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12/14/17

USA: Net Neutrality is Dead in the US: FCC Votes to Approve "Internet Freedom" Plan

The Federal Communications Commission just voted to approve a plan that effectively ends net neutrality. The culmination of months of work by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Thursday’s vote means the internet may never be the same again.

Net neutrality is the longstanding principle that internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon — where Pai previously worked as a lawyer before his career at the FCC — cannot play favorites over access to content, create a tiered internet where sites or users that pay more have access to a fast lane, or otherwise control how people get online. 

As expected, the vote was three in favor and two against, split along party lines. Chairman Ajit Pai received the support of both Republican commissioners for his plan, which he made public the week before Thanksgiving. Democratic commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel voted against the plan. The deliberations were interrupted for several minutes when, according to Pai, security advised them to take a recess.

Thursday’s vote reverses the 2015 decision of the Obama-era FCC, which reclassified ISPs as utilities instead of information services under what’s known as Title II regulations. That earlier move came in part because a 2014 court decision found the FCC could no longer impose net neutrality regulations on ISPs unless they were categorized as utilities.

Note EU-Digest: This actually means US internet providers can set pricing now for tall kinds of additional services including the speed you want your internet to connect and process information. It will have a huge impact on what people do online in America. 

In Europe during the summer 0f 2016 hundreds of thousands of Internet users banded together to keep the Internet open and free. Together, we sent a loud, clear message to BEREC, the Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications: protect net neutrality. And it worked! BEREC’s final guidelines, which were published on 30 August 2016, offer some of the strongest net neutrality protections we could wish for. 

So long as these new rules are properly enforced by national telecom regulators, they represent a resounding victory for net neutrality. The European public has made clear that it will not leave the future of its digital public space to big telco lobbyists and multi national corporations , but wants to decide for itself. To that end, civil society has to stay watchful and observe that telecom operators don’t violate the new laws. Indeed Europeans are slowly understanding that united we win, and divided we fall.

Read more: Net Neutrality is Dead in the USA: FCC Votes to Approve "Internet Freedom" Plan | Inverse

Israel-Argentina: What is Israël’s project in Argentina? - by Thierry Meyssan

In the 19th century, the British government were undecided as to where they should settle Israël – either in what is now Uganda, in Argentina or in Palestine. In fact, Argentina was at that time controlled by the United Kingdom and, on the initiative of French baron Maurice de Hirsch, had become a land of refuge for Jews who were fleeing the pogroms in central Europe.

In the 20th century, after the military coup d’Etat against democratically elected President General Juan Perón, a current of antisemitism developed within the armed forces. A brochure was distributed accusing the new State of Israël of preparing an invasion of Patagonia, the « Andinia Plan ».

It has become apparent today that even though the Argentinian extreme right had exaggerated the facts in the 1970’s, there was indeed a project for implantation (and not invasion) in Patagonia.

Everything changed with the Falklands War in 1982. At that time, the Argentinian military junta attempted to recuperate the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, which from their point of view had been occupied by the British for a century and a half. The UNO recognised the legitimacy of the Argentinian claim, but the Security Council condemned the use of force to recover these territories. The stakes are considerable, since the territorial waters of these archipelagos offer access to all the riches of the Antarctic continent.

At the end of this war, which cost more than a thousand lives (official British figures are largely understated), London imposed a particularly severe Peace Treaty on Buenos Aires - Argentinian armed forces are limited to their most simple expression. Above all, the control of their Southern and Antarctic air space is confiscated for the profit of the Royal Air Force, and they are obliged to inform the United Kingdom about all their operations.

In 1992 and 1994, two particularly devastating, murderous and mysterious attacks successively destroyed the Israëli embassy and the headquarters of the Israëli association AMIA. The first attack took place when the station chiefs of Israëli Intelligence had just left the building. The second occurred in the context of joint Egypt-Argentinian research for the development of Condor ballistic missiles. In the same period, the main Condor factory exploded, and the sons of Presidents Carlos Menem and Hafez el-Assad died accidentally. The various enquiries gave rise to a succession of manipulations.

After having blamed Syria, prosecutor Alberto Nisman turned on Iran, whom he accused of having ordered the two attacks, and Hezbollah, who he claimed had carried them out. The ex- Peronist President Cristina Kirchner was accused of having negotiated the end of the legal proceedings against Iran in exchange for advantageous oil prices. Prosecutor Nisman was found dead at his home, and President Kirchner was found guilty of high treason. However, last week, a coup de theâtre destroyed everything we though we knew – the United States FBI handed over DNA analyses which attest to the absence of the presumed terrorist among the victims, and the presence of a body which has never been identified. 25 years later, we know nothing more about these attacks.

In the 21st century, benefitting from the advantages offered them by the Falklands War Treaty, the United Kingdom and Israël are now setting up a new project Patagonia.

British billionaire Joe Lewis has acquired immense territories in the South of Argentina and even neighbouring Chile. His properties cover areas several times larger than the State of Israël. They are situated in Tierra del Fuego, at the extreme Southern point of the continent. In particular, they surround the Lago Escondido, which effectively denies access to the entire region, despite a legal injunction.

The billionaire has built a private airport with a two kilometre landing strip, in order to be able to receive civil and military aircraft.

Since the Falklands War, the Israëli army has been organising « holiday camps » (sic) in Patagonia for its soldiers. Between 8,000 and 10,000 of them now come every year to spend two weeks on Joe Lewis’ land.

While in the 1970’s, the Argentinian army noted the construction of 25,000 empty houses, which gave rise to the myth of the Andinia Plan, hundreds of thousands have been built today.

It is impossible to verify the state of the construction work, since these are private lands, and Google Earth has neutralised the satellite photographs of the area, just as it does with NATO’s military installations.

Neighbouring Chile has handed over a submarine base to Israël. Tunnels have been dug in order to survive the polar winter.

The Mapuche Indians who inhabit both Argentinian and Chilean Patagonia were surprised to learn that the Resistencia Ancestral Mapuche (RAM) had been reactivated in London. This is a mysterious organisation which fights for independence. First accused of being an old association recuperated by the Argentinian secret services, the RAM is today considered by the left as a legitimate secessionist movement, but by the Mapuche leaders as an initiative financed by George Soros.

On 15 November 2017, the Navy lost all contact with the submarine ARA San Juan, which was finally declared lost at sea. It was one of the TR 1700 class diesel-electric submarines which were the flagships of the reduced Argentinian army. The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) has announced that it has recorded an unusual acoustic phenomenon in the Atlantic, close to the area from which the San Juan sent its last signal. The government finally admitted that the submarine was on a non-specified « secret mission », of which London had been informed. The USA began a search, while the Russian Navy deployed a drone capable of exploring the ocean to a depth of 6,000 metres, but found nothing. The San Juan probably exploded. The Argentinian Press is convinced that the submarine had either collided with a mine, or was destroyed by an enemy torpedo.

It is impossible for the moment to determine if Israël is engaged in a programme for the exploitation of Antarctica, or if it is building a rear base in case of defeat in Palestine.

Read more: What is Israël’s project in Argentina?, by Thierry Meyssan

US Economy: The United States of Indebted America

By many measures, the American economy is booming. Yet that's not always translating into stronger financial health for a large share of US consumers.

One-third of Americans are weighed down by overdue debt, meaning their outstanding payments are in arrears and have been handed off to debt collectors, according to new research from The Urban Institute. That's not a healthy situation for households because overdue debt can lower one's credit score, making it harder to finance purchases such as a home or car while also making it more expensive to borrow money.

The problem is worse in some regions of the country, especially those where health insurance coverage is sparser, incomes are lower and the share of nonwhite households is higher, according to the Urban Institute's data. Almost one in five households have medical debt in collections, a sign of how many Americans struggle with the cost of health care, including those insurance.

