Advertise On EU-Digest

Annual Advertising Rates

1/31/18

USA: Trump could be impeached within a year - How Close Is Trump’s Presidency to ‘The End" ?

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) says the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller by President Donald Trump would likely result in the end of the billionaire’s run as the nation’s commander in chief, and oddsmakers appear to agree.

Graham, who said he would support legislation before Congress that would protect special counsels from firings with a review process, spoke Sunday about a report saying that Trump ordered Mueller’s dismissal in June but changed his mind after White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to resign.

“I’m sure that there will be an investigation around whether or not President Trump did try to fire Mr. Mueller. We know that he didn’t fire Mr. Mueller. We know that if he tried to, it would be the end of his presidency,” Graham told ABC News on Sunday. “It’s pretty clear to me that everybody in the
White House knows it would be the end of President Trump’s presidency if he fired Mr. Mueller.
Read more: How Close Is Trump’s Presidency to ‘The End’? Here’s What Bookmakers’ Odds Say About Impeachment

EU: Visegrad: The clash of the euro visions - by Katya Adler

After Brexit could come Nexit, Dexit and Frexit, we thought, as a wave of anti-establishment euroscepticism washed across the continent.

But shock at the ongoing political disorder in the UK following the Brexit vote, plus a sense of uncertainty in Europe provoked by the Trump presidency, have served to solidify EU membership in most countries.

Now the battle is no longer about survival but over the direction the European Union should take. And in whose name.

The celebrated assumption in Brussels has been that Merkel and Macron, or M&M as I like to call them, would become the EU's golden couple - breathing life back into the Franco-German motor of Europe, getting the engine of EU integration purring once again, once troublesome Britain was out of the way.

But the spoke in the wheels of that EU motor-vehicle scenario comes from central Europe and the so-called Visegrad group of former communist states: Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Otherwise known as the V4.

Hungary's foreign minister once told me they see themselves as the "bad boys" of Europe. Pushing back against Brussels edicts, such as the migrant quotas.

Eurosceptic they are not. V4 economies have benefited hugely from EU subsidies.

Brussels-sceptic would be a more accurate description. With a common, though varying degree of dislike for EU centralisation.

The Visegrad 4 certainly do not share the post-World War Two vision of the EU espoused by mainstream decision-makers in western Europe, in countries like Germany, France and Italy.

The governments in Hungary and Poland have made front-page news over the last few months for thumbing their nose at EU laws, lectures and mores.

Their vision for Europe is one where the nation state is strong and independent.

Agoston Mraz, CEO of the Hungarian government-sponsored Nezopont Institute, told me fighting empires is a Hungarian tradition: first the Turks 500 years ago; then the Austrian Empire; followed by the Nazis and the communists in the 20th Century. Now, he said, they were resisting attempts to build a European empire.

He believes a clash of "euro visions" between the V4 and EU-integrationists is inevitable. And that the V4 view of Europe is catching on.

The EU certainly worries that the self-declared illiberal democracy of Hungary's domestically popular Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, is inspiring others.

Ultimately, though, the EU vision division is no binary matter.

Look at Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands and you'll see there are nuanced positions between the Orban/Macron extremes.

As the UK exits the EU it leaves behind a gaping hole - not just in the EU budget - but also in terms of balance of power.

It's not clear yet who will fill the vacuum - the federalists, the pragmatists or more nationalist-minded governments.

Note EU-Digest: History tells us that a nationalist trend has always led to disaster for Europe, so whatever the Eastern European say, lets keep on a Federalist course and dear Europeans in the East : take it or leave it.

Read more: Visegrad: The clash of the euro visions - BBC News

USA -State of the Union: FactChecking Trump's State of the Union - by Editorial Staff

President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address was filled with several repeat claims about the economy, tax cuts and immigration that we’ve fact-checked before, as well as new false and misleading statements on auto plants, judicial appointments and development aid.
  • Trump claimed credit for 2.4 million new jobs “since the election,” when more than a half a million of those jobs were created under then-President Obama.
  • He claimed that wages are “finally” going up, when they’ve been on a generally upward trend since the 1990s.
  • Trump boasted that the African American unemployment rate was the “lowest rate ever recorded” and that Hispanic unemployment was at the “lowest levels in history.” True, but both rates have been in steady decline for about seven years. And the recent Hispanic rate matches the record low in October 2006.
  • Trump falsely said car companies have not built or expanded plants in the U.S. “for decades.” Two new assembly plants were announced and others expanded in the last nine years.
  • The president said he had appointed “more circuit court judges than any new administration” in history. True, but appointments by Presidents Nixon and Kennedy had a greater impact since there were far fewer appellate court seats back then.
  • Trump said the U.S. does “more than any other country … to help the needy, the struggling, and the underprivileged all over the world.” In raw dollars of development aid, it’s true. But as a proportion of gross national income, the U.S. ranked 22nd in 2016.
  • The president wrongly said that the U.S. is “an exporter of energy to the world.” The Energy Information Administration estimates the U.S. won’t be a net exporter of energy until 2026.
  • Trump again wrongly said that “we enacted the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history.” There have been larger cuts as a percentage of gross domestic product and in inflation-adjusted dollars
  • The president said the new tax law gives “tremendous relief for the middle class.” The middle quintile in terms of income gets an average tax cut of $930 in 2018, but the top quintile gets a little more than 65 percent of the tax cut benefits.
  • Trump said cutting the corporate tax rate will “increase average family income by more than $4,000.” This is a rosy, long-term estimate from White House economic advisers based on questionable assumptions.
  • Trump wrongly said the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program “hands out green cards without any regard for skill … or the safety of the American people.” There are both education or work experience requirements, and a background check for all who are selected.
  • Trump said that “America has also finally turned the page on decades of unfair trade deals.” But the trade deficit that he promised to reduce has grown larger during his presidency.
  • Trump said the U.S. is “restoring our … standing abroad.” But a recent Gallup Poll found “approval of U.S. leadership across 134 countries and areas stands at a new low.”
The president’s speech on Jan. 30 clocked in at an hour and 20 minutes (and 31 seconds), the third longest dating back to 1966, according to the American Presidency Project. That means there was plenty of time for repeat claims and some new twists on the facts.

