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St.Maarten: Govt. agrees to Dutch conditions relief Aid based on suggestions from Council of Advice

The Government of St. Maarten did an about-face in its stance on the conditions set by the Dutch Government for recovery aid for St. Maarten and will now agree to the conditions, based on the advice it recently received from the Council of Advice on its draft Integrity Chamber law.

Government’s decision was also based on the willingness of new Dutch State Secretary for Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops to reopen the lines of communication and be flexible with St. Maarten and his hopefulness for an accord with the country.

Based on the recommendations from the local Council of Advice, Government will adapt its draft Integrity Chamber law giving the Dutch Government the authority to appoint a member and will also agree to strengthening of the presence of Royal Netherlands Marechaussees (Dutch military police) and Customs Officers in St. Maarten for border control and their reporting to the Kingdom Government.
A letter to this effect has been sent to Knops as well as to the Kingdom Council of State, to which St. Maarten had to report to by November 1 on the issue. “In the letters we are saying that we agree [to the conditions – Ed.] because our Council of Advice stated that the protocol was an agreement between the Dutch and St. Maarten Governments,” Marlin said. “Based on the decision we [Council of Ministers – Ed.] have taken, we do not see what other issues the Dutch Government will have now,” Marlin told reporters at a press conference held Monday evening.
Marlin said the local Council of Advice has stated that St. Maarten should follow the protocol signed with the Dutch Government as it is a valid agreement, which St. Maarten had executed by drafting an Integrity Chamber law that was sent to Parliament and approved. Although the Constitutional Court took issue with that version of the Integrity Chamber law, it only rejected “two or three points,” not all the points. The Kingdom Council of State in its July ruling also urged Government to come with a new ordinance taking into account the ruling of the Constitutional Court.
Marlin said in the new draft Integrity Chamber law that St. Maarten recently devised, provisions were not included for the Dutch to appoint anyone to the chamber as had been originally agreed. It was instead proposed that binding nominations would be made by the Court of First Instance, the Ombudsman and the General Audit Chamber.
Based on the recommendations by the local Council of Advice, the Government of St. Maarten will now amend the draft Integrity Chamber law to reflect what was originally agreed to in the protocol: that the Dutch Government would nominate a candidate (the chairperson), the St. Maarten Government will appoint a candidate and that both candidates would nominate a candidate to the Kingdom Council of Ministers, who would then be appointed by Kingdom Decree. Also, the reporting to the Kingdom Council of Ministers, which was already agreed upon, in the opinion of the Council of Advice, should be adhered to.
As far as the issue of border control is concerned, Marlin said since this is part of the protocol signed in 2015, making provisions for a flex pool agreement where the Dutch Government would make border control officers available to the country and these officers having been here for several years now, the strengthening of their presence can be expanded upon. “We are saying that it is already in place. We will agree to add more Marechaussees. We will also agree for them to make Customs Officers available, but at all times, we must ensure that the constitutional integrity will remain intact, which means that these things must fall under the responsibility of the Ministry in St. Maarten. 

This is the decision that the Government of St. Maarten has taken and it has been communicated to the Dutch Government and to the Kingdom Council of State.”
He said also that St. Maarten will attempt to have a working conference in mid-November to iron out the details of the aid to St. Maarten including how it will be packaged and executed.
Regarding the letter sent to the Kingdom Council of State, Marlin said it was agreed that St. Maarten would have done its utmost to have the integrity legislation completed by October 31 (today), but in the event that it is not completed, Government would report back to the Kingdom Council of State by November 1 (tomorrow), on the progress that has been made. Marlin said before hurricane Irma, he wrote the Dutch Government and the Kingdom Council of State explaining that St. Maarten had already prepared a draft Integrity Chamber law, which was sent to Governor Eugene Holiday on September 1, and forwarded to the local Council of Advice on September 3.

For the complete report click here 

Venezuela-Netherlands Relations: Dutch Kingdom strengthen bilateral relations through a joint exercise in the Caribbean Sea

The annual joint naval exercise between the Bolivarian Coast Guard of Venezuela and the Caribbean Coast Guard of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, known as Open Eyes 2017, took place from the 23rd to the 26th of October in the maritime area of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao.

The main purpose of this naval exercise is to strengthen working relations between the Venezuelan Coast Guard and the Netherlands Coast Guard. Also, Open Eyes brings opportunities for mutual learning experiences on various procedures used by each Coast Guard under different circumstances.

This year naval and flight units of both coast guards trained on search and rescue operations. In addition, the Centre for Rescue and Coordination of Curaçao participated in these exercises by performing important roles.

As a closing event, participants of "Open Eyes 2017" exchanged presents from each country and engaged in a social activity at Daaibooi Beach in Curaçao.

"Open Eyes 2017" is a clear example of the high level of cooperation conducted by both countries, Venezuelan and the Netherlands, in order to jointly contribute to peace and stability in the Caribbean region, thus strengthening constructive bilateral relations.

Read more: Venezuela and the Dutch Kingdom strengthen bilateral relations through a joint exercise in the Caribbean Sea - Curaçao Chronicle

Europe, the US or China? - by Steven Hill

The United States has many strengths and admirable qualities, but the nation’s politics is plagued by paralysis and deep partisan polarization, even though the country has a well-established federal union.

The U.S. economy has benefited in recent years from low energy costs, but it has become bitterly divided into unequal camps of winners and losers. All these tensions have boiled over and resulted in the phenomenon of Donald Trump, whose erratic presidency is stalling badly needed reforms and furthering national division.

Meanwhile, China’s hybrid brand of “communist capitalism” remains an authoritarian puzzle of immense contradictions. While it has moved forward vigorously with renewable energies, a growing middle class is still proportionally small compared to the vast numbers of poor, even as inequality, corruption and cronyism thrive.

Impressive levels of industrial production have resulted in astounding levels of environmental ruin.

It turns out that a domineering executive leadership as in China and the United States is only great when it leads in the right direction. In comparison, the EU doesn’t always look so bad.

Europe’s social capitalism is clearly the global leader in several crucial dimensions, more so than either China’s state capitalism or America’s Wall Street-Silicon Valley capitalism.

Read more: Europe, the US or China? - The Globalist

Spain-Catalan Conflict: In Belgium for 'safety', axed Catalan leader is summoned to Spain court

Spain's top criminal court on Tuesday (Oct 31) summoned Catalonia's axed separatist leader for questioning, hours after he appeared in Brussels insisting he remained the "legitimate president" of a region now under direct rule from Madrid.\

The National Audience in Madrid, which deals with major criminal cases, summoned Carles Puigdemont and 13 other former members of his administration, dismissed by Spain's central government last week, for Thursday and Friday.

The 14 are then set to be placed under formal investigation.

On Monday, Spain's chief prosecutor said he was seeking charges of rebellion - punishable by up to 30 years behind bars - sedition and misuse of public funds.

But the 54-year-old Puigdemont is in Brussels, where he surfaced after reportedly driving hundreds of kilometres to Marseille in France and taking a plane to the Belgian capital.

At a packed and chaotic news conference at the Brussels Press Club earlier on Tuesday, Puigdemont said he was there "for safety purposes and freedom" and to "explain the Catalan problem in the institutional heart of Europe."

"We want to denounce the politicisation of the Spanish justice system, its lack of impartiality, its pursuing of ideas not crimes, and to explain to the world the Spanish state's serious democratic deficiencies," he said.

