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10/19/17

Austrian Elections: Austrian far right says it won't join government unless it gets the interior ministry top job

Beautiful and historic Vienna at Sun-Set
Kurz's conservative ÖVP party won 31.5 percent of the vote in Sunday's election, near-complete results show, and the populist Freedom Party (FPÖ), came in third on 26.0 percent.

The Social Democrats (SPÖ) of incumbent Chancellor Christian Kern came second with 26.9 percent.

"We have several red lines," FPÖ chairman Heinz-Christian Strache said in his first press conference since the vote.

"The interior ministry is a precondition" for government participation, he added.

Strache, 48, said he saw "no reason to rush" the negotiations, which are to due to begin by the end of the week.

Read more: Austrian far right says it won't join government unless it gets the interior ministry top job - The Local

USA: Christians: Why evangelicals love Trump - by Josh Dawsey

After bowing his head during a blessing before dinner with evangelical leaders in the Blue Room last month, President Donald Trump cracked a joke.

"I'm the only person on Fifth Avenue that would have a prayer like that," the president said, according to two attendees, seeming to separate himself from much of Manhattan's swanky Upper East Side.

One evangelical leader present offered that Cardinal Timothy Dolan, whose palatial cathedral and residence is blocks from Trump Tower, may also suggest a blessing before dining. Trump agreed before commenting on the cardinal's lavish digs.

He then pointed to several of the religious leaders before saying an iteration of: "The Christians, they know what I'm doing for them, right?" He grinned and nodded as he was praised.

The episode provides a window into Trump's symbiotic relationship with evangelical voters, according to more than a dozen White House officials, advisers and religious leaders.

Several senior White House officials say they've never heard Trump reference the Bible privately or pray in the Oval Office — even though he has, at times, asked Vice President Mike Pence to pray. He swears frequently, even startling some aides with his coarse language. He was famously caught on tape saying he could grab women by their genitals because he is famous. In New York, he was well-known for cheating on his wives and encouraging coverage of his sex life in the tabloids.

Though he has declared the Bible to be his favorite book, just ahead of his autobiography, he has not exhibited a deep knowledge of it. On the campaign trail, one of his more famous moments was calling the communion "my little wine and my little cracker" and incorrectly calling Second Corinthians "Two Corinthians."

Yet he has told advisers he sees evangelicals as among his most important constituencies, and he has enjoyed fervent support, as evidenced by another rapturous reception on Friday at the Values Voter Summit.

A Reuters poll in September showed more than 60 percent of white evangelicals back Trump, far higher than his overall approval rating, which has often fallen below 40 percent. 

“Trump has been focused like a laser beam on the evangelical vote since the day he entered the presidential race in June 2015, and that has never changed," said Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, who said Trump called religious leaders repeatedly during the campaign.

Those who have known Trump longest guffaw at his approach to evangelicals and say they believe he is only pandering. Even some of the religious leaders who wanted to praise Trump publicly asked to go off the record and say they don't believe the self-described Presbyterian is religious. 


Read more: Why evangelicals love Trump - POLITICO

Religion: Many Countries Favor Specific Religions reports the Pew Research Center

Islam is the most common state religion, but many governments give indirect privileges to Christianity

More than 80 countries favor a specific religion, either as an official, government-endorsed religion or by affording one religion preferential treatment over other faiths, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data covering 199 countries and territories around the world.

Islam is the most common government-endorsed faith, with 27 countries (including most in the Middle East-North Africa region) officially enshrining Islam as their state religion. By comparison, just 13 countries (including nine European nations) designate Christianity or a particular Christian denomination as their state religion. 

But an additional 40 governments around the globe unofficially favor a particular religion, and in most cases the preferred faith is a branch of Christianity. Indeed, Christian churches receive preferential treatment in more countries – 28 – than any other unofficial but favored faith.

Read more: Many Countries Favor Specific Religions | Pew Research Center

Brexit:"Stupidity on steroids":Theresa May urged to prepare for no-deal Brexit by former ministers-by Ashley Cowburn

The British newspaper Independent reports that PM Theresa May is being urged to prepare to walk away from the EU without a deal by former Conservative ministers, insisting the UK should not be “terrified” of ending the negotiations with Brussels.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, four ex-Cabinet ministers, including Lord Lawson, Owen Paterson, John Redwood and Peter Lilley, call on Ms May to “concentrate our resources on resolving administrative issues” ahead of leaving with no deal in March 2019.

Operating on World Trade Organisation rules, they claim, would help Britain “crystallise the economic opportunities” of Brexit, give businesses “absolute certainty” about the future and sever ties with Brussels regulations which “take opportunities off the table”.

The letter, organized by the Leave Means Leave campaign, comes as the Prime Minister went to Brussels in an attempt to appeal directly to the EU heads of government and bypass the stalled negotiating process.

Ms May will hope to engage them “in a discussion” to end the impasse, a senior UK Government official said, ahead of the EU leaders’ own Brexit talks in Britain’s absence.

In the letter to The Daily Telegraph, the senior Eurosceptics add: “No deal on trade is better than a deal which locks the UK into the European regulatory system and takes opportunities off the table.

Speaking about the plea to Ms May, Mr Paterson, the former Environment Secretary, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that it appeared unlikely a trade deal would be struck with the EU “because they are flatly refusing to talk about it” and that there was a “complete obsession with money” - the so-called divorce bill.

He said that a trade deal with the EU is “the best destination, but what we should not be terrified of is the WTO”.

As European leaders gathered in Brussels, he said: ”We have to face the fact that this summit is not going to discuss any future trade deal. We are ineluctably moving down the road to a WTO arrangement so we had better start preparing for it.

“If they come back - and we very much hope they would - to talk about a free trade deal, that would be a bonus.”

But pro-EU Tory former cabinet minister Nicky Morgan said: “It is absolutely not 'inevitable' that the UK ends up on WTO terms with no Brexit deal - it is what the hard Brexiteers want.”

"A lot of people, corporations, financial institutions and industries, will start packing their bags, if they are not doing so already."

Spain: Catalonia Rebels Ignore Spanish Government Ultimatrum: Spain to suspend Catalan autonomy

The Spanish government on Thursday vowed to go ahead with taking direct control of Catalonia after accusing regional President Carles Puigdemont of failing to comply with its ultimatum to clarify whether he had declared independence.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in a statement that he will convene a cabinet meeting on Saturday to propose a series of measures under the framework of Article 155 of the Constitution — which allows “all measures necessary to compel” a region to abide by the law— and send them to the Senate for approval.

“The Spanish government has noted … the refusal of the president of the Generalitat of Catalonia [the regional executive] to comply with the requirement … to report in a clear and precise way if any authority of Catalonia had proceeded to declare independence,” the statement said.

Read more: Spain to suspend Catalan autonomy – POLITICO

10/18/17

NATO: "Berlin, we recommend you: Grab the Nato bull by its horns!".

NATO
Germany has to show a “determined leadership” of Nato and lead this military alliance of the “West” towards adopting a new strategic concept. This is what the advisers to the German Government and experts in foreign policy are asking for. The context? The reorientation of Germany’s global policy which, following Russia’s recapturing of Crimea, no longer aims exclusively at military interventions throughout the whole world to guarantee strategic or economic interests, but also at fighting “competing conceptual models” of international policy. It is in the pursuit of this latter objective that the Federal Republic is playing a leading role in establishing Nato’s presence in Eastern Europe— against Russia. In particular, Berlin has the lead role in creating multinational divisions, which are destined to complete the Nato troops stationed in the Baltic States and Poland and aims at being the “spear head” of the Alliance. As the Stiftung für Wissenschaft und Politik (the “Foundation for Science and Politics” referred to herein as SWP) stresses, these can also be sent by the EU at any time and participate in these operations. It is for this reason that the SWP considers that their “importance and scope stretches beyond the Alliance”.

