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5/31/17

Aviation Industry: US laptop ban won't include Europe, officials say - by Clark Mindock

The United States has opted not to introduce a ban on bringing laptops into aircraft cabins for flights coming from Europe.

The US and its European partners have agreed to intensify talks on technical solutions to security concerns to find a common solution, a US official told Politico.

The decision was made during a conference call between US Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, European Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, and European Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc.

Note EU-Digest: With all the potential terrorist in Europe as is so often stated by US authorities this does not seem logical.

Details of the talks were not immediately available.

Read more: US laptop ban won't include Europe, officials say | The Independent

5/30/17

US Congress versus Turkey: Erdogan No Longer Wanted In America - by Abdullah Ayasun

In a unanimous vote, the Committee also separately condemned Turkey for the violent attack on peaceful protesters outside Turkish Ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C., during President Erdogan’s entrance to the building.

The congressmen at the subcommittee hearing even went on to say that President Erdogan should never be allowed to visit the United States again, and pressed for the expulsion of the Turkish ambassador, echoing the earlier call of Senator John McCain.

The sharpness of discourse and recriminations against the Turkish president was a testimony of the state of bewilderment among American politicians.

“To have the president of another country who watched his bully boys beat Americans into the ground and bloody them and for him to protest our people, that is the supreme insult,” Dana Rohrabacher, chairman of the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats, said during his opening remarks. “We don’t need people like you visiting the United States any more.”

“When we want to talk to the Turks, we want to talk to Turks who want to have a democratic society, and not to their oppressor, a man who is trying to create Islamofascism in his own country with him as the head fascist … Erdogan should never again be invited to the United States.”

“He is an enemy of everything we stand for, and more importantly, he is the enemy of his own people,” he said, reflecting a widely-shared sentiment among the American public.
The incident prompted swift condemnations from infuriated members of the both chambers of the U.S. Congress.

On Thursday, a bipartisan group of senators called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to waive any claims to immunity for security detail of foreign delegations. They also pressed for holding bodyguards accountable for their actions, making them available for interviews with the U.S. authorities.

If Turkey overturns the American demands, the senators argued, that Mr. Tillerson should revoke diplomatic credentials of Turkish Ambassador to the U.S. Serdar Kilic and reconsider visas for other government officials.

Read more: US Congress: Erdogan No Longer Wanted In America | The Globe Post

Belgium: Burger King vs. Belgium: King Philippe Not Happy About Fast Food Ad Campaign - by Lucy Westcott

Who is the real king of Belgium
It's just typical. You wait your whole life to be king, only to be upstaged by an American fast food chain known for, among other things, cramming macaroni and cheese inside Cheetos-crusted breading.

As far as monarchies go, Belgium’s current royal family keeps a fairly low profile. That was until Burger King launched an interactive advertising campaign ahead of the opening of its first Belgium location, which lets people vote for the country’s “real” king.

If you visit WhoIsTheKing.be, you’re greeted with the words: "Two Kings. One crown. Who will rule? Vote now... " Burger King lets you vote for either, well, Burger King or Belgium’s King Philippe. The website then invites you to return on June 19, when the true “king” of Belgium will be coronated.

Voting for for 57-year-old Philippe isn't easy. After casting your ballot, you’re asked several times if you’re sure and reminded that Philippe “won’t cook you fries.” (Maybe he will?) The chain even has posters to download, stating: “Vote With Your Stomach;” “Belgian People, Choose A King Who Will Make You Fries;” and “Philippe, Another King Arrives in Belgium.”

Perhaps the ad campaign hit a bit too close to home: In 1950, Belgium held a referendum over whether to abolish the monarchy and let Leopold III, Philippe’s grandfather, resume royal duties after World War II.

It's safe to say that King Philippe is not amused. Representatives for the king asked Burger King about the campaign, Reuters reports.

"We told them that we were not happy with them using an image of the king in their campaign," Pierre-Emmanuel De Bauw, palace spokesman, told Reuters. De Bauw added that the Philippe’s image can’t be used for commerce. He appears in the Burger King campaign as a cartoon, and the royal family was not asked if Philippe’s image could be used.

Burger Brands Belgium spokeswoman Shanna Van den Broeck said the company is “deliberating on how to proceed” with the campaign.

Read more: Burger King vs. Belgium: King Philippe Not Happy About Fast Food Ad Campaign

Germany: Trump's anti-German stance is stupid and dangerous-by Fred Kaplan

The fallout from President Trump’s disastrous trip to Europe continues to poison the trans-Atlantic climate. His comments about Germany have been particularly toxic—and, beyond that, stupid, reflecting no understanding of the country’s strategic importance or its dreadful history.

Chancellor Angela Merkel stated the matter plainly in a speech on Sunday in Bavaria. Europeans “must take our fate into our own hands,” she said, because the “times in which we could rely fully on others … are somewhat over.” This, she added, “is what I experienced in the last few days”—a reference to Trump’s behavior in Brussels and Rome, where, among other bits of rudeness, he declined to pay even lip service to the pledge, enshrined in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, that the United States would defend any member of NATO that comes under attack.

As if in piqued response, Trump tweeted on Tuesday, “We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO and military. Very bad for U.S. This will change.” While overseas, Trump had reportedly told Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Union, “The Germans are bad, very bad. Look at the millions of cars that they’re selling in the USA. Horrible. We’re gonna stop that.” Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied the report, which appeared in Der Spiegel, but Trump’s Tuesday tweet undercut the denial and underscored his complaint. It wasn’t some loose remark, he seemed to be saying; he meant it.

But Trump’s ire is misplaced or unwise on several levels. First, yes, Americans buy a lot of German cars, but this isn’t because Germany is dumping BMWs and Volkswagens on the U.S. market; it’s because a lot of Americans like those cars. Second, as my colleague Daniel Gross has pointed out, lots of those German cars are made in the United States; a BMW plant in South Carolina—the company’s biggest plant in the world—churns out 400,000 cars a year.

The thing is, Trump knows this. When Merkel visited Washington in March, she brought along the CEOs of BMW, Siemens, and Schaeffler, an industrial-parts manufacturer, who met with Trump for an hour, briefing him on their $300 billion investment in the American economy and the 750,000 American jobs that their plants had created. By all accounts, Trump was impressed.

Perhaps the most wondrous thing about the world that took form after World War II has been the absence of war between the longstanding rivals in Europe—not just the absence of wars but the disappearance of the notion that European wars were inevitable. This feat didn’t come about by some miracle or accident. It was the result of painstaking effort to build an alliance based on shared values and common interests, requiring trillions of dollars in aid and investment, the maintenance of massive military bases, and—in particularly trying times—a crisis or two that risked another, far more cataclysmic war. It is this alliance—and the international order on which it stands—that Trump’s tantrums and indifference are endangering.

European leaders realized last week (you could see it on their faces as they watched Trump speak)—that the alliance will be in some degree of abeyance as long as this guy is president.

It may be no coincidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s chief foreign-policy goal is to restore the old Soviet Union. He can do that only if the European Union is weakened and the ties between the United States and Europe are severed. He may have reason to believe that his dream might come true. Whatever the probes reveal about Trump’s ties or obligations (or lack of any connections whatever) to Russia, his signs of indifference to the fate of Europe are no doubt causing Putin to salivate more than he thought he ever would.
 
