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6/27/17

The Netherlands: Srebrenica - Dutch UN peacekeepers at fault

Via euronews: Dutch peacekeepers ‘acted illegally’ over Srebrenica massacre http://www.euronews.com/2017/06/27/a-hague-court-rules-dutch-soldiers-acted-illegally-ahead-of-1995-srebrenica/

USA: Health Care Bill in jeopardy

Senate health care bill in jeopardy after devastating CBO report http://flip.it/NlIowz

Anti-trust laws: EU Fines Google

EU fines Google billions for breaching antitrust rules http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/google-eu-fine-1.4179272 Shared via the CBC News Android App

6/26/17

Spain: Court orders Salvador Dalí's remains to be exhumed in paternity suit

A Spanish court has ordered the exhumation of Salvador Dalí’s body in order to obtain samples for a paternity suit brought by a woman claiming to be his daughter.

The Madrid court said the exhumation aimed “to get samples of his remains to determine whether he is the biological father of a woman from Girona who filed a claim to be recognised as the daughter of the artist.

“The DNA study of the painter’s corpse is necessary due to the lack of other biological or personal remains with which to perform the comparative study.”

The order could be appealed, the court said.

Pilar Abel, 58, claims her mother met the surrealist painter in the 1950s when she was working for a family that would often spend summers in Cadaqués, close to where Dalí had a home. The pair “had a friendship that developed into clandestine love”, Abel said in documents presented to a Madrid court in 2015. She was born in 1956.

Read more: Court orders Salvador Dalí's remains to be exhumed in paternity suit | Art and design | The Guardian

German Economy: Only the World Can Stop Germany as Business Climate Hits Record - by Carolynn Look

tt seems the sky is the limit for Germany’s economy.

Business confidence -- logging its fifth consecutive increase -- jumped to the highest since 1991 this month, underpinning optimism by the Bundesbank that the upswing in Europe’s largest economy is set to continue.

With domestic demand supported by a buoyant labor market, risks to growth stem almost exclusively from global forces.

“Sentiment among German businesses is jubilant,” Ifo President Clemens Fuest said in a statement. “Germany’s economy is performing very strongly.”

Read more: Only the World Can Stop Germany as Business Climate Hits Record - Bloomberg

EU Economy: European markets move higher after Italy bank deal; Nestle up 4.2%


European bourses moved higher on Monday, as banks rallied on the news that Italy had reached a deal to wind up two ailing regional banks.

Read more: European markets move higher after Italy bank deal; Nestle up 4.2%

6/25/17

France’s Socialists choose to oppose Macron government – by Nicholas Vinocur

France’s Socialist Party will not vote in favor of a motion of confidence in Prime Minister Edouard Philippe’s government in early July, its leadership decided, placing it clearly in the opposition.

Philippe will ask parliament to vote for a motion of confidence in his government as he presents his general roadmap for reform on July 4.

But the Socialist Party, which was trounced in legislative elections and has fewer than 40 seats in parliament, will vote to oppose the measure, its members decided late Saturday, according to Le Monde.

The move confirms that President Emmanuel Macron, who has a broad majority in parliament, will face opposition from his former Socialist Party in addition to hardliners in the conservative Les Républicains (LR) party, far-left MPs from Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s France Unbowed party and Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front.

One LR faction, which calls itself “the Constructives,” will take a more conciliatory approach.

No opposition group has enough seats to block Macron’s reform plans, which will start with a potentially explosive overhaul of hiring and firing rules. Macron is still well in the honeymoon phase of his presidency, with a poll by Ifop published Sunday showing that 64 percent of the French are happy with his debut.

But left-wing forces spearheaded by Mélenchon are likely to oppose the president’s reform agenda outside of parliament, with street protests feared in September.

Read more: France’s Socialists choose to oppose Macron government – POLITICO

The Netherlands: Going Dutch; Netherlands Pains To Find New Government And Might Embrace Christian Traditionalists - by Marcel Michelson

 More than three months after indecisive parliamentary elections, Dutch political parties are still at loggerheads to find a government with majority backing in parliament.

Following several permutations, and excluding the ultra-right PVV party of populist Geert Wilders, the next government looks set to become a centre-right coalition with the CHU Christian traditionalists. Perhaps it is wise to name a neutral cabinet instead.

While some people in Britain and France would like to see a more proportional electoral system like in the Netherlands, the Dutch elections resulted in a myriad of 13 elected parties splitting 150 seats out of 28 parties that participated.

The VVD liberals of Prime Minister Mark Rutte lost five percent points of the votes but remained the biggest party with 33 seats, ahead of the PVV that obtained 20 seats, Christian CDA at 19, centrist D66 also at 19 and Green Left at 14 seats, a gain of 10. SP also had 14 seats.

Read more: Going Dutch; Netherlands Pains To Find New Government And Might Embrace Christian Traditionalists

Britain - Brexit: EU leaders says UK offer could 'worsen situation'

European leaders have criticised the UK's offer to EU nationals after Brexit - with one senior figure claiming it could "worsen the situation" for them.

European Council President Donald Tusk said the plan was "below expectations" while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there had been "no breakthrough".

Theresa May conceded there were differences between the two sides.

But the prime minister said those who had "made their lives and homes" in the UK would have their rights guaranteed.

She also suggested that while rights would be enforced by British courts, they could also be enshrined in international law if the agreement was included in the final treaty of withdrawal.

Read more: Brexit: EU leaders says UK offer could 'worsen situation' - BBC News

USA: Qatar blockade exposes rifts in Trump administration's 'peculiar' foreign policy - by Julian Borger

The crisis created by the ultimatum delivered to Qatar by the Saudi-led Gulf coalition has been deepened by mixed messages from Washington.

While Donald Trump has declared himself wholeheartedly behind the blockade on Qatar, the state and defense departments have been sharply critical of the move, in private and in public.

The defence secretary, James Mattis, rushed to assure Doha of continuing support, mindful that US air operations in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan fly out of the al-Udeid base, just outside the Qatari capital. Six days after Trump joined Riyadh in denouncing Qatar as a “funder of terrorism at a very high level”, Mattis signed a $12bn arms deal with the Qataris.

The state department issued a stinging rebuke of the behaviour of the Saudis and their Egyptian, Emirati and Bahraini allies, with the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, warning them to make their demands on Qatar “reasonable and actionable”.

Now that the list of 13 demands has been presented and Qatar has been given 10 days to comply, much will depend on what is seen as being reasonable and actionable.

On Thursday, state spokeswoman Heather Nauert would not be drawn on the question. “I think that they [the Gulf protagonists] will know exactly what things are reasonable and what things are actionable,” she said.

In reality, both sides in the dispute are accustomed to looking to the US for guidance. However, guidance from Washington has seldom been less clear.

Different parts of the US executive have often had very different approaches to foreign policy problems. During the Obama administration, for example, the White House was far more risk-averse and non-interventionist than the Pentagon and the state department over Syria. But rarely, if ever, have the disagreements been so open, and the signalling so chaotic. The result has been to increase the risk of miscalculation in an already dangerous row.

The immediate crisis can be traced back directly to Trump’s first trip abroad as president, to Riyadh on 20 May, when he was feted and showered with flattery. Trump vaunted Saudi leadership and decisively sided with the Sunni Gulf states against Iran. Less publicly, Trump appears tacitly or explicitly to have given the green light to the Saudi royals to go on the offensive against its truculent neighbour.

When the Qatar blockade was declared, Trump cheered it on in tweets, triggering alarm and countervailing moves from the Pentagon and state department.