Trump claimed credit for creating 561,000 jobs that actually were added before he took office, and for starting a rise in wages that began years earlier.
Trump said: "Since the election, we have created 2.4 million new jobs, including 200,000 new jobs in manufacturing alone. Tremendous number. After years and years of wage stagnation, we are finally seeing rising wages".
Trump claimed credit for creating 561,000 jobs that actually were added before he took office, and for starting a rise in wages that began years earlier.
Trump: Since the election, we have created 2.4 million new jobs, including 200,000 new jobs in manufacturing alone. Tremendous number. After years and years of wage stagnation, we are finally seeing rising wages.

As he has done numerous times recently, Trump boasted about record-low unemployment rates for black and Hispanic Americans. That’s accurate, but unemployment rates for African American and Hispanic Americans — as well as for all Americans — have been in steady decline for about the last seven years.
Trump said: "And something I am very proud of, African American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded. And Hispanic American unemployment has also reached the lowest levels in history"
As we noted when Trump recently claimed the black unemployment rate is the lowest in recorded history “because of my policies,” the years-long downward trend in unemployment rates has continued under Trump, but at a slower pace than in recent years.

When Trump took office in January 2017, the black unemployment rate was 7.8 percent, the lowest it had been in nearly 10 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Under Trump, it dropped a full percentage point to 6.8 percent in December. That’s the lowest rate since the bureau began regularly breaking out unemployment rates by race in 1972.

A similar drop of 1 percentage point was recorded during the same 11-month period in 2016. But even larger drops were recorded in each of the three years before that. The rate fell 1.9 percentage points in 2015, 1.5 percentage points in 2014 and 1.8 percentage points in 2013.

The gap between white and black unemployment remains largely unchanged under Trump. While black unemployment fell to 6.8 percent in December, the white unemployment rate that month was 3.7 percent. So the white rate is 46 percent lower than the black rate, about the same as the gap in December 2016.

The Hispanic unemployment rate dipped to 4.8 percent in June, October and November, matching a record low recorded in October 2006. The rate dropped by a full percentage point under Trump, from 5.9 percent in January 2017 to 4.9 percent in December. But again, despite remaining constant during 2016, the rate has been declining for years, going from 12.9 percent in December 2010 to 6.2 percent in December 2015.

Trump made a series of misstatements in talking about the auto industry.
Trump said: "Many car companies are now building and expanding plants in the United States — something we haven’t seen for decades. Chrysler is moving a major plant from Mexico to Michigan. Toyota and Mazda are opening up a plant in Alabama — a big one. And we haven’t seen this in a long time. It’s all coming back".
There is a lot to unpack here, but let’s start with the fact that the president is wrong when he says the U.S. has not seen the construction of new auto plants and expansion of existing ones “for decades.”
The Center for Automotive Research, a government-funded research group based in Michigan, tracks auto manufacturing investments in the U.S. Kristin Dziczek, the center’s director of the industry, labor & economics group, told us that most investments in recent years have been for “expansion and retooling of existing facilities.” But, she said, two new auto assembly plants were announced in the nine years before Trump took office.

For example, Volkswagen chose Chattanooga, Tennessee, as the hub of its U.S. manufacturing operations in 2008. Volvo announced its first U.S. plant in 2015, and BMW expanded its South Carolina facility as recently as 2016.

Trump was also wrong when he said, “Chrysler is moving a major plant from Mexico to Michigan.” In early January, Fiat Chrysler announced plans to move production of its heavy-duty trucks from Mexico to the United States, but the Mexico plant is expected to continue its operations and switch to a new vehicle line.

The president has gotten the facts wrong about Fiat Chrysler before, including in a recent tweet where he claimed Chrysler “is leaving Mexico and coming back to the USA.”
Trump is right that Toyota and Mazda have announced the construction of a joint auto assembly plant in Alabama. But it’s not clear how much credit Trump can claim.

In a press release announcing the new plant, Toyota said it has been negotiating a joint venture with Mazda for two years — ever since the two companies entered an agreement in May 2015 to partner on business ventures.

The $1.6 billion investment is part of a commitment that Toyota made in January 2017 before Trump took office to invest $10 billion in the U.S. over five years. At the time, Toyota President Akio Toyoda told reporters, “We’re always considering ways to increase production in the United States, regardless of the political situation.”

Read more of the detailed facts here: FactChecking Trump's State of the Union - FactCheck.org

1/30/18

US Economy - The Trump Bubble - Dow Jones Meltdown two days in a row: Tumbles Again Today Ahead of State Of The Union Address

America First or America Economic Meltdown
The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted today amid investor fears of rising interest rates and a disruption in the health care market. The blue-chip index closed down 361 points, or 1.37%, to 26,078 — the second day of triple-digit declines and the worst daily drop since August.

That’s an inconvenient truth for President Donald Trump, who’s expected to tout an economy that’s “roaring back to life” during tonight’s State of the Union address.

“America is open for business, and we are competitive once again,” Trump said in a speech last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that previews tonight’s remarks.

But investors freaked out today following reports that Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase plan to form a company to tackle health care costs for their employees — an announcement that triggered a selloff of health-care stocks.

Meanwhile, the 10-year U.S. Treasury note reached 2.73% — a sign that investors see a risk of rising inflation.

Bottom-line: investors are finally getting the message that Donal Trump has created fake optimism about the US economy , which in reality is based on a fata morgana  and drag the US into a spiral of inflation and a huge deficits. 

Read more: Dow Jones Takes A Tumble Ahead of State Of The Union Address | Deadline

EU-US Relations: Donald Trump's America First backlash: How Europe could be the unexpected beneficiary of America’s fall from global grace

US president Donald Trump has promised to put America first. His protectionist stance on trade, his implicit threats to pull military protection from countries that do not contribute sufficiently to NATO, and his decision to pull the US out of the Paris agreement on climate change are all designed to rebalance what Trump sees as a drain on American resources. But the net result may be to put America last, as allies in every part of the world seek out new relationships to shore up an international system on which they depend.

As the US loses influence, however, other countries will find opportunity. While Russia and China have aggressively courted influence, Europe, too, could be a beneficiary of America’s fall from global grace—if it plays its cards right.

Washington’s dirty secret is that America’s lead over the rest of the world—economic, military and political—has been in steep decline for decades. After World War II, the US constituted half of the global economy. Today, that share is closer to 25%, according to an analysis of the IMF’s World Economic Outlook Database. Meanwhile, challenger nations such as China have gone from having a GDP equal to less than one-fifth of the US economy in 1990 to exceeding it today (at least if GDP is adjusted for differences in purchasing power).