Read more: Trump's anti-German stance is stupid and dang

France: Emmanuel Macron is draining the swamp in France—or trying to - by Stephane De Sakutin

Draining the French Swamp
One of French president Emmanuel Macron’s first moves after being elected was to make good on his campaign promise to “moralize political life.” He and justice minister François Bayrou want to promulgate a sweeping set of new rules that would curtail the employment of family members, ferret out financial exceptions and conflicts of interest, establish term limits for elective office (three and out), and, in general, promote transparency in government.

But how is this unusual? Don’t all politicians say they want fairness and transparency? Not in France. Let’s start with some context.

Sex and money are hot topics for which my two countries exhibit inverted cultural hangups. Here in the US, we freely discuss our money, but experience a countrywide conniption when a singer shows a tiny bit of nipple. In Paris, we happily discuss carnal mischief but would never think of asking someone how much they paid for their apartment—it’s tantamount to grabbing someone’s pudendum. The French demonize money just like we Americans demonize sex. Money is a very private affair.

One of the reasons behind such modesty is an entrenched tradition of hiding one’s money from the nosy taxman. The ubiquitous evasion is seen as a virile sport that extends across all economic classes.
\
I first heard the expression “J’ai une petite défense” (I have this little defensive play) as a child growing up in a blue collar suburb. Is it wrong? Not when everybody does it.

The game was passed down from on high. French ministers and staff routinely received unreported, untaxed, and untraceable cash from an official special fund that was passed from the Treasury to the prime minister who, in turn, dispensed it to his cabinet:
Once a month, an armored car delivers state funds in cash to top government officials.
Over the course of a year, more than $50 million. The public has no idea what happens to this money. No legal inquiry can ever reach the truth because the funds are treated as a state secret, and questions go unanswered.
 A third world dictatorship? A banana republic? A family-run Persian Gulf country? Guess again.

This is France’s Fifth Republic.

If the neighborhood grocer were caught with such black money it would mean heavy fines or even jail. Hence the disrespect for politicians and rules, and the veil of secrecy behind which one’s own money had to be protected.

France’s new president is unusual in some obvious ways: His young age, his path to power outside the traditional party system, the briskness of his ascent. If he succeeds with his immensely ambitious reforms, starting with laws that will “drain the French swamp,” he will transcend unusual and move on to astonishing.

Read more:Emmanuel Macron is draining the swamp in France—or trying to — Quartz

EU-US Relations: Trump undercuts White House messaging in critical remarks about Germany’s trade surplus

 Days after President Donald Trump returned from his first overseas trip as the president, he warned that the U.S.-German trade relationship is “very bad” and suggested “this will change,” following a reportedly closed-door meeting last week when he criticized Germany’s trade surplus.

“We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday. “Very bad for U.S. This will change”

The president’s latest tweet comes two days after German Chancellor Angela Merkel hinted that her country couldn’t “fully rely” on countries like the United States in part because of “what I experienced in the last few days.” The German chancellor reiterated Tuesday that the German-U.S. relationship is of “outstanding importance,” but suggested that Europe would “take our fate into our own hands” moving forward.

Last week, Trump and Merkel both attended meetings at a NATO summit meeting in Brussels and a Group of 7 (G7) meeting in Taormina, Italy. The most contentious issues were on climate and trade, with Trump planning to pull the United States out of the Paris climate deal. His critical remarks on Germany’s trade policy raised eyebrows with German politicians, including Thomas Oppermann, the parliamentary caucus leader of the Social Democrats.

“Donald Trump is making clear with his tweet that he considers Germany a political opponent,” Oppermann said. “This is a new situation — we lived for decades in the certainty that we could rely on each other as partners in an alliance, and this certainty no longer exists today.”

Trump’s tweet on Tuesday also raises eyebrows in the United States for another reason. It undercuts the White House’s messaging from last Friday, which sought to downplay the seriousness of his critical remarks on trade and his suggestion that the country was selling too many cars to the United States.

Note EU-Digest: Trumps ignorance of the auto industry is terrifying. Before making critical remarks about trade with Germany, is he aware that Germany manufactures cars in the US and employs large numbers of US workers? Here are the facts:

Roughly 850,000 German vehicles are made in the US as reported by Reuters and some 33,000 people are employed by German car companies in the US.

VW recently built an entire plant in Tennessee, employing 2,000 workers directly

And these are just some facts about the German companies = if we add Toyota, Hyundai, Honda  to this equation the numbers of people these companies in their totality employ are staggering.  

Read more: Trump undercuts White House messaging in critical remarks about Germany’s trade surplus

EU-US Relations: Trump 'weakened' West, hurt EU interests says German FM

Germany unleashed a volley of criticism against US President Donald Trump, slamming his "short-sighted" policies that have "weakened the West" and hurt European interests.

The sharp words from Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Monday came after Trump concluded his first official tour abroad, which took him to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Brussels and then Italy for a G7 summit.

They followed Chancellor Angela Merkel's warning on Sunday that the United States and Britain may no longer be completely reliable partners.

Germany's exasperation was laid bare after the G7 summit that wrapped up on Saturday with the US refusing so far to sign up to upholding the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Note EU-Digest: With an unpredictable nationalist in the White House, it is better too late than never for the EU to focus on its own interests rather than those of the US, which are totally opposite to those of the EU. Specially in the area of Global Warming, Trade, and Middle East policies.Compliments to Germany for clearly pointing this out to the other members of the EU.    

Read more: Trump 'weakened' West, hurt EU interests: German FM | USA News | Al Jazeera