And how did this request for a stronger German leadership of Nato come about? It was after Russia recaptured Crimea, a move that led Berlin to a strategic reorientation of its global policy. Till then, what the federal government had in mind in terms of military operations, especially in wars in distant lands – were the following:

- interventions to install or stabilize pro-Western governments (for example, in Afghanistan or in Mali); and
- measures aimed at “maintaining free trade and access, with no strings attached, to markets and raw materials all over the world”.

The government had already articulated its thinking in its 1992 Guidelines for the Defense Policy [1]. However, post-1992, the situation changed. As states like China and Russia “experienced an increasing influence on the economic, political and military plane”, a “multipolar world” is now in its gestation period. According to a recent White Book of the Bundeswehr (the German Unified Armed Forces), in this new world “competing conceptions of how the international political order should be structured” could emerge.

Thus, Russia “is presenting itself as an independent sphere with its own “pull factor” and a global vision”. [2] German strategists consider that this fact manifests itself clearly and unambiguously when Russia reseized Crimea. When Moscow insists on operating “independently” in terms of foreign policy, the White Book indicates that this is a “challenge for the security of our continent”.

But the multinational divisions that are emerging are not limited to Nato interventions. SWP reaffirms that formally “only the armed forces of Nato members” participate and these forces can freely decide on their stationing. We consider that these forces would give priority to participating in Nato interventions; but “in theory”, combat formations could also be used “in EU operations” [10]. “Faced with the shocks that took place in the transatlantic relation”, multinational divisions “have an importance that stretches beyond the Alliance”.

 On this premise, continuing on this trajectory, the Bundeswehr would become “one of the most important armies on the continent”. The SWP writers conclude: “now it seems even more urgent that the debate on the growth of Germany’s importance in Nato and in Europe, offers a bigger place to Berlin”.

Finally, the extremely ambitious project for constructing multinational divisions requires a “determined leadership” - and “by Germany”.

Read complete report: Berlin, we recommend you: Grab the Nato bull by its horns!, by German Foreign Policy

France: President Macron:"we must not repeat the mistakes of the Middle Ages to demonize Islam as we did to Protestants"

French President Emmanuel Macron
A fascinating debate is bubbling along among intellectuals in France following M Macron’s election as President of France, concerning something the French political system is supposed to be completely free from: religion. In 1905 a law of laïcité formally separated Church and state.

Most French people are notionally Catholic, and a significant proportion appear to be observant. The Protestant church in France estimates a following of just over a million people, or 2% of the population.

President Macron grew up in a secular household, and he has several times expressed his commitment to the idea of laïcité: but when he was 12 years old, feeling, as he has put it, the need for some “spirituality”, he asked to be baptised as a Catholic.

It is worth parsing Mr Macron’s ideas about religion because he has a particular interest in the subject.

He was baptized into the Catholic faith at his own request at the age of 12, and schooled by Jesuits, brainy Catholics who often live on the border between their own religion and other faiths and cultures.

Mr Macron has in his speeches likened the internal problems of the European Union and its monetary system to a religious conflict. The Protestant north had a rigid and moralistic attitude towards debt while the Catholic south, with its culture of confession and absolution, took a more happy-go-lucky view, he once said.

On the subject of Islam, some of what Mr Macron says is broadly what you would expect from a centrist politician in France.

French Muslims must be encouraged to develop their own, enlightened reading of the faith, fully compatible with the laws of the republic. They must be helped to wean themselves off dubious sources of foreign funding. They must be part of the struggle against terrorism. Although the state can facilitate all these developments, the main responsibility must be borne by Muslims themselves.

Most of these sentiments have been expressed by other French office-holders, and they are worthy if difficult to put into practice. But in that Montpellier speech, Mr Macron said one thing which was highly contentious for Muslims and non-Muslims alike:
"Our mission…it will be difficult, it will take time, it will be demanding for all men and women…will be to act in such a way that French people of the Muslim faith are always more proud of being French than of being Muslim…"
Is that actually conceivable? Being a citizen of the French republic, with all its rights, obligations and ideological axioms, is a demanding business. For its most fervent adherents, French republicanism is supposed to supersede all previous loyalties, be they Catholic, Protestant or Jewish.

But being a Muslim, a member of the umma, the global community of believers, is pretty demanding too. In practice, people do find ways of negotiating their political and religious loyalties.

Traditional Islam does not urge its followers to disobey the laws of well-organized states: on the contrary, it encourages a cautious and conservative way of life. But for many Muslims, asking them to be “less proud” of their faith than their passport will still be asking too much.

For all his cerebral intensity, Mr Macron was not giving a history lesson for its own sake. His aim was to warn his compatriots not to repeat the mistakes of the Middle Ages. Just as it was wrong and inexpedient for medieval France to demonize the Protestants, so too it would be wrong for today's politicians to demonize Islam or its followers.

EU-Digest

Denmark: Copenhagen unions call for 30-hour week for municipal workers

The Copenhagen Waterfront
Eight of the unions representing Copenhagen Municipality employees want a pilot project set up to try out a 30-hour working week.

The unions claim this would prevent many employees developing stress, cut absences due to sickness, and help people balance their work and family lives better, reports DR Nyheder.

“We know from a trial in Sweden that a 30-hour week helped both employees and the institutions to cope better with the pressure of work,” said Henriette Brockdorff, the head of BUPL, the union representing pedagogues in Copenhagen.

As well as the pedagogues, the eight unions represent health and social assistants, social workers, teachers, office personnel, kitchen employees and cleaners.

Brockdorff agrees that the present 37-hour week is already rather short by international standards, but contends that the pressure on workers these days is extreme due to overly-high productivity demands.

As well as a shorter working week, the unions also want workers to be compensated salary-wise. That would mean an increase in costs of around 20 percent, so the unions would like to see Copenhagen Municipality setting aside 12 million kroner for the project.

However, the group chair for Socialdemokratiet at Copenhagen Municipality, Lars Weiss, rejects this idea.

“We have a ‘Danish model’ through which agreements are made on salaries and employment conditions every second year, and I’m not going to start negotiating on these matters in the run-up to a local election.”

Weiss also said that calculations made by the municipality’s finance department suggest that a 30-hour working week would cost 3.6 billion kroner per annum.

“This would severely impact our service levels. We would see higher numbers in school classes and kindergartens, and that would put even more pressure on the employees.”

Note EU-Digest: Is this for real? Municipal workers having too much stress in Denmark and now want to work 30 hrs per week?   As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet: "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark".

Read more: Copenhagen unions call for 30-hour week for municipal workers – The Post

Britain thinks Germans care about Brexit — they don’t

Brexit is not a political issue in Germany. No election will be won or lost because of it. Angela Merkel’s position — to walk in lock-step with France and the Commission — is not controversial, it is consensus across the political landscape.

For Berlin, Brexit is less of a negotiation than a punchline. Germans officials like to joke that Brits are quickly becoming the largest refugee group in Berlin.

They are bemused at how the British have become more literate in the minutiae of EU rules than at any time during their unlucky four decades as members of the bloc.

Few in Berlin are following the finer points of the U.K. debate, however. Boris Johnson’s recent pronouncements on clearing out “the dead bodies” in Libya and his recitation of Rudyard Kipling in Myanmar got more notice than Theresa May’s Florence speech, for example.

