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The Netherlands - City of Almere Parking Fines considered "Municipality Legalized Robbery" by vistors and citizens

Almere: a parking fine can cost you a fortune
Parking fines, you know they exist, but how high they are usually is a total mystery until you get a fine.

Of course rules are rules, but they should be proportional. Not a Municipality legalized robbery.

Visiting the city of Almere on Sunday, July 31, to do some errands, we parked the car at 12.55 in a downtown Almere open air car parking called "Landdroesdreef" and paid  € 4.10 (US $ 4.60) to park for approximately one and a half hour worth of parking time until 2.27 pm..

Unfortunately, the errands in downtown Almere took slightly more time than expected and when we arrived at the parking lot it was 2.42 pm, only some 15 minutes too late and we found a fine on the windshield of the car for € 62.50 (approximately $70 US Dollars).

The parking "police", who had given the fine were still standing on the parking lot and we immediately went to them to apologize for the 15 minute delay, but they were not willing to forgive the fine, or even reduce it. Worse of all, they were also unable to explain why a fine for 15 minutes of overtime in a parking lot was € 62.50.

By whatever standards, these kind of a parking fines are ridiculous, specially in smaller cities like Almere, or on a Sunday, when in most cities around the world, there are either reduced parking rates or no parking fees at all.

The Municipality of Almere and the business community would do good to look into this if they want to make Almere consumer friendly and attract more visitors and tourists to the city..


USA: Bankers No Longer Too Big to Jail? - by Frank Vogl

Some of the world’s biggest banks have overplayed their hand. They have strived at every turn to exert extraordinary political influence in order to get away with criminal violations of the law.

To date, not a single top banking executive has faced a single day in criminal court.

The staggering wrongdoing committed by leading banks includes massive fraud in mortgage lending in the United States, manipulating international interest rates and currency markets, as well as laundering billions of dollars for drug cartels and corrupt politicians.
Rare case of bipartisan agreement

Now, despite the general atmosphere of extreme partisanship, both of America’s major political parties are declaring that the good times are over for the crooked bankers.

The Democratic Party’s “platform,” approved at its convention in Philadelphia, includes the phrase: “Democrats believe that no bank can be too big to fail and no executive too powerful to jail.”

Meanwhile, the Republican Party’s leadership of the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Financial Services published a report titled: “Too Big To Jail: Inside the Obama Justice Department’s decision not to hold Wall Street accountable.”

In recent years, the major banks have agreed to settle a wide array of charges brought against them by U.S. banking authorities, the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

For example, Bank of America has paid over $75 billion in fines, while J.P. Morgan Chase has settled a host of cases for around $40 billion.

Read more: US: Bankers No Longer Too Big to Jail?


Britain: Following Brexit Vote Britain Should Not Receive Any Favors From EU, Say 53 % Of EU Citizens Polled

Britain:  "up the creek without a paddle"
An opinion poll published on Friday, found the majority of voters in Germany, France, Sweden and Finland think the UK should not receive any favours when negotiating a post-Brexit trade deal.

Germans and the French were the most opposed to offering Britain a "generous deal" that pays tribute to Britain's role as a neighbour and "important trading partner", according to the YouGov survey.

In both countries, 53 per cent of respondents said it should not expect any favours, compared to 27 per cent who said the EU should offer Britain a "generous deal".

As one EU parliamentarian said: "let's see who they will blame now for their problems - they can't have your cake and eat it also !".


NATO - In depth Look At Nato Shows It Has No Role To Play In Politics

The North Atlantic Treaty was signed on 1949 in Washington DC, and ratified by its twelve member states. The treaty was clearly a response to the growing military threat that appeared by the communist ideology and military power of the Soviet Union, at the same time, the treaty was also viewed by some members as an insurance policy, provided mainly by the United States against the resurgent Germany.

This essay discusses the role of NATO; further it will examine why NATO should not be dissolved, and will discuss Libya as case study. This essay also discusses why NATO should be dissolved, and will draw upon the war on terror in Afghanistan. This essay will conclude that NATO does not have much relevance in 21th century nor it had following the Cold and the Collapsed of the Soviet Union, therefore, it's not imperative for NATO to maintain alliance.

NATO was founded on the grounds that the organisation will protect its members, but mainly from the military threat of Soviet Unions, Lord Hastings Ismay, the first Secretary General clearly defined NATO; "to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down (William: 2008, 348)." Ismay argument demonstrates that the international institution was founded mainly because of the of military threat of Soviet Union during the Cold War. NATO's former Secretary General Willy Clases stated that:

"it could build on its past, moving to establish closer ties with Central and East European states; deepen its political , economic and social ties with the United states; build a better relationship with Russia and certain Mediterranean and North African states; and work with regional and international organisation to ensure the stability of Europe its neighbours ( MaCalla:199,445)

Clases statement shows very strong aims of NATO to survive and will expand as global cop; continue its task to safeguard its member states; nevertheless, scepticism remains about its future. NATO's former Secretary General, Manfred Worner stated that "The treaty of Washington of 1949, nowhere mentions the Soviet Union" (MaCalla: 1996, 446). Worner argument reveals that military Threat of Soviet Union was not the main reason; however, NATO has wider international prospects.

At the end of the Cold War, it was perceived that the absence of a compelling external threat, NATO members would no longer see any compelling reason to maintain the alliance, and it would soon appear to be ineffective and incompetent security organisation. Waltz (William: 2008, 349) argued that the:

"alliances will tend to be less robust in a multipolar world because major powers will possess more options as their numbers increase... prudence suggests that existing alliance commitments can no longer be taken for granted ( William:2008,350)".

However, Walt argument proved to have minimal effect on the organisation. NATO flourished at least in some ways since following Cold War, and was broadly engaged in extensive combat operations, such as Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and recently in Libya.

Adler and Barnett (William et al: 2000) argued that persistence of NATO clearly demonstrates that the international community posses great challenges of security relations than neo realism has traditionally allowed. Their statement shows that NATO has survived many security challenges over time and continued to prosper as a security management institution in 21th century, on the other hand, the emergence of non-state actors brought massive challenges for the states security, states are now fighting non- state actors, such as Al-Qaida and Taliban, NATO responded efficiently by engaging on the War on Terror in Afghanistan, training and developing Afghan National Security Forces, and ensuring partnership agreement to continue military support to the country beyond 2014, after the withdrawal of NATO soldiers from the country. Thus, NATO's interest in promoting peace and stability has not only benefited its members but also wider international community.

NATO should be dissolved clearly it achieved its purpose and outlived its usefulness. Wallander and Keohane ( William et al:2000) argued that NATO is no longer an alliance, its purpose and operations has changed over time and it has transformed in to a regional collective security arrangement or security management institution. Their argument demonstrates that NATO still have great importance in the region, nonetheless, its aims have changed and there is still security threats for its members, but there is still many global security challenges facing NATO member states, this could be the fight on terror, environmental security challenges or the remnants of the Soviet Union, Russia, thus, these challenges keep NATO active and should therefore not be dissolved. NATO as security management institution take human rights and humanitarian intervention into account, NATO efficiently responded to crisis in Libya. The NATO humanitarian intervention in Libya was legitimate, because it was authorised by UN Security Council, the main purpose of this operation was to save human lives and it was successful.

The consequences of a dissolved NATO will not help the wider international order, this is because NATO is also an enforcement arm of the UN Security Council, helped to combat Terrorism, WMD and Cyber Warfare, on the other hand, NATO members states shares democratic values, William et al (2000:358) argued that NATO persists because it's member states shared democratic norms and identities. This shows that democracy is the common language in these countries, and therefore, they can communicate very well and identify their common enemies and share military burden in order to make each ally stronger than individual part. The North Atlantic treaty organisation was set up to defend against the threat of Soviet aggression, however, today it's viewed as increasingly dysfunctional, and still searching for a new role two decades after the collapsed of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War ( Kashmeri:2010).

