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2/28/17

EU: Juncker to unveil post-Brexit plan for the EU

On Wednesday (1 March) European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker will unveil his plan for the EU’s future after Britain’s departure, his spokesman said.

Juncker’s so-called “White Paper” will be presented to the European Parliament after Commissioners get a first look at it today (28 February), the spokesman said.

European Union leaders will then consider Juncker’s plan at a summit on 9-10 March, before coming up with their own post-Brexit roadmap at a special meeting in Rome on 25 March.

Britain’s shock June 2016 vote to leave the EU — coupled with crises involving the economy and migration — has plunged the 28-nation EU into a deep bout of soul-searching.

At a special summit in Italy to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome which founded the EU, the bloc’s leaders will issue a special declaration with new plans for future.

Read more:Juncker to unveil post-Brexit plan – EurActiv.com

Finland: Time for EU to lead on environment- by Peter Teffer

The EU should spend less time drafting new environmental laws and devote resources to implementing what was already agreed, Finland's environment and agriculture minister Kimmo Tiilikainen said on Monday (27 February).

“If all our time is spent on new legislation, new small details, then implementation suffers,” Tiilikainen said in an interview with Bloomberg, Politico, and EUobserver.

 Read more: Finland: Time for EU to lead on environment

USA: Trump lays out his vision for America in speech to Congress - Sean Sullivan and Abby Phillipby Sean Sullivan and Abby Phillip

President Trump delivered his first address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night, laying out the agenda for his presidency and, in broad terms, his vision for the country.

Pulling from his campaign speeches and others since taking office, the president ran off a list of accomplishments since taking office and issued promises for the year ahead.

Trump highlighted new lobbying restrictions, and executive orders he put in place to reduce regulations, restart halted oil and gas pipelines, and crack down on illegal immigration.

“Above all else, we will keep our promises to the American people,” Trump said.

Note EU-Digest: Time will tell if Donald Trump can turn this propaganda speech to Congress which included most of his campaign promises into reality.

Read more: Trump lays out his vision for America in speech to Congress - The Washington Post

Global Disorder: The age of contagious chaos - by Ibrahim Kalin

Global Disorder And Contagious Chaos
Is the current global disorder a symptom of a malfunction within the system or is the entire system faulty? The optimists may opt for the first answer and argue that a better and wiser implementation of the current global system may produce peace, stability and prosperity for all. But the problem goes a little deeper than that.

The current state of chaos in the world is contagious. It affects everything and everybody. It moves from one country to another, from one region to another. The world has become so interdependent that no one can claim immunity from the penetrating crises of the age regardless of where they occur.

The promise of the Enlightenment has come at a high price: European colonialism, the destruction of traditional forms of social and political association in much of the Muslim world, Africa and Southeast Asia, the two "world" wars (which were in fact mostly European wars), the cold war period and its aftermath. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening, thus deepening the sense of mistrust and despair among hundreds of millions of people who live at the bottom of the world. Capitalism continues to renew itself at every opportunity with a big price tag for the poor of the world and the natural environment. Capitalism thrives on cheap labor and goes after it wherever it is, i.e., Africa and Southeast Asia.

    The fact that capitalism needs cheap labor does not justify the exploitation of human beings as machines without souls
    Ibrahim Kalin

Globalization promised a worldwide re-definition and re-arrangement of everything: history, memory, society, politics, communication, economics, education, religion, belief, art, and so on. The big expectation was that the rigid borders of individual and communal identities were going to be replaced by a sense of world-citizenship in which everyone would feel, believe and live a more or less a similar life. Francis Fukuyama found a name for it: the end of history.

The end of history never came. Given the unfolding complexities of the age in which we live, it would be wise for all of us to avoid any "endism." Instead, we should focus on the best practices to end injustice and inequality and put the values of reason, wisdom and virtue to the best use we can. The first principle to observe is the interdependence of the current world system. This means that no actor can claim victory in self-destructive battles that lead to the destruction of all. Therefore it is morally wrong and self-defeating to define and defend one's interest at the expense of others. Wisdom and justice are not simply moral and intellectual virtues. If one is wise, one would know that they are also political necessities.
The rich need to fix this too

The issues of global justice and equality are not simply problems for the poor and struggling countries. To the contrary, they are problems that need resolving in the world's rich and powerful countries. The reason is that the current power gap and disequilibrium is a legacy of colonialism over the last several centuries and cannot be overcome until and unless those who created it in the first place take responsibility for it. The fact that capitalism needs cheap labor does not justify the exploitation of human beings as machines without souls.

On the political front, the current proxy wars fought in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere will not bring peace, stability or prosperity to anyone. It will only create bigger misery, deepen the sense of resentment and play right into the hands of the violent extremists that look for any opportunity to disrupt whatever degree of peace and stability exists in the places in which they operate. Fighting terrorism requires a globally coordinated effort but most importantly it must be an honest and sincere fight. The chaos created by terrorism is also contagious.

Finally we come to the big questions of identity, self-perception and worldview. Human beings have maintained a certain form of self-identity and a view of others as part of their engagement with the world. The current state of contagious chaos and insecurity has not changed this fact but transformed it. We live the processes of rootless urbanization and nativism, globalization and localization, social networking and extreme individualism all at the same time. This is perhaps one of the most pressing aspects of our age: we live these contradictory sentiments so intensely and so confusingly that no one knows exactly how to chart a course in this mayhem of insecurity, unpredictability and despair. Populist, xenophobic and racist discourses appeal to people's sense of misdirection and narrow-minded politicians exploit these feelings. But these short-term political gains make the world an even more insecure and chaotic place.

The last two decades of globalization have shown without any doubt that the issues of identity, loyalty, collective memory and cultural-religious belonging will not go away. And there is no need for them to disappear. To the contrary, they can be a source of collective wisdom and strength against the onslaught of contagious chaos that is tearing the world apart.

Read more: The age of contagious chaos - Al Arabiya English

USA - Dakota Access Pipeline: Native People React to Standing Rock Setback

On February 8, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave the owners of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline a green light to drill a borehole beneath the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, removing one of the last obstacles to the pipeline's completion.

This was a 180-degree change in the Corps' stance on the pipeline from last December, when it announced it would delay granting pipeline owners an easement under the Missouri, a response to a many months long campaign of opposition waged by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

The Sioux hold the area as sacred, and rely on the river for their drinking water. A pipeline rupture that contaminated the river could mean serious illness and displacement for the Standing Rock Sioux.

That's why since the middle of 2016 there's been a Native encampment near the confluence of the Cannon Ball and Missouri rivers. At times numbering in the tens of thousands, the Native activists and their allies at Standing Rock have waged a historic non-violent campaign to alert the world to the problems with the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Read more: Native People React to Standing Rock Setback | Link TV

EU - Denmark will not follow Britain, no EU referendum

A Danish EU referendum not necessary
Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen and the leader of the main opposition Social Democrats both reject staging a referendum on the country’s membership of the European Union as suggested by eurosceptics.

A Danish referendum was necessary against the backdrop of Britain’s decision to leave the EU, Kristian Thulesen Dahl, leader of the eurosceptic Danish People’s Party, said.

His remarks were made during a debate on the future of the EU to be aired Monday evening by Danish public broadcaster DR.

A Danish referendum was not necessary, Rasmussen said.

“It is quite clear that there is a very, very broad parliamentary majority that Denmark should stay in the EU,” he said.

“We don’t stage referendums on matters unless we want to change them,” added the premier, leader of the right-leaning Liberals.

Mette Frederiksen, leader of the Social Democrats, said her party “has not at any stage wished to have a referendum, and we still don’t.”

Frederiksen added that she “could not defend” a possible decision by Denmark to leave the bloc and said Thulesen Dahl’s proposal was “a gamble” with Europe’s peace and security.

Thulesen Dahl’s party provides parliamentary support on many issues for Rasmussen’s ruling centre-right minority government, but opposes EU membership.

Denmark has been an EU member since 1973, joining the same year as Britain and Ireland, but since 1993 has opt-outs on EU matters related to justice and home affairs, and has also opted out of the euro currency union and the bloc’s defence rules.