He denied that he intended to claim asylum but said he and several other former ministers who travelled with him would return only if they have guarantees that legal proceedings would be impartial.

If Puigdemont and his former ministers fail to appear in court as requested, Spanish prosecutors could order their arrest.

And if they are still in Belgium when that happens, Spain could issue an international arrest warrant.

The National Audience also gave Puigdemont and his former ministers three days to pay a combined deposit against potential penalties of €6.2 million (US$7.2 million).

Read more: In Belgium for 'safety', axed Catalan leader is summoned to Spain court - Channel NewsAsia

USA: Let no one fool you - Trump is No Isolationist - by Jeff Faux

Trump IS No Isolationist
Denis MacShane is correct to criticize the U.S. pullout of UNESCO as unproductive.

But to label Trump an “isolationist” who is taking the United States back to the 1920s is a misdiagnosis.

Given Trump’s manic instability (witness his tweets that can contradict each other several times in one day), it is not easy to pin down his ideological profile. But he is clearly no isolationist.

The only constant about Trump is that he always focuses on himself first. That is why it matters greatly that he has business interests in at least 144 companies in altogether 26 countries.
In his very own way, Trump is the personal embodiment of corporate multinationalism. How else to understand the fact that he brazenly continues to pursue his business interests from the White House?
His connections with Russia are already the subject of a simmering scandal.

At his rallies, he plays to his political base with xenophobic rants. In the real world, he profits from importing goods (instead of buying American, which he is advocating for others) and employs cheap immigrant labor.

Another sign of his corporate internationalism is that, within the first few months, he appointed six alumni of Goldman Sachs to high-level positions in his administration.
This includes the Treasury Secretary, Under Secretary of State, his chief economist, as well as his Deputy National Security Adviser. His Secretary of State was Chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil.

He has given the Pentagon and the CIA more power to make decisions on air strikes, assassinations and troop dispositions in the 172 countries and territories in which the United States has a military presence.

And he has surrounded himself with military men. Trump’s chief of staff, national security advisor and secretary of defense are all former generals. They made their careers dedicated to the global projection of U.S. power and influence.

n trying to understand Trump we need to make a sharp distinction between imperialism and isolationism.

During his presidential campaign, many voters were convinced that he would reduce America’s role as world policeman and concentrate on domestic affairs.

Now it is clear that he relishes the global stage. He has turned out to be a blustering egomaniac with an itchy finger on the nuclear button, demanding that the rest of the world submit to him

His September speech before the General Assembly of the United Nations was a bully’s insistence that no one had the right to challenge America’s sovereign authority to impose its will on the internal affairs of other nations.

For these reasons, to consider him a throwback to 1920s American isolationism seriously understates the threat of the Trump presidency. The danger is not that Trump will retreat from the world, but that he will attack it.

Note EU-Digest: Lets hope the EU Commission will stop "sucking its thumb or make empty statements and instead take some urgent counter measures to operate independently on the world stage.

Read more: Trump: No Isolationist - The Globalist


Outer Space: A Nearby Neutron Star Collision Could Cause Calamity on Earth - by John Wenz

A long time ago in a galaxy far away—NGC 4993, to be exact—two neutron stars collided and created a spectacular light show.
After billions of years spent slowly circling each other, in their last moments the two degenerate stars spiraled around each other thousands of times before finally smashing together at a significant fraction of light-speed, likely creating a black hole. The merger was so violent it shook the universe, emitting some 200 million suns' worth of energy as perturbations in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves. Those waves propagated out from the merger like ripples on a pond, eventually washing over Earth—and into our planet's premiere gravitational-wave detectors, the U.S.-built LIGO and European-built Virgo observatories.

Yet gravitational waves were not the merger's only products. The event also emitted electromagnetic radiation—that is, light—marking the first time astronomers have managed to capture both gravitational waves and light from a single source. The first light from the merger was a brief, brilliant burst of gamma rays, a probable birth cry of the black hole picked up by NASA's Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope.

Hours later astronomers using ground-based telescopes detected more light from the merger—a so-called "kilonova"—produced as debris from the merger expanded and cooled. For weeks much of the world's astronomical community watched the kilonova as it slowly faded from view.

According to a 2016 study, supernovae occurring as close as 50 light-years from Earth could pose an imminent danger to Earth's biosphere—humans included. The event would likely shower us in so much high-energy cosmic radiation that it could spark a planetary mass extinction. Researchers have tentatively linked past instances of spiking extinction rates and plummeting biodiversity to postulated astrophysical events, and in at least one case have even found definitive evidence for a nearby supernova as the culprit. Twenty million years ago, a star 325 light-years from Earth exploded, showering the planet in radioactive iron particles that eventually settled in deep-sea sediments on the ocean floor.That event, researchers speculate, may have triggered ice ages and altered the course of evolution and human history.

The exact details of past (and future) astrophysical cataclysms' impact on Earth's biosphere depend not only on their distance, but also their orientation. A supernova, for instance, can sometimes expel its energy in all directions—meaning it is not always a very targeted phenomenon. Merging black holes are expected to emit scarcely any radiation at all, making them surprisingly benign for any nearby biosphere. A kilonova, however, has different physics at play. Neutron stars are a few dozen kilometers in radius rather than a few million like a typical stars. When these dense objects merge, they tend to produce jets that blast out gamma rays from their poles.

"[W]hat it looks like to us, and the effect it has on us, would depend a lot on whether or not one of the jets was pointed directly at us," Frank says. Based on its distance and orientation to Earth, a kilonova's jets would walk the fine line between a spectacular light show and a catastrophic stripping away of the planet's upper atmosphere. If a jet is pointed directly at us, drastic changes could be in store. And we probably wouldn't see them coming. A kilonova begins with a burst of gamma rays—incredibly energetic photons that, by definition, move at light-speed, the fastest anything can travel through the universe. Because nothing else can move faster, those photons would strike first, and without warning.

Don't let all this keep you up at night. Kilonovae are relatively rare cosmic phenomena, estimated to occur just once every 10,000 years in a galaxy like the Milky Way. That's because neutron stars, which are produced by supernovae, hardly ever form as pairs. Usually, a neutron star will receive a hefty "kick" from its formative supernova; sometimes these kicks are strong enough to eject a neutron star entirely from its galaxy to hurtle at high speeds indefinitely through the cosmos. "When neutron stars are born, they're often high-velocity. For them to survive in a binary is nontrivial," Fruchter says. And the chances of two finding each other and merging after forming independently are, for lack of a better term, astronomically low.

For the unabridged report click here: : A Nearby Neutron Star Collision Could Cause Calamity on Earth

Spain's direct rule takes hold in Catalonia as secessionists accept elections

"The party is over" for Carlos Puigdemont
Reuters reports that Spain's direct rule over Catalonia took hold smoothly on Monday as employees ignored calls for civil disobedience to turn up for work, and secessionist parties agreed to stand in new elections, implying acceptance that the regional government was dissolved.

Ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont travelled to Belgium with several other members of his sacked administration, a senior member of Spain's ruling People's Party said. After a day of rumours on his whereabouts, Umberto Gambini, the head of office of Catalan legislator Ramon Tremosa, on Monday said, "He is in Brussels.Yes confirmed.

Spain's state prosecutor, Attorney-General Jose Manuel Maza, called for charges of rebellion and sedition, as well as fraud and misuse of funds, to be brought against Catalan leaders.

