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11/30/17

THE EU NEEDS A FRIENDLY DIVORCE FROM THE US: "before Donald Trump finalizes building his Autocracy in the U.S."

Is the Trump Autocracy becoming a reality? 
David Frum recently wrote in the ATLANTIC : "Ii’s 2021, and President Donald Trump will shortly be sworn in for his second term. The 45th president has visibly aged over the past four years. He rests heavily on his daughter Ivanka’s arm during his infrequent public appearances".

"Fortunately for him, he did not need to campaign hard for reelection. His has been a popular presidency: Big tax cuts, big spending, and big deficits have worked their familiar expansive magic. Wages have grown strongly in the Trump years, especially for men without a college degree, even if rising inflation is beginning to bite into the gains. The president’s supporters credit his restrictive immigration policies and his TrumpWorks infrastructure program".

"The president’s critics, meanwhile, have found little hearing for their protests and complaints. A Senate investigation of Russian hacking during the 2016 presidential campaign sputtered into inconclusive partisan wrangling. Concerns about Trump’s purported conflicts of interest excited debate in Washington but never drew much attention from the wider American public".

"Allegations of fraud and self-dealing in the TrumpWorks program, and elsewhere, have likewise been shrugged off. The president regularly tweets out news of factory openings and big hiring announcements: “I’m bringing back your jobs,” he has said over and over. Voters seem to have believed him—and are grateful".

"Most Americans intuit that their president and his relatives have become vastly wealthier over the past four years. But rumors of graft are easy to dismiss. Because Trump has never released his tax returns, no one really knows".

"Anyway, doesn’t everybody do it? On the eve of the 2018 congressional elections, WikiLeaks released years of investment statements by prominent congressional Democrats indicating that they had long earned above-market returns. As the air filled with allegations of insider trading and crony capitalism, the public subsided into weary cynicism. The Republicans held both houses of Congress that November, and Trump loyalists shouldered aside the pre-Trump leadership"

"Those citizens who fantasize about defying tyranny from within fortified compounds have never understood how liberty is actually threatened in a modern bureaucratic state: not by diktat and violence, but by the slow, demoralizing process of corruption and deceit. And the way that liberty must be defended is not with amateur firearms, but with an unwearying insistence upon the honesty, integrity, and professionalism of American institutions and those who lead them. We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free government of the United States that anyone alive has encountered. What happens next is up to you and me. Don’t be afraid. This moment of danger can also be your finest hour as a citizen and an American."

Note EU-Digest: Our European political leaders should take the time to read this excellent article from the Atlantic and act upon it, before they and the people of Europe, get sucked into this rapidly developing US quagmire.

Read the full report re: the playbook Donald Trump could use to set the country down a path toward illiberalism.


EU-Digest

Spain - Economy: Barcelona port container traffic rises by historic 36%

The third quarter of 2017 was the best ever seen for container traffic for the Barcelona port, which grew by 36.8%.

Total port traffic surged by 31.2%. The port authority said that the increase was due to a sharp acceleration in traffic that began in early 2017. Container traffic rose by 31% from January to September: a total of over 2.2 million TEU.

All cargo transport sectors did well during the quarter, with trans-shipment rising by a whopping 129.8%. Foreign trade continued growing, with imports up by 9.3% (434,146 TEU) and exports by 3.5% (523,326 TEU). As concerns markets,

Asian countries saw the most growth in trade, especially the UAE at +11.3%. Trade with China also rose (+9.6%) as well as with South Korea (+14.2%), India (+13%), Japan (+10%) and Vietnam (+6.2%). Growth in ro-ro (ferry) traffic rose, which affects trade especially with Italy and North Africa, rising by 6% in the first nine months of the year.

Passenger traffic rose by 2.7% in the nine months in question at the Barcelona port, with a surge in passengers on ferries from Italy, the Balearic Islands and North Africa, rising by 11.4%. The number of cruise ships docking at the port fell by 1.9%.

EU-Digest

Iceland gets first Green prime minister - by Lisbeth Kirk

Katrin Jakobsdottir, Iceland's new PM
Leader of the Leftist-Green Movement, Katrin Jakobsdottir, will become Iceland's first Green prime minister on Thursday (30 November), after agreeing to form a coalition government with the liberal conservative Independence Party and the centre-right Progressive Party.

Together the three parties hold 35 seats out of 63 in the Althingi, Iceland's parliament.

Two members of the Leftist-Green Movement are set to vote against the coalition in Thursday's parliamentary approval, technically giving the new government only a single-seat majority.

Katrin Jakobsdottir will become the country's first Green prime minister and the only ruling Green PM in the world, following in the footsteps of former Iceland president Vigdis Finnbogadottir, who became the world's first elected woman president in 1980.

Iceland is ranked top by the World Economic Forum as having the smallest gender gap among 144 countries in the world indexed.

The news will come as a welcome message to over 300 women political leaders from around the world meeting in Iceland this week for an annual summit aimed at promoting gender equality inside and outside of the political sphere.

Jakobsdottir, 41, is a former journalist and served as education minister in Iceland's first left-leaning government which took power after the country's 2008 economic collapse.

In a recent poll 49.5 percent said that they preferred her to become the next prime minister.

Bjarni Benediktsson, chairman of the Independence Party and outgoing prime minister, will become finance and economy minister in the new Icelandic government, a position he held between 2013-2016, before becoming prime minister.

The deal comes four weeks after snap elections were called in October, when a scandal involving PM Benediktsson's father prompted a government ally to drop out of his ruling coalition - after less than a year in government.

Increased taxes on capital gains, maternity and paternity leave, and infrastructure development are among the key issues for the new government.

The Left-Greens want to finance spending by raising taxes on the wealthy, real estate and the powerful fishing industry, while the Independence Party has said it wants to fund new infrastructure by selling state-owned shares in the country's banks.

Iceland was hard hit during the financial crisis when all three of the country's major privately owned commercial banks defaulted in 2008.

Now the Nordic country is experiencing an economic boom driven by record tourist arrivals, leading to shortage of labour and Icelandic workers demanding pay rises.

Note EU-Digest: Iceland is on the right track and can be an example to many other countries,specially when it comes to closing the gender gap  around the world.

Read more: Iceland gets first Green prime minister

Tourism: Denmark attracts record number of Chinese visitors

The number of Chinese visitors to Denmark has soared since the start of the 2017 China-Denmark Tourism Year, it is expected that 262,000 people will visit the country this year.

According to VisitDenmark, the country's popularity has been steadily growing during the past few years. It saw about 161,000 Chinese tourists book hotel beds in 2014, 198,000 in 2015, and 221,000 in 2016.

Tour operator Tuniu said the number of Chinese visitors to Denmark was only 50,000 in 2009.

Since the launch of the 2017 China-Denmark Tourism Year on Feb 24, Denmark and its Chinese partners have engaged in several events aimed at attracting more Chinese tourists to the Scandinavian country.

The initiative will end on Dec 5 with a wrap-up event at the Royal Danish Theatre's Old Stage in Copenhagen.

