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8/31/15

Germany - Merkel warns that refugee crisis tests Europe′s core ideals

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the refugee crisis facing Europe was testing the core ideals of universal rights at the heart of the European Union.

She added that the migrant crisis presented Germany with a major challenge, which would not be resolved anytime soon, and urgesd citizens to show flexibility and patience.

"We stand before a huge national challenge. That will be a central challenge not only for days or months but for a long period of time," Merkel said during a major press conference in Berlin, marking the end of parliament's summer break.

Read more: Merkel warns that refugee crisis tests Europe′s core ideals | News | DW.COM | 31.08.2015

Global Economy: US and Chinese Economies are in "lockstep" and this could spell major trouble for US

Let no one fool you - specially not the Wall Street "news makers.

Both the US and Chinese Economies are in lockstep and the US economy could get  in big trouble because of that.

The investment relationship that has blossomed between China and the U.S., even though it has benefited both countries, has also made both of their economies very dependent on each other, but the US more so than China.

Chinese companies have started  more companies or joint ventures in the U.S., thereby increasing the number of Americans working for Chinese firms.In a sense China has now also become a supplier of secondary capital to the USA, in addition to the regular  US debt they have been buying up..

Another alarming fact is that based on the present (June 2015 figures) US debt to China stands at $1.272 trillion,.

That's roughly one-fifth of the $6.175 trillion held by foreign countries. The rest of the $18 trillion debt is owned by either the American people, or by the U.S. government itself.

The United States has thus allowed China to become one of its biggest bankers, to provide the American people low consumer prices.

This selling of debt to China is mainly used by the US to help the US economy to grow by funding federal government programs. It has also kept  U.S. interests rates artificially low. However, what very people want to talk about, specially the financial world, is that China's increasing ownership of U.S. debt is shifting the economic balance of power in China's favor.

China's position as America's largest banker also gives it considerable political leverage. Consequently every now and then China threatens to sell part of its US debt holdings. It knows that, if it did so, U.S. interest rates would rise, which would slow U.S economic growth to a trickle.

As China grew economically stronger it has also been calling for a new global currency to replace the dollar, which is presently used in most international transactions. China usually makes this call whenever the U.S. lets the value of the US dollar drop, which makes the debt China holds less valuable.

China certainly is not so stupid to call in its US debt all at once. If it did so, the demand for the dollar would plummet like a rock. A dollar collapse would disrupt international markets worse than the 2008 financial crises and China's economy would suffer along with everyone else's.

It's more likely that China will slowly begin selling off its US Treasury holdings.

Bottom line the financial poker game between the two most powerful economic players in the world is certainly not over yet, but China is holding some very powerful cards in its hand.

The financial world better sit up and start smelling the roses.

EU-Digest


Turkey: What Tunisia Could Teach Turkey About Democracy - by Marc Champion

When it comes to democracy, perhaps Tunisia should now be teaching Turkey.

After the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, it seemed as if it would be the other way around. Then, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, now president, toured the region in triumph, promoting the so-called Turkish model of reconciling Islamism with democracy to produce prosperity. He even publicly advised Egypt's short-lived Muslim Brotherhood government to adopt a secular constitution, much to its irritation.

The Arab Spring, of course, quickly turned to nightmare -- except in Tunisia. Ennahda, that country's iteration of the Brotherhood, chose to share power and form a coalition with secular parties, rather than try to rule alone and impose its views. That consensual approach to politics has made Tunisia a target for attack by extremist groups, such as Islamic State, and the country has struggled to return to pre-2011 growth rates.

Still, Ennahda's choice has made Tunisia the sole democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring, and the country has avoided the civil strife experienced in Libya, Egypt, Syria and Yemen.
Erdogan has now chosen the opposite path.

Read more: What Tunisia Could Teach Turkey About Democracy - Bloomberg View

Refugees: Austria says 200 refugees, 5 smugglers stopped in border operation

Austrian authorities have uncovered around 200 asylum seekers and arrested five people traffickers as part of a new operation along the country’s borders, a senior interior ministry official said on Monday.

Konrad Kogler, director general for public security at the ministry, said: “In the hours since we started implementing these measures that we agreed with Germany, Hungary and Slovakia, we have been able to get more than 200 refugees out of such vehicles and we have been able to detain five smugglers.”

Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner, speaking at the same news conference, said checks being undertaken along the Austrian border were not classic border controls.
“We are not in violation of Schengen,” she said.

Read more: Austria says 200 refugees, 5 smugglers stopped in border operation - The Globe and Mail

USA - Donald Trump 2016: Europeans are obsessed with the brash real estate mogul - by Nicholas Vinocur

Since the real estate mogul made a shocking surge to the top of the Republican presidential polls in the U.S., Europe has fixated on the unapologetic showman, churning out a steady stream of news coverage and commentary.

The Continent has its share of outrageous personalities on the political right of center: Britain’s Nigel Farage, Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, France’s family Le Pen. But Trump fits many perceived European stereotypes of America: excess, vulgarity, ignorance, superficiality, love of wealth, to name a few.

“Trump represents the America that we love to hate,” said Marie-Cécile Naves, a sociologist and author of “Le nouveau visage des droites américaines” (“The New Face of the American Right”). “He is our negative mirror image, a man we see as brutal, who worships money and lacks culture — someone who lets us feel a bit superior about being European.”

In Europe’s capitals, feelings of superiority sometimes translate as concern for an ignorant American public that Trump, described by Britain’s Observer newspaper as a “malign buffoon,” is supposedly exploiting. “His constituency is ignorance,” the Observer wrote on Aug. 9 in an unsigned editorial. “In this, he is heir to a long, inglorious American tradition.”

In France, editorialist Alexandre Vatimbella called him a “provocative clown” whose brand of populism was dangerous for democracy, while Germany’s newspapers have reached a consensus around the label “Großmaul,” or loudmouth.

Read more: Donald Trump 2016: Europeans are obsessed with the brash real estate mogul

8/30/15

Middle East: Israels Real Problem - by Jacob L. Shapiro

To listen to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the U.S.-Iran nuclear accord is a catastrophic development for the Jewish state. From Netanyahu's perspective, it is a "bad deal" — one that paves the way for Iran to develop its own nuclear weapons and take a step toward fulfilling the wish of erstwhile Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that Israel should vanish from the arena of time.

It's not just Netanyahu. Across the spectrum, Israeli politicians express fear. Isaac Herzog, leader of the Labor Party, told journalist Jeffrey Goldberg that the Iran deal would "unleash a lion from its cage." Another of Netanyahu's main political rivals, centrist Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid party, has said there is no difference between the opposition and the coalition when it comes to the Iran deal; the Israeli political establishment uniformly opposes the agreement.

There can be no doubt that the Iran deal is a challenge for Israel. But the fact is that even if Iran developed a nuclear weapon — and Stratfor believes Iran has more of an interest in appearing to develop a weapon than in actually obtaining one — such a development would not represent an existential threat to Israel. For one thing,

Israel's own nuclear weapons are the region's worst kept secret, and for all its bluster Iran is not immune from the military doctrine of mutually assured destruction. Furthermore, strained as U.S.-Israeli relations are right now, the United States would not tolerate an Iranian attack on so close an American ally, and Tehran has no interest in inviting American retaliation.