William (2008) argued that NATO has had little effect on counter-terrorism efforts. Williams statement points to the inability of NATO on combating terrorism. It could be argued that NATO was failed to stop Terrorists attacks on their members states, NATO was incapable to stop major terrorist attacks of 911, 7/7 London bombing or Madrid attacks, on the other hand, NATO did not achieved much of its goals on combating terrorism in Afghanistan, NATO failed to eliminate Top Taliban leader, Mullah Omer and could not stop much of the insurgency in the South of the country, as a result, NATO's member states had to pay huge cost of a lengthy War in Afghanistan, NATO lost their real aims in Afghanistan, its initial purpose of War in Afghanistan was to battle Terrorism, however, the aim spread to many other challenges, and it is now fighting for human rights, war on drug, reconstruction and building a democratic society for Afghans, NATO clearly lost its mandate in Afghanistan and its members had to pay massive amount of finance to support the war at the time where their own national economies were struggling with huge debts and deficits.

NATO believed that the organisation will transform into a World cop, by adopting a strategy of 'Out of Area' (Kashmeri: 1996), this dream is diminishing at slow pace in the mountainous Afghanistan, where many of its European members are avoiding main battle, France and Netherland has already withdrawn troops from Afghanistan, while leaving other members in uncertainty and disarray, on the other hand, US close ally Canada has also withdrawn troops from Afghanistan, making it more difficult for other NATO members to achieve significant goals, the remaining members are struggling to find resources to send a few hundred trainers to Afghanistan.

NATO does not have much relevance in 21th century nor it had following the Cold War and the collapsed of the Soviet Union, it was not imperative for NATO to maintain alliance. Mearsheimer ( 1994) stated that international institutions maintain only 'false promise' as a foundation for security. Mearsheimer's statement demonstrates that NATO is ineffective and therefore should be disbanded, security issues are best achieved through states, thus, security institutions have no place in international system. If the international community is posed with global threats, NATO would be unsuccessful, it would be more advantageous for each region including Europe to build their own security force rather than creating a global NATO force. It could also be argued that security institutions are manipulated by powers for their own national interest; hence, NATO is a great tool for US to advance its agenda. The extension of NATO force has also threatened development of democracy in Russia, most democratic activists in Russia have oppose NATO enlargement, precisely, on the grounds that it hinders the progress of democracy in Russia.

NATO is a tool of US and the majority of Americans have different social moral values compare to their European counterparts. Steele (2004) argued that Americans do not share values, but institutions with Europe. This illustrates that Europe and the US have similar institutions, like Europe they have a separation of powers between executive and legislature and an independent judiciary, but both Europe and the US have different values and this distinction is crucial. It clearly shows that they do not have common values or perceptions, and these perceptions may include security issues, and what constitutes a threat for the US may not constitutes a threat for the Europe. Steele (2004) clearly distinguish these differences, in the US more people have guns than have passports, and there is not one European nation of which is the same as US on this. However, millions of US nationals do share European values, but this only amounts to 48% and that the US is deeply polarised is incorrect.

European states are officially embedded as America's allies, and it's clear that the allies should support America and respect their leadership, thus, this makes it hard for European states to not follow American perceptions about security, if they don't they will fear of being attacked as disloyal. It's very obvious that Europeans like Americans have their own interest, sometimes they will coincides, and these interest will also differ, but it's normal (Steele:2004), it's clear that the US has some bilateral security treaties with other countries. And that could be a good deal for European states. If Austria, Finland, Ireland and Sweden could take considerable risk of staying neutral during the Cold War, thus, no need to join NATO in 21th century, in which the world is much safe than it was in bipolar order. It's clearly true that NATO will not function with the unanimity it demonstrated during the Cold War, however, the lesson has been learned from Iraq War and that the organisation has become no more than a " coalition of the reluctant"( Steele:2004), because it's strong member such as France and Germany did not joined the Iraq War.

The US as a leader and most powerful member of NATO, has always pushed the European allies to spend much on their defence infrastructure, blaming them for spending too little or spending on the wrong policies. This has been a regular feature of NATO meetings for years. Valasek argued that

"Virtually every piece of legislation in the U.S Congress involving NATO, such as bills on enlargement or missile defence, pass with at least an attempt by lawmakers to attach amendments mandating greater European contributions (Velasak:2001,20"

Velasak statement reveals that the Europeans are being pushed for something which they are not interested and it's also not in their national interests to spend much more on their defence infrastructure and pay heavily for the costs of wars, thus, NATO has become a threat to Europe. NATO's existence undermines Europe's own efforts to build their own regional security institutions which will more efficiently respond to external security threats. Some member states, particularly, the UK often looks over their shoulders for not upsetting big brother, the US. If the UK is so much cautious of not upsetting the US, thus, Central and East European States are more cautious not to upset the US, because they need the US more for their external security. On the other hand, the Common Security and Defence policy of Europe ( CSDP) does not have much power, assets or organisation, their first Task of deployment took place in 2003 in the Republic of Macedonia "EUFOR Concordia"(Chivvis:2008). The organisation seemed to be so weak that they used NATO assets, however, it was considered to be success, but their missions are considered to be very low profiled and small, hence, it makes it so ambiguous that they can respond efficiently to a real global threat.

To sum up, this essay demonstrated that NATO was founded for common defence against the hostile Soviet Union during the Cold War. NATO flourished in some ways and its humanitarian interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya provided NATO further legitimacy. Therefore, NATO's achievements as a legitimate international security institution cannot be underestimated; however, the North Atlantic Treaty was signed to confront Soviet Union military power, and achieved its purpose and outlived its usefulness, and it's time for the organisation to die a peaceful death, it's elimination will lead the path for regional security structure, which would efficiently deal with external security threats, on the other hand, NATO is a tool being used by the US, as the US is the most powerful member and assumed leader of the organisation, therefore, this advance US agenda and sometimes the US interest coincide with European interests, this is because most of Americans and Europeans do not share similar values. Iraq War was a clear example of this interest, which led NATO's main members to opt out of the War; however, US had great interest in the War and continued without their support.

This report was written by an anonymous writer at the UK Academic Writing Services


Turkey coup attempt: Government cancels 50,000 passports amid international concern over crackdown

The Turkish government has cancelled the passports of around 50,000 people to prevent them leaving the country as a crackdown continues following a failed coup.

Efkan Ala, the interior minister, said more than 18,000 have so far been detained over the attempt to oust President Tayyip Erdogan, while thousands of government staff are under investigation.

The purges have provoked alarm in the international community, presenting a major stumbling block for Turkey’s campaign to join the European Union.

Read more: Turkey coup attempt: Government cancels 50,000 passports amid international concern over crackdown | Europe | News | The Independent


Global Economy: Economic Recession in 2017 -

Next year, we will see a recession.

I’m calling it.

Why? Well … there are just too many events unfolding this year that will set the stage for a recession, including a corporate earnings recession, a growth-stunting Brexit vote and a U.S. presidential election unlike any we have ever experienced.

Any one of these events could be the direct catalyst for next year’s recession, or it could be one of the many other reasons not listed.

While I can’t predict the exact catalyst for the event, I do know that I’m not the only one expecting the worst.

In fact, according to a recent report, companies are preparing for a recession as well … and you should be doing the same.

In the latest durable goods advance estimate for June, orders tumbled 4% versus expectations of a 1.7% decline. Durable goods orders represent orders for products that last typically for at least three years, like appliances, office equipment, motor vehicles and turbines.

Earlier this month, I explained how declining durable goods orders mean that the Federal Reserve’s hands are tied, and that interest rates are not going higher by any meaningful degree for at least another decade.

This remains true, but you also have to be prepared for the inevitable — a recession.

Your takeaway here is simple: Prepare for a recession-like investment environment.

That means you want to own safe-haven stocks — think gold-related stocks, utilities or telecommunication companies, bonds and even some blue-chip stocks.

But the main thing you want to consider, if you haven’t already, is to find a strategy for profiting from declining stocks.

Depending on how you manage your money, this can be easy to do. If you are managing your own portfolio, a long-term put option on the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSE Arca: SPY) (expiration in 2018 would be ideal) is a simple way to profit from a recession and decline in stocks.

If, instead, you have an adviser who manages your portfolio, tell them you want more bearish exposure, assuming you have little at the moment. It’s your money, and they will listen and help you prepare for the imminent recession.

They should be able to put your investment in some simple bear funds that benefit from a market fall, or they might also consider buying an inverse ETF that returns the opposite of the underlying equity.
Just keep in mind that these positions are used as protection to hedge your portfolio from a crash.

The further we get into 2017 without the expected stock market crash, tilt your portfolio more and more to positions that will rise when the crash hits.

A crash is coming. It’s just a matter of when, not if.