VisitDenmark, the country's official tourism organization, held an online campaign during April and May, along with China DiDi Rental Car Company. The campaign encouraged people to create their dream self-drive trips in Denmark via multimedia platforms.

And in May, when Denmark's shores were clogged up with non-native oysters, the news went viral on Weibo and Chinese netizens offered to help by "eating them to extinction".

Following this, VisitDenmark released a series of travel videos and launched a reality show with Denmark as the backdrop that was produced jointly alongside Shanghai Dragon TV and well-known Chinese bloggers.

Other activities held during the special year included a range of seminars, meetings, and campaigns.
 
Read more: Denmark attracts record number of Chinese visitors - World - Chinadaily.com.cn

USA: King Lear in an ill-fitting suit: The President Is Losing Whatever Was Left - by Charles P. Pierce

Apparently, the president* was up early on Wednesday, tweeting out dangerous nonsense. First, he retweeted some noxious sewage from the deputy leader of Britain First, a virulently Islamophobic organization. Then, in the wake of the firing of Matt Lauer by NBC, the president* went after NBC and MSNBC, even alluding to an unfortunate episode in Joe Scarborough’s past that has been grist for conspiratorial speculation for two decades. This was not just the president* running off at the fingertips again. This was an incitement to violence. This was a president* calling out for the destruction of a news organization that has criticized him. This was out-and-out fascism.

The morning’s frenzy has to be seen in the light of what is now a steady drumbeat of stories from inside the White House that, taken together, paint a portrait of a president* completely detached from the reality of his circumstances. In recent days, thanks to White House sources who are plainly terrified, we have learned that the president* still thinks his predecessor may have been born in Kenya, still thinks millions of illegal votes cost him the popular vote in 2016, and, strangest of all, that he thinks the infamous Access Hollywood tape may have been faked. This latter business is new and bizarre but, as to birtherism and the hijacking of the ballot, his adherence to those fantastical conspiracies makes him virtually no different from most of the Republicans who voted for him. Which, by the way, is on the people in my business as much as it is on anyone else.

I have resisted for a long while commenting at length on the president*’s possible mental state, in large part because long-distance psychological speculation always revolted me. (Remember Charles Krauthammer, a trained psychiatrist, speculating about Al Gore’s mental health? I do.) But the fact that these stories are leaking out now is a pretty good indicator that the people in and around this president* are worried about him. From The New York Times:

Read more: The President Is Losing Whatever Was Left

11/29/17

U.S. Economic Forecast: Growth of the economy to continue through 2018

For the first time since the middle of 2014, the US economy has sustained 3 percent growth for two consecutive quarters, providing strong momentum into next year. The current Conference Board forecast calls for 2.8 percent growth during the final quarter of 2017 and 2.5 percent growth in 2018.

This would represent the economy’s best 2-year run since 2005.

Business investment has awakened from the doldrums this year, rising by more than 4 percent after falling into negative territory in 2016. Confidence in the manufacturing sector has been especially strong.

The composition of growth supports a long-term improvement in productivity. Capital equipment has risen at an 8.7 percent annual rate during the past two quarters, while investment in warehouse structures is up more than 20 percent since the end of last year. These investments demonstrate a renewed firm commitment to increased efficiency.

Consumer spending eased a bit in the third quarter, but with The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index still strong and housing prices rising, expect a robust holiday season.

One encouraging sign was the pickup in motor vehicle spending thanks to renewed demand following the two hurricanes. Should employment growth rebound quickly from last month’s storm related decline, tighter labor markets should translate into a renewed wage acceleration which could boost spending late this year or into 2018. The possibility of federal income tax cuts could do the same.

The economy enters 2018 in good position to maintain strong growth from 2017.

Current Fed chair Janet Yellen and new Fed chair nominee Jerome Powell may raise rates slightly faster as a result. These expectations have led long-term rates to rise modestly.

The dollar has also started strengthening since early September after weakening through much of 2017, creating less favorable terms of trade. Higher capital costs and the possibility of a less supportive external environment for growth have not rattled the market yet.

With growth prospects strong for 2018, profits should grow robustly as well, rewarding those businesses that increase investment levels.

Read more: U.S. Forecast | The Conference Board

The Netherlands: Security Services Fail: Bosnian Croat leader Slobodan Praljak dies after drinking poison in UN war crimes court in the Hague

Bosnian Croat ex-General Slobodan Praljak died Wednesday evening after drinking poison at a UN court hearing in The Hague.

"One of the six defendants ... passed away today in the HMC hospital in The Hague," said court spokesman Nenad Golcevski.

Earlier, judges part of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)  had rejected the 72-year-old's appeal against his 20-year prison sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.

Upon hearing the verdict, Praljak yelled: "Judges, Slobodan Praljak is not a war criminal. I reject the verdict with contempt."

He then drank from a small glass bottle and told the courtroom: "What I drank was poison."

The presiding judge called for medical assistance and ordered the session to be closed to the public.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic has described the verdict as "unjust" and offered his condolences to Praljak's family.

Note EU-Digest: the death of Slobodan Pralja by his own hand (drinking a potent poison) inside the International Court of Justice during the hearings, puts a major blemish on the Dutch security services, not only for the fact that this poison was smuggled into the prison where Mr. Slobodan Pralja was incarcerated, but also for allowing the defendant to take this poison into the courtroom. 

It was reported the Dutch Ministry of Justice has launched an immediate investigation into this tragic matter.
  
Read more: Bosnian Croat leader Slobodan Praljak dies after drinking poison in UN war crimes court | News | DW | 29.11.2017

EU: Inconvenient Truths About Migration- by Robert Skidels

Sociology, anthropology, and history have been making large inroads into the debate on immigration. It seems that Homo economicus, who lives for bread alone, has given way to someone for whom a sense of belonging is at least as important as eating.

This makes one doubt that hostility to mass immigration is simply a protest against job losses, depressed wages, and growing inequality. Economics has certainly played a part in the upsurge of identity politics, but the crisis of identity will not be expunged by economic reforms alone. Economic welfare is not the same as social wellbeing

Liberal over-optimism about the ease of integrating migrants stems from the same source: if society is no more than a collection of individuals, integration is a non-issue. Of course, says Goodhart, immigrants do not have to abandon their traditions completely, but “there is such a thing as society,” and if they make no effort to join it, native citizens will find it hard to consider them part of the “imagined community.”

A too-rapid inflow of immigrants weakens bonds of solidarity, and, in the long run, erodes the affective ties required to sustain the welfare state. “People will always favor their own families and communities,” Goodhart argues, and “it is the task of a realistic liberalism to strive for a definition of community that is wide enough to include people from many different backgrounds, without being so wide as to become meaningless.”

Economic and political liberals are bedfellows in championing unrestricted immigration. Economic liberals view national frontiers as irrational obstacles to the global integration of markets. Many political liberals regard nation-states and the loyalties they inspire as obstacles to the wider political integration of humanity. Both appeal to moral obligations that stretch far beyond nations’ cultural and physical boundaries.