 Read more: Denmark will not follow Britain, no EU referendum – News of the European Union

2/27/17

EU Stock Market Merger On Ice: EU set to block stock market mega merger

 London Stock Exchange (LSE) said its proposed merger with Deutsche Börse AG was unlikely to be approved by the European Commission, leaving the stock market operators’ third attempt at combining on the brink of failure.

The LSE said in a statement late on Sunday (26 February) that the Commission had asked it to sell its 60% stake in fixed-income trading platform MTS to satisfy antitrust concerns over the merger of Europe’s two largest market operators.

Calling the request “disproportionate”, the British exchange said it believed that it would struggle to sell MTS and that such a sale would be detrimental to its ongoing business.

“Based on the Commission’s current position, LSE believes that the Commission is unlikely to provide clearance for the merger,” it said.

The exchange added that it would still work to make the merger with Deutsche Börse succeed, but that would be impossible unless the executive changed its position.

Read more: EU set to block stock market mega merger – EurActiv.com

EU lawmakers call for ‘Federal Union’ of European states

RT reported that the leaders of the lower chambers of parliament of Germany, Italy, France, and Luxembourg have called for a European “Federal Union” in an open letter published in Italian newspaper La Stampa on Sunday.

In the letter, four representatives of EU governments – Claude Bartolone of the French National Assembly, Laura Boldrini of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Norbert Lammert of the German Bundestag, and Mars Di Bartolomeo of the Luxembourg Chamber of Deputies – say that closer cooperation is essential for dealing with problems that no one EU state can tackle on its own, such as immigration, terrorism, and climate change.

“Now is the moment to move towards closer political integration — the Federal Union of States with broad powers. We know that the prospect stirs up strong resistance, but the inaction of some cannot be the paralysis of all. Those who believe in European ideals, should be able to give them a new life instead of helplessly observing its slow sunset,” the letter read.

The letter’s authors also warn that the European integration project is currently more at risk than ever before, with high unemployment and immigration problems driving populist and nationalist movements. The EU must also come to grips with the fact that, last June, the United Kingdom decided to leave the union after holding a national referendum, aka Brexit, becoming the first member nation to opt out of the bloc.

On Sunday, a number of EU states, including Germany, France and Italy, called for the UK to pay a hefty price as a “divorce settlement.”

The letter was published in the run-up to a meeting of parliamentary leaders in Rome on March 17 to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community (EEC). The treaty’s signing by six countries– Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, West Germany and the Netherlands – in 1957 eventually paved the way for the Maastricht Treaty and the European Union in 1991.

EU-Digest


Expats: the world’s most welcoming countries - by Lindsey Galloway

For many expats, finding new friends can ease the often overwhelming task of adjusting to a new life abroad. But with huge variances in local culture and language capabilities, some places can definitely feel more welcoming than others.

To determine where expats might find the best success of fitting in fast, global community network InterNations recently conducted their annual Expat Insider survey of more than 14,000 expats from 191 countries, asking residents to rate a number of aspects about life abroad, including how easy it was to settle in, a country’s friendliness and ease of making friends.

We talked to residents in the countries ranked high for friendliness to find out what makes these places so hospitable to newcomers.

Read more: BBC - Travel - Living in… the world’s most welcoming countries

2/26/17

Germany: Erdogan to campaign in Germany- but should he be allowed to do so? - by Beata Stur

Erdogan takes his political campaign into the EU
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will reportedly visit Germany next month to hold a campaign rally on his controversial constitutional reform plan.

As reported by Handelsblatt Global online, Erdogan will visit western Germany after an official visit in Strasbourg.

There are 1.4 million Turkish voters residing in Germany. Many of them live in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, home to the cities of Cologne and Düsseldorf as well as the industrial Ruhr region.

But German politicians have reacted to the reports of Erdogan’s visit. For instance, the government’s integration commissioner, Aydan Özoguz, said that “everyone should campaign solely in their own country”. She told regional daily Ruhr Nachrichten that such events are toxic in Germany and harm peaceful coexistence.

Sven Lehmann, the chairman of North Rhine-Westphalia’s chapter of the Green party, which governs the state in a coalition with the Social Democrats, accused Erdogan of polarising Turkey and undermining fundamental rights in his country. “The federal government should make it clear that no anti-democratic events are to be held here,” Lehmann said.

According to Handelsblatt Global online, Turkish voters will decide on April 16 on a constitutional reform pushed by Erdogan’s party, the AKP, making Turkey a presidential republic with greatly increased powers for the president.

Last week, Turkey’s Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim, addressed 10,000 supporters gathered in an arena in Oberhausen, a city in the Ruhr region. He said that if they love their country, they have to vote yes.

Erdogan or any foreign dignitary for that matter, should not be allowed to campaign in EU member States for political causes which are foreign in origin. In this particular case for a Turkish referendum on giving Erdogan additional  dictatorial powers. 

It is also important that immigrants, who have chosen, for economic reasons, to live and work in a country other than that of their origin,  should not get involved in politics of their country of origin. 

If they still have a desire to do so, they should return to their country of origin and live there. 

As the saying goes "you can't have your cake and eat it also" and that also goes for Mr. Erdogan and his followers who live abroad.

EU-Digest

2/25/17

EU Economy: Every one of the European Union's 28 member economies is growing simultaneously for the first time since 2007

Quartz reports that the European Union is facing its biggest crisis since… well, since its last big crisis. The perpetually problematic union is threatening to come undone, with Britain in the process of quitting the bloc and numerous populist movements elsewhere also threatening to sever ties.

But economically speaking, the bloc is performing better than it has in a long while. For the first time since 2007, all 28 of the union’s member economies are growing at the same time, on an annual basis.

Inflation-adjusted GDP in the EU will rise 1.8% this year and next, according to the European Commission’s latest projections. This is expected to push unemployment across the region to its lowest rate since 2009. For its part, GDP in the euro zone has risen for 15 consecutive quarters.

This is not to say that Europe’s economy is thriving, which is readily apparent by how successfully populist politicians have been blaming Brussels for their countries’ apparent financial malaise.

The European Commission warns that the risks to its forecasts are “exceptionally large,” thanks to the unclear intentions of US president Donald Trump, high-stakes elections across Europe this year, and the ongoing Brexit negotiations.

If Trump follows through on pledges to spend big on infrastructure, it could provide a boost to the EU’s export-oriented members. But if he doubles down on his “America First” policy, it could harm transatlantic trade. Meanwhile, a messy Brexit, tighter monetary policy from the US Federal Reserve, and a shaky Chinese economy could all derail the European economy’s slow but steady recovery.

Pierre Moscovici, the European commissioner for economic and financial affairs, warned that the benefits of growth must be shared more widely—both between and within EU countries—for it to be appreciated by citizens. “With uncertainty at such high levels, it’s more important than ever that we use all policy tools to support growth,” he said. “Above all, we must ensure that its benefits are felt in all parts of the euro area and all segments of society.”

EU-Digest

USA - CRIME: Spectators injured after car plows into crowd during New Orleans parade

Police in New Orleans say up to 28 people were injured on Saturday when a vehicle drove into crowds watching a parade. One person is reportedly in custody; terrorism is not suspected.

New Orleans Police Department spokeswoman Ambria Washington said that "initial reports show so far that about a dozen people are in critical condition," the local Times-Picayune newspaper reported. She said the number of injured may increase as an investigation continues.

Read more: Spectators injured after car plows into crowd during New Orleans parade | News | DW.COM | 26.02.2017

2/24/17

EU: Spain MPs to probe €60bn bank bailouts- by Sarah Morris

Spanish MPs have voted unanimously to set up a commission to examine mistakes that led to a €60 billion bank bailout in 2012.

In a rare display of unity in Spain's fragmented parliament, all parties signed up to a deal on Wednesday (22 February) to “create a commission to investigate the financial and banking crisis, the listing of savings bank Bankia and its later rescue, the action taken by regulators and the weaknesses, needs and challenges of the financial system”.