Read more: conomic Recession in 2017 - ValueWalk

Immigrants: Love your neighbor as yourself

Immigrants are people just like us
An anthropologist was winding up several months of research in a small village, the story is told.

While waiting for a ride to the airport for his return flight home, he decided to pass the time by making up a game for some children.

His idea was to create a race for a basket of fruit and candy that he placed near a tree. But when he gave the signal to run, no one made a dash for the finish line. Instead the children joined hands and ran together to the tree.

When asked why they chose to run as a group rather than each racing for the prize, a little girl spoke up and said: “How could one of us be happy when all of the others are sad?” Because these children cared about each other, they wanted all to share the basket of fruit and candy.

What happened here among these children. was very biblical and is applicable to all of us, specially now with the large influx of immigrants.

After years of studying the law of Moses, the apostle Paul found that all of God’s laws could be summed up in one: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal. 5:14; see also Rom. 13:9). In Christ, Paul saw not only the reason to encourage, comfort, and care for one another but also the spiritual enablement to do it.

Because He cares for us, we care for each other.

For additional information click here


NATO Relations With Turkey Following Coup: Will Turkey be expelled from NATO?

Splitting up?
Many analysts believe Turkey and NATO are on a collision course. One end of their argument hinges on the belief — apparently shared to an extent by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish government — that the United States and NATO played a role in the unsuccessful coup attempt July 15.

Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdag, who heads for Washington soon to try to negotiate the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based Turkish cleric accused of masterminding the coup, has laid Turkey’s position on the line.

“The US knows Fethullah Gulen carried out this coup. Mr. Obama knows this just as he knows his own name. I am convinced that American intelligence knows it, too. I am convinced the State Department knows it. … Other countries know it, too, because every country has an intelligence agency,” Bozdag insisted during a TV interview.

Bozdag’s remarks, which imply that Washington and NATO knew what was coming and did nothing, are being echoed by the pro-Erdogan Islamist media in Turkey, which is essentially anti-Western and sees NATO as the enemy of Islam.

Remarks such as those by Bozdag are eliciting equally harsh responses from the West. Gregory Copley, a strategic analyst, appears to have no doubt that “Turkey has now formally declared the US (and therefore NATO) as its enemy” and is exhorting the alliance to act accordingly.

The other end of the argument regarding a collision in the making between Turkey and NATO hinges on the belief that Erdogan is using the failed coup attempt to initiate a massive purge against his opponents in order to further strengthen his hold on power. It is being suggested that an undemocratic Turkey has no place in an alliance based on democratic principles.

US Secretary of State John Kerry encouraged this view when he appeared to hint that Turkey could not remain in NATO if it strayed from democracy and the rule of law as it seeks those behind the failed coup attempt.

“NATO also has a requirement with respect to democracy,” Kerry told reporters in response to a question on Turkey during a press conference in Brussels with Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief.

He added that “the level of vigilance and scrutiny” with regard to developments in Turkey would be very significant in the days ahead.

If Kerry’s remarks are meant to sound a warning, they are falling on deaf ears in Turkey where a campaign against Turkey’s NATO membership is also gaining steam. Former senior officers from the military, like retired Rear Adm. Cem Gurdeniz, are among those questioning this membership.

In an interview with daily Hurriyet, Gurdeniz said there had always been a struggle between “Atlanticists” and the “Eurasia camp” in the military. He said if the coup was successful, Turkey would have become part of “Atlanticist” plans to its detriment.

“The losses incurred would have included the declaration of an independent Kurdistan, autonomy [for Kurds] in southeastern Anatolia and the loss of Cyprus,” he said. Gurdeniz said Turkey “should play a balancing role between the Atlantic and Eurasia,” arguing that it was patently clear NATO did not serve Turkey’s interests anymore.

He went on to question whether NATO’s advanced radar systems in Kurecik, in eastern Turkey, deployed under its Ballistic Missile Defense program, was in Turkey’s interests. He also asked why NATO was keen to conduct military exercises in the Black Sea and was pressurizing Turkey for a permanent presence there, pointing out that this was something NATO never did during the Cold War.

Gurdeniz’s remarks point to the kind of confusion reigning in Ankara with regard to NATO, because it was Erdogan, during the recent NATO summit in Warsaw, who called on the alliance to bolster its presence in the Black Sea to prevent this sea from becoming “a Russian lake.”

Turkey being a country of bitter ironies, Gurdeniz — a staunch Kemalist secularist — was among those arrested under the so-called Balyoz (Sledgehammer) case, while still serving in the military, and was convicted to 18 years in prison in 2013 for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government led by Erdogan.

He was released after Erdogan and his onetime Islamist ally Gulen became enemies. Gurdeniz accused Gulen supporters in the judiciary, who are now being rounded up as coup plotters, for his own incarceration as a coup plotter.

Whatever is being written or said on either side of the fence today, the truth is that Ankara’s NATO membership was never threatened following successful coups in Turkey in the past, when the Cold War was raging, and NATO could not endanger the strategic advantages Turkey provided against the Soviet Union.

Turkey’s place on the map remains equally important today for NATO, if not more so. Retired Ambassador Unal Unsal, a former Turkish permanent representative to NATO, believes it would be difficult for the alliance to turn its back on Turkey at a time when the Middle East and the Black Sea region is in turmoil, when there is the possibility of a Trump presidency and when the EU is struggling with its Brexit debacle.

“The going in Turkey may not be good, but a Turkey out of NATO would cause more complications, especially if Ankara slides toward Russia,” Unsal told Al Monitor.

Acknowledging that the NATO charter has conditions regarding democracy in member states, Unsal nevertheless pointed out that this had not prevented Portugal from becoming a founding member of the alliance in 1949, even though it was being ruled by authoritarian Antonio de Oliveira Salazar.

Unsal indicated that what is being said today about NATO membership in conjunction with democracy and rule of law in Turkey has to be said for the sake of appearance. He added that expelling a country from the alliance would require consensus in the Atlantic Council, which would be difficult to secure under current circumstances.

Unsal did not discount the possibility, however, that Erdogan, in one of his many huffs, may decide to pull Turkey out of NATO, and suggested that the consequences of this might not be as dire for Turkey as it appears at first glance.

“Maintaining Turkey’s strategic ties with the US is what will ultimately remain crucial for Ankara, rather than its ties with NATO, and everyone knows that the US means NATO,” Unsal said.

Copley, who claims Ankara has declared the United States and NATO its enemy, nevertheless ended his analysis for by underlining the alliances dilemma regarding Turkey.

“No one in NATO or the senior member states has actually done the calculation as to how to structure global and regional strategies without Turkey, or how to remove Turkish officers from NATO facilities — how to manage the region without Turkey,” he wrote.

The West does not appear to be well-poised currently to do this “calculation,” which makes the suggestions that Turkey be expelled from NATO ring hollow, given what is transpiring in the world.

Read bmore: Will Turkey be expelled from NATO?

Brexit starting to hurt Britain: British economy begins to show signs of post-Brexit slowdown - by Larry Elliott and Angela Monaghan

Fears that the British economy has been knocked off course by the Brexit vote have been reinforced by signs of retrenchment across key industries, according to fresh reports.

The first health checks of important sectors since Britain voted to leave the European Union overshadowed growth figures, showing a stronger-than-expected performance by the UK in the run-up to the referendum.

An expansion of 0.6% in the British economy between April and June was countered by signals from the construction industry, car factories and high street stores that provide the Bank of England with justification for moving to boost growth when its interest rate-setting committee meets next week.

The City was braced for action – from the Bank and the Treasury – to head off the threat of recession after Thursday’s report. The chancellor, Philip Hammond, made it clear that there would be no repeat of the second quarter GDP growth in the months following Brexit.

Hammond said the UK would at least enter divorce negotiations with the EU from a position of strength after the Office for National Statistics said the best quarterly performance by industry since 1999 had pushed up overall economic growth from 0.4% in the first three months of 2016.

However, Hammond indicated a slowdown was imminent. “Those negotiations will signal the beginning of a period of adjustment, but I am confident we have the tools to manage the challenges ahead, and along with the Bank of England, this government will take whatever action is necessary to support our economy and maintain business and consumer confidence,” he said.