At issue is the oldest debate in the social sciences. Can communities be created by politics and markets, or do they presuppose a prior sense of belonging?

It seems to me that anyone who thinks about such matters is bound to agree with Goodhart that citizenship, for most people, is something they are born into. Values are grown from a specific history and geography.

If the make-up of a community is changed too fast, it cuts people adrift from their own history, rendering them rootless. Liberals’ anxiety not to appear racist hides these truths from them. An explosion of what is now called populism is the inevitable result.

Read more: Inconvenient Truths About Migration

The Netherlands: Drama at the International Court - Bosnian Croat war criminal 'takes poison' in court

A war crimes appeal hearing in The Hague was cut short dramatically when one defendant drank what he said was poison upon hearing the verdict.

Slobodan Praljak was one of six former Bosnian Croat political and military leaders up before the court.

He was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment in 2013 for crimes in East Mostar.

On hearing that his sentence had been upheld, he told the judge, "I have taken poison".

The six were appearing in court for the final appeals judgment to be handed down by the Yugoslav Tribunal.

Note EU-Digest: If Slobodan Praljak did take poison, which seems unlikely, it does not speak well for the security surrounding the war criminals.

 Read more: Bosnian Croat war criminal 'takes poison' in court - BBC News

11/28/17

The Netherlands: Christmas Joy: top Christmas markets in the Netherlands, - by Alexandra van Kampen

December is the time for cities around the Netherlands to put up decorations, illuminate their most historical and cosy hotspots with twinkling lights and organise a Christmas market.

Depending on your preferences, you can opt for a more intimate market, choose one with a more unique setting or check out which one isn’t too far from your home. Not sure which Christmas market would suit you best? Take a look at our pick of the 10 best ones:

Christmas City Valkenburg is an annual collaboration between seven grand and unique Christmas attractions that will last a month and a half, and take place in Valkenburg.
The multiple underground Christmas markets in the gorgeous caves of the Cauberg are without a doubt the main attraction of the Christmas City. The merchandise is not the most diverse, but their setting is unique in the Netherlands.

The most popular are the Municipal and the Velvet Cave. The newest addition to the Christmas market caves is Mergelrijk, where you can find brittle marlstone all around you. Other attractions include Santa’s Village, which is the main market above ground, the Christmas Parade and the delicious Route d’Amuse.

The Maastricht Christmas Market is part of Magical Maastricht, an enchanting holiday festival that takes place throughout the city of Maastricht in December.

The Market is a great combination of innovation and tradition, with an indoor ice rink, a Ferris wheel, all kinds of other activities and nostalgic Christmas chalets fitted with red roofs and gorgeous garlands.

One of the most magical Christmas fairs in North Holland is the Castle Christmas Fair, taking place at the age-old Assumburg Castle in Heemskerk.

At the castle grounds, around 20.000 visitors will enter into a winter wonderland featuring a Christmas bazaar with a wide range of seasonal wares and an exclusive programme with winter fashion, performances and culinary treats.

The historic inner city of Dordrecht is home to the largest Christmas market in the Netherlands, with hundreds of market stands and multiple stages to the backdrop of the city’s iconic inner ports.

Dordrecht is a small and charming city with just over 100.000 people. The whole inner city participates in the Dordrecht Christmas Market, so that the stalls are well-dispersed and not too busy. Different areas have different themes, and strolling through them gives you a great view of the beautiful streets of Dordrecht!

At the Haarlem Christmas Market, more than 300 stalls are laid out like ribbons through the inner city, coming together to form one of the most celebrated Christmas events in the Netherlands.

The wares stand among choirs that sing Christmas songs, stirring up those warm and fuzzy Yuletide feelings like no other. Haarlem is a particularly good place to host a market thanks to its compact size and pedestrian-friendly streets. The quality of the items being sold is rather high, with lots of handmade crafts and artisan foods.

For those who’d like to do something special this winter, which doesn't necessarily follow the classic Christmas aesthetic, there is the Midwinter Fair, a charming fantasy event at Archeon.

The indoor market is filled with interesting stalls, and the outdoor terrain contains all kinds of tents with traditional tradesmen selling their unique items. Warm yourself by one of the fires, check out one of the interesting bands and grab a bite after shopping. There will also be various fun shows to admire, as well as trade demonstrations and medieval fights.

The Knüss Winterfest embraces winter. The inner city of Utrecht transforms into a seasonal paradise that will warm the heart of any visitor. Various Christmas markets combine to create one big festival that also includes an ice rink, all kinds of music, and servings of spiced glühwein and warm chocolate milk.

Aiming for an international audience, the stately Lange Voorhout in The Hague will once again transform into the Royal Christmas Fair. The fair is set to be even more fun and colourful than previous years, with more than 80 Christmas chalets, a Children’s market, thousands of lights and a diverse cultural program.

You will find glühwein, winter pelts, flammkuchen, mood lights, wood carvings, candles and all kinds of Christmas wares, and of course there will be a great entertainment programme including various performances by children’s choirs, theatre companies, ensembles and storytellers.

Aiming for an international audience, the stately Lange Voorhout in The Hague will once again transform into the Royal Christmas Fair. The fair is set to be even more fun and colourful than previous years, with more than 80 Christmas chalets, a Children’s market, thousands of lights and a diverse cultural program.

You will find glühwein, winter pelts, flammkuchen, mood lights, wood carvings, candles and all kinds of Christmas wares, and of course there will be a great entertainment programme including various performances by children’s choirs, theatre companies, ensembles and storytellers.

The yearly Dickens Festival is a massive Victorian era re-enactment in the heart of Deventer, featuring over 950 characters from Charles Dickens' most famous novels. Aromas of roast chestnuts, the towering Christmas trees and beautifully restored buildings form the stage of this city-wide performance.

The Christmas market around the Lebuïnuskerk is substantial, and the groups of Christmas carollers and musicians playing pleasant tunes in period style garb are sure to delight. The Dickens Festival is annually visited by 150.000 visitors. Be warned that due to its popularity the waiting time at the entrance can run up to 1,5 hours. On the plus side, entry is free!

From: : Top Christmas markets in the Netherlands, 2017

Geo Politics: Why The Rest of the World Should Tell the U.S. to F*cK Off - by Colby Hess

Colby Hess who wrote this report is a freelance writer and photographer living near Seattle, WA.  He is currently writing a book about science, philosophy, and freethought.  Follow him on Twitter @ColbyTHess. 

Following below  are some uncomfortable historical facts that Colby Hess wrote about in this report. As he says these are currently largely ignored, glossed over, or blatantly suppressed in most American school curricula:

1) The United States government (largely through the CIA and its predecessors) is directly responsible for the overthrow of at least half a dozen democratically elected governments around the world over the past hundred plus years. Among these are many of our neighbors in Latin America such as Guatemala in 1954, Brazil in 1964, and Chile in 1973. Further afield we have Iran in 1953, which is particularly ironic considering the dire straits of our present day relationship. This list doesn’t include the toppling of non-elected governments (almost all of them replaced by brutal dictators) such as Syria in 1949 and Ghana in 1966. It also doesn’t include direct invasion by U.S. troops such as the Philippines in 1898, Panama (first in 1895 and again at least eight more times since), Grenada in 1983, and most recently, Iraq in 2003. Although many Americans cannot even point these countries out on a world map and remain blissfully ignorant of American interference with their internal affairs, the residents of these countries have certainly not forgotten and in many cases haven’t completely forgiven us either. Can anyone blame them?