Read more: Britain thinks Germans care about Brexit — they don’t – POLITICO

10/17/17

The European Union is blind to the military strategy of the United States - by Thierry Meyssan

The political leaders of the European Union are entirely wrong about the Islamic terrorist attacks in Europe and the migration to the Union of people fleeing the war zones. Thierry Meyssan demonstrates here that these are not simply the accidental consequences of conflict in the wider Middle East and Africa, but a strategic objective of the United States.

The leaders of the European Union are suddenly being confronted with unexpected situations. On the one hand, terrorist attacks or attempted attacks perpetrated or prepared by individuals who do not belong to any identified political groups; and on the other, an influx of refugees who cross the Mediterranean, several thousands of whom die along their coasts.

In the absence of any strategic analysis, these two events are considered a priori as being unconnected, and are treated by different administrations. The former are handled by the Intelligence services and the police, the latter by Customs and Defence. However, they both share the same common origin – the political instability that reigns in the Levant and in Africa.

If the military academies of the European Union had done their job, they would have been studying the doctrine of its « big brother », the United States, for the last fifteen years. Indeed, for many long years, the Pentagon has been publishing all sorts of documents on the « Chaos Theory» borrowed from the philosopher Leo Strauss. Only a few moths ago, an official who should have retired more than 25 years ago, Andrew Marshall, disposed of a budget of 10 million dollars annually to research this subject [1]. But no military academy of the Union has seriously studied this doctrine and its consequences. Partly because this is a barbaric form of warfare, and partly because it was conceived by one of the intellectual gurus of the US Jewish elite. And as everybody knows,the United-States-who-saved-us-all from-Nazism can not advocate such atrocities

If the political personnel of the European Union had travelled a little, not only to Iraq, Syria, Libya, the horn of Africa, to Nigeria and Mali, but also to Ukraine, they would have seen with their own eyes the application of this strategic doctrine. Instead, the contented themselves with speeches delivered from a building in the Green Zone of Bagdhad, from a podium in Tripoli or on Maïdan Square in Kiev. They have no idea what these populations are really experiencing, and at the request of their « big brother », have often closed their embassies, thereby depriving themselves of eyes and ears on the ground. Even better, still at the request of their « big brother », they have participated in embargos, thus ensuring that no European businessmen will travel to these areas and see what is happening there.

Contrary to what President François Hollande has declared, the Libyan migration is not the consequence of a « lack of follow-through » of operation « Unified Protector », but the desired result of this operation, in which his country has played a leading role. Chaos did not evolve because the « Libyan revolutionaries » were unable to agree after the « fall » of Mouammar el-Kadhafi, it was the strategic goal of the United States, and they succeeded. There never was a « democratic revolution » in Libya, but a secession of Cyrenaïca. There never was an application of the UNO mandate aimed at « protecting the population », but the massacre of 160,000 Libyans, three quarters of whom were civilians, under the bombardments of the Alliance (numbers from the International Red Cross).

Chaos is not an accident, it’s the goal....

Read more: The European Union is blind to the military strategy of the United States , by Thierry Meyssan

Czech Job Market: Czech ministry mulls massive recruitment of foreign workers to fill jobs

Beautiful and historic Prague, capital of the Czech Republic
A proposal to take 200,000 foreign workers into the country to fill vacant jobs in the Czech Republic was tabled by the Ministry of Finance for the rest of the government last Wednesday, just over a week ahead of elections to the lower house of parliament on October 20 and 21.

The ministry says the document was presented by ANO’s finance minister Ivan Pilný for the information of other Cabinet ministers with the idea of starting a debate, especially with the ministries most directly concerned such as the foreign ministry, interior ministry, and industry ministry. A spokesman said that the target is to deal with all aspects of the issue of recruiting foreign workers and come up a comprehensive policy. The document was not made public.

Where the workers could come from; what is the time frame for the recruitment; whether new procedures would be adopted; and whether priority would be given to workers qualified for certain sectors are all questions which the ministry does not want to discuss at the moment. The finance ministry spokesman described suggestions that the Czech Republic would once again seek workers from traditional sources of supply, such as Ukraine and Vietnam, as "speculation."

The Czech daily Právo reported that the finance ministry document warns that many Czech companies are losing orders because they can’t find the required workers and that some could even go bust if the situation continues.

Social Democrat election leader and foreign minister Lubomír Zaorálek referred on his Twitter account to a separate interview with the Právo newspaper in which he claimed that the finance ministry report was submitted without the normal prior consultation with other ministries.

Zaorálek added that some of the companies seeking to recruit foreign workers are offering monthly wages of around 13,500 crowns. The Czech minimum wage from the start of 2018 should rise to 12,200 crowns.

September’s Czech unemployment fell to 3.8 percent with almost 285,000 unemployed and 200,000 vacancies at labour offices.

Note EU-Digest: If the Czech Republic requires 200,000 foreign workers to fill vacant positions, they better ease-up on immigration laws and start accepting more refugees based on the established EU quota levels

Read more: Czech ministry mulls massive recruitment of foreign workers to fill jobs | Radio Prague

Malta: Murder of Malta’s top investigative journalist provokes shock and outrage – by Georgi Gotev

Daphne Caruana Galizia, Malta’s top investigative journalist, was killed on Monday (16 October) when the car she was driving exploded shortly after she left her home.

Caruana Galizia was a top gun when it came to exposing corruption in Malta and EURACTIV repeatedly quoted her articles and was in touch with her. Her blog, Running Commentary, was considered by many colleagues as the best source of information about her country.

The force of the blast that killed her reduced the car she was in to pieces and catapulted the journalist’s body into a nearby field, witnesses said. She leaves behind a husband and three sons. Local media say one of her sons heard the blast and rushed outside.

She was killed minutes after posting her last blogpost, following up on her investigations based on the Panama Papers.

Note EU-Digest: Our condolences to the family and what we hope will be a speedy arrest of the conspirators who planned and carried out this hideous crime.

Read more: Murder of Malta’s top investigative journalist provokes shock and outrage – EURACTIV.com

Austria's election: Europe reacts to Sebastian Kurz victory

Sebastian Kurz Austria's new political leader 
German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated Sebastian Kurz on his victory and the "energetic" modernization of his party, which is aligned with her Christian Democrats.

She declined to comment on which coalition arrangement she wanted to see, but said the Freedom Party's strength would be a "major challenge" for its Austrian rivals.

Merkel said the challenge posed by the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany was "manageable" compared with the FPÖ's strength. She hoped for close cooperation with Kurz at the European level.

Hungary's foreign minister Peter Szijjarto was full of praise for his Austrian counterpart and "friend" Kurz, who at 31 is expected to become Europe's youngest national leader following an election victory on Sunday.

"He's hijacked neither by hypocrisy nor by political correctness. He's always honest, he's always very direct and I think it's very necessary currently, that European leaders speak directly," Szijjarto told reporters in Brussels.

Szijjarto welcomed Kurz's stance on migration as close to that of Budapest and expected Austria to work more closely with anti-immigration eastern and central European states including Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. East-West divides over migration policy have strained unity in the bloc.

Note EU-Digest: 
It is sad to see that some of the Governments of the EU's Eastern and Central European States, occupied by the Nazi's in the second world war, " indirectly" seem to have copied some of the policies and laws of their former Nazi occupiers, particularly in relation to some of their present immigration policies.  

These laws were implemented in Nazi Germany and their occupied territories (1933–45) based on a specific racist and religious doctrine, asserting the superiority of the Aryan race, which claimed scientific legitimacy.  

The Nazi laws qualified Muslims, Africans and other minorities as "Untermenschen (sub-humans)" . It is important for the EU Parliament and EU Commission to make clear, that laws by EU member states, which ban immigrants from entering into the EU, based on their ethnicity or religion, in any way or form, should not be allowed to see the light of day.. 


