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9/30/17

European Car Industry: How BMW counts on startups to counter Tesla - by Luca Ciferri

BMW's new self driving electric car to be launched in 2021
After Tesla made electric cars "sexy" and outshone traditional automakers, BMW hopes to add luster to its electrification push by working with fast-moving, startup companies, BMW board member Peter Schwarzenbauer said.

With its i3 battery-powered city hatchback, BMW was the first European automaker to launch sales of a car that was developed to be electric from the start, but the company did not find a way to make electric mobility appealing, Schwarzenbauer said.

"Tesla made electric driving sexy," said the executive, who is in charge of BMW's Mini, Rolls Royce and motorcycles businesses.

In launching the i3 in 2013, BMW probably concentrated too much on the car's green credentials and rational aspects, rather that pointing out that driving an electric car could be fun and sexy, Schwarzenbauer said.

He also acknowledged that BMW has not successfully gotten across the message that BMW is ahead of competitors in electrifying its product line up with full-electric and hybrid model cars. "All the current hype on electrification is on what our competitors will launch post-2020, but BMW has already delivered 100,000 electrified models between 2013 and 2016 and will deliver another 100,000 this year alone," he said.

BMW plans to launch a new electric, self-driving flagship car in 2021.

Read more: How BMW counts on startups to counter Tesla

Automobile Industry: US Senate approves self-driving cars for US roadways - by Tristan Greene

The Tesla 3 "self driving" electric car
The US Senate announced it had reached an agreement internally concerning self-driving car technology.

The Senate is expected to pass legislation on October 4th that would clear regulations and restrictions for manufacturers, in essence providing a clear path to putting driverless cars on the road.

The House passed legislation this summer in a bipartisan effort to ensure the US remains at the cutting-edge of driverless car development. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune and Senator Gary Peters told The Hill:
"Ultimately, we expect adoption of self-driving vehicle technologies will save lives, improve mobility for people with disabilities, and create new jobs"
It’s expected that the Senate bill will feature the same language as the House bill, indicating directives for manufacturers allowing them to field up to 25,000 vehicles initially, and upon proving that AI-powered vehicles are at least as safe as human-driven cars, an increase to 100,000 thereafter. This paves the way for millions of autonomous vehicles to be on the roadways within a couple of years.

Read more: US Senate approves self-driving cars for US roadways

USA - Economy: 3 Uncommon Signs That Economic Collapse Could Happen Soon - by Peter Reagan

As stocks continue to climb and the U.S. economy sustains its third longest period of expansion in history, market forecasters are seeking clues for when our next crisis may strike.

So far, three uncommon signals have them worried.

Here’s an explanation of the three uncommon signs causing alarm, and what they mean for your savings...

As stocks continue to climb and the U.S. economy sustains its third longest period of expansion in history, market forecasters are seeking clues for when our next crisis may strike.

So far, three uncommon signals have them worried.

Here’s an explanation of the three uncommon signs causing alarm, and what they mean for your savings...

Sign #1: Resurgence of Synthetic CDOs

Depending on how the underlying asset performs, derivatives can generate either massive gains or crushing losses.

But it’s when big banks and financial institutions start gambling in derivatives that things become especially dangerous. And that’s exactly what happened in the case of our last crisis: A slew of “too big to fail” organizations took on excessive risk through derivatives (mortgage-backed securities and others), and they couldn’t shoulder their losses when the bets went bad.

Sign #2: Lenders Loosening Mortgage Standards

Well, there are two main incentives for banks to lend recklessly:
  1. Increasing competition from other banks, and...
  2. Decreasing demand for credit.
Sign #3: The “Skyscraper Index”

In the case of our last crisis, both of those incentives came into play

Followers of the index today believe conditions are shaping up for it to be proven right once again, as cities across China, India, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. erect another round of the tallest skyscrapers in history.

A good example of this is in Denver where a Manhattan developer is moving forward with plans to build a 1,000-foot skyscraper, which would dwarf all the other buildings in Denver.

 Read more: 3 Uncommon Signs That Economic Collapse Could Happen Soon

Hyperloop: Mexico is planning on building its own Hyperloop

Mexico is building a hyperloop to travel between Mexico City- Queretaro, Leon, and Guadalajara. It will dramatically shorten travel time and they hope this design could reach 68 million people by 2020. 

Read more: Mexico is planning on building its own Hyperloop

Spain: Hundreds protest against Catalonia independence vote in Barcelona

Hundreds of people took to the streets of the Catalan capital Barcelona on Saturday, to denounce the upcoming referendum on the region’s separation from Spain. The vote is scheduled to take place on Sunday.

Anti-independence protesters carrying Spanish flags gathered in front of the Catalan government building in Barcelona. At the same time, hundreds rallied in the Spanish capital Madrid, also to protest Sunday’s referendum.

Read more: Hundreds protest against Catalonia independence vote in Barcelona — RT Newsline

US Infrastructure: 21 Facts About America’s Decaying Infrastructure That Will Blow Your Mind - by Michael Snyder

 You can tell a lot about a nation by the condition of the infrastructure.  So what does our infrastructure say about us?  It says that we are in a very advanced state of decay.  At this point, much of America is being held together with spit, duct tape and prayers.

Our roads are crumbling and thousands of our bridges look like they could collapse at any moment.  Our power grid is ancient and over a trillion gallons of untreated sewage is leaking from our aging sewer systems each year.  Our airports and our seaports are clogged with far more traffic than they were ever designed to carry.  Approximately a third of all of the dam failures that have taken place in the United States since 1874 have happened during the past decade.

Our national parks and recreation areas have been terribly neglected and our railroads are a bad joke.  Hurricane Katrina showed how vulnerable our levees are, and drinking water systems all over the country are badly outdated.  Sadly, at a time when we could use significant new investment in infrastructure, our spending on infrastructure is actually way down.