US Healthcare: 2,000 US Doctors Call for Universal Healthcare- by Olga Oksman

group of more than 2,000 physicians is calling for the establishment of a universal government-run health system in the US, in a paper in the American Journal of Public Health.
According to the proposal released Thursday, the Affordable Care Act did not go far enough in removing barriers to healthcare access. The physicians’ bold plan calls for implementing a single-payer system similar to Canada’s, called the National Health Program, that would guarantee all residents healthcare.
The new single-payer system would be funded mostly by existing US government funding. The physicians point out that the US government already pays for two-thirds of all healthcare spending in the US, and a single-payer system would cut down on administrative costs, so a transition to a single-payer system would not require significant additional spending.
“Our patients can’t afford care and don’t have access to the care they need, while the system is ever more wasteful, throwing away money on bureaucratic expenses and absurd prices from the drug companies,” said David Himmelstein, a professor in the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College and lecturer on medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Himmelstein, one of the authors of the plan, said the proposal is meant as a rallying cry for physicians and other healthcare professionals around the cause of a single-payer model. According to the paper, even with the passage of the Affordable Care Act many patients “face rising co-payments and deductibles that compromise access to care and leave them vulnerable to ruinous medical bills”. Despite the current high healthcare spending levels in the US, healthcare outcomes are worse than in comparable well-funded countries.
- See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/us-doctors-call-universal-healthcare-abolish-insurance-companies#sthash.i2UiFMWw.2VUdz3RY.dpuf
group of more than 2,000 physicians is calling for the establishment of a universal government-run health system in the US, in a paper in the American Journal of Public Health.
According to the proposal released Thursday, the Affordable Care Act did not go far enough in removing barriers to healthcare access. The physicians’ bold plan calls for implementing a single-payer system similar to Canada’s, called the National Health Program, that would guarantee all residents healthcare.
The new single-payer system would be funded mostly by existing US government funding. The physicians point out that the US government already pays for two-thirds of all healthcare spending in the US, and a single-payer system would cut down on administrative costs, so a transition to a single-payer system would not require significant additional spending.
“Our patients can’t afford care and don’t have access to the care they need, while the system is ever more wasteful, throwing away money on bureaucratic expenses and absurd prices from the drug companies,” said David Himmelstein, a professor in the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College and lecturer on medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Himmelstein, one of the authors of the plan, said the proposal is meant as a rallying cry for physicians and other healthcare professionals around the cause of a single-payer model. According to the paper, even with the passage of the Affordable Care Act many patients “face rising co-payments and deductibles that compromise access to care and leave them vulnerable to ruinous medical bills”. Despite the current high healthcare spending levels in the US, healthcare outcomes are worse than in comparable well-funded countries.
- See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/us-doctors-call-universal-healthcare-abolish-insurance-companies#sthash.i2UiFMWw.2VUdz3RY.dpuf
group of more than 2,000 physicians is calling for the establishment of a universal government-run health system in the US, in a paper in the American Journal of Public Health.
According to the proposal released Thursday, the Affordable Care Act did not go far enough in removing barriers to healthcare access. The physicians’ bold plan calls for implementing a single-payer system similar to Canada’s, called the National Health Program, that would guarantee all residents healthcare.
The new single-payer system would be funded mostly by existing US government funding. The physicians point out that the US government already pays for two-thirds of all healthcare spending in the US, and a single-payer system would cut down on administrative costs, so a transition to a single-payer system would not require significant additional spending.
“Our patients can’t afford care and don’t have access to the care they need, while the system is ever more wasteful, throwing away money on bureaucratic expenses and absurd prices from the drug companies,” said David Himmelstein, a professor in the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College and lecturer on medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Himmelstein, one of the authors of the plan, said the proposal is meant as a rallying cry for physicians and other healthcare professionals around the cause of a single-payer model. According to the paper, even with the passage of the Affordable Care Act many patients “face rising co-payments and deductibles that compromise access to care and leave them vulnerable to ruinous medical bills”. Despite the current high healthcare spending levels in the US, healthcare outcomes are worse than in comparable well-funded countries.
- See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/us-doctors-call-universal-healthcare-abolish-insurance-companies#sthash.i2UiFMWw.2VUdz3RY.dpuf
A group of more than 2,000 physicians is calling for the establishment of a universal government-run health system in the US, in a paper in the American Journal of Public Health.

According to the proposal released Thursday, the Affordable Care Act did not go far enough in removing barriers to healthcare access. The physicians’ bold plan calls for implementing a single-payer system similar to Canada’s, called the National Health Program, that would guarantee all residents healthcare.

The new single-payer system would be funded mostly by existing US government funding. The physicians point out that the US government already pays for two-thirds of all healthcare spending in the US, and a single-payer system would cut down on administrative costs, so a transition to a single-payer system would not require significant additional spending.

“Our patients can’t afford care and don’t have access to the care they need, while the system is ever more wasteful, throwing away money on bureaucratic expenses and absurd prices from the drug companies,” said David Himmelstein, a professor in the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College and lecturer on medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Himmelstein, one of the authors of the plan, said the proposal is meant as a rallying cry for physicians and other healthcare professionals around the cause of a single-payer model. According to the paper, even with the passage of the Affordable Care Act many patients “face rising co-payments and deductibles that compromise access to care and leave them vulnerable to ruinous medical bills”. Despite the current high healthcare spending levels in the US, healthcare outcomes are worse than in comparable well-funded countries.
group of more than 2,000 physicians is calling for the establishment of a universal government-run health system in the US, in a paper in the American Journal of Public Health.
According to the proposal released Thursday, the Affordable Care Act did not go far enough in removing barriers to healthcare access. The physicians’ bold plan calls for implementing a single-payer system similar to Canada’s, called the National Health Program, that would guarantee all residents healthcare.
The new single-payer system would be funded mostly by existing US government funding. The physicians point out that the US government already pays for two-thirds of all healthcare spending in the US, and a single-payer system would cut down on administrative costs, so a transition to a single-payer system would not require significant additional spending.
“Our patients can’t afford care and don’t have access to the care they need, while the system is ever more wasteful, throwing away money on bureaucratic expenses and absurd prices from the drug companies,” said David Himmelstein, a professor in the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College and lecturer on medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Himmelstein, one of the authors of the plan, said the proposal is meant as a rallying cry for physicians and other healthcare professionals around the cause of a single-payer model. According to the paper, even with the passage of the Affordable Care Act many patients “face rising co-payments and deductibles that compromise access to care and leave them vulnerable to ruinous medical bills”. Despite the current high healthcare spending levels in the US, healthcare outcomes are worse than in comparable well-funded countries.
- See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/us-doctors-call-universal-healthcare-abolish-insurance-companies#sthash.i2UiFMWw.2VUdz3RY.dpuf

Read more: 2,000 US Doctors Call for Universal Healthcare

Internet Communications: EU set to launch thousands of free WiFi hotspots

The EU's top bodies have agreed to provide free internet access in thousands of cities and towns across Europe. The "WiFi4EU" bid would see public places, like parks and libraries, install EU-funded hotspots by 2020.

The free internet scheme would apply to all member states, officials said on Monday, after the EU parliament, the EU Council, and the EU Commission reached an informal agreement on the plan.

The plan would focus on places where connectivity is limited and for people who have trouble accessing the Internet otherwise. The so-called WiFi4EU initiative is part of a larger EU overhaul on communication.

"WiFi4EU is a welcome first step, but much more needs to be done to achieve high-speed connectivity across the whole EU territory," said Andrus Ansip, the EU Commission's vice president on Digital Single Market, according to the German DPA news agency.

According to the deal, the EU is set to fund the project with some 120 million euros ($133.6 million) over the next two years. This money would be used to support installation of "state-of-the-art" WiFi equipment for at least 6,000 to 8,000 local communities, the EU Commission said on its website.

Read  more: EU set to launch thousands of free WiFi hotspots | News | DW | 30.05.2017

5/29/17

The Netherlands: Edith Schippers fails and hands over cabinet talks to new chief negotiator

Efforts to form a new Dutch cabinet took a new turn on Monday when Edith Schippers, who has led the talks so far, said she wanted to hand the job over to a new negotiator.

Read more at DutchNews.nl: Edith Schippers hands over cabinet talks to new chief negotiator http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2017/05/edith-schippers-hands-over-cabinet-talks-to-new-chief-negotiator/
Tjeenk Willink
Efforts to form a new Dutch cabinet took a new turn today, Monday, May 29, when Edith Schippers, who has led the talks so far, said she wanted to hand the job over to a new negotiator.

Tjeenk Willink (75) helped negotiate previous cabinets in 1994, 1999 and 2010. 

He is also a friend of the former queen Beatrix and one of her closest advisors. 