Read more: Austria election: Europe reacts to Sebastian Kurz victory | News | DW | 16.10.2017

Canada: What you need to know about Quebec's religious neutrality legislation - by Angelica Montgomery

A bill that requires people in Quebec who give or receive any public service to uncover their faces is expected to become law as early as today.

Many important details still need to be crafted, and its implications may be decided by the courts.

Here's a closer look at Bill 62 and what comes next.

It does not specifically mention the niqab or burqa, two styles of traditional garments that cover the face, worn by some Muslim women.

Initially, the bill was only to apply to provincial public-sector services and provincially funded institutions, including universities and schools.

In August, Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée proposed amendments that see the legislation apply to municipalities, metropolitan communities and public transit organizations.

That means, according to the justice minister, anyone who rides a bus or the Metro must be unveiled.

Read more: What you need to know about Quebec's religious neutrality legislation - Montreal - CBC News

10/16/17

USA: Opinion: America First. America Alone - by Carsten von Nahmen

Donald Trump's decision to decertify the Iran nuclear deal is a slap in the face for America's allies. The president risks isolating the US for the sake of his own fans — and his own ego, writes DW's Carsten von Nahmen.

The protector of Americans against the big, bad world: that's how the president sees himself. And also how many of his supporters view him, and precisely why they voted for him. It was these supporters, more than anyone else, that Trump's speech was aimed at on Friday. It doesn't matter what the others think. America First. America Alone.

Throughout the 2016 election campaign, Trump described the 2015 nuclear deal that his predecessor Barack Obama had reached with Iran alongside European, Chinese and Russian partners as a mistake and the "worst deal ever." This campaign cry has followed him to this day, as has his promise to end the deal as president.

And still. Trump didn't go that far on Friday. Not yet. His most important foreign policy and security advisers, among them Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, had strongly advised Trump against such a step, as Iran's nuclear armament ambitions could not be controlled at all without the deal.

Strictly speaking, there is no reason to terminate the deal. The Iranian government is meeting the obligations that the treaty imposed upon it. European allies, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and even Trump's generals have confirmed this.

And so the president pulled an old trick out of the bag, one that he had so gladly used in his previous life as a businessman and reality TV star. He simply redefined the rules of the game, according to his own terms. The determining factor is not whether Iran is meeting the conditions of the nuclear deal, but whether Iran is living up to the "spirit" of the deal. And if it is, Trump said, it's also whether the Iranian government behaves itself otherwise.

All those who, perhaps, at the beginning of Trump's time in office had hoped that the populist would grow into his office and take his responsibility for his country and the world seriously are now disappointed.

Sad!

Read more: USA-Opinion: America First. America Alone. | Opinion | DW | 14.10.2017

Spain-Catalonia: Puigdemont fails to clarify Catalan independence confusion

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has not given a clear answer on whether he has declared independence for the Spanish region.

The Catalan government has tweeted an English version of Puigdemont’s letter to Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy.

Puigdemont offers to meet him as soon as possible to discuss the controversy, but fails to give a yes or no response on independence. He calls for an end to the “repression” of the Catalan people and their government, citing charges against Catalan demonstrators and the chief of the Catalan police.

He also calls for a meeeting with Rajoy “as soon as possible” to find a solution.

Madrid has responded, the Spanish premier “deeply” regretting Puigdemont’s failure to clarify his stance.

Spain’s central government had set a deadline of 10am on Monday for Puigdemont to give a “yes” or “no” answer – and until Thursday to change his mind should the reply be affirmative. Madrid has threatened to suspend Catalonia’s autonomy under Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, if independence is declared.

In addition to the letter, Carles Puigdemont is said to have included documents including a copy of the breakaway Referendum Law that his minority government rammed through the regional parliament with help from its far-left ally CUP.

The move bypassed ordinary parliamentary procedure, prompting an opposition walkout.

Read more:Puigdemont fails to clarify Catalan independence confusion | Euronews

Individual Economic Success: 10 golden rules which can make you a millionaire

Thomas C. Corley of Business Insider has spent years studying the habits of wealthy people.

He completed a "Rich Habits Study" in which he interviewed 233 people each worth more than $3.2 million, 75 percent of whom were self-made millionaires.

He compiled the 10 qualities that stood out to him as most common among—and most important to—those ultra-successful individuals. Firstly, innovation, because your million-dollar idea must be just that.

It needs to have some valuable quality that sets it apart from ideas that have come before. Here's how one designer used her innovation skills to create an invention that helps fight Parkinson's.

1)  Have an Edge: It's not just your idea that needs to stand out—it's you. Whatever your strong suit is, it needs to be strong enough to help you rise above the rest of the pack.

2) Be an Expert: You need to make sure you are constantly up-to-date on everything there is to know about the field you want to succeed in.

3) Skill Set: Learning on the job is great and all, but you need to make sure you have valuable skills that you accumulate over many years.

4) Work Ethic:This one's a no-brainer. If you want to be successful, you've got to be willing to work incredibly hard and devote lots of time and energy to your goal.

5) Focus UP: Once you're set on an idea, you need to be able to focus on making it a reality. If you're working on a million-dollar project, it requires your full attention, no matter how long the project takes.

6) Connections, Connections and more connections: You can never have too many connections. Seek out the people who can help you and don't be shy.

7) Don't work alone: It'll be hard to get anywhere without people supporting you.Get people to work with you who believe in you and support your ideas and are not scared to be critical of some of your proposals.

8) Never get discouraged and give up: Persistence, of course, is extremely important. Failure happens and can only help you to start over again with new fresh ideas.

9) Have faith in your ability to succeed:  Luck is not what makes things really happen. Vision, a good plan and focused hard work is the only path  to success.

10) Blow your own horn: make sure that after you have produced your product or service, people hear about it via a variety of publicity vehicles readily available to you. 

EU-Digest

10/15/17

Clean Air: Canada aligning with U.K. to fight global growth in coal-fired electricity - Mia Rabson

Eliminating, or at least reducing, the world's reliance on coal is a critical step in the Paris climate change accord's efforts to prevent the planet from warming more than two degrees Celsius over with pre-industrial times
.
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is on a two-day trip to the U.K. and Ireland this week, pushing Canada as a global leader on climate change action.

On Thursday she was in Ireland to be a panellist at a climate risk conference in Dublin and tour Ireland's Marine Institute in Galway.

During Wednesday's stop in London she and Claire Perry, British minister of state for climate change and industry, announced plans to use their own national commitments to phase out coal power plants as a means to convince others to do the same.

In a statement, the two said Canada and the U.K. are both committed to phasing out unabated coal use at home — Canada by 2030 and the U.K. by 2025 — and they are inviting others to jump on board during the next United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany in November.

Read more: Canada aligning with U.K. to fight global growth in coal-fired electricity | National Observer

The Netherlands: World’s first CO2-neutral chicken eggs laid in the Netherlands - by Mina Solanki

 Another world’s first for farming and agriculture in the Netherlands; this time it's a CO2-neutral chicken farm with 24.000 chickens in Castenray in the province of Limburg.

In order to achieve CO2-neutrality, specific choices have been made regarding the farm itself and the chickens that will inhabit it. White chickens will take up residence on the farm; this type of chicken is lighter in terms of weight and eats less, thus saving on the amount of feed necessary to rear the chickens.

Contributing to the eco-friendly character of the farm, the feed given to the chickens is made from farming waste products, which would otherwise not be used for human consumption.