Back during the 50s and the 60s, the U.S. was spending between 3 and 4 percent of GDP on infrastructure.  Today, that figure is down to about 2.4 percent.  But of course we don’t have any extra money to spend on infrastructure because of our reckless spending and because of the massive amount of debt that we have accumulated.  While the Obama administration was spending more than half a million dollars to figure out why chimpanzees throw poop, our national infrastructure is literally falling apart all around us.

Once upon a time nobody else on the planet could match our infrastructure, and now we are in the process of becoming a joke to the rest of the world.

The following are 21 facts about America’s failing infrastructure that will blow your mind….

Read the full report here: 21 Facts About America’s Decaying Infrastructure That Will Blow Your Mind

9/29/17

Spain: Fake Referendum ? - Catalonia independence referendum: All you need to know - by David Child & Charlotte Mitchell

The Spanish region of Catalonia is set to hold a referendum on independence on October 1.

The single question facing voters, "Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?", has generated many more.

Catalonia, an area in northeastern Spain of 7.5 million people, accounts for 15 percent of Spain's population and 20 percent of its economic output.

About 1.6 million people live in Barcelona, Catalonia's capital, which is a major tourist destination.

Sunday's vote will be the region's second referendum on independence in three years.

The previous ballot, a non-binding vote in November 2014, returned an 80 percent result in favour of an independent Catalan state.

However, less than half of the 5.4 million eligible voters participated.

The Spanish government rejected the Generalitat's, Catalonia's regional government, proposal to hold a binding ballot on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. They take the same position on Sunday's vote.

Only Catalan residents of voting age are entitled to participate in the referendum.

Up to 85 percent are in favour of holding the referendum, according to a poll conducted by El Periodico de Catalunya, a regional daily newspaper.

However, only about 41 percent said they intend to vote "Yes" to independence when asked in June of this year by the Centre for Opinion Studies, the regional government's polling body.

A number of pro-union Catalans are expected to boycott the vote, on the grounds that the referendum is illegal.

Support for independence among Catalans isn't universal.

"It's a false referendum and many think if there's no legal guarantee then it's better not to vote," Jorge Amado, president of Catalyanu Somos Todos, a pro-union organisation for Catalans living outside the region (who aren't eligible to vote), told Al Jazeera.

"It's a manipulation. Manipulation of history, of the media, and of the Catalan people to promote this sense that Catalonia can't be united with Spain."

Read more: Catalonia independence referendum: All you need to know | News | Al Jazeera

Kurdistan - Does the US really care about the Kurds? - by Hussain Abdul-Hussain

Of all the countries that announced their position toward the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, America has probably have taken the most ambiguous stance. Officially, the U.S. opposes Kurdish independence and supports the “unity of Iraq”. 

Non-officially, Washington does not care about Iraqi unity.

In a session held under Chatham House rules at one of Washington’s prestigious think-tanks, a participant asked a top administration official about how the U.S. is allied with pro-Iranian militias on the Iraqi side of the Iraq-Syria border, but engages in clashes with other pro-Iranian militias on the Syrian side of the border.

The Trump administration official responded by saying that the U.S. government does not look at the Middle East as a set of nations, but rather “on a village-by-village” basis, with one defining principle, that any U.S. ally should participate in eradicating terrorism, which is believed to be America’s top strategic interest.

Yet such a policy might work only in the very short term. Once all of U.S. allies are assembled in its war on terrorism, the U.S. would have to pay its allies back by standing with them in defense of their national interests, and here lies the problem.

The U.S. has a dozen Middle Eastern allies, almost all of whom are locked up in competition in defense of their interests, especially after the Iraq war shook up the region in a way not seen since World War I. 

This means that when U.S. allies ask for payback for their participation in the war on terror, Washington will have to walk a very tightrope in an attempt to balance its act. America’s failure to come up with a coherent foreign policy, for itself and for its allies, has been evident in Syria, a country that has been blown up into tiny pieces since the outbreak of the anti-Assad revolution in 2011.

Washington’s strategy in Iraq has been evolving since the Iraq war in 2003. At first, the U.S. wanted Iraq as an ally and a beacon of democracy, with which it could set an example for neighboring countries, and provoke people to overthrow their dictators once they see Iraq’s prosperous democracy at work.

But America’s original blueprint for Iraq proved to be too rosy. Reality was very different, and Washington had to learn, the hard way, how to strike a balance between its friends and enemies, be they local Iraqis or regional powers.

In the middle of the bloody Iraqi civil war, many U.S. officials believed that putting Iraq back together was impossible, and that dividing it into three states -- a Shia, a Sunni, and a Kurdish state -- was the only solution. One of the biggest advocates of dividing Iraq was then-Senator Joe Biden, also chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Ironically, when he decided to run for president, 

Barack Obama recruited Biden as his running mate especially for the purpose of supervising foreign policy, given Biden’s long experience on the committee. When the duo of Obama and Biden were elected president and vice president, Obama put Biden in charge of Iraq. The VP’s National Security Advisor Anthony Blinken thus became the highest U.S. official handling American policy in Iraq.

Despite Biden’s support for dividing Iraq, Obama’s vision prevailed: Replacing America’s traditional allies with Iran, and restoring the pre-1979 American alliance with Iran became a top priority, even if that meant sacrificing Washington’s success in stabilizing Iraq by 2010 and handing it over to Iran.

Obama’s Iraq policy effectively meant making nice with Tehran, and hence undermining any Kurdish ambition for independence in northern Iraq. Even when Daesh took over Mosul in 2014 and started pushing toward Kirkuk and Baghdad, the U.S. abandoned its plans of arming the Iraqi Kurdish militia, under pressure from Baghdad, and ultimately from Iran. Germany repeatedly tried to ship arms to the Iraqi Kurds, but Obama thwarted this effort. 

Obama eventually emerged as the enemy of the Kurds. Another Obama enemy was Israel. Hence, the Israelis and Iraqi Kurds believed that the end of Obama’s presidency, and the election of Trump, would be the ideal time for both of them: Iraqi Kurds could declare independence and Israel could expand its settlements in the West Bank, while at the same time seeking peace with Arab Gulf countries.