Sterling dropped on the foreign exchanges, despite the growth figures, amid speculation of a package of measures from the Bank’s monetary policy committee on 4 August that might include a cut in the cost of borrowing, a resumption of the quantitative easing money creation programme and incentives to boost lending to households and businesses.

The Bank has been weighing up what little evidence there has been of the state of the economy in the five weeks since the referendum.

In the latest batch of surveys released on Thursday, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said its members were gloomy about the prospects for growth, jobs and investment; the British Retail Consortium said jobs were being shed in the months leading up to the referendum; and RICS – the body that represents chartered surveyors – said workloads for construction had weakened.

Read more: British economy begins to show signs of post-Brexit slowdown | Business | The Guardian

Europe's Majority Backs Hillary A new Hillary demographic: Europe’s center right – by Ryan Heath

The prospect of a Donald Trump presidency and the new look of the Republican party he now leads is causing some center-right European parties to rethink their political allegiances.

The shift was evident in the stark contrast in attendance by European politicians at the Democratic convention here in Philadelphia and those who went to the Republican gathering last week:

In Cleveland only former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders and a few members of the European Conservatives and Reformists group could be found. In Philadelphia, there were representatives from a range of political groups, including center-right politicians who typically would have been more at home at a Republican convention.

An opinion sampling of those politicians — from parties normally at each other throats in Brussels, from the Greens to the center-right Christian Democrats — found overwhelming support for Hillary Clinton to be the next president of the United States.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters Thursday in Berlin it was a “clear ‘no'” when asked if the prospect of a Trump presidency is giving her nightmares, but the feeling isn’t shared by ministers and MPs here in Philadelphia.

“Historically I have definitely more of a Republican, at least on the economic side, but there’s no way I could convince myself to support someone like Donald Trump,” said Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander de Croo.

Read full report: A new Hillary demographic: Europe’s center right – POLITICO

When Conservatives Make Racism Respectable - by Dan Morrow

The most prominent supporters of Brexit promised they will make “great deals” on Britain’s behalf.
Sound familiar?

Brexit also encourages others to follow Britain’s lead, threatening the noble project of European integration that arguably begun after the defeat of Napoleon.

In next to no time, xenophobia has begun to run rampant in the UK. Racism has become respectable.
 It manifests itself viciously even against people with British passports who were born in the country, but look different than the majority of the people. They may have Pakistani roots or Indian ones.

If they have been successful in their careers, they are now confronted with sentiments that they achieved their success only by pushing “proper” Brits to the side.

It has become acceptable to tell long-established British citizens, “It’s time for you to leave.”

The proponents of Brexit played to the same fears and exploited the same sense of desperation that have, since time immemorial, been the bread and butter of demagogues large and small.

All of this seems increasingly like the precursor of what may lie ahead for the United States under Trump. He surely leads the fight to make the country “great again,” but even he must know that he cannot deliver on almost any of his promises.

Brexit, like Trump, is the harvest of the persistent seeds of racism, planted in ground plowed by fear, and watered by greed.

t is a bitter fruit from a vine that grows in dark places.

Read more: When Conservatives Make Racism Respectable


Inequality: 10 US corporate welfare programs that will make your blood boil - by Tom Cahill

The next time you hear someone complain about how the poor get “all this free stuff,” show them this.

A small number of incredibly wealthy Americans are ridiculing Bernie Sanders’ base for wanting “free stuff” when the costliest programs are, by far, corporate welfare and entitlements for the top 1 percent. Fox News has been working hard to tear down Sanders’ proposals to provide Medicare for all, institute tuition-free public college, boost infrastructure spending, and expand Social Security.

“That’s not fiscally possible unless the federal government starts seizing private assets,” said Bill O’Reilly.

But O’Reilly is wrong. The money for Sanders’ platform can easily come from eliminating the costliest entitlement programs for the top 1 percent and multinational corporations. Here’s a breakdown of the most superfluous giveaways to the rich and how much they cost the rest of us:

1. Tax Breaks for obscene CEO bonuses ($7 billion/year)
Currently, the biggest corporations are exploiting a 20-year-old loophole that allows them to write off inflated compensation packages for CEOs, billing stock options, and performance-based bonuses to taxpayers. In 2010, the Economic Policy Institute found out that the biggest corporations cost Americans $7 billion by writing off inflated executive pay. Between 2007 and 2010, this loophole accounted for more than $30 billion in corporate welfare. According to The Guardian, fast food industry CEOs cost taxpayers $64 million through this loophole.

That $7 billion could singlehandedly fund the annual budget for the National Science Foundation — which, as I recently reported for US Uncut, funds 11,000 scientific research projects each year and has funded 26 Nobel laureates in the last 5 years.

2. Tax cuts for luxury corporate jets ($300 million/year)
Currently, corporations can claim a huge tax deduction every year by writing off purchases of corporate jets, lavish cars, and chauffeurs as “security” for their top executives. A Bloomberg analysis from 2011 showed that these tax breaks for some of the wealthiest Americans cost the rest of us $300 million each year. While that may not sound like much, that’s approximately 50 percent of the annual budget for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the brainchild of Elizabeth Warren that protects Americans from the financial sector’s most predatory schemes.

3. Big oil subsidies ($37.5 billion/year)
According to Oil Change International (OCI), the U.S. government spends anywhere between $10 billion and $52 billion per year on corporate welfare for the fossil fuel industry — one of the wealthiest industries in the world. OCI estimated that total combined subsidies to big oil approached $37.5 billion in 2014, which includes $21 billion on production and exploration subsidies.

These subsidies alone cost more than what we currently spend on providing rental assistance for low-income families. In 2013, the department of Housing and Urban Development allocated a total of $34.3 billion toward tenant-based rental assistance ($19 billion), project-based rental assistance ($8.7 billion), and general public housing programs ($6.6 billion). These programs helped 4.5 million families — half of whom are elderly — keep a roof over their head.

4. Pharmaceutical subsidies ($270 billion/year)
As US Uncut has previously reported, the pharmaceutical industry costs taxpayers roughly $270 billion a year when accounting for the cost we pay for life-saving drugs whose patents have been bought up by Big Pharma. This is over $1,914 per household in corporate welfare. This is partly due to the Medicare Part D bill that George W. Bush signed into law in 2003, which prevents Medicare from negotiating drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. But the biggest drug companies also make a pretty penny (a combined $711 billion in profits between 2003 and 2012) by buying patents for drugs that were largely developed with taxpayer-funded research, then jacking up the price by absurd amounts after cornering the market.

This $270 billion annual subsidy could be virtually eliminated by passing Bernie Sanders’ bill to establish a government fund that buys up drug patents as soon as they become available for purchase. Then, the government would sell drugs at-cost to save money for those who need them. The money saved could pay for the annual $270 billion in insurance costs from Obamacare that would help more Americans get access to healthcare.

5. Capital gains tax breaks ($51 billion/year)
When anyone makes money from selling off investments, the IRS classifies that as capital gains, which are taxed at a lower rate (20 percent as of 2012) than real, actual work (35 percent). Pew Research found that 53 percent of Americans own no stock at all, and out of the 47 percent who do, the richest 5 percent own two-thirds of that stock. And only 10 percent of Americans have pensions, so stock market gains or losses don’t affect the incomes of most retirees. The Century Foundation found that the total amount of lost revenue by taxing capital gains at a lower rate than wages cost $256 billion between fiscal years 2012 and 2016, or $51 billion a year over the last 5 years. According to the Tax Policy Center, if investment income was taxed at the same rate as wages, 75 percent of that new revenue would come from the richest 0.3 percent of Americans; 92 percent of that revenue would come from those making $200,000 or more per year. The chart below shows what percentage of income each tax bracket makes from capital gains — not surprisingly, the wealthiest Americans get most of the benefit from capital gains.

If we taxed wealth like work, the extra $51 billion per year in savings could fund two-thirds of the annual budget for food stamps.

6. Corporate tax subsidies from state and local governments ($80.4 billion/year)
In 2012, the New York Times did an analysis of every existing tax break in each of the 50 states and learned that 1,874 programs cost taxpayers $80.4 billion every year for corporate welfare in their state. Compare that cost with the cost of providing tuition-free public college to every student, which The Atlantic estimated would be a mere $62.6 billion. As the chart below shows, this is actually way cheaper than what we currently spend on federal student aid.

