch in his long, scrappy life. The title of his slim 140-page treatise, The Arrogant Autocrat: Stephen Harper’s Takeover of Canada, is all most potential readers will need, those in favour of the Prime Minister instantly turning their backs on it, those determined that Mr. Harper’s nine-year run come to an abrupt end on Oct. 19 racing to the cash register to have their anger confirmed.

It is not a book that requires flap copy to entice or explain.

Mr. Hurtig storms in right off the cover, keyboard firing at anything that moves: the muzzling of scientists, the knee-capping of institutions, the gutting of Parliament, the denial of climate change, the neglect of the poverty-stricken – even taking on, with Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data filling his smoking chambers, the Harper government’s longstanding claim that it has managed the economy well.

Those looking to the elected House of Commons to restore democracy, argues the author, would be sorely disappointed. The muzzling of cabinet ministers, let alone backbenchers, the tactics brought to committee work and sneaky omnibus bills, have reduced Parliament to what he calls “a largely ceremonial body.”

His dislike of the Canadian Prime Minister is visceral. Every sparrow that falls is carefully noted, most sentences lacking only an exclamation point to underline the urgency.

Read more: Mel Hurtig keeps fighting with new self-published book on Stephen Harper - The Globe and Mail

Europe - Greece bailout talks end without deal, says EU

Crunch bailout talks between Greece and its EU-IMF creditors ended without a deal on Sunday, with a "significant gap" still remaining, a European Commission spokesman told AFP.

"While some progress was made the talks did not succeed as there remains a significant gap between the plans of the Greek authorities and the joint requirements of the Commission, ECB and IMF," said the spokesman from the EU's executive, referring to the three institutions that oversee Greece's huge bailout.

The Greek proposal "remains incomplete", the source said, saying it fell short of providing the necessary reforms to unlock the 7.2 billion euros ($8.1 billion) still remaining in Greece's international bailout, which expires June 30.

Read more; Europe - Greece bailout talks end without deal, says EU - France 24