Read more: Qatar blockade exposes rifts in Trump administration's 'peculiar' foreign policy | US news | The Guardian

Italy readies 17 billion euro package to save two failing banks

Italy’s government has said it will spend up to 17 billion euros to rescue the debt-stricken Veneto Banca and Banca Popolare di Vicenza (BPVI). The European Commission quickly approved the plan.

Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan said the government could pay as much as 17 billion euros ($19 billion), although the immediate cost would be a little over 5 billion euros.

Some 4.8 billion euros will be immediately earmarked to "maintain capitalization” of the retail bank Intesa Sanpaolo, which will take on the banks' "good" assets. A further 400 million euros will be set aside as a "guarantee" to Intesa.

The European Commission (EC) quickly approved the plan:  "The European Commission has approved, under EU rules, Italian measures to facilitate the liquidation of BPVI and Veneto Banca under national insolvency law," the EU's executive arm said in a statement on Sunday.

Read more: Italy readies 17 billion euro package to save two failing banks | News | DW | 25.06.2017

Britain: Brexit In Reverse? - by George Soros

Economic reality is beginning to catch up with the false hopes of many Britons. One year ago, when a slim majority voted for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, they believed the promises of the popular press, and of the politicians who backed the Leave campaign, that Brexit would not reduce their living standards. Indeed, in the year since, they have managed to maintain those standards by running up household debt.

This worked for a while, because the increase in household consumption stimulated the economy. But the moment of truth for the UK economy is fast approaching. As the latest figures published by the Bank of England show, wage growth in Britain is not keeping up with inflation, so real incomes have begun to fall.

As this trend continues in the coming months, households will soon realize that their living standards are falling, and they will have to adjust their spending habits. To make matters worse, they will also realize that they have become over-indebted and will have to deleverage, thus further reducing the household consumption that has sustained the economy.

Moreover, the BoE has made the same mistake as the average household: it underestimated the impact of inflation and will now be catching up by raising interest rates in a pro-cyclical manner. These higher rates will make household debt even harder to pay off.

The British are fast approaching the tipping point that characterizes all unsustainable economic trends. I refer to such a tipping point as “reflexivity” – when both cause and effect shape each other.

Economic reality is reinforced by political reality. The fact is that Brexit is a lose-lose proposition, harmful both to Britain and the EU. The Brexit referendum cannot be undone, but people can change their minds.

The primary cause of May’s defeat was her fatal misstep in proposing that elderly people pay for a substantial portion of their social care out of their own resources, usually the value of the homes that they have lived in all of their lives. This “dementia tax,” as it became widely known, deeply offended the core constituency, the elderly, of May’s Conservative Party. Many either did not vote, or supported other parties.

By approaching the negotiations that which started on June 19 in a conciliatory spirit, May could reach an understanding with the EU on the agenda and agree to continue as a member of the single market for a period long enough to carry out all the legal work that will be needed. This would be a great relief to the EU, because it would postpone the evil day when Britain’s absence would create an enormous hole in the EU’s budget. That would be a win-win arrangement.

If May embraces such a platform, she could then carry on leading a minority government, because nobody else would want to take her place. Brexit would still take at least five years to complete, during which time new elections would take place. If all went well, the two parties might want to remarry even before they have divorced. 

Read  more: Brexit In Reverse? by George Soros - Project Syndicate

6/24/17

Middle East: Turkey dismisses demand to close Qatar military base

Turkey has rejected a call from four Arab countries to shut down its military base in Qatar, saying the base was a guarantor of security in the Gulf and demands for its closure represented interference in its ties with Doha.

Defense Minister Fikri Isik told Turkish broadcaster NTV that he had not yet seen a request for the closure of the base, but made clear his country had no plans to review a 2014 agreement with Qatar which led to it being set up.

His reaction comes after Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, boycotting Qatar over alleged support for "terrorism", reportedly issued a list of demands including closing down the military installation.

Read more: Turkey dismisses demand to close Qatar military base | Turkey News | Al Jazeera

Greece credit rating upgraded at Moody's, outlook revised to stable - Tomi Kilgore

Greece's sovereign bond rating was upgraded one notch to Caa2 from Caa3 at Moody's Investors Service, citing the release of a EUR8.5 billion tranche under the country's adjustment program allowing the repayment of debt, improved fiscal prospects and tentative signs of a stabilizing economy.

The outlook was revised to positive, which implies another upgrade is likely, from stable.

The sovereign bond rating isstill 8 notches below investment grade. The short-term debt rating was
affirmed at not prime.

"Beyond the near-term impact of allowing Greece to repay upcoming maturities, we consider the conclusion of the review to be a positive signal regarding the future path of the program, as it required the Greek government to legislate a number of important
reform measures,"

Moody's said in a research note. "The decision to assign a positive outlook to the Caa2 rating reflects Moody's view that the prospects for a successful conclusion of Greece's third adjustment program have improved, which in turn raises the likelihood of further debt relief."

For additional information go to Market watch

EU-Brexit talks 'will not consume EU', Angela Merkel warns Britain - by Jennifer Rankin

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has warned Theresa May that the EU will not allow itself to be consumed by the Brexit negotiations, as the British prime minister’s offer on citizens’ rights was dismissed by Europe’s leaders as vague and inadequate.

Emerging from a two-day summit in Brussels, where the issues discussed ranged from tackling the spread of terrorist propaganda on the internet to plans for cooperation on defence, Merkel insisted that her priority was not the Brexit talks, but steering the EU to a better future.

In response to May’s offer on citizens’ rights after Brexit, she also warned that the UK and the EU had a “long way to go” if they were going to reach agreement on the issue.

In a symbolic joint press conference with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, Merkel said: “That was a good beginning, but – and I’m trying to word this very carefully – it was not a breakthrough.

Read more: Brexit talks 'will not consume EU', Angela Merkel warns Britain | Politics | The Guardian

Middle East: US military should get out of the Middle East - Jeffrey D. Sachs

It’s time to end US military engagements in the Middle East. Drones, special operations, CIA arms supplies, military advisers, aerial bombings — the whole nine yards. Over and done with. That might seem impossible in the face of ISIS, terrorism, Iranian ballistic missiles, and other US security interests, but a military withdrawal from the Middle East is by far the safest path for the United States and the region. That approach has instructive historical precedents.

America has been no different from other imperial powers in finding itself ensnared repeatedly in costly, bloody, and eventually futile overseas wars. From the Roman empire till today, the issue is not whether an imperial army can defeat a local one. It usually can, just as the United States did quickly in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. The issue is whether it gains anything by doing so. Following such a “victory,” the imperial power faces unending heavy costs in terms of policing, political instability, guerilla war, and terrorist blowback.

Terrorism is a frequent consequence of imperial wars and imperial rule. Local populations are unable to defeat the imperial powers, so they impose high costs through terror instead. Consider the terrorism used by Jewish settlers against the British Empire and local Palestinians in their fight for Israel’s independence and territory; or Serbian terrorism deployed against the Hapsburg Empire; or Vietnamese terrorism used against the French and United States in Vietnam’s long war for independence; or American terrorism, for that matter, that independence fighters used against the British in America’s war of independence.

This is of course not to condone terrorism. Indeed, my point is to condemn imperial rule, and to argue for political solutions rather than imperial oppression, war, and the terror that comes in its wake. Imperial rulers, whether the British in pre-independence America; the Americans in Cuba and the Philippines after 1898; the French and Americans in Vietnam; and the United States in the Middle East in recent decades, foment violent reactions that destroy peace, prosperity, good governance, and hope.

