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8/16/17

USA - Presidential Chaos: Bush presidents wade into Trump furore over Charlottesville

Former Presidents George HW Bush and George W Bush have called on the US to "reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism and hatred in all forms".

They are the latest Republican figures to weigh in on the backlash to Donald Trump's latest remarks blaming "both sides" for violent clashes in Virginia.

It culminated with a woman's death and nearly 20 wounded when a car ploughed into a crowd at the far-right rally.

Read more: Bush presidents wade into Trump furore over Charlottesville - BBC News

Britain: Former UK cabinet aid calls for new party to oppose Brexit

The former chief of staff to Britain’s Secretary of State for Exiting the EU has claimed that two serving cabinet ministers are interested in his idea of forming a new centrist ‘anti-Brexit’ party.

James Chapman, a former aide to David Davis and ex-Chancellor George Osborne, has told the BBC Brexit would be a ‘calamity’ as he stepped up his online campaign for a proposed ‘Democrat’ party, saying Britain’s impending departure from the bloc would spell demise for the conservative party.

Read more: Former UK cabinet aid calls for new party to oppose Brexit | Euronews

Germany: Air Berlin files for bankruptcy protection

Crisis-stricken German airline Air Berlin is seeking protection from its creditors after running out of cash to stay solvent.

But the airline says it wants to remain in operation following a government bailout.

Read more: Air Berlin files for bankruptcy protection | Business | DW | 15.08.2017

8/15/17

The Global Economy: The New World Order Is Leaving the U.S. Behind - by James Gibney

Of all the global consequences of President Donald Trump’s first half-year, surely one of the most surprising is the rise in multilateral diplomacy.

After all, this is the guy who came into office pledging to put America First. He downgraded the security guarantees of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to a definite maybe -- and only if its members ponied up more defense dollars. The Iran nuclear pact was “the worst deal ever,” and the Paris accord on climate change wasn’t much better. The Trans-Pacific Partnership was dead on arrival. Japan and South Korea’s free-riding days were over. The North American Free Trade Agreement was toast. The U.S. would ignore the rules of the World Trade Organization. And from its proposed cuts in foreign aid and United Nations peacekeeping to the empty offices and embassies of the State Department, the Trump administration has made clear how little it thinks of soft power and diplomacy.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the disintegration of the international liberal order. It’s started to reconstitute itself -- only not with the U.S. at its center. Unfortunately, that has less to do with a realization among our allies and partners that the burden must be more equitably shared than with the increasing recognition that Trump is not, as some U.S. diplomats liked to say about third world dictators during the Cold War, “someone we can do business with.”

That sentiment found its most trenchant expression in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s declaration, following Trump’s May trip to Europe, that the continent “must really take our fate into our own hands.” The net result of the Trump administration’s antipathy to free trade and cooperation on climate change and refugee resettlement was a united front against the U.S. at both the Group of Seven and Group of 20 meetings.

Jilted by the U.S., the other 11 members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership are moving ahead on their own. Canada and Mexico are working together more closely than ever to save Nafta. Asian nations are hedging their bets between the U.S. and China. Trump’s tough talk on Mexico has prompted it to reach out to its hemispheric rival Brazil on defense cooperation.

In conclusion: But even bilateral agreements require a degree of discipline and coordination that Trump has yet to display. For now, Trump’s reflexive trashing of President Barack Obama’s policy choices without offering any coherent alternatives has left the U.S. on awkward ground. It’s one thing for other countries to fill a diplomatic vacuum created by a gradual U.S. withdrawal; it’s another for them to do so in the wake of a scorched-earth retreat. If and when the U.S. recovers its strategic senses, it might find itself reduced to occupying a much less attractive seat at the multilateral table.

Read more: The New World Order Is Leaving the U.S. Behind - Bloomberg

Tropical Diseases Now In Europe: Holiday season means risk of tropical diseases - by Steve Bridges

Warmer weather and summer travel put tropical mosquito-borne diseases on the European health authorities’ radar.

The warming climate has unpredictable and wide-ranging impacts on the environment. Some climate effects on human health are direct, such as extreme weather and rising sea levels that threaten low-lying areas. Other climate change effects on health are no less unpredictable but more indirect.

The Asian Tiger mosquito and Yellow Fever mosquito species are now present in parts of Europe
thanks to warmer temperatures, bringing the risk of tropical diseases with them.

August and September are the primary transmission season for mosquito-borne diseases.

Italy saw the first locally acquired case of "chikungunya" in Europe, with over 200 individuals affected. Chikungunya causes fever and severe joint pain that is often debilitating and can vary in duration.

There have also been cases of "dengue fever" in France, Madeira, and Croatia. Dengue causes bleeding, low levels of blood platelets and plasma, joint pain, and fever.

And the first EU cases of "West Nile fever" were detected in Italy and Romania in 2016.

Read more: Holiday season means risk of tropical diseases in Europe

8/14/17

The Netherlands: Experts say: Netherland's frugal ways caused egg scare

Dutch Government getting "egg on their face"
As Europe-wide health scare continues, millions of eggs have been pulled from supermarket shelves across the old continent and dozens of poultry farms have closed since it emerged on Aug. 1 that eggs contaminated with fipronil, which can harm human health, were being exported and sold. Fipronil is widely used to rid household pets such as dogs and cats of fleas, but is banned by the European Union from treating animals destined for human consumption, including chickens.

The World Health Organization says fipronil is "moderately hazardous" in large quantities, with potential danger to people's kidneys, liver and thyroid glands.

Food safety authorities in The Netherlands - where farmers are at the epicenter of the row - this week admitted they received an anonymous tip-off last November about the use of fipronil in chicken pens but refuted allegations of negligence.

"It's mind-blowing that there was no connection made then, between the tip-off and the fact that fipronil may have contaminated both the chickens and the eggs," Dutch investigative journalist and food writer Marcel van Silfhout told AFP.

Had the NVWA, the Dutch food and goods watchdog, acted at that point, the latest trouble to hit the export-dependent Dutch food industry could have largely been avoided, said Van Silfhout, who penned a critical book about food safety and the NVWA in 2014.

Martin van den Berg, a professor and senior toxicologist at Utrecht University's Institute of Risk Assessment Sciences, added: "If there were investigators who were experts in this area and understood the impact of fipronil, maybe there would have been a different reaction."

But after consultations following the tip-off, the NVWA decided "there was no reason to think that fipronil would enter either eggs or chickens," two Dutch ministers said in a letter to parliament on Thursday.

Much of the current problem can be traced back to a growing loss of expertise; the NVWA and its predecessors have faced a series of cutbacks and trims since 2003, experts say.

The heavily burdened agency - which deals with food security but also general safety of goods - saw its permanent staff shrink from 3,700 full-time jobs in 2003 to 2,200 over the next decade, according to the Dutch Christian-based daily Trouw. Though the number is now back up slightly to about 2,600, many employees are not experts in their fields, according to Van Silfhout.

"There is no doubt that the problem started with the cutbacks since 2003," he said.

Since then, a series of food scandals to hit The Netherlands, including the outbreak of Q fever in 2007, which killed dozens of people, firmly laid the blame on the NVWA.

"A culture of soft enforcement took hold ... instead of clear independent inspections," Van Silfhout wrote. Pieter van Vollenhoven, Princess Margriet's husband and a former Dutch Safety Board chairman, agreed.

"At (farming) companies, economic considerations quickly took the lead," he told the Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad in a recent interview.

