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7/24/17

USA: A history of why the US is the only rich country without universal health care - by Annalisa Merelli

So why does the US, the only industrialized nation without universal health coverage, also have not only the highest health-care spending in the world—both in absolute terms and as a share of GDP—but also one of the highest levels of government spending on health care per person? And how did it come to be this way?

The answer is that the lack of universal coverage and high costs are intimately linked—both economically and historically.

Single-payer health-care (in which the government pays for universal coverage, typically through taxes) helps keep costs down for two reasons: It means that the government can regulate and negotiate the price of drugs and medical services, and it eliminates the need for a vast private health-insurance bureaucracy.

Currently, the US spends two to three times as much per capita on health care as most industrialized countries.

Click heren to read the complete report : Health care in the US: Why universal health care never happened — Quartz

Turkey Withdraws Blacklist to Ease Tensions With Germany - by Rainer Buergin and James Regan

Turkey withdrew a list of accusations against German companies, seeking to de-escalate tensions that flared last week between the two NATO allies.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere spoke with this Turkish counterpart Monday, and was told the almost 700 accusations involving German companies were a “communication problem,”

Interior Ministry spokesman Tobias Plate said in Berlin. Turkey’s interior ministry said no German company is being investigated by Turkey and last week’s complaint was a misunderstanding that has now been cleared up.

German federal police on Friday declined to investigate the claims, saying the Turkish list didn’t contain anything concrete enough to warrant follow up. German media reported some items included allegations of working with local entities linked to terror organizations.

The detention of a German human-rights activist in Istanbul last week, led to a war of words between the two countries, the culmination of months of discord over NATO troop visits, imprisoned journalists and Turkish Nazi references. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s veteran finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, on Friday compared Turkey to the former communist East Germany, while Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country wouldn’t give in to threats or “blackmail.”

Read more: Turkey Withdraws Blacklist to Ease Tensions With Germany - Bloomberg

Global Economy: IMF cuts 2017 growth forecasts for UK and US - by Larry Elliott

The International Monetary Fund has cut its growth forecast for the UK economy this year after a weak performance in the first three months of 2017.

In its first downgrade for the UK since the EU referendum in June last year, the IMF said it expected the British economy to expand by 1.7% this year, 0.3 points lower than when it last made predictions in April.

The Fund raised its forecasts for the UK after the Brexit vote as a result of the much stronger than envisaged activity in the second half of 2016. In October 2016, it pencilled in growth of 1.1% for 2017, raising this forecast to 1.5% in January this year and to 2% in April.

Maurice Obstfeld, the IMF’s economic counsellor, pointed to a marked change in early 2017. He said the UK’s growth forecast had been lowered based on its “tepid performance” so far this year, adding: “The ultimate impact of Brexit on the United Kingdom remains unclear.”

The IMF left its growth forecast for the UK in 2018 unchanged at 1.5% but said one key risk facing the global economy was that the Brexit talks would end in failure.

It contrasted its gloomier outlook for the UK with a rosier forecast for the rest of the EU, with 2017 growth upgrades for the four biggest eurozone countries – Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

Germany has been revised up by 0.2 points to 1.8%, France by 0.1 points to 1.5%, while Italy and Spain have both been revised up by 0.5 points to 1.3% and 3.1% respectively.

The Fund produces a world economic outlook in April and October to coincide with its spring and annual meetings, but provides updates in January and July.

Launching the report in Kuala Lumpur, Obstfeld said the IMF had left its global growth forecasts unchanged at 3.5% in 2017 and 3.6% for next year, noting that the stronger performance by the eurozone, China and Japan had been offset by weaker performances elsewhere.

“The recovery in global growth that we projected in April is on a firmer footing; there is now no question mark over the world economy’s gain in momentum,” Obstfeld said.

He added that Donald Trump’s failure so far to push through his promised package of tax cuts had dampened US growth prospects.

“From a global growth perspective, the most important downgrade is the United States,” he said.

“Over the next two years, US growth should remain above its longer-run potential growth rate. But we have reduced our forecasts for both 2017 and 2018 to 2.1% because near-term US fiscal policy looks less likely to be expansionary than we believed in April.”

Read more:IMF cuts 2017 growth forecasts for UK and US | Business | The Guardian

Poland: EU Commission unmoved by Polish president's veto - by Eszter Zalan

Andrzej Duda decided to veto two of the controversial draft laws, which would put the judiciary under political control, but the EU executive is awaiting details before deciding on whether to launch legal probes on Wednesday

The commission's spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, said the EU executive is “following the events and situation in Poland very closely".

"Things are changing even as we speak," Schinas told reporters only two hours after Duda's announcement.

He confirmed that the college of EU commissioners will discuss the situation in Poland on Wednesday, and decide on the next steps.

"All developments, and all the changes that are going on will be addressed by the commission on Wednesday,” he said.

"This is a political commission, this is up to the political masters to discuss," he added, but declined to call Duda’s veto a positive development.

Read more: EU Commission unmoved by Polish president's veto

7/23/17

IMF conditions weaken labor rights, World Bank labor policy inconsistent - Bretton Woods Project

A March IMF policy paper on Labour and product market reforms in advanced economies: fiscal costs, gains, and support postulated that, “persistently sluggish growth has led to growing policy emphasis on the need for structural reforms that improve the functioning of labour and product markets in advanced economies”. Amongst the reforms considered are “lower entry barriers for firms” and “reducing the level or duration of unemployment benefits where particularly high” during weak cyclical conditions.

Its main findings included that such reforms can raise output and thus strengthen public finances, for example, “unemployment benefit reforms improve fiscal outcomes both indirectly and directly through lower spending.” In line with IMF policy, the report makes a case for temporary fiscal stimulus but only where there is “available fiscal space” (see Update 55), although “a strong commitment to reforms is an essential prerequisite.”

Commenting on the paper, Cambridge University political scientist Bernhard Reinsberg found that “it is laudable that the IMF acknowledged that fiscal stimuli may be necessary not only to stimulate the economy after a financial crisis but also to facilitate structural reform.” However, he questioned the study’s assumption that labor market reforms are necessary to unleash growth. He cautioned that “labor regulations are vital to the protection of worker interests in marginalised places of the global economy. The results presented in the IMF staff note thus cannot be applied to the majority of countries around the globe.”

Read more: IMF conditions weaken labour rights, World Bank labour policy inconsistent - Bretton Woods Project

US Government: Republicans are in full control of government — but losing control of their party - by S.Sullivan and R.Costa

Six months after seizing complete control of the federal government, the Republican Party stands divided as ever — plunged into a messy war among its factions that has escalated in recent weeks to crisis levels.

Frustrated lawmakers are increasingly sounding off at a White House awash in turmoil and struggling to accomplish its legislative goals. President Trump is scolding Republican senators over health care and even threatening electoral retribution. Congressional leaders are losing the confidence of their rank and file. And some major GOP donors are considering using their wealth to try to force out recalcitrant incumbents.

“It’s a lot of tribes within one party, with many agendas, trying to do what they want to do,” Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) said in an interview.

Read more: Republicans are in full control of government — but losing control of their party - The Washington Post

Social Media: Protect your privacy and ward off trolls on social media - by David Nield

On social media, you get to catch up with old friends, make new connections, and coo over cute baby photos. Although you're supposed to enjoy these visits to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, a persistent commenter or obnoxious "friend" can ruin your experience. That's why these services provide ways for you to fight back. Here are the steps you can take to protect your privacy and slay trolls on three of the world's biggest social networks.

Unlike Twitter and Instagram, which we discuss below, Facebook doesn't make your posts visible to the whole internet by default. So other users will only see your photos, links, and other information if you have chosen to friend them. You can adjust this extra layer of protection every time you post by choosing to make the update public or to restrict it to only a certain number of friends.