The real solutions to these conflicts lie in diplomacy and political justice, not in imperial rule, repression, and terror.

Indirect rule has been the more typical US approach, for example when America overthrew the elected government of Iran in 1953 in order to impose the autocratic Shah of Iran. Similarly, America toppled the Taliban-led government of Afghanistan in 2001, and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in 2003, in order to install regimes friendly to the United States Easier said than done. In all of these cases, the American imperial vision proved to be a fantasy, and the US-led violence came to naught in terms of US interests.

The United States is trapped in the Middle East by its own pseudo-intellectual constructions. During the Vietnam War, the “domino theory” claimed that if America withdrew from Vietnam, communism would sweep Asia. The new domino theory is that if the United States stops were to stop fighting ISIS, Islamic terrorists would soon be at our doorstep.

The truth is almost the opposite. ISIS is a ragtag army of perhaps 30,000 troops in a region in which the large nations — including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey — have standing armies that are vastly larger and better equipped. These regional powers could easily drive ISIS out of existence if they chose to do so. The US military presence is actually ISIS’s main recruiting tool. Young people stream into Syria and Iraq to fight the imperial enemy.

Empires trapped in regional wars can choose to fight on or more wisely to acknowledge that the imperial adventure is both futile and self-destructive. King George III was wise to give up in 1781; fighting the Americans wasn’t worth the effort, even if it was possible militarily. The United States was wise to give up the war in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam in 1975. America’s decision to cut its losses saved not only Southeast Asia but the United States, as well.

The United States was similarly wise to curtail its CIA-led coups throughout Latin America, as a prelude to peace in the region.

The United States should immediately end its fighting in the Middle East and turn to UN-based diplomacy for real solutions and security. The Turks, Arabs, and Persians have lived together as organized states for around 2,500 years. The United States has meddled unsuccessfully in the region for 65 years. It’s time to let the locals sort out their problems, supported by the good offices of the United Nations, including peacekeeping and peace-building efforts. Just recently, the Arabs once again wisely and rightly reiterated their support for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians if Israel withdraws from the conquered territories. This gives added reason to back diplomacy, not war.
We are at the 100th anniversary of British and French imperial rule in the Mideast. The United States has unwisely prolonged the misery and blunders. One hundred years is enough.

Read more: Jeffrey D. Sachs: US military should get out of the Middle East - The Boston Globe

6/23/17

Brexit: EU prepares to move two agencies from London - Laurence Pete

EU leaders have officially launched the competition between member states to decide which will host two London-based EU agencies, responsible for medicines and banking.

The relocation must take place by the Brexit deadline - 30 March 2019
.
Some countries are bidding to host both the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and European Banking Authority (EBA).

It means hundreds of jobs moving from London, along with significant revenue from hotel stays and conferences.

Read more: EU prepares to move two agencies from London - BBC News

EU: It′s cool to be pro-EU with popular French President Emmanuel Macron

A year ago, the European Union was in a world of woe. The UK wanted out, populists were rising in the polls and Donald Trump predicted more countries would follow in the footsteps of Brexit - and that they'd be better off for it. EU public relations staffers were continuing their desperate search for that elusive "narrative" that would make Europeans feel like they were part of a winning team.

All eyes were on the Dutch elections in March,the first domino in the lineup. If far-right nationalist Geert Wilders made significant gains on Prime Minister Mark Rutte, it would be the harbinger of a bigger disaster to come: French voters choosing the National Front's Marine Le Pen as their next president.

Rutte's win, if not particularly inspiring, provided the EU with some space to breathe. And by then it was obvious that newcomer Emmanuel Macron and his just-created "En Marche" movement were encroaching on France's old guard from both the left and the right with an undeniable energy, derived in part from being pro-EU and proud of it. By the time Macron made the long dramatic walk to give his acceptance speech accompanied by the EU - not the French - anthem, the tide of public sentiment had already turned in the EU's favor, with Macron sitting atop the crest of the wave.

Last week that feeling was quantified and described as a dramatic rebound by the Pew Research Center in a survey on public approval. It found that people in nine of the 10 member states surveyed - all but Greece - now view the EU favorably, "including 74 percent in Poland, 68 percent in Germany, 67 percent in Hungary and 65 percent in Sweden." That's true even in the UK, according to Pew.

Read more: It′s cool to be pro-EU with popular French President Emmanuel Macron | Europe | DW | 22.06.2017

6/22/17

USA: There are Trump's claims about jobs. And then there are the numbers - by Chris Isidore

"We've ended the war on clean beautiful coal. And we're putting our miners back to work," he said. "Last week a brand new coal mine just opened in the state of Pennsylvania. First time in decades. Decades. We've reversed it. And 33,000 mining jobs have been added since my inauguration."
"We've ended the war on clean beautiful coal. And we're putting our miners back to work," he said. "Last week a brand new coal mine just opened in the state of Pennsylvania. First time in decades. Decades. We've reversed it. And 33,000 mining jobs have been added since my inauguration."
"We've ended the war on clean beautiful coal. And we're putting our miners back to work," he said. "Last week a brand new coal mine just opened in the state of Pennsylvania. First time in decades. Decades. We've reversed it. And 33,000 mining jobs have been added since my inauguration."
"We've ended the war on clean beautiful coal. And we're putting our miners back to work," he said. "Last week a brand new coal mine just opened in the state of Pennsylvania. First time in decades. Decades. We've reversed it. And 33,000 mining jobs have been added since my inauguration."

Trump has regularly claimed that the United States has added more jobs during his tenure than it actually has.

On June 1 he claimed that there had been "more than 1 million private sector jobs" created since he took office. His chief economic adviser Gary Cohn explained he was using an estimate from payroll service ADP, which said 1.2 million jobs were added from January through May.

But that figure is questionable for a couple of reasons. First, it includes January, when President Obama was in office for most of the month. Without January the number of jobs added slips to under 1 million.

Read more: There are Trump's claims about jobs. And then there are the numbers - Jun. 22, 2017

German Bundestag Election 2017: Angela Merkel v Martin Schulz – latest poll tracker puts Merkel 11% ahead - by Reiss Smithl

Angela Merkel
The latest INSA poll gives Ms Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) an 11.5 per cent lead over Mr Schulz’s Social Democratic Party (SPD).

The survey puts the CDU and it sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) on 36.5 per cent, ahead of the SPD on 25 per cent.

Read more: German election 2017 polls: Angela Merkel v Martin Schulz – latest poll tracker | World |News | Express.co.uk

Brexit: Theresa May promises to let 3 million EU citizens stay in UK - by Joe Watts

British PM Theresa May and EU President Donald Tusk
Theresa May has played her opening gambit of Brexit negotiations, telling European leaders she will offer some three million EU citizens a new ‘settled status’ allowing them to stay in Britain if they have lived here five years.

People gaining it would secure rights on healthcare, education and benefits broadly similar to those enjoyed by EU citizens in the UK now.

But in a move giving Ms May leverage as talks begin, she refused to reveal the exact date after which new arrivals are no longer guaranteed the status - leaving a group of people uncertain of their UK residency.

European Council President Donald Tusk has quoted lyrics from John Lennon's Imagine to suggest the door remains open to the UK staying in the EU.

Ahead of a Brussels summit he said of that prospect: "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."

Theresa May, who has said the UK will honour the referendum vote to leave, was due to outline her plans for the issue of expats' rights to EU leaders.

Speaking at the summit she hailed the "constructive" start to Brexit talks.