"The NVWA must stand up for public interest, for food security. Alas, the agency in reality is not a food watchdog, but an extension of economic policy," Van Vollenhoven said.

Read more Experts say : Netherland's frugal ways caused egg scare - Daily Sabah

European Aircraft Industry: Iran in talks to buy 48 Airbus helicopters

Airbus Helicopter
Iran is holding talks with European planemaker Airbus to buy 48 helicopters for civilian use, an Iranian official was on Saturday quoted as saying, as Iran continues its shopping spree of Western aircraft after the lifting of sanctions.

"The Health Ministry is planning to order 45 HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) helicopters and the purchase is being negotiated by the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development," Iran's Financial Tribune daily quoted Deputy Minister Asghar Fakhrieh-Kashan as saying.
"Ports and Maritime Organization is also planning to hold a tender to purchase three search-and-rescue helicopters," he added. 

An Airbus Helicopters spokesman said: "We don't comment on discussions we may or may not be having with potential customers".

Read more: Iran in talks to buy 48 Airbus helicopters: report

Turkey’s economy: The next casualty of Erdoğan’s state of emergency – by Aykan Erdemir


For the past year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has exploited his country’s state of emergency to rule by decree, purging government ranks, imprisoning political dissenters and crushing independent media. But for all the attention paid to Turkey’s slippage in democratic norms, critics have largely ignored the heavy toll his brand of authoritarianism has taken on the country’s economy. The effects could be disastrous for Turkey’s future.

When Erdoğan first became prime minister in 2003, he inherited a struggling economy with a long list of structural problems. His greatest achievement during the first half of his 15-year tenure at the pinnacle of political power was to stick to a reform plan devised by the World Bank’s former Vice President Kemal Derviş and reorient Turkey’s foreign policy toward trade diplomacy.

But as he has consolidated power, he has become both more self-confident and more corrupt, replacing his original reform agenda with cronyism, nepotism and graft. Unless he ends his disastrous meddling in Turkish markets, the country’s volatile economy may well become the next casualty of last year’s abortive coup.

Turkey was already suffering from slowing growth and the highest percentage of youth not in employment, education or training, and the lowest labor force participation among OECD members. Morgan Stanley branded the country as one of “the Fragile Five” — overly dependent on short-term investment to finance its gaping current account deficit.

A key challenge for Turkey’s economy has long been weak governance. In 1995, a grand coalition of center-right and center-left parties established the Economic and Social Council, a quarterly consultative body to assemble labor, public, and private sector representatives to facilitate good governance.

But Erdoğan has refused to convene the Council since 2009, despite repeated calls to do so from the opposition. Under the current state of emergency, most economic decisions no longer involve parliament deliberations. They are simply the result of arbitrary decrees.

Erdoğan, for example, transferred the government’s stakes in Turkey’s flag carrier airline, two top public lenders, and fixed-line phone operator to the country’s newly-established sovereign wealth fund — and he did this simply with a decree.

The controversial fund is neither transparent nor accountable, and it’s exempt from the oversight of the Court of Accounts, which is responsible for auditing public administrative bodies.

To make matters worse, the fund is managed by cronies, including an Erdoğan adviser who once claimed foreign powers were trying to kill the president by “telekinesis.”

Turkey’s deteriorating rule of law has also eroded private property rights. In the past year alone, the government seized 879 businesses with assets worth over $11 billion, prompting potential buyers to worry about prolonged legal battles over ownership. The appointment of party loyalists to run these firms has only aggravated cronyism and mismanagement.

Read more: Turkey’s economy: The next casualty of Erdoğan’s state of emergency – POLITICO

8/13/17

The Netherlands - Employment: One million women in the Netherlands now work full time says TROUW Newspaper

 The number of women in the Netherlands with a full time job has broken the one million barrier for the first time, the newspaper Trouw said on Thursday.

The paper bases its claim on statistics supplied by the national statistics office CBS. ‘Ten years ago, the CBS first reported that 900,000 women had a full time job, but that was only 25% of all working women,’ the paper said.

Young women with a degree are most likely to work full time – almost half of them work at least 35 hours a week. Some 74% of all men aged 15 to 65 have a full-time job, down from 80% 10 years ago.

Nevertheless, the figure is over 82% for men aged 25 and upwards.

The Netherlands has a total population of  17.02 million according to 2016 official figures

Read more: One million women in the Netherlands now work full time: Trouw - DutchNews.nl

Brexit: EU should welcome the UK back from Brexit like the prodigal son - by Hugo Dixon

Pro-European Brits should put their heart into stopping Brexit rather than campaigning for a soft one. Mitigating the disaster of quitting the EU is a poor consolation prize.

Staying in the EU, on the other hand, is the real jackpot — and, since Theresa May’s disastrous general election, no longer a quixotic goal.

The soft Brexit brigade may gain comfort from the position papers the government will start publishing this week. These are expected to confirm that Mrs May is looking for a transitional deal to bridge the gap between quitting the EU and nailing down a new long-term relationship with our partners.

This shift is certainly welcome. But the government remains committed to leaving the EU’s single market and customs union, so its policy will still damage our economy.

Anyone who campaigns for soft Brexit will be doing the government’s dirty work for it. And, let us be clear, it is dirty work.

The cabinet’s disarray over what sort of Brexit they want is not just down to incompetence. They are trying to solve the impossible puzzle of getting a good Brexit. If the government wants to delay the pain, it will have to continue following the EU’s rules and paying into its budget for that transitional period.

Rather than giving Mrs May a helping hand, pro-Europeans should exploit her problems in order to drive further changes in public opinion. People have lost confidence in the prime minister’s ability to negotiate a good Brexit. Before the June general election, she seemed to walk on water; now she is drowning.

We will also find ourselves marginalised on the world stage and so less able to influence things that really matter to our citizens such as fighting terrorism, combating climate change and preventing the worst side-effects of globalisation.

Read more: EU should welcome the UK back from Brexit like the prodigal son

USA: A National Calamity in the Making: Robert Reich

The violence in Charlottesville, Virginia today is a national calamity. It is a product of white supremacists and home grown terrorists.

Donald Trump responded by condemning hatred “on many sides.” His refusal to call it what it is, and condemn the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and KKK members who perpetrated this violence, is a dangerous lie that fuels more hatred and violence.

Kudos to the Republican senators who are now calling on Trump to denounce the white supremacists that incited this tragedy. More must join the call. The country needs all our leaders – Republican and Democrat – to stand united against hatred and bigotry.

But all of us – you and I and every decent person in America – must also stand up against it: Not with violence, but with a firm and visible commitment to decency, tolerance, and the rule of law.

Don’t wait for Donald Trump to condemn it. He unleashed it. It is now up to us. We must not allow this in America.

Read more: Robert Reich: A National Calamity in the Making | Alternet

Spain’s government prepares to stop Catalan breakaway vote - by Sarah Morris

Less than two months ahead of a planned independence referendum in Catalonia, Spanish government ministers are braced for having their holidays interrupted by separatist moves.

Prime minister Mariano Rajoy has said he would call them back for an extraordinary cabinet meeting if the Catalan government presents a law this month for the vote on 1 October.

“With calmness and moderation, we have to say that there won’t be a referendum on 1 October,” Rajoy told reporters, speaking while on holiday at his home region of north-west Galicia.

The Spanish government says that the vote is illegal since the 1978 Constitution gives sovereignty to all Spaniards, meaning they all have a say over the whole of the country’s territory.

The government has repeatedly taken legal action against moves to hold independence votes, and has made it clear that it will consider prosecuting civil servants who defy court rulings to help in the October vote.