In her final report, handed over to parliament on Monday, May 29, Schippers said there were objections to every potential coalition and that this meant she had completed her task.

Tjeenk Willink, who has said he is willing to take on the job, must start by asking different combinations of parties to the negotiating table immediately, the former health minister said.

The results of the election have created a complicated situation, Schippers said. ‘The result demands a formation process which will take time. Parties have to take a step towards the others because there are wide differences in policy.’

However, Schippers refused to talk of deadlock. ‘Standpoints have been taken but they could change in the next phase,’ she said. The Netherlands has been without a government since March 15 when the general election was held. Two attempts to form a new government have failed so far.


The VVD emerged as the biggest party with 33 seats, followed by the anti-immigration PVV on 20, and CDA and D66 on 19. The big parties have all ruled out working together with Geert Wilders’ PVV unless he takes back discriminatory comments about Moroccans.

Read more: Edith Schippers hands over cabinet talks to new chief negotiator - DutchNews.nl

Brexit woes: Industrial output declines & trade deficit increases - by Joe Mellor

The deal PM May secures with the EU is increasingly important, but the anti-European rhetoric from the Government is making that less likely.

The vote for Macron, who is very pro-EU, in France might strengthen the EU’s resolve in the negotiations with the UK.

Industrial output dropped by 0.5% in March, sharper than the 0.3% fall that had been forecast.

This followed a 0.7% fall in February leading to a total growth of just 0.1% for the first quarters of the year according to the Office for National Statistics figures.

It was hoped that a fall in the pound might increase exports but there doesn’t appear to be much evidence this has happened. Instead there was a surge in imports, up £2.9bn over the month, with an increase in imports of goods from both EU and non-EU countries.

The broad services and goods deficit jumped to £4.9bn in March from £2.6bn in February.

Exports increased by just £600m. Samuel Tombs, the chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the March trade figures were “simply dreadful”.

The uncertainty over Brexit appears to be grinding the economy to a halt and a turnaround in the next quarter is essential, however that looks unlikely.


Read more Brexit woes: Industrial output declines & trade deficit increases - The London Economic

The Transatlantic Pact: Merkel's blunt speech sparks fears of rupture in transatlantic pact

The Transatlantic Alliance - two worlds apart
German Chancellor Angela Merkel hinted that a major geostrategic shift may be under way when she told a Munich rally on Sunday that Europe must fight “for our destiny” in the wake of Brexit and an apparent US withdrawal from the world stage.

Speaking to some 2,500 supporters at an election rally in Munich, Merkel said European Union nations must remain united as they navigate Britain’s departure from the bloc and as disparities with the United States – on both policy and priorities – come into sharp relief.

"The era in which we could fully count on others is somewhat over, as I have noted in the past few days," Merkel said, in an apparent reference to her interactions with US and British leaders at a two-day G7 summit in Sicily that ended on Saturday.

"And so all I can say is that we, Europeans, must take our destiny into our own hands," she said.

Merkel's blunt speech sparks fears of rupture in transatlantic pact

USA - Memorial Day: For many Americans, Memorial Day has lost its meaning - by Mchael rubinkam

Arlington Cemetery. Memorial Day
While millions of Americans celebrate the long Memorial Day weekend as the unofficial start of summer — think beaches and backyard barbecues, mattress sales and sporting events — some veterans and loved ones of fallen military members wish the holiday that honors more than 1 million people who died serving their country would command more respect.

Or at least awareness.

"It's a fun holiday for people: 'Let's party.' It's an extra day off from work," said Carol Resh, 61, whose son, Army Capt. Mark Resh, was killed in Iraq a decade ago. "It's not that they're doing it out of malice. It just hasn't affected them."

Veterans groups say a growing military-civilian disconnect contributes to a feeling that Memorial Day has been overshadowed. More than 12 percent of the U.S. population served in the armed forces during World War II. That's down to less than one-half of a percent today, guaranteeing more Americans aren't personally acquainted with a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.

With an all-voluntary military, shared sacrifice is largely a thing of the past — even as U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan and Iraq nearly 16 years after 9/11.

Read more: To many Americans, Memorial Day has lost its meaning - ABC News

5/28/17

Monaco Grand Prix: Sebastian Vettel wins his first Monte Carlo race since 2001

Lewis Hamilton had a mountain to climb if he wanted to taste victory in Monte Carlo and close his gap on Sebastian Vettel, who is at the top of the championship standings.

It did not work out for the Brit and once again Vittel was the big winner.  

2017   Monaco Grand Prix    -  Formula One World Championship

May 28  -  Circuit de Monaco  -  78 laps  -  162 miles

Leaderboard - Final
PointsTime/LagAvg. mph

1
Sebastian Vettel - Ferrari
251:44:44.340149.105

2
Kimi Raikkonen - Ferrari
18+3.145 Sec149.03

3
Daniel Ricciardo - Red Bull
15+3.745 Sec149.016

4
Valtteri Bottas - Mercedes
12+5.517 Sec148.974

5
Max Verstappen - Red Bull
10+6.199 Sec148.958

 EU-Digest

Serbia: EU "praises Serbia's economic growth, outlines challenges"

The EU has praised Serbia's economic growth, outlining challenges regarding structural reforms and competitiveness.

According to the Serbian Finance Ministry, acting head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Oskar Benedikt stressed that the conclusions "clearly recognize the important steps forward that Serbia made in achieving economic growth and macro-fiscal stability."

"Serbia needs to continue reforms in an ambitious way, particularly when tackling structural reforms, and creating a better business environment that will in turn increase growth and create new jobs," Benedikt said.

Read more: EU "praises Serbia's economic growth, outlines challenges" - Business & Economy - on B92.net

EU: Trump’s 'Home Run' Trip Leaves White House Happy, Europe Mixed - Bloomberg

The world just got its first close-up look at Donald Trump. It didn’t always like what it saw.
There he was pushing aside Montenegro’s prime minister to be front-and-center for a NATO photo-op. Here he was beaming giddily next to a stern-faced pope. On the same day, his wife Melania swatted away his attempt to hold hands.

In Saudi Arabia, one senior White House official marveled at the lack of protesters, perhaps not realizing Saudi bans them. In Israel, after an historic direct flight from Riyadh, Trump raised eyebrows with the comment, “we just got back from the Middle East.” In Brussels, Trump walked into the gleaming new NATO headquarters -- and, with a real-estate mogul’s eye, made clear he wondered if they’d overpaid.

“Love your shoes. Boy, those shoes. Man!” Trump said to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi when they met in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, a friendly nod to a Mideast strongman who the U.S. largely snubbed during the Obama administration. El-Sisi visited the White House within three months of Trump taking office.

By the time he got to Sicily, Trump probably wished he were back at the glittering sword-dance ceremony in the Middle East, where various parties -- Israelis, Palestinians, Saudis -- need the U.S. for trade, peace and protection.

Europe, on the other hand, is prepared to go on without him. After the presidential election, the Continent’s leaders always figured they’d be going it alone without the Brexit-loving, free trade-bashing, NATO skeptic. Nothing that happened on this trip should fundamentally change that view.

The trans-Atlantic alliance stands, but with people on both sides in a state of sober, not heartfelt, embrace.