Israel's greatest existential threats are internal, not external. The breakdown of the rule of law, the weakening of political institutions and the loss of a nationally shared purpose are challenges Israel faces now, and they are more threatening than Tehran's rhetoric. Iran cannot destroy Israel in the current geopolitical environment. Only Israel can destroy itself.

Read more at Stratfor Global Intelligence

Middle East: Situation in Yemen 'catastrophic and getting worse'

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has described the humanitarian situation in Yemen as "catastrophic" and getting worse by the day after a three-day visit to the war-stricken country.
Peter Maurer, the president of the ICRC, also expressed shock at the level of suffering he had witnessed during stops in the capital Sanaa and the southern port city of Aden and said that no one in the country had been spared by the conflict.
At least 3,800 people have been killed and more than 19,000 injured since the beginning of a Saudi-led airstrike campaign at the beginning of April in support of government loyalists fighting Houthi rebels.
“The humanitarian situation is nothing short of catastrophic,” said Maurer. “Every family in Yemen has been affected by this conflict. The people are facing immense hardship. And it is getting worse by the day.”
“The world needs to wake up to what is going on,” he added.
- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/catastrophic-situation-yemen-says-icrc-president-1712149992#sthash.TepkKzCE.dpuf
The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has described the humanitarian situation in Yemen as "catastrophic" and getting worse by the day after a three-day visit to the war-stricken country.
Peter Maurer, the president of the ICRC, also expressed shock at the level of suffering he had witnessed during stops in the capital Sanaa and the southern port city of Aden and said that no one in the country had been spared by the conflict.
At least 3,800 people have been killed and more than 19,000 injured since the beginning of a Saudi-led airstrike campaign at the beginning of April in support of government loyalists fighting Houthi rebels.
“The humanitarian situation is nothing short of catastrophic,” said Maurer. “Every family in Yemen has been affected by this conflict. The people are facing immense hardship. And it is getting worse by the day.”
“The world needs to wake up to what is going on,” he added.
- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/catastrophic-situation-yemen-says-icrc-president-1712149992#sthash.TepkKzCE.dpuf
The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has described the humanitarian situation in Yemen as "catastrophic" and getting worse by the day after a three-day visit to the war-stricken country.

Peter Maurer, the president of the ICRC, also expressed shock at the level of suffering he had witnessed during stops in the capital Sanaa and the southern port city of Aden and said that no one in the country had been spared by the conflict.

At least 3,800 people have been killed and more than 19,000 injured since the beginning of a Saudi-led airstrike campaign at the beginning of April in support of government loyalists fighting Houthi rebels.

“The humanitarian situation is nothing short of catastrophic,” said Maurer. “Every family in Yemen has been affected by this conflict. The people are facing immense hardship. And it is getting worse by the day.”

Read more: Situation in Yemen 'catastrophic and getting worse' | Middle East Eye

US Presidential Elections: Trump Change - the Donald edges higher

This week, Donald Trump made headlines with a political rally in a football stadium and his televised confrontation with Univision activist/commentator Jorge Ramos. Rasmussen Reports’ latest Trump Change survey shows belief that Trump will be the next Republican presidential nominee inching up among both GOP voters and voters in general.

A new national telephone survey finds that 59% of Likely Republican Voters now believe Trump is likely to be their party’s nominee for president in 2016, up barely from 57% a week ago.  But the latest finding includes 29% who say a Trump nomination is Very Likely, a view shared last week by just 25%. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

This compares to 27% of Republicans who felt a Trump nomination was likely when he formally announced his candidacy in mid-June. At that time, only nine percent (9%) felt Trump was Very Likely to be the GOP nominee.

Among all likely voters, 49% now think Trump is likely to be the eventual nominee, with 21% who say it’s Very Likely. This overall finding is unchanged from a week ago, but only 17% thought Trump was Very Likely to be nominated in that survey. Forty-six percent (46%) say Trump is not likely to be the nominee, including 21% who feel it is Not At All Likely.

Read more: Trump Change - Rasmussen Reports™: ShareThis

Egypt: Peter Greste calls Egypt court ruling a ‘travesty of justice’

Australian journalist Peter Greste told FRANCE 24 that he was “devastated” and “appalled” by an Egyptian court’s decision on Saturday to sentence him and two Al-Jazeera colleagues to three years in prison, calling it a “travesty of justice”.

The court convicted Greste and his colleagues, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, in a retrial on charges of operating without a press license and broadcasting “false” news harmful to Egypt.

Greste, who was deported in February, was sentenced in absentia, while Fahmy, a naturalised Canadian who has given up his Egyptian citizenship, and Mohamed, an Egyptian, were remanded in custody following the trial.

“I’m shocked. I’m appalled at this and I’m absolutely devastated. This is a travesty of justice, there’s no other way of putting it,” Greste told FRANCE 24 by telephone.

“Throughout this whole trial, for the more than 18 months that this legal process has been under way, the prosecutor has had plenty of time to come up with evidence to confirm the allegations,” he said, adding that none was ever produced.

Greste went on to publicly challenge the prosecutor in the case to present evidence that he and his colleagues had produced false news.

“We haven’t seen that to date and I would like to know what it is that the court thinks that we lied about,” he said.

Greste also stepped up pressure on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to issue a pardon. Sisi discussed this possibility in an interview with FRANCE 24 in November.

Read More: france 24 - Video: Peter Greste calls Egypt court ruling a ‘travesty of justice’ - France 24

8/29/15

The Netherlands: KLM bans Ukrainian pianist from in-flight playlist after complaint over her political activism

Dutch airline KLM has removed tracks by a Ukrainian musician from its in-flight entertainment system after complaints from a passenger involved in a group dedicated to ostracizing her.

Valentina Lisitsa, a Ukrainian-born American classical pianist, rose to worldwide prominence through a YouTube following and has performed with the Rotterdam Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

But after the armed coup removed an elected government in Kiev last year and the country was plunged into a civil war, she also capitalized on her social media voice to advocate against the policies of the new government. Her opinions, mostly expressed through her Twitter account, put her at odds with many Ukrainians, living both in their home country and abroad.

One such opponent, who goes by the name “Inna Thorn” online, complained to KLM about the fact that its in-flight entertainment system contains tracks performed by Lisitsa. She alleged that Lisitsa was a “terrorist sympathizer” and had praised the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in July 2014.

“I was so happy not to think about Putin trolls and Lisitsa and her hatred for a bit, and then during last hour of transcontinental KLM flight an unpleasant surprise. Imagine ))) I was wide awake right away. I am a regular KLM customer and KLM is to hear from me soon,” Thorn wrote.

Read more: KLM bans Ukrainian pianist from in-flight playlist after complaint over her political activism — RT News

Malta: Major protest against the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

A huge Trojan horse – the infamous horse that hid thousands of Greek fighters to overthrow the city of Troy – has been erected in Valletta this morning to protest against the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), “a dangerous deal that puts the interests of big businesses before the rights of EU citizens.”

The giant inflatable Trojan horse was installed by Friends of the Earth Malta and the Front Against TTIP (Malta) during the launch of a week of activities aimed at increasing awareness about the TTIP.

The organisations said the TTIP would enable food safety rules to be amended with the aim of facilitating trade – even to the detriment of the environment and the general public.

Urging the government, political parties, and Maltese MEPs to support their call against the trade agreement, the organisations insisted that the EU-US deal contains “hidden dangers” that could be detrimental to the environment and for the general public.

The organisations said that the TTIP would set up mechanisms that will enable big businesses to sue states for compensation if any new state regulations are seen as harmful to investment and profits.