Some of the most prominent ousted Catalan leaders, including Puigdemont and Vice-President Oriol Junqueras, had said they would not accept their dismissal. But their respective parties, PdeCat and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, said on Monday they would take part in the election, a tacit acceptance that parliament had been dissolved.

A call for widespread civil disobedience from the main civic groups behind the secessionist campaign failed to attract many followers. Most public sector workers such as teachers, firefighters and the police started worked as normal on Monday and there was no sign of widespread absenteeism.

A trade union, Intersindical-CSC, which had called for a general strike in Catalonia, said on Monday it had cancelled it.

There were no signs of any spontaneous demonstration taking place.

Two opinion polls also showed support for independence may have started to wane. A Sigma Dos survey published in El Mundo showed 33.5 per cent Catalans were in favour of independence while a Metroscopia poll published by El Pais put that number at 29 per cent. This compared to 41.1 per cent in July according to an official survey carried out by the Catalan government.

Opponents of secession largely boycotted the Oct. 1 referendum, when participants voted overwhelmingly for independence on turnout of 43 per cent.

Note EU-Digest: It is hoped that the Belgian Government puts the rebellious Catalan leaders back on an airplane to Spain, where they can be prosecuted for inciting rebellion against the legitimate government of Spain.

Read more: Spain's direct rule takes hold in Catalonia as secessionists accept elections - World - CBC News

USA: - Russia-gate - Trump adviser George Papadopoulos lied about Russian links

An election campaign adviser to Donald Trump has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the timing of meetings with alleged go-betweens for Russia. 

George Papadopoulos admitted the talks happened while he worked for Mr Trump, not before, court papers show.

He said he had been told the Russians possessed "dirt" on Hillary Clinton.

Separately, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering unrelated to the 2016 election.

The charges against Mr Papadopoulos are the first to be brought by Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating alleged links between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Read more: Trump adviser George Papadopoulos lied about Russian links - BBC News


US Economy: the only thing growing faster than the economy is our deficit

As if Republicans didn't face enough hurdles in their sprint to cut taxes, here's another one: $1 trillion annual deficits are rushing back to Washington.

A new analysis from the Bipartisan Policy Center adds new disaster relief spending and the costs of GOP tax-cut plans to earlier projections from the Congressional Budget Office. Its conclusion: The deficit could reach $1 trillion as early as 2019 – four years earlier than the CBO calculated in January.

The only previous episode of trillion-dollar annual deficits began during the Great Recession and financial crisis. As the economy recovered, the deficit fell below that level in 2013.

But now, as retiring baby boomers rapidly swell the rolls of Social Security and Medicare, trillion-dollar deficits are on track to return during a strong economy.

"These projections foreshadow another period of trillion-dollar deficits at a time when the United States has experienced one of the longest continuous economic expansions in history and an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent," the center's analysis concludes.

Noting deficit trends since 1980, the analysis adds that the nation "has piled up debt more than twice as fast as economic growth."

In January, the CBO projected a fiscal 2018 deficit of $48 billion, rising to $1 trillion by 2023. Over the 10-year period from 2018-2027, it forecast deficits totaling $9.4-trillion.

By June, the CBO revised all those numbers to reflect more-than-expected red ink. It pegged the 2018 deficit at $563 billion, a $1.02 trillion deficit in 2022, and 10-year deficits of $10.1-trillion.
The Bipartisan Policy Center analysis updates those projections. It assumes $200 billion over 10 years for the costs of recent wildfires, hurricane damage and flooding. And it folds in the $1.5 trillion in higher deficits allowed by the new budget resolution Congress has passed to smooth the way for tax cuts.

The $1 trillion deficit level held symbolic power for Republicans during President Barack Obama's tenure. They used the prospect of "trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see" to win back the House in 2010 and force a Democratic administration into contentious budget negotiations.

A GOP-controlled Congress has since eased the spending caps that resulted from those budget talks. House conservatives pushed for new spending cuts in the 2018 budget resolution but abandoned them under pressure from the Senate.

The question now is whether the $1 trillion figure still has symbolic power as it shadows a Republican drive to cut taxes. A former GOP staff director at the Senate Budget Committee, who helped produce the new deficit analysis, hopes so but doesn't expect it.

"I'm afraid not," said Steve Bell, who is now at the Bipartisan Policy Center. "What you're hearing from me is the last squawk of a dying deficit hawk."

Read more: The only thing growing faster than the economy is our deficit

EU-Russia trade bouncing back - "Russia is not the EU's enemy, despite US rhetoric to the contrary"

Russia is not an enemy of the EU, to the contrary
The EU-Observer reports that after three years in decline due to sanctions, EU-Russia trade relations have picked up 20 percent so far in 2017;

In September, the EU Parliament published a report confirming that this decline continued in 2016 and this news was also reported by EUobserver.

However, the trend has changed in 2017.

Eurostat data from the first seven months of the year shows that this decline has stopped and, in fact, the trend was reversed with an expected increase of 20 percent by the end of the year compared to 2016.

EU-Russia trade was up to €285 billion in 2014. In 2016, this number dropped to €181 billion. In only three years, EU members imported €64 billion less from Russia and exported to it €31 billion less.

This decline affected Germany, Italy, Austria and Lithuania above all, which constitute €14.5 billion less in export towards Russia.

However, Austria, Ireland and Lithuania are the three members that suffered the most in relative terms with declines in export of 51, 50 and 40 percent respectively in two years only. Interestingly,

Luxembourg is the only country that increased its exports to Russia from 2014 to 2016.

The average decline for EU members was 34 percent in import and 29 percent in export with Russia.

The trend was reversed starting in January 2016 when trade with most of EU member states started to recover.

This is evident if we look at data for the half-year period. When we compare the first six months of 2016 with the same period of 2017, we notice that the volume of EU-Russia trade increased by €27 billion. The lion's share is for Germany with an expansion by €6 billion and the Netherlands with €4 billion. The only country that reduced its trade is Malta with a decrease of €400,000.

If we look at the exports only in the first six months of 2017 compared to last year, then the leading countries are Germany (plus €2.6 billion), Italy (plus €739 million) and the Netherlands (plus €707 million). The only countries decreasing their exports are Malta, Cyprus and the United Kingdom.

The behaviour of trading partners may be an indication that the Crimea crisis has been discounted already and that politics will, slowly, adjust.

One of the signals was the critical stand of some EU members to the recent round of secondary sanctions imposed by US Congress on Russia, which could create problems for companies involved in the construction of Nord Stream II.

While it is hard to predict the direction of trade flows in the future, we can state that the positive trend seems to lead towards a normalisation of EU-Russia trade in the coming future despite the unresolved crises in Crimea, Ukraine and US meddling in the EU-Russia relations..


Spain: The illegal Catalonia independence: Huge Barcelona Pro-Spain Unity Rally

Some 1 million Pro-Spain Unity demonstrated today in Barcelona

Hundreds of thousands are attending a rally for Spanish unity in Barcelona after Catalonia was stripped of its autonomy for declaring independence.

Many of those protesting in the region's largest city chanted that sacked Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont should be jailed.

Mr Puigdemont was dismissed as Spain's central government took control of Catalan institutions.

On Sunday, a minister in Belgium said he could get political asylum there.

Spain has been gripped by a constitutional crisis since a referendum, organised by Mr Puigdemont's separatist government, was held earlier this month in defiance of a ruling by the Constitutional Court which had declared it illegal.

