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7/31/17

Russia US relations: Anti-Russia mood in US hard to eradicate

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Sunday that the US diplomatic mission in Russia must reduce its staff by 755 employees, which observers see as retaliation to new US sanctions. The US Congress passed a bill that toughens sanctions on Russia.

The anti-Russia sentiment prevails in the US. The wish of US President Donald Trump to improve ties with Russia meets strong resistance. Most Americans and pro-establishment forces believe Russia interfered in the US presidential elections last year. Although the US had interfered in other countries' elections, when it comes to Moscow, things are different.

The Russiagate scandal has put Trump and his team in a bind, which shows the deep-rooted hostility of the US against Russia. Although Putin and Trump hope for an ameliorated bilateral relationship, it is highly unlikely to become a reality.

The EU strongly opposes the bill that US congressmen passed because the bill includes sanctions that could wreak havoc on European energy companies. It is believed that by sanctioning Russia, the US will block Russia's natural gas supply to Europe and pave the way for US shale gas exports to the EU.

What is also worth noting is that much of US diplomacy is in the hands of the president and his administration. But Congress has become so powerful that the president has no choice but to follow Congress on US policy toward Russia, which is rare.

This shows the complexities of crafting US foreign policy. In the US' checks and balances system, various forces reinforce or contradict each other. It's impossible to fix ties with the US by dealing with one force.

Dealing with the US requires guts. Under the current system, the US only respects strength. The US does not like China either, while China has leverage on the US, which is the huge bilateral trade the US has been enjoying. Washington has to weigh the consequences if it chooses to turn hostile toward Beijing as China is the biggest trading partner of the US.

The US imposes insatiable requests on other countries. Russia has lost many republics from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. It has adopted a multi-party system. But it is still viewed as an "authoritarian" country. No matter how much it bows to the US, the US will not embrace it.

As for Sino-US relations, as long as the two countries do not engage in a war and stick to trade, bilateral ties are in good shape, regardless of how US media and lawmakers hit out at China.

Read more: Anti-Russia mood in US hard to eradicate - Global Times

The Trump Administration: How Donald Trump Hijacked the Religious Right - by Sarah Posner

Back in August 2015, when Donald Trump’s presidential ambitions were widely considered a joke, Russell Moore was worried. A prominent leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, Moore knew that some of the faithful were falling for Trump, a philandering, biblically illiterate candidate from New York City whose lifestyle and views embodied everything the religious right professed to abhor. The month before, a Washington Post poll had found that Trump was already being backed by more white evangelicals than any other Republican candidate.

Moore, a boyish-looking pastor from Mississippi, had positioned himself as the face of the “new” religious right: a bigger-hearted, diversity-oriented version that was squarely opposed to Trump’s “us versus them” rhetoric. Speaking to a gathering of religion reporters in a hotel ballroom in Philadelphia, Moore said that his “first priority” was to combat the “demonizing” and “depersonalizing” of immigrants—people, he pointed out, who were “created in the image of God.” Only by refocusing on such true “gospel” values, Moore believed, could evangelicals appeal to young people who had been fleeing the church in droves, and expand its outreach to African Americans and Latinos. Evangelicals needed to do more than win elections—their larger duty was to win souls. Moore, in short, wanted the Christian right to reclaim the moral high ground—and Trump, in his estimation, was about as low as you could get.

“The church of Jesus Christ ought to be the last people to fall for hucksters and demagogues,” Moore wrote in Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel, a book he had just published at the time. “But too often we do.”
As Trump continued gaining ground in the polls, Moore began to realize that the campaign represented nothing short of a battle for the soul of the Christian right. By backing Trump, white evangelicals were playing into the hands of a new, alt-right version of Christianity—a sprawling coalition of white nationalists, old-school Confederates, neo-Nazis, Islamophobes, and social-media propagandists who viewed the religious right, first and foremost, as a vehicle for white supremacy. The election, Moore warned in a New York Times op-ed last May, “has cast light on the darkness of pent-up nativism and bigotry all over the country.” Those who were criticizing Trump, he added, “have faced threats and intimidation from the ‘alt-right’ of white supremacists and nativists who hide behind avatars on social media.”

Read more: How Donald Trump Hijacked the Religious Right | New Republic

Eurozone unemployment hits lowest level in eight years

Europe's financial recovery continued at a steady pace amid a number of uncertainties in the market. The official eurozone figures were better than estimates of 9.2 percent from data company Factset.