You can select who gets to see your own posts, but that doesn't stop your friends from tagging you in public posts. To prevent people from posting on your timeline or tagging you in photos, you can limit this activity from your Timeline and Tagging settings page. One of the options lets you review any tags you're mentioned in before they appear in your News Feed.

If you've friended someone, but they start giving you unwanted attention, you can easily cut off their access: Head to their profile page and clicking on the Friends button to find the Unfriend option. That person won't get an alert that they've been unfriended, but they might notice if they load up your profile and see the Add Friend option.

For the complete report go to: Read more Protect your privacy and ward off trolls on social media | Popular Science

7/22/17

US Opioid Crisis: How The US Can Contain And Reverse The Epidemic-by Denisse Moreno

While President Trump’s national opioid commission, headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, failed to meet its second deadline last week, a report released this month recommends various measures federal, state and local officials should take to tackle the epidemic.

The report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, requested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said it will take years of “sustained and coordinated efforts” to “contain and reverse the harmful societal effects of the prescription and illicit opioid epidemics,” which go hand-in-hand and continue to spiral.

Read: More Than Half Of US Opioid Prescriptions Go To People With Mental Disorders, Researchers Find

About 90 people in the U.S. die of an opioid-related overdose every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of 2015, at least 2 million people across the nation have an opioid addiction, while nearly 600,00 have an opioid use disorder involving heroin. The number of opioid-related overdose fatalities, which includes prescription opioids (such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone) and heroin, has quadrupled since 1999. At the same time, the amount of prescription opioids sold in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled since that year.

Read more: Opioid Crisis: How The US Can Contain And Reverse The Epidemic

EU Citizenship Has Its Obligations: ′You belong here,′ Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel tells Germany′s Turks

Less than 48 hours after announcing a major shift in policy towards Turkey, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Saturday sought to calm fears among Turkish nationals living in Germany that they are not targets in an ongoing political row.

Gabriel penned an open letter, published in German and Turkish in the mass circulation newspaper Bild, where he called the friendship between Germans and the estimated 3 million Turks living in the country a "great treasure."

His message followed a further week of wrangling between the two countries following the jailing by a court in Istanbul of several human rights activists - including German national Peter Steudtner - accused of what Germany says are the trumped-up charges of being linked to a terrorist organization.

Note EU=Digest: Very true.This also goes for immigrants to any country in the world. You can't have your cake and eat it too! In case you do prefer your home country over the one where you immigrated to, nothing stops you to go back from where you came. It must also be noted that Governments of  former citizens, who immigrated to other countries, and became citizens there, also have no right to claim authority or any rights over these former citizens.  

Read more: ′You belong here,′ Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel tells Germany′s Turks | News | DW | 22.07.2017

EU - Polish relations: Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU - by Eric Maurice

The Polish parliament adopted a controversial reform of the Supreme Court on Thursday (20 July), stepping up a showdown with the EU.

The law, which puts the Supreme Court under government control, was passed with 235 votes against 192 and 23 abstentions, just a day after the European Commission had called on Polish authorities to suspend the bill or face a rule of law procedure that could lead to sanctions.

"We are coming very close to triggering Article 7," the EU executive vice president Frans Timmermans warned on Wednesday, referring to a rule of law procedure.

The vote led the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, who is a former Polish prime minister, to publish a statement calling for a solution to a "very serious situation".

Tusk said that he proposed a meeting with Polish president Andrej Duda to try to avoid "bleak outcomes which could ultimately lead to the marginalisation of Poland in Europe."
He said that the reforms carried out by the Polish government were a "dangerous tendency".

Read more: Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU

7/21/17

GMO Agenda Takes An Alarming Step Forward. US EPA Just Quietly Approved Monsanto/Dow’s RNAi Corn – by A.Erickson

Varying opinions on the rise and prominence of GMOs has led to a lot of controversy. Many people, regardless of their stance, still feel entitled to know what they’re consuming, and if it’s the product of laboratory research.

vSnf7 dsRNA is an insecticide, but unlike others, it’s not sprayed on crops. To use it, you encode instructions for manufacturing it in the DNA of the crop itself. So, for instance, if a Western corn rootworm begins destroying your crop, the plant’s self-made DvSnf7 dsRNA interferes with a critical rootworm gene and kills the pesky bugger.

This disruption is referred to as RNA interference, or RNAi. Haven’t heard of it? That’s because it was just approved. Didn’t hear that news? That’s because mainstream media remained silent, allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to recently approve the first insecticide relying on it.

The first DvSnf7 dsRNA product will come in the form of SmartStax Pro, a line of genetically modified corn seeds created by Monsanto and Dow. The RNAi part comes from Monsanto. The agricultural giant anticipates corn seed with RNAi coming to the market by the end of this decade.

The Western corn rootworm has proved quite resilient, with corn farmers continuously investing in new ways to stop it from damaging their cornfields. When spray-on pesticides failed, farmers took advantage of corn genetically modified to make the Bt toxin, a technology also from Monsanto, which also didn’t work as hoped for. Now, the farmers are eagerly awaiting the arrival of SmartStax Pro, which will have both Bt as well as DvSnf7 dsRNA.

Read more: The GMO Agenda Takes An Alarming Step Forward. The EPA Just Quietly Approved Monsanto/Dow’s RNAi Corn – Collective Evolution

Turkish Tourist Industry Hit Again: Turkey and Greece hit by strong earthquake: - by Helena Smith

Two people were killed, 200 injured and five seriously injured on the Greek island of Kos after an earthquake hit tourist destinations around the Aegean sea in the early hours of Friday.

At least 70 people were injured in Bodrum.Turkey.

The magnitude 6.7 quake injured a further 200 people in Greek and Turkish coastal towns.

The damage was, however, much less than could have been expected for an earthquake of its size. The United States Geological Survey said it was a very shallow quake – only 6 miles (10km) below the seabed – off the south-western coastal city of Marmaris in Muğla province, Turkey.

The epicentre was just 6 miles south of the Turkish resort of Bodrum and 10 miles from Kos.

Read  more: Turkey and Greece hit by strong earthquake: two dead and 200 injured – as it happened | World news | The Guardian

Steel Industry: EU proposes duties on Brazil, Iran, Russia, Ukraine steel

The European Union is planning to impose duties of up to 33 percent on hot-rolled steel imports from Brazil, Iran, Russia and Ukraine to counter what it sees as unfairly low prices, according to a document seen by Reuters.

The EU has over 40 anti-dumping measures to aid European steel producers, mostly aimed at China. 

In June, the bloc set duties of up to 35.9 percent on Chinese hot-rolled steel, prompting an angry response from Beijing. 

Steel is the second biggest industry in the world after oil and gas and the EU's attention has recently shifted as barriers aimed at cheap Chinese imports have an impact.

Read more: EU proposes duties on Brazil, Iran, Russia, Ukraine steel

Britain Return To The Fold: 9 ways Britain could stay in the European Union

While undoing Brexit altogether looks almost as unlikely today as it did in the immediate aftermath of the referendum last year, those who think Britain might be better off staying in the European Union are becoming more vocal as the complexities and potential costs of Brexit become clearer.

Vince Cable — who was crowned leader of the Liberal Democrats unopposed Thursday — has never supported leaving the bloc and is “beginning to think Brexit may never happen.” Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair last weekend suggested the U.K. could stay in a reformed European Union. Even the director of the Vote Leave campaign, Dominic Cummings, admitted on Twitter this week that there are “some possible branches of the future” in which “leaving will be an error.”

Donald Tusk, the former Polish prime minister and European Council president, put it more poetically last month. “You may say I am a dreamer. But I am not the only one,” he said, channelling John Lennon.