In 2012, a government led by current centre-right prime minister Mariano Rajoy sought a bailout from the EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) after Bankia requested €22.5 billion in aid just a year after its flotation under the previous Socialist government. Dozens of other savings banks also needed state cash.

The cross-party deal this week came after the opposition Socialists, anti-austerity group Unidos Podemos and Catalan party Republican Left all lodged separate petitions for commissions.

Expected to hear evidence from April for about six months, the parliamentary commission will in particular look at the controversial listing of Bankia, the largest bank bailout still in public control.

In recent years, Spain's courts have looked into hundreds of corruption allegations linked to the property boom. Between July 2015 and September 2016, 399 people were convicted of corruption-related offences like embezzling public money, the General Board of Judicial Power (CGPJ), which oversees Spain’s judiciary, said in a report last month.

The creation of the parliamentary commission comes after the high court said last week it would question the former governor of the Bank of Spain, Miguel Angel Fernandez Ordonez, over Bankia's regulation.

Five other officials at the central bank and two former senior managers of stock market regulator, the CNMV, will also be questioned.

Read more: Spain MPs to probe €60bn bank bailouts

Censorship USA: White House bans certain news media from briefing

The White House has barred several major broadcasters and newspapers from attending an informal press briefing.

The BBC, CNN, the New York Times and others were excluded from an audience with Press Secretary Sean Spicer, with no reason given.

It came hours after President Donald Trump delivered another attack on the media in a speech, saying that "fake news" was the "enemy of the people".

He has previously singled out CNN and the New York Times for criticism.

Recent reports claiming his campaign aides had contact with Russian intelligence officials have particularly irked the president.

Shortly after Mr Trump's speech on Friday, a number of selected media organisations were invited into Mr Spicer's office for an informal briefing, or "gaggle".

Those allowed into the room included ABC, Fox News, Breitbart News, Reuters and the Washington Times.

When asked why some were excluded, Mr Spicer said it was his decision to "expand the pool" of reporters.

He also warned the White House was going to "aggressively push back" at "false narratives" in the news.

Read more: White House bans certain news media from briefing - BBC News

Psychology: Personality Stability From Age 14 to Age 77 Years

There is evidence for differential stability in personality trait differences, even over decades. The authors used data from a sample of the Scottish Mental Survey, 1947 to study personality stability from childhood to older age. The 6-Day Sample (N = 1,208) were rated on six personality characteristics by their teachers at around age 14. In 2012, the authors traced as many of these participants as possible and invited them to take part in a follow-up study.

Those who agreed (N = 174) completed a questionnaire booklet at age 77 years, which included rating themselves and asking someone who knew them well to rate them on the same 6 characteristics on which they were rated in adolescence.

Each set of 6 ratings was reduced to the same single underlying factor, denoted dependability, a trait comparable to conscientiousness. Participants’ and others’ older-age personality characteristic ratings were moderately correlated with each other, and with other measures of personality and wellbeing, but correlations suggested no significant stability of any of the 6 characteristics or their underlying factor, dependability, over the 63-year interval.

However, a more complex model, controlling rater effects, indicated significant 63-year stability of 1 personality characteristic, Stability of Moods, and near-significant stability of another, Conscientiousness.

Results suggest that lifelong differential stability of personality is generally quite low, but that some aspects of personality in older age may relate to personality in childhood.

For the complete report go to: Personality Stability From Age 14 to Age 77 Years

2/23/17

The Netherlands: Dutch far-right leader Wilders cancels public events over alleged security leak but police say Wilders' safety "never in question".

Fake News Leadership
Anti-Islam Dutch MP Geert Wilders and his far-right Freedom Party suspended all public activities Thursday after a police agent was arrested for allegedly leaking information about him to a Moroccan gang.

 "Very disturbing news. The Freedom Party is suspending all public activities until all facts in connection with the investigation are known," Wilders said on Twitter, as Dutch political parties gear up for a crunch election on March 15.

The firebrand MP, who has courted controversy with his hardline anti-Islam, anti-immigrant stance and his incendiary insults against Moroccans and Turks, has long been under 24-hour police protection.

Tensions are escalating ahead of the election in which the Freedom Party is running neck-and-neck with the Liberals of Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

On Saturday, Wilders upped the tone at the launch of his official campaign, denouncing "a lot of Moroccan scum who make the streets unsafe".

The highly-respected NRC daily newspaper reported Wednesday that the agent was arrested for allegedly passing on information about Wilders to a Moroccan crime gang.

Dutch police chief Erik Akkerboom confirmed an investigation had been opened but that Wilders' safety "was never in question".

However the matter was deemed so serious that Rutte, who is now campaigning for his own Liberal VVD party, met Wilders to discuss the issue.

The suspected agent was released on Thursday pending the investigation, Dutch news agency ANP said.

Netherlands is no stranger to political violence, even though the small country of just 17 million people has largely gained a reputation for tolerance.

Flamboyant far-right leader Pim Fortuyn was assassinated just nine days before Dutch elections in 2002, shocking the country to the core.

Just two years later in November 2004, filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim radical.

Wilders, 53, has vowed in his party's one-page manifesto that if elected he would ban the sale of Korans, close mosques and Islamic schools, shut Dutch borders and ban Muslim migrants.

Note EU-Digest: Obviously one must question  the true value of this story about Wilders - that it is not another populist stunt by him and his followers to give his sinking popularity in the polls a boost. Also to be noted is that Mr.Wilders is never able to provide any detailed plans about how he wants to carry out his party's "one page" manifesto.  

Read more: Dutch far-right leader Wilders cancels public events over security leak - France 24

Internet Privacy: E-Mail Services List of Secure Email Providers that take Privacy Serious

Privacy laws and the internet
When you need an e-mail account and you want to start using the very popular and widely used Gmail services please note that the following is what you will be asked to agree on before you can get it and I quote: "Google Privacy Terms By choosing “I agree” below, you agree to Google’s Terms of Service.

You also agree to our Privacy Policy, which describes how we process your information, including these key points: Data we process when you use Google When you use Google services to do things like write a message in Gmail or comment on a YouTube video, we store the information you create.

When you search for a restaurant on Google Maps or watch a video on YouTube, for example, we process information about that activity – including information like the video you watched, device IDs, IP addresses, cookie data, and location. We also process the kinds of information described above when you use apps or sites that use Google services like ads, Analytics, and the YouTube video player.

Depending on your account settings, some of this data may be associated with your Google Account and we treat this data as personal information. You can control how we collect and use this data at My Account (myaccount.google.com).

Why we process it? We process this data for the purposes described in our policy, including to: Help our services deliver more useful, customized content such as more relevant search results; Improve the quality of our services and develop new ones; Deliver personalized ads, both on Google services and on sites and apps that partner with Google;Improve security by protecting against fraud and abuse; and Conduct analytics and measurement to understand how our services are used.

Combining data We also combine data among our services and across your devices for these purposes. For example, we show you ads based on information from your use of Search and Gmail, and we use data from trillions of search queries to build spell-correction models that we use across all of our services".Bottom-line: whatever you write or do on Gmail is not really private and belongs to Gmail.

For a list of secure email providers that take your privacy serious and do not track you (* = recommended, last updated December 7, 2016)click on the link below.

Read more: List of Secure Email Providers that take Privacy Serious - FreedomHack

2/22/17

France: Le Pen's chief of staff under formal investigation - by Catherine Hardy

Controversial Marine Le Pen with fellow nationalist right-winger
The chief-of-staff of French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has been put under formal investigation as part of an inquiry into the alleged misuse of EU funds to pay parliamentary assistants.

udicial sources say Catherine Griset had been questioned along with Le Pen’s bodyguard, Thierry Legier, who was later released.

It comes after police searched the FN party headquarters in western Paris on Monday.

The case has landed the Front National leader in the spotlight.

Read more: Le Pen's chief of staff under formal investigation | Euronews

France: Bayrou and Macron seal a deal in France

One of France’s most influential politicians has dropped out of the presidential race to form an alliance with the independent candidate, Emmanual Macron.