“TTIP may reduce the possibility of restricting genetically modified organisms and the use of hormones and other chemicals in factory-farmed animals. Proposed legislation will be evaluated by its merit towards increasing trade, rather than increasing quality of life or environmental protection,” said Martin Galea de Giovanni, FoE Malta Director and member of the Front.

“The Front is against setting up of alternative, ‘compromise’ mechanisms that will still give the power to big business to sue states for compensation if any new state regulations are seen as harmful to investment and profits. This will make regulatory innovation slower and less ambitious.”

The Front Against TTIP (Malta) is made up of left-wing think tank Zminijietna, Moviment Graffiti, Association of Federative Socialist, GWU Youth, Friends of the Earth Malta, Partit Komunista Malti, Garden of Knowledge (Malta), ADZ - Green Youth, Malta Organic Agriculture Movement (MOAM), Greenhouse Malta, Gaia Foundation, and Alternattiva Demokratika. 

Read more: Trojan horse erected in protest against ‘dangerous’ EU-US trade agreement - MaltaToday.com.mt

Religious Discrimination - Migrants crisis: Slovakia 'will only accept Christians'

Slovakia says it will only accept Christians when it takes in Syrian refugees under a EU relocation scheme.
The country is due to receive 200 people from camps in Turkey, Italy and Greece under the EU plan to resettle 40,000 new arrivals.

Interior ministry spokesman Ivan Netik said Muslims would not be accepted because they would not feel at home.

The UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) called on countries to take an "inclusive approach" to relocation.
But Mr Netik denied the move was discriminatory and said it was intended to ensure community cohesion.

Note EU-Digest: whatever way the Slovaks want to call what they are doing - it is discrimination with a capital D and should be unacceptable by the EU.

Read more: Migrants crisis: Slovakia 'will only accept Christians' - BBC News

Turkish Elections - Turkey forms interim government with pro-Kurdish party

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday approved the makeup of the provisional government that will run the country until November 1 elections, including for the first time pro-Kurdish MPs.

 "Our president... approved the interim cabinet formed under the leadership of Prime Minister Mr Davutoglu," the presidency said in a statement after a nearly one-hour meeting between Erdogan and Premier Ahmet Davutoglu.

The two pro-Kurdish lawmakers are from the People's Democratic Party (HDP), marking the first time a Kurdish party has been represented in the government.

The newly appointed cabinet will not have to undergo a vote of confidence in parliament, as required in the constitution. The president's approval is considered enough for interim governments.

Erdogan called new elections after Davutoglu – whose ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its overall majority in parliament in June polls – failed to form a coalition government with the opposition.

He appointed Davutoglu to form an interim "election government" which according to the constitution must be made up of all parties represented in parliament.

It is the first time in modern Turkish history that post-election talks on forming a coalition government have failed.

Read more: Europe - Turkey forms interim government with pro-Kurdish party - France 24

Greek economy defies expectations

Despite the debt and political crisis in Greece the country’s economy is defying expectations

The government may be in crisis with new elections on the horizon after former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras stood down, but there is at least some good news to report on the business front.

Second Quarter GDP growth has been revised up, yes up, to 0.9 percent from the initial reading of 0.8, surprising analysts.

There is a caveat. The figures reflect a time before capital controls came in. Their impact will only be seen in the third quarter reading.

Nevertheless it is good news. Consumer spending rose 1.1 percent in the second quarter and imports went down by 4.9 percent.

One of the most important sectors sustaining Greece is tourism. Visitors are still flocking to the country and its islands at the rate of over 20 million per year.

The country’s problems are far from over however with more possible political turmoil on the horizon.
Read more: Greek economy defies expectations | euronews, economy

Archeology: Europe's oldest prehistoric town unearthed in Bulgaria

Archaeologists in Bulgaria say they have uncovered the oldest prehistoric town found to date in Europe.

The walled fortified settlement, near the modern town of Provadia, is thought to have been an important centre for salt production.

Its discovery in north-east Bulgaria may explain the huge gold hoard found nearby 40 years ago.

Archaeologists believe that the town was home to some 350 people and dates back to between 4700 and 4200 BC.

That is about 1,500 years before the start of ancient Greek civilisation.
The residents boiled water from a local spring and used it to create salt bricks, which were traded and used to preserve meat.

Salt was a hugely valuable commodity at the time, which experts say could help to explain the huge defensive stone walls which ringed the town.

Read more: Europe's oldest prehistoric town unearthed in Bulgaria - BBC News

8/28/15

Electric Cars: Tesla earns perfect score from Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports rates vehicles on a zero-to-100 scale, but Tesla's high-performance, all-wheel-drive car scored 103.

"Consumer Reports had to make changes to its scoring methodology to account for the car's exceptionally strong performance," the magazine said in a statement.

To bring the score back in line, the P85D was given less credit for areas in which the Model S already beat other cars but, in this version, simply exceeded on those measures even more.

For instance, it was given less credit for improving its acceleration and efficiency which, in other versions of the Model S, already outperformed other cars.

Once those changes were made, the P85D earned the top score of 100, making it the first car ever to earn that score.

 Read more: Tesla earns perfect score from Consumer Reports - Aug. 27, 2015

Middle East: Saudi Arabia: From the Eyes of an Insider - by Mona Eltahawy

Nothing prepared me for Saudi Arabia. I was born in Egypt, but my family left for London when I was seven years old. After almost eight years in the United Kingdom, we moved to Saudi Arabia in 1982.

Both my parents, Egyptians who had earned PhDs in medicine in London, had found jobs in Jeddah, teaching medical students and technicians clinical microbiology.

The campuses were segregated. My mother taught the women on the female campus and my father taught the men on the male campus.

When an instructor of the same gender wasn’t available, the classes were taught via closed-circuit television, and the students would have to ask questions using telephone sets.

My mother, who had been the breadwinner of the family for our last year in the United Kingdom, when we lived in Glasgow, now found that she could not legally drive. We became dependent on my father to take us everywhere.

As we waited for our new car to be delivered, we relied on gypsy cabs and public buses.

On the buses, we would buy our ticket from the driver, and then my mother and I would make our way to the back two rows (four if we were lucky) designated for women.

The back of the bus. What does that remind you of? Segregation is the only way to describe it.

The campuses were segregated. My mother taught the women on the female campus and my father taught the men on the male campus.

When an instructor of the same gender wasn’t available, the classes were taught via closed-circuit television, and the students would have to ask questions using telephone sets.

My mother, who had been the breadwinner of the family for our last year in the United Kingdom, when we lived in Glasgow, now found that she could not legally drive. We became dependent on my father to take us everywhere.

It felt as though we’d moved to another planet whose inhabitants fervently wished women did not exist. I lived in this surreal atmosphere for six years.

In this world, women, no matter how young or how old, are required to have a male guardian – a father, a brother, or even a son – and can do nothing without this guardian’s permission.

Yes, this is Saudi Arabia, the country where a gang rape survivor was sentenced to jail for agreeing to get into a car with an unrelated male and needed a royal pardon; Saudi Arabia, where a woman who broke the ban on driving was sentenced to ten lashes and, again, needed a royal pardon.

Note EU-Digest: Democracy and women's rights - still a major stumbling block in country which considers itself the cradle of Islam. 
 