In Westminster, anti-Brexit dreamers are scarce but POLITICO spoke to some of those who believe Brexit could yet be halted. The political odds might be stacked against them, but then very few correctly predicted the referendum vote in the first place.

Here are nine scenarios in which Britain stays in the European Union:
1. Public opinion changes

Remainers have been heartened by a number of polls since the June 8 election which have suggested an uptick in support for staying in the European Union, including one by Survation that found 54 percent of Brits would now prefer to remain in the bloc.

However Joe Twyman, head of political and social research at YouGov, which has been monitoring public opinion since the referendum, said the shifts in views had been too small to point of a definitive change of heart. He said the country was still divided down the middle, much as it was in the referendum vote itself but added that “things could change massively.”

“It is almost certain that as things do actually start to occur then there could be a movement in one way or another. People could say ‘this is working out really well, yay us.’ And so support for Brexit rises significantly. The opposite could be true if things go wrong.”

The main political parties are all monitoring the situation through private polling, according to Twyman. The “smart ones” understand the fluid nature of [public opinion] and are aware that polls could change significantly.

Read more: 9 ways Britain could stay in the European Union – POLITICO

Brext: No solution in sight for Brexit’s controversial issues – by Jorge Valero

During a second sitting around the negotiating table, the EU and the UK stuck to their guns on the financial obligations London should pay and what court would guarantee EU citizen rights in a post-Brexit world.

Following a first encounter last month, the negotiating teams led by Michel Barnier, on the EU side, and David Davis, on the British side, concluded on Thrusday (20 July) a four-day round of talks to set the terms of Britain’s departure from the EU.

But the negotiations barely managed to spot areas of disagreement that have already been identified.

As expected, the financial settlement London must cover and the European Court of Justice’s role in ensuring citizen rights were the most controversial issues.

But both sides could not even start sketching out the bare bones of a compromise as Britain came to Brussels empty handed.

Read more: No solution in sight for Brexit’s controversial issues – EURACTIV.com

German French Relations: Schulz to Macron: Forget Merkel, I’m your man

Martin Schulz, the Social Democrat candidate for chancellor in Germany’s election this fall, paid a visit to Paris with a message for French President Emmanuel Macron: I’d be a better partner than Angela Merkel.

In a speech at Sciences Po university on Thursday, the former European Parliament president called for a “new political departure, an impetus for the future.”

“Germany and France — not alone, but of course with other partners — should be that impetus,“ Schulz said. “And I am addressing the French president directly.“

“After the presidential election in France and the Bundestag election in Germany in the autumn, there is a time window that must be used,” he added, offering his support for a series of EU reforms proposed by Macron.

Read more: Schulz to Macron: Forget Merkel, I’m your man – POLITICO

7/20/17

Cybersecurity: Russia in talks with US to create cybersecurity working group: says Russian Press Agency

Moscow and Washington are in talks to create a joint cyber security working group, Russia's RIA news agency reported on Thursday, citing Andrey Krutskikh, a special presidential envoy on cybersecurity.

U.S. President Donald Trump said earlier this month he had discussed the idea of creating such a group with President Vladimir Putin at a summit of the Group of 20 nations in Hamburg, Germany.

But the idea was greeted with incredulity by some senior Republicans who said Moscow could not be trusted - and the U.S. president later tweeted that he did not think it could happen.

"The talks are underway ... different proposals are being exchanged, nobody denies the necessity of holding the talks and of having such contacts," Krutskikh said, according to RIA. Svetlana Lukash, a Russian official who was at the Hamburg summit, said earlier this month that the two presidents had agreed to discuss cyber security questions, either via the United Nations or as part of a working group.

To read more click here

Poland: Rule of Law in Jeopardy: Polish parliament approves controversial Supreme Court bill

Poland’s lower house of parliament adopted on Thursday (20 July) a controversial Supreme Court bill, setting the country further on collision course with Brussels, which has accused it of undermining the basic principles of the rule of law.

The Sejm passed the bill — which the European Commission, legal experts and the Polish opposition say will abolish the judiciary’s independence — with the vote of 235 deputies. Against were 192 deputies and 23 abstained.

The European Commission will meet next week to decide whether to activate Article 7 against Poland — a last-resort measure to rein in member states seen as violating the basic human rights and the rule of law. If approved, Poland could temporarily be stripped of its voting rights in the European Council.

Read more: Polish parliament approves controversial Supreme Court bill – EURACTIV.com

Germany Turkish Relations: Germany says EU aid to Turkey could be halted over arrests

Germany raised the possibility on Wednesday (19 July) of suspending European Union aid payments to Turkey after summoning Ankara’s ambassador to Berlin to protest over the arrest of six human rights activists including a German citizen.

The moves mark a further escalation of tensions between NATO allies Germany and Turkey, who are at loggerheads over a wide range of issues.

This month, Turkey arrested rights activists including Amnesty International’s Turkey head Idil Eser and German citizen Peter Steudtner on terrorism charges, which Berlin has labelled “absurd”.

Read more: Germany says EU aid to Turkey could be halted over arrests – EURACTIV.com

7/19/17

The Netherlands: Dutch Government hires almost a fifth more external staff

The Dutch government has spent almost a fifth more on hiring in workers and consultants in the last two years, claims the AD on Friday. Despite calling for other firms to reduce the amount of flexible working, the paper says, the government has not got its own house in order. It has investigated external hiring by Dutch ministries, provincial bodies, municipal councils and water boards, saying that last year this cost €2.4 bn and 13% of staffing budgets. This was a rise of 19% on the previous year. But ministerial norms are to spend less than 10% of such costs on freelances, flexible workers and consultants. Leading the way was the tax office, which reportedly spent €272 million on outside staff in 2016, followed by the infrastructure and environment and the justice ministries. Mostly, says the AD, the hires related to IT staff. Zakaria Boufangacha, of the FNV union, told the AD that the situation was ‘disappointing and worrying.’

Read more at DutchNews.nl: Government hires almost a fifth more external staff http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2017/07/government-hires-almost-a-fifth-more-external-staff/

The Dutch government has spent almost a fifth more on hiring in workers and consultants in the last two years, claims the AD on Friday. Despite calling for other firms to reduce the amount of flexible working, the paper says, the government has not got its own house in order. It has investigated external hiring by Dutch ministries, provincial bodies, municipal councils and water boards, saying that last year this cost €2.4 bn and 13% of staffing budgets. This was a rise of 19% on the previous year. But ministerial norms are to spend less than 10% of such costs on freelances, flexible workers and consultants. Leading the way was the tax office, which reportedly spent €272 million on outside staff in 2016, followed by the infrastructure and environment and the justice ministries. Mostly, says the AD, the hires related to IT staff. Zakaria Boufangacha, of the FNV union, told the AD that the situation was ‘disappointing and worrying.’

Read more at DutchNews.nl: Government hires almost a fifth more external staff http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2017/07/government-hires-almost-a-fifth-more-external-staff/
Dutch Government flex workers 
hiring rise of 19% over last year
The Dutch government has spent almost a fifth more on hiring in workers and consultants in the last two years, claims the AD newspaper.

Despite calling for other firms to reduce the amount of flexible working, the paper says, the government has not got its own house in order. 
It has investigated external hiring by Dutch ministries, provincial bodies, municipal councils and water boards, saying that last year this cost €2.4 bn and 13% of staffing budgets.

This was a rise of 19% on the previous year. But ministerial norms are to spend less than 10% of such costs on freelances, flexible workers and consultants.

Leading the way was the Government tax office, which reportedly spent €272 million on outside staff in 2016, followed by the infrastructure and environment and the justice ministries. Mostly, says the AD, the hires related to IT staff.

Zakaria Boufangacha, of the FNV union, told the AD that the situation was ‘disappointing and worrying.’