Madrid has, however, resisted outlining what further action it would take if the Catalan government, the Generalitat, ignores court orders, which it says it no longer considers legitimate.

The Spanish Constitution includes an article that allows for the suspension of the powers of an autonomous region. The police could be sent to confiscate ballot boxes and make arrests on 1 October.

Read more: Spain’s government prepares to stop Catalan breakaway vote

8/12/17

EU-US Relations: Isn't it time for a transatlantic divorce or at least a separation? - editorial

When the US President Trump went to Europe earlier in the summer his trip certainly did not score many positive points, but at least what it did was show the EU and its leaders that they had to start taking more responsibility for the direction in which the EU should be heading.

This hit home even harder when German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a speech back home declaring "the times in which we could rely fully on others" are "somewhat over" and suggesting Europe "really take our fate into our own hands."

Interviews with six top EU officials paint a picture of a US president who is regarded even by allies as erratic and limited, and whose shortcomings are compounded by the ongoing chaos beneath him in the White House.

The US President has also become something of a laughing stock among European politicians at international gatherings. One revealed that a small group of diplomats play a version of word bingo, whenever the president speaks because they consider his vocabulary to be so limited. “Everything is ‘great’, ‘very, very great’, ‘amazing’,” the diplomat said.

But behind the mocking, there is growing fear among international and EU governments that Trump is a serious threat to international peace and stability.

But unfortunately the negative perception is not just about President Trump, it is also, and probably more so about the overall state of the country's totally disfunctional gridlocked political system.

Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase & Co, who  is known for his frequently outspoken comments and who turned down an opportunity to become Donald Trump’s Treasury Secretary, noted at a conference he was attending:  “It’s almost an embarrassment being an American citizen traveling around the world ... listening to the stupid s*** we have to deal with in the US,” he said. “At one point we all have to get our act together, or we won’t do what we’re supposed to do for the average Americans.”

JPMorgan Chase & Co, which under Dimon's leadership reported a profit of $7.03bn for the second quarter, 13 per cent higher than last year, has also made $26.5bn over the past 12 months, a record profit for a US bank, according to the Associated Press.

Eric Zuess, writing in Counterpunch: noted , "American democracy is a sham, no matter how much it's pumped by the oligarchs who run the country (and who control the nation's "news" media)," he wrote. "The US, in other words, is basically similar to Russia or most other dubious 'electoral' 'democratic' countries. We weren't formerly, but we clearly are now."

Like it or not, the US has become an oligarchy and is not a democracy anymore. The country is dominated by a rich and powerful elite. So concludes a recent study by Princeton University Prof Martin Gilens and Northwestern University Prof Benjamin I Page.

They come to this conclusion by multivariate analysis, which indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.

In plain English: in the US the wealthy few move policy, while the average American has little power.

This brings us back to the need for the EU to seriously review their Transatlantic relationship with the US. because what used to bind the two continents together in the past, has disappeared, mainly because of a series of developments (described above) on the opposite side of the Atlantic.

For the Europeans it might look as an impossible task at the moment, but in reality won't be too difficult to do.

Let us keep in mind that the EU as an independent economic entity has the power to do so, all it requires now is the unity and will-power to follow through.

The only major objective it will require is unity among EU States, in carving out an independent foreign policy for the EU, which is detached from that of the US, specifically when it concerns military operations, in addition to economic policies and trade agreements.

In the past, what has been good for America, has not, or hardly ever been beneficial to the EU.

Specially the EU involvement in US Middle East wars, which caused the worst immigrant crises ever faced by the EU. 

Also important to remember - The European Union is not a "tidly-bitly" disorganized group of nations. It  ranks as the world’s second-largest economy by gross domestic product, but few people globally see it as an economic leader ahead of China or the United States, according to a recent Pew Research Center report.

Even citizens of the EU don't seem to be aware of the power the EU has. Time maybe for the EU to start blowing their own horn - because when our own people are left in the dark, it's  no-one's fault except our own. 

Another important fact: At the latest census in 2015 the EU had 743.1 million inhabitants, more than double that of the US, which at the latest census there in 2016 had 323.1 million.

So EU Commission and EU Parliament, please wake-up, and smell the roses - the time is now to take serious and decisive action.

Where there is a will there is a way. The EU can't keep walking in "lock-step" with the US anymore 

EU-Digest

North Korea: China urges Trump not to worsen situation

China's President Xi Jinping has urged Donald Trump and North Korea to avoid "words and actions" that worsen tensions, state media say.

Mr Trump and North Korea have been exchanging hostile rhetoric, with the US president threatening to rain "fire and fury" on the North.

But China, North Korea's only major ally, has been urging restraint.
A White House statement said the US and China agreed North Korea must stop "provocative and escalatory behaviour".

A statement by North Korea's official KCNA news agency issued on Saturday said the Trump administration "had better talk and act properly," if it did not want "the American empire to meet its tragic doom".

Read more: North Korea: China urges Trump not to worsen situation - BBC News

Trump alarms Venezuela with talk of 'military option' to quell chaos

President Donald Trump said Friday that he wouldn't rule out military action against Venezuela in response to the country's descent into political chaos following President Nicolas Maduro's power grab.

Trump's comment mark a serious escalation in rhetoric for the US, which has up until now stressed a regional approach that encourages Latin American allies to escalate pressure on the Maduro regime. Hours before Trump's comments, a senior administration official speaking on condition of anonymity stressed that approach while briefing reporters on Vice President Mike Pence's upcoming trip to the region later this week.

Trump alarms Venezuela with talk of 'military option' to quell chaos - France 24

8/11/17

Brexit: British expats rush to get ‘dual citizenship’ in EU nations after Brexit - by Belinda Robinson

The race is on to ensure that they are not kicked out after the UK formally leaves Brussels, as many Britons grow increasingly anxious about their future, research suggests.

Some have blasted the Government for leaving them behind and “forgetting” about their needs while they focus on negotiating the rights of the 3.2 million European citizens living in the UK.

Catherine Dobson, an English editor living in the Poitou-Charentes region in France publishes “Living”, a magazine with a circulation of 32,000 for British people.

Theresa May announced that the freedom of movement for EU citizens would end on March 2019 - the official Brexit month.

And it is still unclear exactly what rights European citizens living in the UK will have.

It is equally unclear what rights the 1.2 million Britons living throughout Europe will be entitled too, so many are attempting to secure their future by opting to become dual citizens.

Ms Dobson told Le Figaro: "We do not have anyone to represent us and we can hardly make our voices heard.”

Read more: British expats rush to get ‘dual citizenship’ in EU nations after Brexit | World | News | Express.co.uk

Chemical Giants: The World vs. Monsanto: A Short History of the Battle Against the Most Evil Corporation on the Planet - by Jason Louv

Starting in 2013, the Monsanto Company made a major play to not only consolidate its control over the agribusiness industry, but to seize permanent control of the entire world’s food supply. Ultraculture, and the entire world, fought back. Here’s a history of the Great Monsanto War of 2013-15.

From 2013 to 2015, Ultraculture helped lead the charge against the Monsanto Company, and worked to guide and encourage the global effort to get chemicals and genetic tampering out of our food supply.

Monsanto has relentlessly and ruthlessly lobbied for the ability to re-engineer our food for profit, without consumers knowing what it’s doing—particularly in the United States.

Thanks to a network of lobbyists passed through the “revolving door” between public office and private corporate appointments, Monsanto has been able to operate largely without the American public having any awareness of its actions.