Unemployment in the eurozone fell to 9.1 percent in June, its lowest figure since February 2009, according to official data from Eurostat, the statistical office of the bloc.

The jobless rate in the 19-state single currency market was better than expected by financial analysts. The numbers came a week after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said the eurozone was strengthening, but warned of instability around Brexit and low inflation rates.

Read more: Eurozone unemployment hits lowest level in eight years | Business | DW | 31.07.2017

The Netherlands: Fire shuts down Europe′s largest oil refinery in the Netherlands

 Royal Dutch Shell has suspended loadings of oil products from the Pernis refinery after a fire caused the shut down of most of its production. The extent of damage is being investigated.

The night sky over the port of Rotterdam was alight after the blaze broke out Saturday at the high-voltage power station at Shell's Pernis refinery.

Shell spokesman Thijs van Velzen said the flames were extinguished by Sunday morning. Nobody was injured. Firefighters brought the fire under control by around 6 am (0400 GMT/UTC).

Read more: Fire shuts down Europe′s largest oil refinery in the Netherlands | News | DW | 30.07.2017

7/30/17

Trump Administration: This is the most clueless, incompetent, and self-defeating administration in American history - by Ryan Cooper

he continual meltdown of the Trump administration has reached, unbelievably, an even higher pitch over the last few days, with the hiring of financier Anthony Scaramucci as the new White House communications director.

And yet, the endless juicy personal drama surrounding President Trump is in some ways covering up for far worse failures and incompetence — particularly surrounding America's nuclear programs and arsenal. The hapless incompetence of this administration is virtually impossible to exaggerate.

But first, the drama. A mere five days after taking the job, Scaramucci was embroiled in a new seething controversy when Politico released a report detailing that, like practically every other top member of the Trump regime, he is stinking rich. He has up to $85 million in assets, plus a $5 million paycheck from his firm SkyBridge Capital and $4.9 million in capital gains from his ownership stake there in just this year alone.

Scaramucci immediately blamed White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who had opposed his hiring, for the felonious "leak," and tweeted that he was going to report him to the FBI. But it turned out the form was public, a result of his previous post at the Export-Import Bank (as could be seen on the title of the form, which reads "Public Financial Disclosure Report").

Nevertheless, Scaramucci continued to insist that an investigation was needed, telling The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza that "Reince is a f--king paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac." (He also noted that "I'm not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock.")

All this tomfoolery only slightly displaced the previous, still-ongoing personnel drama: Trump's campaign against Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The president told New York Times reporters he was upset that Sessions recused himself from the investigation into Trump's Russia ties, and is reportedly considering replacing Sessions with a loyal lickspittle who will squash the investigation. (Whether or not someone behaving this way has something to hide on Russia is left as an exercise for the reader.)

Read more: This is the most clueless, incompetent, and self-defeating administration in American history

China parades MASSIVE military as war fear rise over North Korea and the South China Sea - by Henry Holloway

NUCLEAR weapons, tanks and soldiers from China’s army showed off the might as tensions rise with the the USA.

Helicopters and warplanes screamed overhead as dozens of tanks and tens of thousands of troops marched in terrifying unison.

Behind them rolled huge missile launcher carrying China’s nuclear weapons and hundreds of gun bristling trucks.

The fearless display came as tensions rise with the Wes (USA over dispute territory in the South China Sea and China’s relationship with North Korea.

Read more: China parades MASSIVE military as war fear rise over North Korea and the South China Sea | Daily Star

North Korea: US B-1 bombers overfly Korean Peninsula after North′s ICBM test

Two B-1 US air force bombers have flown over South Korea in a show of force after North Korea's latest ballistic missile tests. Meanwhile, US President Trump slammed China for "doing nothing" to rein in Pyongyang.

Read more: US B-1 bombers overfly Korean Peninsula after North′s ICBM test | News | DW | 30.07.2017

US playing with fire re: Sanctions: Russia is retaliating against new US sanctions in a big way - by Zack Beauchamp

Russia will force the US diplomatic mission in the country to eliminate hundreds of people from its workforce by September 1, President Vladimir Putin told state TV in an interview that aired on Sunday
.
"More than 1,000 workers — diplomats and support staff — were working and are still working in Russia; 755 must stop their activity in the Russian Federation," Putin said, per Reuters. This does not mean, as early news reports suggested, that 755 US diplomats will be expelled from the country entirely — but it is a serious cut to America’s diplomatic presence in Russia.