Read more: Government hires almost a fifth more external staff - DutchNews.nl

Mafia money pollutes the EU economy - by E. Bianchini, M. Castigliani, G.Pipitone, M.Portanova

Major profits from large-scale illegal activities have to be laundered to enter the so-called clean economy.

The money laundering itself is increasingly done by external specialised groups, which take a 5-8 percent cut for the service, Europol, the EU's police agency, says.

When only considering the Italian mafias, a 2016 report by the EU's judicial cooperation agency, Eurojust, notes their infiltration into the legitimate economy in "Spain (particularly favoured by the Italian Camorra), the Netherlands, Romania, France, Germany, and the UK."

They are doing this primarily through "real estate investments and participation in public or private contracts, particularly in the field of construction, public utilities and waste disposal," the report says.

The Transcrime Organized Crime Portfolio (OCP), edited by Paolo Savona and Michele Riccardi, also notes "cases of organised crime investments were found in almost all EU member states (24 out of 28)", predominantly in Italy, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, and Romania.

Dirty money, the OCP study says, is mostly "in areas with a historically strong presence of organized crime groups (e.g. southern Italy), in border regions, or in areas which may play a crucial role in illicit trafficking (e.g. Andalusia, or Rotterdam and Marseille with their harbours), large urban areas (e.g. London, Amsterdam, Madrid, Berlin) and tourist or coastal areas (e.g. Côte d’Azur, Murcia, Malaga or European capitals).

Southern Spain, for example, attracts dirty money from Italian mafias, Russian criminals and northern European biker gangs.

In recent years, criminal investments focused on "renewable energy, waste collection and management, money transfers, casinos, VLT, slot machines, games and betting".

The cornerstone of the fight against organised crime is undoubtedly an EU directive from 3 April 2014 on the freezing and confiscation of the proceeds of crime in the EU.

On 7 October 2016, the EU parliament approved the report on the fight against corruption, prepared by an Italian MEP, Laura Ferrara, which partially adopts the work of Alfano's special committee.

The report's 35 pages echoes the same wish-list to the EU commission, that the offence of "criminal association regardless of consummation of criminal ends" should be punishable.
And yet, there has still been very little progress. It's like a broken record.

Read more: Mafia money pollutes the EU economy

USA: Have and have not's: There's a large group of Americans missing out on the American dream

There’s a growing tendency for mainstream economists, including several of those at the Federal Reserve, to dismiss all income disparities as the product of a skills- or education gap, a misleading explanation given weak wage growth that points to ongoing weakness in the job market. 
\
So it was relieving to see, tucked in the US central bank’s latest semi-annual report to Congress on monetary policy, an analysis of recent inequality research that refutes the idea that education is the only factor behind income inequality. Race, unsurprisingly, also plays a major role, as do social and economic measures, including taxation, interest rates, and labor policies. The Fed states:

“The persistent gaps in economic outcomes by race and ethnicity in the United States raise important questions about how people ascend the economic ladder. Education, particularly a college degree, is often seen as a path to improved economic opportunities.
“However, while education continues to be an important determinant of whether one can climb the economic ladder, sizable differences in economic outcomes across race and ethnicity remain even after controlling for educational attainment. Data on earnings for two cohorts of young adult workers (aged 25 to 34) approximately a generation apart confirm both the gaps in economic outcomes and the lack of substantial upward progress for disadvantaged groups over the past quarter-century.”

FeducationA
Foto: source Federal Reserve 
“Overall, the representation of black and Hispanic workers in the top earnings quartile continues to lag in the later period,” the report adds.

For the complete detailed report click here: There's a large group of Americans missing out on the American dream

EU Wellfare states: How Do European Welfare States Perform? "are there any left ?" - by M.A. Antonelli and V.De Bonis

The European Union is characterized by different national social polices (although they are less clearly demarcated than in the past).

The Nordic countries present high levels of social expenditure (around 30% of GDP in Denmark, Finland and Sweden), while the continental ones (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and Luxembourg) have an intermediate level of expenditure (on average 27% of GDP in 2016) and the

Mediterranean countries (Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal), allocate – on average- a quarter of GDP to social policies (2016). Finally, Anglo-Saxon (Ireland and the United Kingdom) and Eastern countries devote, on average, just 20% of GDP (2016) to welfare.

Based on these indicators, we construct a Performance Index (See here for details) which varies between zero and one where zero indicates the worst-performing and one the best.

For the complete detailed report click here: How Do European Welfare States Perform?

7/18/17

Germany - Alternative Energy: Combustion engine ban puts 600,000 German jobs at risk says controversial Ifo report

Alternative Enery Car Industry - a win-win situation
More than 600,000 jobs could be at risk in Germany from a potential ban on combustion engine cars by 2030, the Ifo economic institute said in a study commissioned by Germany's VDA car industry lobby.

Pollution from cars, including those with diesel engines, has become a sensitive subject in Germany since Volkswagen admitted to systematic cheating of emissions tests to mask levels of health threatening nitrogen oxides.

Cities such as Munich and Stuttgart are looking at banning older diesel cars, whose emissions they blame for causing an increase in respiratory diseases.

The Ifo study, published on Tuesday, said a switch to sales of zero-emission cars would threaten 426,000 car manufacturing jobs, with the rest coming from related industries, such as suppliers.

Two months before Germany's national elections, the government faces growing pressure to reduce emissions or face complete bans on diesel cars in some cities. Representatives of federal and regional governments will meet with carmakers on Aug. 2 to find ways to curb diesel-related pollution

Note EU-Digest: the study by the IFO is somewhat controversial, and one could even call it questionable, specially when it comes to the potential employment loss. Switching from combustion cars to other environmentally friendly automobiles, like electric or hydrogen powered cars, will certainly not cause a drop in the production of cars. To the contrary,it might even increase employment in the automobile industry, and most of all be a win-win when it comes to cleaning up the environment. 

Read more: Combustion engine ban puts 600,000 German jobs at risk: Ifo

USA - Health Care Disaster: Trump owns plenty of blame for health care defeat - by John Harwood


President Donald Trump's remarks conceding defeat on repealing and replacing Obamacare demonstrated why his first big effort failed in the first place.

To begin with, the president remains only loosely attached to his own team. He referred to his Republican allies in Congress as "they," while casting himself passively as "sitting in the Oval Office ... pen in hand, waiting to sign something."

"For seven years, I've been hearing 'repeal and replace' from Congress, and I've been hearing it loud and strong," Trump told reporters at a photo op. "And then when we finally get a chance to repeal and replace, they don't take advantage of it. So, that's disappointing."

Second, Trump continued to display no understanding of health-care issues themselves. He again touted an alternative to Obamacare "with much lower premiums, much lower costs, much better protections."

If such a plan existed, congressional Republicans would have figured it out over the last seven years and passed it this year. Trump's summary assessment — "something will happen, and it will be very good" — showed that he doesn't have one either.

Third, his thinly staffed administration lacks an effective team to develop, push through Congress and implement a new system. As Trump dined at the White House to plot strategy with Senate leaders, he and his aides had no idea that GOP Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas at that moment were sinking their plans.


Read more: Trump owns plenty of blame for health care defeat

Middle East: EU puts sanctions on Syrian scientists, military officials

The European Union imposed sanctions on 16 Syrian scientists and military officials Monday for their suspected involvement in a chemical attack in northern Syria in April that killed scores of civilians.

The U.N.’s chemical watchdog, the OPCW, last month concluded that the nerve agent sarin was used as a chemical weapon in the April 4 attack in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun that killed at least 87 people including children.

Western intelligence agencies accuse the government of Bashar Assad of carrying out the attack, arguing that rebels in the area would not have had the capabilities.