That's not only a personal challenge but a community issue because those indebted households may struggle to pay their property taxes or rent on time.

"I don't think people understand how pervasive this is," said Signe-Mary McKernan, a Urban Institute senior fellow and co-director of its Opportunity and Ownership Initiative. "This matters to individuals, but our research shows it matters a great deal to the communities they live in."

She added, "When families have little to no savings and have a disruption, they're more likely to miss bills and get evicted. That's very expensive for cities."

Read more: The United States of Indebted America - CBS News

Macedonia's Biggest Problem: It's Called Macedonia -by Edward P. Joseph

The “Interim Accord” was supposed to function as a stop-gap solution, halting the Greek blockade on its neighbor and opening diplomatic relations between the two countries, pending a permanent solution. Twenty-two years later and there is still no final agreement on the name—and the failure to close this chapter weighs heavily on the increasingly unstable Balkans. Thanks to rare political dynamics in both Athens and Skopje, there is a fleeting opportunity to resolve the name dispute. But doing so will once again take bold U.S. leadership.

Policymakers routinely scoff at the name dispute as a “ridiculous” Balkan squabble. In fact, it’s quite serious. Solely because of its complaint that Macedonia has stolen Greek heritage—the legacy of Alexander the Great—Athens continues to block Macedonia’s membership in NATO and its advancement towards the EU. The vacuum leaves the country—and the region—in limbo. Without a clear pathway to Brussels, Macedonia’s democratic development has stalled, perpetuating anxieties that the country could be divided.

The same syndrome exists in divided Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, each of which faces structural hurdles to joining NATO or the EU. Irresponsible nationalists in those countries have made strident calls for territorial division, a step that would reopen the conflicts of the 1990s. Exacerbating these trends, Russia and Turkey have begun to actively undermine Western strategy in the region. Once thought to be an inexorable process, the incorporation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia and Macedonia into Euro-Atlantic institutions is now open to question

In other words, “plenty” is the answer to Shakespeare’s eternal question of “what’s in a name?” .

Read more: Macedonia's Biggest Problem: It's Called Macedonia | The National Interest

Britain: Scared about your human rights after Brexit? You should be - by Schona Jolly

There was a time, not so long ago, that David Davis was a great fan of the EU charter of fundamental rights. He liked it so much that he used it to take up a legal challenge against the snooper’s charter (brainchild of the-then home secretary Theresa May), which ended up in Luxembourg.

How times change. Yesterday’s draft repeal bill sees Davis knocking out the protection of the charter on the day that we exit the EU. That means a whole swath of rights and protections will be lost to British citizens if it goes through unamended. It’s true that we will still have the rights inherent in the European convention on human rights (ECHR), but the two frameworks are different. While there is some overlap, the EU charter takes up a gamut of protections which are increasingly important in our fast-evolving society.

Take the right to data protection, which Davis relied on with deputy Labour leader Tom Watson for the challenge (until Davis withdrew from the case) leading to the European court of justice ruling against the general and indiscriminate retention of emails or electronic communications by government, with serious implications for the snooper’s charter. Or take the protection of children’s rights, or the freestanding right to equality. As with every argument when human rights treaties are involved, it’s always worth digging to see precisely which rights people are comfortable about losing.

 Although May has declared her commitment to workers’ rights, her record on human rights is chequered. Meanwhile, the government’s position is dubious. The parliamentary joint committee of human rights expressed serious concern about the government’s approach to safeguarding individuals’ fundamental rights post-Brexit, other than those protected under the ECHR. It noted that the government “seemed unacceptably reluctant to discuss the issue of human rights after Brexit. The minister of state responsible for human rights was either unwilling or unable to tell us what the government saw as the most significant human rights issues.” Meanwhile the UN high commissioner for human rights recently issued strong words against May’s call for human rights to be overturned if they were to “get in the way” of the fight against terror”.

Rights don’t often seem as though they matter, until they do. By then, it might be too late. 

Read more: Scared about your human rights after Brexit? You should be | Schona Jolly | Opinion | The Guardian

US Wars: Wars are bleeding the US economy dry and the success rate of these wars? A bigger than life O

Investment in the US military versus return on investment?
Emily Larsen wrote in  the Daily Caller on Friday 8 November, that President Donald Trump claimed the U.S. has spent $7 trillion in the Middle East at a rally in Florida on Friday. This time he Presidewnt Trump seemed to have at least the some of the figures right  even thogh he might have mixed up the sequence of these figures..

Trump said: “We have spent as of two months ago almost $7 trillion in the Middle East,” Trump said. “And you know what we have? We have nothing. It’s worse than it was 17 years ago when they started.”

Trump made similar claims during the 2016 presidential election and in his first months in office, alluding to the cost of U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Some figures from studies mainly, based on figures provided by the military estimate U.S. spending on wars in the Middle East is high, about $4.4 trillion, but not as high as Trump claims.

War spending in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria since 2001 is about $4.4 trillion, according to professor Neta Crawford from Brown University’s Costs of War project.

The Department of Defense (DOD) reported in June it had spent only $1.5 trillion on war-related costs since Sept. 11, 2001. But Crawford says that direct DOD spending doesn’t tell the whole story.

“War costs are more than what we spend in any one year on what’s called the pointy end of the spear,” she told The Wall Street Journal last month. “There are all these other costs behind the spear, and there are consequences of using it, that we need to include.”

Crawford’s $4.4 trillion figure includes costs through 2017 for operations overseas, medical and disability claims for veterans, counter terrorism efforts by the Department of Homeland Security and interest on borrowing for the wars.

Her estimate comes closer to Trump’s $7 trillion figure, when including expected future spending. When including expenditures for veteran health care through 2056 and estimated war costs for 2018, total war-related spending rises to $5.6 trillion.

A Harvard working paper from 2013 estimated that the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will total between $4 trillion and $6 trillion. These figures are also closer to Trump’s claim, but they are also based on cost estimates of veteran care for decades to come. Trump’s claim is based on costs to date.

Another factor is that the wars in the Middle East are financed almost entirely with debt. Crawford’s study estimates that accumulated interest on war appropriations through 2013 alone will add $7.9 trillion to the national debt by 2056. But, again, these are expected costs, not costs so far.

Note EU-Digest: the bottom line,whatever way one tries to juggle with the figures, is quite clear. The US is spending far too much on its military activities and basically have very little or nothing to show for it.  

Consequently, the EU must at least have the courage to also question these expenditure,  specially after President Trump scolded them for not paying their share of NATO expenditures. After all, what would otherwise be the purpose for EU nations to remain in the NATO?   

EU-Digest

12/13/17

Global Warming: World Bank won't back oil and gas projects after 2019


The World Bank has confirmed that it will stop financing upstream oil and gas projects after 2019 except under exceptional circumstances in the world's poorest countries.

The global financial institution made the announcement at climate summit in Paris on Tuesday, which took place roughly two years after the historic COP21 climate conference in the same city.

At Tuesday's summit, French insurance giant AXA announced that it will cease insuring the oilsands sector and new coal projects, and will divest more than US$3.5 billion from oilsands and coal companies. This includes divestment from energy giants TransCanada, Kinder Morgan and Enbridge, all of which have Canadian offices and are constructing major pipelines: Keystone XL, the Trans Mountain expansion and Line 3, respectively.

The announcements were among highlights of a one-day "One Planet Summit" attended by about 50 world leaders and 2,000 participants, including Canada and Quebec environment ministers, environmental organizations, business officials and public figures such as actor Sean Penn.

The goal was to find financial solutions to phase out fossil fuel subsidies and allocate more money to help developing countries that will help their transition to low-carbon economies in the fight against climate change.