But nothing can stay hidden for long. Our reporting on Monsanto rocketed to the top of Reddit, breaking the story of the “Monsanto Protection Act,” helping to initiate the global furor that prompted the two-million-strong “March Against Monsanto” and forcing the company into backpedal mode as its stock took a hit.

All of this reporting (which we followed up with by breaking the story of the TPP at Vice News) resulted in a book, Monsanto vs. the World, which took a critical and investigative look at the company and has since become a lasting success, achieving ongoing sales, becoming a go-to text of the anti-GMO movement and being placed on the syllabus of multiple college courses.

Now it’s time to round up all of our Monsanto reporting into one cornerstone post, which collects the best of our reporting to archive the history of the Great Monsanto War for posterity. The fight against Monsanto—and genetic (specifically transgenic) tampering with food—goes on, and it’s important to have the information summarized for easy access.

To read the complete report click here: The World vs. Monsanto: A Short History of the Battle Against the Most Evil Corporation on the Planet

The Netherlands - the contaminated egg scandal: Fipronil in eggs: Dutch police arrest two suspects

The Netherlands Egg Contamination Scandal
Police in the Netherlands have detained two businessmen suspected of being involved in the illegal use of a pesticide in the poultry industry. Millions of fipronil-contaminated eggs have been recalled since the scandal broke.

Dutch prosecutors said in a statement Thursday the men are directors of a company that allegedly used an unauthorized insecticide at poultry farms.

Investigators in the Netherlands and Belgium made the arrests during a string of coordinated raids linked to their probe into how fipronil, which can be harmful to humans, made it into the food chain.

"The Dutch investigation focused on the Dutch company that allegedly used fipronil, a Belgian supplier as well as a Dutch company that colluded with the Belgian supplier," the prosecutors said.

"They are suspected of putting public health in danger by supplying and using fipronil in pens containing egg-laying chickens."

Authorities in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany recalled millions of eggs at the start of the month after the discovery of fipronil in batches delivered to supermarkets. Dozens of poultry farms, mainly in the Netherlands but also in Belgium, have been closed down, while supermarkets have cleared tainted eggs from their shelves.

The French agriculture ministry confirmed on Friday that 250,000 contaminated eggs had been "on the market" in France between April and July. Five companies using egg products had been involved. A first batch of 196,000 eggs from Belgium had been placed on the market between April 16 and May 2 and a second lot from the Netherlands of 48,000 eggs had been sold through Leader Price shops between July 19 and 28.

Note EU-Digest: The European Commissioner charged with food safety has called for a meeting of ministers and national watchdogs to discuss the fallout of an eggs contamination scare that has led to finger pointing between several European Union members. 

Tensions had risen between agricultural ministers in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany after traces of moderately toxic insecticide fipronil were found in batches of eggs, linked by authorities to a Dutch supplier of cleaning products. 

Read more: Fipronil in eggs: Dutch police arrest two suspects | News | DW | 10.08.2017

German Political Update: Merkel’s Choice - by Holger Schmieding

Seven weeks ahead of the German election on 24 September, Chancellor Angela Merkel can take it easy. She looks set to comfortably win a fourth term in office. The real questions are which coalition partner she will choose and whether that choice will make any difference.

For some aspects of domestic policy, the choice may matter a little. But the German approach to the bigger questions of foreign and European policy including European reforms and Brexit will probably not change in any major way regardless of Merkel’s choice of coalition partner.

In opinion polls, support for Merkel’s centre-right CDU/CSU has stabilised around 39%, 15 points ahead of the centre-left SPD led by Merkel’s challenger Martin Schulz.

Four other parties are on course to clear the 5% threshold and enter the federal parliament with roughly 8% each: the centre-left Greens (7.9% support on the average of the last seven polls), the ultra-left Left Party (8.7%), the liberal FDP (8.4%) and the right-wing AfD (8.1%).

As all other parties will shun the AfD, some combination of the other parties will form the next federal government. A coalition will need just above 47.5% of the popular vote for a majority of seats in parliament.

The two hypothetical alternatives to a Merkel-led government, a SPD-Green alliance with either the Left Party or the FDP, would command only 40.1% or 39.8% of the vote, respectively. They would thus fall at least seven points short of a majority.

Read more: German Political Update: Merkel’s Choice - The Globalist

8/10/17

EU Refugee Crises: EU needs a lasting solution to the refugee crisis- by Gianni Pittella


In the summer of 2015, images of the hundreds of thousands of refugees arriving on Europe’s shores dominated the front pages of European newspapers.

Journalists from every major publication were themselves migrating daily to new flashpoints, border fences or makeshift camps – chasing the latest scoop or story. Alongside this blanket media coverage came political urgency.

Heads of state and government met on an almost monthly basis to discuss the issue. However, as soon as the stories began disappearing from the front pages so did the political will to do something.

Despite the receding media coverage, the issue has not gone way.

While the numbers arriving in Greece have declined since the middle of 2015, the numbers arriving across the Mediterranean to Italy have increased markedly in the last two to three years.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants that have been rescued by the Italian navy and are now waiting in reception centres or being housed by local authorities, many of which are stretched to their limits.

Despite warnings from the Italian government, most EU member state continue to ignore the situation.

The newly elected president in France, Emmanuel Macron, has refused to open French ports to migrants and, in Austria, the foreign minister and defence minister even threatened to send the army to the Italian border to stop migrants crossing.

We are reaching another tipping point. Earlier this month we called for an extraordinary European Council summit to discuss migration before the summer break. National governments replied that this could wait till the autumn. This is simply not acceptable.

The most frustrating issue is that it does not need to be this way.

We are a continent of 500 million people and one of the richest regions of the planet – the arrival of a few hundred thousand refugees and migrants is manageable if we organize ourselves effectively.

Read more: EU needs a lasting solution to the refugee crisis

USA: This is not Trump's economy

How much credit should President Trump get for a U.S. economy that's generating lots of jobs and for a stock market that keeps setting record highs?

Very little.

Trump, of course, thinks MAGAnomics is doing the trick, as do his most ardent supporters. After the July jobs numbers came out last week, Fox News and other members of Team Trump were touting the more than 1 million private-sector jobs created since Inauguration Day. Over on Trump TV, former CNN pundit Kayleigh McEnany was even crediting the president with personally creating them. That Obama created the same number of jobs during his final six months was considered less newsworthy, apparently.

Presidents are always given too much credit or blame for economic performance on their watch. So many factors are outside their control. But beyond that, the idea that this is already "Trump's economy" is ridiculous. None of Trump's big agenda items — at least the ones corporate America and Wall Street really care about — have become law. No ObamaCare repeal. No massive tax cuts. No trillion-dollar infrastructure. Nothing.

Read more: This is not Trump's economy

Trump Administration: Donald Trump likely to resign before Congress can impeach him, says senior Democrat - by Tom Bachelor


Donald Trump would resign before Congress is able impeach him, a senior US representative has said, as pressure mounts over his team's alleged links to Russia.

Jackie Speier, who sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said attempts by the President to pardon members of his family or fire the man appointed to investigate Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election could trigger an impeachment vote.

“I have always thought that he was never going to fulfil his full term,” she said.

“I am more convinced that he will leave before any impeachment would take place.”

On Friday it emerged that the special counsel appointed to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 vote, Robert Mueller, was using a grand jury – suggesting his probe was entering a new, more serious, phase.

Read more: Donald Trump likely to resign before Congress can impeach him, says senior Democrat | The Independent

N.Korea: EU calls for negotiations and adds nine people, four entities to North Korea sanctions list

The European Union said on Thursday it added nine people and four entities to its North Korea sanctions list, as part of new United Nations measures in the wake of Pyongyang's latest missile tests.