The announcement by Francois Bayrou could tip the odds in favour of Macron getting into a runoff against far-right leader, Marine Le Pen.

“We are in an extremely risky situation, and to tackle this exceptional situation, I think we need an exceptional response,” Bayrou said, describing his decision as “a sacrifice”.

Read more: Bayrou and Macron seal a deal in France | Euronews

EU Medicine Agency: Crowded race to win EU medicines agency- by Aleksandra Eriksson

The London-based European Medicine Agency (EMA) will need a new home after Brexit, and almost a dozen European cities are already vying over the regulatory gem.

Today, almost all new or innovative medicines are submitted to EMA for assessment, which evaluates whether they are safe to put on the EU market. The agency comes with almost 900 expert workers, paid for by the EU; comprehensive research networks; and a €300 million a year budget.

Acting as a host for EMA is a boon for a country's life science sector, but also benefits the hospitality sector: some 400 people fly in to the agency each day.

Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Dublin, Lisbon, Milan and Stockholm have already declared willing to be the next host of the EMA, but more candidates are mulling their bids. Sources say that at least 20 member states are considering throwing their hat into the ring.

As much things related to Brexit, the race will be uncharted waters. There is no fixed procedure for how to elect the next headquarters; the new seat must only be chosen by unanimity in the Council, where EU member states are represented, which doesn't make the task easier.

"We are expecting the process to get mired in basic, competitive instincts," said one EU diplomat working on her country's EMA bid.

So far, cities are entering the contest as a beauty pageant, touting themselves as pro-European, cosmopolitan, with good food, and better weather than London. All also stress their vibrant pharmaceuticals industries.

Amsterdam puffs up its "outstanding international connections".

Read more: Crowded race to win EU medicines agency

Outer Space:Seven new Earth-like planets discovered around nearby star

Astronomers have discovered seven new planets which may host liquid water. Their find shows that Earth-like planets are even more common in the universe than previously thought.

It is not the first time astronomers have found Earth-like planets outside our solar system.
But, it is the first time they have found so many of them at one time around one single star.
Michaël Gillon from Liege University in Belgium, and his colleagues, discovered seven new planets - their size all comparable to that of Earth.

"All of them could have liquid water and maybe life on their surface," said Gillon, co-author of the study published in the "Nature" magazine on Wednesday .

The newly discovered planets orbit the star TRAPPIST-1, a dwarf star only one tenth the size of our sun, and about as big as Jupiter. TRAPPIST-1 lies 39 light years away from Earth.

All seven planets - simply called: 1b, 1c, up to 1h - are quite close to TRAPPIST-1, much closer than Earth is to the sun.

This is because TRAPPIST-1 is much smaller and cooler than the sun. The habitable zone, where it is neither too cold nor too hot and thus allows for the existence of liquid water, moves closer to the star compared to our solar system.

Do we have neighbors out there?

TRAPPIST-1 is not very bright, so sunbathing on its planets could be a rather unsatisfying experience.

"We think the amount of light that you would receive in your eye would be something like 200 times less than you would from the sun. It is like at the end of sunset," co-author Amaury Triaud, an astronomer at the University of Cambridge, said.

But the star is still brighter than our moon and it will still feel quite warm on these planets, Triaud added. "You still receive as much energy from the star - and you will feel that with your skin."
\
Most of the star's light is in the infrared spectrum which we cannot see. Triaud speculated that the sky might be painted in a "salmony" color.

Nobody knows what the surface and climate of these planets might be like, if there is liquid water, or even life.

"We don't know how life emerges. If life emerges in an ocean and there is an ocean there, then there won't be a problem. But if life is born elsewhere, then maybe the conditions are different."

Then the chances of life might depend on the amount of detrimental radiation that those planets receive from the star.

Read more: Seven new Earth-like planets discovered around nearby star | Science | DW.COM | 22.02.2017

2/21/17

EU and Japan resolved to swiftly conclude free trade deal

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday that he and European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom had confirmed their resolve to swiftly conclude free trade negotiations between the two economies.

“We reaffirmed that it is extremely important (to reach) a broad agreement … as soon as possible in order to counter protectionist moves,” Kishida told reporters after meeting with Malmstrom in Bonn.

“We agreed to continue negotiations and keep the momentum,” Kishida said, adding that he and the EU trade chief had agreed to promptly arrange the next round of negotiations.

While a broad agreement is now within sight, the parties remain divided over certain aspects of market access and tariff removal.

The meeting, requested by the EU side, came on the sidelines of a two-day foreign ministerial session of the Group of 20 major economies through Friday.

Read more: EU and Japan resolved to swiftly conclude free trade deal – News of the European Union

Britain: Anti-Trump protesters pack London's Parliament Square as 1.8 million sign petition against visit

MPs clashed on Monday over whether or not to invite US President Donald Trump to the UK for an official state visit. Such a visit traditionally means the visiting dignitary meeting the Queen.

But this drew ire from the British public, as 1.8 million people signed a petition asking for the invitation to be rescinded. 

Only 300,000 people signed another petition in favor of the visit. 

Read more: Anti-Trump protesters pack London's Parliament Square | Euronews

EU Economy: Greece and creditors break bailout deadlock- by Eric Maurice

The Greek government agreed on Monday (20 February) to make new reforms to cut up to 2 percent of GDP in spending in the coming years.

Greece accepted budget cuts worth up to €3.6 billion that it had previously refused as the only way to break the deadlock with its creditors in talks to unblock a new tranche of the €86 billion bailout programme agreed in 2015.

Experts from the creditor institutions - the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the European Stability Mechanism and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - will be able to go back to Athens and prepare reforms on tax, pensions and the labour market with the Greek government.

Read more: Greece and creditors break bailout deadlock

Weapons Industry: International arms trade shoots up to highest level since end of Cold War – by Daniel Mützel

The global arms race grew significantly last year and sales shot up by 8.4%, according to a study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) that compared the last five years with the 2007-2011 period. It called it the highest level since the end of the Cold War.

The five largest arms suppliers, the United States, Russia, China, France and Germany, are responsible for 74% of weapons traded around the world.

According to the SIPRI, the reason for this increase in sales is the growing demand presented by Asia and the Middle East.

Read more: International arms trade shoots up to highest level since end of Cold War – EurActiv.com

Germany: Is Wolfgang Schäuble As Dangerous To The EU As Donald Trump? - by John Palmer

President Donald Trump is widely seen by allies of the United States as posing a potentially serious threat to the cohesion of the NATO alliance and – more broadly – to the post-Second World War global economic, political and security system. The European Union, fearful of the rise of right-wing populism and nationalism across the Atlantic, rightly insists it will meet both this challenge (and the disruption caused by the UK’s prospective Brexit) by strengthening its cohesion and effectiveness.

The EU, however, faces another, equally dangerous challenge but this time one from within its own ranks. The primary source of this threat is, moreover, to be found in Germany – the country which, more than any other, has shouldered the main responsibility for giving enlightened leadership to the long process of European democratisation and unification over many decades.

Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister and the Ayatollah of current EU austerity doctrine, may seem an unlikely candidate for comparison to Trump. He has a distinguished record in German politics over decades for his advocacy of greater economic and political European integration.

He is also a man who has shown impressive courage and resilience in recovering from a terrorist life-threatening assassination attempt. But his long, unchallenged hegemony over government economic strategy in the EU’s German economic powerhouse now risks igniting another, potentially lethal, phase of instability in the Euro area single currency system.

It remains to be seen whether reports of another looming crisis in relations between Greece and its Euro area creditors will prove quite as terminal as some suggest. It may be that the reported “showdown” will – once again – be deferred to another day. Greece may continue to be drip fed financial loans to prevent outright collapse – but without tackling the crisis at root.

Read more: Is Wolfgang Schäuble As Dangerous To The EU As Donald Trump?

2/20/17

Europe: Dangerous radioactive particles have been detected across Europe from unknown source - by J. Hamill

DANGEROUS radioactive particles have been detected in seven different European countries and scientists can’t explain where they have come from.