“We’re determined to work with all of you to put the right policies in place, get market forces moving in the right direction, put the money on the table, and accelerate action,” World Bank president Jim Young Kim told the closing plenary.

Conference co-organizers, including the Government of France, the World Bank and the United Nations, called in advance of the summit for “concrete action” to reignite momentum as the United States remains absent from the historic Paris Agreement on climate change. Reached in December 2015, the accord aims to keep global warming below 2°C this century.

“We are losing the battle,” French President Emmanuel Macron told participants. “The agreement has become fragile and we’re not going fast enough.”

Several financially stable countries and multilateral institutions made important pledges to help developing countries meet their commitments under the 2009 Copenhagen Accord on climate action.

That roadmap calls for the world to raise US$100-billion every year to help such countries meet their emissions goals by 2020. Last year however, the OECD estimated that only US$43 billion had been pledged, including $2.65 billion in funding from the Government of Canada by 2021

The absence of the United States remained bittersweet and disappointing for most participants, including California Governor Jerry Brown and former United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, who talked about U.S. President Donald Trump’s “irresponsible” decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

But former New York mayor and businessman Michael Bloomberg said he thought it had increased momentum.

“There isn't anything Washington can do to stop us, quite the contrary, I think that President Trump has helped rally people who understand the problem to join forces and to actually do something rather than waiting for the federal government to do something,” Bloomberg said at a press conference.

Bloomberg and several other major economic leaders, including Bank of England governor Mark Carney, announced 237 companies worth more than $6.3 trillion had committed to participate in a wide-reaching Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures.

The task force aims to gather reliable data about the environmental metrics of its members, such as the carbon footprint of their operations.

According to the task force, only 20 per cent of major companies are currently reporting this kind of data. Bloomberg and his partners want to change that so CEOS, board members and shareholders can make informed decisions about their management practices and investment.

“Nobody would survive a board meeting where they said, 'I don't know that this risk is going to happen so let's just sit around and do nothing,'" said Bloomberg.

One of the task force members is AXA, the world’s third largest insurance company.

Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna was among the world leaders who said private sector involvement in climate financing is urgent in the race against environmental catastrophe.

“We need to be smarter about this. We have to stop the old school way of thinking where governments are going to take actions,” she said at a panel. “We're missing a lot if we don't leverage the private sector.”

Responding to McKenna's comments however, Environmental Defense national program manager Dale Marshall emphasized that public financing will always be necessary.

“It's really hard to leverage private sector dollars to do adaptation work and that's really where governments need to step in with public money,” Marshall told National Observer.

Pembina Institute federal policy director Erin Flanagan made similar comments. National transitions to a low-carbon economy should be led by governments, she explained, and public policy must create a clear and assertive framework for the private sector, so it understands how it can support the green transition.

“If industry knows that the government is serious about achieving emissions neutrality by 2050, they will be less likely to build gas plants, they will be less likely to build new oil sands operations,” she told National Observer at the summit. “I think we still have a way to go at home to make sure that that consensus on the deadline is well developed.”

Meantime, McKenna unveiled a partnership with the World Bank to support developing countries’ transition away from traditional coal-fired electricity and toward clean energy. A press release said the parties would share best practices "on how to ensure a just transition for displaced workers and their communities."

The partnership announcement came just as a Canadian and German environmental organizations released a report listing six Canadian financial companies among the world's top 100 investors in new coal plants. Friends of the Earth and Urgenwald looked at the top 100 private investors putting money down to expand coal-fired electricity — sometimes in places where there isn't any coal-generated power at the moment.

Together, Sun Life, Power Corporation, Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, Royal Bank of Canada, Manulife Financial and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board have pledged $2.9 billion towards building new coal plants overseas, the report said.

Urgewald tracks coal plants around the world and reports there are 1,600 new plants in development in 62 nations, more than a dozen of which don't have any coal-fired plants now.

Read more: World Bank won't back oil and gas projects after 2019 | National Observer

Middle East: Europe might step in, if Trump's Mideast initiative fails- by Uri Savir

Rarely in recent years has there been so little talk in international corridors on Europe's role in the Middle East. With the Trump administration distancing itself from Brussels, the European Union (EU) has become isolated, and its worldwide influence has been weakened. In fact, US President Donald Trump is not hiding his disrespect for the EU and most of its leaders. He minced no words when talking of British Prime Minister Theresa May, despite his support of Brexit. The same — and more — is true regarding German Chancellor Angela Merkel, over her immigration policies.

Today, leading EU countries are also less integrated given the Brexit talks, and Merkel’s domestic crisis. This leaves mainly European headquarters in Brussels and Paris active on the Middle Eastern front.

A senior source close to Federica Mogherini, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, told Al-Monitor that Mogherini maintains ongoing contact with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, including on Middle Eastern issues. Still, it seems that the administration only partially shares Trump’s policy initiatives with her. Trump's proclamation on Jerusalem certainly came as an unpleasant surprise. In fact, Mogherini had conveyed in recent weeks to Washington the EU's support of a US initiative for regional cooperation, as long as it does not harm the Iranian nuclear deal, and as long as it favors an Israeli-Palestinian peace in the form of a two-state solution. Mogherini had also conveyed Europe's strong objections to any new US policy on Jerusalem that could destabilize the region. In her chilly looking meeting with Tillerson in Brussels on Dec. 5, Mogherini reiterated Europe's objection to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. After Trump's proclamation, Mogherini was quick to state, "The European Union expresses serious concern about today’s announcement by the United States President Trump on Jerusalem and the repercussions this may have on the prospect of peace.''

The EU had also been warning both Washington and Jerusalem against settlement expansion in the West Bank. According to the senior official, Brussels is quietly supporting the Palestinian reconciliation agreement, and is in constant contact with Ramallah in order to sustain the Abbas regime. Europe has actually increased its economic assistance both to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said, “There is indeed an opportunity to advance an Israeli-Palestinian two-state solution process, especially given the changes in Saudi Arabia for a more moderate Islam and Saudi pride over the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002. We will support a Trump initiative in this direction. But if it fails, 2018 may very well witness an EU regional initiative, because the Israeli-Palestinian status quo cannot be sustained.”

A senior French Quai d’Orsay official echoed the view of the Brussels headquarters. French President Emmanuel Macron is the European leader closest to Trump. Macron decided early on in his presidency to keep an open line of communication with Trump, also on issues of disagreement such as the Paris climate agreement and the value of the Iran nuclear deal. The French president, argued the diplomat, toes the line with Washington on an anti-Islamic terror policy. Macron visited Riyadh on Nov. 9 and coordinated with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman policies against radical terror, also in Lebanon and in Europe.

On the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Macron is letting Trump lead the way, for the moment at least. Macron is not following up on the Paris peace conferences on a two-state solution initiated by his predecessor Francois Hollande. Still, Macron's administration has espoused traditional French policy guidelines on a two-state solution. But while letting Trump go ahead with his Middle East initiative, Macron expressed his clear-cut objection to the Jerusalem proclamation, saying in a statement, "Jerusalem: France does not approve the US decision. France supports the two-state solution, Israel and Palestine living in peace and security, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states." He added that conciliation and dialogue need to be fostered.

It seems that the prevailing approach both in Brussels and in Paris up until this weekend was “give Trump a chance.” The Jerusalem issue might alter this policy motto. But with or without that, in case of disappointment over the US initiative, the EU may be the one initiating. And if so, France would probably take the lead.

A senior PLO official close to Abbas told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that the Palestinian president is in close contact with the heads of the EU and is hoping for a European initiative, as he believes that Washington’s policies are tilted toward Israel.

A senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official reacted to these European statements with usual cynicism, saying on condition of anonymity that “as far as Israel is concerned, the only international player present in the Israeli-Palestinian field — be it this year, next year or thereafter — is the United

Read more: Europe might step in, if Trump's Mideast initiat

EU: Lebanon crisis overshadows EU aid for Syrian refugees - by Nikolaj Nielsen

Perched on the side of a mountain some 50km from the Syrian border, St John's monastery in Lebanon is home to around a dozen hermits and priests.

A printing press that published books in Arabic, the world's first, can still be found within its halls.

Today, the monastery has become an educational refuge for Syrian children hoping for a future that was removed from them when the regime under Bashar al-Assad indiscriminately dropped barrel bombs on his own people.

In one class of around a dozen children, a 10-year old girl calls out the letters of the alphabet in French. Some have never attended school before.

Learning French is among many obstacles they face in an effort to insert them into a wider Lebanese public school system where they'll be segregated and most likely bullied.

"One of the main reasons why [Syrian refugee] children are out of school in Lebanon is language," said Poppy Alice Hardee, an area manager for the NGO, Terre des Hommes Italia.

Public schools in Lebanon are taught in English and in French, depending on the area, which puts Syrians at an immediate disadvantage.

Read More: Lebanon crisis overshadows EU aid for Syrian refugees

USA: Stinging LossFor Donald Trump in Alabama who Is Losing His Only Superpower - by Jeet Heer

Once it became clear that Doug Jones had won an upset victory over Roy Moore in the Alabama senate race on Tuesday, the immediate question was: How would the president take the news? Donald Trump, after all, was deeply invested in the race to replace former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. Elevating Sessions to attorney general seemed like a safe move back in November of 2016. Alabama was a deep red state where, in the presidential election a week earlier, Trump had won 62 percent of the vote to Hillary Clinton’s 34; and in the 2014 Senate election, Sessions had won by a margin that even a communist dictator would admire: 97 percent of the vote.

But as it turned out, Alabama was a double loss for Trump. First, Alabama Republicans rejected Trump’s choice for the primary, Luther Strange, who had been appointed to Sessions’s seat in the interim. Instead, they went with a gleaming-eyed, fanatical Moore, a candidate so Trumpian that even Trump blanched at supporting. But, amazingly, even after credible allegations of child molestation surfaced against Moore, Trump decided that he would support the theocratic candidate, spending his political capital in a rally in neighboring Pensacola, Florida.  

Read more: Donald Trump Is Losing His Only Superpower | New Republic

12/11/17

EU: Almost one - third of EU GDP spent on social protection

Since 2010 social protection expenditure in the European Union (EU) has increased slightly.

From 28.6% of GDP in 2010 to 29.0 % in 2015 according to data from the Eurostat the Statistical office of the EU.

In 2015, the EU's 28 Member States earmarked €200 billion of public expenditure for 'defence'. This is equivalent to only 1.4% of GDP.

By contrast, Washington's military expenditure "only" amounts to 3.5 percent of GDP, which is often questioned because no exact dollar figure is ever given In China, that falls to 2.1 percent. Israel spent around $23 billion on its armed forces in 2014 and SIPRI estimated that this amounted to 5.2 percent of its GDP

Click here for additional information re EU

USA: Trump partisans attack America from within – by Dana Milbank

Thursday was Pearl Harbor Day, the anniversary of one of the deadliest attacks on American soil and perhaps the most unifying day in American history.

This year some of us marked Pearl Harbor Day by attacking America from within.

For five hours on Thursday, President Trump’s partisans delivered a reckless and sustained attack on the FBI and the special counsel. They amplified Trump’s claim that the FBI’s “reputation is in Tatters — worst in History” and that Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia probe, which has already secured guilty pleas from two Trump campaign officials and the indictments of two more, is part of a system that is “rigged,” “phony,” “dishonest” and using a “double standard.”

Shamefully, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee launched an all-out assault on the special counsel and the FBI — choosing to protect Trump at the cost of Americans’ faith in the justice system and the rule of law.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., the chairman, echoed Trump’s “tatters” claim and told FBI Director Christopher A. Wray that Mueller’s probe and the Clinton email probe have been tainted by “bias.”
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said he has a “hunch” that “pro-Clinton, anti-Trump bias” at the FBI was behind a secret “warrant to spy on Americans associated with the Trump campaign.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., called former FBI director James B. Comey an “egomaniac rogue” and speculated that the FBI paid for the “dossier” on Trump’s activities in Russia.

Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., speculated that anti-Trump bias led the FBI to conclude that Russia interfered in the U.S. election, and he threatened Wray: “I think you’re walking into a contempt of Congress.”

Trump routinely attacks institutions, including the courts, the media, the electoral process, the intelligence community, the IRS, the United Nations, foreign allies, the Justice Department and the pope. That’s the strategy of the autocrat: Don’t believe the courts or the justice system or the electoral process or the legislature or the media or my accusers. Believe me.

When lawmakers back up Trump, however, they give a cue to Republican voters that such out-of-bounds attacks on our system are legitimate. That’s how they normalized Trump. That’s how we’re getting Moore. That’s why Republicans are being convinced the FBI and federal prosecutors are corrupt.

The FBI is one government agency Republicans historically held in high regard (70?percent had a favorable view in a 2015 Pew Research Center poll), but a poll by the University of Texas in June — after Trump’s attacks began — found favorable views of the FBI among Texas Republicans at 43?percent.

Likewise, multiple polls found that Republicans are far more likely to believe sexual-harassment claims against Democrats than against Republicans; Democrats see the claims as credible regardless of the perpetrator’s party.

This tribalism is meant to help Trump, and Moore. It undermines America.

Read more: Trump partisans attack America from within – The Moderate Voice

Israel-EU: Netanyahu arrives in Brussels accusing the EU of “hypocrisy” over Jerusalem

Reaving for Europe on Saturday, the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out against European “hypocrisy” over Jerusalem.

The Israeli Prime Minister was visiting Paris on Sunday, a capital of a traditional ally which on Friday he described as “the lion’s den.” In a joint press conference with President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday, he argued that Jerusalem is just as much the capital of Israel as Paris is of France.
Netanyahu is expected in Brussels on Monday December 11.

His European mission follows President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moving the US Embassy. The US President has not specified any borders within the city, but has deviated from a decades old diplomatic consensus that held that Jerusalem’s final status would be the result of a negotiation with the state of Palestine.

Both the French President Emmanuel Macron and the EU foreign security chief Frederica Mogherini have condemned the recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel. On Saturday, the United States was isolated in the UN Security Council as eight of the 15 members – including Russia, France, Sweden and the UK – condemned Washington’s position, reiterating their position on Jerusalem’s final status.


Read more: Netanyahu arrives in Brussels accusing the EU of “hypocrisy” over Jerusalem

Germany says China using LinkedIn to recruit informants - by Nikolaj Nielsen

The German domestic intelligence agency (BfV) says China is using fake profiles on social media to target German officials and politicians.

"This is a broad-based attempt to infiltrate, in particular, parliaments, ministries and government agencies," said BfV head Hans-Georg Maassen on Sunday (10 December).

Maassen said more than 10,000 Germans have been approached by the alleged ruse from Chinese profiles posing as reputable professionals on social networking site LinkedIn.

The BfV released around half dozen fake LinkedIn profiles of young attractive Chinese professionals.

Among them is Laeticia Chen who supposedly works at the China Center for International Politics and Economy. Another, Eva Han, is from the China University of Political Science and Law.

Germany says China using LinkedIn to recruit informants

12/10/17

USA: The Final collapse of the United States started last week writes Frans Verhagen in a Dutch editorial

The final collapse of the United States started last week, writes Frans Verhagen in an editorial for the NRC Handelsblad a Dutch Newspaper - the editorial of Verhagen below is a Google translation in English of the original report in the Dutch language. .

"A foreign policy can not exist without a stable interior".