7. Handouts to Big Ag ($18 billion/year)
Crop insurance — a program originally intended to help farmers recover from the dust bowls of the 1930s — has become a slush fund for wealthy corporate farmers who have become experts at manipulating the system for their own means. As Bloomberg reported, the median income of commercial farm households (in which farming makes up more than 50 percent of a household’s income) was $84,649 in 2011 — 70 percent more than the average American household. Farmers have learned to exploit the program by growing crops on land they know will be unproductive, then making money from insurance claims rather than crops. In 2011, 26 farmers each got an annual subsidy of $1 million, including one tomato farmer in Florida who got a $1.9 million subsidy.

This $18 billion in corporate welfare is more than NASA’s annual budget, which has hovered around the $17 billion mark since 2009.

8. Welfare for Wall Street ($83 billion/year)
The biggest banks have grown even bigger than they were just before the 2008 financial meltdown. And due to their size, these banks are perceived as “too big to fail,” as their demise would spell doom for the US financial sector as a whole. So as these big banks grow bigger, the Federal Reserve allows them to borrow at lower interest rates than other big banks — essentially subsidizing the continued growth of the big banks. In 2013, Bloomberg estimated the ten biggest TBTF banks suck up $83 billion per year in corporate welfare.

If we were to force the big banks to borrow at the same interest rates as every other bank at a rate of $83 billion per year, that would be enough to double the current federal budgets for highway spending ($48.6 billion), Head Start ($10.1 billion), the Environmental Protection Agency ($7.89 billion), nutrition assistance for women, infants, and children ($6.2 billion), the National Parks Service ($3 billion), and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation ($2.39 billion), with $5 billion left over.

9. Export-Import bank subsidies ($112 billion)
This week, the House of Representatives voted to revive the Export-Import (Ex-Im) bank, which has been maligned as a slush fund for large, multinational corporations. In its most recent year, the Ex-Im bank had a $112 billion portfolio, of which $90 billion went to multinationals. If that wasn’t bad enough, a huge portion of that money went to just 10 wealthy corporations.

According to the New York Times, the federal government spends roughly $105 billion on public K-12 schools. If we allow the Ex-Im bank to fade away, the money formerly set aside for corporate subsidies could instead double that investment in public education.

10. Federal contracts for the top 200 biggest companies ($880 billion/year)
The biggest 200 corporations have an excessively unfair advantage over their competitors due to their influence in Washington. According to the Sunlight Foundation, the top 200 companies spent a combined $5.8 billion on lobbying Congress between 2007 and 2012. And in those same years, those companies received $4.4 trillion in federal contracts. That $4.4 trillion is $100 billion more than what the U.S. government spent on providing a basic income to the nation’s 50 million Social Security recipients.

The combined cost of these 10 corporate welfare programs is $1.539 trillion per year. The three main programs needy families depend upon — Temporary Assistance for Needy Families ($17.3 billion), food stamps ($74 billion), and the Earned Income Tax Credit ($67.2 billion) — cost just $158.5 billion in total. This means we spend ten times as much on corporate welfare and handouts to the top 1 percent than we do on welfare for working families struggling to make ends meet.

Read more: 10 corporate welfare programs that will make your blood boil

Peace: Pray for Peace - August 15 - Editorial EU-Digest










US Republican Convention Geert Wilders tells US he’s set to become next Dutch prime minister–by Cynthia Kroet

Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch far-right Freedom Party (PVV), said on Tuesday that he could become the next prime minister of the Netherlands.

Wilders, speaking at an event during the U.S. Republican Party Convention in Cleveland, said that his party has been gaining ground and has been “the number one party in the opinion polls” for the past year.

“If this becomes reality in the elections in March next year, I could become the next prime minister,” said Wilders, whose party is currently in the opposition in national parliament.

Read more: Geert Wilders tells US he’s set to become next Dutch prime minister – POLITICO

NATO: Anti-Trump Hysteria on NATO - by Paul J. Saunders

Donald Trump’s formal nomination as the Republican Party’s presidential candidate appears to have induced mass hysteria among neoconservative Republicans and their liberal-interventionist allies in the Democratic Party. Some, like Robert Kagan and Max Boot, publicly declared their intent to vote for Hillary Clinton were the GOP to select Trump—something it has now done. Others, like Jamie Kirchick, have called for a military coup to oust him if the American people elect him president. Most recently, Jeffrey Goldberg has declared Trump to be a “de facto agent” of Russian President Vladimir Putin. As is often the case, writing like Goldberg’s says more about the author than the target of his or her attacks.

Indeed, attentive readers may already know enough about Goldberg; in 2009, Glenn Greenwald detailed his “rank guilt by association technique” after Goldberg wrote that “the Buchananites have even recruited Jews to do their Israel-bashing for them” to condemn a Greenwald article in the American Conservative. Goldberg is attempting the same strategy with Trump, arguing that “Trump’s understanding of America’s role in the world aligns with Russia’s geostrategic interests” and that Trump’s victory would thus somehow advance Putin’s aims. This is both pathetic and offensive.

It is pathetic because Goldberg’s argument makes no sense. Trump has called for a strong U.S. military and for greater defense spending by NATO allies who are not meeting the alliance’s two-percent guideline. The combination of those two things would be worse for Russia, not better—NATO could more effectively deter Moscow. Likewise, since when has Washington been an international opposite-land, where U.S. officials determine key policies by selecting the reverse of whatever we think Russia might want? Should we avoid attacking ISIS and al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra because it might help Moscow? Or perhaps we should withdraw from all bilateral U.S.-Russian agreements because Russia gets something out of them? Maybe Goldberg would rather try to drive oil prices down to $10 or $15 per barrel—the Kremlin surely wouldn’t like that—and wreck America’s unconventional oil producers in the process? For someone who is trying to attack Trump as reckless on foreign policy, Goldberg is stunningly incoherent.

Goldberg is offensive because his return to guilt by association goes well beyond McCarthyism. After all, when Senator Joe McCarthy launched his anti-Communist witch-hunt in the 1950s, there were at least a few actual Communists trying to undermine the United States. Does Goldberg really think that Trump or his campaign manager Paul Manafort—who worked for an elected president of Ukraine who attempted to bring Ukraine into an association agreement with the European Union, not for Putin or the Russian government—are Russian agents? His cute use of “de facto” may keep lawyers at bay but should not shield Goldberg from the public opprobrium he deserves.

Read more: Anti-Trump Hysteria on NATO | The National Interest

Turkey: Putin May Be Turkey's New Buddy after the Failed Coup - by Nikolas K. Gvosdev

As we continue to sort through the aftermath of the failed attempt at a military coup against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, one unexpected (and potentially unwelcome, from a U.S. standpoint) development is that this botched attempt to remove Erdogan will further the reconciliation process between the Turkish leader and Russian president Vladimir Putin.

For years, the two men had enjoyed not only a strong personal relationship (cemented by shared views opposing the idea that Western values represent a universal template for all societies), but had presided over the transformation of Russia-Turkey relations, from a highly adversarial position at the end of the Cold War to a full-fledged strategic and economic partnership between NATO’s easternmost member and the Kremlin. After the start of the Ukraine crisis, Turkey not only eschewed joining Western sanctions against Russia, but even offered an alternative to the now-stillborn South Stream project, the “Turkish Stream” line, which, if built, would give the Kremlin the ability to end its dependence on Ukraine as a transit state for Russian energy heading for central and southern Europe.

These warm and friendly ties—reaffirmed for the world to see in fall 2015 at the G-20 summit in Antalya—came to a sudden and screeching halt when a Turkish warplane shot down a Russian fighter jet conducting operations in support of Syria’s embattled leader Bashar al-Assad after briefly straying into Turkish airspace.

Putin’s response was sudden and immediate. Sanctions were imposed on Turkey, the Russians proceeded to massively build up their outpost in Syria and Putin made it abundantly clear that he regarded Erdogan’s actions as a personal betrayal of the highest order. For Western strategists concerned about the implications of a closer Russia-Turkey entente, the shootdown pushed Turkey back into the Western embrace, as Erdogan, in turn, demanded assurances from his NATO allies that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization had Turkey’s back. The subsequent agreement negotiated with European Union leaders for Turkey to control migration into Europe in return for new concessions (including putting Turkey’s membership in the EU back on the agenda) further seemed to signal that Turkey was returning to its traditional role as the West’s bulwark in the Eastern Mediterranean, both against the chaos emanating from the Middle East but also to check and contain Russian expansionism.