Read moreSaudi Arabia: From the Eyes of an Insider - The Globali

GMO: Hungarians Just Destroyed All Monsanto cancer risk causing GMO Corn Fields

Hungary has taken a bold stand against biotech giant Monsanto and genetic modification by destroying 1000 acres of maize found to have been grown with genetically modified seeds, according to Hungary deputy state secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development Lajos Bognar.

Unlike many European Union countries, Hungary is a nation where genetically modified (GM) seeds are banned. In a similar stance against GM ingredients, Peru has also passed a 10 year ban on GM foods.

“Almost 1000 acres of maize found to have been ground with genetically modified seeds have been destroyed throughout Hungary, deputy state secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development Lajos Bognar said.

The GMO maize has been ploughed under, said Lajos Bognar, but pollen has not spread from the maize, he added.

Unlike several EU members, GMO seeds are banned in Hungary. The checks will continue despite the fact that seek traders are obliged to make sure that their products are GMO free, Bognar said.

Read more: Hungarians Just Destroyed All Monsanto GMO Corn Fields | UPRISER

Europe - A patient in need of intensive care - by Martin Winter

The European Union has six difficult years behind it. But the coming years won't be any easier. The crisis doesn't mean the end of the idea of a peaceful European partnership, but it has certainly dispelled more than one European illusion.

The years of the financial and debt crises were both instructive and very bitter. Instructive, because they revealed the flaws in the political construction that, after the end of the Cold War, led the EU down the exuberant path of believing it was destined to be the new world power. Bitter, because they brought with them the realization that the member states lack the strength to fix these flaws.

Neither of the two big plans - meant to strengthen the EU to the outside and bind it closer together on the inside - had the desired effect. Just the opposite. The euro has brought not more political integration, but instead growing disintegration. Trust and solidarity have given way to distrust and old stereotypes. And the common foreign and security policy is still just a shadow of what the visionaries had hoped for.

Instead of being surrounded by friends and partners, the EU once again finds itself - as Britain's The Economist wrote - in a ring of fire. Europe and Russia are again arming themselves against each other. There's war in Ukraine. Unrest rules the Caucasus.

The wars in Syria and Iraq are threatening to drive the entire Middle East into the ground. The Arab Spring has devolved into an Autumn of Violence. Islamic State is expanding and becoming a potent threat to Europe.

Europe has become a patient in need of intensive care. The euro is limping along from one emergency operation to the next. When things get dicey on the foreign policy front, it's the big member states that again have to intervene. And they mostly act according to German, French or British interests.

The EU is still digesting the political and financial consequences of its eastern and southern expansion. And the current refugee crisis has shown that every EU state is looking out for No.1. The illusion born in the 1990s - that a common currency would automatically bring with it a political union - has shattered.

The crisis did not just expose the EU's construction flaws, it also revealed how they might be fixed. But this is where Europe's dilemma begins. No member state is prepared to relinquish national sovereignty over economic, social, and security issues to a European central government in order to save the grand idea of the EU.

The bloc has come a very long way since the first step toward its creation was taken in 1951. But the people are still not prepared to replace the current union of sovereign nations with a European federation.

Note EU-Digest: Great review by DW. Yes indeed, as long as we realize that this takes a combined effort of all EU nations to solve and that we don't listen to Nationalists like Geert Wilders and others who would like to turn back the clock to reestablish borders, national currencies and grocery style economics. One major priority for the EU should be to seriously review its Middle East and Eastern European foreign policies, which is presently linked to that of the US and has been a constant and historical source of.grief for the EU in every sense of the word. All we have to do is to look at the present avalanche of Middle Eastern and North African migrants now streaming into Turkey and the EU, and review the cause of it.

Read more: Europe - A patient in need of intensive care | Europe | DW.COM | 28.08.2015

8/27/15

USA Wall Street: "Casino Capitalism": Economist Michael Hudson on What’s Behind the Stock Market’s Rollercoaster Ride

The real problem is that we’re still in the aftermath of when the bubble burst in 2008, that all of the growth in the economy has only been in the financial sector, in the monopolies—only for the 1 percent. 

And it’s as if there are two economies, and the 99 percent has not grown. And so, the American economy is still in a debt deflation. So the real problem is, stocks have doubled in price since 2008, and the economy, for most people, certainly who listen to your show, hasn’t grown at all.

So, finally, the stocks were inflated really by the central bank, by the Fed, creating an enormous amount of money, $4.5 trillion, essentially, to drop over Wall Street to buy bonds that have pushed the yields down so high—so low, to about 0.1 percent for government bonds, that pension funds and investors say, "How can we make money?" 

So they buy stocks. And they borrowed at 1 percent to buy up stocks that yield maybe 4 percent. But who are the largest people who buy the stocks? They’re the companies themselves that have done stock buybacks. They’re the managers of the companies that have used their earnings, essentially, to push up stock prices so they get more bonuses. 

Ninety precent of all the earnings of the biggest companies in America in the last five years have gone for stock buybacks and dividends. It’s not being invested. It’s not building new factories. It’s not employing more people.

So, the real problem is that we’re in a nonrecovery in America, and Europe is in an absolute class war of austerity. 

hat’s what the eurozone is, an austerity zone. So that’s not growing. And that’s really what’s happening. And all that you saw on Monday was just sort of like a shift, tectonic shift, is people realizing, "Well, the game is up, it’s time to get out." And once a few people want to get out, everybody sees the game’s up.

Read more: "Casino Capitalism": Economist Michael Hudson on What’s Behind the Stock Market’s Rollercoaster Ride | Democracy Now!

Refugees: Germany Needs Europe's Help With Refugees

Germany is building new apartment blocks and refitting old ones to accommodate an unprecedented wave of refugees -- an expected 800,000 this year, four times last year's figure and many more than in any other European nation.

Volunteers are turning out in large numbers to help. As a response to human suffering, this should be a source of national pride.

The pace of Germany's human influx is more than one country can handle for long, however. The problem can be addressed only at a pan-European level.

Read more: Germany Needs Europe's Help With Refugees - Bloomberg View

European economy: Are Europe's Debt Wars Religious? - by Leonid Bershidsky

French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron says there's a "religious war" over debt going on in Europe, in which each country's dominant religious denomination determines the side it picks. Macron's remarks were lighthearted, but they're also grounded in historical fact.

Speaking at a conference of German diplomats on Tuesday, Augusr 25 Macron said the war he was describing pitted a "Calvinist" view of debt, against a "Catholic" one. Under the former, puritanical approach, countries that "didn't respect their commitments" had to pay "till the end of their life," he said. For Catholics: "We failed, but we go to church, we explain the situation and we can start another week the day after."

In a 2002 paper, Rene Stulz and Rohan Williamson established that traditionally Catholic countries -- from Austria to Argentina -- afford weaker protection to creditors than do Protestant ones, such as the Nordic nations.

The Catholic cultures are also worse at enforcing creditor rights. This holds regardless of a country's legal system type -- common or civil law -- or wealth level. Stulz and Williamson trace that to the prohibition of usury in the medieval (pre-Protestant) church, which aimed to protect the weak from the strong:

Read more: Are Europe's Debt Wars Religious? - Bloomberg View

Iran and Internet Security: Here’s How Iran Resets Your Gmail Password - by Ben Collins

Tehran’s hackers are getting trickier—and finding new ways to get into your Gmail.
Iranian hackers have now found a way to get around Google’s two-step verification system and infiltrate GMail’s most elaborate consumer security system, according to a new report.