Trump is undisputedly the closest American friend of Israel in the history of the U.S. presidency. Trump became the only president to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem during his presidency. 

Trump’s interest in Israel has nothing to do with his view of Middle Eastern politics and everything to do with his perception that befriending Israel might secure the Jewish-American vote and financial support for his 2020 reelection.

Despite the closeness between Trump and Israel, Washington still had to take the interests of its other Middle Eastern allies into consideration. Of the U.S. allies, Turkey, Iraq and Qatar stood against Kurdish independence in Iraq. Of its enemies, Russia, Iran and Syria also opposed Kurdish independence. Of all the friends and enemies of the U.S., only Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) supported an independent Iraqi Kurdistan, with Saudi Arabia only nominally opposing Kurdish independence, not minding it behind closed doors.

In light of this complicated strategic alignment, and with all the U.S. allies -- except for two -- pushing against Kurdish independence, and with Trump’s favorite ally, Israel, rooting for Kurdish independence, the U.S. position toward the Kurds looked contradictory and confused, just like Trump’s foreign policy in general.

Trump and Israel aside, when the U.S. establishment weighs an independent Kurdistan against the position of its allies, it finds that no matter how important the Kurds are to Washington, their importance cannot outweigh the strategic importance of America’s relations with Turkey, its NATO ally, and Iraq, the country where the U.S. has poured in trillions of dollars and lost thousands of lives.

Iraqi Kurds seem to have overestimated their strategic importance in American eyes, an error commonly made by local Middle Eastern powers. Perhaps the Kurds thought that Israel and the UAE could secure them American approval.

In their collective memory, the Kurds tell the story of how Mullah Mustafa Barzani, the father of Masoud, was let down by both the U.S. and the Soviet Union, as Iran thwarted Kurdish independence. The great powers might have loved the Kurds and their leader, but love was not enough to outweigh the weight of the other regional powers.

Perhaps the next time Iraqi Kurds try to become independent, they should count more on securing the support of at least one of their territorial neighbors, rather than bet on superpowers and regional powers that do not share borders with them.

The game of nations is a complicated one, and the Kurds seem unaware that they still need more cards that they can play if they ever seek independence, cards that they did not seem to have by the time they held their first independence referendum. The White House might send its love to Iraqi Kurds, but love is never enough to create states.

OPINION - Does the US really care about the Kurds?

Brexit: Miracle needed to advance talks, says Juncker - BBC News

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker agreed progress had been made between the two sides this week.

But asked if it was enough to persuade the EU to agree to open trade talks, as the UK wants, at a summit next month, he replied only if "miracles happen"
.
But British PM Theresa May said she was "pleased" with recent developments.

Speaking in Estonia, where she is attending an EU security summit, Mrs May said there had been movement on issues such as citizens' rights during the fourth round of Brexit talks which concluded on Thursday.

British negotiators, led by Brexit Secretary David Davis, suggested there had been "decisive" steps forward although his EU counterparts have been more cautious, suggesting there was a lot more work to be done.

Read more: Brexit: Miracle needed to advance talks, says Juncker - BBC News

USA: Feds Demand Facebook Share Information on Anti-Trump Protesters - by Adam Edelman

The Justice Department is demanding that Facebook turn over information from three accounts that could provide access to the personal details of thousands of activists who expressed interest in anti-Trump rallies.

The department obtained search warrants targeting three Facebook accounts that were used to organize Inauguration Day protests against Donald Trump, the ACLU said late Thursday. But accessing those accounts would provide information on thousands of other users who "liked" an anti-Trump Facebook page, the group explained.

The ACLU’s Washington, D.C., office said in a statement it would fight the enforcement of the search warrants.

"Opening up the entire contents of a personal Facebook page for review by the government is a gross invasion of privacy," said Scott Michelman, a senior staff attorney at ACLU. "When law enforcement officers can comb through records concerning political organizing in opposition to the very administration for which those officers work, the result is the chilling of First Amendment-protected political activity." 

The warrants were issued as part of an ongoing case by the Justice Department against people who allegedly broke laws while protesting Trump's Jan. 20 inauguration in Washington. Prosecutors have said the website, DisruptJ20.org, was used to organize "a violent riot." 

One search warrant was issued for the DisruptJ20 Facebook page, which has since been renamed Resist This, requiring the group’s moderator, Emmelia Talarico, to hand over "nonpublic lists of people who planned to attend political organizing events and even the names of people who simply liked, followed, reacted to, commented o or otherwise engaged with the content on the Facebook page," the ACLU said in a motion filed Thursday in U.S. Superior Court in Washington.

That could include nearly 6,000 Facebook users who "liked" the page from Nov. 1, 2016, to Feb. 9, 2017.

Two other warrants obtained by the Justice Department would require Facebook to hand over "all information from the personal Facebook profiles of local DisruptJ20 activists' Lacy MacAuley and Legba Carrefour from Nov. 1, 2016, through Feb. 9, 2017.

The warrants demand "all private messages, friend lists, status updates, comments, photos, video and other private information solely intended for the users’ Facebook friends and family, even if they have nothing to do with Inauguration Day," the ACLU said.

Read more: Feds Demand Facebook Share Information on Anti-Trump Protesters - NBC News

USA: Nazi style Razzia's, as 'Sanctuary' Cities are Targeted By ICE and some 500 People Arrested

The New US Order
The NBC network reported that a federal operation to arrest undocumented immigrants this week netted nearly 500 people in cities and states that have openly opposed the Trump administration's deportation initiatives.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Thursday that its four-day "Operation Safe City" targeted people in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Denver, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore as well as Cook County, Illinois, Santa Clara County in California's Bay Area, Portland, Oregon, and Massachusetts.