The self-destruction of America became visible in full. The Republican Party chased a tax law with literally unimaginable consequences; the Russia investigation approached the president; America's foreign policy was incredibly chaotic. It is not a pleasant spectacle, this end of a world power.

We can start with the confession of Michael Flynn , Trumps former safety advisor, that he had lied to the FBI. Flynn now says that in December 2016 he contacted the Russians on behalf of the staff of president-elect . For example, the investigation is approaching Trump's close advisors and possibly the president himself.

The president added to his problems by tweeting that he had dismissed Flynn for lying to the FBI, while he had hinted to lie to Vice President Pence until then. It makes Trump vulnerable, because the next day he asked the later dismissed FBI director Comey to stop his research on Flynn's activities, while he knew, in his own words, that Flynn had committed a criminal offense. Such action would be considered an "impediment to justice" and also raises the question why Trump, who is not known for his loyalty, did so much to keep Flynn out of the wind.

Also read: in the US a creepy financial problem is growing .

Trumps legal team sought the flight forward by proclaiming that presidents can not commit 'legal obstruction' because they are the highest executive, no reasoning heard since Richard Nixon. Trump took it a step further by calling the FBI to investigate a worthless, poorly run institution. His cackling is nonsensical as always, but the problem is that Trumps's allegations in the repetition gain strength, even among Americans who should know better.

The chaos in American foreign policy caused new lows this week. We were still recovering from the retweeted anti-Muslim mud from Great Britain and the Netherlands with which Trump underlined his white supremacy instincts. He got licked on Theresa May's piece, which he typically reacted rude to . The Netherlands chatted about the incorrect information in one of his tweet, to which Trump's spokesperson stated that what really happened is not important if the message comes across. Here speaks your world leader.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs Rex Tillerson arrived on Monday for consultations in Brussels as tipsy game . For months, President Trump has shown his dissatisfaction with Tillerson, undermining his authority. The US Department of State is a mess from which career diplomats are fleeing, frustrated and ashamed. Last week, sources in the White House leaked that CIA director Mike Pompeo would replace Tillerson

All those involved denied, but Tillerson's departure is a matter of time. In Brussels no one knew what you had to Tillerson or, in a broader sense, to the United States.

Pompeo would bring Foreign Affairs closer to the White House, but would create new uncertainties in foreign policy. He is an advocate of confrontation with Iran and sought arguments from the CIA to torpedo nuclear agreements with Iran. Trump has pushed the future of the deal with Iran to Congress.

Pompeo will not make an effort to keep that deal afloat. If the Trump government fails to comply with the agreements, then a military confrontation threatens. North Korea's most recent missile launch also puts that game back on track, although the balance of deterrence guarantees some stability there.

Last Wednesday, November 6, Trump announced the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem , postponed for years to avoid a possible peace process. America has now definitively handed over its role in that process , which, in view of the current positions, does not make much difference. Relations with the Muslim world are not getting any better.

The obvious question is can Jared Kushner still work on peace between Israel and Palestine ?

Future foreign policy, however, suffers most from the disastrous tax law that undermines any possibility of unifying America - necessary for a widely supported foreign policy. With this, the Republican Party realized its main program points: low taxes and a small government, while the foundation was obscured under Obamacare. Now Trump was right when he called it a historical law.

This 'tax reform' sets the United States on a path that fundamentally undermines the country. By deconstructing the finances of the government over the next ten years, he deprives Congress and a subsequent president of every possibility of decisive policy. The fact that these tax measures will actually increase government income is a reasoning that is belied by the facts in the past and is not shared by virtually any economist. This was not the success of the populist and his angry voters, let alone of rioters like Steve Bannon.

This was the success of the Republican Party, which is now the prisoner of big donors and shamelessly defends the interests of the rich and powerful. This tax law does what the anti-government activist Grover Norquist did as an ideal years ago, making the government so small that he can be drowned in a bathtub. It sounds dramatic and dramatic: the American government has turned around last week. There is no room for policy anymore.

It happened with staggering cynicism and shameless lying. No Republican was talking about government deficits, the opponents of stimulus policy during the 2009 crisis were not heard.

Independent information was burned down, special rules registered with pencil. Politicians known as the "conscience" of the Republican Party, such as John McCain, Jeff Flake, and Susan Collins, effortlessly rallied behind this monster. Senator Orrin Hatch had the guts to state after assuming this law that, sadly, unfortunately, there was no money for the health insurance of nine million children who ended in September.

And it all started when grabbing greed imposed his will on the rest of America

The paralyzing polarization in the United States has many reasons and both parties are blamed for that problem. But the awful Dutch expression 'the truth is in the middle' gives a misleading picture here. It is the Republican Party, the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, who is destroying America.

This is the party of the blessed Ronald Reagan, the man who made good sense with the institution that the biggest problem that an American could experience, was that someone from the government knocked on the door with the message 'I come to help'. It went like a cake, but the anti-government message was the actual problem, as arrogant Texans, accommodating residents of Florida and poor soul's feet in Puerto Rico are now experiencing themselves.

Since the Republicans conquered the House of Representatives under the political pyromant Newt Gingrich in 1994, the Republicans have literally created nothing constructive. Now they harvest and it is a bitter harvest. This sad country, with collapsing bridges, broken roads, a devastating drug crisis, uninhabitable expensive cities, millions of uninsured, miserable public education, now receives a package of tax vehicles for investors, benefits for the highest incomes, untaxed wealth transfer and an arsenal of subsidies for business interests . This sad country is the product of so-called conservative thinking that has been in the grip since the 1980s. America no longer has any cohesion, it can only fall apart.

The President of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, complaining complacently after the tax success, underlined the moral bankruptcy of the Republicans by joining Senate candidate Roy Moore after weeks of painful indignation, who is accused of unseemly relations with schoolgirls. For this pragmatic oil man, the standards are stretchable and flexible: everything needed to make the Republican agenda go through. Moore is welcome, he will be okay with Trump.

If we underestimate the foreign consequences of these developments, we will fool ourselves. A country with a permanent domestic crisis, with a society in which the rich have a lacquer on the rest, and the middle class and poor are only objects of concern, will not be able to play a dominant role in the world, not even with all military means that are prepared. can be financed. A foreign policy can not exist without a stable interior.

President Trump is a jack, the leaders of the Republican Party are the smart ones. Until now, I could have thought that Trump was not so much a passing phenomenon, but at least could not bring anything. I could conceive the illusion that there were Republican politicians who did not want to subordinate the country's interests to their donors, enough politicians at least to block the worst possible development. I was naïve.

Listen to episode 44 of our Presidential Podcast: Uncle Sam has become a two-face , about the confession of Flynn and the new tax law.

Certainly, the Democrats can win at the midterm elections in 2018, and perhaps at the presidential elections in 2020. But there is no guarantee that they will come with a more inclusive policy and even then America will be further eroded. The changes now made are difficult to undo, unless there really is a crisis of thirties proportions. However, it is to be feared that there will soon be a crisis in slow motion that is only recognized when it is too late.

We may be concerned about North Korea and the chance of a confrontation with Iran, but the real disaster occurred last week inland. The Republican Party has pinned policy for years on a track that can only lead to destruction. If we look back later, we can determine very precisely where the final demise of the United States began: when short-sighted, greedy greed imposed its will on the rest of America.

From a Dutch Editorial in the NRC Handelsblad (Netherlands) by Frans Verhagen

Brexit: EU leaders welcome Brexit divorce deal -by Eszter Zalan

EU leaders welcomed the Brexit agreement on the terms of divorce and said they were ready to launch discussions on the future relationship.

British prime minister May's fellow leaders in Europe welcomed Friday's hard-won Brexit agreement on divorce, but Berlin in particular warned that the more 'highly complex' part of negotiations is to come.