This long history of meddling with sovereign nations severely complicates geopolitical affairs in the present day in both practical terms as well in relation to our stated values and governing principles. For instance, in 2006, just months after George W. Bush gave a major speech on the imperative of spreading democracy throughout the world, democratic elections in Palestine resulted in a designated terrorist group, Hamas, coming to power – a result which led to an almost total boycott of the Gaza strip by most Western nations. The Arab Spring has further complicated matters as many dictators who had long been propped up by the U.S. have now been overthrown by populaces largely hostile to U.S. interests. Many of these countries seem likely to elect Islamist governments in coming elections, potentially creating a bunch of theocratic mini-Irans throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Such is democracy in action (but we can rest easy knowing any lingering resentment is due solely to them “hating our freedom.”)

2) The U.S. military is currently deployed in over 150 countries around the world. That’s over three quarters of all the supposedly independent countries on the planet. Of those, at least two of them are active war zones (Iraq and Afghanistan), one of them (Iran, see above) soon will be if the Neocons have their way, and another is seldom considered one simply because most of us happen to live there. Thanks to passage of the NDAA, the U.S. military can now arrest and indefinitely detain American citizens within our own borders – a disturbing development vehemently opposed by the ACLU and one of the central grievances the American colonists had against the British king before declaring independence.

The purpose of stationing all these troops everywhere is presumably to act as a sort of unrequested and often unwelcome global police force, paid for by the generosity of the U.S. taxpayers. After all, the U.S. – accounting for just five percent of the world’s population – is responsible for over forty percent of global military expenditures. Curiously, despite the smug moral high ground we like to believe we inhabit (preferring the term “liberator” to “invader/occupier”), these Team America superheroes generally seem to step in only when there are high-dollar corporate interests at stake such as in Iraq or Libya, preferring to sit idly by as slaughter proceeds unchecked in economic backwaters such as Rwanda or Darfur. And if anyone dares to oppose U.S. global hegemony by so much as speaking out, even if it’s a close and historical ally like France, we respond with measures such as import tariffs and trade embargos, or when that’s not politically feasible then there’s always the trump card of renaming foods in the Capitol cafeteria. Anyone care for some “victory cabbage” to go with their “freedom fries”?

3) The U.S. is single-handedly responsible for the total global prohibition of recreational drugs and the police state that goes hand in hand with efforts to curtail their production, distribution, and use. More specifically, blame for the “War on Drugs” and its many excesses can be squarely assigned to one unhappy individual with a messianic complex and a deep hatred for all things pleasurable – America’s first “drug czar,” Harry J. Anslinger. If you’ve ever stopped to wonder why, say, the leader of Nepal would care in the slightest if some hippy wants to smoke a chillum with a sadhu on the steps of a temple in Kathmandu, Anslinger’s the answer, for it was he that pushed his agenda to be adopted by the newly formed United Nations.

There is so much money involved in this failed enterprise – on the order of hundreds of billions of dollars a year in direct foreign aid for crop eradication and drugs interdiction, domestic policing, building and operating of prisons, propaganda efforts, plus the loss of taxes on some of the biggest cash crops across the globe – it continues to exist largely out of mindless inertia and economic habit. Despite the fact that recent polls show a majority of Americans now support outright legalization of marijuana, and despite pleas from the leaders of several of the Latin American nations most negatively affected by America’s insatiable appetite for mind-altering substances, not even the current administration feels compelled to continue to oppose any change to the status quo. This stance was clearly on display at the recent Summit of the Americas meeting in Cartagena (for all those who read beyond the distraction of the auspiciously timed Secret Service prostitution scandal.)

4) While no longer the largest contributor of greenhouse gases thanks to China’s rapid industrialization in recent years, the U.S. continues to be the greatest impediment to concerted global action on addressing anthropogenic climate change. Back in 1997, following a meeting in Kyoto of delegates from nearly every country on Earth, a deal was reached agreeing upon a framework for reigning in worldwide CO2 emissions. Of the 192 countries who signed the protocol, only one has subsequently failed to ratify it. That’s right, one – the good old U.S. of A. Although the American delegation of scientists was fully in agreement with the overwhelming consensus on display there, and they dutifully brought the treaty home for approval, it was summarily dismissed by George W. Bush who claimed it would be too expensive to implement.

This line of unreasoning is beyond absurd. If facing a sentence of life in prison but offered the chance of near-certain acquittal simply by hiring the right high-profile attorney, most people wouldn’t hesitate to pay whatever it might cost to avoid incarceration. Likewise with disease. If faced with a life-threatening illness, having a world-class surgeon available to perform life-saving surgery would be priceless, and most people would willingly give away everything they have if it meant they could go on living. We as a nation obviously don’t seem to care much about the plight of the polar bears or the fate of places like the Maldives, who, through no fault of their own, are on track to sink beneath the waves within the next century, but just looking at the freakish weather and severe storms of the past few years, it’s clearer than ever that global warming has arrived on our doorstep. To paraphrase the founder of the modern sustainability movement, “The real question we should be asking when discussing the economic impact of environmental measures is, ‘Can we afford to exist?’” Are we really prepared to answer that question, “no”?

Pundits and hyper-patriots love to talk about “American exceptionalism.” In plain terms this translates as, “Don’t mind us. We’re just better than you.” How incredibly arrogant and off-putting to everyone else. It seems to go hand in hand with another favored myth, “Manifest Destiny,” which supposedly justified our genocidal land grab against the native inhabitants of North America. It also ties into “God Bless America,” which implores the all-powerful creator of the entire universe to play favoritism with one particular segment of upright primates, who happen to live within an arbitrarily delineated geographic region of one small planet, circling an ordinary yellow star, in the outer reaches of one of at least a hundred billion galaxies. Wow. Furthermore, if we’re going to talk the talk, we sure as hell better walk the walk to back it up. As related above, our actions continually fall far short of the lofty rhetoric we proclaim to the world (and to ourselves). No wonder there’s so much rampant anti-Americanism on display among the other ninety-five percent of humanity.

The great irony of it all is that I guarantee many people will read this article and consequently brand me a traitor, a naysayer – any number of derogatory, reactionary terms to draw attention away from things they would prefer not to think about and certainly don’t want advertised. While not surprising, it’s profoundly discouraging (not to mention childish, unfair, and counterproductive.) It’s like a monkey throwing poo at his handler for bringing him medicine.