"Sanctuary jurisdictions that do not honor detainers or allow us access to jails and prisons are shielding criminal aliens from immigration enforcement and creating a magnet for illegal immigration," Tom Homan, ICE's acting director, said in a statement. "As a result, ICE is forced to dedicate more resources to conduct at-large arrests in these communities."

At first the Department of Homeland Security scrapped the operation after the agency said it was halting nationwide enforcement actions in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

This latest effort indicates the administration is ready to renew its efforts.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has warned cities that supporting sanctuary policies could cause them to lose millions in federal grants — particularly if they don't help the federal government deport suspected undocumented immigrants already being held in jails. 

EU-Digest

9/28/17

US Economy: Nearly a Third of All Americans Struggle to Make Ends Meet - Daniel B. Kline

About one in five Americans struggle to pay for basic needs including food, shelter, and medical care, while roughly one-third of U.S. consumers have a hard time making ends meet, according to a new report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

The research, which took place last year, asked respondents 10 questions that were answered on a scale of 0 to 100. About one-third of Americans had financial well-being scores of 50 or below, meaning they have a high probability of not being able to make ends meet. A similar number of Americans scored above 61, which means they are unlikely to face financial hardship. The other third, of course, falls in the middle, somewhere between financial security and financial hardship.

What is financial well-being? "Financial well-being is a state of being wherein a person can fully meet current and ongoing financial obligations, can feel secure in their financial future and is able to make choices that allow them to enjoy life," according to the CFPB.

Differences in financial well-being do depend on income, but that's not the only, or even the most-important factor. Since a high earner can overspend, and not be in control of his or her finances, financial well-being is not driven by income. The key difference between people with positive and negative financial well-being is actually savings and financial cushions.

"The average financial well-being for adults with the lowest level of savings (less than $250) is 41, compared to 68 for adults with the highest level of liquid savings ($75,000 or more)," wrote the CFPB. "When we look at a related measure -- the capacity to absorb unexpected expenses -- we observe similar differences in scores."

Read more: Nearly a Third of All Americans Struggle to Make Ends Meet -- The Motley Fool

Puerto Rico: The Trump Administration Is Making the Puerto Rico Tragedy Exponentially Worse

Seven days. That’s how long it’s been since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, yet many communities are still stranded and waiting to receive any aid from the outside world.

Fuel has become a valuable as gold in many areas of island, home to as many U.S. citizens as Alaska, Wyoming, the Dakotas, and Vermont combined. Residents have been waiting hours in line to get gasoline for their generators after Maria knocked out most of the island’s power grid and crippled the region’s transportation network.

As residents scramble to gain access to fuel trickling into their communities, some have questioned why the Trump administration has decided not to temporarily waive a rule that prohibits foreign vessels from domestic trade routes. The federal government implemented the waiver in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Harvey that ravaged Texas and Florida, which raises the question: Why the double standard?

David Lapan, spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, told the Associated Press his agency won’t waive the rule because there are plenty of U.S. flagged vessels to handle the operations. Lapan says most of the humanitarian shipments will be carried by barges. Barges however, move significantly slower than cargo ships.

Rep. Nydia Velázquez, a New York Democrat, and seven other representatives had asked for the shipping waiver in order to speed up deliveries of fuel, food, water, medicine and other necessities to the storm-ravaged island.

Note EU-Digest: As a result of considerable pressure from political and public sources US President Trump today has authorized a waiver to loosen shipping rules regarding Puerto Rico that island officials say would be a significant help for recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria. Many local residents are saying, however, "too little, too late".

Read more: The Trump Administration Is Making the Puerto Rico Tragedy Exponentially Worse | Alternet

European Air Travel Industry: Ryanair flight cancellation list info, CAA updates, routes, compensation, consumer rights - by Lianna Brinded

Europe’s biggest airline, Ryanair, is facing enforcement action from the the Civil Aviation Authority, Britain’s aviation regulator, for “persistently misleading” (pdf) passengers about their compensation rights following the cancellation of around 20,000 flights.

Yesterday (Sept. 27), Ryanair canceled 18,000 flights, on top of the 2,000 announced last week, because it didn’t properly schedule time off for its pilots. A recent change to the way it organizes vacations left the airline with a backlog of staff who need to take a holiday, leading to a shortage of pilots.

The CAA said in a statement that after both sets of cancellations, Ryanair failed to provide customers with “necessary and accurate” information about the fact that the carrier is obligated to refund all expenses incurred as a result of the flight cancellations.

This includes accommodation and meals as well as transfer costs to re-route passengers on other airlines when no suitable alternative is available.

Read more: Ryanair flight cancellation list info, CAA updates, routes, compensation, consumer rights — Quartz

European Wages: EU MEPs call for EU-wide minimum income


 EU Parliament MEP's are calling for a standard EU-Wide minimum income and have suggested that:
  • Minimum income schemes should be introduced in all member states
  • They should go together with better access to housing, health care and education
  • Support for children, unemployed and single-parent households
Introducing minimum schemes in all EU member states is one of the most effective ways to lift people out of poverty, Employment Committee MEPs say.

Most EU countries already have minimum income schemes, but these do not always provide adequate support for those in need. The Employment Committee therefore urges all member states to introduce a minimum income and, if necessary, upgrade existing schemes.

To improve the effectiveness of minimum income schemes, the Employment Committee proposes to:

  • set minimum income using the Eurostat at-risk-of-poverty threshold and other indicators
  • improve the suitability of the schemes to correspond better to the most vulnerable
  • reverse the low rate of take-up among those eligible by raising awareness

Minimum income schemes should combine financial support with easier access to social and public services like housing, health care, education and training. Those that can work should get assistance in gaining access to the labour market, MEPs say.
 
Read more: MEPs call for EU-wide minimum income | News | European Parliament

Global Quality of Nationality Index - Germany leads the pack - by Henley & Partners

The Henley & Partners  Kochenov Quality of Nationality Index (QNI) is the first to ever objectively rank the quality of nationalities worldwide.