The miracle of American foreign policy has been the ability of successive administrations to maintain influence in the face of their country’s relative decline. US governments have attempted to ensure that every region of the world maintains a balance of power that ultimately favors American interests. This means that Washington could afford to lose weight in relative terms so long as smaller players in each region allied with America against the rising regional power—whether that regional power was China, Russia, or Iran.

The secret sauce of this strategy was the way Washington allowed its allies to share in the benefits of American hegemony. Europeans, for example, were allowed to benefit from US military spending and the security is provided without having to come up with equivalent spending on their own. Today, however, under the slogan “America First,” Trump is ripping up that playbook—and the net result could be that many American allies are forced to develop relations with regional challengers to hedge against their abandonment by Washington.

As a result, the US might well end up poorer, less influential, and less secure. The risk is not so much that the US incurs losses in individual diplomatic conflicts or isolated trade disputes. However, if America’s allies are forced into new alliances with America’s foes, the new system that emerges will be less conducive to America’s interests.

Trump’s proposals on trade policy and his Republicans tax plan has set the US on a collision course. Were Trump to implement a tariff on cars produced in Mexico, it would not only attract the wrath of Mexico—the German government could also be forced to act, given its car producers’ reliance on plants in Mexico.

Congressman Paul Ryan’s plan for a corporate tax with border tax adjustment would have effectively put a tariff on imports into the US from everywhere in the world, and would have created the equivalent of an export subsidy for everything produced in the US.

Read more: Donald Trump's America First backlash: How Europe could be the unexpected beneficiary of America’s fall from global grace — Quartz

EU Trash: Why do Scandinavians generate more waste than other Europeans? - by Marta Rodriguez Martinez

While Denmark is known as a European leader in green energy — almost 15% of its total electricity comes from biodegradable waste — the Scandinavian country has slipped under the radar as also being Europe’s biggest producer of municipal waste per person.

According to data published by Eurostat, Danes produced the most kilos of waste per capita in 2016, with 777 kilos per person, while Romanians produced the least amount of municipal waste with 261 kilos per person.

After Denmark, Norway is the second country that produces the most municipal waste with 754 kilos per person, then Switzerland (720 kilos per person), followed by Iceland (656 kilos per person).

The European average generates 480 kilos of waste, an amount best met by Greece (497 kilos per person), Italy (495 kilos per person), and the United Kingdom (495 kilos per person). The Spanish are slightly below the average with 443 kilos per capita.

Read more: EU TRash: Why do Scandinavians generate more waste than other Europeans? | Euronews

1/29/18

The Netherlands: International businesses create more than 125.000 jobs in the Netherlands - by Mina Solanki

The Netherlands, not only tulips, also great professional jobs
If you are working in the Netherlands, your job may have directly or indirectly been made available by an international business.

In 2017, according to figures from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, 357 international businesses collectively invested more than 1,67 billion euros in the Dutch economy, creating 12.686 jobs in the Netherlands.

Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, Eric Wiebes, is pleased with the figures from last year, as these show that the Netherlands is profiting from its favourable investment climate. In saying, “1,4 million Dutch people have a job, be it directly or indirectly, thanks to these businesses”, Wiebes expressed the importance of international companies for the Netherlands.

Read more: International businesses create more than 125.000 jobs in the Netherlands

USA: The State of The Union Address: It will include all of Trump’s familiar flaws: Overselling and in the end underperforming -

Second-Hand Car Salesman in  Chief
When everything is “the greatest,” “fantastic,” “never been done before” and “the best,” modest results look like a flop. And that’s the downfall of a used-car salesman who cannot leave town before his customers realize they bought a lemon, not a Lamborghini.

When President Trump in his pre-White House days sold chewy, overpriced steak, mediocre vodka in pretty bottles or unmemorable chocolate at high prices, customers just didn’t come back for more (and the businesses failed).

When his much-hyped casinos bombed, they declared bankruptcy, and he walked away. As president, however, he has to (or does he?) stick around for four years and be judged on results. And that’s a problem for a president who promised the most fabulous health care, tremendous trade deals and so much winning that you’d get “tired” of winning.

Trump and his advisers have suggested we could get to 4, 5 (do I hear 6?) percent growth. No semi-respectable economist buys that. And in truth, as fiscally irresponsible as the tax bill may be, it is unlikely to provide enough of an economic jolt to change the trajectory of the economy over the long haul.

We continue to have modest growth. Trump has not and is not likely to pursue policies that would address the underlying causes of sluggish growth (stagnant productivity) or pursue pro-growth policies in a systematic way (e.g. increase immigration, expand free-trade zones, make substantial investments in worker training and education). In other words, we’ve been promised champagne but should get ready for flat ginger ale.

So dear US voters, when Trump addresses the Nation on Tuesday night, please don't let him fool you. Just about all what he will be saying you can safely take with a grain of salt.

EU-Digest

US: Wall Street Pipe-Dream: Market momentum has never been higher but the risk of a crash is high - Marcus Padley

I wouldn't want to scare you but have you seen a chart of the Dow Jones or the S&P 500 index recently? The RSI or Relative Strength Index, a technical indicator used by chartists to measure the speed and change of price movements, is at record highs.

In the technical world the RSI goes from zero to 100 and if a stock has an RSI below 30 it is described as "oversold", and if the RSI is over 70, it is described as "overbought"

While individual stocks are quite volatile and can regularly appear as oversold and overbought, an index like the S&P 500 index, which represents the average of 500 stock prices, is, by definition, not volatile and rarely becomes either oversold or overbought.

At the moment the RSI for the S&P 500 index is trading at 87.9. The Dow Jones RSI is currently 90.5. That means they are both overbought, which is rare enough, but more significantly, I can't see that they have ever seen an RSI number this high, even in the tech boom, ahead of the 1987 crash, or before the global financial crisis. The momentum behind the US markets has never been higher than now

On top of that, the S&P 500 price earnings ratio is now at 24.87x; that is the highest since the tech boom and higher than pre-GFC. I own a couple of businesses and I have to tell you, if someone wanted to come and pay me 24.87x post tax earnings for either of them I would retire a gazillionaire. Yet this is the average, repeat, average, valuation of $US25.12 trillion, repeat, trillion, dollars worth of US stocks in the S&P 500.