The order is retaliation, plain and simple. On Thursday night, Congress overwhelmingly passed a new package of sanctions on Russia as punishment for the nation’s interference in the US election. Late on Friday, the Trump administration announced its intention to sign the sanctions bill into law. The diplomatic staffing order is Putin showing he hasn’t been cowed.

This is very much not normal; countries do not generally force other countries to limit their diplomatic presence so sharply, absent a major crisis in relations. It suggests instead that the pro-Russian stance Trump has taken, at least rhetorically, is not paying off — and that US-Russia relations are likely to keep getting worse for the foreseeable future.

Read more: Russia is retaliating against new US sanctions in a big way - Vox

7/29/17

Russia: Congress has tied Trump’s hands on Russian sanctions - by Brian Resnick

President Donald Trump will sign a bill imposing sanctions against Russia, the White House announced Friday night. 

The legislation enshrines into law sanctions that the Obama White House placed on the country for meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and imposes some new sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea. 

It may seem like an odd move for Trump. In public — and even on Twitter Saturday morning — the president has vehemently denied that Russia sought to influence the 2016 election in his favor, despite the fact that it’s the consensus view of the national security agencies he leads. It’s “fake news” he’s said, over, and over, and over. 

But, as Vox’s Zeeshan Aleem has explained, Congress “has handcuffed” Trump on this issue. It passed the Russian sanctions bill with a veto-proof majority (419-3 in the house, and 98-to-2 in the Senate). 

By signing the bill, Trump avoids a potentially embarrassing moment where members of his own party vote to override his decision. 

The bill also limits the president’s power to roll back sanctions, establishing a “congressional review process that would allow Congress to block the White House from taking steps to ease sanctions if it wanted to,” as Aleem wrote. (Also remarkable: Congress passed a major piece of bipartisan legislation that limits the president’s powers.) 

The move is likely to further strain the diplomatic relationship between the US and Russia. Already, on Friday, Russia announced it was cutting the number of US diplomats in the country, and has threatened to seize facilities used by US diplomats.

Read more: Congress has tied Trump’s hands on Russian sanctions - Vox

Poland EU starts action against Poland over judiciary reforms

The European Commission launched legal action on Saturday against what it sees as Polish government attempts to undermine the independence of judges.

It has given Warsaw a month to respond. 

EU commissioners decided to launch the "infringement procedure" for violating European Union law at a meeting on Wednesday, the first step in a legal process that may end at the bloc's top court, pending publication of Poland's new law.

A Polish deputy foreign minister said on Saturday the Commission's decision was "unjustified" because the organisation of the legal systems in EU members was up to member states and not EU institutions.

Read more: EU starts action against Poland over judiciary reforms

EU-US Trade War? Facing trade war with Trump, Europe rediscovers its swagger – by H. von der Burchard and J. Hanke


If U.S. President Donald Trump really wants a trade war, Brussels is more than happy to give him one.

Trump could hardly have chosen a worse moment to threaten to slap tariffs on the European steel industry.

The EU trade officials staring him down on the other side of the Atlantic are more confident and assertive than they have been in years. Catalyzed by securing political agreement on a huge trade pact with Japan, they are now relishing the prospect of a tit-for-tat trade war they think they cannot lose.

“The Directorate General for Trade [in the EU] is perfectly equipped for that, and they love it,” said Pierre Defraigne. He was chief of staff to former European Commissioner for Trade Pascal Lamy, who waged the EU’s last successful trade showdown against the U.S. in 2002 — also over steel.

After months of vowing to hammer foreign steel- and aluminum-makers with tariffs and quotas, Trump has backed off from immediate action under pressure from domestic lobbies such as farmers and manufacturers, who fear the knock-on consequences of a trade conflict. The property mogul is, however, still promising to do something “fairly soon.”

At the European Commission, few believe he will simply drop his crusade to protect the steelworkers of Indiana and Ohio from the likes of the EU, which provides a hefty 14 percent of America’s steel imports.

Read more: Facing trade war with Trump, Europe rediscovers its swagger – POLITICO

Car Industry Tesla 3: What do Tesla Model 3 buyers want from the most - by by Andrew J. Hawkinsimportant electric car ever built? -

The new Tesla 3
You probably haven’t heard, but today is a very important day for Elon Musk and Tesla. Later this evening, Musk will host an exclusive handover party for 30 customers who reserved the Model 3, 

Tesla’s first mass-market electric car. They will be the first people in the world (not named Musk) to receive what is widely seen as one of the most important electric cars of our time. 