The Guardia Urbana, a Catalan municipal police force, said at least 300,000 people had turned out in Barcelona. Organisers and the government in Madrid put the turnout a more than a million people.

Veteran Catalan politician Josep Borrell, a former president of the European Parliament, told demonstrators that Catalonia's former separatist leaders had no right to speak on behalf of the entire region.

Among the demonstrators was Marina Fernandez, a 19-year-old student, who said she was unhappy with the actions taken by the Catalan authorities.

"I am enraged about what they are doing to the country that my grandparents built," she told the AFP news agency.

Another protester, Maria Lopez, told Reuters news agency: "What do we want? That they don't break us up. This is a disgrace. We are not going to consent. They are shameless, shameless, and Mr Puigdemont needs to be taken to prison."

Read more: Catalonia independence: Huge Barcelona pro-Spain rally - BBC News

Internet Mail Security Programs:6 Best Services for Secure Email 2017 - by Heinz Tschabitscher

A secure email service is the easiest way to keep your emails private and untampered with. Not only are we talking about secure and encrypted email, we're also looking at maintaining anonymity (much more than you get with a regular free email account) and self-destructing emails.

​Here are the 6 best secure email services you can use to send and receive encrypted email – right now.

If you use a secure email service that offers end-to-end encryption, you have taken a huge step towards making your email truly secure and private. Congratulations! Your messages are the fruit that hang really high and are expensive to get.

To make life difficult for even the most dedicated hackers, you can take a few precautions more:
  1. Beware of keylogging software. Key-loggers capture what you type right from your keyboard – before any secure email encryption software can protect it.
  2. Do not leave your mobile devices and computers unguarded. Also, make sure your devices are themselves protected with strong passwords or biometrics and have no guest accounts or similarly unprotected access allowed. 
  3. Be vigilant of social engineering. Phishing attempts often come by email, instant messages, VoIP or social networking messages and can be very cleverly designed (possibly tailored specifically to you) to trick you into handing out personal details, information or even passwords. 
  4. Do not write down or share any passwords. Never make a note of the password that lets you decrypt secure emails you receive.
    Note: Also guard passwords to other email accounts or social networking accounts with particular care. 
  5. Assume that, given enough resources, interest or time, it will be possible to hack into your every email account (even encrypted email).In fact, it may be even "easier" to force, trick or blackmail you so you reveal information directly or grant access to secure email accounts.

Read more: 6 Best Services for Secure Email 2017

Outer Space: Mystery object might be first visitor from another solar system

Astronomers around the world are trying to track down a small, fast-moving object that is zipping through our solar system.

Is a comet? An asteroid? NASA’s not sure. The space agency doesn’t even know where it came from, but it’s not behaving like the local space rocks and that means it may not be from our solar system.

If that’s confirmed, NASA says “it would be the first interstellar object to be observed and confirmed by astronomers.”

“We have been waiting for this day for decades,” Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, said in a NASA news release.

  “It’s long been theorized that such objects exist — asteroids or comets moving around between the stars and occasionally passing through our solar system — but this is the first such detection. So far, everything indicates this is likely an interstellar object, but more data would help to confirm it.”

NASA says astronomers are pointing telescopes on the ground and in space at the object to get that data.

For now, the object is being called A/2017 U1. Experts think it’s less than a quarter-mile (400 meters) in diameter and it’s racing through space at 15.8 miles (25.5 kilometers) per second.

Rob Weryk, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, was the first to identify the object and immediately realized there was something different about it.

“Its motion could not be explained using either a normal solar system asteroid or comet orbit,” he said.

“This object came from outside our solar system.”  Whatever “it” is, the object isn’t a threat to Earth.

NASA say that on October 14, it safely passed our home world at a distance of about 15 million miles (24 million kilometers) — that’s about 60 times the distance to the moon.

Where’s it going? Scientists think the object is heading toward the constellation Pegasus and is on its way out of our solar system.

“This is the most extreme orbit I have ever seen,” said Davide Farnocchia, a scientist at the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies. “It is going extremely fast and on such a trajectory that we can say with confidence that this object is on its way out of the solar system and not coming back.”

“It” may eventually get a better name than A/2017 U1, but since the object is the first of its kind, the International Astronomical Union will have to come up with new rules for naming the object.

Read more: Mystery object might be first visitor from another solar system |


Spain: Catalonia: Not one country in the world has so-far recognized Catalonia's declaration of independence

Carles Puigdemont: "to be or not to be?"
Spain’s Senate on Friday voted to grant Madrid powers to impose direct rule on Catalonia, shortly after the semi-autonomous region’s parliament approved a motion declaring independence
Herewith are five questions about what it means to make a unilateral declaration of independence:

Known by its acronym UDI, the term was first coined in 1965 when the former Rhodesia’s minority white government declared unilateral independence from British colonial rule.

The process itself is when a new state is established within an existing country, declaring itself sovereign and independent without the consent of the entity, country or state from which it is seceding.

“Any entity has the right to declare its independence. But to become a state that of course requires a territory, a population and authorities,” said Jean-Claude Piris, a Brussels-based international law consultant and former EU legal services director for 23 years.

“But what matters most is recognition by the international community,” he said. “Everyone has the right to issue a declaration of independence, but that in itself has no international consequence.”
Piris said very few countries will recognize Catalonia and “I guarantee you no one will recognize them” in the EU.

“Therefore it will remain an empty declaration: Catalonia will not be represented in international organizations, they will not sit in the EU, they will not be able to do anything and legally they will remain part of Spain,” he said.

Is Catalonia’s UDI legal and what will happen next: -

“What matters now is what will happen nationally and in the streets,” said Piris.

“Are there going to be demonstrations, barricades? Will people accept and submit” if Spain triggers Catalan guardianship . . . “or will there be violence?”

Spain “experienced a civil war not so long ago and just before World War II,” Piris pointed out.

If Catalonia becomes an independent state the implications “cannot be underestimated” said Narin Idriz, a researcher at the Hague-based Asser Institute
“All European Union member states cherish their territorial integrity, they will not want the same thing to happen to them, therefore it will be very difficult to find any support,” she said.

Bottom-line: at this point deposed Catalan leader Mr. Carles Puigdemont declaration of independence is not recognized by any country, and he personally risks arrest if he continues to defy the Spanish Constitution.


USA - Russia Investigation: Robert Mueller’s Office Will Serve First Indictment Monday - by K,DILANIAN, P.HELSEL and P.MCCAUSLAND

A federal grand jury in Washington has approved the first criminal charges in the special counsel’s investigation into Russian election interference, two sources told NBC News, marking a significant milestone in an inquiry that has roiled Donald Trump’s presidency.

Robert Mueller's Office of the Special Counsel will make public an indictment on Monday, a U.S. official with firsthand knowledge of the process confirmed to NBC News, without disclosing the name of the target or the nature of the charges. The timing was confirmed by a second source familiar with the matter. CNN was the first to report on Friday that the grand jury approved charges, citing multiple sources.

The network added that the charges remain sealed by order of a federal judge. Peter Carr, a spokesperson for Mueller, declined to comment Friday night.

Mueller, a former FBI director, was appointed in May as special counsel to oversee the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the election. Former FBI Director James Comey testified to Congress that the FBI began investigating the matter in July 2016, but the investigation picked up steam after Trump took office in January.