There has rarely been such positive sentiment. Trump-inspired of course although there are a myriad of other factors you could list to justify it in the short term, anything from economic recovery to anticipation of a solid results season which is ongoing in the US.

I have our portfolios almost fully invested at the moment, but I have them on a hair trigger. When I see Wall Street fall a few hundred points in one night I will quietly start selling. This herd could turn nasty at any time and with the top of the S&P 500 long-term trading range 17 per cent below where we are now, we could see a 10 per cent correction in the US markets for absolutely no fundamental reason at all, other than the herd deciding to have a sentiment change for some invisible reason, which is usually because some large fund manager somewhere holds an asset allocation meeting and decides to sell, and the rest follow.

It can happen any day. But don't be too smart for your own good by selling before it happens. These exponential moments only come around once every decade and you can't miss them.

Read more: Market momentum has never been higher but the risk of a crash is high

Medical Alert: Virus looks like flu, acts like flu, but it's not influenza

It looks like flu. It feels like flu. It even puts patients into the hospital like flu can.There’s another virus out there that could be adding to the seasonal misery, but it’s not being identified,

The virus is called adenovirus, and it can cause very severe flu-like symptoms. It’s so risky that the U.S. military vaccinates recruits against two major strains.

“Unless you look for it or you suspect it’s circulating or you are using diagnostic testing capabilities".

“On the basis of the severity of the clinical presentation of some cases in this study, the (adenovirus) vaccine currently licensed for military use should be considered a potentially valuable resource to prevent disease in susceptible populations living in closed communities, such as college settings, summer camps, and long-term care facilities,” they wrote in a report published this week in the journal

An outbreak of adenovirus killed 10 people in 2007. Kajon’s team tested college students at one campus during the severe 2014-2015 influenza epidemic and found 13 out of 168 students who came in for flu treatment had adenovirus infections.

Read more: Virus looks like flu, acts like flu, but it's not influenza

1/28/18

Russia: Vladimir Putin's Top Critic Arrested as Russians Protest Election - by Damien Sharkov


Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic has been arrested on the day of nationwide protests against the leader’s bid to stay in office for at least another six years.

Anti-corruption blogger Alexey Navalny mobilized two waves of protests in dozens of cities last year, incensed at the reported wealth of government officials under Putin’s protection.

As Putin announced last month he is seeking re-election in March’s presidential vote, Navalny has repeatedly called for a boycott at the ballot boxes in a bid to cast doubt on the legitimacy of Putin’s campaign by lowering turnout.

While Navalny is regularly arrested at his rallies, police went a step further in the early afternoon on Sunday, forcing their way into Navalny’s office and detaining six members of his team in a raid, according to independent monitoring group OVD-Info.

Protests gripped not only Moscow but Russia’s second most important city, St. Petersburg, as well as cities in the country’s east.

“They are the future of Russia,” Navalny tweeted with a photo of two young protesters. “Putin and his band of thieves are her past.”

1/27/18

TPP: Trump says he to reconsider TPP trade deal if it's 'substantially better' -

US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he would reconsider US participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal if it's "substantially better."

"I would do TPP if we were able to make a substantially better deal," Trump told CNBC in an interview while attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.

"The deal was terrible, the way it was structured was terrible. If we did a substantially better deal, I would be open to TPP," he said.

Last January, Trump announced to officially withdraw the US from the Pacific trade deal in a largely symbolic move, as the US Congress hadn't approved the deal yet.

During his presidential campaign, Trump promised to never sign massive trade agreements like the TPP, which he said would "destroy" US manufacturing.

The TPP deal originally involved Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

Read more: Trump says he to reconsider TPP trade deal if it's 'substantially better' - World - Chinadaily.com.cn

Czech Republic: Pro-Russia Zeman wins Czech Republic election

The Czech Republic's pro-Russia president won a second five-year term Saturday after beating a political newcomer viewed as more Western-oriented in a runoff vote.

With ballots from almost 99 percent of polling stations counted, the Czech Statistics Office said President Milos Zeman had received 51.6 percent of the vote during the two-day runoff election.

His opponent, former Czech Academy of Sciences head Jiri Drahos, had 48.4 percent.
Mr Drahos conceded defeat and congratulated Mr Zeman on Saturday afternoon. The career scientist and chemistry professor said he planned to stay in politics, but did not provide details.
"It's not over," Mr Drahos said.

Mr Zeman, 73, a veteran of Czech politics and former left-wing prime minister, won his first term in 2013 during the Czech Republic's first presidential election decided by voters, not lawmakers.

Read more: Czech Republic: Pro-Russia Zeman wins Czech Republic election  

Davos: Vision versus Economic Capacity and Power - by RM

Economic Power (USA) Versus Vision (EU)
At the end of the Davos economic gathering, it was interesting to note how much the speeches given by European leaders differed from that of the American President.

When the US President spoke, it was clear that he spoke, knowing that he could say just about anything he wanted, given the economic strength of the US.

The fact that he added to his now famous slogan , "America first", the words, "but not alone*, just meant that he will support trade agreements and other multi-lateral deals only if they are based on US terms and conditions, certainly not on a multi-lateral basis.

The Europeans,  including their present champion, Emmanuel Macron, spoke with no exception, not only about the positive values of global trade, but also about major issues confronting the world, such as global warming.

The obvious conclusion one could make from these speeches in Davos, listening to these two different trains of of thought, is that unless the one submits to the others way of thinking - there is no harmony possible - and this, regardless of all the enormous challenges the world is facing today.

Unfortunately for the EU, is the fact that the Union is not unified enough to speak with one voice and put their "money where their mouth is", and consequently can not only offer a carrot as an alternative, but also when needed not use a stick against "Bougie Man" Trump.

The result of all this will be, as the saying goes, "when two dogs fight over a bone, another dog will take it",

That dog, if it has not already taken the bone, will be China.

Bottom line : Europe urgently needs to put its house in order, and those member states which like the status quo, better get out, or get thrown out of the EU.

EU-Digest

Copy Right EU-Digest 

1/26/18

Switzerland: The 2018 Davos Awards – by Fabrice Coffrini

The World Economic Forum’s annual Alpine bash came to an end Friday with a gaffe-free speech from Donald Trump. Elsewhere there was plenty going on, but some things deserve special recognition.