Despite all the travesties I’ve just listed, I love my country and I care deeply about what happens to it. If I didn’t why would I bother to write about it? My family has been here for eleven generations and it’s the place I call home. Having traveled extensively on five continents, I can honestly say the U.S. is still one of my favorite places when it comes to natural beauty, civil liberties, and the kindness and generosity of the people. I’m proud of the many amazing things we as a nation have achieved: the first functional democracy since ancient Greece, the first national park anywhere, invention of the airplane and the Internet, landing a man on the moon… even our “Colgate smiles.” Yet loving one’s country does not preclude it being a tough love nor does it require monogamy, for I also love my planet and the fact that we exist as conscious beings to enjoy it.

Right now we’re heading down a dark path. We’re destroying our environment and we’re pissing away our hard-fought freedoms faster than we can fix things. We cannot simply carry on with business as usual, plundering the world’s resources and bullying anyone who opposes us. America has long fancied itself “a shining city upon a hill.” Just as a city choked with smog and traffic jams and plagued by rampant crime and high unemployment doesn’t make for a very desirable place to live, we had better work on cleaning up our act if we expect anyone to respect us or take us seriously. If average citizens don’t begin standing up and loudly demanding change, then we’re on a one-way road to ruin. We’re heading the way of every empire in all of history – the Romans, the Mongols, the Ottomans, the British. It’s far better to scale back on our own terms than to have those terms thrust upon us by the inevitable confluence of events. The best way to accomplish this is to change course now, and any meaningful change must start with the facts; otherwise we’re not just misguided but downright delusional.

I’ll wind this down with two pieces of advice, and these apply to anyone willing and able to make the required effort. First, unless you’re desperately poor and struggling just to put food on the table, then if you don’t have one already, obtain a passport and go visit other parts of the world, even if just Canada or Mexico (only 35% of Americans have passports – double the number from a decade ago but still far less than in many other developed countries.) There is no single greater way to literally expand your horizons; to dispel xenophobia and see life from a totally different perspective. You’re way less likely to want to bomb people whom you’ve spoken with, laughed with, spent time and shared meals with. It doesn’t have to break the bank either, for living as a backpacker often costs far less than working a dead-end job to pay for a crappy apartment. Even if you hate everything about traveling abroad, you’ll at least know what else is out there and perhaps learn to appreciate what you already have (and are rapidly losing) that much more.

Secondly, gather as much information as possible about history, about current events, and about science, and try to then integrate these ideas into your worldview. We’re living in the Information Age. We are surrounded by information, deluged by it. Although in many ways it’s harder than ever to sort through it all to separate fact from fiction, give it an honest and concerted effort. Read things that make you uncomfortable. Follow people on Twitter whom you disagree with. Click the hyperlinks in interesting articles and follow up with your own research. Question your most basic assumptions. If they’re sound, you have nothing to fear. If they’re not, you have everything to gain and you’ll emerge a wiser, better person for your efforts.

It seems that we are currently experiencing a fairly rough patch of what has been an incredible experiment in people power, but we as a nation still have enormous potential to do good. Despite all the mistakes we’ve made and the trust we’ve betrayed, we’re still the world’s only remaining superpower and we still wield enormous influence. Let’s use that influence to tackle humanity’s most pressing problems and to steer us all toward a brighter, happier, more just and peaceful future, for the alternative is too depressing to even consider.

Read more: Why The Rest of the World Should Tell the U.S. to F*cK Off

USA: SHOP TILL YOUR TABLET RUNS OUT OF JUICE: Cyber Monday was largest online shopping day in US history - by Lauren Thomas

Digital transactions on Monday reached a record $6.59 billion, Adobe Insights unveiled Tuesday in its final update on the holiday weekend.

That marks a 16.8 percent increase from a year ago, and makes Monday the largest online shopping day in U.S. history.

Mobile also had a record day, Adobe found, saying smartphones have become the "de facto device" for on-the-go shopping. Mobile sales on Cyber Monday reached $2 billion for the first time.

"This year, mobile shopping was dominant both in the morning and afternoon, and desktop only staged a comeback in the evening when people were home," Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe's Digital Insights division, said.

Adobe measures 80 percent of online transactions from 100 major U.S. retailers.

Read more: Cyber Monday was largest online shopping day in US history

11/27/17

Iceland: Öræfajökull – Iceland’s tallest volcano is waking up - by Gunnar Jónsson

Öræfajökull, which name translates to “Wasteland glacier” due to its destructive past, has begun to stir after 290 years of slumber. The glacier is located in southeast Iceland and is part of the great Vatnajökull glacier.

It’s not only dangerous because it had the most massive explosive eruption since Iceland was settled, but because of the immense flooding that occurs when it melts the ice on top of it.

The flood can reach the coastline in just 20 minutes, possibly not enough time for people in the area to evacuate. A few farmers live in the area, around 200 people, but it’s estimated that up to 2-3.000 tourists can be in the area, depending on the season. In the past,

Öræfajökull eruptions, and the floods that followed have wiped out human habitation in the area, hence the name.

Read more: Öræfajökull – Iceland’s tallest volcano is waking up | IceNews - Daily New

Belarus: German FM Visits Minsk: The Limits of Awkward Rapprochement with Belarus

On 17 November 2017, German Foreign Minister Siegmar Gabriel has visited Minsk to take part in the Minsk Forum – an unofficial dialogue platform between Belarus, Germany and the EU, running since 1997. Gabriel also met with his Belarusian counterpart Uladzimir Makei and the president Lukashenka.

The first official working visit of a German Foreign Minister since 1995 was possible due to the recent thaw in relations to the EU. Within the last two years, Belarusian authorities freed political prisoners and have been cultivating their peace-building role in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, seeking pragmatic cooperation.

Acknowledging these efforts, German government so far has been supporting the new rapprochement, despite lacking democratic reforms and respect for human rights in Belarus.

Read more: German FM Visits Minsk: The Limits of Awkward Rapprochement with Belarus | BelarusDigest

European Health Systems: Not enough prevention: EU health systems report

Only 3 per cent of EU countries' health budgets is spent on prevention, with 80 per cent spent on treatment of diseases, the EU Commission reported on Thursday in a set of 28 'country health profiles'.

The reports, along with a 'companion report', suggest a rethinking of European health systems is needed to 'ensure they remain fit-for-purpose and provide patient-centred care'
.
"We need better access to primary care so that the emergency room isn't people's first port of call," said Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis: "And we need to enshrine health promotion and disease prevention into all policy sectors to improve people's health and reduce pressure on health systems."

The reports provide an in-depth analysis of EU Member States' health systems.

Read more: Not enough prevention: EU health systems report — EUbusiness.com | EU news, business and politics

Romania: Thousands of Romanians rally against ruling party’s judicial overhaul

Tens of thousands of Romanians rallied in the capital Bucharest and dozens of other cities on Sunday (26 November), protesting against a widely criticised plan by the ruling Social Democrats to overhaul the judiciary.

The PSD-led coalition, which holds a robust majority in parliament, is drafting an overhaul that the European Commission, foreign diplomats and thousands of magistrates have criticised as placing the justice system under political control, potentially weakening an anti-corruption drive.

A special parliamentary commission started debating the bill last week, with the ruling party aiming to have it approved by the end of the year.