It explores both internal factors (such as the scale of the economy, human development, and peace and stability) and external factors (including visa-free travel and the ability to settle and work abroad without cumbersome formalities) that make one nationality better than another in terms of legal status in which to develop your talents and business.

The QNI is the result of a successful cooperation between Henley & Partners and Professor Dr. Dimitry Kochenov, a leading constitutional law professor with a long-standing interest in European and comparative citizenship law.

The top ten are all European countries, with Germany listed as number 1.

Please click here to view the website

For more:  { Quality of Nationality Index - Henley & Partners

USA-Refugees-Migrants: Trump cuts refugee numbers: How the US compares with the world - nby Ben Westcott

US President Donald Trump's administration announced Wednesday it would slash the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the United States.

No more than 45,000 refugees will be allowed into the country over the coming year under the new plan, less than half the number proposed by the Obama administration for the current fiscal year.

If implemented, the reduced number would represent the lowest intake of refugees to enter the United States in 10 years under the resettlement program.

Resettlement is the careful selection and relocation by governments, such as the US, of vulnerable refugees who've already been granted asylum by another country. 

In Turkey, almost three million people are currently living as refugees, compared to only 227,000 in total in the United States, according to UN statistics.

Both Pakistan and Lebanon host more than a million refugees, while more than 900,000 live in Iran and Uganda respectively.

Germany has the most of any developed Western countries, hosting almost 700,000 in 2016.

These numbers also don't take into account the more than two million still waiting to have their refugee status officially determined across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.


Read more: Trump cuts refugee numbers: How the US compares with the world

9/27/17

EU Security - anti-terrorism - illegal migration: EU proposes three-year internal state border checks

Internal border checks are likely to continue for years given a new proposal by the European Commission to reform the so-called Schengen borders code.

Temporary border controls inside the European Union’s free-travel zone could be extended for up to three years during a crisis, the European Commission proposed on Wednesday, giving it more leeway to stem migration.

The proposal by the EU executive comes as border controls in Germany, Austria, Denmark, and Norway expire, part of the European Union’s response to a surge of refugees and migrants in November 2015 that tested EU rules on passport-free travel.

Those countries must lift the frontier checks by November this year under a two-year-limit set by the bloc in the so-called Schengen area, which is named after a town in Luxembourg and aims to be a symbol of free movement in the bloc. 

While not referring to the four countries, the Commission’s plan, if agreed by EU governments, would allow them to keep the controls in place for another year if they can justify them.  

EU home affairs commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said the threat of migrants coming through Greece and the Western Balkans was no longer a valid excuse for frontier checks. 

The EU has taken in more than 1.7 million people from the Middle East and Africa since 2014. But after a mass influx in 2015, numbers have gone down steadily following a 2016 deal that closed the route from Turkey to Greece. The EU has also stepped up support for Libya to curb arrivals in Italy.
Sweden has lifted its border checks but has stepped up internal controls. Norway is part of Schengen but not the EU.

Read more: EU proposes three-year internal border checks

USA Presidency: Trump tweet: Facebook is fake news, anti-Trump

President Donald Trump took aim at Facebook on Wednesday, suggesting the social media company was in cahoots with "Fake News" networks. 

Facebook is already under pressure in Washington, where investigators and Congress are examining thousands of Facebook advertisements from the 2016 election. Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg also recently announced plans to sell millions of shares over the next 1½ years for his Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Its beneficiaries include programs for immigration and prison reform and affordable housing.

Facebook was not immediately available to comment on Trump's tweet.

The company's curation of news articles has drawn ire from both political parties. Last year, Zuckerberg agreed to meet with conservative leaders after accusations that Facebook had suppressed right-leaning news. But Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has also pressed Facebook and other social media companies on accusations they enabled Russian tampering in the U.S. election, calling recent disclosures the "tip of the iceberg."

Read more: Trump tweet: Facebook is fake news, anti-Trump

North Korea Disaster in the making? No One Can Stop Trump From Waging Nuclear War With North Korea - by Jeff Stein

One nightmare scenario goes like this: Donald Trump emerges from his White House bedroom in the middle of the night, cellphone in hand, enraged by the latest taunt from North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

He spots the military aide sitting in the corridor with a black valise in his lap. It’s called the nuclear football.

“I’m gonna take care of this son of a bitch once and for all,” Trump growls. “Big-time. Gimme the codes.”

The aide cracks open the valise and hands the president a loose-leaf binder with a colorful menu of Armageddon options. They range from all-out, total annihilation plans for Russia and China down to a variety of strikes tailored just for North Korea.

Read more: No One Can Stop Trump From Waging Nuclear War With North Korea, Not Even His Generals

Germany: CDU Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble to become Bundestag president

 Wolfgang Schäuble is expected to become the new president of the Bundestag. He is the parliament's longest-serving member and has led three ministries in a political career that began in 1972.

Insiders from Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian allies in the Christian Social Union (CSU) told reporters from the German press agency and the mass-circulation daily Bild that Schäuble would likely be formally nominated on October 17.

In a statement released Wednesday, Volker Kauder, the CDU's parliamentary leader, said the finance minister had indicated a willingness to make the move. "We are pleased that Wolfgang Schäuble has agreed to become a candidate for this position," he said. 

Read more: CDU Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble to become Bundestag president | News | DW | 27.09.2017

USA: Landmark California bill for 100% clean energy unexpectedly put on hold until next year - by Sammy Roth

California lawmakers will go home for the year without voting on a landmark renewable energy bill, in an unexpected setback for the state’s efforts to lead the world in fighting climate change.

The bill would have required California to get 60 percent of its electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2030, up from the current legal mandate of 50 percent. It also would have tasked state regulators with charting a path to 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045, which could have included energy sources not considered “renewable,” like nuclear power, large hydropower plants and gas-fired power plants that capture their carbon emissions.