Read more: EU puts sanctions on Syrian scientists, military officials | News , Middle East | THE DAILY STAR

7/17/17

The Netherlands: Dutch nationals taking UK citizenship 'will lose Netherlands passports' - byDaniel Boffey

Dutch nationals who take British citizenship to avoid having to leave the UK after Brexit will be stripped of their Netherlands passports due to existing limits on dual nationality, the Dutch prime minister has said.

About 100,000 Dutch nationals living in Britain face an uncertain future after March 2019. The UK and EU are yet to reconcile their differences on the citizens’ rights issue, with Brussels describing the British government’s initial offer as vague and inadequate.

Mark Rutte told Dutch citizens in the UK who have considered becoming British to avoid residency problems once Britain leaves the EU that applying for dual nationality was not an option.

“Countering dual nationality remains one of this cabinet’s policies,” the prime minister said on Monday, in response to a petition with 22,000 signatures calling for a government rethink.

Read more: Dutch nationals taking UK citizenship 'will lose Netherlands passports' | World news | The Guardian

Social Media and Government: Facebook says it shouldn’t have to stay mum when government seeks user data - by A.E. Marimow

Major technology companies and civil liberties groups have joined Facebook in a closed courtroom battle over secret government access to social media records.

Facebook is fighting a court order that prohibits it from letting users know when law enforcement investigators ask to search their political communications — a ban that Facebook contends tramples First Amendment protections of the company and individuals.

Most of the details of the case in the nation’s capital are under wraps, but the timing of the investigation, and references in public court documents, suggest the search warrants relate to demonstrations during President Trump’s inauguration.

More than 200 people were detained and many have been charged with felony rioting in the Jan. 20 protests that injured police and damaged property in an area of downtown Washington.

Read more: Facebook says it shouldn’t have to stay mum when government seeks user data - The Washington Post

European Social Democracy: Is Social Democracy Facing Extinction In Europe? - by Davide Vittori

The last French presidential election and the recent legislative elections confirmed a seemingly unstoppable declining trend in the electoral support of social democratic parties. For the second time in the last fifteen years, the official candidate of the French Socialist Party (PS) was excluded from the second round; in both cases, the “outsider” was represented by the candidate of the Front National (FN).

The legislative election confirmed this trend: the PS and its allies received only 9.5% of the vote. Before the French elections, the Labour Party (PvdA) in the Netherlands (5.7%) received a similarly cataclysmic result. This built on other high profile losses for social democratic parties in recent years, notably PASOK’s decline in Greece in 2012 (13.2%), which represented a turning point for the Greek political system. Between these results, other social democratic parties have suffered heavy losses, either as incumbents or as parties in opposition. 

For the complete report click here: Is Social Democracy Facing Extinction In Europe?

7/16/17

US Politics: How Did Democrats Become the Party of Elites? - by Leonard Steinhorn

How did it come to pass that of the two political parties, the Democrats — who have long fought for the underdog, civil rights, consumer protections, universal health care, the minimum wage and for unions against powerful interests that try to crush them — have now been branded in large swaths of the country as the party of the establishment and the elites?

And how did it come to pass that Republicans — whose policies, regardless of stated intent, benefit polluters, entrenched interests and the upper brackets of American wealth — are now seen by many as the anti-establishment populist party which delights in flipping off elites on behalf of the Everyman?

If Democrats want to regain their electoral stride and recapture defiant voters who once saw the party as their advocate and voice — the same voters they need to establish a sustained governing majority throughout the land — they must think less about policies per se than about how those policies translate to messaging and brand

For the complete report click here : How Did Democrats Become the Party of Elites? | Alternet

Brexit: German politicians tell Irish counterparts ‘British are a disgrace’ - Lucy Pasha-Robinson

 Senior German politicians reportedly launched a scathing attack on their British counterparts, calling them a “disgrace” and labelling their response to Brexit “farcical” during a meeting in the Bundestag.

Irish and German figures gathered at an Oireachtas delegation held by the German Parliament’s finance committee to discuss Brexit.

Fine Gael senator Ray Butler, who attended the meeting, said the German politicians were speaking after a recent visit to Westminster.

“They said they were making it up as they went along and were very poorly prepared for Brexit.

“It was actually farcical, is what they said. They came out of the meeting very bemused and annoyed.”

Independent senator Gerard Craughwell said the group raised “deep concerns” over how prepared the UK was for Brexit.

“They found the British finance committee unprepared for Brexit and said they didn't seem to have considered the impact leaving the EU would have on Britain's economy,” Mr Craughwell said.

A report documenting the Bundestag visit recorded both German and Irish politicians as being disappointed by Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

Brexit: German politicians tell Irish counterparts ‘British are a disgrace’ | The Independent

Technology:Europe struggles to attract tech talent even as US closes doors – by J.Plucinska and S.Saeed

U.S. President Donald Trump’s moves on immigration are bad news for ambitious tech workers. That should be good news for Europe’s talent-hungry digital hubs.

That sets the stage for Amsterdam, Berlin or Paris to become the next global magnet for engineers, coders and entrepreneurs.

Yet Europe is struggling to surmount multiple barriers. It’s considered one of the least-tolerant continents toward migrants as populist movements continue to sway public opinion, said Eugenio Ambrosi, the regional director of the EU, Norway and Switzerland office of the International Organization for Migration.

Meanwhile, the Continent’s reputation for tech investment remains weak, and its inability to grow the next European Google or Facebook makes it a less desirable place for ambitious workers, politicians, civil society and the industry agree.

On top of that, EU lawmakers and members of the tech community say the Continent hasn’t embraced a 2009 Blue Card directive, intended to establish an easy-to-use, universal visa program for highly skilled workers. A revamp proposed by the European Commission last year is stuck in interinstitutional infighting.

Note EU-Digest: The EU is getting a great opportunity here to benefit from the "Trump Administration immigrant fear" to move this highly qualified stream of tech experts, which is now being blocked by the US, into the EU's rapidly expanding technology market, which has a lack of skilled experts.  Come on EU Parliament and Commission,  don't keep sitting on your hands, put your money where your mouth is. Get the 2009 Blue Card directive fully activated and functional. It is beneficial to the EU economy.and even to you as EU politicians.   

Read more: Europe struggles to attract tech talent even as US closes doors – POLITICO

7/15/17

Middle East: Syria talks conclude in Geneva with no breakthrough

The seventh round of intra-Syria talks aimed at helping to end the country's six-year-old war wrapped up with "no breakthrough, no breakdown".

UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said on Friday the Syrian government has not budged in its unwillingness to discuss political transition at the talks in Geneva while President Bashar al-Assad's representatives have pursued an almost incessant theme of the fight against "terrorism"..

Read more: Syria talks conclude in Geneva with no breakthrough | Syria News | Al Jazeera

TERRORISM: Saudi terrorism support 'dwarfs' Qatar's says US Rep. Senator Bob Corker

An influential US Republican senator has criticised the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, over a blockade on Qatar by the kingdom and three other Arab states.

The comments by Bob Corker, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, came as tensions in the region continue over the crisis, with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expected to make an unscheduled stop in Doha on Thursday.

"The amount of support for terrorism by Saudi Arabia dwarfs what Qatar is doing," Corker said on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar on June 5 and imposed a land, air and sea blockade on the country.

Read more: Bob Corker: Saudi terrorism support 'dwarfs' Qatar's | News | Al Jazeera

Cuba: Raul Castro denounces Donald Trump's Cuba policy -

The president of Cuba has spoken publicly for the first time against US President Donald Trump's rollback of a thaw between the two countries a month ago.

President Raul Castro said "attempts to destroy the revolution" would fail.

Mr Trump has tightened restrictions on US travel to and business with the communist island.

But the US embassy in Havana, re-opened by former President Barack Obama, is still operating.