The European Council of EU governments said the new sanctions included the state-owned Foreign Trade Bank (FTB). 

"The decision brings the total number of persons under restrictive measures (...) to 62 persons and 50 entities as listed by the UN. In addition, 41 persons and 7 entities are designated by the EU autonomously," the Council said on its website.

Read more: EU adds nine people, four entities to North Korea sanctions list

Climate Change is real: Canadian co-author of U.S. climate report says findings 'flatly contradict' Trump administration

A Canadian scientist who helped author an exhaustive U.S. draft report on climate change says the study makes it clear dramatic action is needed to stop global temperatures from rising, but that her team has no idea how the Trump administration will react to it.

The report, written by scientists from 13 federal agencies, concludes that the United States is already feeling the effects of climate change, with a stark increase in the frequency of heat waves, heavy rains and other extreme weather over the last four decades.

The report is now awaiting approval from U.S. President Donald Trump's administration.

"The reality is we need that policy mechanism to point us in the right direction as well, because otherwise we, as humans, are just resistant to change," said Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Texas Tech University Climate Science Center, in an interview with CBC Radio's The House.

"We're like, 'Why can't we do it the way we've always done it?" Well, we can't because we've found out there are side-effects," she said.

Read more: Canadian co-author of U.S. climate report says findings 'flatly contradict' Trump administration - Politics - CBC News

N.Korea - USA: What the U.S. Would Use to Strike North Korea - by Stratford Research

No other country can match the United States when it comes to projection of power. Should Washington decide to carry out a military strike against North Korea, even a limited one, the immediate impact would be devastating for Pyongyang. When considering military action, however, it is important to acknowledge the variables and intelligence gaps that inevitably complicate political and military decision-making. Even with the United States' advantage in training, coordination and equipment, complicating factors and uncertainty about the exact locations and dispositions of North Korean assets make complete mission success far from assured.

It is important to consider the parameters of any operation; in this case, we are basing our assumptions on a scenario in which the United States conducts a limited, stealthy attack using a small number of specialized platforms and weapons systems. The United States has enormous force projection and deep-strike capabilities. In a surprise attack scenario, the primary tools for the task would be stealth aircraft and standoff cruise missiles launched from ships and submarines.

The North Koreans have a dense and interlocked air defense network, but the force is obsolete and largely incapable of adequately defending against or even detecting full-spectrum stealth aircraft such as the U.S. B-2 bomber and F-22 tactical fighter. Because of their unique properties, these expensive, stealthy platforms would form the backbone of any anti-nuclear operations. Given enough time, the United States could assemble upward of 10 B-2 bombers for a deep-strike mission into North Korea.

The shorter combat radius of the F-22 would limit the number of aircraft available for the task, necessitating the deployment of the fighter to regional airfields. This in turn could alert Pyongyang to upcoming offensive operations. Using airfields in Japan and South Korea and operating under a highly restrictive operational security environment, the U.S. Air Force could probably deploy 24 F-22 aircraft for the mission, remaining fairly confident that undue suspicions were not raised in the process.
Each F-22 can be equipped with two 450-kilogram (1,000 pounds) GBU-32 JDAM bombs. The F-22 can actually carry a larger number of small diameter bombs instead of the bigger GBU-32, but the nature of the mission calls for more explosive heft. Unlike the multipurpose F-22, the B-2 Spirit is a designated bomber and can carry a lot more explosive weight per plane. Each B-2 would deploy with either 16 900-kilogram GBU-31 JDAMs or a pair of massive 13,600-kilogram GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrators to reach deep underground bunkers.

In addition to the guided bombs dropped by U.S. stealth aircraft, the United States can rely on large numbers of venerable BGM-109 Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles to fly in on the heels of the stealth aircraft and strike remaining targets. For the mission, the U.S. Navy (with enough time to prepare) can surreptitiously park two of its four Ohio-class cruise missile submarines off the North Korean coast. Together, these submarines can deploy more than 300 BGM-109 missiles. When combined with destroyers and cruisers from the 7th Fleet already in the area, the United States could use more than 600 cruise missiles for the mission.

With a force of 10 Massive Ordnance Penetrators and 80 900-kilogram GBU-31 JDAMs, the U.S. B-2 bombers alone are more than enough to dismantle or at least severely damage North Korea's known nuclear production infrastructure, as well as associated nuclear weapons storage sites. \

What the U.S. Would Use to Strike North Korea - Stratfor Worldview

8/9/17

Contaminated eggs: Belgium claims Dutch allowed sales of bad eggs for more than eight months - R,Hackwill

The scandal over insecticide-contaminated eggs that were discovered in the Netherlands last week and withdrawn from sale is taking on a European dimension, after the Belgians claimed the Dutch authorities knew about the problem late last year, but did nothing to prevent their export or inform the rest of the EU.

The scandal over insecticide-contaminated eggs that were discovered in the Netherlands last week and withdrawn from sale is taking on a European dimension, after the Belgians claimed the Dutch authorities knew about the problem late last year, but did nothing to prevent their export or inform the rest of the EU.

“Member states have the primary responsibility for conducting investigations and taking the appropriate measures. The European Commission has taken and will continue to take all available measures to assist them in their task,” said Commission spokesman Daniel Rosario.

Eggs are eggs, and can be tracked down and binned, but it is unclear how many have found their way into other things, like pasta or baked goods. Each country will have to perform its own enquiry.

Note EU-Digest: Basically the Dutch Government attitude to the problem is: "you would have to eat a lot of eggs before it would harm you" - like saying poison is only bad for you if you take too much of it. 

Poison is poison and non of it should be in the food chain, period.  

Read more: Belgium claims Dutch allowed sales of contaminated eggs for more than eight months | Euronews

USA: God has given Trump authority to take out North Korea's Kim Jong Un, evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress says - S. P. Bailey

Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, one of President Trump’s evangelical advisers who preached the morning of his inauguration, has released a statement saying the president has the moral authority to “take out” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“When it comes to how we should deal with evildoers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil,” Jeffress said.

“In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.”

Jeffress said in a phone interview that he was prompted to make the statement after Trump said that if North Korea’s threats to the United States continue, Pyongyang will be “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

Note EU-Digest: How crazy can you get? People like "Pastor" Robert Jeffress are the ones giving Christianity a bad rap.


Read more: God has given Trump authority to take out North Korea's Kim Jong Un, evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress says - The Washington Post

Tax Systems - money is not determinating factor: The happiest countries in the world also pay a lot in taxes

The US Tax System needs an overhaul
The happiest countries in the world in 2017 are prosperous Western-style liberal democracies.

Their populations are, in many cases, largely homogeneous. And they also have something else in common: They each pay a lot in taxes.

According to the United Nations' latest World Happiness Report, as covered by CBS News, the top 10 happiest countries are:
1. Norway
2. Denmark
3. Iceland
4. Switzerland
5. Finland
6. Netherlands
7. Canada
8. New Zealand
9. Australia
10. Sweden

Report co-author Jeffrey Sachs, who is also the director of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, tells CBS that "happiness is a result of creating strong social foundations," and that if other nations prioritized "social trust" and "healthy lives," they could also find that their citizens become more content.

The top three happiest countries, Norway, Denmark and Iceland, are all among the highest taxed countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in terms of total tax revenue as a percentage of GDP. The widely enjoyed social benefits residents get in exchange for their taxes, such as universal health care, access to education and subsidized parental leave, could have something to do with the "strong social foundations" touted by Sachs.