State senators approved the legislation by a 25-13 margin in May, and for months its eventual passage in the Assembly looked like a foregone conclusion. But the bill got held up after unexpectedly strong opposition from investor-owned utilities like Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, which argued it did not adequately protect their customers from potential increases in electricity costs. Unions also worked to kill the bill in the final week of session, after legislative leaders wouldn’t include provisions sought by organized labor.

Assembly member Chris Holden, a Pasadena Democrat who chairs the Assembly’s utilities and energy committee, said earlier this week he wouldn’t move the bill out of his committee because it didn’t have enough support to pass the chamber. He held to that stance as the legislative session came to a close Friday night, even as climate advocates urged him to advance the bill.

The bill’s failure was a major defeat for Gov. Jerry Brown and powerful Senate leader Kevin de León, a Los Angeles Democrat who wrote the legislation. It was also disheartening for climate and clean energy advocates, who have touted California as a global leader in the fight against climate change — an especially important role now that the Trump administration has backed out of the Paris climate agreement and is working to undo many Obama-era climate initiatives.

Read more: Kevin De Leon's SB 100 renewable energy bill on hold until next year

The Netherlands - Wind Power: 4 TSO's join forces for North Sea Power Hub - by M. Jonk and C van der Weijden

EU: A new wind power hub in the North Sea
Dutch state owned Gasunie has joined the consortium of Danish Energinet.dk and Dutch and German TenneT to study the possible development of a wind power hub in the North Sea. The power hub will consist of one or more large-scale artificial island(s) for sustainable energy supply in the North Sea near the Doggersbank.

The island should produce 100,000 MW of wind energy. It is expected to contribute substantially to achieving the agreed European targets set out in the Paris climate agreement. If the Paris targets are to be met, it is expected that an additional 180 GW offshore wind capacity will need to be developed. According to the four TSO's these volumes will require power-to-gas solutions as energy transport in gas-form is cheaper than transportation through the electricity grid.

The island is to be situated in a location with favorable winds and the possibilities of tie-ins to offshore wind parks. Power surpluses will be converted to hydrogen for large-scale transportation to shore or for storage purposes.

Gasunie will contribute its gas transport expertise and its expertise in the field of hydrogen conversion and gas storage. Gasunie an TenneT are already combining forces to develop a factory for the conversion of solar and wind energy into hydrogen in the Dutch city of Zuidwending. The hydrogen is expected to be used for municipal busses. If the North Sea Wind Hub is deemed feasible, construction is expected by 2030-2050.

EU-Digest

USA: Republican party swings Ultra Right as Moore wins Republican Senate primary- by Michael Scherer

A former state judge who believes that “God’s law” can invalidate federal court decisions won Alabama’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate on Tuesday night, sending a clear warning to President Trump and GOP leadership that conservative grass-roots anger will continue to roil the party into the 2018 midterm elections.

Roy Moore, who was twice suspended from his job as the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, defeated incumbent Sen. Luther Strange, who was appointed to the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and was backed by Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Moore is now the front-runner to win the seat in the Dec. 12 general election. He will face Democratic candidate Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney in Alabama.

“We have to return the knowledge of God and the Constitution of the United States to the United States Congress,” Moore said in his victory speech. “We have become a nation that has distanced ourselves from the very foundation.”

In a tweet, Trump quickly threw his support behind Moore: “Congratulations to Roy Moore on his Republican Primary win in Alabama. Luther Strange started way back & ran a good race. Roy, WIN in Dec!”

Read more:n: Moore wins Republican Senate primary, dealing blow to GOP establishment - The Washington Post

9/26/17

USA - Obama Care: Senate GOP fail again and abandon latest effort to kill Obama Care - by J. Eilperin and S.Sullivan

Senate Republicans decided Tuesday not to hold a vote on unwinding the Affordable Care Act, preserving the landmark 2010 law for the foreseeable future even as they suggested they may withhold crucial funding for it
.
The move leaves the GOP — once again — short of fulfilling a signature promise, which some Republicans worried could inspire a backlash among their base heading into the 2018 midterm elections.

Several senators said they instead plan to move onto other issues now that the party’s latest proposal, authored by Republican Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (La.), had failed to garner sufficient support 

“Where we go from here is tax reform,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters after holding a closed-door policy lunch with members of his caucus.

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers voiced little interest in shoring up the existing ACA insurance market, sowing apprehension among insurers and state officials just weeks before consumers must start enrolling in plans for next year. 

Note EU-Digest: The US Republican Party is in deep trouble: division among party members, poor Congressional leadership, and the fact that their "Principal Leader", the President of the USA, is a "loose Canon", also is not helpful for their reputation and morale within the party.
 
Read more: Senate GOP abandons latest effort to unwind the Affordable Care Act - The Washington Post

USA - Earthquake: California could be hit by an 8.2 mega-earthquake, and it would be catastrophic - by Rong-Gong Lin II

Damage during the last major California Earthquake
The magnitude 8.2 earthquake that ravaged southern Mexico on Sept. 7 was the largest to shake the country in nearly a century.

Like California, Mexico is a seismically active region that has seen smaller quakes that have caused death and destruction. But the Sept. 7 temblor is a reminder that even larger quakes — while rare — do occur.

Scientists say it’s possible for Southern California to be hit by a magnitude 8.2 earthquake. Such a quake would be far more destructive to the Los Angeles area because the San Andreas fault runs very close to and underneath densely populated areas.

The devastating quakes that hit California over the last century were far smaller than the Sept. 7 temblor, which Mexican authorities set at magnitude 8.2 and the U.S. Geological Survey placed at 8.1. Mexico’s earthquake produced four times more energy than the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake, a magnitude 7.8, which killed 3,000 people and sparked a fire that left much of the city in ruins.

Southern California’s most recent mega-quake was in 1857, also estimated to be magnitude 7.8, when the area was sparsely populated. (That was considerably stronger than the 7.1 quake that hit Mexico on Tuesday, causing buildings to collapse and leading to a significant loss of life).

A magnitude 8.2 earthquake would rupture the San Andreas fault from the Salton Sea — close to the Mexican border — all the way to Monterey County. The fault would rupture through counties including Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino.