Read more: EU leaders welcome Brexit divorce deal

The Netherlands - Health and Technology: Philips Expands its Population Health Management Business with the Acquisition of VitalHealth

Royal Philips a global leader in health technology, today announced that it has acquired VitalHealth, a leading provider of cloud-based population health management solutions for the delivery of personalized care outside of the hospital, for example, in regional care networks. Headquartered in the Netherlands, VitalHealth's products and services are being used by more than 100 healthcare networks in various countries including the US, India, China, Sweden, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. The company was founded in 2006 by Mayo Clinic (US) and Noaber Foundation (the Netherlands) and employs approximately 200 employees. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

 "This strategic acquisition complements our current offering in population health management, and supports our commitment to deliver integrated solutions for care providers and patients to improve people's health," said Carla Kriwet, Chief Business Leader of the Connected Care & Health Informatics Businesses at Royal Philips. "As a pioneer in comprehensive population health management solutions, we are committed to help drive business transformation for providers, health systems, employers, and payers transitioning to value-based care. VitalHealth will help us deliver on that commitment by strengthening our offering for care coordination, outcome management and patient engagement."

"We are delighted and proud to become part of Philips," said Laurens van der Tang, CEO of VitalHealth. "It will accelerate our mission to enable better health for millions of people around the world. Our digital health solutions are highly complementary to the ones that Philips provides. Together, we have the potential to become the undisputed global leader in population health management. This is a very positive development for VitalHealth's customers and employees."

As care moves from the hospital to lower cost settings, including the home, there is a need for a more holistic approach to healthcare. Population health management is a proactive approach to improving health and reducing costs for entire patient populations. It involves the aggregation of patient data across multiple health IT sources, smart analytics to understand the health needs of the population, navigation and coordination of care within that population, and engagement with each individual patient to improve both clinical and financial outcomes.

In line with its strategy to deliver integrated solutions across the health continuum, from healthy living and prevention to diagnosis, treatment and home care, Philips has been expanding its population health management business.

Building on the acquisition of Wellcentive in 2016, Philips already successfully offers health informatics to import, aggregate and analyze clinical, claims and financial data across hospital and health systems.

Its offering also includes patient engagement programs involving telehealth, personal emergency response and medication management. VitalHealth has a successful portfolio of telehealth applications to give patients the tools they need to play a more active role in their own care. Additionally, VitalHealth has a care coordination platform for care providers to integrate patient information across care settings, and it has the capability to aggregate data from different information systems to provide quick insights into the total population.

VitalHealth's offering will complement Philips Wellcentive's solution to help improve patient outcomes, as the combined portfolios will enable healthcare providers to better identify and manage high-risk, high-cost patient populations. Moreover, VitalHealth's platform will strengthen Philips’ HealthSuite digital platform, the company's digital enabler for the next generation of connected health solutions.

Read more: Philips Expands its Population Health Management Business with the Acquisition of VitalHealth

12/9/17

USA: Barack Obama evokes Nazi Germany in plea to voters

Barack Obama Speech: "If the shoe fits wear it Donad Trump"
Conservative commentators have hit out at former US President Barack Obama after he evoked Nazi Germany in a bid to encourage voters to remain vigilant and protect democracy.

"We get complacent and assume that things continue as they have been, just automatically, and they don't," Obama said in comments to the Economic Club of Chicago earlier this week. Videos of the event were shared on social media.

"You have to tend to this garden of democracy — otherwise, things can fall apart fairly quickly. And we've seen societies where that happens," he added, referring to the late 1920 and 1930s.
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"Now, presume there was a ballroom here in Vienna in the late 1920s or 30s that looked pretty sophisticated and seemed as if it, filled with the music and art and literature and science that was emerging, would continue into perpetuity," Obama said.

"And then 60 million people died. An entire world was plunged into chaos. So you've got to pay attention and vote." About 60 million people died in World War II.

Images of the speech were shared on Twitter by some of the 1,800 attendees — mostly business leaders in the Chicago area.

Conservative commentators seized on the comments as inappropriately comparing current US President Donald Trump to the mass-murdering fascist Adolf Hitler. Obama never mentioned Trump or Hitler by name.

Fox News commentator Jesse Watters said the comparison was "horrible."

"I thought Obama was better than this. To compare his successor to Adolf Hitler. Horrible. Horrible. Just demeaning. Beneath him," he said in a discussion on The Five talk show.

Note EU-Digest: Fox News Commentators apparently "overlooked the fact" that Obama never mentioned Trump or Hitler by name during this presentation - this seems to underscore the saying "if the shoe fits wear it" .

Read more: Barack Obama evokes Nazi Germany in plea to voters | News | DW | 09.12.2017

Armenia: Two Armenian activists released from Turkish jail

Two political activists of Armenian origin were released from a jail in Turkey on Friday, December 8, Akhaltskha.net reports.

Cemil Aksu and his wife, Nurcan Vayiç Aksu, were arrested by Turkish police due to social media posts that were critical of the Turkish government.

An author and environmental activist, Aksu, was arrested on October 25 in the city of Artvin for allegedly “praising crime and criminals” in his social media posts. Aksu is the local co-chair of the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and is one of the editors of the Gor-Hemshin cultural magazine.

His wife, Nurcan, another activist of Armenian origin, was also taken into police custody on October 19 in a house raid due to her social media posts. Vayiç is a rights activist and a member of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP). The couple is from the town of Hopa in Artvin, in what is commonly known as the Hemshin region, around 12 miles of the Georgian border.

As long-time political activists and writers, the Aksus have written and spoken out not only about local history and identity in the Hemshin region, but also on environmental matters, women’s rights, and Turkish politics, among other matters.

As a result of the couple’s arrest, their eight-year-old child, Arev, is now being taken care of by his aunt.

Read more: Two Armenian activists released from Turkish jail - PanARMENIAN.Net

France: A million take to Paris streets for Johnny Hallyday's funeral - by Kim Willsher


To the blast of electric guitars, the revving of Harley-Davidsons, applause and tears, France bade an emotional farewell to Johnny Hallyday, France’s rock and roll “national hero” on Saturday.

The centre of Paris ground to a halt as the wave of national grief that has overwhelmed the country since news of the death of the singer, known as the French Elvis, at the age of 74 broke early on Wednesday morning.

In scenes resonant of the mass mourning in Britain following the death of Princess Diana, police said a million fans had lined the route of the funeral procession, which was accompanied by Hallyday’s band playing live, as it made its way from the Arc de Triomphe along the Champs-Élysées to Place de la Concorde and on to the church of La Madeleine.

Hallyday’s widow, Laeticia, and their two adopted children Jade, 13, and Joy, nine, followed the cortege. Fans, many in tears, threw flowers at the hearse.
Hallyday’s older children, David Hallyday and Laura Smet, waited on the steps of the church to receive the coffin.

A visibly emotional Emmanuel Macron, a Hallyday fan who had called for a “people’s tribute” to the singer, told the crowds: “You are here for him, for Johnny Hallyday. After 60 years of career, 1,000 songs, 50 albums … you are still there, still there, always there. I know you’re waiting for him to jump out from somewhere, he’s on a bike, he comes towards you and starts the first song and you start singing with him.”

As the crowd cheered, whistled and shouted “Johnny, Johnny”, he continued: “Yes, this December Saturday is sad, but you have to be here for Johnny because from the beginning Johnny was there for you. In moments of your life one of his songs translated something you had in your heart … an indefinable humanity that made us feel less alone. That’s how Johnny came into our lives … he became a necessary presence, a friend, a brother.”

Read more: A million take to Paris streets for Johnny Hallyday's funeral | Music | The Guardian

Eurasian Economic Union:  Many Problems, Few Solutions

The squabble between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan was relatively petty, but the cracks that their dispute exposed in the Eurasian Economic Union, a trading bloc to which they both belong, are proving harder than ever to paper over.