Read more: Raul Castro denounces Donald Trump's Cuba policy - BBC News

Ireland: Dublin is streets ahead of EU rivals as City firms plan for Brexit relocation - by Lisa O'Carroll

In boardrooms across London, bank executives are deciding where to move tens of thousands of jobs in the event of a hard Brexit. Rival European financial centres, including Paris, Frankfurt and Luxembourg, are vying for the business – but Dublin is emerging as the most popular destination.

 Hundreds of banks, insurers, fund managers and other major City firms had until Friday to tell the Bank of England how they intend to cope in the event of a hard Brexit.

Accountants at EY last week said 59 out of the 222 biggest financial services companies in the UK have made public statements about moving staff from Britain to the EU because of Brexit. Dublin, which is still scarred by Ireland’s financial crisis, is the top destination with 19 firms mentioning a possible move to the Irish capital.

Jes Staley, the chief executive of Barclays, which already has significant operations in Ireland, flew there last week to meet taoiseach Leo Varadkar and discuss further expansion across the Irish Sea. “Barclays Bank Ireland, which has a banking licence and which we have operated for almost 40 years, provides a natural base and we are engaging with our regulators in discussions to extend its activities,” the bank said.

Read more: Dublin is streets ahead of EU rivals as City firms plan for Brexit relocation | Business | The Guardian

7/14/17

Turkey: Free the Human Rights Defenders

Amnesty Turkey Director İdil Eser was among 10 human rights defenders detained while attending a human rights workshop on 5 July. For over 24 hours the authorities refused to reveal their whereabouts and they were denied the right to call their loved ones.

Their detention follows the arrest of Amnesty Turkey Chair Taner Kiliç, who has been imprisoned since 6 June. They all face criminal investigations on the absurd suspicion of being members of an ‘armed terrorist organization’.

The Turkish government is abusing its power, deliberately making the country a dangerous place for people who speak out for human rights.

These brave activists have been detained for no reason except for their belief in human rights. While they are behind bars, we will march for them. While they are gagged, we will speak out for them and you should also.

Read more: Turkey: Free the Human Rights Defenders | Amnesty International

Germany: Turkey blocks German lawmakers from visiting NATO base at Konya

Ankara has denied German lawmakers permission to visit Bundeswehr troops stationed at a NATO base near the Turkish town of Konya. Similar incidents at Incirlik prompted Berlin to relocate some 250 troops to Jordan.

Germany's parliamentary defense committee was told on Friday that its trip to a NATO military base in south-western Turkey will be postponed, at the request of the Turkish government.

Committee chairman Wolfgang Hellmich told local media that Ankara had blocked the committee's trip to Konya, scheduled for Monday, on the back of worsening bilateral relations between the two countries.

This latest move from Ankara will only mark a further escalation in tensions between the two NATO allies. Turkey sparked a months-long row after it twice blocked German lawmakers from visiting the 250 Bundeswehr troops that were stationed at the southern Turkish base at Incirlik.

German parliamentarians were then again barred from visiting Incirlik in May of this year after Berlin refusal to extradite Turkish asylum seekers who find themselves on Ankara's post-coup "purge" lists.

In 2016, Turkey denied German lawmakers access in response to a resolution passed by the Bundestag declaring the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces was a "genocide."

"Under these conditions, I see no way to extend the mandate," said Hellmich, adding that Turkey's decision had been conveyed to the German Foreign Ministry a day earlier on Thursday.

Read more: Turkey blocks German lawmakers from visiting NATO base at Konya | News | DW | 14.07.2017

Dutch earthquakes: Oil giants facing more legal action

Oil giants Shell and Exxon Mobil are facing a new legal battle with residents of a province in the Netherlands.

Earthquakes, said to be caused by drilling for gas, have wrecked hundreds of homes.

The people of Groningen are demanding the government take more action to limit gas production.

Read more: Dutch earthquakes: Oil giants facing more legal action | Netherlands 2017 News | Al Jazeera

Brexit: British Labor Party Leader Corbyn says: UK should pay EU what it owes - Eric Mauric

The UK should pay the EU what it is "legally obliged to pay" when it leaves the bloc, and a judicial dispute resolution system should be put in place to replace the European Court of Justice's authority over the UK, the British opposition leader has said.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour party leader, was in Brussels on Thursday (13 July), where he met with EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans and the UK's EU ambassador, Tim Barrow.

Read more: Corbyn: UK should pay EU what it owes

France: Bastille Day: France gives big nod to US at annual parade - by Philippe Sotto

France’s annual Bastille Day parade turned into an event high on American patriotism this year, marked by a warm embrace between President Donald Trump and his French counterpart on Friday.

French President Emmanuel Macron invited Trump as the guest of honor for the celebration to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I. The two men sat side by side with their wives, speaking animatedly as American and French warplanes roared above the Champs-Elysees.

The parade coupled traditional displays of military might with a look at wars past and present — and a nod to the U.S. role in both.

Macron, in a speech near the end of the event, thanked the U.S. for intervening in World War I and said the fact that Trump was at his side “is the sign of a friendship across the ages.

“And that is why I wish to thank them, thank the United States for the choice it made 100 years ago,” he said.

Macron also said that the U.S. and France are firm friends and “this is why nothing will ever separate us.”

Five of the 145 U.S. troops marching in Friday’s parade wore period World War I uniforms. Trump saluted the detachment as it passed. The U.S. president didn’t make any remarks.

Read more: Bastille Day: France gives big nod to US at annual parade - The Washington Post

7/13/17

Antarctica Iceberg Will Not Be Last Glacier to Go - by Justin Worland

The stunning visual of an Antarctic ice shelf the size of Delaware breaking off into the ocean has struck wonder and worry in those all across the world who have the seen image.

Scientists mostly attribute the occurrence to cleaving, the process in which a large portion of ice separates from the larger shelf, but disagree about the extent to which climate change contributedScientists say Larsen C will not directly contribute much to devastating sea-level rise — the ice shelf was already floating, so when it melts, waters will not rise significantly — but nonetheless the image of a trillion-ton iceberg floating away from Antarctica has raised new concerns over climate change. And rightfully so. If the entire Antarctic ice sheet melted, sea levels would rise by 200 feet globally, according to National Snow and Ice Data Center data.

Read more: Antarctica Iceberg Will Not Be Last Glacier to Go | Time.com

Sustainable Energy: Netherlands One Of Least Sustainable EU Countries. How Did The Dutch Get Their fake Green Image?

The Netherlands is the country where all passenger trains are powered by wind energy, where your groceries can be delivered by all-electric vans, and where people cycle over solar bike lanes, so the Dutch must be sustainability champions, right? Absolutely not.

The fact of the matter is that the Dutch are not, not even close. Compared to its fellow EU member states, the Netherlands comes in at an embarrassingly low 26th position in terms of the share of renewables in the energy mix. In 2014, 5.5% of the Netherlands’ energy was generated sustainably.

Out of the 28 EU countries, only Malta (4.7%) and Luxembourg (4.5%) performed worse. But those have very few inhabitants and small territories, Luxembourg being a landlocked city-state and Malta a densely populated island with a much lower per capita income than the Dutch.

By other measures, the Netherlands is not doing any better. In a 2015 report by the European Energy Agency, the Netherlands was found to be the only EU member state who was not on track for reaching the EU-wide targets set under the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), which is the European Commission’s program for ensuring the EU as a whole will reach 20% renewable energy by 2020 and 27% by 2030. According to the same report, the Netherlands is falling increasingly behind, as a year before there were still several other countries that were below their trajectory for reaching the RED targets.

The targets themselves are different for each member state, depending on what can “realistically” be achieved from the nation’s starting position. As depicted below, the Dutch target is already substantially under the 20% average.