Traces of Iodine-131 were found in Norway, Finland, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, France and Spain in January, but the public were not immediately alerted.

These radioactive particles are produced by atomic bomb explosions or nuclear disasters such as Chernobyl or Fukushima.

They appear to be emanating from Eastern Europe, but experts have not been able to say exactly what produced them.

Astrid Liland, head of emergency preparedness at the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority, told the Barents Observer that the health risk was very low – which was why she did not raise the alarm after detecting Iodine-131 during the second week of January.

Read more: Dangerous radioactive particles have been detected across Europe and no-one knows where they came from

European SOCIAL Networking: Top 10 European Social Networking Sites

Here is a list of the Top 10 European Social Networking Sites, for and about Europeans networking around the world.

Read more: Top 10 European Social Networking Sites - American Vouchers [sponsored by Armis]

USA: Paul Krugman dissects the staggering ignorance of the Trump White House - by Janet Allon

Is the Trump White House evil or just stupid? The answer to that burning question is, well, both. In Monday’s column, Paul Krugman takes as his subject the incompetence piece, which is evident in matters both large and seemingly trivial.

Though when you can’t be bothered to learn how you should address the Prime Minister of Japan, or the relatively simple fact that in Asia, the order of names is reversed, it seems more than a little representative of a certain incurious attitude. Trump addressed Abe Shinzo as Prime Minister Shinzo, the equivalent of calling Trump President Donald.  “Trivial?” 

Krugman asks. “Well, it would be if it were an isolated instance. But it isn’t.” In fact it appears that for both the Republican-led Congress and the clowns in the White House, ignorance is seen as a kind of strength.

Examples abound, per Krugman.
We see this on legal matters: In a widely quoted analysis, the legal expert Benjamin Wittes described the infamous executive order on refugees as “malevolence tempered by incompetence,” and noted that the order reads “as if it was not reviewed by competent counsel at all” — which is a good way to lose in court . . .
We see it on national security matters, where the president continues to rely on a chief adviser who, suspicious closeness to the Kremlin aside, appears to get his strategic information from right-wing conspiracy theorists . . . 
We see it on education, where the hearings for Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, revealed her to be completely ignorant about even the most elementary issues . . . We see it on diplomacy. How hard is it to ask someone from the State Department to make sure that the White House gets foreign leaders’ names right?
Too hard, apparently: Before the Abe flub, the official agenda for the state visit by Theresa May, the British prime minister, repeatedly misspelled her name.
Read more: Paul Krugman dissects the staggering ignorance of the Trump White House - Salon.com

France: Marine Le Pen 'made EURO 7,020 -a-month fake job for bodyguard'

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has admitted setting up a fake job in the European parliament for her ex-paratrooper bodyguard nicknamed 'The Gorilla', according to a report by the European Anti-Fraud Office.

It was all part of a criminal scam worth up to EUR 351, 000.00to Ms Le Pen's far-right National Front (FN) party that could now see the 48-year-old jailed.

A previously confidential report by Olaf, the European Anti-Fraud Office, contains the allegations, all of which are today published in French investigative outlets Mediapart and Marianne.

Le Pen has denied the allegations and said on Friday that she has not admitted to the claims.

Read more: Marine Le Pen 'made £6000-a-month fake job for bodyguard' | Daily Mail Online

Sweden: 'What has Trump been smoking?': Swedes scratch heads at Trump's suggestion of major incident

Swedes have been scratching their heads and ridiculing U.S. President Donald Trump's remarks that suggested a major incident had happened in the Scandinavian country.

During a rally in Florida on Saturday, Trump said "look what's happening last night in Sweden" as he alluded to past terror attacks in Europe. It wasn't clear what he was referring to and there were no high-profile situations reported in Sweden on Friday night.

Trump said in a tweet Sunday afternoon that his statement was in reference to a story that was broadcast on Fox News concerning immigrants and Sweden.

Read more: 'What has he been smoking?': Swedes scratch heads at Trump's suggestion of major incident - World - CBC News

2/19/17

Spain - Refugees: Barcelona protest to support refugees draws thousands

Some 160,000 people have demonstrated in Barcelona to demand the government allow more refugees into Spain from war-hit areas such as Syria.

Marchers carrying placards and banners- many in the Catalan language - accused the Madrid government of dragging its feet over the issue.

They say it has not honoured its pledge made in 2015 to allow more than 17,000 refugees into Spain within two years.

Over that time, Spain has accepted only about 1,100 refugees.

Police gave the estimate of the turnout at Saturday's protest in the capital of Catalonia, organised by the Our Home is Your Home group, with many denouncing the government for not living up to its promises.

Protest organisers quoted by local media said that as many as 300,000 people took part.

Note EU-Digest: Bravo Spain ! Refugees don't come to Europe because they prefer it there. They come because their homes are being destroyed by war and bombs, many of these bombs are from our own Western military (NATO). High time to stop this stupidity and for Europe to get out of all these military adventures where nobody succeeds and everybody suffers.
 

Read more: Barcelona protest to support refugees draws thousands - BBC News

2/18/17

Technology: Lawyers could be the next profession to be replaced by computers - by Dan Mangan

Technology is often for destroying traditional working-class jobs in sectors like manufacturing and retail.

But blue collar jobs aren't the only ones at risk.

The legal profession — tradition-bound and labor-heavy — is on the cusp of a transformation in which artificial-intelligence platforms dramatically affect how legal work gets done.

Those platforms will mine documents for evidence that will be useful in litigation, to review and create contracts, raise red flags within companies to identify potential fraud and other misconduct or do legal research and perform due diligence before corporate acquisitions.

Those are all tasks that — for the moment at least — are largely the responsibility of flesh-and-blood attorneys.

Increasing automation of the legal industry promises to increase efficiency and save clients money, but could also cut jobs in the sector as the technology becomes responsible for tasks currently performed by humans.

Advocates of AI, however, argue there could actually be an increase in the sector's labor force as the technology drives costs down and makes legal services more affordable to greater numbers of people.

"It's like the beginning of the beginning of the beginning," said Noory Bechor, CEO of LawGeex, a leading AI-powered platform for legal contract review.

"Legal, right now, I think is in the place that other industries were 10 and 15 years ago, like travel," he said.

Read more: Lawyers could be the next profession to be replaced by computers

Munich Security Conference: Lavrov calls for ′post-West′ world order; dismisses NATO as Cold War relic

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's comments came during a speech at the annual Munich Security Conference, where US Vice President Mike Pence spoke earlier in the day, vowing that the United States would "hold Russia accountable," even as the White House seeks common ground with the Kremlin.

The annual gathering of diplomats and defense officials has been marked by Western concerns about US President Donald Trump's approach to foreign policy and attitude toward Russia.

"What kind of relations do we want with the US? Pragmatic relations, mutual respect, understanding our special responsibility for global stability," Lavrov said. "We have immense potential that has yet to be tapped into, and we're open for that inasmuch as the US is open for that as well."

Read more: Lavrov calls for ′post-West′ world order; dismisses NATO as Cold War relic | News | DW.COM | 18.02.2017

Capitalizing on Capitalism: Unilever's Paul Polman Shares His Plans to Save the World - by Vivienne Walt

Step out of the frigid drizzle into Unilever’s factory outside ­Liverpool in northern England, and the brightly lit, automated assembly line gleams in stark contrast to the gloom outside. Thousands of bottles shoot down a conveyor belt with a click-clack sound, in a streak of bright purple.

Look more closely, and there is an important detail. The new bottle is squatter than the older, taller style on another assembly line, with a smaller dispenser and a label explaining that this version of Comfort brand fabric conditioner is good for 38 washes, rather than the 33 of the last-generation package. The message is clear: Customers need to help save one of earth’s most precious resources—water.

This might appear to be a clever bit of marketing by one of the world’s biggest consumer product companies, and marketing it surely is. But to Unilever (ul, +14.00%), its updated, concentrated liquid is also a crucial innovation. It’s one of countless tweaks underway by the Anglo-Dutch company in its more than 300 factories across the world, which churn out more than 400 brands for 2.5 billion or so customers—an astonishing one in every three people on the planet.