Read more: Putin May Be Turkey's New Buddy after the Failed Coup | The National Interest


USA: Destiny Lost? Trump and a US Off Its Moorings - by Michael J. Brenner

Americans are struggling to draw into focus their exalted image of themselves and reality. They are not doing a very good job of it. The gap is wide and growing — and it is this very gap that Donald Trump seeks to exploit for his personal political gain.

Trump understands that Americans feel powerless in good measure because of what has been happening beyond the country’s shores, and over which the United States lacks the means to exercise decisive influence.

Our collective response has been one of avoidance and evasion. Why? Because We Americans seem to fear that if we stare at reality squarely, we will find reality staring back at us in a most discomforting way.

To a considerable extent, that is a consequence of our country’s foreign policy elites’ inclination to over-promise and under-deliver. Trump pinpoints that weakness most skillfully. The true irony of his act, however, is that he is bound to be the biggest over-promiser and under-deliverer ever.

Fading prowess is one of the most difficult things for humans to cope with – whether it be an individual or a nation. By nature, we prize our strength and competence. We dread decline and its intimations of extinction.

This is especially so in the United States where for many the individual and the collective are inseparable. Today, events are occurring that contradict the national narrative of a nation with a unique destiny. That creates cognitive dissonance.

Our thoughts and actions in response to that deeply unsettling reality conform to the classic behavioral pattern of those suffering from acute cognitive dissonance.

Denial is its cardinal feature. That is to say, denial of those things that cause stress and anxiety. Sublimation methods of various kinds are deployed to keep them below the threshold of conscious awareness.

We all do that, to some degree, on a personal level. Groups, even very large ones, can do it as well.

In the latter case, we are speaking of troublesome military actions, abusive state behavior like the conduct of torture, diplomatic deals that are permissive of unsavory actions by others, or studied misrepresentations by government and media which hide unpleasant truths from the populace.

At a more abstract level, we repress or minimize perceptions of us by other peoples, our relative well-being compared to other societies (medical care, maternity leave, pensions), or national competence as demonstrated by accomplishment in comparison with other societies (constructing mass transportation systems).

The crudest denial mechanism is literal avoidance. If you don’t travel abroad, you don’t see. You don’t inform yourself about any of the above mentioned matters by:

    abstaining from following the news,
    reading only reassuring reports,
    excluding all contradictory sources as “alien” or “subversive;”
    declaring the world as too complex to decipher;
    appraising serious issues of national policy as “above my pay grade,” while ignoring the core democratic precept that as the citizen of a republic, nothing is above your pay grade

Another avoidance mechanism is to stress systematically those features of other nations or situations that conform to the requirements of the American national narrative while neglecting or downplaying opposite features. 

Read more: Destiny Lost? Trump and a US Off Its Moorings - The Globalist

Poland: The New European Fascists - by Chris Hedges:

Is Fascism raising its head in Poland and Europe again?
Jaroslaw Kurski and Piotr Stasinski embody the hope that once was Poland. They struggled against the Communist regime for years in the underground press and as Solidarity members. They built Gazeta Wyborcza, now one of the most influential newspapers in the country, after the 1989 fall of communism.

They helped usher in a period of democracy and open debate, one that included cultural space for historians such as Jan Gross, a Polish-born American who courageously confronted the taboo topic of Polish complicity in the Nazi extermination of nearly all of Poland’s 3 million Jews.

And then neoliberalism, imposed by global capitalism and international banks, began to spread its poison. Legions of unemployed or underemployed were cast adrift. Two million Poles, many of them young people desperate for jobs, have left to work abroad. Governmental austerity programs devastated cultural institutions, including public schools, the arts and public broadcasting. And finally,

following a familiar death spiral, the October 2015 elections brought to power the nationalists and demagogues of the right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS). There is no left-wing party represented in the parliament.

Not much of Poland’s promise remains. PiS is rapidly rolling back constitutional rights. It blocks state media coverage of the fading political opposition, especially the Committee for the Defense of Democracy (KOD), which has held a series of protest demonstrations. PiS shamelessly uses the airwaves and the schools for rabid nationalist propaganda. The public broadcasting system—in which the party purged more than 100 staff members—twisted President Barack Obama’s recent criticism of the Polish government’s assault on the judiciary into praise for Polish democracy. And the ruling party has forced state institutions to cancel subscriptions to Gazeta Wyborcza and pressured distributors throughout the country not to display or sell copies of the newspaper.

“There is no longer genuine parliamentary debate,” Stasinski said when I met with him and Kurski at the Gazeta Wyborcza offices in Warsaw. “There are no longer checks and balances of power. The parliamentary system is dysfunctional. The Constitutional Court and judiciary are paralyzed. New laws passed by the parliament cannot be challenged or changed. The government is supposed to publish sentences of the Constitutional Court in The Journal of Laws [Dziennik Ustaw] for them to become legally effective. This is required by the Constitution. But the government, by not printing them, paralyzes the Constitutional Court, which has been reduced to announcing its sentences on the internet without any legal effect. It is a very dangerous time.”

“We operate under two systems of law,” said Kurski. “One is constitutional and legal. The other is unconstitutional and illegal. The problem is that the illegal and unconstitutional system runs the country.”

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the founder and head of the ruling party, governs Poland like a private fiefdom. Prime Minister Beata Szydlo and President Andrzej Duda are political puppets. Kaczynski, reclusive and morbid, is referred to with fear or reverence as “the Chairman.” His words, and his obsessions, are law.

And it is not only Poland that is in trouble. Europe, especially EU countries on the fringes of the union, is devolving into proto-fascism. The Hungarian strongman Prime Minister Viktor Orban has destroyed his country’s democracy. Neofascist groups are gaining strength in France, the United Kingdom, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Greece.

These movements are rabidly xenophobic, racist, Islamophobic and homophobic, and they demonize immigrants and brand internal dissent as treason. When they take control they rely on ruthless internal security and surveillance systems—Poland has established 11 intelligence agencies—to crush dissent. They seek their identity in a terrifying new nationalism, often, as in Poland, coupled with a right-wing Catholicism. They preach hatred of the outsider and glorification of obedient and “true” patriots. This lurch to the right will be augmented in Poland later this year with the establishment of an armed militia of more than 30,000 whose loyalty, it seems certain, will be to the ruling party.

“If you are a Pole, you should be Catholic,” said Stasinski. “I’m not. So for some, I’m not a Pole.”

Poland, like Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, has rejected the European Union’s call for its nations to accept refugees fleeing the chaos in the Middle East. The ruling party in Poland employs rhetoric to describe Muslim immigrants that echoes prewar Polish anti-Semitism. Immigrants are condemned as diseased, painted as rapists and excoriated for supposedly having barbaric religious practices. When Gross, who teaches at Princeton University, decried the hate campaign against immigrants and made the links with anti-Semitism, reminding Poles that they killed more Jews than they killed Germans during the war, PiS began legal proceedings to challenge Gross’ assertions and called for his Polish Order of Merit to be revoked.

“It’s the same right-wing populist melody as in the United States,” said Stasinski. “Isolationism becomes appealing. Maybe there is something rotten in human nature. Maybe we are selfish people who don’t care about the other. Maybe this story about how we are Christian and altruistic is rubbish.

“There is a fear that grows from ignorance,” he said. “These parties manufacture and strengthen this resentment against those they allege are privileged and the powerful, as well as the European Union.

They say these forces can’t tell us what to do. They say the nation-state should organize societal living, not global institutions. They say things are out of control. They say there is no real democracy. This leads to the mental and physical militarization of the society. The demagogues promise security. You are safe with us. We care about you.

We care about your family. Chauvinism defines public discourse. We are a proud people. We are a proud nation. We don’t accept that other nations can humiliate us. The government devoted a hundred million zlotys to create a special foundation to defend Poland’s good name.” 

To read the complete report click here: : Chris Hedges: The New European Fascists - Truthdig


US Foreign Policy: ISIS and European Refugees Crises A Direct Result of Iraqi War

Blair and Bush launch Iraq war based on false information:
Why are Governments keeping silent about the undeniable fact that the terrorism and security crises Europe is facing comes as a direct result of the Iraqi war.