For Tesla, it’s all been leading to the Model 3. If you believe the hype, this is the car that will rescue us from the evil clutches of the internal combustion engine — and for just $35,000. So the pressure is on Tesla to finally deliver on its promise of bringing clean, sustainable driving to the masses.

“The Model 3 is far more than just another car,” said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst at AutoTrader. “If successful, it would mark a breakthrough for electric vehicles and would be promising in terms of the proliferation of the technology. However, the challenges are formidable.”

Read more: What do Tesla Model 3 buyers want from the most important electric car ever built? - The Verge

7/28/17

USA: "Two for the price of one"- N . Korea firing long-range ICBM and appointment General J.F.Kelly White House Chief of Staff

General John F,Kelly
North Korea has launched an intercontinental ballistic missile, according to multiple military reports, just weeks after the country tested a similar rocket capable of hitting parts of the US.

The US defense department said Friday's early morning launch appeared to be that of a long-range ICBM.

After South Korea's military and Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, confirmed the report, the governments in Seoul and Tokyo convened meetings of their national security councils.

US President Donald Trump said the missile launch was "only the latest reckless and dangerous action by the North Korean regime".

He said the US "will take all necessary steps to ensure the security of the American homeland and to protect it's allies in the region".

It could be coincidental, but less than 24 hours after North Korea fired it's ICBM, landing close to the coast of Japan, the president took to Twitter on Friday evening to announce that his new chief of staff will be 4 star General John F. Kelly, who is currently serving as the Secretary of Homeland Security.

"I am pleased to inform you that I have just named 4 star General/Secretary John F Kelly as White House Chief of Staff. He is a Great American ...," Trump tweeted to his more than 34 million followers, "... and a Great Leader. John has also done a spectacular job at Homeland Security."

After graduating from the University of Massachusetts in 1976, General Kelly became an officer in the Marine Corps. He served in various positions with the U.S. military over the years, including as Special Assistant to the Supreme Allied Commander in Belgium. He returned to the U.S. in 2001, becoming a brigadier general in 2002.

General Kelly also served a tour in Iraq and was eventually placed in charge of the United States Southern Command, a position he held until January 2016. That "had him in charge of military operations in 32 countries in the Caribbean, Central America and South America," according to PBS.

The new White House Chief of staff,, who as a General is obviously very familiar with the importance of a "chain of command", when it comes to running an operation is expected to bring some order in what is now considered a chaotic White House Administration/. 

Obviously the other benefit, putting two and two together, is that General Kelly will also come in very handy to President Trump as an advisor when he requires expert counsel on dealing with the North Korean ,missile threat and potential retaliation.

EU-Digest









Russia Sanctions: US Senate backs Russia sanctions, setting scene for EU clash - by Andrew Rettman

US senators have backed extra Russia sanctions, setting the scene for a clash with the EU and putting at risk a new gas pipeline.

The sanctions bill sailed through the Senate by 98 votes to two on Thursday (27 July) after having passed by 419 votes to three in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

It will become law when signed by US president Donald Trump.

A Trump spokesman told the CNN broadcaster this week that “he may veto the sanctions”, which come despite his overtures for better relations with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

But senators said he would be unwise to do that because the whopping majority in Congress would see his veto overturned.

"It’s typically not good for presidents to veto something that can be overwhelmingly overridden,” Bob Corker, a Republican senator, told press.

Chuck Schumer, a Democratic senator, said a veto would also harm Trump’s image amid ongoing investigations into his alleged collusion with Russia to sway last year’s US election.

"If the president vetoes this bill, the American people will know that he is being soft on Putin, that he’s giving a free pass to a foreign adversary who violated the sanctity of our democracy," Schumer said.

Note EU-Digest: Once again Russia has become the whipping boy for the US political establishment. 

When all else fails for US politicians who usually can't even agree among themselves what day of the week it is. 

Read more: Senate backs Russia sanctions, setting scene for EU clash

The Brexit Disaster: 'Billions' in regional aid needed to replace EU funding, councils warn - by Shaun Connolly

Councils will need billions of pounds in regional aid to replace EU regeneration funding after Brexit, local authority leaders have warned.