Read more:Robert Mueller’s Office Will Serve First Indictment Monday, Sources Confirm

EU Winter Time: Don't forget! Clocks go back 1 hour on Sunday in most of Europe

It's that time of year again – as autumn has hit the EU and winter is approaching, clocks go back one hour in the night between Saturday and Sunday this weekend.

As a result of the change, it will be light earlier in the morning – a welcome change for early risers – but darkness will also fall earlier in the evening.

Within the EU, clocks always go forward for daylight saving time on the last Sunday in March, to go back on the last Sunday in October. Elsewhere in the world, other daylight saving time regimes apply, while many countries do no use this practice at all.

Discussions have also frequently arisen in Europe over the usefulness of changing the clocks with the seasons. While some argue that this enables to save electricity, especially during daylight saving time, this has not been proven true by independent studies.

So who knows, the practice might also be abolished in the EU one day?



Spain moves to take over Catalonia after region declares independence - by W. Booth and P.Rolfe

The Spanish Senate gave the central government in Madrid unprecedented powers over Catalonia on Friday, just minutes after the breakaway region declared independence, sharply escalating a constitutional crisis in the center of western Europe.

The two votes — one for independence, one to restore constitutional rule — came in dueling sessions of parliaments in Barcelona and Madrid.

The central government easily won permission to take over control of Catalonia. Meanwhile, secessionists in Catalonia faced bitter recriminations from Catalan foes who called the move for nationhood a coup and a historic blunder, a month after a referendum that backed a split from Spain.

Spain quickly began to move against what it views as an insurrection. The constitutional court started proceedings against the Catalan parliament’s declaration of independence. There were also reports that Spanish prosecutors were preparing to file rebellion charges against Catalan President Carles Puigdemont.

The widening impasse has left little middle ground in Spain for possible compromises and has spilled over to the European Union, whose leaders fear another internal crisis after major upheavals such as Britain’s exit from the bloc and "the election of anti-EU United States President Trump 

Read more: Spain moves to take over Catalonia after region declares independence - The Washington Post

Spain: Catalan crisis reaches point of no return: Spain PM Rajoy demands direct rule

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has called on senators to approve direct rule over Catalonia, amid an escalating crisis over the region's push for independence. 

He said he wanted to dismiss Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, his vice-president and all regional ministers.

Meanwhile the Catalan regional parliament is holding a vote on unilaterally declaring independence.

Earlier this month Catalonia held a disputed referendum on the issue.

NOTE EU-DIGEST: The Catalan Parliament voted overwhelmingly this afternoon (Friday) in favor of declaring independence from Spain, taking the country's deepening political crisis into uncharted territory.

The Spanish government is now expected to begin moves at the weekend to remove from office ( arrest) the Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and his ministers, and impose direct rule from Madrid.

Situation is quite tense in Barcelona.

Read more: Catalan crisis: Spain PM Rajoy demands direct rule - BBC News

Germany -Alternative Energy: Self-driving bus starts first route in Germany

German railway company Deutsche Bahn has introduced an autonomous bus to drive passengers along a pre-programmed route in Bavaria. In case of an emergency, a human driver can take control with a joystick.

The electric vehicle delivered its first passengers on Wednesday in Bad Birnach, Bavaria, starting on its eight-minute route from the town's hot springs to the central area and the railway station. The EZ10 bus has six places to sit and can take in a further six standing passengers, and the ride is free of charge.

It's the first time a self-driving bus has been incorporated in Germany's public transport system.

Among the first group to ride the self-driving bus was Richard Lutz, the head of the German railway giant Deutsche Bahn (DB), the company behind the pilot project.

Read more: Self-driving bus starts first route in Germany | News | DW | 26.10.2017

Asian Economy: New billionaire born in Asia every other day

The total wealth of billionaires surged to six trillion dollars last year, more than 17 percent than a year ago. Asian billionaires are outpacing their US counterparts for the first time, says research released by UBS on Thursday.

The surge is caused by an increase in Asia’s emerging billionaire class and growth in the materials, industrials, financial and technology sectors.

“On average, a new billionaire was created in Asia every two days, with the total number of Asian billionaires rising by almost a quarter to 637, compared to 563 in the US,” the report says.

Read more: New billionaire born in Asia every other day — RT Business News

Global Politics: Beyond Gridlock In World Politics - by Thomas Hale

"The end is near, but we did it my way"
Can we manage the globalized world we have created? Every day seems to bring new evidence to the contrary. From the wars in the Middle East to nuclear tensions in East Asia, to an ongoing migration crisis, to the looming threats of pandemics and financial shocks, to the growing danger of climate change, our ability to meet global challenges is falling short.

In our 2013 book Gridlock, written with Kevin Young, we argued that these instances of multilateral breakdown were not just a string of bad news, but products of the same historical process. The “success” of the post-war order in building a managed form of globalization allowed interdependence to deepen. New countries joined the global economy, companies expanded transnationally, and once distant people and places found themselves increasingly—and, on average, beneficially—intertwined.

But the virtuous cycle between deepening interdependence and expanding global governance could not last because it set in motion trends (see Box 1) that ultimately undermined its effectiveness. Increasing multipolarity reflected the success of bringing millions out of poverty, but also increased the number and diversity of voices that had to agree on global issues. Deepening interdependence brought many benefits, but also generated harder, more complex problems, intermestic issues that penetrate deep into domestic affairs. As international organizations expanded to address these new challenges, many found themselves locked into sub-optimal policies and decision-making rules that could not adapt to changing circumstances. And this institutional inertia in turn led to a proliferation of new institutions and organizations, fragmenting many areas of world politics into a confusion of overlapping jurisdictions and redundancies. The result is gridlock.

Since we wrote Gridlock, the problem has arguably worsened. Most dramatically, there has been a sharp rise in nationalism and populism around the world. From Trump’s America to Brexit Britain, from Modi’s India to Xi’s China, from Erdogan’s Turkey to Duterte’s Philippines, national leaders are winning by promising to “take back control” and (re)assert their national power.

Though this trend has multiple causes and many local variations, we argue these nationalist leaders are not isolated cases, but in part products of a systemic trend we call self-reinforcing gridlock (figure 1). The logic is as follows: Gridlock weakens our ability to manage globalization and deal with global issues, which inflicts real harm on significant segments of the world population. Think of the failure of global financial regulation to stem the 2008-2009 crisis, or the failure to address adequately the current refugee crisis, for example. Exposed to the hard edge of globalization, populations naturally react against it, seeking to reassert national control. This creates the political conditions under which nationalist, populist leaders can succeed. But instead of calibrating nuanced and effective solutions, such leaders tend to reject global cooperation and openness altogether, often exacerbating the very problems that brought them to power in the first place. This rejectionist ideology deepens gridlock and begins the whole cycle anew.

Read more: Beyond Gridlock In World Politics


Spain: Catalonia braces for Spain takeover as two sides remain deadlocked - by M. Fiske and L.King

In a crowd outside Catalonia's ornate regional headquarters in Barcelona, two men argued fervently. One was for independence from Spain, the other against.

Like others elsewhere in Catalonia, Xaui Nicolau, 41, and Juan Antonio Martinez, 67, argued over whether the northeastern region's president, Carles Puigdemont, had miscalculated by refusing to renounce secessionist aims.

Puigdemont, in a speech Thursday, ruled out early parliamentary elections — some observers thought holding the elections might help stave off Madrid's takeover — but not independence.

Now, with the Spanish government poised to strip Catalonia of its regional autonomy and remove Puigdemont as soon as Saturday, Nicolau said a unilateral declaration of independence was "the only option" remaining.