The farm features 1.097 solar panels, which will generate more energy than the farm uses. Around 60 percent of the generated solar energy will be sold. Fossil fuels are not used and emission of particulate matter will be limited to an absolute minimum through the use of advanced technology that filters the air leaving the barn.

Chickens are the inspiration for this farm, as it has been designed according to their needs, and the Dutch animal protection agency, Dierenbescherming, was involved during its development.

Chickens like sunlight and are actually forest animals. To accommodate for this, the farm design includes an indoor garden with a glass roof and trees and tree trunks where the chickens can play.

The chickens can experience fresh air from outside, inside the farm, but if it is nice weather they can also venture outside and choose from two spaces to roam.

Read more: World’s first CO2-neutral chicken eggs laid in the Netherlands

Germany: German interior minister floats idea of Muslim holidays

Germans are debating whether to allow the celebration of Islamic holidays at the state level in areas where large numbers of Muslims live.

The discussions come after the interior minister endorsed the idea on October 10.

Thomas De Maiziere, a member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) which won federal elections last month, made his comments during a campaign rally for state elections in Lower Saxony in the country's northwest.

"I'm willing to talk about the possibility of introducing Islamic holidays," de Maiziere said.

According to the German constitution, all 16 states can decide on their own which religious public holidays are celebrated.

"In areas where a lot of Catholics live, we celebrate All Saint's Day, and in areas where not a lot of Catholics live we don't celebrate All Saint's Day. So why can't we think about Islamic holidays as well?" said de Maiziere.

Read more: German interior minister floats idea of Muslim holidays | Germany News | Al Jazeera

Austria: Sebastian Kurz: Austrian conservative set to become world's youngest leader

Austria's conservative People's Party, led by 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz, is set to win the country's general election, projections suggest.

The victory would make Mr Kurz the world's youngest national leader.

The People's Party was set to win more than 31%. It is so far unclear whether the Social Democrats or the far-right Freedom Party will finish second.

Short of a majority, Mr Kurz's party could seek an alliance with the anti-immigration Freedom Party.

Read more: Sebastian Kurz: Austrian conservative set to become world's youngest leader - BBC News

10/14/17

Europe backs original Iran deal while Saudis hail Trump's move

The European Union's Federica Mogherini said the current deal is "working and delivering", adding that the rest of the world would work to preserve the agreement.

The foreign affairs policy-maker also criticised Mr Trump's unilateral action, contending the deal is not a domestic issue and is not in the hands of any one president to terminate.

British Prime Minister Theresa May released a joint statement with France's Emmanuel Macron and Germany's Angela Merkel, saying they are "concerned by the possible implications".

"We stand committed to the [deal] and its full implementation by all sides", they wrote, adding that it "is in our shared national security interest".

"We look to Iran to engage in constructive dialogue to stop de-stabilising actions and work towards negotiated solutions," the statement said.

Mr Macron also said the latest developments "will not put an end to the Iranian nuclear accord, and that together all the parties in France and its European partners will continue to meet their commitments".

He added that he was considering visiting Tehran after speaking by phone with President Rouhani.

In a statement, the Russian foreign ministry stressed on the "inadmissibility of using aggressive and threatening rhetoric in international relations", saying Moscow "remains committed" to the deal.

The statement added that "there can be no question of any resumption of sanctions by the UN Security Council".

Read more: Europe backs Iran deal, Saudis hail Trump's move - BBC News

US Economy:: Devastating California wildfires predicted to cost US economy $85 billion; Containment may take weeks - by Brian Lada

Devastating fires charring California have claimed more lives than any fire in the state's history, and the economic toll is predicted to climb to $85 billion.

"These wildfires, especially in Northern California, are particularly devastating,” said Dr. Joel N. Myers, founder, president and chairman of AccuWeather.

“We estimate the California wildfires will profoundly affect the economy of California. The cost to contain and fight the fire and deal with the aftermath will be in the billions. And, the loss in tax revenue from businesses no longer around, including the vineyards; the workers who have lost their jobs and can no longer pay taxes as well as other impacts will be quite costly.

This will create a hole in the California budget, which may necessitate an increase in taxes. If California has to borrow more this might negatively impact its bond ratings and it will have to pay higher interest rates on all borrowings, which can cost upwards of 10s of billions of dollars. At this time, we estimate the economic impact of the fires is already approaching $70 billion dollars. Based on our forecast the total costs from this disaster on the economy would exceed $85 billion and, if the fires are not contained in the next couple of weeks, the total economic impact could even reach $100 billion.”

Read more: Devastating California wildfires predicted to cost US economy $85 billion; Containment may take weeks

USA: Trump risks making US rogue actor as he condemns Iran nuclear deal - by Julian Borger

The content, tone and style of Donald Trump’s speech about Iran on Friday was a reminder of how much the current president of the United States relishes conflict.

With his domestic legislative agenda stalled at home and a federal investigation scrutinising his finances and his relations with Moscow, Trump has taken to finding enemies to rail against, including the press and black football players who kneel during the national anthem.

The tactic galvanises his core supporters and seems to rejuvenate him. He appeared similarly energised excoriating Iran on Friday. But taken into foreign policy, Trump’s visceral drive for confrontation threatens to add a second nuclear crisis to the one Trump has already escalated in the Pacific with North Korea.

Note EU-Digest: Interesting negotiation move forcing everyone back to the conference table, unfortunately it could also backfire in a big way?

Read more: Trump risks making US rogue actor as he condemns Iran nuclear deal | US news | The Guardian

10/13/17

Brexit: Europe will be big Brexit winner, says German economics minister-by Guy Chazan and Claire Jones

Europe will be the big winner of Brexit, Germany’s economics minister said, as UK-headquartered companies move to the continent and Emmanuel Macron’s reform push leads to a new “spirit of revival” that will benefit the whole of the EU.

 Brigitte Zypries made the prediction on Wednesday as she revealed the German economy was growing at a faster rate than previously estimated. The government now expects gross domestic product growth of 2 per cent this year, up from a forecast of 1.5 per cent, as Europe’s economic powerhouse continues to charge ahead.

The economy will also grow by 1.9 per cent in 2018, she said. Ms Zypries said Germany’s economic boom had “gained momentum and become more broad-based”.

The economy would “also remain on a growth trajectory in the years to come”. “Germany is doing well and the next government must ensure that it continues to do so,” she said at a press conference in Berlin.

The global economic recovery had stimulated German exports and led to an increase in private sector investment: incomes were rising and unemployment falling. The number of people in work had grown by 2.5m during the past four years. 

Read more: Europe will be big Brexit winner, says German economics minister

US-CA Wildfires: Fragile Wireless Networks Risks Lives in Northern California Wildfires

The fires that ripped through California’s wine country moved with deadly speed, trapping people in their houses and in their neighborhoods. In many cases, the only warning victims received was if they happened to see the flames in the distance.

Other residents were able to escape the wind-driven flames if they were able to receive phone calls from neighbors, family or friends.

Emergency service authorities in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties sent out warnings and evacuation orders as quickly as possible. They also sent police and fire units into threatened neighborhoods with sirens blaring and emergency lights flashing to alert residents to the danger.

Unfortunately, many people out of hearing of those sirens never received evacuation orders or phone calls because the cellular networks in the devastated areas were already out of commission.

Local authorities say that the speed of the fires, coupled with the lack of warnings contributed to the loss of 28 people who are reported to have died as of this writing. Authorities also believe that some of the hundreds of people reported missing have died, but the scale of the destruction, the remoteness of some of the burned areas along with cell communications service outages means there is often no way of ascertaining who is actually missing.

Unfortunately, this problem with a fragile wireless infrastructure isn’t confined to Northern California. 