Read more: Brexit: Theresa May promises to let 3 million EU citizens stay in UK | The Independent

USA Illegal Immigrants: Voters Say It's Easier to Stay in U.S. Illegally Than Other Countries

Voters think it's easier to enter the United States illegally and stay here illegally than it is in most other countries around the globe.              
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 49% of Likely U.S. Voters think it’s easier to stay in the United States once a person has entered the country illegally compared to most other nations in the world. Twelve percent (12%) believe it’s harder to stay in the United States illegally, while 24% feel the level of difficulty compared to other nations is about the same. Fifteen percent (15%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here).
Voters think it's easier to enter the United States illegally and stay here illegally than it is in most other countries around the globe.              
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 49% of Likely U.S. Voters think it’s easier to stay in the United States once a person has entered the country illegally compared to most other nations in the world. Twelve percent (12%) believe it’s harder to stay in the United States illegally, while 24% feel the level of difficulty compared to other nations is about the same. Fifteen percent (15%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here).
US voters think it's easier to enter the United States illegally and stay here illegally than it is in most other countries around the globe.             

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 49% of Likely U.S. Voters think it’s easier to stay in the United States once a person has entered the country illegally compared to most other nations in the world. Twelve percent (12%) believe it’s harder to stay in the United States illegally, while 24% feel the level of difficulty compared to other nations is about the same. Fifteen percent (15%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here). 

Read more: Voters Say It's Easier to Stay in U.S. Illegally Than Other Countries - Rasmussen Reports™

Britain: Peoples Power - Trump's state visit to Britain put on hold - by Patrick Wintour

Donald Trump has told Theresa May in a phone call he does not want to go ahead with a state visit to Britain until the British public supports him coming
.
The US president said he did not want to come if there were large-scale protests and his remarks in effect put the visit on hold for some time.

The call was made in recent weeks, according to a Downing Street adviser who was in the room. The statement surprised May, according to those present.

The conversation in part explains why there has been little public discussion about a visit.

Read more: Trump's state visit to Britain put on hold | US news | The Guardian

6/21/17

War and Peace: Why Does U.S. Consider Iran the Greatest Threat to Peace, When Rest of World Agrees It's the U.S.?

Over the first 75 days of the Trump administration, the White House has taken multiple steps to escalate the possibility of a U.S. war with Iran. Trump included Iran on both his first and second Muslim travel bans. As a candidate, Trump also threatened to dismantle the landmark Iran nuclear agreement. For more on U.S.-Iranian relations, we speak with world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author Noam Chomsky.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you another question that came in, from Melbourne, Australia, Aaron Bryla. He said, "Defense Secretary James Mattis this week described Iran as the greatest threat to the United States. My question: Why does the U.S. insist on setting the potential grounds for war with Iran?"

NOAM CHOMSKY: That’s been going on for years. Right through the Obama years, Iran was regarded as the greatest threat to world peace. And that’s repeated over and over. "All options are open," Obama’s phrase, meaning, if we want to use nuclear weapons, we can, because of this terrible danger to peace.

Actually, we have—there’s a few interesting comments that should be made about this. One is, there also is something called world opinion. What does the world think is the greatest threat to world peace? Well, we know that, from U.S.-run polls, Gallup polls: United States. Nobody even close, far ahead of any other threat. Pakistan, second, much lower. Iran, hardly mentioned.

Why is Iran regarded here as the greatest threat to world peace? Well, we have an authoritative answer to that from the intelligence community, which provides regular assessments to Congress on the global strategic situation. And a couple of years ago, their report—of course, they always discuss Iran. And the reports are pretty consistent. They say Iran has very low military spending, even by the standards of the region, much lower than Saudi Arabia, Israel, others. Its strategy is defensive. They want to deter attacks long enough for diplomacy to be entertained. The conclusion, intelligence conclusion—this is a couple years ago—is: If they are developing nuclear weapons, which we don’t know, but if they are, it would be part of their deterrent strategy. Now, why is the United States and Israel even more so concerned about a deterrent? Who’s concerned about a deterrent? Those who want to use force. Those who want to be free to use force are deeply concerned about a potential deterrent. So, yes, Iran is the greatest threat to world peace, might deter our use of force.

Read more: Why Does U.S. Consider Iran the Greatest Threat to Peace, When Rest of World Agrees It's the U.S.? | Democracy Now!

Middle East - Syria: Trump Is on a Collision Course With Iran - by Dennis Ross

Rarely has the Middle East been more baffling. The United States sells fighter jets to Qatar, a country the American president accuses of sponsoring terrorism. In Syria, the U.S. is relying on Kurdish fighters that Turkey, a NATO country closely aligned with Qatar, says are terrorists, supporting their mission to take Raqqa, the Islamic State’s capital, with airstrikes launched from a giant U.S. base outside of Doha. The U.S. accuses Russia of complicity in the Syrian government’s chemical attacks on its own people, and hits Syrian forces, but hopes to collaborate with Moscow to fight ISIS.

Got all that? Amid this confusion, Iran is pressing ahead to strengthen its grip on Syria, even as Trump goes after ISIS. Iran’s intervention to save President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has involved sending not just elite Iranian military advisers but also bringing in Lebanese Hezbollah and other Shia militias from as far away as Afghanistan. While estimates vary on the size of these forces, the numbers are in the tens of thousands. Iran’s sectarian shock troops are being used to extend the regime’s writ, especially as the Syrian regime’s deployable military manpower has shrunk to about 20,000 forces.

Regrettably, if the Trump administration cannot do more to counter Iran’s actions in Syria, it is not likely to be able to “demolish” ISIS and prevent its return. Iran is using its Shia proxy militias both to fight ISIS and to challenge U.S. efforts to train local forces in southeastern Syria. Last week, an Iranian-made drone fired on al-Tanf, an area along the Damascus-Baghdad highway and the Syrian border with Jordan where U.S. Special Forces have been conducting the training. The U.S.-led coalition destroyed the drone. The White House statement after the attack pointed out that the United States has maintained a presence at Tanf for the past year and that this location was part of the de-confliction understanding with the Russians—and yet Iranian-backed Shia militias in Syria moved against this area and fired on the U.S. presence anyway.

What’s going on? Iran is actively trying to create a land corridor through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon. To that end, Iran is pushing from within Iraq and Syria, using its Shia militia proxies on both sides of the border. On the Iraqi side, the Shia militias have now largely cleared ISIS from border crossings. Within Syria, Iran has sent significant Hezbollah forces eastward to Deir ez-Zour, a major Syrian city along the Euphrates River. With the U.S.-supported effort to liberate Raqqa under way, Iran wants to prevent any U.S.-backed groups from establishing themselves in eastern Syria—something that could preclude the Iranian aim of controlling Syria’s borders with Iraq and Jordan. (With Hezbollah also now active in the area of Deraa, a southern Syrian city close to the Golan Heights, the Iranians have their eye on the Syrian-Israeli border as well.)

Note EU-Digest Editor: the details on Iran in the above report by the usually very accurate Politico this time seem to be leaning towards "conspiracy theories". First of all, who cares if Iran takes over the job of cleaning up ISIS from the US, which, lets face the facts, is a US creation as a result of the Bush Iraq war in the first place. 

The other question one must ask: what is the position of Saudi-Arabia in all this and why is that country kept out of the story?  Iran, at least, has an elected government, which we certainly can not say about Saudi-Arabia.  So, if the US and Russia can be in Syria, why can't Iran.  All of these countries have their own objectives for fighting these proxy wars, which, let's face it, certainly have nothing to do with democracy. 