Read more: Netherlands One Of Least Sustainable EU Countries. How Did The Dutch Get Their Green Image? | CleanTechnica

Turkish Economy: Turkey’s current account deficit widens in May

Turkey’s current account deficit was $5.24 billion in May 2017, up $2.13 billion year-on-year, official data revealed on July 13. 
     
“The current account deficit recorded $5.24 billion, indicating an increase of $2.13 billion compared to May of the previous year, bringing the 12-month rolling deficit to $35.3 billion,” the Turkish Central Bank said.
      
The bank stated this development in the current account was mainly attributable to the increase in the deficit in goods items by $1.82 billion to $5.64 billion, followed by a $521 million rise in the primary income deficit to $956 million in May.   
  
Travel items, which are a major part under services, recorded a net inflow of $1.21 billion in May, increasing by $181 million compared to the same month of 2016, the bank added.   
   
Meanwhile, the country’s current-account deficit in the first five months of this year stood at $16.85 billion, up from some $14 billion compared to the January-May 2016 period.     

Turkey’s annual current account deficit last year was around $32.5 billion, relatively stable compared to the 2015 figure of $32.1 billion.        

Read more: Turkey’s current account deficit widens in May - ECONOMICS

France-US Relations: US friendship with France 'unbreakable', Trump says on Paris visit

French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Donald Trump gave a joint press conference on Thursday as the US leader arrived to take part in Bastille Day celebrations.

"The friendship between our two nations and ourselves is unbreakable," Trump said after bilateral talks focused on joint US-French efforts to fight terrorism in the Middle East and Africa.

Macron said he and Trump were able to discuss how best to combat "a global threat with enemies who are trying to destabilise us".

The French president also acknowledged that sharp differences remain with Trump when it comes to the Paris climate agreement but noted that the US withdrawal from the Paris accord was one of Trump’s campaign promises.

"I respect the decision of President Trump," Macron told a joint news conference in Paris. "As a result he will lead the necessary thought and work that correspond to his campaign promises. For my part, I remain committed to the Paris accord."

Read more: US friendship with France 'unbreakable', Trump says on Paris visit - France 24

Hungary: EU launches legal probe into Hungary's NGO law - by Eszter Zalan

The European Commission launched a legal probe on Thursday (13 July) into Hungary’s NGO law, which targets, among others, civil society groups partly funded by Hungarian-US billionaire and philanthropist George Soros.

The EU executive said that the requirements in the legislation for NGOs, which receive funding from foreign organisations, infringed upon EU rules.

Hungary’s government has one month to answer with legal arguments.

Read more: EU launches legal probe into Hungary's NGO law

7/12/17

Catholic Church: The A - Z list of concerns with Pope Francis - by J.H.Westen

The confusion caused by Pope Francis in the Catholic Church is out of control. There have been so many incidents over the last four years that the specifics, despite their grave damage, are often forgotten. In an effort to encourage prayer for an end to the confusion and disorientation in the Church, LifeSite presents the following A-Z list of concerns with Pope Francis.

A few days into his pontificate, Pope Francis praised one of Cardinal Kasper’s books and then selected Kasper to deliver the controversial keynote address to launch the synods on the family. Kasper was selected as a personal appointee of the pope to the synods and regularly meets with Pope Francis. Kasper defended the vote of the Irish in favor of homosexual “marriages”, saying: “A democratic state has the duty to respect the will of the people; and it seems clear that, if the majority of the people wants such homosexual unions, the state has a duty to recognize such r

Read more: The A - Z list of concerns with Pope Francis | Blogs | LifeSite

Russian Air Force - What Krypton fighter jets can do to protect Russia’s Arctic

The Russian Armed Forces keep getting more advanced multi-role jet fighters Sukhoi-30SM. Last spring a squadron of eight such planes was formed at Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea. A jet fighter regiment stationed in the Rostov Region received two such planes. Just recently a batch of Sukhoi-30SMs was delivered to an assault air regiment of the Russian Navy in the Arctic. Naval aviation units in the Baltic are to get them next year. It is expected that under the effective defense contract Russia’s Aerospace Force will get more than 30 planes of this type by 2018.

More:
http://tass.com/defense/918614
Sukhoi-30SM Krypton fighter
The Russian Armed Forces keep getting more advanced multi-role jet fighters Sukhoi-30SM. Last spring a squadron of eight such planes was formed at Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea.

A jet fighter regiment stationed in the Rostov Region received two such planes. Just recently a batch of Sukhoi-30SMs was delivered to an assault air regiment of the Russian Navy in the Arctic. Naval aviation units in the Baltic are to get them next year.

It is expected that under the effective defense contract Russia’s Aerospace Force will get more than 30 planes of this type by 2018.

Read more: TASS: Military & Defense - What Krypton fighter jets can do to protect Russia’s Arctic

Denmark in the top ten of world’s best counties to be an immigrant Nordic neighbour Sweden in first place - by by Ray W

Denmark and its Nordic cousins are some of the best countries in the world to be an immigrant, according to a study complied by U.S. News and World Report.

The study looked at measures such as economic stability, income equality and job markets to create its list, using a survey of the opinions of more than 21,000 people from all walks of life.

Nordic Sweep: Sweden was number one, but Norway, Finland and Denmark also took places in the top 10, largely due to favourable perceptions about their economies and commitment to income equality.

Read more: Denmark in the top ten of world’s best counties to be an immigrant Nordic neighbour Sweden in first place

USA: The Democratic Party Meltdown—What Are We Going to Do? D. Hazen, K. Holloway, S. Rosenfeld

If you pay any attention to media and politics, you know that this is the season for hand wringing about the future Democratic Party.

Pundits and pollsters by the dozens have weighed in on the failures of the party, which resulted in devastating losses to Republicans, affirmed the successes of their rampant gerrymandering, and continued the legislative and executive dominance across the country by conservatives in many states, some formally blue ones.

Then there was the election. There are many theories about why Hillary Clinton suffered what for many was an incomprehensible loss. (We offered a list last year.) But the super shock of the Democratic debacle at virtually every level of government (not to mention the Supreme Court) has sent everyone desperately seeking answers and solutions to dig out of the immense hole.

This, of course, is a serious situation. But we need some perspective. The issues roiling the debate among Democrats aren’t exactly new—how progressive and populist versus how mainstream do nominees have to be to be elected president? How much should the party invest in the base of communities of color, single women, and millennials versus how, and how much, should it try to engage white working- and middle-class voters? These are questions and challenges that stretch back decades to the McGovern debacle in 1972, to Jimmy Carter vs. Ted Kennedy in 1980, to Jesse Jackson’s stirring 1980s campaigns for president, to the 1990s and Bill Clinton’s centrist politics and the famous Sister Souljah moment—a pre-Trump telegraphing of support to whites.

The 2016 election reminded us that racism, sexism and creeping authoritarianism are very much with us as a society. How do we grapple in opposition, with a most despised man sitting in the White House?

Interestingly, international politics provides an exciting context for what might happen next in the U.S. Right-wing populism was gaining ground and adherents across Europe, but was successfully beaten back in France, where Emmanuel Macron started a party from scratch and established a newly branded version of center-left French politics with a corporate tint. In contrast, Jeremy Corbyn ran as an unabashed progressive socialist in Britain and pushed back very successfully against the pro-Brexit, conservative Theresa May. Echoes of Bernie vs. Hillary? Not a perfect analogy, but some resonance.

Read more: OMG! The Democratic Party Is Such a Mess—What Are We Going to Do? | Alternet

The Trump White House: 6 signs that the Russia investigation could blow up the Trump White House - by J.Morley

The New York Times report that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer last June in expectation of receiving damaging information on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is a blow for a White House already saddled with sinking poll numbers and a stalled legislative agenda.

After a few weeks of political news dominated by the fate of the Senate health care bill and Trump’s trip to Europe, the Russia investigation has resurfaced with a vengeance.