An 8.2 earthquake would be far worse here because the San Andreas fault runs right through areas such as the Coachella Valley — home to Palm Springs — and the San Bernardino Valley, along with the San Gabriel Mountains north of Los Angeles. The fault is about 30 miles from downtown Los Angeles.

In Mexico, “you’ve got [many] people a pretty long way aways from it,” seismologist Lucy Jones said. But in Southern California, “we’d have a lot of people right on top of it. It would be shallow, and it runs through our backyard.”

A magnitude 8.2 on the San Andreas fault would cause damage in every city in Southern California, Jones has said, from Palm Springs to San Luis Obispo.

Read more: California could be hit by an 8.2 mega-earthquake, and it would be catastrophic - LA Times

Kurdistan: Defying Baghdad, Iraqi Kurds vote in independence referendum

Voters in areas of Iraq controlled by Kurdish forces turned out in high numbers to take part in a landmark independence referendum on Monday, defying pressure from Baghdad as well as threats from neighbours Turkey and Iran.

The vote in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq and some disputed areas is non-binding and will not lead automatically to independence, but is seen by the Kurds as a major step towards a long-cherished dream of statehood.

Read more: Defying Baghdad, Iraqi Kurds vote in independence referendum - France 24

Germany: AfD leader Frauke Petry stuns Germany by quitting hours after being elected - by Emma Beswick

Just one day after her party’s success in the German federal elections yesterday (September 24), Frauke Petry, co-chair of far-right party Alternative for Germany, said she would not be part of the parliamentary group.

Read more: AfD leader Frauke Petry stuns Germany by quitting hours after being elected | Euronews

Venezuela calls US travel ban psychological terrorism -

Venezuela has accused the US of "psychological terrorism" after it imposed travel restrictions on some Venezuelan government officials and their families. 

The foreign ministry said travel bans like the one announced on Sunday were incompatible with international law.

The ban on eight countries includes Venezuela for the first time.
US President Donald Trump said the countries on the list had "inadequate" security protocols.

Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen are all now subject to US travel bans.

Note EU-Digest: One can question why Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Libya, Pakistan are also not on that list? 

Read more: US travel ban is psychological terrorism - Venezuela - BBC News

9/25/17

USA - North Korea Conflict: North Korea says U.S. 'declared war', warns it could shoot down U.S. bombers

North Korea's foreign minister said on Monday that President Donald Trump had declared war on North Korea and that Pyongyang reserves the right to take countermeasures, including shooting down U.S. bombers even if they are not in its air space.

"The whole world should clearly remember it was the U.S. who first declared war on our country," Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters in New York.

"Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make countermeasures, including the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country," Ri said.

"The question of who won't be around much longer will be answered then," Ri said in a direct reference to a Twitter post by Trump on Saturday.

The increasingly heated rhetoric between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is raising fears of a risk of a miscalculation by one side or the other that could have massive repercussions.

China called on Monday for all sides in the North Korea missile crisis to show restraint and not "add oil to the flames."

Read more: North Korea says U.S. 'declared war', warns it could shoot down U.S. bombers

9/24/17

EU-Editorial: Europe must embrace its new identity - by Carl Bildt

Travelling through Germany in the run-up to its federal election on September 24, one cannot help but be struck by the lingering signs of profound trauma from the 2015 refugee crisis.

Suddenly and virtually without warning, nearly a million desperate people – mostly Syrians fleeing the carnage in their homeland – flocked to Germany. And while Germany may be Europe’s most bureaucratically well-managed country, even it was overwhelmed.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s response to the crisis two years ago was to throw out the rulebook and open her country’s borders. She famously told the German people, “Wir schaffen das” (We can do it).

But German public opinion today suggests that the country has become warier of such bold gestures.

Yes, Germany did it, because there was no alternative; and many Germans are proud of their country for rising to the occasion. But most hope that such a crisis never happens again.


Read more:Europe is a continent that once exported war and turmoil, but that now wants to protect itself from its neighbors’ problems. 

One of the lessons from 2015 is that the European Union will need to develop a far stronger common foreign and security policy. The EU must replace lofty rhetoric with concrete action, while also accepting its regional and global responsibilities. Barbed wire fencing between Hungary and Serbia will not shield Europe from the effects of war in Ukraine, putsches and terrorism in Anatolia, or violent conflagrations in the Levant and Mesopotamia. And it will not help Europe manage the dramatic shift now underway in Africa, which will be home to 40% of the world’s working-age population in a few decades.

Another lesson from 2015 is that European countries must learn to redefine their national identities. The United States, Australia, and Canada have all been built on immigration, and most of us are the progeny of people from somewhere else. Indeed, there is not much left of the “first nations” in these countries. It is now entirely possible for there to be more people of Swedish descent in Chicago than in Stockholm.

For Europe to find its place in a rapidly changing world, its citizens will have to learn to tap multiple identities. One can be a proud Swede and a proud European at the same time; one can also be both German and Turkish, and derive strength from that duality. It is not disloyal to see oneself as a citizen of the world. On the contrary, it is honorable.

Such a shift in attitudes would make for a very different Europe. We would have finally moved on from ancient tribal conflicts and fears, and embraced a networked, digital future. Merkel, who will likely be elected to another four-year term as chancellor on September 24, told Germans that they “can do it.” But whether Germany and the rest of Europe will do it remains to be seen. We have our work cut out for us.
Read more: View: Europe must embrace its new identity | Euro

USA: Donald Trump Is A Threat to Survival of Life on Earth ?: If Nuclear War Does - by Helena Wright

Since President Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, the world has been looking towards other countries to pick up global leadership on climate change action. France recently announced that it plans to become the first country to phase out all oil and gas exploration and production by 2040, according to a draft bill. What does this signal for markets and other governments?

Is France stepping forward into a new era of global leadership on climate change?