It’s evident in other areas where disasters have taken place, such as when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in late September. There, two-thirds of the cell sites are still out.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. The communications infrastructure in the U.S. can be made more resilient, either through forward-thinking design or through policies that create redundancy in the networks.

Read more: Fragile Wireless Networks Risks Lives in Northern California Wildfires

10/12/17

Poland: JP Morgan to hire 3k people in its Warsaw center

P Morgan confirmed the news that it will open its global operations center in Warsaw which will bring in some 3,000 jobs. “JP Morgan sees strong human capital in Poland, ready for the challenges of the future.

We also see an economic structure that is excellent for our company,” the bank’s Managing Director Steve Cohen said, adding that “Poland supports entrepreneurship but also maintains political stability and fiscal discipline. At the same time, Poland encourages innovation.”

The facility will be operational in mid-2018. “We already have 19 such centers that operate 24 hours a day throughout the year. These centers limit business risks as well as provide access to global talent,” Cohen added.

Read more: JP Morgan to hire 3k people in its Warsaw center | WBJ

The Netherlands: New Dutch coalition to cut 30% ruling for Expats from eight to five years - by Robin Pascoe

The new Dutch government plans to reduce the tax break for expats known as the 30% ruling, according to the coalition agreement published on Tuesday.

In the section on ‘a competitive place to do business’, the four-party alliance say they will ‘limit the tax advantages for expats’, before going on to explain that international workers will only be able to benefit from the ruling for five years, rather than eight as at present.

A report for the finance ministry published this June said that the ruling is too generous and its provisions could be reduced, while recognising its importance to attract top talents.

Some 60,000 people currently claim the tax break, which effectively means they do not pay tax on the first 30% of their salary. This, the report concludes, cost the treasury some €755m in 2015 and is set to cost €902 in 2017.

To claim the ruling, expats have to earn nearly €53,000 a year (or €37,000 after the 30% has been deducted) and must have lived at least 150 kilometres from a border with the Netherlands, effectively ruling out Germans and Belgians.

Read more:New Dutch coalition to cut 30% ruling from eight to five years - DutchNews.nl

Turkey-US Relations: ‘We don’t need you’: Erdogan accuses Washington of ‘sacrificing’ relations with Turkey

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Washington of “sacrificing” relations with Ankara, and has blamed the ongoing diplomatic dispute on a US ambassador “who doesn't know his place.”
“Let me be very clear, the person who caused this is the ambassador here. It is unacceptable for the United States to sacrifice a strategic partner to an ambassador who doesn't know his place,” Erdogan told provincial governors in Ankara on Thursday, as quoted by Reuters

Erdogan was referencing outgoing US Ambassador John Bass, whom the Turkish president previously accused of acting alone in the decision to suspend the issuance of visas to Turkish citizens, rather than on behalf of the United States government.

Erdogan reiterated that belief on Thursday.

“What a shame if the great United States of America is being governed by an ambassador in Ankara. Because this is the position they are holding. They should have said, ‘You cannot treat my strategic ally this way, you cannot act this way.’ But they couldn't say this,” he said, as quoted by Anadolu Agency.

The US State Department has denied that claim, saying Bass had the “full backing” of Washington, and that his actions were coordinated with the department, the White House, and the National Security Council.

Erdogan went on to deliver a blunt message to Washington, saying “we do not need you.”

“We are not a tribal state. We are the state of the Republic of Turkey and you will accept it. If you don’t, then sorry but we do not need you,” he said, as quoted by Hurriyet.

Read more: "We don’t need you’: Erdogan accuses Washington of ‘sacrificing’ relations with Turkey — RT News

USA-CA:Another serious, critical, catastrophic event’: 21 dead and 285 unaccounted for as wildfires spread - by C.R.Wootson Jr., K.Phillips and J.Achenbach

Deadly CA Wildfires Can Even 
Be Seen from Outer Space
The deadly wildfires devastating Northern California continued to spread across dry hills and vineyards Wednesday, prompting more evacuations from a menacing arc of flames that has killed at least 21 people, destroyed more than 3,500 buildings and battered the region’s renowned wine-growing industry.

Officials expect the death toll to rise as crews begin to reach heavily burned areas. Hundreds in flame-ravaged Sonoma County remain missing, and higher winds coupled with low humidity and parched lands could hamper efforts to contain the fires or create new ones.

“It’s going to continue to get worse before it gets better,” Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said at a news conference Wednesday.

What makes these fast-moving fires particularly dangerous, Pimlott said, is that they “aren’t just in the backwoods. . . . These fires are burning in and around developed communities.”

Nearly two dozen large fires have been raging in the northern part of the state, sending thousands of residents to evacuation centers and burning roughly 170,000 acres — a collective area larger than the city of Chicago. That size is likely to grow.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 285 people in the county remain unaccounted for, Giordano said. It’s unclear if those who are still missing have been harmed, or are simply unable to reach friends and families, as fires have disabled much of the communication system in the region.

Note EU-Digest: With these wildfires happening in CA on a regular basis, one should wonder why no precautions have been taken to stop these events from occurring, like safety (no trees ) fire defense zones.  Once again, it seems to be the very poor US infrastructure, that like in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico is the main culprit, causing all this human misery. As the saying goes "Penny Wise  and Pound foolish". 
Read moreL ‘A serious, critical, catastrophic event’: At least 21 dead as California wildfires spread - The Washington Post

10/11/17

The science of spying: how the CIA secretly recruits academics - by Daniel Golden

In perhaps its most audacious and elaborate incursion into academia, the CIA has secretly spent millions of dollars staging scientific conferences around the world. Its purpose was to lure Iranian nuclear scientists out of their homeland and into an accessible setting, where its intelligence officers could approach them individually and press them to defect. In other words, the agency sought to delay Iran’s development of nuclear weapons by exploiting academia’s internationalism, and pulling off a mass deception on the institutions that hosted the conferences and the professors who attended and spoke at them. The people attending the conference had no idea they were acting in a drama that simulated reality but was stage-managed from afar. Whether the national security mission justified this manipulation of the professoriate can be debated, but there’s little doubt that most academics would have balked at being dupes in a CIA scheme.

More than any other academic arena, conferences lend themselves to espionage. Assisted by globalisation, these social and intellectual rituals have become ubiquitous. Like stops on the world golf or tennis circuits, they sprout up wherever the climate is favourable, and draw a jet-setting crowd. What they lack in prize money, they make up for in prestige. Although researchers chat electronically all the time, virtual meetings are no substitute for getting together with peers, networking for jobs, checking out the latest gadgets and delivering papers that will later be published in volumes of conference proceedings. “The attraction of the conference circuit,” English novelist David Lodge wrote in Small World, his 1984 send-up of academic life, is that “it’s a way of converting work into play, combining professionalism with tourism, and all at someone else’s expense. Write a paper and see the world!”

The importance of a conference may be measured not just by the number of Nobel prize-winners or Oxford dons it attracts, but by the number of spies. US and foreign intelligence officers flock to conferences for the same reason that army recruiters concentrate on low-income neighbourhoods: they make the best hunting grounds. While a university campus might have only one or two professors of interest to an intelligence service, the right conference – on drone technology, perhaps, or Isis – could have dozens.

“Every intelligence service in the world works conferences, sponsors conferences, and looks for ways to get people to conferences,” said one former CIA operative.

Read more: he science of spying: how the CIA secretly recruits academics | News | The Guardian

Spain gives Catalan leader eight days to drop independence-by Blanca Rodríguez, Sonya Dowsett

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday gave the Catalan government eight days to drop an independence bid, failing which he would suspend the Catalonia’s political autonomy and rule the region directly.