In mid-October, days after the outgoing Kyrgyz president lashed out at his counterpart in Kazakhstan with a barrage of insults, a low-intensity trade row erupted. For a period of around six weeks, Kazakhstani border officials intensified checks on cross-border traffic, causing massive delays in the process. Fruits and vegetables piled high in idle vehicles on the Kyrgyz side of the border rotted, leading to significant losses for exporters. At one point, Astana also banned the import of a range of dairy goods from Kyrgyzstan.

While such disputes are not unprecedented in Central Asia, there was something especially awkward about this crisis, given that both countries involved are Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) members. Russia, Belarus and Armenia are the other members of the EEU.

Former Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev, who in November concluded a six-year term as head of state, was livid that the EEU as an organization failed to get invol

For all Atambayev’s irritation, however, the reality is that the EEU in its current form, which has uneasily joined its five mismatched members in 2015, has few efficient mechanisms for tackling such situations. While the job should fall to the bloc’s permanent institutions, in practice members look to figures like Russian President Vladimir Putin to act as a power broker.

“The Eurasian [Economic] Commission has no power to settle disputes. If the problem gets too big, it will go to the level of the Supreme Council for resolution, which means Putin (alongside the other heads of state),” Sean Roberts, an associate professor at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, told EurasiaNet.org in an email.

The primary shortcomings of the EEU were engineered unwittingly — or perhaps inescapably — into the bloc at its very inception. The most glaring issues are grossly unequal economies, the highly personalized style of semi-authoritarian leadership typical in the post-Soviet space and the reluctance by any members to yield any significant say over internal policy decisions to supra-national institutions. This combination, said political analyst Denis Berdyakov, will indefinitely hamper the development of the EEU.

“Initially, all the elites wanted to feel the benefits of integration, but they didn’t want to relinquish a share of political sovereignty,” Berdyakov said. “Other global blocs are quickly growing strong and the EEU is just not keeping up with them.”
 
Read moreL Eurasian Economic Union:  Many Problems, Few Solutions | EurasiaNet.org

Turkey: President Erdogan casts himself as father of all Turks - by Apostolos Doxiadis

For the Turkish president this trip is the perfect opportunity to polish up his image at home, the Greek author Apostolos Doxiadis writes in Libération:
“Erdoğan is the only one who can hope to benefit from this visit - although any positive effects won't extend beyond Turkey's borders. ... When visiting the Greek region of Thrace on Friday the Turkish president wants to address the Turkish-speaking Muslim minority there. The visit will help him to strengthen his favourite image of himself: that of the 'father of all Turks'. Although he's increasingly isolated in the West and his authoritarianism has been condemned by the European leaders, this trip to Greece provides him with an opportunity to give audiences at home the impression that he continues to maintain good relations 'with Europe'.”
 EU-Digest

12/8/17

France to launch bottom-up consultation for European reform – by Cécile Barbière

Emmanuel Macron’s ambitious plan, announced during his presidential campaign, could take shape from May 2018, said a parliamentary report presented on Thursday (7 December) by Valérie Gomez-Bassac (La Republique En Marche) and Michel Herbillon (Les Republicains).

“We are aware of the difficulty of the process, but we were elected with a clear European mandate,” said Sabine Thillaye, chair of the European Affairs Committee in the French Parliament.

According to the report, the mobilisation of citizens could be a two-step process. First a vast online consultation, which would ask citizens some generic questions about the future of Europe. This would be followed by local debates in the interested member states.

Among the questions that would be submitted to the citizens, the deputies listed very general topics:

    What are the values of Europe?
    What do you expect from Europe in your daily life?
    What change do you expect from Europe?

“We propose online consultations ahead of physical debates because we have to change the scale to reach more citizens,” said Michel Herbillon.

These general questions could be supplemented by some more specific issues, depending on the country. In each state, a national steering committee would then trace the result of the debates to “a committee of European elders”, led by the European institutions, “which has the technical expertise and would guarantee a certain neutrality” explained Michel Herbillon.

This centralised committee would be responsible for distilling the main priorities defined by the citizen process.

To develop this methodology, MPs conducted hearings in Germany, Italy, Hungary, Ireland, and Estonia: “We were welcomed, although in some countries, such as Poland and Hungary, there may be some reluctance. But democratic conventions cannot afford to shut off Europe’s critics. We must not marginalise critical states in this process,” said Michel Herbillon.

To formalize the idea, the French representatives imagined that heads of state and government could adopt a declaration on the sidelines of a European summit, with a charter defining the main principles of these democratic conventions.

“Emmanuel Macron has already discussed with Angela Merkel,” said Herbillon, who hopes to see the subject on the table at the European Council in March 20

Read more: France to launch bottom-up consultation for European reform – EURACTIV.com

EU and Japan finalize trade deal

The EU and Japan finalised negotiations on a free trade agreement on Friday (8 December), the bloc's executive announced. The accord builds on the political agreement reached by the two sides over the summer. However, the deal does not cover investment protection yet, as negotiations on dispute resolution continue. The deal creates an economic zone of 30 percent of the world's GDP, according to the EU commission.

Read more: EU and Japan finalise trade deal

USA: Sodom and Gomorrah repeat ? - Southern California ‘like a war zone’ as raging wildfires grow

California: A repeat of Sodom and Gomorrah?
Wildfires continued to ravage Southern California for a fifth day Friday, with growing blazes and new fires sending rivers of flames through communities and injuring several people.

The largest of the fires spread across more than 200 square miles by Friday morning and crept toward the college town of Santa Barbara, while a new blaze in San Diego County grew quickly and dangerously, forcing a new round of evacuations.

These dangers came as firefighters confronted a half-dozen blazes across the region, fires that imperiled communities and homes, burned through streets and roared over mountains, forcing many to flee and leaving them with no idea when they could return home or if they would have anything to return to. Hundreds of buildings were destroyed and thousands more remained in danger, officials said.

The San Diego County blaze, dubbed the Lilac Fire, started Thursday morning and grew to more than 4,000 acres by that night. Ron Lane, the county’s deputy chief administrative officer, said it had never experienced December winds like these before.

The Lilac blaze destroyed at least 20 buildings, and three people suffered burns, according to county officials. Another person was injured by smoke inhalation, while two firefighters combating the blaze were injured. Authorities ordered a wave of evacuations and said more could follow.

Note by EU-Digest:  The fires in California, tropical storms, floods and other calamities, including political chaos.

The US must feel like it had more than its share of bad news, as this year comes to a close. It does raise the question, at least with some, as to why this is happening?  For people who are familiar with the Holy Bible - Genesis 19, it seems there are now many similarities and parallels between America and the ancient city of Sodom. 

Indeed it is interesting to note that all the things that in the past would be cause for great shame, embarrassment and personal humiliation in a morally healthy society, are now done with no sense of shame or embarrassment in today's society.  

Personal morality is of fundamental importance to a society. A building is only as good as the material it is built with.The people of a society are the fundamental building blocks of a society.
All of the institutions of a society are composed of people. 

Institutions are structures consisting of people. \\

The institutions are only as good as the people who make them up. Government from the national level down to the local level, the legal system, the school system, the health system, the police system, the military. Corporate and personal businesses.

People have become acclimated to a climate of wickedness and depravity. They like all the moral permissiveness. It suits them. They are comfortable with it. It gives them license and freedom. 

Freedom to do whatever they wish. They are so comfortable with their environment that they are no longer able to distinguish between right and wrong. Anyone who objects to their depraved ways is either seen as a radical, a lunatic, or a crazy nut.

The Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah illustrates a very important fact: 

The Holy Bible is not a broad-minded, tolerant book.It is, in a sense, a very narrow-minded, intolerant book. 