The Citizen Lab’s John Scott-Railton and Katie Kleemola outlined a few new ways that Iranian hackers can compromise the accounts of political dissidents, or even everyday citizens.

“Their targets are political, and include Iranian activists, and even a director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation,” said Scott-Railton in an email, referring to the digital rights organization. “In some cases they even pretend to be Reuters journalists calling to set up interviews.”

The report says attacks on political targets are new. But the methodology of the hack has been going on for years, especially as reliance on so-called “two-factor authentication”—using something in addition to a password to get into your account—has gone up.

Read more: Here’s How Iran Resets Your Gmail Password - The Daily Beast

Russia's Food Ban: What's 'Strategically Important' About French Cheese? - by Brian Whitmore

One face of Vladimir Putin's brave new Russia is a man called Nikolai.

We don't know his last name, but we know he lives in Vladivostok. And we know that after having a few drinks on the evening of August 16, he called the cops to rat on his neighbors for cooking illegally imported goose meat.

“I served in the army and I understand the situation like this: We have our superiors and they give orders that we must carry out, meaning there is the law and we must obey it,” Nikolai said, according to Russian media reports.

If it becomes law, the new classification will mean those caught importing banned fruits, vegetables, meat, and poultry can face up to seven years in prison. French cheese is apparently now just as dangerous to the security of the state as polonium, uranium, assault weapons, and dirty bombs.

And speaking of cheese, the Interior Ministry this week released footage of a bust of what it called a “major cheese-smuggling ring.” Some 470 tons of forbidden cheese was found and six members of the alleged cheese mafia were arrested.

Read more: Russia's Food Ban: What's 'Strategically Important' About French Cheese? - The Atlantic

'Solar Energy: Smart' solar palm trees power WiFi, phones in Dubai - by Saket S.

A new species of palm tree has started sprouting around Dubai. But instead of producing dates, the fronds of the Smart Palm harness the sun’s energy to allow people to look up city information, access WiFi, and charge their phones, all for free.

Topped with nine leaf-shaped photovoltaic modules, a six-meter-tall Smart Palm can generate around 7.2 kilowatt hours per day, enough to operate without ever drawing off the grid.

The two prototype palms that have already been installed - one at a beach near the Burj Al Arab hotel and other at centrally located Zabeel Park - each carry a WiFi hotspot, eight charging stations for phones and tablets, and a touch-screen panel giving local details on things like weather and transportation.

The company behind the device, Dubai-based D Idea, says connectivity is just the start of the Smart Palm’s potential.

“Subsequent Smart Palms will have ATM machines and utility bill payment services,” said CEO Viktor Nelepa. “Our team has also started to find new ways in which the Smart Palm can support other forms of sustainable generation, specifically through air and water purification modules.”

Read more: 'Smart' solar palm trees power WiFi, phones in Dubai - The Globe and Mail

8/26/15

EU economy is bigger than the US - by Bob Bryan

As a single country, the US is the biggest economy in the world.

But given its close ties, you could easily argue that the countries of the European Union make for one big economy. Indeed, you would be arguing that it's the world's largest economy.

The adjusted GDP of the 28 EU member nations is bigger than both China and the US, the traditional list of world's economic super powers.

"In nominal U.S. dollar terms, the European Union (plus Norway, Switzerland, Iceland) accounted for 25.4% of world output in 2014 according to data from the International Monetary Fund.  That was greater than America’s share (22.5%) and well in excess of China’s—13.4%," said Quinlan.

The EU consumer is also on top. The EU, plus periphery nations, accounted for 28.5% of all consumer spending in 2014, according to Quinlan, above both the 26.6% spent by US consumers and the 15.6% spent by the emerging economies of the Brazil, Russia, India and China combined. This attracts global companies to the region.

"Gaining access to wealthy consumers is among the primary reasons that US companies venture overseas, and hence the continued attraction of Europe to US firms," wrote Quinlan.

So while Greece has little direct impact on the US, stabilizing the massive EU economy should still be a huge concern for Americans and the rest of the world.

Middle East: Who's the Real Troublemaker in the Middle East? - by Medea Benjami

Except for maybe the Affordable Care Act, nothing gets Republican politicians fired up like Iran.

In the first GOP debate alone, Scott Walker promised that he'd tear up the Iran nuclear deal on day one of his presidency. Carly Fiorina blamed the country for "most of the evil that is going on in the Middle East."

 Mike Huckabee vowed to topple the "terrorist Iranian regime and defeat the evil forces of radical Islam."

Oddly, when the Republican candidates complain about the "evil forces of radical Islam" or trouble in the Middle East, they never seem to mention Saudi Arabia.

Iran's no democratic paradise. But on many counts, Washington's Saudi allies are even worse. The Saudi royals crush dissent with an iron fist, spread extremist ideology and invade their neighbors with impunity.

Domestically, the Saudi regime oppresses women, religious minorities and millions of foreign workers. And it brutally represses criticism from human rights activists, prompting condemnation from both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, for example, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes just for writing a blog the government considered critical of its rule. 

Hundreds of political prisoners languish in prison -- including Badawi's lawyer, who was sentenced to 15 years for his role as a human rights attorney. New legislation effectively equates criticism of the government and other peaceful activities with terrorism.

Saudi women aren't permitted to appear in public without adhering to a strict dress code. They need the approval of a male guardian to marry, travel, enroll in a university, or obtain a passport and they're prohibited from driving.

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

Read more: Who's the Real Troublemaker in the Middle East?

USA - Gun control: White House Calls On Congress, Again, To Do Something About Guns - by Sam Levine

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest renewed the Obama administration's call for Congress to take action on gun control after a gunman shot and killed a reporter and cameraman during a live television broadcast on Wednesday.

"This is another example of gun violence that is becoming all too common in communities large and small all across the United States," Earnest said. "And while there is no piece of legislation that will end all violence in this country, there are some common sense things that only Congress can do that we know would have a tangible impact in reducing gun violence in this country. Congress could take those steps in a way that would not infringe on the constitutional rights of law abiding Americans."

Obama also called on Congress to take action following the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school that left 26 dead. But just months later, legislation that Obama backed, which would have included measures such as expanding background checks, failed in the Senate. Obama has called the failure to pass gun reform "the greatest frustration" of his presidency and said last month that he would continue to push for reform during the remainder of his time in office.

Read more: White House Calls On Congress, Again, To Do Something About Guns

US Foreign Policy: Do America's Military Bases Abroad Help Or Hinder Global Security? - by David Vine

The U.S. has around 800 military bases outside of the US borders. They're home to hundreds of thousands of troops and family members, and, in many cases, they're a cause of controversy.

David Vine, an associate professor of anthropology at American University, argues that we've become too dependent on such overseas bases — and that many of them cause serious opposition abroad. He lays out his thinking in his new book, Base Nation: How the U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World.

In the book he notes : "Most of the bases were established during or shortly after World War II. And ever since, Vine says, there have been pockets of local opposition.

"I think there were tensions almost immediately in Germany and Japan, in particular, where these bases were helping U.S. troops and allied troops to occupy the enemy territory," Vine tells Weekend All Things Considered guest host Tess Vigeland.

"Pretty quickly, as the Cold War developed, we see France evict the United States in the mid-1960s. We see countries like Trinidad and Tobago evict the United States, also in the 1960s, and we see growing protest movements in places like Okinawa that continue to the present."

He argues that the U.S. ought to take those protests serious.