Trump himself called the trip a “home run,” and aides agreed, delighted over the lack of major gaffes and their ability to keep Trump largely on script and far away from reporters. Even Trump’s Twitter account was uncharacteristically free of top-of-mind rants -- despite the storm that awaits his return the U.S., with son-in-law Jared Kushner getting pulled deeper into the FBI’s Russia probe.

If Europeans thought a more diplomatic president would show up in this most diplomatic of settings, they obviously hadn’t paid attention to Trump’s first months in office, when American voters found out that at age 70, he is who he is.

That doesn’t mean they weren’t annoyed. German Chancellor Angela Merkel could barely contain her disdain for the American outlier on the Paris climate agreement.

Merkel, Europe’s most influential leader, was the least amused by Trump. She said, in effect, that NATO will join the anti-Islamic State coalition as Trump requested, but it won’t mean committing a single extra soldier. Merkel also brushed off Trump’s call for a quicker increase in defense spending.

“The whole discussion about climate has been difficult, or rather very unsatisfactory,” Merkel told reporters after the summit. “Here we have the situation that six members, or even seven if you want to add the EU, stand against one.”

Read more: Trump’s 'Home Run' Trip Leaves White House Happy, Europe Mixed - Bloomberg

5/27/17

European Parliament Blocks EC Money Laundering Blacklist because they consider it incomplete- by Joe Kirwin

EU Money Laundering Controls
The European Commission will be forced to draw up a new blacklist of countries that facilitate money laundering after the European Parliament overwhelmingly rejected the latest effort that failed to consider countries that enable tax evasion.

EU lawmakers voted 392-80, with 207 abstentions, to reject the list that includes 11 countries, including Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraq, North Korea, Yemen and Syria, among others.

These are countries that the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force has signaled as destinations for laundering money or sources of terrorism financing.

Any country that ends up on the money laundering blacklist will face stricter controls when doing business in the EU, to ensure financial stability and general safety.

“We can not accept that the commission relies merely on an international body—the so-called Financial Action Task Force (FATF)—in drawing up a list of jurisdictions with strategic anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing,’' said Ana Gomes, a Portuguese parliamentarian from the Socialist and Democrat group, in a May 17 statement.

“How can we explain to our citizens that Panama for instance, which led the Panama Papers scandal, is not even on the list?” she asked.

Parliamentary opposition to the current blacklist also concerns the criteria used by the European Commission. EU lawmakers insist that the list should also include countries that facilitate tax evasion, which the Commission believes is beyond its mandate.

A key difference between the two EU institutions concerns the threshold for identifying beneficial owners of companies. EU member states insist it should be 25 percent or more, whereas the European Parliament wants 10 percent or more. Negotiations will continue in June.

The dispute over the AMLD blacklist is different from a tax haven blacklist that EU member states are due to finalize by the end of 2017.

Currently, EU member states are “screening” 92 countries as candidates for the tax haven blacklist. The U.S. is among the 92 countries.

Read more: European Parliament Blocks EC Money Laundering Blacklist | Bloomberg BNA

Britain: : Two British EURO jets dispatched after Russian incursion

EURO  fighter intercepting Russian Aiircraft entering British Airspace
Two British EURO fighter jets were dispatched from a Royal Air Force base in Scotland on Saturday after an incursion by Russian jets, Britain's Ministry of Defense (MoD) said.

"Two Typhoons were scrambled from RAF Lossiemouth this morning as part of the RAF's Quick Reaction Alert in response to two Russian aircraft entering the UK's airspace," the MoD said in a statement.

"Both aircraft have now returned safely to RAF Lossiemouth." 

Britain regularly scrambles fighters to intercept Russian aircraft near its airspace. Intercepts of Russian aircraft by NATO generally have increased in recent years amid heightened tensions between the West and Moscow over the Ukraine crisis.


Read more: Two British jets dispatched after Russian incursion | Reuters

US Political System: A week that reveals how rotten today’s Republican Party (US Political System) is - by Jennifer Rubin

Disaster: level explosive
President Trump has had more-scandalous weeks. He has had weeks with more bombshell bad-news stories. But no week has matched this one in revealing the moral and intellectual rot at the center of the GOP. Pandemic intellectual dishonesty and celebration of uncivilized conduct now permeate the party and its support in the conservative ecosystem. Consider what we saw and learned this week:

  • Trump in Saudi Arabia disclaims any concern for human rights.
  • Trump bullies NATO allies in public (and physically shoves one leader).
  • Trump’s budget is built on a rickety scaffold of math errors, economic nonsense and fantasyland predictions.
  • Trump’s advisers defend massive cuts to the safety net, coupled with huge giveaways to the rich.
  • The Congressional Budget Office score, which the House did not require before voting on a mammoth health-care bill, confirms that GOP leaders falsely claimed they protected people with preexisting conditions.
  • Trump’s lawyers contemptuously swat away a request for information relating to his receipt of foreign monies, finding that it is too impractical to abide by his own promise and the Constitution.
  • Trump has nothing but praise for thuggish autocrats, including Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
  • Trump continues to pursue a Muslim ban, repeatedly struck down by the courts as bigotry disguised under the cloak of national security.
  • A GOP congressional candidate, conclusive evidence suggests, attacks a reporter and apparently lies about it (he later apologizes for actions he denied less than 24 hours earlier), but party leaders do not repudiate him or demand that he withdraw.
  • Jared Kushner, the beneficiary of egregious nepotism, now is a focus of the FBI’s Russia investigation, bringing a once-in-a-lifetime scandal one step closer to the presidency.
  • Sean Hannity is forced to stop propagating a detestable hoax about a young man’s murder; Fox News after a week withdraws the original false report without much explanation or an apology.
This is the state of the GOP (and the US political system) — a refuge for intellectual frauds and bullies, for mean-spirited hypocrites who preach personal responsibility yet excuse the inexcusable.

Note EU-Digest: One can not only blame the Republicans for this political mess, but must also include Democrats and voters in general for creating it.   This is not business as usual, it is the recipe for disaster and the collapse of Western Democracy as we know it.

Read more: A week that reveals how rotten today’s Republican Party is - The Washington Post

5/26/17

Italy: Paris Climate Agreement: Trump still not backing Paris climate agreement says Italy's PM

President Donald Trump still refuses to back the 2015 Paris agreement to fight climate change, blocking efforts by world leaders meeting in Sicily to get the new U.S. leader to endorse the treaty, Italy's prime minister said on Friday.

But there was agreement on other issues such as Syria, Libya and fighting terrorism, Paolo Gentiloni told reporters in Taormina, Italy, where the heads of the world's seven major industrialised economies (G7) are meeting.

"There is one open question, which is the U.S. position on the Paris climate accords... All others have confirmed their total agreement on the accord," Gentiloni said. "We are sure that after an internal reflection, the United States will also want to commit to it," he added.

The leaders of Italy, the U.S., Germany, Britain, France, Canada and Japan signed on Friday a statement to bolster efforts to fight terrorism, including a bid to remove extremist propaganda from the Internet, Gentiloni said.

"We showed our united commitment and our determination to continue and to strengthen our fight against terrorism," Gentiloni said after the leaders signed a document that also expressed solidarity with Britain after the suicide bomb attack in Manchester on Monday that killed 22.