Read more: Thousands of Romanians rally against ruling party’s judicial overhaul – EURACTIV.com

11/26/17

FACEBOOK: How to quit Facebook and end the relationship: "it is not as hard as you think"

  • I just deactivated my Facebook account
  • I think the product Facebook offers — its core social network — isn't very attractive anymore
  • I'll walk you through how to do the same
I just deactivated my Facebook account.

It wasn't a snap decision, but a culmination of a lot of things that peaked with some of the revelations about how the Russians used the platform to spread targeted ads and widen political divisions in the U.S. during the last presidential election.

I also found that the product is no longer the one I used to love — the one I found useful in college to learn more about friends I was meeting and whether we shared classes.

Instead, it seems more like a wasteland of political opinion, memes and cartoons I don't find interesting and snippets of video I have no interest in watching. It's become an outlet for opinion and random entertainment instead of a place to connect with other people.

There are some things I'll miss. I've found Facebook useful for managing my social life, particularly with the invites to events that other Facebook friends are attending. I'm willing to give that up for now, though, and maybe it'll help me learn to reach out to people more directly, like over the phone, instead of with a quick "like" on a post or an automatic "happy birthday" comment.

If you're like me and want to do the same, here's how:

Click here to find out how to do it: How to quit Facebook

Electronic Communications: One-third of Belgians stressed out by email

One third of Belgians feel stressed out by the sheer volume of email they receive, according to a study organised by family agency Gezinsbond and the 55+ organisation Okra. The associations have released the figures to coincide with the 10th anniversary of No-Email Friday.

One in three Belgians also report feeling helpless at the speed with which they are confronted with new technologies at work, and one in 10 even fears losing their job because of it.

One in five, meanwhile, feel pressured to answer emails in the evenings and weekends when they really don’t want to. And nearly one-quarter of people aged 55 and over are anxious when they are forced to take care of business online.

A full half of those surveyed would support legislation that would allow workers to ignore emails when they are not officially at work.

Read more: One-third of Belgians stressed out by email | Flanders Today

Serbia and US entanglement: "Not even EU likes Americans teaching Serbia how to join EU"

Moscow is obviously carefully monitoring the process of EU integrations because many of its partner countries are on that road. 

And Moscow does not object to EU's enlargement, Russia’s ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, told the website EURACTIV.com in a wide-ranging interview.

Asked "what is on the agenda of Russia-EU relations," Chizhov said that political dialogue was ongoing, and that he was looking forward to expert-level consultations on a wide range of issues, from combating drug trafficking to EU enlargement - "coupled with the working group on the Western Balkans. They go together."

When the interviewer asked, "Is this something new? Russia now has a say in EU enlargement?," he replied:

"Of course, we are interested."

"Many of the countries aspiring to join the EU, be it in the Western Balkans or even Turkey, they are well-known and well-established trade and economic partners of the Russian Federation, so we are closely following what is happening," he explained.

When asked "in what way you want to be reassured as to the enlargement and neighborhood countries," Chizhov replied:

"We want to be sure that whatever they do with the EU – be it accession, or association, or whatever – doesn’t infringe on our traditional relations."

"Take Serbia for example. Another clear case, with someone from the US going there to teach them how to accede to the EU. Even people here (in Brussels) didn’t like it very much," he said, in apparent reference to a recent visit to Serbia by a US State Department official.

The diplomat also stressed that "we (Moscow) have nothing against any of these countries, or other countries, establishing and promoting good relations with the EU - we have nothing against enlargement of the EU, which is different from NATO enlargement of course."

Read more: "Not even EU likes Americans teaching Serbia how to join EU" - World - on B92.net

Global Military Spending: Which country spent the most on its military last year?

US military spending in 2016 topped that of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, UK, Japan, Germany and South Korea combined 

Global military spending in 2016 totalled $1.69 trillion, according to the SIPRI.

The top 10 countries accounted for 73 percent of this total, they were: The USA, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, UK, Japan, Germany and South Korea.

US military spending surpassed that of the other top eight countries combined, with the rest of making up only 27 percent of the figure.

Note EU Digest: This is scandalous with so many people living in poverty around the world. Bottom line: use of weapons creates only more chaos and disaster.

Read more: Which country spent the most on its military last year? | Euronews

11/25/17

The Netherlands: Syrian ISIS member spotted in Amsterdam - by Janene Pieters

The NL Times reports that a Syrian man who fought for terrorist organization ISIS is living in the Netherlands with false papers, the Volkskrant reports. He was at a meeting in De Balie in Amsterdam in September, where activists of civilian collective "Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently" recognized him.

According to the newspaper, the activists were meeting in De Balie on September 14th following a showing of a film about their work. The 31-year-old ISIS member was there and one of the members immediately recognized him as an ISIS fighter. "We tried to take a picture of him, but he did not want to. He fled outside", Hossam Eesa of the group told the  Dutch newspaper "De Volkskrant". How the man knew about the meeting in De Balie is unclear. It was not listed on De Balie's agenda for safety reasons.

A security guard from De Balie chased after the man, but could not stop him. The police were called, who gathered the activists and their families in a separate room. The police stayed there until the activists could leave the premises safely, according to the newspaper. The activists stay in secret locations in the Netherlands and Germany, because they've been seriously threatened by ISIS for some time.

As far as is known, this is the first time a Syrian ISIS member was signaled in the Netherlands. Sources around the Dutch intelligence and security services confirmed the incident to the Volkskrant, and said hat the AIVD has been watching the man for months.

After years of fighting, ISIS lost almost all of its territory in Syria. Research agency Soufan says that about 30 thousand non-Syrian people joined the terrorist group, including about 280 Dutch. What they will do now is not clear, though it seems plausible that at least some will return to their home countries. , according to the research agency. 

Note EU-Digest: Several Dutch newspaper editors and commentators noted that although Dutch intelligence said they have been watching this ISIS member for months, it seems strange that this man, who has been in the Netherlands now for months illegally, is able to attend a non-publicized anti-ISIS meeting at De Balie in Amsterdam. The other amazing thing is that this ISIS sympathizer, was never arrested, even after the AIVD, as they say, followed him around for several months. This is specially disturbing,  as  the Netherlands terrorism threat level remains high at 4 out of 5. 

EU-Digest

Terrorism: ISIS PIGS Gunmen in Egypt mosque attack that killed more than 300 carried ISIS flag.

The bomb and gun attack on a Sufi mosque in Egypt's northern Sinai region killed at least 305 people, including 27 children, authorities said, in what amounted to a dramatic increase in the death toll of the Friday attack. At least 128 people were wounded in the massacre that was described as the deadliest terrorist attack in Egypt’s modern history. Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack on the Rawdah mosque in Bir al-Abed, it bore several hallmarks of ISIS attacks. Plus, it took place in an area where Egypt has been battling ISIS insurgents for the past three years.

The horrifically ruthless attack began with a bomb (perhaps from a suicide bomber) inside the crowded mosque, before 25 to 30 gunmen arrived in four off-road vehicles and began firing outside the main door and windows. They also set fire to cars parked outside, making it more difficult to escape, and then attacked the ambulances that began arriving at the scene. Some of the attackers were masked and witnesses claim to have seen at least one Islamic State flag, according to Egypt’s public prosecutor’s office.