Largely people, of course, don't like their land occupied by foreign troops. And I think it's worth thinking - for American audiences to think about how it would feel to have foreign troops living next-door, occupying your land with tanks. But there have also been a number of harms that these bases have inflicted on local communities. There have been accidents, crimes committed by U.S. personnel, environmental damage - a whole range of damage that people are quite upset about.

The book is not initially calling for the closure of every U.S. base overseas. It's calling for, first of all, a conversation about this massive network of bases and whether they're increasing national security or the security of the world. It's important also to point out that a major way in which the United States engages with the rest of the world is through these military bases that are occupying other people's lands. David Vine suggests that a fundamental transition needs to take place now to emphasize increasingly diplomatic engagement rather than military engagement.

Note EU-Digest: a recent report from the BBC notes that the US currently has more than 60,000 troops stationed in Europe, mostly in Germany, Italy and the UK. The US earlier in the year has also announced it will close 15 obsolete military bases across Europe which date back to the cold was era at a savings of about $500m a year.  The number of total US servicemen will remain the same, however, according to the US Pentagon, as the US ramps up rotations within Europe for military training programs.


Read more: Do America's Military Bases Abroad Help Or Hinder Global Security? | WGBH News

8/25/15

Danger in the Skies: FAA 8 years away from pilot database - CNNPolitics.com

The Federal Aviation Administration has delayed creating a critical database, which Congress mandated, to help keep track and weed out poorly trained pilots.

The Department of Transportation Inspector General's office released an audit last week saying until the agency addresses these shortcomings "significant gaps will persist in the extent and level of data reviewed by airlines prior to hiring pilots."

"Ensuring air carriers have all available information on a pilot's training performance remains a critical safety area for FAA," said Matthew Hampton, assistant inspector general for aviation audits, wrote in the report. '

Without these additional records, air carriers may be unaware of unsatisfactory evaluation events or other items that could indicate performance issues for a pilot."

Read more: Watchdog: FAA 8 years away from pilot database - CNNPolitics.com

Currency Markets: Is the euro the new safe haven? byJenny Cosgrave

Following calls for parity against the dollar just a few months ago, the single currency is now one of the few assets in the world rallying.

Global stocks had their worst week of the year last week and the only assets to perform well were the traditional "flight to safety" assets, such as the Swiss franc, U.S. Treasurys and gold.
 
However, the euro has proved the surprise outperformer, appreciating 4.5 percent against the U.S. dollar in the last two weeks. It continued to gain on Monday, rallying 1.8 percent against the greenback to top $1.159 by the time European stock markets closed.

Read more:  Is the euro the new safe haven?

Iran: Group of Christian leaders backs Iran deal - by Nahal Toosi

More than 50 Christian leaders have signed on to a letter urging members of Congress to “remember the wisdom of Jesus” and approve the nuclear deal with Iran, the latest in a growing lobbying push by religious groups favoring the agreement.

The signatories, who represent denominations and organizations ranging from Catholic to Quaker to Pentecostal, praise the deal’s technical provisions while also arguing its merits on moral grounds.
“As faith leaders from the only country that has ever used nuclear weapons in war, we have a particular responsibility to speak boldly when opportunities arise that lead to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation at home and around the world,” the 51 faith leaders write. “This historic accord moves us one small step closer to a world free of nuclear weapons.”

The letter, which will be sent to lawmakers Tuesday, goes on: “This is a moment to remember the wisdom of Jesus who proclaimed from the Sermon on the Mount, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God’ (Matthew 5:9)… There is no question we are all better off with this deal than without it.”

Read more: Group of Christian leaders backs Iran deal - Nahal Toosi - POLITIC

8/24/15

Wall Street Crash--As U.S. And China Blame Each Other "while brokers smile all the way to the bank" - by George Chen

In China, the benchmark Shanghai index sank over 8.5% on Monday, the biggest drop in eight years. Chinese state media quick jumped to their easy conclusion: Let’s blame the global market environment, particularly, the United States and its monetary policy uncertainty following the Federal Reserve’s most recent (and perhaps most confusing) statements on whether it will raise interest rates anytime soon.

Mainstream U.S. media quickly joined the blaming game as well. From Bloomberg to the Wall Street Journal, they faulted China for the today’s stock market panic. Dow Jones Industrial Index lost over 1,000 points at today’s opening, the worst since the collapse of Lehman Brothers during the 2008 financial crisis.

In other words, as global markets sank from east to west, the Chinese and American media tried to hold the other responsible for the frenzy. Childish? I say it is also a fair reflection of lack of mutual trust on both sides.
Many financial analysts believed Beijing’s recent decision to devalue its currency should be considered an advanced action in response to possible rate hike approved by the U.S. Fed. What China’s top leaders like least is uncertainty, so they wanted to act before the Fed forced anything upon them.

Note EU-Digest: the Wall Street Casino is alive and well and brokers are in for huge profits  playing "the margins game" as small jittery investors are selling stock on a large scale to recuperate their losses and who later will probably buy them back,  when the stocks start rising again. 


Read more: Stock Markets Crash--And The U.S. And China Blame Each Other - Forbes

Social Media: YouTube's Battle Against ISIS - by Jaweed Kaleem

On a Thursday night late last fall, after leaving the Manhattan office where he works as a digital products specialist, Aman Ali -- a well-known comedian in American Muslim circles -- received an unusual email from YouTube.

“We need you,” read the note, which invited Ali to the company’s sprawling, 41,000-square-foot production facility in Los Angeles and promised a free flight and two nights in a hotel. “Muslim community leaders [are] struggling to have their voices heard against the overwhelming extremist and bigoted content currently surfacing the web.”

The words “Islamic State” appeared nowhere in the note asking Muslims like Ali to “change the discourse,” but the message was clear. The terrorist organization's vast media arm, with its slick recruitment videos, was winning the propaganda war. Muslims needed to figure out a way to fight back and “get your voices heard.”

\YouTube, facing pressure after unwittingly hosting execution clips before the company could realize and take them down, was offering its helping hand.

Nearly two months later, on a Saturday in January, about 70 Muslims arrived at a closed-door meeting at YouTube’s studios. They comprised a who’s-who of imams, scholars, activists, Muslim vloggers and entertainers from across the U.S. Many had witnessed extremism first-hand, such as imam Suhaib Webb, who was the face of the Boston Muslim community in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. For nine hours, experts, many of them Muslims, briefed participants and brainstormed how to combat online extremism.

Imams were paired with entertainers; scholars were seated with a few of YouTube’s non-Muslim power users, who peppered the crowd and gave tips on how they had built up millions of subscribers with pop culture commentary. Mimicking a tech startup camp, attendees broke into small groups to debate what technologies and strategies worked best.

YouTube's Battle Against ISIS

Chinese Economy: Why China’s stock market bubble was always bound to burst- by Orville Schell

The fact that Chinese stocks were climbing ever higher while the Chinese economy was cooling should have been an unmistakable warning of a bubble, but it caused surprisingly little concern. (Another reason to worry might have been the disparity in prices between so-called “A-shares”, which can only be purchased by investors inside China to keep the domestic market shielded from outside foreign manipulation, and stakes in the same companies available to foreign investors through the Hong Kong exchange, known as “H-Shares”.

This disparity suggested Chinese investors were bidding up prices well beyond any reasonable approximation of their value.) In fact, drawn by the casino-like profits to be made in the boom, more and more small investors flocked to the thousands of brokerage houses that are now proliferating in every Chinese city in order to buy and sell while staring up at flickering electronic data boards charting the rise and fall of equity prices.