They’re universally known as the Un-Crystal Awards. PwC counted the ballots. (Not really, on both counts.) Envelopes, please, for the inaugural Davos Awards …
  
POLITICAL AWARD: Easy one: Emmanuel Macron. Even Donald Trump loves him best of all. Sorry, Theresa. He’s now talked about as the leader of Europe. Sorry, Angela. The Frenchman’s star power kept a full room enraptured through a mostly tedious speech on Wednesday.

INCLUSION AWARD: The Intercontinental Davos for its 17 Swiss franc bottled water.

BUDGET AWARD: The Belvédère for using the cheapest supermarket hand soap in its bathrooms.

PARENTING AWARD: WEF supremo Klaus Schwab; he not only got Trump to the table but kept him from flipping it.

PRODUCT PLACEMENT AWARD: The sign that advertised both the “Life in a Day of a Refugee” exhibition and the drop-off zone for limousines.

ALSO-RAN BOOBY PRIZE: The Macron of 2016, Justin Trudeau, made a splashy trade announcement — but the Davosites are a fickle bunch and have moved on from the Canadian with the wavy hair.

GHOST OF DAVOS PAST CITATION: Angela Merkel felt like yesterday’s pol, soon set to join the parade of other grand has-beens who make the pilgrimage here (John Kerry, Al Gore, David Cameron, Tony Blair).

DESIGN AWARD: All the white tents and temporary buildings that became invisible in Monday’s snow-in.

PARTICIPATION AWARD: Europe for sending nearly all its national leaders, while saving the Forum from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

POLITICAL LOST OPPORTUNITY AWARD: Narendra Modi. India wanted to make this Davos about itself and put its one-time star on the main stage. No one notice

INVISIBILITY CLOAK AWARD: Russia. Contributed nothing to any conversation.

SPECIAL PRIZE: Trump accomplished everything he set out for himself.

HEALTHY HEART AWARD: Joint winner: Swiss authorities for allowing private cars to cause so much traffic gridlock that walking was often the only sensible option; and the WEF for never having enough seats for participants to pass the time on.

SKIING AWARD: David Cameron, who injured just one of his associates on the slopes.

Read more:The 2018 Davos Awards – POLITICO

Saudi Arabia himan right - democracy: Saudi women get the right to drive — but what about everything else?

Rights advocates say that while welcome, the innovations hailed around the world as signs that the absolute monarchy had entered the 21st century are only scratching the surface.

“All the changes that we are hearing about are economic and entertainment changes," said Nasreen Alissa, a Saudi lawyer who created the Know Your Rights app to help women navigate the confusing tangle of strictures that govern them. "The rules and regulations are the same regarding women's basic rights. Not a single thing has changed except for driving and entertainment."

The news has been good for women and girls who want to participate more in Saudi society. Women attended a soccer match for the first time this month — the latest in a series of firsts. Women are also now members of the consultative Shura Council that advises King Salman, who saying it bluntly "is the master of all living things on Saudi-Arabia" - a close ally of the United States.

The labour market is also slowly opening up, with some women working outside the home. The country’s fearsome religious police have been defanged. The Saudi embassy in Washington has named a woman, Fatimah Baeshen, as its spokesperson.

But the kingdom's persistent male guardianship system is still among many women's chief complaints. Every Saudi woman has a male guardian — father, brother, husband or even son — whose permission she needs to get a passport, travel abroad and get married, for example.

Majrashi told NBC News that her movements and choices were restricted for decades by her husband, until he suffered a heart attack a few years ago. That's when he changed his conservative attitude and decided it was time for his wife to get a job.

“It was really hard with my guardians — my dad and my husband. They didn’t let me go out,” she said, describing the patchwork of laws and customs controlling the lives of Saudi women and girls.

Read moreSaudi women get the right to drive — but what about everything else? | Euronews

Slavery: Are there more people in slavery now than during the transatlantic slave trade? - Yes indeed - by Emma Beswick

Panellists at 2018's World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos present a new global fund that they hope will reduce modern slavery in identified areas by 50 per cent.

With estimates stating 40.3 million people are currently in slavery worldwide, Gary Haugen, CEO of the International Justice Mission said there are more people in slavery today than were extracted from Africa over 400 years of the transatlantic slave trade.

Haugen was one of the panellists at the World Economic Forum in Davos, presenting and discussing a new fund, led by the US and UK, whose goal is to raise $1.5 billion (€1.2 billion) combat slavery.

"The modern slavery problem is massive ... but it's more stoppable than it's ever been," added United States Senator Robert Corker, chairman of Committee on Foreign Relations.

Indeed, slavery is now illegal in all countries, yet the modern slave trade has nearly doubled in the last years, mainly in 15 countries.

Note EU-Digest: What is interesting is that the many activist who  today still loudly condemn slave trade  by European Colonial Powers of the past are remarkably silent to when it concerns today's slave trade and practices which are even more wide=spread than those of the past.  

Read more: Are there more people in slavery now than during the transatlantic slave trade? | Euronews

EU - Davos: New momentum for Europe?

US President Donald Trump wants to put America first. And China isnot exactly a champion of democracy and human rights. That's why someEuropeans think it's time for them to step up to the plate and play a more important role on the world stage. In their speeches in Davos, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron both spoke out for free trade, international rules and universal humanist values.

The only problem is that the EU itself is deeply divided. The financial crisis has left deep scars, unemployment is high in many countries, the migration crisis has strained relations between member states and nationalism is on the rise.

Nonetheless, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström believes that Europe has a lot to offer to the rest of the world. She sees the current lack of leadership by the US as an opportunity for the EU "to show we can do good trade agreements which re sustainable and mutually beneficial.

We can promote European values through that, and we can create alliances and friendship with countriesacross the globe," Malmström said in a Davos panel called "A new momentum for Europe."

Mark Rutte, prime minister of the Netherlands, agreed in principle but added that even the European common market was still far  from complete.

"We could add €1.5 trillion [$1.86 trilion] to the European economy — that's the size of the Spanish economy — by implementing the single market for digital, services, capital and
energy."

Adding these elements would create 4 million new jobs in Europe. "At the moment, we are not doing that. The European internal market is  only there for goods, only 30 percent of the European economy is part of the internal market," said Rutte.

Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa tried to look on the bright side of life.

After the Brexit decision in the UK, "we have new energy for change in Europe," he said. "It's a Brexit paradox: the remaining 27 countries have made an effort to advance Europe."

Costa pointed to a closer cooperation on defense, an example that was also singled out by Merkel and Macron on the previous day.

But a Germany and a France presenting themselves as Europe's engine also have smaller countries worried, says Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. "We don't want to see meetings in Paris and Berlin where only countries with more than 40 million people are invited to attend — and the smaller countries being told afterwards what is good for Europe."

The current migration crisis has brought to light how deep the divisions in Europe are. Countries like Hungary and Poland are refusing to take in migrants, while Italy and Greece see new boats with Africans arrive at their shores every day.

Read more: Davos: New momentum for Europe? | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 25.01.2018

1/25/18

EU: More growth and jobs: EU invests €873 million in clean energy infrastructure

Europe's transition to a clean and modern economy is the goal of the Energy Union, a priority of the Juncker Commission. It is now becoming the new reality on the ground, and one important building block is adapting the European infrastructure to the future energy needs. Properly interconnected electricity lines and gas pipelines form the backbone of an integrated European energy market anchored on the principle of solidarity. Thus, supporting these 17 selected electricity and gas projects , signals Europe's willingness to upgrade and make the European energy system more competitive that will ultimately deliver cheaper and secure energy to all European consumers.

The EU funding for the chosen projects comes from the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), the European support programme for trans-European infrastructure.

Commission Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič said: "Once more we demonstrate that cooperation and solidarity pays off and that the Energy Union is becoming a reality with tangible impact on the ground. These are important projects with major cross-border benefits and by implementing them we strengthen energy resilience of EU Member States. The Connecting Europe Facility has yet again shown tremendous added value in the modernisation of the European economy."

Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said: "The construction of the Biscay Gulf France-Spain interconnection marks an important step towards ending the isolation of the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of the European energy market. Only a fully interconnected market will improve Europe's security of supply, reducing the dependence of single suppliers and giving consumers more choice. An energy infrastructure which is fit for purpose is also essential for renewable energy sources to thrive and for delivering on the Paris Agreement on climate change."

For the complete EU Commission Press release, click here

1/24/18

Kurdistan: It's Time for an Independent Kurdistan - by Stanley Weiss

The dispossessed have become dangerously destabilizing. The overlooked can no longer be overlooked. And what was once a Middle Eastern flashpoint may yet become a safety valve for spiking regional tensions.

It will not be easy, but the uncertainty and plasticity in the region today offers an opportunity to secure a Kurdish homeland and remedy the capricious map-making of the early 20th century. Iraq is threatening to split into the pre-Iraq Sunni, Shia and Kurdish divisions of the Ottoman Empire, with the Kurds semi-independent and the Iran-allied Shiites ruling the Sunnis. Iran’s economy is in free-fall. Syria will soon have no central control and no choice. And while no country is eager to surrender a fifth of its population, Turkey would do well to get ahead of this issue — ending the vicious, ongoing war with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), saving countless lives and positioning themselves to reap the benefits of a long-term strategic alliance to counterbalance Iranian influence. Not to mention, membership in the European Union will forever be out of reach for a Turkey at war with itself.

For proof of what’s possible, look no further than Iraqi Kurdistan, a pro-American, pro-Israel and semi-autonomous parliamentary democracy most Americans have never heard of. Nurtured by an American no-fly zone in the aftermath of the first Gulf War, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) was established under the Iraqi Constitution in 2005, a stunning testament to the success of Muslim representative government. Of more than 4,800 American soldiers killed in the brutal battles for Iraq, not a single one has lost their life — and no foreigner has been kidnapped — within the borders of Iraqi Kurdistan. Boasting two international airports, a booming oil industry and a dawning respect for the rights of women, this 15,000 square-mile territory of nearly four million Kurds is the one part of President George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” that was actually accomplished.

Building on this unanticipated success, the U.S. should rethink its previous opposition to an independent greater Kurdistan and recognize that the advantages of a friendly, democratic and strategically-positioned ally far outweigh the outdated assumption that the Kurds’ national liberation would result in regional conflagration. At this point, inaction is far more likely to provoke continued regional conflict. Whether that means calling for U.S.-brokered talks with Turkey or a temporary UN peacekeeping force, sanctions or scaled up foreign investment, the U.S. should make every effort to incentivize the consolidation and emergence of a single, stable, secure Kurdish homeland.

After a thousand years of turning a thousand blind eyes, the world can’t keep kicking the Kurdish can down the road. Somewhere along that bloodstained road to Damascus, the region needs to experience this epiphany — and soon. The first major protests in Syria began outside the Ummayad Mosque, Islam’s fourth-holiest site and the location of Saladin’s tomb. Saladin’s descendants, it seems, are on the march once more. These Kurds want to be heard. Will the U.S. - - and the world — listen?

Footnote by EU-Digest: Creating an independent Kurdistan, which stretches from the Mediterranean  to Iraq, along the borders of Syria, Turkey, Iran is the only solution to guarantee a lasting peace for countries who presently are opposing the creation of this independent Republic of Kurdistan. 

These include, Iran, Iraq , Syria and Turkey, which all have large local Kurdish populations.   

Once there is an independent Kurdistan, which has the global recognition and legitimacy of an independent state, it will be far easier for specially Turkey to deal with the PKK and other Kurdish factions at home,  by offering local Kurds to either stay or migrate to this new Republic of Kurdistan. A far better proposition than fighting these factions endlessly, which so far have had no results at all. 

The EU could in this case become a key player and broker in this process, together with the Russians and Americans. So far, unfortunately, they have not had the vision and willpower to do so. and made the weapons industry richer by the day

Read more: It's Time for an Independent Kurdistan | HuffPost

US Economy: Dollar tumbles after Treasury chief welcomes weaker value

The U.S. treasury chief has welcomed a weaker dollar, breaking with a past commitment by the U.S. government to back a strong dollar. The comments led to a sharp drop the currency Wednesday.

During his visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Steven Mnuchin said that: "Obviously a weaker dollar is good for us as it relates to trade and opportunities."

For most of the past two decades, U.S. Treasury chiefs regularly stated that a "strong dollar is in the best interests of the United States."