Come on Politico - even though we should pray this does not happen, our prediction - and all signs are pointing in that direction - is that the US in close cooperation with  Israel will soon bomb Iran's nuclear facilities, for the sake of "peace in the Middle East". Unfortunately if that happens, we have the sneaky suspicion it will not end well.

Read more: Trump Is on a Collision Course With Iran - POLITICO Magazine

Middle East - Syria: Are US and Russia inching toward confrontation in Syria?

When a US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Russian-made Syrian SU-22 warplane after it reportedly attacked US-supported fighters near the embattled city of Raqqa, it did not take long for Moscow to respond to what it viewed as an "aggression" against Syrian government forces, which the Kremlin backs.

Russian officials not only suspended the so-called deconfliction channel with the United States that was set up to avoid potential military incidents between the two countries, but also said the military would shoot down any foreign aircraft west of the Euphrates River, which they consider the Kremlin's area of operations.

Yezid Sayigh, a senior fellow with the Carnegie Middle East Center, said the key question about the latest incident was why Syria's government would even deploy a fighter jet over Raqqa, which it has not done for years.

"My assessment is that the Assad regime is testing and probing the US 'red lines' there and in the badia - i.e., the southeast desert areas - and the US is simply asserting that red line, no more," Sayigh wrote in an email.

The incident put a spotlight on the intensifying proxy war in Syria between forces backed by Russia and those supported by the United States, a conflict that has the potential to increasingly pit the two countries directly against each other in the battle over the future of Syria.

"The risks of escalation and of direct confrontation and more direct conflict between the United States and Russia have increased, and some might even say there are fait accompli since the number of incidents has increased," saidJonathan Stevenson, a former National Security Council director for political-military affairs, Middle East and North Africa, in the Obama White House.

"It's a very dangerous situation," said Iwan Morgan, professor of US studies at University College London. "The chances of confrontation have risen significantly."

Read more: Are US and Russia inching toward confrontation in Syria? | In Depth | DW | 20.06.2017

Structure of EU Debt shows debt mainly held by non - residents in half of the EU Member States

In order to analyze the debt structure in European countries, Eurostat collects additionally results from an annual survey containing Member States' information on government gross debt by sector of debt holder, by instrument, by initial and remaining maturity and by currency of issuance.

The survey also contains information on (one-off) guarantees granted by the general government to non-government units as well as the market value of the Maastricht debt instruments and the apparent cost of government debt. One-off guarantees are contingent liabilities which are not included in general government gross debt.

For the complete report on the EU debt structure click here

Global Economy: Back to the Global Vertical -a politically dangerous development - by Andres Ortega

There are horizontal periods – indeed some people, Thomas Friedman among them, believed some years ago that the world was definitively flat. And then there are periods in which verticality imposes itself again.

In many ways, we are once again moving from the horizontal to the vertical dimension of global affairs.

This “verticality” is making itself especially felt in social terms. Social classes are back on the agenda, although not in the traditional Marxist sense of class struggle.

Rather, we are now coping with the decline of the middle classes and the emergence of a broader “precariat.”

The social escalator is not working as in previous eras, despite renewed growth in many economies following the crisis. Benefits that were taken for granted, such as full-time jobs with social security protections, are disappearing in significant numbers.

Perhaps we are witnessing what Dennis J. Snower calls the “great decoupling,” which he labels “dangerous,” unlike its predecessor, which was “convenient.”

When economic progress is not mirrored or is not linked to social progress, discontent is generated in those left behind. This decoupling ends up manifesting itself in politics.

This is what may be going on in many countries amid the prospect of recovery, an uneven emergence from the crisis and, before that, globalization, which is now generally acknowledged to have produced winners and losers.

The decoupling phenomenon is arising when the advanced economies, both industrial and post-industrial, are recovering from the crisis.

As Marc Fleurbaey of Princeton University argues, we must “prepare people for life and support them in life.”

Central to that is the commitment to education, particularly amid the challenge of technology and its controversial impact on employment and the concept of work.

A smart policy approach in that regard, as Ylva Johansson, the Swedish Employment Minister, points out, is not protecting specific jobs (which may be dying) as protecting workers (which need to be actively equipped and/or a guided toward a new one).

Somehow or other, although no one knows how, remedying the great decoupling will induce the vertical to become more horizontal again. Or so one hopes.

Failing to achieve this will only accentuate more verticality. And vertical moments, as we know, tend to be the more dangerous ones.

Editors note EU-Digest: but the situation is not hopeless. Change is possible. People can and will make the difference. All that is required is for responsible, well educated, socially conscious people, with new ideologies to start speaking out. The outdated, corrupt, political systems in many places of the world must be replaced before it leads to a catasthrophy

If it was possible in France, for a new party to be created within a one year time span prior to their Presidential and parliamentary elections, and for that party to win decisively, in both the Presidential and Parliamentary elections, it can also be done elsewhere. 

The old and established parties have failed the people. The political establishment on both the left and the right have become corrupted by corporate influence and greed. It is high time for change, because the status quo is not acceptable anymore.

Read more: Back to the Global Vertical

6/20/17

France: Emmanuel Macron's conquest is complete - what now? - by Hugh Schofield

A new political wind is blowing in France
So the legislatives have been won, and the final part of what future history books will record as the Macronian conquest is complete.

In truth it has all happened so quickly - little more than a year from the germ of an idea to Elysian omnipotence - that the country feels slightly dazed.

People are looking at their new leader, and many more than voted for him are honestly impressed by his calibre. But many are also wondering: so where do we go from here?

For there is an unknown aspect to the coming mandate that sets it apart from all that went before.

It is not just the newness of it all: the fact that President Macron's party didn't exist until he dreamed it up, and that half of the new parliamentarians will need lessons (literally) in how to do their jobs.

And that never before - at least not since Charles de Gaulle in 1958 - has a head of state had such a powerful majority, made up of men and women who depend on him so personally for their new careers.

And that the opposition has been reduced to a rump, thanks to the dégagiste (kick 'em out) imperative that wipes out sitting MPs in droves.

It is also that at heart Emmanuel Macron himself remains something of an enigma.

When he was 22, and already a precocious high-flier, the president spent several months as the amanuensis of one of France's then most respected philosophers, Paul Ricoeur.

The name will mean little to most people, but according to the experts, one of the key elements of Ricoeurian philosophy is the "ability to think at the same time two ideas that are apparently opposed".

For example - in a political context - that could mean supporting the freeing up of the labour market and protecting the most vulnerable. Or slimming down the state and ensuring that France's social contract remains intact.

The heart of the philosophy is a generous one: the recognition that neither side in an argument holds a monopoly of the truth, and that the best policies are ones that combine some elements of both.

Macron's adherence to this scheme of thought was most obvious in the pre-presidential debates, when his use of the phrase "au même temps" (at the same time) was much noted upon - implying as it did a constant bid to reconcile apparently contradictory ideas.

All this is very well - and his sincere desire to bring together left and right no doubt contributed greatly to his success.

But the enigma is this: when it comes to acting, rather than talking, which way will the president jump?

Read more: Emmanuel Macron's conquest is complete - what now? - BBC News

Canada: 1 in 2 Canadians will get cancer: reports Canadian Cancer Society

Almost one in every two Canadians is expected to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, and one in four Canadians will die from the disease, a new report by the Canadian Cancer Society predicts.

In 2017, an estimated 206,200 Canadians will be diagnosed with some form of cancer and an estimated 80,800 will succumb to their malignancy — making cancer the leading cause of death in Canada, the charitable organization said Tuesday in its annual cancer statistics report.