Read more: Why China’s stock market bubble was always bound to burst | Orville Schell | World news | The Guardian

TTIP: The obscure legal system that lets corporations sue countries - by Claire Provost and Matt Kennard

uis Parada’s office is just four blocks from the White House, in the heart of K Street, Washington’s lobbying row – a stretch of steel and glass buildings once dubbed the “road to riches”, when influence-peddling became an American growth industry.

Parada, a soft-spoken 55-year-old from El Salvador, is one of a handful of lawyers in the world who specialise in defending sovereign states against lawsuits lodged by multinational corporations. He is the lawyer for the defence in an obscure but increasingly powerful field of international law – where foreign investors can sue governments in a network of tribunals for billions of dollars.

Fifteen years ago, Parada’s work was a minor niche even within the legal business. But since 2000, hundreds of foreign investors have sued more than half of the world’s countries, claiming damages for a wide range of government actions that they say have threatened their profits. In 2006,

Ecuador cancelled an oil-exploration contract with Houston-based Occidental Petroleum; in 2012, after Occidental filed a suit before an international investment tribunal, Ecuador was ordered to pay a record $1.8bn – roughly equal to the country’s health budget for a year. (Ecuador has logged a request for the decision to be annulled.)

Read more: The obscure legal system that lets corporations sue countries | Claire Provost and Matt Kennard | Business | The Guardian

European Business: Big Investors Are Finding Ripe Start-Up Targets in Europe - by Mark Scott

Klaus Hommels has invested in some of Europe’s most successful start-ups. That includes Spotify, the music-streaming service, and Klarna, a Swedish online payments company valued at more than $2 billion.

He has also backed several American tech giants like Facebook and Airbnb, the vacation-rental site.
Now, the German venture capitalist is doubling-down on Europe’s tech sector.

On Monday, Mr. Hommels’s venture capital firm, Lakestar, will announce a new fund worth 350 million euros, or $398 million, one of the largest European fund-raisings so far this year. It is more than double his previous fund, raised in 2013, whose portfolio of start-ups includes Harry’s, the American online shaving company, and Algomi, a London-based social network for bond trading.

Mr. Hommels, 48, who lives in Zurich, plans to spend most of the new money on European start-ups, but also a few American fledging tech companies looking to fast-track their global ambitions. He said that as more industries like automotive and energy embrace new tech trends, he would look at early-stage companies transforming the way people — and traditional companies — lead their daily lives.

“Technology has become integral to how we live,” said Mr. Hommels, who also invested in King Digital, the maker of Candy Crush, but sold his stake before the company went public, missing out on roughly $1 billion. “We won’t be afraid to back start-ups with high valuations if we can accelerate their growth.”

The fund-raising by Mr. Hommels is perhaps the strongest evidence yet that investors have rekindled their interest in European venture capital. Just like in Silicon Valley, where companies like Uber, the ride-booking service, have attracted eye-popping valuations, venture capitalists, private equity firms and other investors are now flooding into Europe.

Read more: Big Investors Are Finding Ripe Start-Up Targets in Europe - The New York Tim

8/23/15

Turkey: Erdogan Uses Censorship to Cling to Power - by Michael Rubin

As predicted, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had absolutely no intention of abiding by the results of the June 7, 2015 when, for the first time in more than 12 years, his Justice and Development lost its majority in parliament.

Joining a coalition means compromising with opposition parties rather than continuing his own tyranny of the plurality.

Hence, Erdoğan has called snap-elections for November 1. Erdoğan is no gambler, however, and he will not trust his fate to the voters determining their party pick on an even playing field.

While Turkish diplomats and perhaps their American counterparts as well seek to spin recent military operations as renewed Turkish seriousness in the fight against the Islamic State, they are anything but.
Turkey’s military disproportionately targeted the Kurds who have been fighting the Islamic State, and they have launched repeated airstrikes as well at the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) presence in northern Iraq, never mind the ceasefire to which Erdoğan had earlier agreed. Indeed, it’s all well and good to suggest that Turkey is fighting a renewed insurgency but the renewed outbreak of insurgency was largely Erdoğan’s political decision.

In reality, it would be just as accurate to say that Erdoğan’s regime has killed dozens if not hundreds of Turkish citizens since his party’s relatively poor showing in the June elections. Simply put, Erdoğan believes a crisis works in his favor and undercuts the electoral hopes of Turkey’s Kurds.

But fomenting crisis is only one mechanism by which Erdoğan will seek to cement his power. He has also taken censorship inside Turkey to new heights to prevent his opponents from pushing out their message online. “Radical Democrat” blogger Gürkan Özturan gives a chilling new report on Erdoğan crackdown on Internet news sites:

As predicted, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had absolutely no intention of abiding by the results of the June 7, 2015 when, for the first time in more than 12 years, his Justice and Development lost its majority in parliament. Joining a coalition means compromising with opposition parties rather than continuing his own tyranny of the plurality.

Hence, Erdoğan has called snap-elections for November 1. Erdoğan is no gambler, however, and he will not trust his fate to the voters determining their party pick on an even playing field.

While Turkish diplomats and perhaps their American counterparts as well seek to spin recent military operations as renewed Turkish seriousness in the fight against the Islamic State, they are anything but.

Turkey’s military disproportionately targeted the Kurds who have been fighting the Islamic State, and they have launched repeated airstrikes as well at the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) presence in northern Iraq, never mind the ceasefire to which Erdoğan had earlier agreed. Indeed, it’s all well and good to suggest that Turkey is fighting a renewed insurgency but the renewed outbreak of insurgency was largely Erdoğan’s political decision. In reality, it would be just as accurate to say that Erdoğan’s regime has killed dozens if not hundreds of Turkish citizens since his party’s relatively poor showing in the June elections.

Simply put, Erdoğan believes a crisis works in his favor and undercuts the electoral hopes of Turkey’s Kurds.

But fomenting crisis is only one mechanism by which Erdoğan will seek to cement his power.

He has also taken censorship inside Turkey to new heights to prevent his opponents from pushing out their message online. “Radical Democrat” blogger Gürkan Özturan gives a chilling new report on Erdoğan crackdown on Internet news sites:

Read more: Erdogan Uses Censorship to Cling to Power

8/22/15

U.S. investigates Citigroup ties to Mexican billionaire: report

The U.S. Justice Department is looking into Citigroup Inc's dealings with companies linked to Mexican billionaire Carlos Hank Rhon as part of an expanding investigation into the bank's money-laundering controls, Bloomberg reported on Monday August 18.

U.S. officials asked Citigroup (C.N) to provide information on accounts tied to four businesses affiliated with Hank Rhon, according to the news agency. These include two units each of Grupo Financiero Interacciones SA (GFINTERO.MX) and Grupo Hermes SA, which are controlled by Hank Rhon and his family.

The Justice Department asked the bank to provide similar paperwork for a fifth firm, Banco Monex, that's
 not connected to Hank Rhon, Bloomberg said.

U.S. Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle declined to comment.

Officials at Interacciones and Citigroup declined to immediately comment while those at Monex and Hermes could not be reached.

The Justice Department is examining anti-money laundering practices at Banco Nacional de Mexico, Citigroup’s Mexico unit known as Banamex, to see if any of its clients were involved in money laundering, the news agency said.