Gentiloni said they had made progress on the issue of foreign trade, but added that the wording of the final communique still needed to be worked out. Trump has previously promoted a protectionist agenda that alarmed his G7 allies.

Read more: Trump still not backing Paris climate agreement - Italy's PM - World | The Star Online

Middle East: Egypt strikes Libya after deadly bus attack against Coptic Christians

Egypt's president says his air force struck bases in Libya where militants who waged a deadly attack against Christians have been trained, but gave no details.

Senior officials said that the bases are in eastern Libya. They said the warplanes on Friday targeted the headquarters of the Shura Council in the city of Darna, where local militias are known to be linked to al-Qaeda.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi says Egypt will strike at any bases that train militants who wage attacks in Egypt, wherever they may be. He also directly appealed to U.S. President Donald Trump to take the lead in the fight against global terror.

In a televised address just hours after at least 28 Coptic Christians, including two children, were killed by militants south of Cairo, el-Sissi said "I direct my appeal to President Trump: I trust you, your word and your ability to make fighting global terror your primary task."

He also repeated calls that countries that finance, train or arm extremists be punished.

Read more: Egypt strikes Libya after deadly bus attack against Christians - World - CBC News

Egypt: 28 Coptic Christians killed in bus attack just before Ramadan begins

Gunmen have attacked a bus carrying Coptic Christians in central Egypt, killing at least 28 people and wounding 25 others, officials say.

The bus was travelling to the Monastery of St Samuel the Confessor, 135km (85 miles) south of Cairo, from Minya province when it came under fire.

No group immediately said it was behind the attack.

But Islamic State (IS) militants have targeted Copts several times in recent months, and vowed to do so again.

Two suicide bombings at Palm Sunday services at churches in the northern cities of Alexandria and Tanta on 9 April left 46 people dead.

Another suicide bombing at a church in the capital in December killed 29 people, while a Christian community was forced to flee the town of el-Arish in the northern Sinai peninsula after a series of gun attacks in February.

Read more: Egypt Coptic Christians killed in bus attack - BBC News

Saudi Arabia: Solar phenomena above Islam’s Kaaba expected on first day of Ramadan

The National Research Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics in Egypt has announced that the first day of this year’s Ramadan, which is set to take place on Saturday, will witness something unique: the sun will rise perpendicularly over the Kaaba at 12:18 local Mecca time, during the noon prayer.

The institute added on that at 12:18 on Saturday, the shadow of the Kaaba will disappear, and the direction of the sun at any point in the world will be the exact direction of the Qiblah, the direction where Muslims must pray toward the Kaaba.

The department in charge of researching the Sun’s activities at institute said in a statement on its official Twitter account that the elevation angle of the sun at the time of the Zuhr prayer will be 89.93 degrees above the Kaaba, that is only 0.07 degrees away from being 100% vertical at 90 degrees.

This phenomenon occurs twice a year: the first will be on May 27 and the second on July 15. However, what is special this year is that it coincides with the first noon prayer of Ramadan. 

EU-Digest

Solar Energy: In France, one of Europe's most powerful solar farms marries innovation with scale -by Anmar Frangoul

Over several decades, France has come to rely heavily on nuclear power. According to the World Nuclear Association, around 75 percent of the country's electricity comes from nuclear.

The country is undergoing something of an energy transition, however. In 2015, France introduced an "energy transition for green growth" act, which set six medium and long term-objectives. These include cutting fossil fuel consumption by 30 percent by 2030 and reducing nuclear energy's share of electricity production to 50 percent by 2025.

In the south west of France, one solar farm is looking to marry innovation and scale. "The Cestas solar farm site covers 250 hectares with a power output of 300 megawatts from one million solar panels," Guilhem de Tyssandier, site manager at the Cestas solar PV plant, told CNBC's Sustainable Energy.


"The plant provides, on average, power for 300,000 people per annum," de Tyssandier added.

Read more: In France, one of Europe's most powerful solar farms marries innovation with scale

US Healthcare: Republican healthcare plan will cost 23 million people their coverage, CBO says - by L.Gambino and D.Rushe

The hastily redrawn Republican plan to overhaul Obamacare would leave an extra 23 million people without health insurance over the next decade, the first official independent analysis of the plan has found.

The health reforms, forced through the House earlier this month and exuberantly celebrated by Donald Trump and scores of Republicans in the White House rose garden, would reduce the federal budget deficit by $119bn over the same period, according to an estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Wednesday.

Read more: Republican healthcare plan will cost 23 million people their coverage, CBO says | US news |The Guardian

US Donald Trump and EU - there he goes again - "the Germans are bad, really bad,' Donald Trump tells EU officials" - by J. Huggler

Donald Trump railed against Germany and accused Angela Merkel’s government of unfair economic policies during a meeting with senior EU officials.

“The Germans are bad, really bad,” Mr Trump said, according to Spiegel magazine.“Look at the millions of cars they sell in the US. It’s terrible. We’ll put a stop to that.”

The remarks took place during a meeting with Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, and Donald Tusk, the head of the European Council, on Thursday.

White House economic adviser Gary Cohn later confirmed the remarks but clarified that the president "said they're very bad on trade, but he doesn't have a problem with Germany."

Mr Juncker on Friday sought to downplay the incident.

“It’s not true that the president took an aggressive approach when it came to the German trade surplus,” he said. “This is a translation issue. If someone is saying the Germans are bad that doesn’t mean this can be translated literally. He was not aggressive at all.”

Read more: The Germans are bad, really bad,' Donald Trump tells EU officials

5/25/17

EU-Belgium-NATO: Trump meets with EU officials and scolds world leaders at NATO ceremony in Brussels

"Manneken Pis," Bruxelles most famous fountain
President Trump criticized leaders at a dedication ceremony at the new NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 25, saying they need to increase financial contributions to combat "the threat of terrorism."

"America instead of haggling over money", say most European politicians," must not forget that Europe is on the front-line of the American defense in case of an attack from the Russians. That should be worth every cent the US invests into Europe's defense."

In his speech to NATO leaders, President Trump also said  NATO must focus on terrorism and that “nations owe massive amounts of money” on defense.

Thursday’s NATO meeting was scheduled to allow Trump and leaders of NATO states to take the measure of each other. The 27 other members had hoped to relieve anxiety that arose during Trump’s campaign, when he questioned why the United States was spending its own money to defend Europe, called NATO “obsolete” and ill-equipped to deal with terrorism, and threatened to withdraw if other members failed to pay their “fair share.”

Moreover, though the White House had sent recent signals that the United States would stay in NATO’s mutual defense pact, known as Article 5, Trump made no mention of it as he stood next a monument dedicated to the only time the article had been previously invoked: during the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.

Donald Trump did vow, however, to crack down on leaks that prompted Manchester police to withhold information from the United States about the investigation into this week’s bombing.

Earlier during the day Mr. Trump met with EU President Tusk and other EU officials. 

After the meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels ended, Tusk, who presides over the European Council said:  "I am not 100% sure that we can say today ... that we have a common position, common opinion, about Russia," but Tusk added that both parties remain critical of Russia's military incursions into neighboring Ukraine.

Tusk also said "some issues remain open" with Trump, including climate change and trade policy.