A report by the Local Government Association (LGA) stated that proposals to create a UK Shared Prosperity Fund to take over the financial assistance from Brussels so far lacked detail.

The LGA insisted such funding is vital to create jobs, support small firms and boost infrastructure.

Local authorities said the successor scheme to the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) needed to be of at least equivalent size to the £8.4 billion the LGA said regeneration projects had been set to receive between 2014 and 2020 from Brussels.

“Current EU funding is allocated over a seven-year period. This long-term distribution must be maintained to allow for long-term planning. Funding must be easier to access and local areas need full control over how it is spent and what projects it is spent on.

"With national funding for regeneration increasingly being depleted, all local areas have become increasingly reliant on EU money and local areas are desperate to get on with creating jobs, building infrastructure and boosting growth
 
Read more: Brexit: 'Billions' in regional aid needed to replace EU funding, councils warn | The Independent

Middle East: US-trained Iraqi army unit 'linked to Mosul war crimes'

A US-trained Iraqi army division allegedly executed dozens of men in the final phase of the battle against ISIL fighters in Mosul's Old City, Human Rights Watch has claimed.

The rights group on Thursday urged the US government to suspend all support for the 16th Division of the Iraqi army pending an investigation into what it called war crimes, evidence of which was seen by two international observers whom the group did not name.

Videos have emerged of Iraqi forces beating unarmed men. Footage also showed one man being pushed off a cliff to his death.

"Given the widespread abuses by Iraqi forces and the government’s abysmal record on accountability, the US should take a hard look at its involvement with Iraqi forces," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Read more: US-trained Iraqi army unit 'linked to Mosul war crimes' | Iraq News | Al Jazeera

USA: Republican effort to gut Obamacare ends in defeat for Trump - by Y.Abutaleb, A.Becker and D.Morgan

In a stinging blow to President Donald Trump, U.S. Senate Republicans failed on Friday to dismantle Obamacare, falling short on a major campaign promise and perhaps ending a seven-year quest by their party to gut the healthcare law.

Voting in the early hours, three Republican senators, John McCain, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, crossed party lines to join Democrats in a dramatic 49-to-51 vote to reject a "skinny repeal" bill that would have eliminated some parts of Obamacare.

"This is clearly a disappointing moment," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told the Senate floor right after the vote. "The American people are going to regret that we couldn't find a better way forward."

The setback leaves Trump without a major legislative win after more than six months in power, even though Republicans control the White House, Senate and House of Representatives. He had been expected to make rapid changes to healthcare, taxes and infrastructure spending. 


Read more: Republican effort to gut Obamacare ends in defeat for Trump

7/27/17

Womens Rights Middle East: Tunisia passes landmark law to ‘end all violence’ against women

Tunisia’s parliament has approved a bill aimed at ending “all violence against women” in a move welcomed by rights groups.

The new law, which is expected to enter into force next year, defines violence against women as “any physical, moral, sexual or economic aggression” against women based on discrimination between the two sexes.

It includes the key elements of the definition of domestic violence recommended in the United Nations Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women.

Read more: Tunisia passes landmark law to ‘end all violence’ against women - France 24

US Infrastructure: Decaying infrastructure taking a toll on America

America's infrastructure is in a state of crisis. Roads and train lines are old, dangerous and cost the country billions of dollars in economic growth. Trump wants to repair damages but he is at the mercy of investors.

The summer of hell began for New Yorkers last Monday. Beginning at four o'clock in the afternoon people hurried home from work, clogging midtown Manhattan's Pennsylvania Station.

Over 600,000 people trek to Manhattan daily from faraway places like New Jersey and Long Island, entering the city via Penn Station. More people transit through Penn Station than all three of New York's airports: JFK, LaGuardia and Newark. Yet on Monday many tracks were shut down for the summer so the city can begin tackling urgently needed repairs.

During his campaign, Trump promised trillions of dollars to tackle this issue. Yet a look at the budget says otherwise: The government will spend only $200 billion on the infrastructure package. The remaining $800 billion must come from states and municipalities - no major problem for wealthy states. But the rural areas remain in disrepair.

Decaying infrastructure taking a toll on America | Business | DW | 17.07.2017

Refugees in the Netherlands: 'The Netherlands has accepted only 2,100 refugees under EU quota scheme'

The Netherlands has so far taken in 2,100 refugees under the European quota plan drawn up in 2015 when some 160,000 refugees were forecast to arrive in Italy and Greece, broadcaster NOS reports.