Read more: U.S. investigates Citigroup ties to Mexican billionaire: report | Reuters

8/21/15

USA - Wall Street: Carnage on Wall Street signals fears about U.S. economy - by Kate Gibson

As U.S. stocks joined a global selloff to mark their biggest weekly decline since 2011, economists and investors cut their projections of what was already lackluster U.S. economic growth.

Markets around the world registered their distress after an August gauge of factory activity in China dropped to a more-than six-year low. The index came on the heels of worse-than expected July data on exports, industrial output and retail sales from that nation, the world's second-largest economy.

"China's weakness and response to its own weakness is rippling throughout the global feedback mechanism," Jim Russell, a principal and portfolio manager at Bahl and Gaynor, which manages and oversees $14 billion in assets, told CBS MoneyWatch.

The nosedive on Wall Street wasn't spurred only by mounting concerns over the People's Republic."Weakness... is not limited to China," analysts with Oxford Economics said in a note. "The Brazilian economy is in shambles, while the latest data from Russia showed the economy falling further into recession in the second quarter."

The S&P 500 issues lost $1.14 trillion in market value this week, or $1.07 trillion if adjusted for float, according to Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate oil for October delivery fell below $40 a barrel for the first time since 2009, before ending at $40.45, down 2.1 percent.

Read more: Carnage on Wall Street signals fears about U.S. economy - CBS News

Netherlands - France: Fanatic Islamic Gunman opens fire in Amsterdam-Paris train, wounding two people - by ngelique Chrisafis

Today, August 21, a crazy Islamic fanatic gunman went on a shooting spree in the high speed TGV train from Amsterdam to Paris but fortunately got downed by two alert US servicemen on vacation: The shooting is believed to have taken place as the man left the toilet and the Americans tackled and overpowered him.

Note EU-Digest: Compliments to these two courageous US service men.

Read more: Fanatic Islamic Gunman opens fire on Amsterdam-Paris train, wounding two people | World news | The Guardian

Syria/USA: Refugees/Migrants: Temporary Protected Status Designated Country: Syria - provided by USCIS

Good news for Syrian refugees and migrants who want to apply for residency/immigrant status in the US.

For additional information click on link:: Temporary Protected Status Designated Country: Syria | USCIS

8/20/15

Utrecht city council to begin experiments with a basic income

Utrecht city council is to begin experimenting with the idea of a basic income, replacing the current complicated system of taxes, social security benefits and top-up benefits. City alderman Victor Everhardt says the aim is to see if the concept of a basic income works in practice. ‘Things can be simpler if we base the system on trust,’ he told website DeStadUtrecht.nl. The experiment will start after the summer holidays and is being carried out together with researchers from Utrecht University. In theory, a basic income consists of a flat income to cover living costs which, supporters say, will free up people to work more flexible hours, do volunteer work and study. Additional income is subject to income tax. The Utrecht project will focus on people claiming welfare benefits. One group will continue under the present system of welfare plus supplementary benefits for housing and health insurance. A second group will get benefits based on a system of incentives and rewards and a third group will have a basic income with no extras.

Read more at DutchNews.nl: Utrecht city council to begin experiments with a basic income http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2015/06/utrecht-city-council-to-begin-experiments-with-a-basic-income/
Utrecht city council is to begin experimenting with the idea of a basic income, replacing the current complicated system of taxes, social security benefits and top-up benefits. City alderman Victor Everhardt says the aim is to see if the concept of a basic income works in practice. ‘Things can be simpler if we base the system on trust,’ he told website DeStadUtrecht.nl. The experiment will start after the summer holidays and is being carried out together with researchers from Utrecht University. In theory, a basic income consists of a flat income to cover living costs which, supporters say, will free up people to work more flexible hours, do volunteer work and study. Additional income is subject to income tax. The Utrecht project will focus on people claiming welfare benefits. One group will continue under the present system of welfare plus supplementary benefits for housing and health insurance. A second group will get benefits based on a system of incentives and rewards and a third group will have a basic income with no extras.

Read more at DutchNews.nl: Utrecht city council to begin experiments with a basic income http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2015/06/utrecht-city-council-to-begin-experiments-with-a-basic-income/
Utrecht city council is to begin experimenting with the idea of a basic income, replacing the current complicated system of taxes, social security benefits and top-up benefits.

City alderman Victor Everhardt says the aim is to see if the concept of a basic income works in practice. ‘Things can be simpler if we base the system on trust,’ he told website DeStadUtrecht.nl.

The experiment will start after the summer holidays and is being carried out together with researchers from Utrecht University. In theory, a basic income consists of a flat income to cover living costs which, supporters say, will free up people to work more flexible hours, do volunteer work and study.

Additional income is subject to income tax. The Utrecht project will focus on people claiming welfare benefits.

One group will continue under the present system of welfare plus supplementary benefits for housing and health insurance. A second group will get benefits based on a system of incentives and rewards and a third group will have a basic income with no extras.
Utrecht city council is to begin experimenting with the idea of a basic income, replacing the current complicated system of taxes, social security benefits and top-up benefits. City alderman Victor Everhardt says the aim is to see if the concept of a basic income works in practice. ‘Things can be simpler if we base the system on trust,’ he told website DeStadUtrecht.nl. The experiment will start after the summer holidays and is being carried out together with researchers from Utrecht University. In theory, a basic income consists of a flat income to cover living costs which, supporters say, will free up people to work more flexible hours, do volunteer work and study. Additional income is subject to income tax. The Utrecht project will focus on people claiming welfare benefits. One group will continue under the present system of welfare plus supplementary benefits for housing and health insurance. A second group will get benefits based on a system of incentives and rewards and a third group will have a basic income with no extras.

Read more at DutchNews.nl: Utrecht city council to begin experiments with a basic income http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2015/06/utrecht-city-council-to-begin-experiments-with-a-basic-income/

Read more: Utrecht city council to begin experiments with a basic income - DutchNews.nl

Middle East: Migrant Exodus: Facebook, WhatsApp and Viber light way to Europe for Syrian refugees - by Serene Assir

“Our phones and power banks are more important for our journey than anything, even more important than food,” said Wael, a 32-year-old from the devastated Syrian city Homs who reached the Greek resort island of Kos on Thursday morning.

Refugees are using Facebook groups with tens of thousands of members to share photographs and experiences, find smugglers’ phone numbers, map their route from Turkey to Greece and onward to northern Europe, and to calculate expenses.

They use WhatsApp to help the coast guard pinpoint their location once their boats have reached Greek waters, and Viber to let their families know they have landed safely.

“We couldn’t take anything with us on the boat, we were all so crammed. But these phones are our most precious belongings,” said Wael, who fled Syria with his bright green-eyed wife and 12 relatives, including three children.

They are among more than 135,000 refugees and migrants who have arrived in Greece this year, amid Europe’s biggest migration crisis since World War II.

“I wrapped my phone up in a resealable plastic bag to protect it from the water,” said the olive-skinned man.
In Kos, Syrians can be seen taking photographs of each other on the beach using their smartphones, and ordering coffee at local cafes where they can connect to Internet.

Note EU-Digest: As millions of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Libya and Sudan are swarming into Turkey and the EU it is amazing to see that our "good friends" on the other side of the Atlantic. who's Middle East policies created all this mess, remain deadly silent when it comes to also offering some of these refugees some assistance or a new future in the US.

Read more: Facebook, WhatsApp and Viber light way to Europe for Syrian refugees | The Times of Israel