Read more: 6 signs that the Russia investigation could blow up the Trump White House - Salon.com

Net Neutrality Rules: Tech firms protest proposed changes to U.S. net neutrality rules-by A. Moon and D. Shepardson

Facebook, Twitter, Alphabet Inc. and dozens of other major technology companies are participating in an online protest on Wednesday to oppose proposed changes to U.S. net neutrality rules that prohibit broadband providers from giving or selling access to certain internet services over others.

In support of the "Internet-Wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality," more than 80,000 websites are displaying alerts, ads and short videos to urge the public to oppose the overturn of the landmark 2015 net neutrality rules.

Net neutrality is a broad principle that prohibits broadband providers from giving or selling access to speedy internet, essentially a "fast lane," to certain internet services over others. The rule was implemented by the Obama administration in 2015.

Read more: Tech firms protest proposed changes to U.S. net neutrality rules

USA: End of the US empire - by Bill Press

It happened to the Greeks, Romans and Brits. We knew it would eventually happen to us. We just didn’t expect it to happen so soon. But we just witnessed the end of the American empire. It died last week at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

What a difference six months makes. Ever since its creation in 1999, the G-20 has brought together the leaders of the 20 most powerful economies on the planet, countries who together represent 85 percent of the gross world product, 80 percent of world trade and two-thirds of the world’s population.

Until this year, every meeting of the G-20, no matter where it was held, was dominated by the United States. We set the agenda; the president of the United States dominated the discussions; we determined the outcome. But no longer.

It’s now the chancellor of Germany, not the president of the United States, who leads the world’s biggest economies. Indeed, this year’s G-20 could be summed up as “the leader of the free world meets the president of the United States.”

In Hamburg, Germany, President Trump was the odd man out. Other world leaders treated him like your crazy uncle with Alzheimer’s who shows up for Thanksgiving dinner. They nervously smiled at and humored him, while keeping their fingers crossed that he wouldn’t break the family china or pee in his pants.

For his part, Trump failed on several fronts. First, by caving in to Vladimir Putin on Russia’s efforts to undermine the 2016 presidential election. Reportedly, their exchange on the issue was brief: “Did you do it, Vlad?” “No, I didn’t, Don.” “OK, let’s move on.” Trump, in other words, accepted the word of Putin over the conclusion of 17 U.S. intelligence agencies.

Trump followed up by suggesting the United States and Russia team up on cybersecurity, a stunningly naive proposal that shocked even fellow Republicans. “Partnering with Putin on a ‘Cyber Security Unit’ is akin to partnering with Assad on a ‘Chemical Weapons Unit,’ ” tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

But it was on climate change that Trump suffered his greatest humiliation. On June 1, Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate change agreement. So what? In Hamburg, G-20 leaders declared the Paris accord “irreversible” and adopted a detailed blueprint on how nations would proceed to meet the agreement’s goals to reduce global warming. The vote was 19-1.

Sadly, it’s not just Trump’s reputation that took a hit at the G-20 summit. It’s the power, prestige and respect that the United States used to enjoy under both Democratic and Republican presidents, but does no longer.

On the world stage, nobody takes us seriously anymore. How could they, as long as Trump is the US  president?

Read more: Press: End of the US empire | TheHill

7/11/17

Clean Energy: Royal Dutch Shell Plans to Spend $1 Billion a Year on Clean Energy by 2020 - Rakteem Katakey

Royal Dutch Shell Plc plans to spend as much as $1 billion a year on its New Energies division as the transition toward renewable power and electric cars accelerates.

“In some parts of the world we are beginning to see battery electric cars starting to gain consumer acceptance” while wind and solar costs are falling fast, Shell CEO Ben Van Beurden said in a speech in Istanbul on Monday. “All of this is good news for the world and must accelerate,” while still offering opportunities for producers of fossil fuels.

Shell sees opportunities in hydrogen fuel-cells, liquefied natural gas and next-generation biofuels for air travel, shipping and heavy freight -- areas of transport for which batteries aren’t adequate. The intermittent nature of wind and solar energy means power plants fired by natural gas will have a long-term role, Van Beurden said.

Van Beurden was addressing the World Petroleum Congress -- a gathering of ministers and CEOs from some of the largest oil producers -- at a time when the accelerating shift to clean energy is raising questions about their long-term business models. While Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and Saudi Arabian Oil Co. boss Amin Nasser said oil and gas will be dominant for decades to come, Van Beurden highlighted the potential for some of the fastest-growing nations to leapfrog straight to a cleaner energy mix.

“When you consider the areas of the world where energy demand is still to expand, like Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, there is a huge opportunity,” Van Beurden said. “These are areas that are not, on the whole, locked in to a coal-driven system. There is the potential for them to shift more directly onto a less energy-intensive pathway to development.”

There is often too much focus on energy-transition policies in Europe and North America instead of the fast-growing developing world, Van Beurden said. “What happens in England is important, but what happens in Ethiopia is at least as important. From Denmark to the DRC, from the U.S. to Uganda, to India, to China, there is a lot of work to do.”

Read more: Shell Plans to Spend $1 Billion a Year on Clean Energy by 2020 - Bloomberg

USA Healthcare Program: Republican ‘kamikaze’ healthcare plan on life support - by Edward Luce

This is the week Republicans have craved for more than seven years — their chance to repeal Obamacare. Some time in the next few days the US Senate will either scrap most of Barack Obama’s signature achievement — the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Or they will abandon the effort for failure to find the votes.

Either way, America is at a fraught crossroads in its never-ending healthcare saga. If the Senate bill passes, up to 22m Americans could lose their insurance. Many more will experience a sharp reduction in healthcare support. If the vote fails, Obamacare will survive but very much as a zombie law — a stay of execution, rather than a pardon. The battle will continue. Neither outcome would be for keeps.

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“Whatever happens, we are entering a period of deep uncertainty that will cause entirely avoidable damage to the US healthcare system,” says Douglas Elmendorf, dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard — and former head of the Congressional Budget Office. “This is a textbook example of how not to make legislation.”

Read more: Republican ‘kamikaze’ healthcare plan on life support

EU Educational Sector: 80% of graduates in the field of education are women

Almost 5 million tertiary education students graduated in the European Union (EU) in 2015: 58% were women and 42% men.

Male dominated fields are 'Information and Communication Technologies' (where men account for 81% of the graduates) and 'Engineering, manufacturing and construction' (73%).

On the other hand, four out of five graduates in 'Education' are women (80%). Another field where women are largely over-represented is 'Health and welfare', with 74% female graduates.

One in four graduates studied 'Business, administration and law'

The largest share of graduates in the EU studied 'Business, administration and law' (24%). This was the most popular field in all Member States except for Belgium, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, where the largest share of graduates were in 'Health and welfare', and Portugal, where the most popular field was 'Engineering, manufacturing and construction'.

'Business, administration and law' was particularly popular in Luxembourg, with 39% of all graduates. It accounted for a large share also in Cyprus (35%), Bulgaria and France (both 34%).

One in five graduates in Germany (22%), Portugal (21%) and Austria (20%) received their diplomas in 'Engineering, manufacturing and construction'.

The share of graduates in 'Health and welfare' was the highest in Belgium (26%), where one in four graduated in this field. 22% of graduates in Sweden and Denmark studied this subject.

'Arts and humanities' were a popular field in the United Kingdom and Italy (both 16%).

16% of the graduates in Bulgaria followed the 'Social sciences, journalism and information' programme.

The largest share of 'Education' graduates was in Cyprus (18%).

With 13%, the United Kingdom had the highest share of 'Natural sciences, mathematics and statistics' graduates.

Read more: 80% of graduates in the field of education are women - Product - Eurostat