The Netherlands had been set to accept some 9,000 people under the quota plan, but the actual numbers of people claiming refugee status in the two countries is far below expectations. In total, 25,000 people have been allocated help in another European country.

In June, judges in The Hague said the Netherlands does not have to take in any more refugees from camps in Italy and Greece than it has already has.

A foundation called We Gaan Ze Halen (we are going to fetch them) had taken the Dutch state to court, arguing that the Netherlands had not taken in enough asylum seekers under the terms of the EU resettlement deal.

The Netherlands has accepted only 2,100 refugees under EU quota scheme' - DutchNews.nl

Britain - Brexit: Demand to rent UK commercial property falls to 5-year low

Demand to rent British commercial property levelled off for the first time in almost five years during the past three months, as online shopping hurt high-street retailers and Brexit and election worries unsettled other potential tenants.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said on Thursday that its gauge of commercial tenants’ demand for property fell to -2 for the second quarter of 2017, its lowest reading since the third quarter of 2012.

“The commercial property market has enjoyed a good run and it is hardly surprising that we are now seeing a flatter trend emerge … which chimes both with recent economic newsflow and the political environment,” RICS’s chief economist Simon Rubinsohn said.

Read more: Demand to rent UK commercial property falls to 5-year low – EURACTIV.com

Turkey and Israel trade barbs, as Erdogan says Jerusalem losing 'Islamic character'

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel on Wednesday of inflicting damage on Jerusalem's "Islamic character", in comments likely to further inflame regional tensions in a dispute over the Al-Aqsa mosque.

"Israel is harming Jerusalem's Islamic character," said Erdogan, whose roots are in political Islam, at an education conference in Ankara. "Nobody should expect us to remain silent against the double standards in Jerusalem."

Israel's foreign ministry responded swiftly with a stern statement denouncing the Turkish government and accusing it of behaving as though the Ottoman Empire still existed.

"It's absurd that the Turkish government, which occupies Northern Cyprus, brutally represses the Kurdish minority and jails journalists, lectures Israel, the only true democracy in the region," spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said.

Turkey has troops stationed in Northern Cyprus, is battling armed Kurdish separatists in its southeast region and has jailed large numbers of journalists, academics and others it suspects of having supported an abortive military coup last year.

Note EU-Digest: one might not always agree with Israel, but they are the only true Democracy in the Middle East. Present day Turkey under Erdogan's leadership can certainly not claim to be a democratic country which respects human rights or the freedom of the press. 

Read more:Turkey and Israel trade barbs, as Erdogan says Jerusalem losing 'Islamic character' | Middle East Eye

7/26/17

EU and US dispute on Russia sanctions gets worse - by Andrew Rettman

The EU has threatened to retaliate against US sanctions on European firms that invest in Russian energy projects.

But a senior US diplomat has said there is a window of opportunity to “change the status quo” on Russia’s behaviour in Ukraine.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission chief, said on Wednesday (26 July) that “if our concerns are not taken into account sufficiently, we stand ready to act appropriately within a matter of days.”

“America first cannot mean that Europe's interests come last,” he said.

He did not clarify how the EU would "act", but a leaked internal memo this week indicated the Commission might seek to circumscribe US jurisdiction on the issue or to impose counter-sanctions on US firms.

Juncker said the EU was “fully committed” to previous Russia sanctions, but he said the new US measures could have “unintended unilateral effects that impact the EU's energy security interests”, such as repairs to Russia’s old gas pipeline network.

Note  EU-Digest: It is high time the EU starts to put their "money where their mouth is". There is no need for the EU to follow the US blindly in everything they do or suggest. Specially when it concerns such sensitive issues as sanctions. Also, the US political establishment's continuous efforts to make Russia "the whipping boy" for all the problems in the world, does not mean the EU is to follow in their foot-steps.

Read more: EU and US scrap on Russia sanctions gets worse

USA - Transgenders: Donald Trump’s transgenders ban announcement is met with swift backlash - Michael Glassman -

Immediately after President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that he was barring transgender Americans from serving in the military, the head of the U.S. armed forces was met with stunned disbelief over the slap in the face to thousands of service members.

Read more: Donald Trump’s transgender ban announcement is met with swift backlash - Salon.com

US President A Disgrace To America: Trump's ranting Jamboree speech branded 'embarrassing spectacle' by former Scouts - by C.Mindock

President Donald Trump’s speech to the 2017 National Scout Jamboree has been called a disgrace after the President broke from tradition and used his address to attack his political foes, and even threaten to fire some of his federal employees.