Note EU-Digest: These countries are happy, mainly for all the services they are getting in exchange for paying high taxes. Specially in the area of healthcare and low pharmaceutical costs, obviously also by enjoying great infrastructural advantages and obviously modern public transportation systems. In America right-wing politicians (mainly Republicans) have figured out that by telling the taxpayers they pay the lowest taxes in the world, it will make  corrupt practices by them easier. Unfortunately over time this made the US taxpayer the big loser.

Read more: The happiest countries in the world also pay a lot in taxes

Brexit: Lord Sugar: I'd fire Theresa May and send Jeremy Corbyn on a nice little trip to Siberia

Lord Sugar has said that if the general election was an Apprentice task, he would fire Theresa May and that Jeremy Corbyn would have won.

However, he did say the prize for Mr Corbyn's win should be a trip to Siberia.

The businessman, who used to be a Labour Peer before he resigned under Ed Miliband and became independent - and supported the Conservatives in the recent general election, was speaking to Emma Barnett on BBC Five Live.

He also said that Boris Johnson and Michael Gove should be in prison, or at least have criminal records, for their claim during the referendum campaign that £350million a week would go to the NHS post-Brexit.

Lord Sugar also said that he thinks that he should be on the negotiating team for Brexit, and that the current team isn't up to the job as they are politicians rather than businessmen and women.
 
He said that it is unlikely he will be asked, however, because he has never even met Theresa May.

He explained that David Davis and Liam Fox aren't up to the job,"not because they're bad people, but because they're businesspeople, they're politicians, not negotiators. They've never been anything apart from politicians.

"You need to have the right people doing the job properly.

"I see this departure from the EU is one of the biggest things that has happened to the adult population in this country. It's near to something as big as the Second World War really. When the country goes to war...the Government overall, oppoisition and the whole of the House of Commons [work together].

"All of the brains of the Labour Party and all of the brains of the Tory Party need to get together and get a good deal, push aside all the politics, push aside all the jibing at each other and put the best negotiators together that we have in the country.

"When that's done, they can knock each other's brains out".

Read more: Lord Sugar: I'd fire Theresa May and send Jeremy Corbyn on a nice little trip to Siberia

8/8/17

Trump and the Evangelicals: Op-Ed Susan Campbell: We Are The Other White Evangelicals

If you are a white evangelical Christian who doesn't support Donald Trump, expect to explain yourself — a lot.

Evangelicals — roughly defined as people who believe in conversion experiences, have a personal relationship with Jesus, and stress the importance of the Bible as their foundational document – have been a political force at least since the bicentennial, when Newsweek declared 1976 "The Year of the Evangelical."

That year, half of evangelicals voted for one of their own, Jimmy Carter, a real, live Baptist Sunday school teacher.

That's a hefty margin, but last November, some 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump, who is evangelical neither in word nor deed.

The theories as to what attracted white evangelicals to the most flawed president in history are many, but understand this: White evangelicals don't all sit in the same pew, and those who didn't flock to Trump are left with a feeling that the brand has been sullied by their fellows' support for the most flawed president in history.

"Even to this day, I struggle with whether I should still identify as an evangelical, but I think it's a term worth fighting for," says Ben Dubow, executive chef, director of culinary education and nutritional services at MACC Charities (MACC stands for Manchester Area Conference of Churches) and co-lead pastor at Hartford's Riverfront Family Church. "It's a movement worth fighting for," particularly considering the social justice issues that engage evangelicals — including one of Dubow's missions, feeding the hungry.

Dubow's path to Christianity started in his conservative Jewish family in Wilton. As a 4-year old, young Dubow called the family to the table for Shabbat services. In middle school, he and one of his sisters (he's one of seven) set as their goal saving Bridgeport from poverty.

And then in high school, Dubow researched a project on Taoism and Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (a fabulous political party platform, by the way). He also set out to write an expose for his school newspaper on Young Life, a Christian youth outreach program. (He was convinced it was a cult.) Instead, he converted to Christianity and later worked for the organization.

It was a rough conversion for his family to accept, though they reconciled and still spend part of each summer together on Martha's Vineyard.

For the complete report click here

EU president Jean-Claude Juncker picks a fight with Donald Trump - by Jon Stone

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has publicly mocked Donald Trump’s chaotic White House – potentially inviting a row with the volatile US president.

Describing the tumultuous events the last week in Washington DC as “stunning” Mr Juncker claimed the EU was “better organised” than the US.

“We are better organised than the Trump administration. That is because if there are any internal difficulties, those difficulties are fixed in a direct conversation instead of by firing people,” Mr Juncker told the Politico Europe website.

Read more: EU president Jean-Claude Juncker picks a fight with Donald Trump | The Independent

Israel: Plans to shut down Al Jazeera an attack on media freedom

In response to the announcement by Israel’s communications minister, Ayoub Kara, that the Israeli government has decided to close Al Jazeera’ s office in Jerusalem and take the channel off air,

Amnesty International’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director, Magdalena Mughrabi said:

“This is a brazen attack on media freedom in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The move sends a chilling message that the Israeli authorities will not tolerate critical coverage.

“By acting to suppress Al Jazeera the Israeli government joins a host of other countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia, which have demanded the channel’s closure in the wake of the dispute between Gulf countries and Qatar.

“All journalists should be free to carry out their work without facing harassment or intimidation.

Instead of initiating a repressive clampdown on freedom of expression the Israeli authorities must halt any attempt to silence critical media.”

Read more: Israel: Plans to shut down Al Jazeera an attack on media freedom | Amnesty International

8/7/17

Turkey: Is the EU-Turkey Refugee Deal on the Ropes? - by Judy Dempsey

Although both Turkey and Germany have at times threatened to pull out of the March 2016 EU-Turkey refugee deal, all indicators point to its survival, despite the heated rhetoric from both sides.

Why? The answer is simple. The deal is solely one of convenience—a pragmatic bargain struck between two parties based on a realpolitik-driven calculation of interests. Europe wants to stem the tide of migrants reaching its shores; Turkey wants cash and other benefits.

The deal may pose an administrative burden for Greece and threaten scores of migrants, but the interests in its success almost guarantee that it will not be scrapped. Despite Europe’s concerns about Turkey’s massive government-led purge and crackdown in the wake of the July 2016 coup attempt and the diplomatic rows over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s use of inflammatory rhetoric against Europe, the desire to keep Turkey as a partner in curbing migration flows is likely to outweigh any sense of moral outrage.

The EU has similar arrangements with Morocco and Tunisia and is seeking further agreements with Jordan, Lebanon, and numerous African states. As such, the EU-Turkey deal is part of a larger strategy of outsourcing migration control, which is set to continue.

Judy Asks: Is the EU-Turkey Refugee Deal on the Ropes? - Carnegie Europe - Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Israel: Angry protests in Israel against PM

There have been protests at the home of Israel’s attorney general.

Demonstrators are urging Avichai Mandelblit to bring indictments in two corruption investigations involving Prime Minister , Benjamin Netanyahu.

There have been protests for the last six months, amid claims the attorney general is dragging his feet in the case.

However, more turned out this weekend after news that Netanyahu’s former chief of staff turned state witness on Friday.

Ari Harow has agreed to give testimony on behalf of the state in two graft cases in which the Israeli leader has been questioned as a suspect.