Central to these changes is a message Unilever is determined to convey to its investors, as well as to other companies: Big corporations need to change the way they do business, fast, or they will steadily shrink and die.

Read more: Unilever's Paul Polman Shares His Plans to Save the World | Fortune.com

Capitalism, Marxism. Populism and Socialism : Richard D. Wolff on the Changing Tides of Capitalism and Socialism - by Creston Davis

In a captivating article by Truthout we read - "Nearly 30 years ago, many capitalists were celebrating what political scientist Francis Fukuyama called the "ultimate victory of the VCR": where consumerism sank communism. However, they failed to calculate the effects of this consumerism on the environment. They also failed to predict how the public would start to tire of a situation in which a very small percentage of capitalists are reaping all the benefits while the rest of us are sinking deeper and deeper into debt, poverty and powerlessness".

"Public dissatisfaction with the status quo began to spread in new directions in 2008, feeding into the global Occupy movement in 2011, and mass support for Bernie Sanders today. People are enraged; we feel doped, scammed, cheated".

"An increasing proportion of the population is becoming receptive to the messages of the professors, activists, clergy, artists and other community organizers who have long been dismissed as "too radical," while the capitalist machine roars on and on. Dr. Richard D. Wolff has long been warning the US public that the capitalist machine is one of the biggest scams in history, and now it's finally becoming clear to the general public".

"I sat down with Professor Wolff -- who recently retired from his post at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and who runs the nonprofit organization Democracy at Work -- to find out more about his work".

Question by Creston Davis: Professor Wolff, can you tell us about your own experiences as an economist who was trained in the elite Ivy League towers of American academia?
Richard D. Wolff:

"In the 10 years I spent from the day I entered Harvard to the day I left Yale, in the years in the Ivy League, I got credentialed to be a professor of economics, which is what I've done all my adult life. I learned what is now called "mainstream economics" and essentially, that's all I learned. Because it was the height of the Cold War when I was studying at university, the way the elite American institutions handled the problem of the Cold War was by pretending there was no economics other than "mainstream economics," which is a celebration of capitalism".

"Mainstream economics" is divided between two strands: The first and primary one is the pure celebration of capitalism, which is called "neoclassical economics" for historical reasons. And the secondary strain, which admits that capitalism has some problems, but don't worry, they're easily fixed. This strain is called Keynesian economics because it explains how, in the face of the complete collapse in the 1930s, a society can get itself out of this catastrophe.".

Question: Do you openly claim to be a Marxist?

" I don't shy away from the term "Marxist," but the truth of it is, I insist on not shying away just as a kind of pushback against the mind-numbing narrowness of an American academic economic dogma, which is, to this day, unable and unwilling to confront and to cope with reality".

Question: Do your colleagues know Marxism?

"My economic colleagues -- many of whom are anti-Marxist or indifferent to Marxism -- what these two camps share in common is that they don't know a thing about Marxism. It's not their fault; they are smart, but it's been the cultural asphyxiation of open-mindedness in American academic culture that makes them unable to think that way and which gives me the wonderful opportunity to compare how the different approaches deal with the problem.

So I know how mainstream economics does it, and I know how Marxian does it, and can look and see, and pick and choose, and pull these things together, whereas my colleagues can't do that. I can talk to them about neoclassical and Keynesianism, but they can't talk to me about Marxism. It's as if we didn't speak the same language. So it's very peculiar. Nevertheless my approach to the problems of American capitalism is starting to gain a larger readership as consciousness begins to shift ".

Question: What are some trends that we are witnessing as a result of ignoring other ways of seeing the world?

"Back in 2008, with the catastrophic collapse from which most people haven't recovered, it's clear to see that, "Oh my God! We've got a system that's troubled!" That's why you have a Jeremy Corbyn [as] head of the Labour Party in England; that is why you have a Bernie Sanders blowing away the dismissal that he would get 2 to 3 percent of the vote, if that! Despite the media exclusion of him, more than it's ever justified, he keeps winning ".

Question: How would you explain this?

" I mean, it's amazing what [Sanders has] been able to do, and it's a sign ... it's the audience that's changed as it has for me. I go all over the country; I speak in a lot of places and the demand for my talks -- which, five years ago, was virtually nothing -- [now] is very high. It's a completely different world, for me ... [due to a] change in the mentality in the American people. Suddenly, I'm in high demand; I do this weekly radio program broadcast in over 50 stations now across the United States and it's growing ".

Question: You'll be teaching a seminar, "Capitalism and Socialism in the 20th Century," that focuses on your work in July at The Commons in Brooklyn, New York. What are your objectives in teaching this course?

"The 20th century was one comprised of a cataclysmic struggle between two opposing ideologies: capitalism and socialism.... Toward the end of the century, around 1989-1990, one of these two ideologies, socialism collapses. The Soviet Union implodes, Eastern Europe follows in its wake, and in China some basic changes begin to manifest in terms of direction and orientation. China's shifts were made so that it could become popular and competitive in the new world order, which is globalized, unabated capitalism. Capitalism won, end of story".

"What that period and what this history shows us is that whatever else one has to say, something about the 20th century experiment with socialism, particularly in Russia and China, wasn't sufficient to sustain itself. They fell apart not by being overwhelmed by a military defeat ... rather, at the end of the day, there's something inherent in that form of socialism that didn't work. And so, starting in 1989, this implosion led to a series of deep questions and criticisms inside the world of socialism to explain what happened".

"Questions such as "What did we do wrong?" "What can we do differently?" "What was valuable in what socialism achieved despite its collapse?" "What was repugnant or didn't work in socialism?" And these sets of questions have produced, in the period between 1990 and 2016, a horizon of self-criticisms coupled with new directions for socialism in the 21st century".

"Yes, in the wake of capitalism's defeat many philosophers -- and we're talking even atheist Marxists -- started turning to the deep stories of religion in Judaism, Christianity and other religions including paganism in the early 1990s. They did this both as a way to preserve narrative in the wake of capitalist anti-intellectualism, and also as a way to create new forms of resistance to nihilistic capitalism. In the latter, the robust indeterminate meaning of existence was reduced to how much you owned materially. It was as if, in the face of socialism's defeat, capitalism's answer to the question of meaning for all human existence was found in the appallingly simple question: "How much money do you have?"

"This is why my course will be examining not only the history of socialism and capitalism in the 20th century but also how those ideologies no longer work and are shifting dramatically. It's imperative to know history and the history of economics to understand our options for creating a better future".

"This can be seen in two ways: First, for those people who paid attention to socialism, they observed things in terms less of a failure and more of an emergent dynamic shifting in light of these self-criticisms, new priorities and directions. Number two, capitalism also discovered to its own surprise that the great "victory" of 1989-1990 of capitalism itself turned out to be of short duration. By 2008, capitalism that had claimed itself to be the "great victorious system" collapsed and cannot find a way to recover as a whole. Of course, the corporate side of capitalism recovered via the taxpayers bailing Wall Street out".

"Among the meaningful signs of change are [that the] Greek government is now run by socialists, the Portuguese government is now run by an alliance of communists and socialists, and the [UK] Labour Party is now being run by Jeremy Corbyn, and to everyone's surprise, Bernie Sanders is even more wildly successful under the banner of "democratic socialist" who may win 50 percent of the vote within the Democratic primary largely owing to the independent voters who are able to vote in Democratic open primary elections. And no one believed this was possible in the United States, including Sanders himself ".

Question: In Spain you have Podemos' recent victories too.

"Podemos is having gains and the traditional socialist parties no longer have the traction they once had. In France and in Germany, the democratic socialist parties are all falling apart. So you see classic socialism fading rapidly, and the same is true of capitalism. Capitalism, with its inherent injustices, is speeding into a stone wall, and everyone's staring at the wall but doesn't know what to do, like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights".