Also,  as more and more innocent victims die as a result of terrorism in Europe and around the world, Governments need to recognize the facts and identify the culprits who provided false information to the so-called "coalition of the willing" which resulted in  more than a million civilian and military deaths.

During the years following the aftermath of the Iraqi war it should be crystal clear to our political leaders that military actions are not the answer to solving any political crises  So far this strategy has only increased the security problems around the worls and resulted in a very unstable political and social environment..

Across Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey people have crossed borders and traveled many kilometres within their own country to find respite from war.

Millions have crossed continents and have ended up in Europe seeking that same respite. By and large it's taken Europe by surprise. Opinions vary on how to deal with the crisis. Some say Europe and the US should step up. Others say the rich Gulf states should use their enormous wealth to help.

The fact remains: why is no Government leader in the US or Europe backing the obvious that a strategic mistake was made by the invasion and occupation of Iraq?  Can our Governments still be trusted ?

March 2003 was the pivotal point. Based on controversial evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the war drums beat loudly.

The WMD claim was eventually publicly discredited by the CIA's own Iraq survey group report . That report proved whispers and intelligence community doubts from the time that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

But it wasn't just those who questioned the evidence. Mass opposition from the British and American public concluded in marches in various Western capitals opposing the war.

Those voices went ignored and in March 2003, the then US president George Bush Bush  and the British prime minister Tony Blait  met in the Azores, Portugal, with the Spanish prime minister, and set into motion events that now include the dead body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi that washed up on a Turkish beach.

The Arab Spring was officially launched when Mohamed Morsi, who became Egypt's first democratically elected president, was toppled by the military in 2013. Initially it was not religious or even violent in nature.

It was popular anger at dictators propped up by the West coupled with frustration at the lack of economic development.

Down the dictators fell, and with them, decades of religious suppression. That religious fervour found expression in anger at the US' role in Iraq.

Suddenly religious groups were able to speak freely, and freely they did, mainly about the US and its role in the region.

Then when the protests reached Syria, President Bashar al-Assad knew he didn't want to suffer the same fate as his Arab counterparts.

The West quickly abandoned him and said no negotiations while he was in power. Left with little choice he moved on those that opposed him in a violent and bloody manner.

The Iraq war was the war too far - the one that has changed the Middle East.

It was the war that solidified and unified disparate young men from different countries into following the path of violent jihad.

Had the Iraq war not happened, then Saddam Hussein would have been contained as he was.
This dictator was a threat to freedom and to his own people, but was no longer a threat to his neighbours.

The leaders of ISIL and other radical groups would have found death in Afghanistan or prison elsewhere. However, hindsight and "what if" are the words of those that have the luxury of not living in a tent.

The Iraq war did happen.

The refugee crisis is happening.

Now the only questions the world perhaps should be asking is how we can bring about a political solution to the war in Syria and how we bring all sides to the table.

What the refugee crisis has done is force the Western European public to think. Whether they can force their governments to act and bring about a solution is another question.

The architects of the Iraq war still say their actions had nothing to do with the current crisis.

It is high time that the US, EU members states and other Nations, including China and Russia step up to the plate and let international justice take its course by prosecuting those who lied about the weapons of mass destruction, for war crimes. 

In the same breath, these nations under auspices of the United Nations should also declare the Middle East a nuclear and military free zone and weapon sales to this area should be prohibited.

The NATO, which has outlived its cold war purpose should be disbanded,  and replaced by a Multi-National Development Network to initially benefit the populations of Middle Eastern and North African Nations, and eventually also other nations ravaged by famine, war or tribal conflicts.

All this might sound like a utopian fantasy or unattainable dream, but it is certainly worth the effort and a far more productive proposition than enriching the weapons industry which is killing millions of innocent civilians around the world today.



USA: Republican Convention: Thiel: Fake Culture Wars Only Distract Us From Our Economic Decline - by Tim Hains

Paypal founder and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel spoke on the fourth night of the 2016 Republican National Convention.

"I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all I am proud to be an American," he said. 

“I don’t pretend to agree with every plank in our party’s platform. But fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline," he said. "When I was a kid, the great debate was about how to defeat the Soviet Union. And we won. Now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom. This is a distraction from our real problems. Who cares?"

"Instead of going to Mars, we invaded the Middle East," he said. "Donald Trump is right. It's time to end the era of stupid wars and rebuild our country."

Our economy is broken. If you're watching me right now, you understand this better than any politician in Washington. And you know this isn't the dream we looked forward to. Back when my parents came to America looking for that dream, they found it—right here in Cleveland.

They brought me here as a one-year-old, and this is where I became an American.

Opportunity was everywhere.

My Dad studied engineering at Case Western Reserve University, just down the road from where we are now. Because in 1968, the world's high tech capital wasn't just one city: all of America was high tech.

It's hard to remember this, but our government was once high tech, too. When I moved to Cleveland, defense research was laying the foundations for the Internet. The Apollo program was just about to put a man on the moon—and it was Neil Armstrong, from right here in Ohio.

The future felt limitless.

But today our government is broken. Our nuclear bases still use floppy disks. Our newest fighter jets can't even fly in the rain. And it would be kind to say the government's software works poorly, because much of the time it doesn't even work at all.

That is a staggering decline for the country that completed the Manhattan Project. We don't accept such incompetence in Silicon Valley, and we must not accept it from our government.

We don't need to see Hillary Clinton's deleted emails: her incompetence is in plain sight.

She pushed for a war in Libya, and today it's a training ground for ISIS. On this most important issue, Donald Trump is right. It's time to end the era of stupid wars and rebuild our country.

Read more: Thiel: Fake Culture Wars Only Distract Us From Our Economic Decline | Video | RealClearPolitics

Netherlands Regularly Reviews Security Measures Amid Fears of New Attacks

Dutch Security Tightened - code Yellow
The Netherlands is constantly reviewing its security measures to determine whether further reinforcement is needed in addition to the safeguards put in place recently, a spokeswoman for the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security told Sputnik on Friday.

The statement came amid warning issued earlier on Friday by the German Federal Criminal Police Office of a threat of new attacks on railway passengers following the Monday attack in southern Germany by an Afghan refugee, who was later shot dead by the police.

"Measures related to security screening have indeed been strengthened in the Netherlands and are under constant review to determine whether further reinforcement is needed," the spokeswoman said.

She stressed that the principle of checking whether a refugee poses a threat to national security and public order is equally applied to all migrants, irrespective of their religion and country of origin.

"None [of the measures] are designed for or applied specifically to persons from Muslim countries or of Muslim origin," she said, referring to the fact that most recent attacks — like the one in Germany and Nice — were perpetrated by Muslims claiming ties with the Islamic State terrorist group (outlawed in Russia).

In her words, before starting the asylum procedure, every applicant entering the country is identified, registered and screened by relevant experts of the police or border guards. Applicant's passports are checked for authenticity, names are run through databases and travel routes and motives for coming to the country are analyzed, in addition to language analysis.

"Also mobile phones may be screened as well as activity on the Internet and social media of the person in question," the spokeswoman added.

In mid-July, the National Coordinator for Terrorism and Security Dick Schoof said that the threat level for the Netherlands was still on "substantial" level 4 (out of total 5 levels), with a "real" possibility of a terrorist attack in the country, though with no concrete evidence that an attack was being planned.

Following numerous deadly attacks in Europe many experts on terrorism suggested that new attacks could be avoided if social accounts of migrants and radicalized citizens were better scrutinized.

On Wednesday, the Bavarian local parliament called on the government to provide police with more powers to follow Facebook, Twitter accounts and mobile phones of the asylum seekers. Currently, the German police are not authorized to do that.

Read more: Netherlands Regularly Reviews Security Measures Amid Fears of New Attacks


Pollution: Driving Europe’s transition to a low-carbon economy - European Commission

The Commission recently presented a package of measures to accelerate the shift to low-carbon emissions in all sectors of the economy in Europe. The global low-carbon transition is already underway and gaining momentum, following the adoption of the first universal climate change agreement last December. The  proposal will help Member States prepare for the future and keep Europe competitive. It is part of the EU's strategy for a resilient Energy Union with a forward looking climate policy.

In 2014, EU leaders agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels across all sectors of the economy. Today's proposals present binding greenhouse gas emission targets for Member States from 2021-2030 for the transport, buildings, agriculture, waste and land use and forestry sectors. These national targets contribute to the overall EU target.