Ari Harow’s decision to turn state witness as part of a plea bargain in his own separate corruption case adds a new dimension to a long-running investigation involving Netanyah=

Read more: Angry protests in Israel | Euronews

Islam: The Berlin mosque breaking Islamic taboos - by Damien McGuinness

With its red-brick spire and stained-glass windows, St Johannes looks like any other 19th-Century Protestant church.

Go around the back, however, head up a few flights of stairs and you come to a simple white room, with shoes neatly laid out at the entrance and patterned prayer rugs folded away in a corner. That is because this is a mosque.

The room is being rented from the parish, while the church remains active.

But the mosque is not unusual because of its location. Rather, because of the people who come here.

At Berlin's newest mosque, men and women pray together, women are allowed to lead Friday prayers, and gay, lesbian and transgender people are welcome.

"Our mosque is open for everybody," says mosque founder Seyran Ates, a German Turkish-born lawyer and women's rights activist.

"And we mean that really seriously: everybody, every lifestyle. We are not God. We don't decide who's a good or a bad Muslim. Anybody can come through this door - whether you are heterosexual or homosexual, we don't care, it's not our right to ask."

Read more: The Berlin mosque breaking Islamic taboos - BBC News

Polish government preparing EU rift, Tusk warns-by Andrew Rettman

European Council president and former Polish leader Donald Tusk has said the Polish government is preparing to put his native country’s EU membership into question.

Tusk spoke outside the Polish prosecutor’s office on Thursday (3 August) in Warsaw where he spent eight hours answering questions about his role in the 2010 Smolensk air disaster.

The probe is widely seen as an attempt by the ruling Law and Justice party to blacken his name.

But Tusk highlighted the fact that Law and Justice has ignored an EU court order to stop logging in the primeval Bialowierza forest.

"There is a question mark over Poland's European future today," he said.

“The fact that a European tribunal decision is rejected so arrogantly is evidence of something very dangerous in my opinion - it is an overt attempt to put Poland in conflict with the European Union,” he went on.

Read more: Polish government preparing EU rift, Tusk warns

USA: ‘Fake news’? The Russia investigation is getting very, very real - by Amber Phillips

President Trump keeps calling the Russia investigation ‘fake news.’ But with each passing week, the independent investigation into Trump's campaign ties to Russia is getting more real, not less.

It's expanding, both in size and scope. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has built a team of lawyers who have expertise in cybercrime, white-collar crime, the mob, money laundering and Watergate. Together, his team has more than a century of legal experience.

The Justice Department's No. 2, Rod J. Rosenstein, originally appointed Mueller to investigate Trump campaign connections to Russia, but Mueller has wide latitude to look into whatever he wishes. So far, we know that's expanded to: Jared Kushner, Michael Flynn, unspecified financial crimes and very specific accusations by the former FBI director that Trump himself tried to obstruct justice.

Read more: ‘Fake news’? The Russia investigation is getting very, very real. - The Washington Post

8/6/17

Soccer: Holland beat Denmark 4-2 to win Euro 2017 final – video highlights

 Hosts Holland won Euro 2017 after coming from behind to beat Denmark 4-2 in the final on Sunday evening. Two goals from Vivianne Miedema and strikes from Lieke Martens and Sherida Spitse secured the victory and the first major trophy for the Dutch women’s side

Read and see video: Holland beat Denmark 4-2 to win Euro 2017 final – video highlights | Football | The Guardian

Is the Christian community still aware of their roots? - Jesus death abolished all rules

Jesus many miracles included raising people back from death
Jesus was the most revolutionary person to ever walk on earth some 2000 years ago, and in reality even so when we compare him to any of our today's mortal revolutionaries.

The claims he made in regard to himself were a direct threat to the Jewish authorities.

The ruling class that had power over the people during his day was a group of highly educated religious leaders.

Jesus was a common man, the son of a carpenter who had no formal religious training. Few seemed to know about his miraculous birth, or that his birthplace was Bethlehem, the city of David, and the place where the Messiah was to come from, according to Old Testament prophecies.

So when Jesus began his public ministry, he seemingly just appeared out of obscurity. He came from a town called Nazareth, which was not considered a significant town. So when Jesus claimed that he was the Son of God and the fulfillment of prophecies regarding the Messiah, the Jewish King, who was to come from the family of David and lead the Jewish people, the authorities of those days were extremely concerned.

So how did this common man with no formal education and seemingly no royal heritage become so popular among the people, that he very quickly became a threat to the ruling authorities?

It was primarily through his miracles, most of them miracles of healing that made people aware of him.

His miracles validated his teaching and claims as to who he was. Jesus taught with great authority, and he backed up what he taught by casting out demons and healing people, and in some cases even raising dead people back to life.

This was a huge threat to the ruling class  for a variety of reasons. The most obvious threat, of course, was that people were claiming that he was the Messiah, the rightful heir to the throne of David. So the ruling party looked for ways to discredit Jesus both in his actions and in his words. Some of the ruling party were Sadducees, and did not believe in the resurrection of the body.

So when Jesus raised people back to life (particularly Lazarus who was quite well-known in the capital city of Jerusalem), it was a direct attack on their teaching and authority.

Contrary to what some Pastors are saying today, it is worth noting that there are multiple accounts throughout the Gospels of Jesus healing of all that were brought to him, which means coming to Jesus or being brought to him was the first step towards getting healed of any and all kinds of sicknesses, and even being brought back to life..

Jesus never separated or distinguished between, what some of us today would call "good people" ; devoutly religious, praying daily, paying their taxes, never opposing the government rules,with happy marriages, and those people, one would call thugs, swindlers, prostitutes, fornicators, gays, lesbians, divorcees, who came to him in faith, seeking for help, and knowing he was the only one who could.

When we sit down to play a game that we’ve never played before, we often ask, “ what are the rules?” People often think of Christianity in the same way. They want to know, “What are the rules?”

Basically there are no more rules,  since Christ died for us all on the cross.We are forgiven, even before we sin.

Most of the metaphors in the New Testament that describe our walk with Christ, have to do with relationship, rather than rule-keeping. Christ is the bride-groom and the church is the bride, He is the Shepherd and we are His sheep (John 10). Christ is the Master and we are His servants (Luke 17:7-10). Even the metaphor of the body (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12) is about the church’s relationship with each other and with Christ, the head of the Church.

There is no representative of God on earth, regardless of what some religious sects proclaim. We as  Christians are all his representatives.

Here are some of the problems a rule-keeping spirit creates: in the same way that game players say, “I checked, it’s not against the rules,” many people do the same thing with the Bible. They believe, whatever they are doing is OK, as long as the Bible doesn’t specifically say something for or against it.

That is not the way to go, specially for those who believe that Jesus died for them on the cross, so that they could experience eternal life.

If you truly believe in Jesus, pray about the problem you are facing. You will get a guaranteed answer in your heart. For some, the answer might even come before you start praying about it.

The answer to the question, "Do miracles still happen today is therefore a resounding "Yes they do".

Miracles happen everyday, all day long. God still has a covenant with his children. All it takes is faith and prayer for that which you truly are in need of, either for yourself or for others, and it will happen.

EU-Digest

Climate Deal US IS OUT: US notifies UN of Paris climate deal pullout

As expected  the Trump administration has issued its first written notification that the US intends to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

But in the notice to the United Nations the US state department said Washington would remain in the talks process.

President Donald Trump drew international condemnation in June when he first announced the US intention to withdraw.

He said the deal "punished" the US and would cost millions of American jobs.

Read more: US notifies UN of Paris climate deal pullout - BBC News

Global Beer Sales: Who are among the biggest beer drinkers in Europe? - by Chris Harris

The Czech Republic, Germany and Poland are among Europe’s biggest beer drinkers, latest figures reveal.