Read more: Gunmen in Egypt mosque attack that killed more than 300 carried ISIS flag.

Sexual harassment "The Witch Hunt Goes In Overdrive":Now Richard Branson Has Been Accused of Sexual Assault - by Devon Ivie

Richard Branson has become the latest prominent figure in the industry to be accused of sexual assault. Speaking with The Sun, Antonia Jenae — a backup-singer for British songstress Joss Stone — claims the Virgin CEO assaulted her during a party on his private island in the British Virgin Islands in 2010, during which he “motorboated” her in her cleavage while making engine noises. “His behaviour was disgusting. I feel like it was sexual assault,” she said. “We were by the bar and he was saying bye to everyone. He came up to me and put his face in my breasts. He went ‘brrrrrr’ and just walked away. It was surreal, totally out of the blue. Joss and I were like, ‘What the hell was that?!’ Everyone was wondering why I wasn’t angry because I’m usually a firebrand. But I was just too shocked.”

Although Jenae claims many people witnessed the assault, Branson’s representatives have issued an statement that denies any wrongdoing on his part. “Everyone appeared to enjoy their time,” the statement reads, according to The Telegraph. “Richard has no recollection of this matter. Neither do his family and friends who were with him at the time. There would never have been any intention to offend or make anyone feel uncomfortable. Richard apologises if anyone felt that way.”

Note EU-Digest: Come on now, this is becoming ridiculous - Branson not only had his family around him, during that so-called "incident", but it is also a well known fact that he is not known as a "women chaser", or a so-called "sexual predator".   As a matter of fact he is known by many as a real family man. On their 4Oth anniversary he wrote to his wife: 'Thank you for making life extraordinary. Your eyes are still as magic as they were 40 years ago' . Once again, the corporate controlled media, which is in business to make a profit, whatever it takes, is going on steroids in blowing up these stories out of proportion. 

Read more: Richard Branson Has Been Accused of Sexual Assaul

11/24/17

Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel moves left as German politics realign

Earlier this year, with the far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) coming off a string of regional election triumphs, most observers expected Angela Merkel to become more conservative. Some within her own parliamentary bloc indeed demanded she do just that. But the opposite has happened. If anything, the chancellor and the CDU-CSU have maneuvered further left.

Part of the reason is the dictates of electoral numbers. The results of the September 24 national election meant that, with the extremes of the AfD and the Left party being deemed off-limits, Merkel's only viable coalitions involve either the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) or the left-wing environmentalist Greens. There is no non-left path to power.

But changes to political culture and Merkel's own personal inclinations have also encouraged realignment and effectively shifted the center further to the left. It was part of the accepted wisdom in Germany in the last 30 years that the conservatives' natural allies were the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP), which has leaned towards the conservatives as coalition partner since the early 1980s, but had been in a coalition with the SPD before that.

Read more: Chancellor Angela Merkel moves left as German politics realign | In Depth | DW | 24.11.2017

Eastern Europe: EU dashes integration hopes of eastern countries

The EU told Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine on Friday that it "acknowledge[s] their European aspirations and European choice", but only "in [the] context" of a 2016 EU decision which said that association treaties will not lead to membership.

It said it supported the "territorial integrity" of all partners, but did not refer to the right of self-determination of Armenians in Azerbaijan's breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region as it had in previous declarations.

Read more: EU dashes integration hopes of eastern countries

USA: Looking Into the Crystal Ball: 22 Predictions for 2018

1. The artificial intelligence (AI) hype bubble will burst.

2. Face-to-face interactions will increase.

3. More beauty consumers will move to Indie brands.

4. Mental health house calls will become more common.

5. The money will be in the 35-plus demographic.

6. More people will strive for simplicity.

7. "Big Data" will become "Big Fresh Data."

8. Trust will be tech's biggest hurdle.

9. Artificial intelligence (AI) will drive smart video meetings.

10. The divide between machine learning (ML) haves and have nots will grow.

11. Cybersecurity will be table stakes for executive competency.

12. Ownership will decrease.

13. The subscription model will become standard for all industries.

14. Enterprises will think smaller.

15. Corporate America will increase its role in our political, legal and social lives.

16. Consumers will expect more voice controls.

17. Reach and scalability will continue to remain vexing problems.

18. Data will take the gossip out of the real estate industry.

19. Machine learning will begin to transform business at every scale.

20. Expect to see even more data-driven hires and acquisitions.

21. The tech industry will continue its transformation into an experience business.

22. Wellness will play an even larger role across all industries.

Details: read more click here: Looking Into the Crystal Ball: 22 Predict

11/23/17

UN - The US inability to admit reality - by Thierry Meyssan

Decidedly, very little has changed since 11 September 2001. The United States continue to manipulate international public opinion and the tools of the United Nations, no doubt for different reasons, but still with the same contempt for the truth.

In 2001, the representatives of the United States and the United Kingdom, John Negroponte and Stewart Eldon, assured that their two countries had just attacked Afghanistan in legitimate defence after the attacks committed in New York and Washington.

The Secretary of State, Colin Powell, promised to hand the Security Council a complete dossier presenting proof of Afghan responsibility. 16 years later, this document has still not been seen.

n 2003, the same Colin Powell came to explain to the Security Council, during a speech which was relayed by the televisions of the whole world, that Iraq was also implicated in the attacks of 11 September, and that it was preparing new acts of aggression against the United States by means of weapons of mass destruction.

 However, once he had retired from his functions in the US government, General Powell admitted on a TV channel in his own country that the many accusations in his speech were all false [3]. 14 years after this speech, we are still waiting for the United States to apologise to the Security Council.

US methods after 2001 were totally different from any that had preceded them. In 1991, President Bush the Father had made certain that he had international law on his side before he attacked Iraq, having pushed President Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait and to dig in. He had thus obtained the support of almost all the nations in the world. On the contrary, in 2003, Bush the Son settled for lying and then lying some more. Many States distanced themselves from Washington, and we saw the greatest pacifist demonstrations in History, from Paris to Sydney, from Beijing to Mexico.

In 2012, the UN Department of Political Affairs drew up a project for the total and unconditional surrender of Syria [4]. Its director, US citizen Jeffrey Feltman, ex-Under-Secretary of State for Hillary Clinton, used all the means at his disposal to create the greatest coalition in History and accuse Syria of all manner of crimes, none of which were ever proven.

If the States which possess the Feltman document have decided not to publish it, their intention is simply to preserve the United Nations. It is indeed inacceptable that the might and means of the UNO were used to promote war, when the institution was created in order to preserve peace. Since I am not held to the same obligations as a State, I have published a detailed study of this ignoble document in “Right Before Our Eyes”
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In 2017, the UNO-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism, created at the request of Syria in order to investigate the use of chemical weapons on its territory, became the object of the same struggle which had earlier opposed Hans Blix to Washington. Except that this time, the fronts were reversed. In 2003, the UNO was defending peace. This is no longer the case, since Jeffrey Feltman was reappointed and is still the number 2 of the UNO. This time it’s Russia which is opposing the pro-US international civil servants in the name of the Charter.