The new framework is based on the principles of fairness, solidarity, cost-effectiveness and environmental integrity. Member States will be at the forefront of deciding how to implement the measures to meet the agreed 2030 target.

The Commission also presented a strategy on low-emission mobility setting the course for the development of EU-wide measures on low and zero-emission vehicles and alternative low-emissions fuels.

EU Vice-President in charge of the Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič said: "The Energy Union is delivering. With the proposed reform of the Emissions Trading System last year and today's proposal on greenhouse gas emissions targets for Member States, we anchor the 2030 Energy and Climate framework in legislation. We are also setting our transport system firmly on the path towards zero-emissions. Today's package shows that we are mobilising all our policies towards the competitive, circular and low-carbon economy that we promised in the Energy Union Strategy".

Read more: Driving Europe’s transition to a low-carbon economy - European Commission

Germany: Deranged Killer At It Again: Munich shooting: Police say nine dead as manhunt continues

German police are engaged in a huge anti-terror manhunt in the city of Munich after nine people died in a shopping mall shooting.

Police are investigating whether one of the bodies is that of a perpetrator.
Three attackers carrying guns were earlier reported to be on the run. Police urged people to avoid public places.

The attack was at the Olympia mall in the north-western Moosach district. Public transport is suspended.

Police, who describe it as "an acute terror situation", say the first reports of a shooting in Hanauer Street came in just before 18:00 (16:00 GMT).

Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, told national TV the motive for the attack was still unclear.

"We cannot rule out that it is linked to terrorism but we can't confirm it either, but we are also investigating in this direction," he said.

A meeting of the government's security cabinet will be held on Saturday.

The Bavarian capital's central railway station has been evacuated.

People stranded by the emergency and unable to get home are being offered shelter by locals. The initiative was launched with the Twitter hashtag #Offenetür (open door).
Read more: Munich shooting: Police say nine dead as manhunt continues - BBC News


China-G20 - US warns against devaluation ahead of G20 finance meeting

US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew on Thursday said top economies should refrain from competitive currency devaluations -- a message likely directed at China, which hosts a G20 finance ministers meeting this weekend.

"The global outlook... underscores our focus on the commitment made at the last G20 in Shanghai to consult closely with one another on exchange rate policy, and to refrain from competitive devaluation," Lew said during a visit to Athens.

Finance ministers and central bank chiefs from the so-called Group of 20, which brings together the biggest industrialised and emerging economies, are scheduled to meet in China on Saturday and Sunday.

"We have seen progress in this regard since the last G20 meeting, and we will continue to encourage the use of the full range of policy tools to promote shared, sustainable growth," he said.

Beijing rattled global investors with a surprise devaluation last August, when it guided the normally stable yuan down nearly five percent over a week, in a move largely perceived by analysts as an attempt to boost exports as economic growth slowed.

The talks this weekend will also likely be dominated by Britain's shock decision to leave the European Union in a referendum last month.

On Greece, which is hoping to exit recession this year after a seventh year of austerity cuts, Lew noted that investors were unlikely to return without "long-term clarity" on the prospects for the recovery of the Greek economy.

A failure to confront the subject of debt relief for Greece has clouded the perspectives for its economic recovery.

"The challenge is to get the trajectory onto a path's clear that Greece can sustain its debt. To the investor world, the notion that it's okay now but it may not be okay in the future is not a good signal," the US secretary said.

Among the organisations managing Greece's recovery, the International Monetary Fund has said it won't give a penny to Greece's latest bailout -- the third since 2010 -- until it sees a concrete plan from the Europeans to substantially cut the country's massive debt burden.

Read more: Flash - US warns against devaluation ahead of G20 finance meeting - France 24

USA: The Republican National Convention 2016: Donald Trump-Ted Cruz Feud Flares Anew - Ron Elving - :

For all those who view the nominating conventions of the major parties as overly scripted, predictable and boring, Wednesday night's session of the Republican National Convention came as a jolt.

The third night of this extravaganza had all the usual hoopla — plus a blackout on the jumbo screens, delegates screaming at each other and a major presidential candidate getting booed off the stage.

Not since the parties and their nominees began carefully scripting these quadrennial affairs a generation ago have we seen such an outburst of dueling egos and counterproductive emotion.

Did we say we wanted more sense of drama? Imagine two famous actors involved in a climactic scene, each fired with his own ambition and working furiously to upstage the other. Now envision such a clash playing out before thousands of delegates and onlookers and millions of TV viewers and voters.

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, the first- and second-place finishers in the GOP's primaries and caucuses, went at it once more with the whole world watching. The high-stakes of their brinkmanship brought to the flashpoint all the anger and tension pent up in this convention over three days — and in this party over several decades.

It also overshadowed a sturdy performance later in the evening by the party's now-official vice presidential candidate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who displayed the earnest brand of classic conservatism for which he is known.

But neither Pence's speech nor Trump's own controversial remarks about NATO, released by The New York Times after the convention ended, could displace the headlines about the Trump-Cruz feud.

Cruz stole the show by refusing to endorse the party's now-official champion, who had allowed him a prime-time speaking spot on the night of Pence's acceptance speech (and on the eve of Trump's own). That sent everyone scrambling to history books for a precedent.

"Ted Cruz wanted to leave Republican delegates with a case of buyer’s remorse"

Read more: Republican National Convention 2016: Donald Trump-Ted Cruz Feud Flares Anew : NPR

Eastern Europe and irresponsible journalism: In Europe and Russia, There’s Talk of War - by Jill Dougherty

Atomic War: often result of irresponsible Politicians and Journalists
"Recently, I grabbed a taxi in Moscow. When the driver asked me where I was from, I told him the United States. “I went there once,” he said, “to Chicago. I really liked it.”

“But tell me something,” he added. “When are we going to war?”

The question, put so starkly, so honestly, shocked me. “Well, I hope never,” I replied. “No one wants war.”

At the office, I ask a Russian employee about the mood in his working class Moscow neighborhood. The old people are buying salt, matches and gretchka [buckwheat], he tells me—the time-worn refuge for Russians stocking up on essentials in case of war.

In the past two months, I’ve traveled to the Baltic region, to Georgia, and to Russia. Talk of war is everywhere.

In Estonia, at the Lennart Meri security conference, we take a bus two and a half hours to the east of Tallinn, to Narva, a city on the border with Russia, for a discussion: “What is Narva Afraid of?” a variant on the geo-political debate: “Is Narva Next?”

In an interview widely quoted in the Russian media, a foreign affairs expert and a member of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Foreign Policy and Defense Council, Sergei Karaganov, told the German magazine Der Spiegel that Western propaganda against Russia “is reminiscent of the period preceding a new war.”

“The help offered by NATO is not symbolic help for the Baltic states,” he said. “It is a provocation. If NATO initiates an encroachment--against a nuclear power like ourselves--it will be punished.”

President Vladimir Putin himself plays both sides against the middle, warning the West that Russia will have to “strengthen the potential of its strategic nuclear forces” in order to counter the United States’ missile shield, while at the same time insisting it’s the West, not Russia, that’s destroying the balance that kept the world from nuclear conflict during the Cold War.

During the St. Petersburg Economic Forum in June, he tells the heads of international news agencies that the U.S. is lying when it claims its missile defense system will not threaten Russia:

As I browse in a Moscow gift shop, a t-shirt catches my eye: a buff-looking Vladimir Putin dressed in a black turtleneck and tight black pants, with the words “SAVE THE WORLD” in white letters across his image.

How? There’s no answer on this t-shirt and, in the real world, no magic prescription.
But all the talk of war isn’t as crazy as it seems, several Russians tell me. “They may not love us,” they say, “but they fear us.”

Note EU-Digest: This quoted article by Jill Dougherty is a perfect example of pro-NATO propaganda, support of the weapons industry and irresponsible journalism. It is packed with scary comments, refueling cold war fears and whipping up peoples emotions. 

The EU must speak out that it does not want another cold or God forbid a hot war war with Russia, and that it does not support NATO troop movements on Russia's borders, regardless of what the  US or the usually "short sighted" Eastern European EU members are saying.The NATO, being perfectly honest, is also an organization,  whose time has come and gone, and for the past 20 years certainly has not achieved any positive track record    

Read more:  In  Europe and Russia, There’s Talk of War