"Currently, every year we're seeing an increase in the number of cancer cases in Canada," said the society's epidemiologist, Leah Smith. "So between now and 2030, for example, we expect to continue to see a dramatic increase in the number of cancers diagnosed in Canada.

"That is a reflection of the growing and aging population," she said. "About 90 per cent of all the cancers that we expect to be diagnosed in 2017 will be among Canadians 50 years of age and older."
About 45 per cent of those cases will occur in people age 70 and older, said Smith, noting that as more people move into old age, the number of cancer cases will rise.

Despite the projection that cancer will cause the deaths of one in four Canadians, cancer mortality rates have been declining since their peak in 1988. Over the past three decades, deaths due to cancer have fallen by more than 30 per cent among men and by about 17 per cent among women.

"Declines in death rates have been largely driven by decreases in lung cancer incidence and mortality, so tobacco control in general has had a big impact on our death rates," Smith said, especially among men, who historically had higher smoking rates than their female counterparts.

Increased rates of screening for breast cancer and improved treatments have also bolstered survival among women.

Read more: 1 in 2 Canadians will get cancer: Cancer Society - Health - CBC News

Sweden: Apple is working with Ikea to bring virtual furniture to your home

Jim Cook gave a brief mention of plans for a collaboration with Ikea, with the furniture chain bringing 3D models of its various wares into Apple’s nascent augmented-reality platform,

Now, an interview in a Swedish publication has shone a little more light on what shape this partnership will take. As reported by 9to5Mac, Ikea’s digital transformation manager Michael Valdsgaard told Digital.di that the company plans for all of its beds, chairs, cabinets and so on to come in both physical and AR versions.

“This will be the first augmented-reality app that allows you to make reliable buying decision […] When we launch new products, they will come first in the AR app.”

According to Valdsgaard, users will be able to use an Apple device to look around their home, plonking virtual items of furniture on their actual carpet with “millimetre-precise” positioning. Not only with the scale of the virtual object keep in line with its real surroundings, but so will the lighting.

The idea is that you’ll be able to see an augmented-reality layout of your home, to get a better sense of, say, what shade of leather chair looks good beside your enormous stuffed moose.

9to5Mac believes the tool might initially be used in-store, although this seems to defeat the point of the AR app, which is presumably centred on bringing Ikea items (in virtual form) into your own living room. Of course, the heart of all of this is ecommerce, and Ikea is sure to have very obvious links between its 3D models and ways to buy the actual products. What? Did you think Apple and Ikea wanted to make an AR Sims game? Not that that’s completely unheard of...

Valdsgaard said that Ikea is working on a “tight deadline”, so whether or not this tool appears in times for iOS 11 remains to be seen. We wouldn’t be surprised if Apple does a showcase of the tech during its iPhone 8 launch in September

EU - Germany:Merkel reaches out to France's Macron on eurozone budget - BBC News

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she could back a eurozone finance minister and eurozone budget "if the circumstances are right".

French President Emmanuel Macron has argued strongly for both, in order to reform the eurozone.

Germany is wary of any move that might lead to a "transfer union" - a common budget used to prop up indebted governments in the 19-nation eurozone.

Many Germans resent the billions of euros spent on bailing out Greece.

The Berlin government does not want German taxpayers to have to underwrite high spending elsewhere in the EU without oversight.

Mrs Merkel said sensible changes could be introduced if they could be sure of improving the lives of European citizens, including generating work for young people. She was addressing German business leaders in Berlin.

Read more: Merkel reaches out to France's Macron on eurozone budget - BBC News

US Economy: US current account deficit expands to $116.8 billion

The U.S. deficit in the broadest measure of trade rose to the highest level in a year during the first quarter.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday the deficit in the U.S. current account rose to $116.8 billion in the January-March period, up 2.4 percent from $114 billion in the last three months of 2016. The deficit was the largest since a $119.2 billion gap a year earlier.

The deficit in goods rose to $200.3 billion from $195.1 billion in October-December 2016 as imports grew faster than exports in the first quarter. Leading the increase in imports were industrial supplies, mostly crude oil. The goods gap was partly offset by a slightly higher surplus in trade in services.

The current account is the most complete measure of trade because it includes investment flows in addition to trade in merchandise and service. A deficit means the U.S. is consuming more from overseas than it is selling abroad.

President Donald Trump has pledged to reduce the U.S. trade deficit, contending that it costs U.S. factory jobs and reflects unfair practices by America's trading partners. He has promised to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada to get a better deal for American manufacturers and workers.

Read more: US current account deficit expands to $116.8 billion

6/19/17

French Parliamentary Elections: Women to take more than a third of seats in France's parliament

In the second round of legislative elections on Sunday, 223 women were elected to France’s lower house. With 38.65% of seats in the National Assembly, the election marks a new record for female representation in the French parliament.

It’s good news for equality: Women now hold 223 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, a significant increase over the previous legislature’s 155, which also set a record at the time. These are notable advances since the 33 pioneering female lawmakers of 1945, but they still fall short of true equality in representation.

Note EU-Digest: Womens Rights - Vive La France  !

Read more: Women to take more than a third of seats in France's parliament - France 24

Refugees: Record 65.6 million 'forcibly displaced' in 2016 - UN Global Trends Report Shows

Conflict or persecution forced a record 65.6 million people worldwide to flee their homes by the end of 2016. That equates to one person displaced every three seconds.

The United Nations released the figure on Monday (June 19), the eve of World Refugee Day.

According to the findings of its Global Trends report, children under the age of 18 make up over half of the refugee population.

Unaccompanied or separated minors – largely from Afghanistan or Syria – lodged around 75,000 applications in 70 countries last year, although it is thought this figure could be higher, due to incomplete data.

While around half a million people returned to their countries of origin, an estimated ten million are believed to be stateless.

These statistics are not only deplorable, but also show what a terrible effect conflicts around the world have had on these figures. The blame for this drama squarely rest on the shoulders of governments in the West, East, and Middle East, who have financed these proxy wars. It is a blatant fact, even if none of these countries ever is willing to admit it.   

For the complete UN report click here

Global Warming: A third of the world now faces deadly heatwaves as result of climate change - by Oliver Milman

Nearly a third of the world’s population is now exposed to climatic conditions that produce deadly heatwaves, as the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere makes it “almost inevitable” that vast areas of the planet will face rising fatalities from high temperatures, new research has found.

Climate change has escalated the heatwave risk across the globe, the study states, with nearly half of the world’s population set to suffer periods of deadly heat by the end of the century even if greenhouse gases are radically cut.

“For heatwaves, our options are now between bad or terrible,” said Camilo Mora, an academic at the University of Hawaii and lead author of the study.

The proportion of people at risk worldwide will grow to 48% by 2100 even if emissions are drastically reduced, while around three-quarters of the global population will be under threat by then if greenhouse gases are not curbed at all.

“Finding so many cases of heat-related deaths was mind blowing, especially as they often don’t get much attention because they last for just a few days and then people moved on,” Mora said.

High temperatures are currently baking large swaths of the south-western US, with the National Weather Service (NWS) issuing an excessive heat warning for Phoenix, Arizona, which is set to reach 119F (48.3C) on Monday.

The heat warning extends across much of Arizona and up through the heart of California, with Palm Springs forecast a toasty 116F (46.6C) on Monday and Sacramento set to reach 107F (41.6C).

“Dying in a heatwave is like being slowly cooked, it’s pure torture. The young and elderly are at particular risk, but we found that this heat can kill soldiers, athletes, everyone.”