But Martinez, like officials in Madrid, staunchly insisted that Catalonia's independence drive was illegal. "It's the way you did it," he said. "It's not constitutional." Spain's Senate is to vote Friday on implementing direct rule in Catalonia to quell its independence bid — a step never before taken in Spain's democratic era by the central government.

After Puigdemont spoke, the regional parliament convened to try to plot a course in the face of Spain's looming deadline. The talk continued into the night before recessing until Friday morning.

Read more: - Catalonia braces for Spain takeover as two sides remain deadlocked – LA Times


Spain: Catalonia vice president says Spain gave region no choice but to declare 'new republic'-by Caroline Mortimer

 Catalonia's vice-president has said that the Spanish government has given them "no choice" but declare independence.

Oriol Junqueras said his party, one of the two in the ruling separatist coalition which forms the Catalan government, is "going to work toward building a republic" because they have a "democratic mandate" following a referendum earlier this month.

Madrid declared the referendum illegal and sent in its centralised police force, the Civil Guard, to stop people voting. Officers were seen firing rubber bullets at crowds and beating voters as they attempted to enter polling stations during the vote on 1st October.

Read more: Catalonia vice president says Spain has given region no choice but to declare 'new republic' | The Independent

EU Citizens Privacy Rights: EU privacy regulators increase pressure on WhatsApp over data sharing

European Union privacy regulators rapped WhatsApp on the knuckles for not resolving their concerns over the messaging service's sharing of user data with parent company Facebook, a year after they first issued a warning.

The popular messaging service changed its privacy policy last year to start sharing users' phone numbers and other information with Facebook. That drew widespread regulatory scrutiny across Europe, and WhatsApp subsequently suspended the data sharing for EU users.

In a letter sent to WhatsApp on Tuesday and published on Wednesday, the group of EU data protection authorities - known as the Article 29 Working Party - said the company had still not resolved its concerns about getting user consent for the data sharing.

They noted that the information given users about the privacy policy update was "seriously deficient as a means to inform their consent."

"Whilst the WP29 (Article 29 Working Party) notes there is a balance to be struck between presenting the user with too much information and not enough, the initial screen made no mention at all of the key information users needed to make an informed choice, namely that clicking the agree button would result in their personal data being shared with the Facebook family of companies," the letter said.

The Irish data protection authority - which has jurisdiction over Facebook in the EU because the company's European headquarters are in Dublin - said in April that it hoped to reach a deal in the coming months on the data sharing with WhatsApp.

"Over the last year we have engaged with data protection authorities to explain how our 2016 terms and privacy policy update apply to people who use WhatsApp in Europe. We remain committed to respecting applicable law and will continue to work collaboratively with officials in Europe to address their questions," a WhatsApp spokesman said.

The WP29 also said users' consent was not freely given as WhatsApp effectively adopted a "take it or leave it approach in which users either signal their 'consent' to the sharing of data or they are unable to avail themselves of WhatsApp's messaging service."

A new EU data protection law will come into force in May which will give regulators the power to fine companies up to 4 percent of their global turnover, a huge increase compared with the present levels.

Read more: EU privacy regulators increase pressure on WhatsApp over data sharing

EU-US Relations: Trump’s Plan to End Europe - by David Frum

Within weeks of his inauguration, President Donald Trump had already wrought a strategic revolution in U.S. foreign policy. Russia, formerly an antagonist, has been promoted to preferred partner. In its place, Team Trump has identified a new enemy. With this enemy there can be no coexistence, no cooperation. It must be humbled and divided, not merely defeated but utterly overthrown. This enemy is the European Union.

Previously stridently opposed to any U.S. action against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, Trump ordered a cruise-missile attack on a Syrian airfield—and then the next week criticized President Obama in a Fox Business interview for following the very advice that citizen Trump had pressed since 2013. Might the president yet also reverse himself on the European Union too?

Bottom line: President Trump continuously acts impulsively and consequently has alienated most of the friendly nations and allies the US had in the past. Even some of his Republican party members in the Senate and Congress now are openly suggesting the US President is taking the US into the :deep end" of a cesspool  he himself has created.

War Profiteering: George Clooney Donates $1 Million To Investigate War Profiteering In Africa - by Greg Evansby

George Clooney has donated $1 million through his Clooney Foundation for Justice to The Sentry, a team of policy analysts and financial forensic investigators tracking down war profiteering networks in Africa.
The gift kicks off the Sentry’s “Making War Criminals Pay” fundraising campaign, and will, the organization says, “dramatically increase its production of dossiers focused on war criminals and their financial networks.”

The Sentry also announced leadership gifts from Don Cheadle, Carl Allen, Ruben Vardanyan, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, and three major anonymous donors. In all, including the Clooney Foundation grant, the gifts total $3.45 million, with a campaign goal of $6 million.

Clooney is the co-founder of The Sentry, and said: ”Our focus is to make sure that war crimes don’t pay. We want to make it more difficult for those willing to kill en masse to secure their political and economic objectivesWhen we’re able to go after the warlords’ wallets and bankrupt those who choose the bullet over the ballot, suddenly the incentives are for peace, not war; transparency, not corruption.”

Read more: George Clooney Donates $1 Million To Investigate War Profiteering In Africa

USA: United Church Of Christ Open Letter To Donald Trump - by Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie

Dear Mr. Trump:

I write as a minister in the United Church of Christ, dedicated to the principles put forth by the Gospels, and as a citizen of the United States deeply committed to the common good of our people. My purpose in writing is to share with you that members of your Faith Council have misled you into believing that the policies you promote and the language you use are faithful to the teachings of Jesus. They are not.

It is not the job of any U.S. political leader to impose the Christian faith on the American people, but you have professed the Christian faith. So I write you as a fellow Christian with the humble hope of encouraging you to address errors in your thinking.

Jesus began his ministry by quoting the words of the Prophet Isaiah:

    The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

As president, Mr. Trump, you have perused economic policies that would increase poverty. Economists from across the political spectrum have said your budget and tax proposals would bring the nation back to financial collapse. Concern over your budget proposals prompted this warning to members of Congress from the U.S. Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops:

    A just framework for sound fiscal policy cannot rely almost exclusively on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons.

Your economic policy, coupled with tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, does just what the bishops have spoken in opposition against. The budget and tax plans under consideration by Congress today bring no good news to the poor: only pain and suffering. This has only been made worse by your attempts to dismantle and undermine the Affordable Care Act, legislation that extended health care coverage to tens of millions and lifted millions more out of poverty.

Jim Winkler, the General Secretary and President of the National Council of Churches in Christ USA, has written in response to your efforts to end the ACA:

    The Bible teaches, ‘Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I, therefore, command you, open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land (Deuteronomy 15:11 NRSV).’ We have a responsibility to take care of ourselves and to take care of one another. We simply cannot remain silent in the face of this effort to do harm to our people.

There are many issues, Mr. Trump, Christians cannot be silent on as your rhetoric and policies tear apart the fabric of American society and endanger international peace.

White supremacy must always been condemned. There are never “two sides” to this issue, and good people do not associate themselves with a resurgent Nazi movement. You have aligned yourself proudly with the alt-right movement. I agree with the Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, professor of theology at Chicago Theological Seminary, who has written:

    Don’t use the term ‘alt-right.’ Call this racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, Islamaphobic, homophobic, and xenophobic ideology by its correct name. This is neo-Nazism.