"So it's clear to many that both capitalism and traditional socialism are in deep trouble and are changing, and if you look at capitalism, it's extreme inequality and extreme instability with the crash of 2008 and all that happened and the prognoses that 2016-2017 are going to be down years again indicates that we are at a nodal historical point.... This new century's struggle will be between a changed capitalism and a very changed socialism with likely very different outcomes".

Note EU-Digest:  See also the full bio of Professor Richard David Wolff in Wikipedia

In the context  of the above interview of Dr. Richard David Wolff it is probably also interesting to note that it indirectly also highlights the reasons for the emergence and election of Donald Trump as the President of the USA.  One could probably define the Trump emergence as a right-wing attempt to capitalize on what appears to be a populist uprising around the world. 

As the Chinese saying goes: ""we are living in interesting times".  

EU-Digest









 
 
 




Read more: Richard Wolff on the Changing Tides of Capitalism and Socialism

Dutch Expertise: Dutch water expert who kept the Netherlands dry takes aims at rising seas in Miami, and the world - by Andres Viglucci

The Special Envoy for Water Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands leans over the railing separating the new raised sidewalk in Miami Beach’s Sunset Harbour neighborhood from the sunken well of the old one below, where a restaurant has smartly set up a dining patio with tables and umbrellas. He nods in approval and snaps an iPhone picture.

Henk Ovink, once the man in charge of making sure the flood-prone Netherlands stays dry, has been dispatched by his government to help the world figure out how to cope with sea level rise. He’s on a three-day tour of southern Florida, and has some good news and some bad news for two Beach officials who have spent Thursday morning showing off the first results of the city’s hugely ambitious, and expensive, effort to overhaul the way it builds streets, buildings and neighborhoods in response to the increased risk of inundation posed by climate change.

Not all is “doom and gloom” for the region, Ovink stressed. Florida is hardly the only place in the world where the grave peril posed by sea level rise has yet to fully sink in to public consciousness, he said. But it’s also a significant opportunity for South Florida, because the world will be looking to the region to develop what he called “transformative interventions” to deal with the looming crisis.

The good news, Ovink says: The Beach’s incremental approach, which involves rallying community support as it goes about raising streets and sidewalks, installing massive pumps to remove water, and rewriting its building and zoning codes under a plan to remake 40 percent of city streets within a decade, is not just good, but even exemplary.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article132057654.html#storylink=cpy

If you stand to lose everything, that might drive change,” said Ovink, who for a water expert wields a dry sense of humor. “If we can find a way forward in Miami, it can be an example for the world, though the challenge is huge.”

Ovink, whose visit was sponsored by the Dutch consulate in Miami, brought more than observations and advice. After his Wednesday evening talk, he and UM architecture dean Rodolphe el-Khoury signed an agreement for collaboration with the Netherlands’ Delft University, which has an institute in which architects, engineers, policymakers and experts in governance work on urban water issues, including sea level rise.

He also offered Buell help from Dutch experts on groundwater flow. The Beach has been working to understand the workings of deposits of water beneath the layers of its porous limestone base.

“I think we found a new friend,” Buell said.

Ovink cautioned that what works in the Netherlands or New York may not in South Florida, which is acutely vulnerable to sea level rise because of its porous limestone base — which encompasses several layers of rock and aquifers — its low-lying ground, and a combination of the effect of ocean currents and water temperatures offshore. One study he cited at UM estimates that Miami could lead the world in climate change-driven losses from a surge in extreme weather events by 2050, with $278 billion worth of property at risk.

That, he said, demands new mitigation strategies and creative, collaborative governance — something critics say has been scarce across South Florida. But Ovink said public officials have made some good moves, for instance by creating a three-county coalition to research and address sea level rise, even as Miami, the Beach and Miami-Dade County each have named a chief resilience officer to oversee and coordinate local response efforts. Those positions are funded through 100 Resilient Cities, a $164 million Rockefeller Foundation effort.

While Ovink praised a project that restored coastal mangroves in Broward to buffer the county’s port, he said Miami Beach is clearly leading the way. He endorsed the approach under Mayor Philip Levine of rapidly undertaking urgent improvements — Sunset Harbour came first because it was the city’s most vulnerable neighborhood, Buell said — while planning long-term for what he termed the “slow-moving emergency” of rising seas.

He cautioned that trying to do too much at once, especially if the citizenry is not yet fully on board with drastic changes, could impose unaffordably high costs, unnecessarily disrupt businesses and neighborhoods and risk a backlash. He agreed with the city administration’s decision to design higher new seawalls to just below the 100-year storm standard as a cost-effective compromise.

The entire Netherlands, by contrast, is protected from a 1,000-year storm, Ovink noted.

“We think we are safe. This is where the world needs to go within the next 100 years,” he said. “But I would always try to find a practical way forward. You don’t put all the burden on the future generation or on the present generation alone. Miami, the new Miami, will not be built in a day.”

Ovink plans to return to Sunset Harbour in the fall to see how the new infrastructure fares during King Tide, the period when tides are highest because the moon is the closest to the earth. The Beach has seen repeated dry-weather street flooding as seawater, propelled by the high tides atop higher sea levels, bubbles up through sewers.

“I think on a very positive note, you’re doing a lot right,” he told Buell and Daniels. “Next to doing these incremental steps for building resiliency, they also have to become the platform to think bigger. The vulnerability is not solved easily. For climate change and sea level rise there are no quick fixes, and it has to stay forever.

“You changed the culture on how Miami Beach lives with water. That’s an essential first step, to acknowledge and embrace that you will be doing this for the rest of your lives, and the lives of your children and grandchildren.”

Read more: Dutch water expert who kept the Netherlands dry takes aims at rising seas in Miami, and the world | Miami Herald

2/17/17

USA: Wave of leaks stirs fears of a U.S. ‘deep state’ - by Amanda Taub and Max Fisher

A wave of leaks from government officials has hobbled the Trump administration, leading some to draw comparisons to countries like Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan, where shadowy networks within government bureaucracies, often referred to as “deep states,” undermine and coerce elected governments.

So is the United States seeing the rise of its own deep state?

Not quite, experts say, but the echoes are real — and disturbing.

Although leaks can be a normal and healthy check on a president’s power, what’s happening now extends much further. The United States, those experts warn, risks developing an entrenched culture of conflict between the president and his own bureaucracy.

Issandr El Amrani, an analyst who has written on Egypt’s deep state, said he was concerned by the parallels, although the United States had not reached authoritarian extremes.

The growing discord between a president and his bureaucratic rank-and-file, he warned, “is dangerous, it encourages deep divisions within society, it creates these constant tensions.”

Read more: Wave of leaks stirs fears of a U.S. ‘deep state’ - Las Vegas Sun News

Netherlands’ Wilders popularity waning- by Nick Ottens

When Donald Trump won the presidential election in November, Dutch nationalist party leader Geert Wilders hailed it as the beginning of an illiberal reaction that would inspire like-minded movements on the Atlantic's other shore.

But it doesn’t seem to be happening in his home country.

The national broadcaster NOS averaged the polls for the election in March and found that support for Wilders’ Freedom Party has fallen since the end of last year, from a high of 21 percent to 18 percent.

The party, which proposes to take the Netherlands out of the European Union and stop immigration from non-Western countries, could still become the single-largest. But the difference with Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal VVD is now only a few seats.

If this trend continues, Rutte could come out on top, although he is likely anyway to remain in power at the head of a coalition of parties in the centre.

So far Freedom Party voters are not flocking to Rutte, who is closest to Wilders on immigration and security policy but also supports EU membership and free trade. His liberal party is stable at 16-17 percent support.

The question now is: where will they go?

"Lets hope they go to a fresh new face like Jesse Klaver from GroenLinks", said a Dutch farmer in Groningen. 

EU-Digest

USA - Trunp Administration: A Second Motive?–Putin and Trump’s Shared Interest in Undermining the Election Process - by Ryan Goodman

The FBI and other government agencies, two powerful Senate committees, and scores of journalists are now on the trail of potential contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russian officials prior to the presidential election. In the hunt for information, many are looking to whether particular actions by Russia (and Wikileaks) were potentially coordinated with Donald Trump’s inner circle to help his election chances. But that focus is too narrow. It assumes Mr. Trump and Vladimir Putin shared only one principal goal: getting Mr. Trump to the White House.