The study, published in Nature Climate Change, analyzed more than 1,900 cases of fatalities associated with heatwaves in 36 countries over the past four decades. By looking at heat and humidity during such lethal episodes, researchers worked out a threshold beyond which conditions become deadly.

This time period includes the European heatwave of 2003, which fueled forest fires in several countries and caused the River Danube in Serbia to plummet so far that submerged second world war tanks and bombs were revealed. An estimated 20,000 people died; a subsequent study suggested the number was as high as 70,000.

A further 10,000 died in Moscow due to scorching weather in 2010. In 1995, Chicago suffered a five-day burst of heat that resulted in more than 700 deaths.

Read more: A third of the world now faces deadly heatwaves as result of climate change | Environment | The Guardian

The Netherlands: National heatwave plan kicks in as temperatures soar

The national hot weather plan has come into force in the southern half of the country as temperatures are expected to top 30 degrees again on Monday.

The national meteorological service KNMI has issued yellow alert warnings and expects to declare a heatwave by the end of Monday. A heatwave is defined as five consecutive days above 25C including three on which the temperature exceeds 30C.

The hot weather plan has been activated by the public health service RIVM in seven provinces: Utrecht, Overijssel, Gelderland, Zuid-Holland, Limburg, Noord-Brabant and Zeeland. It was brought in to focus attention on people who are vulnerable to extreme temperatures, such as the elderly, those in institutional care and people with long-term health problems.

General advice includes drinking more fluids, wearing thin, loose-fitting clothing and keeping activity to a minimum in the middle of the day. People are also advised to apply plenty of sunscreen and keep in the shade as much as possible. The official temperature at De Bilt will need to rise above 30C on Monday for a heatwave to be confirmed.

It will be the first official heatwave since 2015 and the ninth since the turn of the century. In the whole of the 20th century there were 15 heatwaves, but between 1948 and 1975 not one was recorded.

Read more: National heatwave plan kicks in as temperatures soar - DutchNews.nl

Brexit Talks Brussels: Davis and Barnier hold press conference after first day of Brexit talks - by Andrew Sparrow

Brexit Negotiations get underway
The British newspaper The Guardian reports EU negotiator Michel Barnier said it will be up to the European council, led by Donald Tusk, to decide later if sufficient progress has been made on these issues to allow talks to move on to trade.

He said, in leaving the EU, Britain will no longer have the same rights and opportunities as EU members.

But the EU can build a new partnership with the UK, and that will contribute to stability on the continent.

He says “a fair deal is possible, and far better than no deal”.

The British negotiator David Davis said the talks were “very constructive”. He says a deal is “eminently achievable”.

Note EU-Digest: Britain is about to go down on its knees before Trump to beg for post Brexit trade access to the USA,  and is in no position to stand up to him and all his nonsensical "make America great again" ideology, as France, Germany and Italy have done, when they issued a powerful joint public statement against Trump policies. Bottom line, the best thing for Britain is to get back into the EU fold and face the global storm winds as a member of the EU. After all  - United we stand -Divided we fall.     

Read more: Davis and Barnier hold press conference after first day of Brexit talks - Politics live | Politics | The Guardian

Christianity is being driven out of the Middle East- by Perry Chiaramonte

Prospects of Christianity surviving in its birthplace, the Middle East, appear as grim this Holy Week as they have at any time in the last two millennia.

Persecution of the world’s largest religion has intensified, especially in Muslim-dominated countries. Jihadists appear to have repeatedly carried out one of their oft-stated goals of erasing any trace of Christianity in some regions, while in others persecution against Christians and other religious minorities are being held at bay — for now.

The prospects facing Christianity in three of its longest-standing strongholds, Syria, Egypt and Iraq, vary significantly:

Muslim Reformers Versus Islam Apologists: A Brief Field Guide

 First of all, it’s important to stress that it is dangerously paranoid to see all Muslims as “bigots”, “misogynists” or potential “jihadists”. Each person, whatever their race, skin colour, religious affiliation or nationality is an individual and must always be judged on his or her personal merits. There are many exceptionally brave, enlightened Muslims and ex-Muslims risking their lives to try to spread humanitarian values in the Muslim-majority world and Muslim communities in the West. I also know my own real life friends of Muslim background would never condone violence or oppression. I would unhesitatingly trust my personal Muslim friends with my life.

But I’m really tired of apologists trying to pretend there isn’t a problem within the Muslim world. There can be no doubt that both Islamic terrorism and Islamofascism inspired by regressive interpretations of Islam are huge problems worldwide. Not the only problems by a long shot, but still a major cause of suffering. In their desperation to find solutions, people tend to clutch at simplistic narratives. In the eyes of the loathsome alt-right (the ‘racist right’ as I call them), Muslims are the aggressors and have some kind of genetic propensity towards bigotry and violence. This is arrant and despicable nonsense. But it’s equally nonsense to suggest that Muslims are all innocent victims of dastardly white Westerners. Muslims are the perpetrators of Islamist violence and repression – and the vast majority of its victims. They are human beings and contain a spectrum of attitudes and personalities from Maajid Nawaz at one end of the scale, to Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi at the other.

This isn’t a battle between East and West, and this isn’t a battle between brown people and white people, nor is it a battle between non-Muslims and Muslims. This is a struggle between, on the one hand, those fighting for human rights and humanitarian values, and on the other hand, those who favour regressive values and theocracy. When a Saudi woman is caned because her hijab slipped, a gay man stoned to death by an angry crowd, a blogger imprisoned for life for stating he is an atheist, a young man forced into hiding because of death threats for ‘liking’ a Facebook post, an Indonesian woman caned for standing too close to her boyfriend in public, or a ‘blasphemer’ who allegedly said something rude about the prophet killed by a mob and the killer later lionised and celebrated – none of that is a response to the West.

This is how to tell a reformer from an apologist: a reformer is frank about what is going on and dedicated to changing it. An apologist is smug and complacent. A reformer is passionate about righting wrongs. An apologist pretends they don’t exist. An apologist cares about scoring points for his ‘side’, his ‘team’. A reformer cares about improving things for humanity. An apologist tries to gloss over misogyny, anti-Semitism and homophobia. A reformer supports equal rights for everyone: man, woman, gay, straight, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, atheist. An apologist cares only about Muslims. A reformer cares about everyone.

Read more: Muslim Reformers Versus Islam Apologists: A Brief Fiel

The Netherlands: Green party's strong stance on migration praised by Radboud Univ. professor - by Janene Pieters

While GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver's firm stance on not making deals with north African countries on asylum seekers may have , his commitment to his his ideals impressed local GroenLinks factions and gained praise from a number of migration experts, including a professor at Radboud university.

The Dutch government formation talks between the VVD, CDA, D66 and GroenLinks . And again the problem was the asylum policy. The VVD and CDA want to make deals with North African countries - like Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea - on shelter for asylum seekers in the region. Jesse Klaver and GroenLinks are firmly opposed to this.

Klaver fears that the local authorities will not be able to adequately protect the asylum seekers under their care, and that any agreements made with the North African regimes will be very difficult to enforce. Instead he wants the Netherlands to take in more asylum seekers. "We will not send anyone back to countries where it is unsafe", Klaver said in the Tweede Kamer on Tuesday.

Henk van Houtum, expert in European border policy and professor at Radboud University, thinks that Klaver definitely has the right idea about asylum deals with North Africa. "Deals with shady, North African regimes are legally untenable and extremely unwise", he said to Financieele Dagblad. "It is known that regimes in Libya, Sudan and Eritrea do not take human rights very seriously. Nevertheless the Netherlands want North African countries to be responsible for the asylum seekers that the Netherlands is apparently to full for."