There is nothing Christian about discrimination, Mr. Trump. Your proposal for a Muslim Ban and a wall between Mexico and the United States are fundamentally based on bigotry and lies that accompany hatred.

Jesus calls on his followers to be peacemakers, but you have threatened nuclear genocide against North Korea and dismissed the power of diplomacy as a tool to contain North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. This is why hundreds of faith leaders from around the country have said to Congress that:

    Holding to our core religious convictions that nuclear weapons are a threat to what God has created, we call on the United States Congress to immediately pass the bill introduced by Senator Ed Markey and Rep. Ted Lieu that would require congressional approval before any president could launch a nuclear first strike.

You have as president, Mr. Trump, endangered the future of the entire planet by withdrawing from the Paris Accords. Children across the globe will live – or die – with the reality of climate change because you have refused to protect God’s creation.

At the same time, you have weakened religious freedom in the United States. The Rev. Jennifer Butler, CEO of Faith in Public Life, should be applauded for her condemnation of your administration’s new rules on religious freedom that allow discrimination in the name of religion.

Love of neighbor, Mr. Trump, is what Christians are called to do. But every day you Tweet hate at one group or another. You side with those who hate. Your policies abandon those Jesus called the “least of these” and each day you bring us closer to war with nations such as Iran, by forgoing diplomacy and peacemaking in favor of an ideology that goes against nearly every Christian ethical understanding.

Mr. Trump, I implore you to prayerfully reconsider the totality of your worldview and to let God open your heart to new understandings. Wise leaders are not stubborn but rather are engaged in an on-going process of learning.

Your Christian faith can be a source of inspiration and hope to you. First, however, you must reject the advice of the charlatans that make up your Faith Council and open The White House back up to a diverse and pluralistic group of faith leaders who can better advise you. Time is running short. Soon the damaged caused by your flawed understanding of the Christian faith might cause irreversible damage.

I pledge to help you, Mr. Trump, or to do everything in my power to resist you.

In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie

Note by EU-Digest: If you had any doubts as a Christian about Donald Trump's hypocritical statements in relation to his faith, this open  letter by Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie member of the United Church of Christ (UCC), a mainline Protestant Christian denomination, with historical confessional roots in the Reformed, Congregational and Evangelical Protestant traditions, which has over 5,000 churches and nearly one million members, should hopefully convince you differently.

Read more: Open Letter To Donald Trump From A Christian Minister | HuffPost


Spain: Catalonia independence - Carles Puigdemont faces PRISON if he declares independence - by Jon Rogers

José Manuel Maza, 66, gave a blunt message to the President of the north east region and said he would call on the Catalan police - Mossos d’Esquadra - to detain Mr Puigdemont, who has been the focal figures in the region’s push to break away from the rest of Spain.

Mr Maza, speaking at an event on cybersecurity in Madrid, said: “I am surprised that this is surprising. This is normal and natural in a state of law and, therefore, it is logical to pursue.

The rebellion crime is punishable by 30 years in prison if it is a crime of considerable gravity, of course."

He added that if the Catalan police did not comply with the order, Spain would take over control of the force.

Read more: Catalonia independence - Carles Puigdemont faces PRISON if he declares independence | World | News |


NATO partners adrift: USA and Turkey

Turkish-US relations have soured despite President Donald Trump's hosting of his "friend" President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Washington in May.

DW traces in photo clips what led to the allies having their worst spat in five decades.

View clips and more: NATO partners adrift: USA and Turkey | All media content | DW | 09.10.2017

NAFTA: Trump’s zero-sum game has likely doomed NAFTA - by Lawrence Herman

Round 4 of the NAFTA negotiations ended in exceptional bitterness on Tuesday, with the United States presenting a series of deeply disturbing and unacceptable proposals. While the negotiating deadline was extended into early 2018, the talks are heading downhill and will likely hit the wall before then.

ti's interesting that commentators are now talking about the need for a Plan B (or C or D) for Canada, when it should have been clear that these talks were on a perilous slope from the outset.

While policy wonks were once full of naive optimism about modernizing the North American free-trade agreement, a cold shower of realism would have doused that rosy glow. The problem is these negotiations were never born of common objectives among like-minded governments. We're in these talks because of a diktat from one source – U.S. President Donald Trump.

After repeatedly condemning NAFTA as a "disaster" and the "worst trade agreement ever," Mr. Trump wasn't going to go gentle into that good night. He was obviously going to follow through with aggressively one-sided demands to Canada and Mexico – and that's what they are – or else.

U.S. presidents set the tone for their administrations in inaugural addresses to the country and the world at large. Remember Franklin Roosevelt and "We've nothing to fear but fear itself," or John F. Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you …"

In the case of Mr. Trump, it was a bombastic and inward-looking declaration that it would be "America first and only America first" during his term of office.

The U.S. approach to these negotiations is unprecedented, the opposite of countries sitting at the table to reach a balanced and mutually agreeable outcome. Mr. Trump will have none of that; to the contrary, it's all about a zero-sum, take-no-hostages game used by him in putting together real estate deals.

Faced with this reality, comments about the need for alternative plans for Canada are part of a deeper concern over an uncertain trade and political relationship with the United States.

Read more: Trump’s zero-sum game has likely doomed NAFTA - The Globe and Mail

USA an unreliable EU partner?: Who Wins and Who Loses in an ‘America Alone’ World? - by Judah Grunstein

 One of the major concerns among critics of U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy has always been that, in addition to potentially destabilizing the global order, it might end up being a shortcut to an “America alone” world. Trump’s decision last week not to recertify the Iran nuclear deal represented a step in that direction.

Read more: Who Wins and Who Loses in an ‘America Alone’ World?

EU Maritime Regulations:Safer sea travel as EU adopts rules on passenger ships

Tougher safety rules and standards for passengers ships in Europe were given the final go-ahead by EU ministers Monday, as they adopted three directives to simplify and improve passenger safety.

The directives, informally agreed with the European Parliament in June this year, revise passenger ship safety rules and standards, digitalise the registration of ship passengers and create a clear framework for the inspection of ro-ro ferries and high-speed passenger craft.

"These new rules will improve the safety of people travelling on our seas," said Estonia's Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Kadri Simson, for the EU presidency: "But they will also simplify and speed up procedures for shipping companies, including through digitalization, and this is good news for businesses and our economy as a whole."

Read more: Safer sea travel as EU adopts rules on passenger ships — | EU news, business and politics

Spain-Catalonia says it will defy orders from Spanish government when it imposes direct rule - by Julien Toyer, Paul Day

Catalonia will defy attempts by Madrid to enforce direct rule on the region in a dispute that is raising fears of unrest among Spain's European allies.

The Spanish government has invoked special constitutional powers to fire the regional government and force elections to counter an independence drive. A vote in the national Senate to implement direct rule is due on Friday.

But leaders of the secessionist campaign said a referendum on 1 October, in which 43 per cent of the electorate voted, gave them a mandate to claim independence from the rest of Spain.Also notable is that only 1 in 3 Catalans participated in the referendum, with most opponents of secession staying at home.

Note EU-Digest: With only 43 % (1 in 3) of the voters in Catalonia coming out to vote in this illegal and dubiously organized referendum, the Catalan Government can certainly not claim they have a clear mandate to become independent, and one can only hope the leadership of this "movement" will be arrested and put to trial.  