According to the intelligence community, Mr. Putin’s cyber operation during the presidential election served two ambitions: (1) to undercut Hillary Clinton’s prospect of winning; and (2) to sow doubt about the election process as a whole. The first ambition rose and fell according to the belief that Mr. Trump’s chance of winning was within the realm of possibility. Russia may have largely given up on that ambition, according to the intelligence report, when it looked like Ms. Clinton’s victory was more certain. The intelligence community concluded: “When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign then focused on undermining her expected presidency.”

Here’s what should not be missed: Mr. Trump would directly benefit from the first effort, but he also aligned himself, to a significant degree, with the second effort as well. More specifically, Mr. Putin’s second ambition was fully consistent with Mr. Trump’s repeatedly calling the election “rigged,” and refusing to state that he would accept the election results if Ms. Clinton won. There was a stage in which Mr. Trump thought he might win, and there were long stretches in which he seemed dead set on undermining the public confidence in the election results. Notably, the latter ambition was in contrast to the positions taken by Mike Pence and Reince Priebus, both of whom tried to make course corrections.

What might explain Mr. Trump’s interest in undermining public confidence in the election results? At this point one can only speculate. And nobody seemed to know at the time. Perhaps out of concern for his reputation, he wanted any loss to be cast under a shadow of doubt. Perhaps Mr. Trump wanted to undermine Clinton’s expected presidency, especially if it would help him set up a new media company in opposition to her administration. Perhaps there are even more nefarious reasons having to do with financial and other ties to Russia and thus continuing to act in line with Moscow’s own interests. Regardless of the specific reason, Mr. Trump’s systematic effort to shape public opinion around the idea of a rigged election was not out synch with the Kremlin’s own efforts.

As you look to the various reasons that Trump’s innermost circle may have supported or otherwise colluded with Russia’s efforts, it is important to keep this wider focus in mind.

Read more: A Second Motive?–Putin and Trump’s Shared Interest in Undermining the Election Process | Just Security

2/16/17

The Netherlands: The "Dutch Trump" Geert Wilders PVV party losing support in the polls

Trump and Wilders "one and the same" - disaster
Dutch political scientist Tom Louwerse, creator of Peilingwijzer, told NOS Dutch TV News station : "The PVV lost 5 seats since December and you can now see that decline to a greater or lesser extent at all polling agencies",

Researchers see several reasons why voters in the Netherlands are turning their back on the PVV, according to the Dutch newspaper AD. Some people are concerned about American president Donald Trump's policies, for which Wilders expressed great support and he even went to the US to support him .

"Trump has turned out to be a completely deranged person and so is his Dutch supporter Geert Wilders - they are very similar and voting for him makes no sense at all. It will only cause disaster and chaos in the Netherlands", said a member of the Dutch  Parliament, who wanted to remain anonymous

Others doubt the feasibility of the PVV's plans or have their doubts about whether the PVV will be part of the next government, given that very few other Dutch political parties want to work with him

EU-Digest

EU-Canada relations: In counter to Trump, Trudeau says EU and Canada must lead the world economy - by Dan Alexe

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg, marking the adoption by MEPs of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union.

“Make no mistake about it, this is an important moment,” he said.

Trudeau said the whole world benefited from a strong European Union and that the bloc and his country needed to lead the international economy in challenging times.

With the passage of their trade deal, Canada and the European Union offer a counter to Trump, who has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and wants to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trudeau told the European Parliament that the Union was an unprecedented model for peaceful cooperation in a speech that marked his distance from both the United States under new President Donald Trump, who has questioned the value and future of the bloc, and from Britain, which has voted to leave it.

On Wednesday the European Parliament approved CETA, with 58 % of members voting to adopt the deal.

The final vote saw most of the members representing Europe’s centrist parties voting in favour, with opposition from members representing left-leaning socialist and Green as well as right-wing, nationalist parties.

Of the 695 members present in the 751-seat legislature, 408 voted in favor, 254 against and 33 abstained.

For Canada the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is important to reduce its reliance on the neighboring United States as an export market.

For the EU, it is a first trade pact with a G7 country and a success to hail after months of protests at a time when the bloc’s credibility has taken a beating from Britain’s vote last June to leave.

Trudeau will next travel to Berlin, where he will meet with German President Joachim Gauck and Chancellor Angela Merkel. 

Read more: In counter to Trump, Trudeau says EU and Canada must lead the world economy

The White House: Trump's most extraordinary news conference - by Jon Sopel

Today totally typified the unexpected and unpredictable nature of covering the 45th president of the United States.

I was at home, working on a book I am trying to finish when there was a flash on the TV: Donald Trump to hold unscheduled news conference in an hour's time.

I legged it down to the White House, and on a cold Washington morning waited outside the East Wing for 45 minutes until the Secret Service let us in.

I knew if I was to get a question in I would need to be near the front.

For half an hour the president berated us.

Never had there been a more dishonest group of people.

We were out of control. Wild. Feral. Not to be trusted.

And then it was questions.

He called various journalists he knew.

Then I managed to catch his eye.

And this is what followed:

Me: Could I just ask you, thank you very much, Mr President. The trouble...

President Trump: Where are you from?

Me: BBC.

President Trump: Here's another beauty.

Me: That's a good line. Impartial, free and fair.

President Trump: Yeah. Sure.

Me: Mr President...

President Trump: Just like CNN right?

Me: On the travel ban - we could banter back and forth. On the travel ban would you accept that that was a good example of the smooth running of government...

President Trump: Yeah, I do. I do. Let me tell you about this government...

Me: Were there any mistakes...

President Trump: Wait. Wait. I know who you are. Just wait. Let me tell you about the travel ban. We had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban. But we had a bad court. Got a bad decision...

It was quite the most extraordinary news conference I have attended.

As I say, everything about reporting on this presidency is unexpected and unpredictable.

Read more: Trump's most extraordinary news conference - BBC News

High-End Technology: EU states seek protection for high-end technology - by Andrew Rettman

France, Germany, and Italy have urged the European Commission to better protect EU states from foreign countries seeking to acquire high-end technology.'

EU countries can already block foreign investments on national security grounds, but the three countries’ economy ministers said in a joint letter to EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem that they should also be able to do it for “economic” reasons.

"EU law gives the right to member states to prohibit foreign investments which threaten public security and public order," they said, according to the Reuters and DPA news agencies.

"What is needed is additional protection based on economic criteria taking into account, and with reference to, the Commission's expertise.”

They said EU states “should have more scope to investigate individual takeovers and, where applicable, block them”.

They added that the kinds of deals that should be targeted were “unfair  ... because they rely on state funds or are aimed at buying up important technologies”.

They also complained that foreign states abused EU open markets by closing their doors to European investors.

“We are worried about the lack of reciprocity and about a possible sell-out of European expertise, which we are currently unable to combat with effective instruments," the ministers, representing the eurozone's three largest economies, said.

The letter did not mention China, but China was recently in the spotlight in Germany on technology-transfers and is notorious for blocking EU investments in its firms.

Berlin blocked the takeover of German electronics firm Aixtron by China’s Fujian Grand Chip Investment last year on grounds that its microchips could be used in Chinese nuclear weapons.
German chancellor Angela Merkel also complained about lack of reciprocity after the €4.5 billion buy-out of German robotics firm Kuka by Chinese electrical appliance maker Midea.

Germany’s deputy economy minister, Matthias Machnig, told the Financial Times newspaper on Tuesday that foreign companies should be obliged to “show that their investments in Germany are not driven by the state, and that financing for their deals is in keeping with the market”.

“It is a principle that we want to establish in Europe, together with France and Italy,” he said.
He told German daily Handelsblatt that: “Germany is for open markets. We support the investment of foreign companies in Germany”.

He added, however: “Our companies are in a tough competition with countries that themselves are not as open as Germany and Europe.”

For the complete report click here: EU states seek protection for high-end technology