His move could deepen the confrontation between Madrid and the northeastern region but also signals a way out of Spain’s biggest political crisis since a failed military coup in 1981. 

Rajoy would probably call a snap regional election after activating Article 155 of the constitution that would allow him to sack the Catalan regional government. 

“The cabinet has agreed this morning to formally request the Catalan government to confirm whether it has declared the independence of Catalonia, regardless of the deliberate confusion created over its implementation,” Rajoy said in a televised address after a cabinet meeting called to consider the government’s response. 

He later told Spain’s parliament the Catalan government had until Monday, Oct. 16 at 0800 GMT to answer. If Puigdemont was to confirm he did declare independence, he would be given an additional three days to rectify it, until Thursday, Oct. 19 at 0800 GMT. Failing this, Article 155 would be triggered. 

It is not yet clear if the Catalan government will answer the requirement but it now faces a conundrum, analysts say. 

Read more: Spain gives Catalan leader eight days to drop independence

Russia: Moscow warns it may restrict U.S. media in Russia

Russia is within its rights to restrict the operations of U.S. media organisations in Russia in retaliation for what Moscow calls U.S. pressure on a Kremlin-backed TV station, a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said on Sunday October 8, 2017.
.
Russian officials have accused Washington of putting unwarranted pressure on the U.S. operations of RT, a Kremlin-funded broadcaster accused by some in Washington of interfering in domestic U.S. politics, which it denies.

The foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said the full weight of the U.S. authorities was being brought to bear against RT's operations in the United States, and that Moscow had the right to respond.

"We have never used Russian law in relation to foreign correspondents as a lever of pressure, or censorship, or some kind of political influence, never," Zakharova said in an interview with Russia's NTV broadcaster. "But this is a particular case."

She cited a 1991 Russian law which, she said, stated that if a Russian media outlet is subject to restrictions in a foreign country, then Moscow has the right to impose proportionate restrictions on media outlets from that country operating inside Russia.

"Correspondingly, everything that Russian journalists and the RT station are subject to on U.S. soil, after we qualified it as restriction of their activities, we can apply similar measures to American journalists, American media here, on Russian territory," Zakharova said.

Read more: Moscow warns it may restrict U.S. media in Russia - Business Insider

China -Development Aid Programs: China's growing global reach and self-interest of its aid programs - by Nahlah Ayed

On the list of China's contributions overseas, there is hurricane relief, books and mosquito nets. But it is the grants and loans for building national roads — even a nuclear power plant — that have put China among the world's largest foreign assistance donors and on equal footing with the US.

An unprecedented trove of data released today by AidData, a research lab based at William and Mary, a university in Virginia, maps China's growing reach and influence over 15 years of global assistance spending.

"China is effectively a spending rival of the U.S. around the world.… They're kind of neck and neck in terms of their overall spending," said Brad Parks, executive director of AidData.

The group estimates the U.S. spent $394.5 billion on foreign assistance between 2000 and 2014, while China spent about $354.3 billion. (All figures are in U.S. dollars.)

Read more: Unprecedented trove of data maps China's growing global reach and self-interest of its aid | CBC News

Internet: Elite Hackers: Stealing NSA Secrets Is ‘Child’s Play’-by Joseph Cox

The National Security Agency’s hackers have a problem.

Last week, multiple outlets reported that its elite Tailored Access Operations unit—tasked with breaking into foreign networks—suffered another serious data breach. The theft of computer code and other material by an employee in 2015 allowed the Russian government to more easily detect U.S. cyber operations, according to The Washington Post. It’s potentially the fourth large-scale incident at the NSA to be revealed in the last five years.

Now, multiple sources with direct knowledge of TAO’s security procedures in the recent past tell The Daily Beast just how porous some of the defenses were to keep workers from stealing sensitive information—either digitally or by simply walking out of the front door with it.

One source described removing data from a TAO facility as “child’s play.” The Daily Beast granted the sources anonymity to talk candidly about the NSA’s security practices.

TAO is not your average band of hackers. Its operations have included digging into China’s networks, developing the tools British spies used to break into Belgium’s largest telecom, and hacking sections of the Mexican government.

While other parts of the NSA may focus on tapping undersea cables or prying data from Silicon Valley giants, TAO is the tip of the NSA’s offensive hacking spear, and could have access to much more sensitive information ripped from adversaries’ closed networks. The unit deploys and creates sophisticated exploits that rely on vulnerabilities in routers, operating systems, and computer hardware the general population uses—the sort of tools that could wreak havoc if they fell into the wrong hands.

That doesn’t mean those tools are locked down, though. “TAO specifically had a huge amount of latitude to move data between networks,” the first source, who worked at the unit after Edward Snowden’s mega-leak, said.

The former employee said TAO limited the number of USB drives—which could be used to steal data—after that 2013 breach, but he still had used several while working at TAO.

“Most operators knew how they could get anything they wanted out of the classified nets and onto the internet if they wanted to, even without the USB drives,” the former TAO employeesai.
Read more: Elite Hackers: Stealing NSA Secrets Is ‘Child’s Play’

A recent report by the Defense Department’s inspector general completed in 2016 found that the NSA’s “Secure the Net” project—which aimed to restrict access to its most sensitive data after the Snowden breach—fell short of its stated aims. The NSA did introduce some improvements, but it didn’t effectively reduce the number of user accounts with “privileged” access, which provide more avenues into sensitive data than normal users, nor fully implement technology to oversee these accounts’ activities, the report reads. Physical security wasn’t much better, at least at one TAO operator’s facility.

He told The Daily Beast that there were “no bag checks or anything” as employees and contractors left work for the day—meaning, it was easy smuggle things home. Metal detectors were present, including before Snowden, but “nobody cared what came out,” the second source added. The third source, who visited TAO facilities, said bag checks were random and weak.

Read more from the Daily Beast

Europe: How Markets View European Unity Vs. Disintegration - by Erik Norland

EU-US: It is high time for a divorce
Opposing forces championing integration versus disintegration are assailing Europe. In the past two years, both sides have scored important victories. Britain's Brexit, Spain's Catalonian independence referendum and the entry of the nationalist Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) party to the German parliament, or Bundestag, were victories for proponents of lesser European unity. The electoral defeat of far-right forces in the Netherlands and the victory of Emmanuel Macron in France were celebrated by those favoring the guiding principle of an "ever closer union."

Whatever one thinks of Brexit, the prospects for deeper European integration and the legitimacy of the various national independence movements, the currency markets' view is unambiguous: they strongly favor deeper political integration:
  • When exit polls mistakenly called the Brexit referendum for the "Remain" voters, the British pound (GBP) rallied from 1.45 to 1.50 versus the U.S. dollar (USD) before crashing, first to 1.32 and later to as low as 1.18 versus the USD when the "Leave" victory became apparent. The euro fell 3% versus the USD on the day of the Brexit referendum and fell nearly 10% versus the USD within six months.
  • Euro rallied 2% versus the USD in the week after Dutch voters dashed the hopes of Geert Wilder's eurosceptic Party for Freedom.
  • Euro soared more than 10% to a two-and-a-half-year high in the weeks after Macron won the French presidential election on a platform advocating domestic economic reform and deeper European integration.
  • September's German election results halted this advance after it became apparent that not only did AfD enter the Bundestag, as expected, but that Angela Merkel underperformed the polls by about 5-6% and would have to create an unwieldy coalition with the enthusiastically pro-European Greens and the Free Democrats, who oppose deeper economic integration.
  • Catalonia's independence referendum led to a 1% one-day decline in the euro, further offsetting gains from the Macron victory. Ninety percent of Catalans voted to leave Spain in the referendum on October 1 that the Spanish state considers illegal and attempted to repress with force, leading to nearly 900 injuries.
Note EU-Digest: The obvious question therefore is: "if deeper unification of Europe is good for business in general , why has the Trump Administration been supporting Brexit and other nationalist movements in Europe, directly undermining European Unity?"