Catalonia says it will defy orders from Spanish government when it imposes direct rule | The Independent


US Press Poll: 46% of Americans believe major news outlets make up stories about Trump - by Kelly Swanson

Attacks on the “fake news” media have become a staple of the Trump administration — and nearly half of voters, including the vast majority of Republicans, believe the president when he claims that the media is making up stories about him. 

Forty-six percent of voters believe that major news organizations fabricate stories about Trump, while 37 percent do not and 17 percent are undecided, according to a new Politico/Morning Consult poll.
Among party lines, 76 percent of Republican voters believe the media puts out untrue stories about the president, while only 11 percent think the media is honest in its coverage of Trump. Twenty percent of Democrats believe the media creates fake stories about Trump, while 65 percent do not. 

But a slim majority — 51 percent — said the government shouldn’t have the power to revoke broadcast news licenses for news organizations it believes are fabricating stories. This was an idea Trump was in favor of and recently floated on Twitter.

Read more: Poll: 46% of Americans believe major news outlets make up stories about Trump - Vox

Belgian Politics: Socialists and greens create alliance in Antwerp

Antwerp Socialists SP.A and ecological party Groen have joined together in an alliance to run in next year’s local elections. In so doing, they follow in the footsteps of their local representatives in Ghent, which joined together in a cartel for the 2012 elections and will again for next year. Hasselt’s socialists and greens have also formed a cartel.

In Ghent, the move gave the SP.A-Groen cartel an absolute majority in the last elections, which the parties hope to see repeated in Antwerp. The port city was a socialist stronghold until N-VA swept the local elections in 2012, which saw long-time mayor Patrick Janssens losing the post to Bart De Wever.

Leading the list in Antwerp next year will be Wouter Van Besien of Groen, who calls the co-operation – known as Samen, or Together – an alliance rather than a cartel. “It’s not really a cartel,” he told VRT. “It is an alliance in which other people, also outside politics, will be brought together.”

The vote to form the alliance was as good as unanimous within SP.A but saw some dissent inside Groen, where ultimately 76% of members voted in favour. Former Groen president Mieke Vogels is an opponent of the alliance, she told VRT. “I’m not pro-cartel in general,” she said, “and I’m not at all convinced by the particular platform at the centre of this alliance. I find it weak, a bit of a grey area.”

Read more: Socialists and greens create alliance in Antwerp | Flanders Today

Finland: Finnish technology firms: Wage hikes can't exceed 1%

Finnish medium-sized technology firms widely recognize that freezing wages for another year would reduce the work motivation of employees but remind that the room for wage increases is very limited, reports Kauppalehti.

The export-oriented technology firms surveyed by the newspaper indicated their willingness to agree on wage increases of 0.4–0.7 per cent.

The firms warned that raising wages by more than one per cent would especially erode the competitiveness of businesses that derive the majority of their revenues from exports. Any disruptions to production, they added, would also increase the risk of losing export orders to rival companies.

Juha Mäkitalo, the chief executive of Finn-Power, a manufacturer of sheet metal processing machinery that is about to re-locate its production facility from Kauhava to Seinäjoki, also pointed out that the prices of raw materials have spiked by almost 33 per cent over a short period of time.

“Earlier wage moderation has been helpful. It’ll also continue being an important competitive asset for us relative to, for example, our German competitors,” he commented to Kauppalehti.

Read more: Finnish technology firms: Wage hikes can't exceed 1%

EU Military Forces: EU leaders aim for December re: defence cooperation

EU leaders agreed on Thursday (19 October) at their summit in Brussels to launch the beefed-up defense cooperation among EU countries by December.

The conclusions of the summit encourage participating member states of so-called Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) to notify the council and high commissioner Federica Mogherini of their intention to join. The aim is, among other things, to pool resources, and launch joint procurements.

Read more: EU leaders aim for December for defence cooperation

Go by Rail to Asia: New rail routes between China and Europe will change trade & tourism patterns

Route map - The Silk Route & Central Asia by trainASTANA in Kazakhstan is one of the world’s most remote capitals, surrounded by thousands of kilometres of empty steppe. This summer Astana attempted to launch itself onto the global stage by hosting the World Expo, which closed on September 10th and underwhelmed many attendees. But there are other ways to have an impact. On the city’s north side, away from the Expo’s exhibits, a series of diesel trains, each pulling dozens of containers, roll through the old railway station. Most are heading from China to Europe. Last year over 500,000 tonnes of freight went by train between the two, up from next to nothing before 2013. Airlines and shipping firms are watching things closely.

The trains rumbling through Astana result from a Chinese initiative, in tandem with countries like Kazakhstan, to build a “New Silk Road” through Central Asia. The earlier overland routes were once the conduits for most trade between Europe and China and India; they faded into irrelevance when European ships started circumnavigating the Cape of Good Hope.

China has long wanted to develop its inland regions and push industry to “go west”, in order to spread economic growth more evenly. Manufacturers have been loth to shift, in part because of the higher cost of moving goods to ports for export. Developing a rail-freight network to Europe—an important part of China’s “One Belt One Road” policy—opens up a new route to market for its poorest areas. The land route through Central Asia is relatively short. A container ship too large for the Suez canal must make a 24,000km journey to reach Europe. Trains travel no more than 11,000km to reach the same destination.

Kazakhstan has spent over 1.1trn tenge ($3.2bn) on upgrading its railway lines and rolling stock since 2011. That includes $250m on the Khorgos Gateway, a dry port at the border with China that lifts containers from Chinese trains onto Kazakh ones to overcome a change in track width (a problem that has stymied previous efforts to build railway routes between Europe and China).

Volumes of freight travelling between China and Europe by rail are rising quickly. Between 2013 and 2016 cargo traffic quintupled in weight. In the first half of this year the value of goods travelling by train rose by 144% compared with the same period in 2016. Western firms have been keen to embrace rail freight because it helps them to lower costs, says Ronald Kleijwegt, an expert on the industry. In the case of high-tech electronics, for example, which consumers like to receive quickly, making them on China’s coast and air-freighting them to Europe is extremely pricey.

How worried should shipping firms and airlines be? Kazakhstan’s national rail company, KTZ, says it will have capacity for 1.7m containers to pass through the country between Europe and China each year by 2020; that is a tenth of the volume currently carried by sea and air between the two. In the longer term, a full modernisation of the existing main three rail routes from China to Europe could produce 3m containers a year in capacity.

But there are also reasons to doubt that will happen. For one thing, China plans to stop handing out government subsidies for additional rail-freight capacity from 2020, which will slow the network’s expansion. Sea freight has little to fear in the near term, says Soren Skou, chief executive of Maersk, the world’s biggest container-shipping line. Trains may take away some future growth from ships, he concedes, but not their existing business.

Air cargo is more vulnerable. Last year, 180,000 tonnes of cargo travelled on trains to western Europe from China (the remainder was destined for Russia and eastern Europe). That is a small fraction of the 52m tonnes that came by sea, but a big chunk of the 700,000 tonnes that came by air. Much of that air cargo could switch to rail in future, says Mr Kleijwegt, with one important proviso—that Russia would need to lift the retaliatory sanctions it placed in 2014 on imports of Western food, which stop most foodstuffs from traveling by land between Europe and China. That is unlikely for the time being. But it was only a decade ago that people thought the idea of freight trains between Europe and China was a joke, says Mr Kleijwegt—and no one laughs at that any more.

Read more: New rail routes between China and Europe will change trade patterns