For the complete report click here At the UN - US inability to admit reality, by Thierry Meyssan

The Netherlands: Trump Fan, Opportunist, Rightwing, Dutch Populist Politician Wilders says: "Russia is 'no enemy', ahead of Moscow visit - by Peter Teffer

Opportunist and Populist Dutch Politician Geert Wilders
Russia is "not an enemy" to the Netherlands, Dutch anti-EU politician Geert Wilders said in an interview published on Wednesday (22 November), ahead of a visit to Moscow in the New Year.

The far-right opposition MP, who leads the second-largest party in the lower house of the Dutch parliament, said there was "hysterical Russophobia" to which he wanted to provide a counter-narrative.

"Russia is not our enemy, and we should not make it one," he told Dutch weekly magazine Elsevier. "Russia is on our side."

Wilders said it was understandable that Russia feels threatened by the expansion of the northern Atlantic alliance Nato.

"I'm a big fan of Nato and of the Americans, but Russia has a good point here," he said.

The interview comes ahead of a visit early next year of Wilders to Moscow, which has been behind several attempts to undermine the EU and is under sanctions because of the invasion of Crimea and support for insurgents in Ukraine.

EU-Digest

Germany's Schulz under pressure to enter coalition talks- by Eszter Zalan

Pressure is increasing on Martin Schulz, leader of the German Social Democrats (SPD) to end the political stalemate in Germany and enter coalition talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats.

The SPD leader will meet the country's president Frank-Walter Steinmeier, himself hailing from the SPD, on Thursday (23 November).

Steinmeier has been meeting party leaders following the collapse of coalition talks on Sunday between Merkel's political bloc, the pro-business Free Democrats and the Greens.

Merkel said she would prefer snap elections than leading a minority government following the Free Democrats walkout from coalition talks on Sunday night.

Schulz, who ran against Merkel in the general elections, first ruled out re-entering a grand-coalition with Merkel's CDU/CSU that left the SPD with its worst election result since the second world war.

 Read more: Germany's Schulz under pressure to enter coalition tal

11/22/17

Insurance Industry: Top insurance industry issues in 2017

Ongoing changes in technology, demography, and consumer needs and expectations continue to disrupt the insurance industry. Combined with recent regulatory and financial reporting developments, these changes are putting severe strain on traditional business models.

Many insurers are responding by reimagining their internal operations and business strategies, but the pace of change outside the industry has been relentless and even proactive companies are struggling to remain on the cutting edge.

Top Insurance Industry Issues in 2017 focuses on changing business and operating models and the key developments that are causing and being influenced by this change.

Read more: Top insurance industry issues in 2017: PwC

Christian Persecution: Here are the 10 Worst Countries for Christian Persecution According to a UK Report - by Amanda Casanova

The U.K. All Party Parliamentary Group has released a report listing 10 of the worst countries for religious freedom.

The report, “Article 18: From Rhetoric to Reality,” found that the countries had violated Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which protects religious liberty.

The countries in the report were:
  • Eritrea
  • Egypt
  • U.K.
  • Russia
  • Saudia Arabia
  • Iran
  • China
  • Vietnam
  • Myanmar
  • Bangladesh
The report said that nearly 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries with “high” or “very high” levels of restrictions on religious freedoms.

Offenses against Article 18 can include both direct government denial and state failures to protect the right to religious liberty.

Read more: Worst Countries for Christian Persecution According to a UK Report - Christian News Headlines

Turkey authorizes the construction of a church

Turkey has authorized the construction of an Assyrian church in Istanbul. This will be the first construction of a place for Christian worship since the fall of Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War.

Turkish law prohibits the construction of churches even though the country provides shelter to several Christian patriarchs.

However, several years ago, a derogation was granted to re-establish liturgic celebration in an old Church.

Turkish law has also applied in the Northern part of Cyprus, since Turkish occupation in 1974. Deceitfully, official tourist leaflets present Christian places of worship, now derelict, as “castles”.

By way of comparison, since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan came to power, more than 9 000 mosques have been built in Turkey.

The nuncio (Pope’s ambassador) appointed to Ankara by the Pope is not registered as Monseigneur Paul Russell, but as His Excellency, Ambassador Paul Russell.

Read more: Turkey authorizes the construction of a church

International Court of Justice: Ratko Mladic sentenced to life in prison for Srebrenica genocide,dragged from court over outburst

Bosnian Serb wartime general Ratko Mladic appeared in court the receive the verdict [Peter Dejong/Reuters]
Ratko Mladic gets life sentence for genocide against Muslims
A UN court in The Hague, Netherlands, has convicted former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic of genocide and crimes against humanity and sentenced him to life in prison for atrocities perpetrated during Bosnia's 1992-1995 war.

The court in The Hague convicted Mladic of 10 of 11 counts in a dramatic climax to a groundbreaking effort to seek justice for the wars in the former Yugoslavia.

Presiding Judge Alphons Orie read out the judgment Wednesday after ordering Mladic, dubbed "The Butcher of Bosnia", out of the courtroom over an angry outburst.

Read more: Ratko Mladic sentenced to life in prison for Srebrenica genocide, after he is dragged from court over outburs

The International Court of Justice in the Hague: India's nominee Bhandari re-elected to ICJ after UK pulls out

Bhandari, 70, was declared re-elected for a fresh nine-year term at the ICJ after Britain withdrew its candidate Christopher Greenwood from the race about an hour before the scheduled voting.

In what was described by India as one of its "biggest diplomatic victories" in the multilateral arena, Bhandari received 183 of the 193 votes in the General Assembly and secured all 15 votes in the Security Council to fill the final vacancy on the Hague-based International Court of Justice after separate but simultaneous elections were held at the UN headquarters here.

Read more: India's nominee Bhandari re-elected to ICJ after UK pulls out 

11/21/17

Presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran meeting in Sochi Wednesday in an effort to come to common agreement with Assad who is also in Sochi

Erdogan and Putin in Sochi talking about Syria with President of Iran
The presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran are meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Wednesday for talks focused on war-ravaged Syria. The Kremlin has already said that the point of Syrian President Bashar Assad's surprise visit to Sochi on Monday was to get him to agree to possible agreements that the three leaders might reach on Wednesday.

Iran and Russia have been Assad's main backers while Turkey supports the opposition.

Pro-government forces over the weekend defeated the Islamic State group in its last major stronghold in Syria, leaving the militants to defend just strips of desert territory in the country and a besieged pocket outside the capital, Damascus

The Russian defense ministry said in a statement Tuesday that the chief of the General Staff of the three countries have met in Sochi and discussed "concrete steps to complete the elimination of the remaining IS and Nusra Front formations" in Syria. The three officials also agreed to improve coordination in a safety zone in the Idlib province in Syria's northwest.

Russia, Turkey and Iran earlier this year brokered truce between the government and the rebels in four areas in Syria including Idlib.

EU-Digest