Speaking in Glen Jen, West Virginia, Mr Trump vowed early on not to discuss politics. Then, not soon after, he was labelling the press “fake news”, appropriating portions of the Scout Law to fit his needs, and re-airing grievances about the many people who doubted his 2016 election victory.

“Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts?” Mr Trump had asked the crowd, which was mostly young men. He then shifted gears to talk about politics.

Note EU-Digest:What a disgrace for America and disrespect of Pres. Trump for Boy Scouts Organizations around the world   It is high time they come for him with a straight jacket to remove him from the White House, and put him where he mentally belongs.

Read more: Trump's ranting Jamboree speech branded 'embarrassing spectacle' by former Scouts | The Independent

7/25/17

USA -EU: Donald Populism: Trump-style populism has no chance in German election

The anti-establishment frustration that swept Donald Trump to power in the United States and led the UK to vote for Brexit exists in Germany, but in a much more moderate form, which will not ultimately be the deciding factor in the national elections in September.

That's the central conclusion of a Bertelsmann Foundation study of "populism" among people eligible to vote in the upcoming federal elections.

The researchers defined populism as hostility to the establishment, the belief that "the people" are basically a homogeneous group and the view that political leadership should be the direct expression of popular will. The study found that 29.2 percent of potential voters were thoroughly populist, 33.9 percent were somewhat populist and 36.9 percent were not populist at all.

Read more: Donald Trump-style populism has no chance in German election | News | DW | 25.07.2017

Sable Rattling: China and Russia combine naval forces in the Baltic Sea

According to NATO, a Chinese destroyer, frigate and supply ship sailed into the Russian harbor at Baltijsk located on the Baltic coast of the Russian exclave Kaliningrad on Friday. They are there to participate in joint naval maneuvers with Russia being dubbed "Maritime Cooperation 2017," which is set to last from July 24 to July 27.

This joint naval maneuver with Russia in the Baltic Sea is the latest display of China's geopolitical ambition as Beijing wants to increase its influence in international and strategic affairs.

China's emphasis on naval expansion is a sign of Beijing's awareness that becoming a world power first entails being a maritime power. For Russia, the maneuvers are a continuation of aggressive foreign policy and a display of strength on Europe's doorstep and the Baltic coast, where fears of Russian expansion are highest.

Read more: China and Russia combine naval forces in the Baltic Sea | Asia | DW | 24.07.2017

France: Which are the world's most influential countries?

France has risen to the top of a list of the world’s most influential countries following the election of Emmanuel Macron.

It replaced the US in the number one position in the Soft Power Index complied by the University of Southern California and PR firm Portland Communications.

Soft Power is a term used to describe the influence of a country beyond traditional political or military strength. It includes aspects such as culture, education, economics and even sport.

The Soft Power Index uses polling in 25 countries as well as measures such as the number of Michelin-starred restaurants and levels of digital engagement to rank nations against each other.

The report’s authors noted that the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote in the UK, weighed on both country’s statuses.

Read more: Which are the world's most influential countries? | Euronews

European Economy: A “Macroneconomic” Revolution? - byAnatole Kaletsky

Next month will mark the tenth anniversary of the global financial crisis, which began on August 9, 2007, when Banque National de Paris announced that the value of several of its funds, containing what were supposedly the safest possible US mortgage bonds, had evaporated. From that fateful day, the advanced capitalist world has experienced its longest period of economic stagnation since the decade that began with the 1929 Wall Street crash and ended with the outbreak of World War II ten years later.

Suppose, that the “progressive” economics of full employment and redistribution could be combined with the “conservative” economics of free trade and labor-market liberalization. Both macroeconomic and structural policies would then be easier to justify politically – and much more likely to succeed.

Could this be about to happen in Europe? France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, based his election campaign on a synthesis of “right-wing” labor reforms and a “left-wing” easing of fiscal and monetary conditions – and his ideas are gaining support in Germany and among European Union policymakers. If “Macroneconomics” – the attempt to combine conservative structural policies with progressive macroeconomics – succeeds in replacing the market fundamentalism that failed in 2007, the lost decade of economic stagnation could soon be over – at least for Europe.

Read more: A “Macroneconomic” Revolution?

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