Mnuchin's words could be a signal that the Trump administration is prepared to try to talk down the dollar's value to boost exports. A weaker dollar makes U.S. products more competitive internationally.

The dollar hit a three-year low of $1.2405 on Wednesday.

Read more: Dollar tumbles after Treasury chief welcomes weaker value

1/23/18

Turkey: Freedom of Expression Curbed - Turkey ′terror propaganda′ crackdown sees dozens arrested for social media comments

The German daily Tagezeitung said on Tuesday that journalists from its Turkish publication Taz Gazete had been arrested by anti-terror police.

"As we write, the Ankara apartments of journalists who took positions against the war in Afrin are being stormed and searched," the newspaper wrote on Twitter, referencing Turkey's decision to send ground troops into Kurdish areas of Syria.

"Among them are our writer Hayri Demir and Sibel Hurtas of Arti Gercek," the statement continued, "in the same context the journalist Idris Yilmaz was arrested in Van and Nurcan Baysas and Ishak Karatas were detained in Istanbul."

Read more: Turkey ′terror propaganda′ crackdown sees dozens arrested for social media comments | News | DW | 23.01.2018

Syria - Turkish Invasion: Turkey and Russia run rings around Trump - by Jennifer Rubin

While the United States has been absorbed with a government shutdown and a debate about President Trump’s mental stability, Turkey — a NATO partner — has invaded Syria and is attacking our Kurdish allies, who have assisted greatly in the war against the Islamic State.

The Associated Press reports: Turkey’s air and ground offensive against Kurds in northwestern Syria has distracted from international efforts to finish off the Islamic State group and has disrupted humanitarian relief work, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday.

Mattis raised the matter in an exchange with reporters after unrelated meetings in the Indonesia capital with senior government officials. He made clear that while the U.S. sympathizes with Turkey’s concerns about border security, Washington wants the Turks to minimize their military action inside Syria.

Read more: Turkey and Russia run rings around Trump - The Washington Post

Switzerland - Davos: Indian PM Narendra Modi warns of three major global threats

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi told a packed forum in Davos on Wednesday that the world in its current state looked rather unprepared to face the big challenges of the future.

He urged sweeping reforms to modernize and restructure current political and economic institutions, also with a view to reflecting the needs and developments of emerging economies.

Modi singled out three major challenges mankind was facing right now. He said the greatest threat came from rapid climate change and the resulting extreme weather conditions, natural disasters and rising sea levels which threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions of people around the world.

The prime minister identified terrorism, and the radicalization of people in many societies, as the second-biggest threat. Without providing concrete examples, he criticized world powers for, in his eyes, making the problem worse by artificially distinguishing between "bad terrorists" and "good terrorists."

Thirdly, Modi said there was no denying the fact that many nations have become increasingly focused on themselves again as globalization "was losing its luster." He mentioned that many trade agreements "had come to a standstill," with cross-border financial investments dropping in many areas.

Read more: Indian PM Narendra Modi warns of three major global threats | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 23.01.2018

1/22/18

Economic Disparity: The 1% grabbed 82% of all global wealth created in 2017

For every $10 worth of wealth created last year, the world's richest 1 percent grabbed $8, according to a new report from Oxfam International.

"The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system," said Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International.

The report also estimated the bottom 50 percent of the world's population saw no increase in wealth.

Note EU-Digest: This disparity problem could easily be given some relief through the reduction of military budgets around the world, and funneling these funds to less fortunate countries. Looking at the Military Industry world-wide - the US spends $ 611.2 billion  per year on their military complex. This is double the amount of what China and Russia are spending together. Another remarkable fact is that the autocratic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's military budget of $ 89.9 billion is more than that of Russia, which is $65.6 billion. And really, if we think about it,what has all that global military hardware brought us? Even more human misery and disparity. 

Read more: The 1% grabbed 82% of all wealth created in 2017 | SBJ

USA: Green Card Holders Beware: ICE detains a Polish doctor and green-card holder who has lived in the U.S. for nearly 40 years

Niec received a temporary green card and, in 1989, became a lawful permanent resident. He grew up in Michigan, went to medical school, became a doctor, and raised a daughter and stepdaughter.

Niec, now 43, never fathomed that his legal status in the United States would become an issue. With a renewed green card, and nearly 40 years in the country, his Polish nationality was an afterthought for Niec, his sister told The Washington Post. He doesn’t even speak Polish.

But on Tuesday morning, immigration authorities arrested Niec at his home, just after he had sent his 12-year-old stepdaughter off to school. Niec, a physician specializing in internal medicine at Bronson Healthcare Group in Kalamazoo, Mich., has been detained in a county jail ever since, awaiting a bond hearing and possible deportation.

“It’s shocking,” said his sister, a corporate lawyer named Iwona Niec Villaire. “No one can really understand what happened here.”
According to his “notice to appear” from the Department of Homeland Security, Niec’s detention stems from two misdemeanor convictions from 26 years ago. In January 1992, Niec was convicted of malicious destruction of property under $100. In April of that year, he was convicted of receiving and concealing stolen property over $100 and a financial transaction device.

Because Niec was convicted of two crimes involving “moral turpitude,” stemming from two separate incidents, he is subject to removal, immigration authorities wrote in the notice to appear, citing the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Both of the offenses took place when he was a teenager.He associated himself “with some bad people” his sister said. The first of the incidents involved an altercation with a driver after a car crash, Niec’s sister said. He was one of multiple teenagers in the car at the time.

The second of those convictions was eventually expunged from his criminal record, his sister said, as part of a guilty plea through Michigan’s Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, a program intended to help young offenders avoid the stigma of a criminal conviction.

But even though the crime was scrubbed off his public record, it can still be used against him for removal from the country, his sister said.

 Read more: ICE detains a Polish doctor and green-card holder who has lived in the U.S. for nearly 40 years

1/21/18

USA: An anthropologist explains what happened to the American Empire - by Maximilian C. Forte

Has anything out of the ordinary happened to the US as an imperialist power since the ascent of Trump to office? While the continuities between Trump and his predecessors are considerable, have there been any significant discontinuities that mark the first year of this presidency? Is there any reason to think that the rise of Trump could still become a historical turning point in the fortunes of the US empire, one that accelerates its continuing decline?