God is a God of righteousness who is patient but not infinitely patient. This is illustrated by the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, also by the story of Noah and the flood, and many other stories.

Christ showed anger and righteous indignation on certain occasions. God  certainly has love and mercy for the penitent sinner and the person who loves and serves him but he can be very severe with the unrepentant.

It might be a good thing to keep the above in mind when we are struck by calamities,  either our own,  or by disasters, like the present fires in California. 
 
Read more:  Southern California ‘like a war zone’ as raging wildfires grow

12/7/17

Europe – A World-Class Place To Live And Work? -by Juan Menéndez-Valdés

A world-class place to live and work.’ That is how President Juncker described Europe at the summit to formally proclaim the EU Pillar of Social Rights in Gothenburg last month.

And he added: ‘Europe is more than just a single market, more than money … It is about our values and the way we want to live’.

So how do we live? Do the 510 million Europeans across the current 28 Member States really feel that their living conditions are ‘world-class’?

Certainly, many do. But many others still face inequalities and feel excluded or insecure, worry about access to decent housing and jobs and wonder about the future for themselves and their children. This is reflected in growing populist sentiment that seems to reject the Establishment, making the general narrative on Europe appear largely negative.

But, as always, the reality is significantly more complex.

In fact, the last few years have been generally good and the ‘wind is (indeed) back in Europe’s sails’.

The results from the most recent European Quality of Life Survey show overall progress in the areas of quality of life, quality of society and quality of public services. We have seen improvements for many, although from low points following the economic crisis. Indeed, in some cases, the indicators finally display a return to pre-crisis levels – reflecting, in part, the general economic upturn and return to growth across the Member States.

Levels of optimism have risen, and life satisfaction and happiness ratings have remained generally high in most EU countries. Satisfaction with living standards has increased in a majority of Member States and more people can now make ends meet than was the case in 2011.

Trust in national institutions has actually increased across the board and young people in particular show greater trust in other people. The welcome growth in engagement and participation in social and community organisations across Member States and the decline in feelings of social exclusion, which were more prevalent in the downturn, are also signs of a more positive post-crisis environment.

Indeed, perceived tensions in society between poor and rich people, management and workers, old and young persons and men and women, have all declined during the last five years.

Older people indeed fare less well than their younger counterparts, particularly in some central and eastern European countries, and age clearly contributes to decreasing life satisfaction in Bulgaria, Croatia, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Slovenia. In two-thirds of the EU Member States, more than half of respondents also have concerns about their levels of income in old age.

In fact, despite growth that has seen fewer people reporting material hardship compared to five years ago, over half of the population in 11 Member States still say they have difficulties making ends meet.

This is marginally down on the 13 Member States where the majority of people expressed difficulties making ends meet in 2011 , but still more than 2007 levels. As always, the poor suffer most, and the results show that quality of life has improved less for those in lower income groups.

Read the complete report: Europe – A World-Class Place To Live And Work?

EU: Mogherini: Jerusalem is the capital of both Israel and Palestine - by Irene Kostaki

The EU’s diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini repeated on Thursday the EU’s position on the Middle East issues after the U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“The European Union has a clear and united position. We believe the only realistic solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is based on two states and with Jerusalem as the capital of both,”

EU foreign policy chief Mogherini told a news conference hours after Trump’s announcement.

The EU has expressed serious concern about the announcement by US President and the repercussions this may have on the prospect of peace. The High Representative / Vice President Mogherini, stressed that the EU and its member states will continue to respect the international consensus on Jerusalem embodied in, inter alia, UNSCR 478, including on the location of their diplomatic representations until the final status of Jerusalem is resolved.

Mogherini was bold about the EU’s support towards a two-state solution in the area: “The EU reiterates its firm commitment to the two-state solution and to its existing policies, as set out in its successive Council Conclusions. 

A negotiated two-state solution, which fulfills the aspirations of both sides, is the only realistic way of bringing the lasting peace and security that both Israelis and Palestinians deserve,” she said.

Read more: Mogherini: Jerusalem is the capital of both Israel and Palestine

12/6/17

Israel: Global leaders regret, reject Trump recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital

World leaders and diplomats reacted with dismay after US President Donald Trump on Wednesday officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and declared the American embassy will be moved from Tel Aviv to the city.

The move addressed Israel’s long-standing claim to the city as its undivided capital, but leaders around the world warned it could harm peace efforts and spark violence.

French President Macron said the decision was “regrettable” and called to “avoid violence at all costs.”

Speaking at a press conference in Algiers, where he was visiting, Macron stressed “the commitment of France and Europe to the two-state solution, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and safe in internationally recognized borders with Jerusalem as the capital of the two states.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May firmly opposed the development and declared the UK had no intention of moving its own embassy.

“We disagree with the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital before a final status agreement,” she said in a statement from her office. “We believe it is unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region. The British Embassy to Israel is based in Tel Aviv and we have no plans to move it.”

The status of Jerusalem, she continued, “should ultimately be the shared capital of the Israeli and Palestinian states.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel “does not support” the decision her spokesman said Wednesday.

The German government “does not support this position because the status of Jerusalem can only be negotiated within the framework of a two-state solution,” spokesman Steffen Seibert wrote on Twitter.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he had “consistently spoken out against any unilateral measures that would jeopardize the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians.”

“Jerusalem is a final status issue that must be resolved through direct negotiations between the two parties on the basis of the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, taking into account the legitimate concerns of both the Palestinian and the Israeli sides,” he continued.

European Union Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini said in a statement that the EU was concerned about the development and called for restraint by all parties.

“The European Union expresses serious concern about today’s announcement by the United States President Trump on Jerusalem and the repercussions this may have on the prospect of peace,” she said. “The EU position remains unchanged. The aspirations of both parties must be fulfilled and a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states.”

“The EU calls on all actors on the ground and in the wider region to show calm and restraint in order to prevent any escalation,” Mogherini urged.

“A negotiated two-state solution, which fulfils the aspirations of both sides, is the only realistic way of bringing the lasting peace and security that both Israelis and Palestinians deserve,” she added.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni tweeted that “Jerusalem is a holy city, unique in the world. Its future must be defined in the context of the peace process based on the two states, Israel and Palestine.”

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom came out against the US recognition of the Israeli capital tweeting it was “vital to protect Jerusalem’s special status as established by the UN and respect UN security council resolutions.”

The European Union, she noted, has a clear position on Jerusalem as “a final status issue and future capital for two states. Unilateral action on Jerusalem jeopardizes peace and stability in region and beyond.”

The Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF) issued a statement calling on Macron to follow Trump’s lead and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel

“The CRIF salutes the historic decision of US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and the upcoming transfer of the US Embassy,” the organization said in a statement. It called on Macron “to engage our country in the same courageous step” in order to “revive a sincere dialogue to achieve by negotiation a lasting peace” between Israel and the Palestinians.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman welcomed Trump’s decision, tweeting that the president “displayed the ultimate test of leadership and courage by standing up for what’s just and true, even in the face of stiff opposition. Jerusalem is Israel’s capital today as it was 3,000 years ago.”

“Congratulations,” he wrote, “for this historic decision.”

Trump’s action, making good on an election campaign promise, marked a major milestone for Israel’s efforts to gain international legitimacy for its claims to Jerusalem. Israel calls Jerusalem its undivided capital, but the international community has refrained from recognizing it as such pending final status negotiations with the Palestinians, who seek the eastern half of the city as their own seat of power in a future state.

Israel’s government rejects partition of the city.

Note EU-Digest: This disastrous decision by the President of the United States could be - "the Straw which broke the Camel's back" - when it comes to the US achieving any future success as it relates to their Middle East Foreign Policy.

From: Global leaders regret, reject Trump recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital | The Times of Israel