When will the European Union, in particular the EU Commission, EU-Parliament and member states wake up to the fact that a strong united Europe, with an independent foreign policy is not in the interest of the US, whatever they might say to the contrary.

You also do not have to be an Einstein to recognize that the US Foreign Policy has usually been based on a"divide and conquer" doctrine, with the Trump Administration now openly championing this doctrine. 

Obviously a fractured EU. would give the US a wide open playing field in Europe, with very little resistance from individual countries, to oppose major US policy decisions in a variety of areas, which could have a negative effect on the well-being of European citizens.

Yes indeed EU citizens, the motto: "United we Stand, Divided we Fall" is more important today than ever before. 

Read more: Europe: How Markets View Unity Vs. Disintegration | Seeking Alpha

10/10/17

Spain:Unity Survives, as Catalan local government suspends declaration of independence

Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont 
suspends declaration of independence
The Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, has pulled the region back from the brink of an unprecedented showdown with the Spanish government by announcing that he will suspend a declaration of independence to pursue negotiations in the hope of resolving Spain’s worst political crisis for 40 years.

Addressing the Catalan parliament on Tuesday evening, Puigdemont said that while the recent referendum had given his government a mandate to create an independent republic, he would not immediately declare unilateral independence from Spain.

“We propose the suspension of the effects of the declaration of independence for a few weeks, to open a period of dialogue,” he said.

“If everyone acts responsibly the conflict can be resolved in a calm and agreed manner.”

Hours before the announcement, Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, had appealed to Puigdemont to step back from a unilateral declaration of independence and begin dialogue with the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy.

Rajoy has shown himself willing to take the drastic step of invoking article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which allows the central government to take control of an autonomous region if it “does not fulfill the obligations imposed upon it by the constitution or other laws, or acts in a way that is seriously prejudicial to the general interest of Spain”.

The Spanish prime minister has repeatedly pointed out that the referendum and the laws underpinning it are a violation of the Spanish constitution, which is based “on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards”.

His government insists the Catalan question is an internal Spanish matter, and has promised to use all the legal and constitutional means at its disposal to try to stop the regional government’s manoeuvres. It has also deployed thousands of Guardia Civil and national police officers to Catalonia.

Note EU-Digest: Some background on Catalonia and their quest for independence: 


Catalonia has a total population of 7.5 million people. 

On the October 1, polling results, reported by the Catalan government, from the illegally declared referendum by the Spanish government -  it showed the "Yes" side had "won", with 2,044,038 (92.01%) voting for independence and 177,547 (7.99%) voting against, on a turnout of only 43.03% of the eligible voters.

Even though the referendum was held, it must be noted that based on Catalan law, the referendum should not have been held  re: Catalan Statutes of Autonomy - which states that a two third majority is required in the Catalan parliament, before any changes to the Catalonia's Political status can be made.

There was no 2/3 majority, when the vote was held in the Catalan parliament, to approve the holding of a referendum.  It was, however, decided by the ruling parties in the Catalan parliament that a simple majority vote in the Catalan parliament would be sufficient to hold the referendum  

In addition, the holding of the referendum itself, was also declared illegal, based on the Statutes of the Spanish Constitution.  Consequently the holding of a Catalan referendum was also suspended by the "Constitutional Court of Spain" on 7 September 2017. 

Nevertheless, Mr. Carlos Puigdemont still went ahead with the referendum.

Bottom-line the Catalan government, and its President Carles Puigdemont broke every Spanish law there was to break. 

Mr. Puigdemont and several of his cohorts can consider themselves very lucky not to have already been arrested and prosecuted. It could, however, still happen, if they continue to pursue this absurd nationalistic goal. 

EU-Digest

US Climate Control Is Not On The Ropes: Forget Trump, it′s all about local climate action

United States President Donald Trump is negating the Clean Power Plan, widely recognized as former President Barack Obama's linchpin legislation for reducing national greenhouse gas emissions.

Trump's gutting of the Clean Power Plan is not unexpected - and barely news for those who have been following Trump's reversal of environmental standards in general, and climate protection in particular.

The Clean Power Plan was intended as the key piece of policy that would have allowed the US to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius.

"This proposal completely dismisses how US emissions contribute to global climate impacts," commented Sam Adams, director of the World Resources Institute in the US, following the Trump administration's announcement.

After it became clear Trump planned to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement, several coalitions formed in an attempt to counter this.

The United States Climate Alliance includes California, New York, Colorado and 15 other US states that are working across party lines to coordinate action in order to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the Paris Agreement.

On the heels of that coalition, the even-broader initiative "We Are Still In" formed among US cities and counties, business leaders and investors, and tribes and universities. About 2,300 leaders have signed up to the initiative so far.

Former New York Governor Michael Bloomberg and current California Governor Jerry Brown - designated by the United Nations as special climate envoy and advisor, respectively - have also initiated America's Pledge, to drive down US emissions consistent with the Paris Agreement.

Trump sent a crystal-clear signal of his intentions when he pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement in early June this year (the US and Syria are now the only two nations to not be signed on to the treaty).

But a key question regarding climate protection follows: What does this effectively mean for US greenhouse gas emissions?

That answer may come as a bit more of a surprise.

In an analysis released this past September, the New Climate Institute found that emission reduction pledges by US states, cities and businesses currently allow the US to meet half of its nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement.

The report analyzed 342 commitments by 22 US states, 54 American cities and 250 businesses headquartered in the US.

It boils down to thinking about the future: "It's good for business, it's good for the public health of our citizens, and it's the only way we can turn over to our children the world that they deserve - and their children's children."

But the question remains: Is local climate action enough - that is, can it be ratcheted up, and quickly enough - to make up the difference in reducing US emissions?

Niklas Höhne of the New Climate Institute, which sponsored the analysis from September, thinks the answer is clearly yes - particularly when market forces around the expansion of renewables are considered.

He points out that the New Climate Institute report analyzed only a subset of activities: Those that are reported and easily quantifiable.

"We've only quantified 350 - but there are many more, in the order of 2,000," Höhne told DW, in the US alone.

"These have the potential to close the gap."

State, cities and business efforts will reduce emissions 12 to 14 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

States are crucial to climate protection efforts due to the large scale of changes they can make.
Cities, it found, were more ambitious - they play a crucial role in implementing greenhouse gas emission reductions.

But businesses made the most ambitious greenhouse gas reduction commitments of all.

"Following the barrage of super-charged hurricanes, powered in part by warming seas, now is not the time to be backsliding on the country's obligation to reduce the risks of climate change," Adams added.

Read more: Forget Trump, it′s all about local climate action | DW Environment | DW | 10.10.2017

Spain-Crises: EU again urges dialogue to end Catalan crisis

The European Commission repeated its call for dialogue in Spain to end the crisis in Catalonia amid concerns that the Catalan regional authorities could declare independence on Tuesday.

“We called on all those concerned to get of this confrontation as quickly as possible and to start dialogue,” a spokesman for the EU executive said in answer to a question on how the Commission might respond to such a declaration. 

“Violence, as we said, can never be a political tool,” he told reporters, recalling a statement made last week. “And we expressed our confidence in the capacity of Prime Minister (Mariano) Rajoy to manage this delicate process in full respect of the Spanish constitution and the basic fundamental rights of the citizens.”

Read more: EU again urges dialogue to end Catalan crisis