Read more: Green party's strong stance on migration praised by Radboud Univ. professor, local parties | NL Times

6/18/17

France: Macron wins massive majority in French parliament but record abstention mars election - by Ben Mcpartland

President Emmanuel Macron's Republique en Marche (REM) party were set to gain a massive majority in the French parliament, according to initial estimations on Sunday evening.

The initial results for the second round of France's parliamentary elections suggest Macron's REM party and its centrist allies Modem will gain something between 395 and 420 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly.

Reacting to the results Macron's Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said: "By a large majority the French people have chosen hope over anger, optimism over pessimism, confidence over decline."

 Read more: Macron wins massive majority in French parliament but record abstention mars election - The Local

USA: Hannity of Fox News: "Deep state's massive effort to destroy Trump"

Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Friday night slammed news outlets like The New York Times and CNN as “willing accomplices” for the deep state that is intent on damaging President Trump’s presidency by leaking, in many cases, misinformation to the American public.

“The major news outlets, citing unnamed sources, “have all gotten it wrong on this issue,” Hannity said. “They all, at this point with the American public, should have zero credibility.”

The “deep state,” an alleged shadowy network of powerful entrenched federal and military interests, has increasingly become the focus of Republicans who accuse such forces of trying to undermine the new president. Though senior White House staff members don’t use the exact label, the notion behind it has taken hold.

To Trump’s critics, these assertions come off as paranoid fear of a non-existent shadow government and an effort to create a scapegoat for the White House’s struggles. But to Trump’s supporters, this represents an overdue challenge to an elite ruling class concerned only with maintaining its own grasp on power.

Hannity said the public should take these “smoking gun” reports that appear to break every night “with a grain of salt.”

Note EU-Digest: Total nonsense by Fox News. President Trump shoots himself in the foot over and over again and he himself is his number one enemy.

Read more: Hannity: Deep state's massive effort to destroy Trump | Fox News

Germany: Aldi fires $3.4 billion shot in U.S. supermarket wars

One of the several Aldi's in Fort Lauderdale
German grocery chain Aldi Inc [ALDIEI.UL] said on Sunday it would invest $3.4 billion to expand its U.S. store base to 2,500 by 2022, raising the stakes for rivals caught in a price war.

Aldi operates 1,600 U.S. stores and earlier this year said it would add another 400 by the end of 2018 and spend $1.6 billion to remodel 1,300 of them.

The investment, which raises Aldi's capital expenditure to at least $5 billion so far this year, comes at a time of intense competition and disruption in the industry.

German rival Lidl will open the first of its 100 U.S. stores on June 15. In May, Lidl said it would price products up to 50 percent lower than rivals.

The furious pace of expansion by Aldi and Lidl is likely to further disrupt the U.S. grocery market, which has seen 18 bankruptcies since 2014. The two chains are also upending established UK grocers like Tesco Plc (TSCO.L) and Wal-Mart's UK arm, ASDA.

In May, Aldi Chief Executive Jason Hart told Reuters the chain intended to have prices at least 21 percent lower than rivals and would focus on adding in-house brands to win over price-sensitive customers.

"We're growing at a time when other retailers are struggling," Hart said in a statement. Hart added that Aldi's prices were also up to 50 percent lower than traditional grocery chains, a move that appeared to follow rival Lidl's announcement on prices

Read more: Aldi fires $3.4 billion shot in U.S. supermarket wars | Reuters

European Aircraft Industry: Airbus A380 upgrade waits in the wings at Paris Airshow

The Airbus A-380
Airbus is preparing to roll out a novel A380 wingtip design to rally support for the world's largest passenger jet by improving its fuel efficiency, according to a prototype seen on Saturday.

A Reuters photographer got up close to the roughly three-meter-high split wingtip which has been installed on an A380 belonging to the Air and Space Museum at Le Bourget airport, where the Paris Airshow opens on Monday.

It confirms an upgrade reported by Reuters and Usine Nouvelle on Friday. Airbus declined comment.

Drag-reducing 'scimitar' split wingtips have been used on Boeing's medium-haul Boeing 737 MAX, but never on a jetliner the size of the A380, which has a 79.9-metre (262-foot) wingspan.

The aircraft sporting the prototype 'winglet' will be towed out to join others on display at the June 19-25 air show, giving airlines a glimpse of an improvement that Airbus hopes will turn around the present weak sales of its flagship double-decker

Read more: Airbus A380 upgrade waits in the wings at Paris Airshow | Reuters

6/17/17

U.S. Administration Strategy in the Middle East Is Deeply Problematic and EU Should Not Be Involved

In his "landmark speech" last month in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, President Trump called on all “responsible nations” to “work together to end the humanitarian crisis in Syria, eradicate ISIS and restore stability to the region.” While all three are desirable goals, the strategy for achieving them that Mr. Trump outlined in that same speech will achieve precisely the opposite. “Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace,” Mr. Trump said, “all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran.” The president then called for a U.S.-backed pan-Arab coalition aligned against Iran, which, he says, is stoking “the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.” While that is certainly true, the same could be said of several other states in the region, including the one in which the president delivered his speech.

The president’s proposal is deeply flawed. What is happening in the Middle East today is largely a regional power struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The conflict in Syria is a proxy war, not between the United States and Russia, as some American commentators have suggested, but between the two major powers vying for regional hegemony. By taking sides in the struggle, the administration will only prolong the agony. What is required instead is a kind of détente between Saudi Arabia and Iran, one that would rob their proxies of their reasons to keep fighting. The timing may be right for such an effort. Jean-François Seznec, a Middle Eastern expert at the Atlantic Council, told Voice of America late last year: “Having low oil prices is making life much more difficult for Saudi Arabia and Iran…. If there were a major military conflagration, it would ruin both of them, and I think they realize that.”

The president’s proposal is deeply flawed. What is happening in the Middle East today is largely a regional power struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The conflict in Syria is a proxy war, not between the United States and Russia, as some American commentators have suggested, but between the two major powers vying for regional hegemony. By taking sides in the struggle, the administration will only prolong the agony. What is required instead is a kind of détente between Saudi Arabia and Iran, one that would rob their proxies of their reasons to keep fighting. The timing may be right for such an effort. Jean-François Seznec, a Middle Eastern expert at the Atlantic Council, told Voice of America late last year: “Having low oil prices is making life much more difficult for Saudi Arabia and Iran…. If there were a major military conflagration, it would ruin both of them, and I think they realize that.”

Note EU-Digest: According to a New York Times report, President Donald Trump’s strange allyship with Saudi Arabia over Qatar is cause for suspicion about whether his allegiances are informed by business interests.

The report noted that Trump has been in business with the Saudis for 20 years, since he sold ownership of the Plaza Hotel to a Saudi prince and has one golf course in the United Arab Emirates with another on the way. He hasn’t, however, been able to enter into the market in Qatar.

Also please note : Trump, is the first US president in 40 years who’s failed to divest from all his personal businesses upon taking office, has fallen under criticism for doing so.

“Critics say his singular decision to hold on to his global business empire inevitably casts a doubt on his motives, especially when his public actions dovetail with his business interests,” the Times reported.

Another weird development is that just one week after President Donald Trump accused Qatar of funding terrorism, the United States has agreed to sell Qatar $12 billion worth of F-15s. 

Hopefully EU member states will have the "guts" to totally distance themselves from this bizarre Trump Administration foreign policy, in any form or shape, be it in the Middle East, or any other part of the world .  

EU-Digest