EU members have long questioned Trump's warm comments toward Putin, who has backed many anti-EU candidates in elections throughout the continent. And countries such as France, Germany, and the United Kingdom have expressed concerns about similar Russian hacking and disinformation campaigns to undermine elections in their countries.

Trump's meeting with Tusk, who presides over the European Council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, preceded talks with leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The Trump Brussels stop came in the middle of Trump's first foreign trip as president, one that began with visits to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Rome. Trump is spending nine days away from Washington, which is still reeling from a spate of recent revelations related to Trump's links to Russia.

Trump's first foreign trip as president came a week after the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to look into possible ties between Trump campaign associates and Russians who sought to influence the 2016 presidential campaign.

The U.S. intelligence community has accused Moscow of orchestrating a high-level campaign of cyberattacks, propaganda and fake news to try and influence the 2016 election, though the president and his aides have denied any collusion.


EU-Digest

5/24/17

NATO under pressure from Trump will symbolically join anti-′Islamic State′ Saudi backed coalition

NATO TO JOIN WITH SAUDI BACKED ISLAMIC COALITION
Several NATO sources on Wednesday said that the strategic military alliance would join the US-Saudi led coalition against the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" (IS) armed group.

The decision is expected to be formally announced on Thursday at the meeting of NATO leaders in Brussels, the sources said.

The leak was made public hours after NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg called on the alliance to do more to combat terrorism, following the suicide bomb attack at Manchester Arena that killed 22 people.

Diplomats said the decision comes under pressure from President Trump and is mainly political and symbolic, because all 28 NATO members already contribute to the coalition fighting to retake areas of Iraq and Syria from the extremist group. Some, like Germany, only taking part in support roles such as reconnaissance and logistics.

For America, the lessons of the European tragedy are there to be learned. There is only one solution to the problem of terrorism and it doesn’t involve going abroad in search of monsters to destroy.

The EU must withdraw all its troops from the Middle East – a possibility that doesn’t bear the economic consequences it once did, given the creation of new technologies that make domestic oil production and alternative energy far easier.

For the US the message is that spending billions of dollars defending and sustaining the Saudi monarchy and the Gulf states – some of the most repressive regimes in the world, is throwing money down the drain, and for what?

The interventionists( Republicans and Democrats alike) declare that America’s role as a “global leader” represents the defense of our values. But really, does a regime that beheads “infidels” represent American or European values? Indeed, there is basically no operative difference between the internal rule of the ISIS “caliphate” and the Saudi Kingdom. Yet we are obsessed with destroying the former and cuddling up to the latter.

It’s not too late for the Europeans, who were forced to sleep in a bed they did not make for themselves, to finally step out of that bed, and focus on cleaning-up the ISIS mess at home by themselves, with plans and strategies of their own. 

EU-Digest

Canada: What does Canada get out of restoring diplomatic ties with Iran? (and opposing Trump policies)

Justin Trudeau and Hassan Roubani
believe in open and frank dialogue
It's been almost two years since Iran began to emerge from its international isolation after signing a deal with world powers to ensure its nuclear program is "peaceful." It's been almost as long since Justin Trudeau was elected prime minister on a platform that included restoring diplomatic ties with the country.

Last week, we learned Canadian officials are in Tehran for the first time since the previous Conservative government broke off relations with Iran nearly five years ago.

Since coming to power, the Liberals have been careful to remain critical of Iran's human rights violations, and have  reiterated Canada's opposition to its support for listed terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah.

But Canada has also suggested engaging with Iran may change its behaviour, including on human rights and Iran's habit of jailing and abusing Canadian citizens and residents.

"We believe that open and frank dialogue, especially when we disagree, is the best way to effectively address security issues, hold Iran to account on human rights and advance consular cases," Alex Lawrence, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told CBC.

Western nations, including Canada, have been engaging or trying to engage with Iran since 2015.

Note EU-Digest: It is interesting to note that Canada, as is also the case for most EU Countries, is not in-line at all with the thinking of the Trump Administration.  In particular as it relates to their views on foreign policy (specifically Iran), global warming and the handling of Middle East "crises management".  

EU-Digest

Russia-French relations: French President Macron to host Russia’s Putin at Versailles palace

Macron=Putin meeting at Versailles Palace May 29
The meeting coincides with an exhibition to mark Russian Tsar Peter the Great’s visit to France 300 years ago, providing a perfect photo opportunity for the world’s press -- and for people-watchers -- to capture the two leaders shaking hands with Versailles Palace being used as a symbolic backdrop to demonstrate the historic ties between France and Russia.

The meeting between Macron and Putin is set to be a very closely watched event because the two presidents are expected to touch on an array of critical issues, including both Syria and Ukraine.

Macron has previously said Russia's bombing of the Syrian city of Aleppo could amount to a war crime.

Macron's presidential campaign was also subjected to repeated cyber-attacks, with the Japanese cyber-security firm Trend Micro telling FRANCE 24, "We are 99 percent sure that it is attacks from Russia".

His aides accused the Kremlin of mounting a "smear campaign" against him, with one of the major hacking attacks seeing troves of real and fake documents involving Macron’s campaign team being released online just before the vote. The incident seemed to have had little effect on the country’s voters, however, as the French media heeded a call from the election authorities to respect the French law regarding a nationwide press blackout in the final hours leading up to the vote.

Speaking last Friday, Russia's ambassador to France, Alexander Orlov, said Moscow had a "positive perception" of Macron, describing him as "very intelligent, realistic and pragmatic".

"I think he's not very ideological compared with his predecessors," Orlov told a meeting of business leaders. "With him we have more chances of moving forward than before."

The May 30-September 24 exhibition at the Versailles Palace marks Russian Tsar Peter the Great’s trip to France in 1717 and there will be a special exhibition in the Palace’s Grand Trianon. 

Read more: French President Macron to host Russia’s Putin at Versailles palace - France 24

France: Macron′s new environment chief: Greenwashing or green leading?

Nicolas Hulot, France's most famous environmental activist, is known for making waves. As a famous television personality, he has used his television show as a platform to attack pesticides, nuclear power, and even capitalism as a whole. "Our model is not sustainable," he has declared.

Last week, France's new president Emmanuel Macron nominated Hulot, widely known for his nature documentaries, to be the country's next environment minister. It was a surprising name in a list of cabinet nominations that were mostly center-right and market-friendly.

Hulot, who supported Macron's far-left rival Jean-Luc Melenchon, has been a noted opponent of free trade deals - something Macron champions. Hulot ran unsuccessfully as a Green political candidate in 2012.

He stands in particular contrast to Macron's nominee to be prime minister, the center-right Edouard Philippe. Philippe worked as a lobbyist for French nuclear energy group Areva from 2007 to 2010.

Now, companies are scrambling to figure out whether the appointment could mean an increase in environmental regulation - and a drastic phaseout of nuclear power - or whether it is merely a political gesture.