Under the Paris Agreement on climate change, countries agreed to keep the global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees of warming and strive for 1.5 degrees. Impacts are still expected at 2 degrees of warming, but at least some of the world’s coral reefs could survive. Beyond this level, coral reefs, which a quarter of the world’s marine life and half a billion people depend on, are expected to be completely wiped out.

At the United Nations this week, French President Emmanuel Macron described the Paris climate deal as a “pact between generations” and has told Donald Trump that the climate deal will not be renegotiated. Macron also stated that the “door will always remain open” for America to re-join, and suggested he hopes to convince Trump to do so.

The terrifying math of climate change shows us that in order to stay within the 2-degree safety limit, the majority of the world’s existing fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground and not be burned.  Macron’s plans to rule out fossil fuel exploration are essential, as exploration for new fossil fuels risks pushing the world over dangerous thresholds. Climate change is an existential threat.  At six degrees of warming, which we could get if all remaining fossil fuels were burned, falling oxygen levels could be a threat to the survival of life on earth. France’s new policy to phase out oil and gas exploration is absolutely in line with the science, and if anything, the year of 2040 is too late – exploration needs to be ruled out earlier.

In the past year Macron has showed great leadership on climate change. After Trump’s withdrawal from the global climate agreement, Macron strongly rebuked Trump on this, and his twitter statement to “make the planet great again” rapidly went viral.

In July, Macron announced that France would ban sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040, and this was followed by a similar announcement by the UK to tackle air pollution. Germany is considering a similar policy, while Norway had already decided it will only allowing sales of 100% electric or plug-in hybrid cars by 2025. China is also looking at ending the sales of fossil fuel cars, following France and the UK.

France is also a leader in the area of green finance, with the launch of a 7 billion euro green bond earlier this year - the largest and longest issuance of green bonds to date.  France has been a pioneer in the green bond market, and has also been the first nation to introduce mandatory climate and carbon risk reporting from institutional investors, pension funds and insurance companies.

Read more: Donald Trump Is A Threat to Survival of Life on Earth: If Nuclear War Doesn't Get Us, Falling Oxygen Levels Will

German election results live: Angela Merkel′s CDU largest party, record low for SPD, AfD to be third power in Bundestag

What we know so far:
— Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats stretch their lead as the strongest force in parliament, despite a severe dip compared to their 2013 haul.
— Martin Schulz's Social Democrats slip to their worst election result in post-war Germany.
— The right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) wins its first seats in the federal parliament, also becoming the Bundestag's third power in the process.
— The pro-business Free Democrats return to parliament, after missing the cut for the first time since the war last time around.
— The Greens and the Left hold station, scoring very similarly to four years ago.
— No coalitions are practically viable without Merkel's CDU taking the lead.
— The Social Democrats say they do not want to be in a coalition and intend to lead the opposition.
— Turnout will be higher than 2013's level of 71.5 percent, around 75 percent.

Read more: German election results live: Angela Merkel′s CDU largest party, record low for SPD, AfD to be third power in Bundestag | Breaking News | DW | 24.09.2017

9/23/17

EU: Tax on Internet ads among Europe’s proposals to plug digital tax gap - by Natasha Lomas

Europe’s executive body has revealed more of its thinking on reforming taxation rules to reflect how digital businesses operate, issuing details of proposals it’s considering ahead of another meeting of EU ministers next week.

Options on the table for EU countries to discuss are a turnover tax, a levy on Internet ads or withholding money on Internet transactions, the EC said today.

Last week a group of European Union finance ministers, led by France, called for a turnover tax on tech giants — aka what’s also referred to as an “equalization tax” — which would seek to avoid the problem of multinationals shifting profits to lower tax economies by taxing them on the revenue generated in each nation.

At the time the EC said it welcomed the Member State’s interest in the issue, noting it has been working towards tax reform proposals for “a number of years”.

Read more; Tax on Internet ads among Europe’s proposals to plug digital tax gap | TechCrunch

German Elections: For the German election, no fake news is good news - by Shara Tibken

German Chancellor Angela Merkel stands amid several young women dressed in white in a photo that's made the rounds on social media. They're Muslim child brides, a post claims. 

"Merkel wünscht den kinderbräuten alles gute," it says in German. "Merkel wishes the child brides all the best."

Except those aren't child brides. And the photo isn't new. It's from April 2016 when Merkel visited a refugee camp in Turkey. She was greeted by young women dressed in their best outfits, not wedding dresses. But try telling that to the thousands of people who shared it online.

That's exactly what Correctiv, First Draft and other groups are attempting to do. These organizations, along with help from tech companies like Google and Facebook, are investigating stories that gain traction in Germany and could impact the country's national election on Sunday. They want to make sure the sort of viral rumors that spread in the US don't happen here.

Read more: For the German election, no fake news is good news - CNET

Nuclear Test North Korea? Earthquake in North Korea a 'suspected explosion': China

China's earthquake administration said on Saturday it had detected a magnitude 3.4 earthquake in North Korea that was a "suspected explosion", raising fears the isolated state had conducted another nuclear bomb test weeks after its last one.

An official at South Korea's meteorological agency said they were analysing the tremor, which they put at magnitude 3.0, but the initial view was that it was a natural quake.

Read more: Earthquake in North Korea a 'suspected explosion': China

Trump: ‘I have decided’ on Iran deal — but won’t share yet – by Louis Nelson

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he had made up his mind as to whether or not the U.S. will remain party to the Iran nuclear deal — but won’t say just yet what that decision is.

“I have decided” Trump repeated three times in response to shouted questions from reporters on whether he has made up his mind on the U.S. remaining in the Iran nuclear deal. Asked what his decision was, Trump smiled and said only that “I’ll let you know what the decision is.”

While the president has yet to make good on his campaign promise to withdraw from the Iran deal, which extracted concessions from the Islamic republic on its nuclear program in exchange for the easing of international sanctions, he has continued to rail against it.

Read more: Trump: ‘I have decided’ on Iran deal — but won’t share yet – POLITICO