The data, obtained by Euronews to mark International Beer Day on August 4, shows wide disparities across the continent.

Drinkers in the Czech Republic knocked back 146.3 litres per person last year, according to statistics from market research firm Euromonitor.

It’s equivalent to nearly 300 large beers (500ml) per individual.

That’s around five times as much as wine-producing countries like France and Italy, who came bottom of the European countries studied.

There is a broad geographical divide: central and eastern European countries consume more beer and western Europe and Scandinavia less.

The amount of beer consumed has a weak link with death rates from liver cirrhosis, a condition linked to alcohol abuse. There is a stronger correlation if we compare cirrhosis death rates and all alcohol consumed, not just beer.

Read more: Who are among the biggest beer drinkers in Europe? | Euronews

8/5/17

Alternative energy Supplies: Desert solar project could power 5 million EU homes - by Sam Morgan

A consortium of clean energy developers has applied for permission to build a gigantic solar power plant on the edge of the Sahara desert, which will be linked to Europe by a number of undersea cables and could power over 5 million homes.

TuNur’s planned project in Tunisia hopes to tap into the Sahara desert’s vast potential to provide solar power. Its request to the Tunisian energy ministry envisages a facility in the southwest of the country that will produce 4.5GW of power.

Chief Executive Kevin Sara claimed that an initial 250MW could be up and running, powering Europe via an interconnector with Malta, by 2020. It would mean an extra 1,000GWh of clean power a year being made available to the European grid.

Italy and Malta’s energy grids are already connected via a 95km link that came online in 2015.

Read more: Desert solar project could power 5 million EU homes

Mind over matter: Free your brain: How Silicon Valley denies us the freedom to pay attention - by David Priest

In late June, Mark Zuckerberg announced the new mission of Facebook: “To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

The rhetoric of the statement is carefully selected, centered on empowering people, and in so doing, ushering in world peace, or at least something like it. Tech giants across Silicon Valley are adopting similarly utopian visions, casting themselves as the purveyors of a more connected, more enlightened, more empowered future. Every year, these companies articulate their visions onstage at internationally streamed pep rallies, Apple’s WWDC and Google’s I/O being the best known.

But companies like Facebook can only “give people the power” because we first ceded it to them, in the form of our attention. After all, that is how many Silicon Valley companies thrive: Our attention, in the form of eyes and ears, provides a medium for them to advertise to us. And the more time we spend staring at them, the more money Facebook and Twitter make — in effect, it’s in their interest that we become psychologically dependent on the self-esteem boost from being wired in all the time.

This quest for our eyeballs doesn’t mesh well with Silicon Valley’s utopian visions of world peace and people power. Earlier this year, many sounded alarm bells when a “60 Minutes” exposé revealed the creepy cottage industry of “brain-hacking,” industrial psychology techniques that tech giants use and study to make us spend as much time staring at screens as possible.

Indeed, it is Silicon Valley’s continual quest for attention that both motivates their utopian dreams, and that compromises them from the start. As a result, the tech industry often has compromised ethics when it comes to product design.

Case in point: At January’s Consumer Electronics Convention – a sort of Mecca for tech start-ups dreaming of making it big – I found myself in a suite with one of the largest kid-tech (children’s toys) developers in the world. A small flock of PR reps, engineers and executives hovered around the entryway as one development head walked my photographer and me through the mock setup. They were showing off the first voice assistant developed solely with kids in mind.

A free market only functions properly when consumers operate with full agency and access to information, and tech companies are working hard to limit both.

Read complete report: Free your brain: How Silicon Valley denies us the freedom to pay attention - Salon.com

USA Politics: Mike Pence Preparing 2020 Election Run Against ‘Weak’ Trump? - by Jason Le Miere

Mike Pence’s press secretary has denied an explosive report from The New York Times Saturday that the vice-president is among a group of Republicans already preparing a “shadow campaign” for president in 2020. President Donald Trump is just over six months into his first term and has never suggested that he would not seek re-election for a second term.

An outspoken Democratic critic of President Donald Trump's is leading the call for Vice President Mike Pence to become the next commander-in-chief. California Representative Maxine Waters, who has become an internet sensation among the left for her frank criticism of the president in recent months, tweeted Saturday: "Mike Pence is somewhere planning an inauguration. Priebus and Spicer will lead the transition."

Read more: Mike Pence Preparing 2020 Election Run Against ‘Weak’ Trump? Vice-President’s Team Denies Explosive Claim

8/4/17

Italian ship arrives in Tripoli port despite threat - by Mohammed Al Araby

The Libyan navy chief off staff’s media office has released a video of an Italian navy ship arriving to the port of Tripoli, while stressing that its arrival does not impede on the Libya’s sovereignty.

The Libyan Naval Command said in a statement on its Facebook page that the visit comes as part of a bilateral military cooperation agreement signed in 2008. Furthermore the statement added that it is the ‘right’ of the Libyan navy and coast guard to get technical and logistical support from their Italian counterparts.

The arrival comes after a call was made by the General Command of the Libyan National Army to bomb any vessel entering Libyan territorial waters.

Read more: Italian ship arrives in Tripoli port despite threat - Al Arabiya English

US-Dutch Relations: Dutch Wary of Trump’s new Holland Ambassador, Who Imagines “No-Go Zones” in Netherlands

Pete Hoekstra US Ambassador to the Netherlands and Donald Trump
Donald Trump's choice of Pete Hoekstra to represent the United States as ambassador to the Netherlands has alarmed Dutch observers familiar with the former congressman’s bizarre and entirely false claim that parts of their country have been surrendered to Islamist radicals, creating “no-go zones” for non-Muslims.

Hoekstra, who was born in the Netherlands but raised in Michigan as a staunch social conservative, might find himself largely unwelcome in his parents’ homeland, where even opponents of Muslim immigration, like the opposition leader Geert Wilders, typically cast themselves as defenders of liberal social values, like support for gay rights and abortion.

News of Hoekstra’s nomination prompted stunned reports in Dutch publications about the shockingly racist, anti-Chinese campaign ad he ran in 2012, his repeated efforts, during an 18-year career in Congress, to deny gay couples the right to marry or adopt children, and his leading role in the fight against government-funded health insurance.

Most baffling of all, though, was Hoekstra’s absurd claim, just two years ago, that the Dutch government had ceded control of sections of their country to Islamist radicals.

Martijn de Koning, an anthropologist at the University of Amsterdam whose research focuses on the Dutch debate over Islam, drew attention to video of comments Hoekstra made in 2015 at a conference sponsored by the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

Hoekstra’s contribution to a panel discussion of Muslim migration to Europe was to claim that a “stealth jihad” was underway which had plunged the Netherlands into such “chaos” that “there are cars being burned, there are politicians that are being burned, … and yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands.”

The former member of Congress went on to tell the conference that he and his wife had narrowly escaped from Budapest that summer, one day before thousands of Muslims seeking refuge from the war in Syria arrived in the Hungarian capital. “The little railroad station that we went through in Budapest,”

Hoekstra recalled, “the next day it was surrounded by 10,000 invaders, or refugees.”

What should make Hoekstra’s nomination to represent the United States in Europe alarming to Americans is that he is part of a far-right movement against the imaginary threat of Islamic Shariah law that uses the fear of terrorism to stoke hatred of Muslims.

Read complete report and watch video : Dutch Wary of Trump’s Ambassador, Who Imagines “No-Go Zones” in Netherlands