Read more: Macron′s new environment chief: Greenwashing or green leading? | DW Environment | DW | 23.05.2017

Peace and War: Whatever happened to peace? Arms, oil and war by proxy- by Jonas Ecke

The end of the Cold War was one of the few historical moments in which people around the world looked forward to a future that promised to be more just and peaceful for everyone. The Berlin Wall was finally torn down, following years of tireless civil society activism in one of the world’s few peaceful revolutions. Liberal democratic systems seemed to be spreading everywhere, compelling Francis Fukuyama to craft the (nowadays often-scorned) argument that “The End of History” – and consequently the cessation of constant conflict – had finally arrived with the falling of the Iron Curtain.

The promising world 'peace dividend', a term initially coined by US president George H.W. Bush and UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher, was on everyone’s lips. Hope was in the air. The Soviet Union and United States vowed to work together to further cut down on a nuclear arsenal that could have blown up the world many times over. And they also seemed to be hard at work getting rid of another major – and often underestimated – impediment to peace: proxy wars, the type of war waged in the developing world for most of the Cold War, from Latin America to Central Asia to the Horn of Africa. 

These were wars in which the Soviet Union and US did not directly fight, but paid and favored local fighters, often through highly classified operations and byzantine financial networks that have inspired generations of spy novelists. Before the Cold War, colonial regimes paid local proxies to advance their agendas and “divide and conquer”.

As the Cold War finally came to a close, it was hoped and anticipated that weapon donations would be replaced by UN Peacekeepers and a new generation of NGO activists. Indeed, the new crop of peacemakers seemed to be more liberated. Free from the stifling imperatives of geopolitics, they could implement deals that had previously died prematurely at the conference tables of diplomats, anxious over the advances of an enemy superpower. The tit-for-tat strategies that would reap destruction seemed to be a thing of yesteryear.  

The “War to End all Wars” is a coinage that stems from the First World War. In the global public imagination: the Cold War would be the real “War to End all Wars.” Following its conclusion, an era of enduring peace was within immediate reach. Or so it seemed.

Fast forward 28 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and few such promised realities seem to have materialized. On the contrary, we have entered a new era of proxy wars.

Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria,Yemen, Somalia etc.

To bring these complex wars to a halt, we have to be very precise about what keeps them going. Saudi Arabia and Iran, probably the two main players in proxy wars in a destabilizaion of the Middle Eastern region that is steadily increasing, fund proxy forces to bolster their versions of Islam—Sunni and Shiite Islam, respectively. It is safe to assume that from the perspective of Riyadh and Teheran, furthering sectarian interests, inextricably intertwined with access to resources and geopolitical influence, are of more importance than peace in the region.

But it is not only sectarian strife—often highlighted in the western media—but also global unregulated capitalism that pours kerosene on a Middle East that is already in flames. 

Western weapon companies see the newly emerging proxy wars as momentous opportunities for increased revenues. During a 2015 conference of Lockheed Martin in Palm Beach Florida, its executive vice president Bruce Tanner predicted “indirect benefits” from the war in Syria. Similarly, as the Intercept reports, Raytheon chief executive Tom Kennedy spoke of “a significant uptick” for “defense solutions across the board in multiple countries in the Middle East.” Referring to Saudi Arabia, Kennedy elaborates, “It’s all the turmoil they have going on, whether the turmoil is occurring in Yemen, whether it’s with the Houthis, whether it’s occurring in Syria or Iraq, with ISIS.” And sure enough, stocks for arms have soared in recent years.

But it is not only weapons but also oil which disincentivizes policy makers from de-escalating proxy wars. As Christopher Davidson, who the Economist called “one of the most knowledgeable academics” writing about the Middle East, shows in his 688-page long tome “Shadow Wars: The Secret Struggle for the Middle East,” how many covert operations in the Middle East were historically supported to advance the explicit geopolitical or economic interests of the funders. 

According to Davidson, the emergence of the US as a major oil producer has motivated US policy makers (Trump included) to let Saudi forces engage in exhausting proxy wars throughout the region so that a weakened Saudi Arabia is forced to sell its state assets.

Whatever the precise motivations, aside from the publicly touted humanitarian rationales, oil and weapons play a role in the decisions made by states, even when lives are at stake.

But whatever the argument, the evidence in support of proxy wars as an effective means in the interest of peace is scarce. At least this is the case if one follows the analysis coming from the proverbial mouth of the horse, the CIA. The spy agency has funded proxy fighters for most of its history. 

Reportedly president Obama, at least an initial skeptic in the use of proxies, was interested in finding out if funding insurgents generally accomplish the stated strategic goals and commissioned an internal study.

The report concluded that conflicts were not decided in the interest of the US following the funding of proxy actors, unless, according to the report, US personnel were on the ground along with the proxies. The notable exception—according to the study—was the support for the Mujahidin against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. However, although the Mujahidin did ultimately chase the illegally invading Soviet forces out of the country, Afghanistan did not regain stability. One thing to come out of this instability was the merging of the Mujahidin into Al Qaida: the very same enemy the US fights in the current global 'War on Terror'. 

This is not just one war, but multiple new proxy wars that cause immense suffering and which have, according to the Global Terrorism Index, contributed to an almost nine-fold increase in deaths caused by terrorism between 2000 and 2016. If we consider the entire historical context, the Afghanistan example serves, at best, as a very cautionary tale. 

Tthe Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP), demonstrates that 2014 saw an increase in the number of active conflicts and also the casualties from battle. Forty armed conflicts were active in 2014, whereas in 2013 34 conflicts were designated active. The increase in conflicts since 1999 stood at 18 percent. Whatever gains were brought about by the 'peace dividend', they have been reversed, with people all over the world paying the greatest price.

President Donald Trump, by contrast, initially critical of Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy, has stepped up military activities since he took office. For example, drone strikes, an important component in the theater of war in Yemen, have gone up by 432 percent and his $ 110 billion weapons sale to Saudi Arabia also won't help in getting hostilities slowed down.

A new type of vigorous and principled peace movement must be formed in this time of crisis. Peace movements in rich countries should join Middle Eastern peace movements that rally for more democratic and less sectarian governance. Social movements can become stronger by integrating divergent points of view, histories and ideologies, which inform interpretations of complex conflicts. It necessarily has to look at the various internal roots of conflict, and also at how foreign governments, from Moscow and Washington to Riyadh and Teheran, fuel conflicts.

Supporting and holding political platforms accountable will be key to demilitarizing political ideologies and stopping the world in its “ruinous race” to global war, to use the words of Gorbachev. More often than not, a call to arm a party to a conflict prolongs said conflict. 

The public’s immediate question with regards to conflicts probably shouldn’t be “Whom should we support militarily?” Instead, we should more seriously consider questions such as “Who keeps a conflict going?” and “How can we de-escalate it?”

Somehow we the people—who, against all odds, want to raise our children in a more peaceful world—have to let our politicians know that arms should be removed from most regions of conflict.

Far from being out of touch with reality, the global peace movement—though worryingly weakened—in fact holds the most realistic solutions to conflict. Given the data, it is clear that negotiation with the actors in a conflict is the best route to peace. De-escalation is the only framework in tune with the realities of the contemporary world as well as the lessons of recent history. 

We the people have to compel and force if necessary regional and global political forces to work towards de-escalating conflicts. Challenging the financial conglomerates that bring weapons into the hand of proxies may be one of the most effective ways to do so.

Please get out of your comfort zone and act- the future of your children and grand-children are at stake. 

EU-Digest