Before proceeding any further I want to assure the reader that none of what follows is meant to validate those who lament Trump because they think he is not imperialist enough, not sufficiently sanguine about maintaining a US-dominated “world order,” because for them these are essentially positive values worth maintaining. It is neither my intention to donate free labour to provide confirmation bias for any activist cause, nor to caress any of the prevailing political sentiments of the moment.

For reasons that differ from the imperial advocates of the legendary “liberal international order,” one can still make the case that Trump — added to an array of other actors and forces, both national and international — is far from an ideal figure for empire, and one can make that case without having to praise the virtues of empire. Similarly, it would be irresponsible to reduce analysis to one single actor, one single ideology, divorced from the web of social and global relations that always move together, even (especially) when at odds, in reshaping if not undermining empire.

For the complete report click here : A anthropologist explains what happened to the American Empire

Turkey invades Syria to stop formation of a PKK supported Kurdish state on their borders - with ground forces entering Syria′s Kurdish-held Afrin district

Turkish forces crossed the border into Syria's Afrin district on Sunday, January 21, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has said.

At a news conference in Istanbul, he said Turkey's military aimed to create a security zone some 30 kilometers (18 miles) inside the war-ravaged country.

The state-run Anadolu news agency also reported the arrival of Turkish forces in the enclave as part of an operation codenamed Olive Branch, adding that airstrikes and artillery shelling that targeted the area, which began on Saturday, were continuing.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he hoped the offensive would be completed in "a very short time."

Read more: Turkey′s ground forces enter Syria′s Kurdish-held Afrin: State media | News | DW | 21.01.2018

Germany formation of new government: German SPD votes for coalition talks with Merkel's CDU

Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) voted on Sunday, January 21,  to begin formal coalition talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, moving Europe’s economic powerhouse one step closer to a stable government after months of political deadlock.

SPD delegates voted by 362 to 279, with one abstention, to press ahead with negotiations. The center-left party’s leaders had agreed a preliminary coalition blueprint with Merkel’s conservative bloc earlier this month.

A recount was held after an initial show of hands was too close for the SPD official in charge of the count to call.

Just before delegates voted, SPD leader Martin Schulz made an impassioned plea for a ‘yes’, telling them their decision was being watched across Germany and Europe.

Read more: German SPD votes for coalition talks with Merkel

The Czech Republic’s pro-Russian president is in trouble - Taking back the castle

As Democratic checks and balances buckle in Poland and Hungary, the Czech Republic has seemed to many like the next central European country in line to succumb. Andrej Babis, a billionaire businessman, became prime minister after winning October’s general election despite facing fraud charges. He now collaborates closely with his country’s pro-Russian though largely ceremonial president, Milos Zeman. Liberals fret that the pair pose a growing challenge to the rule of law and to the Czech Republic’s pro-Western orientation. But Czech voters and institutions appear to be pushing back
.
Although Mr Zeman came top in the first round of the country’s presidential election, scoring 38.6% of the vote on January 12th-13th, he fell well short of a majority. The runner-up, Professor Jiri Drahos, a soft-spoken political novice who previously led the Czech Academy of Sciences, won a larger-than-expected 26.6%, which puts him in a good position to displace the incumbent in the run-off at the end of the month. Three days later, on January 16th, parliament rejected Mr Babis’s attempt to form a minority government.

As the leader of the largest party, he was invited to try to do so by the president, though he controls just 78 of the 200 parliamentary seats, lacks a coalition partner and is accused of fraud in connection with EU subsidies for a development project. All told, the presidential second round, on January 26th-27th, is shaping up as a referendum on the direction of the country, if not the entire region.

In September MPs voted by 123 to four to strip Mr Babis of his immunity from prosecution on the fraud charges, but because parliament was then dissolved for the October election, they must now do so again. In noticeable contrast to Mr Zeman, Mr Drahos has called on Mr Babis to give up his immunity voluntarily, and prove his innocence. On January 16th Mr Babis obliged. With police and prosecutors pressing the case, the Hospodarske Noviny newspaper recently leaked a report from EU investigators accusing Mr Babis of “numerous breaches of national and EU legislation”.

Read more: The Czech Republic’s pro-Russian president is in trouble - Taking back the castle

Brexit: Britain’s tired old economy isn’t strong enough for Brexit - by Phillip Inman

Brexit, at its heart, is a recognition that Britain has become steadily weaker since it spent much of its empire wealth fighting two world wars – too feeble in the years before the 2016 referendum to sustain an exchange rate of $1.60 and €1.40, just as it was too poor to cope with $4 to the pound in the 1950s and $2 to the pound in 1992.

Manufacturers were unable to make things cheaply, reliably or efficiently enough against the headwind of a high-value currency, forcing many to give up. An economy that boasted 20% of its income coming from manufacturing in the 1980s found it was the source of barely 10% at the beginning of this decade.

Surges in GDP growth in the 70 years since the war can be attributed (and this short list makes the point crudely) to periods when there were cheap raw materials and energy costs; or a growing population; or foreign ownership and management of key industries; or the offloading of vast amounts of state and mutually owned assets; or cheap borrowing. Without these in operation to improve the UK’s performance, a lower exchange rate became inevitable.

Some Brexit campaigners made a cheaper currency their explicit aim, arguing that while Britain’s wealth and standing in the world would be diminished in the short term, the breathing space given to manufacturers would allow them to sell abroad at cheaper prices, then use the funds to invest and gain the efficiencies needed to cope with a return to a higher exchange rate sometime in the next decade.

Read more: Britain’s tired old economy isn’t strong enough for Brexit | Phillip Inman | Business | The Guardian

USA: Welcome to Trump’s whatever shutdown - by Eliana Johnson

Little of the congressional drama that precipitated the weekend’s government shutdown made its way to the White House Saturday.

Previous presidents have projected an air of crisis during shutdowns, but President Donald Trump stayed out of the public eye, sticking to his preferred mode of communication — Twitter — while expressing annoyance to aides that the disruption is keeping him away from an evening bash at Mar-a-Lago celebrating the one-year anniversary of his inauguration.

White House aides, too, say they are relatively relaxed. Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Friday that he discovered Friday that it fell to him to shut down the government — “which is kind of cool.”

Welcome to the whatever shutdown.

The attitude permeating the Trump administration reflects, to some degree, the confidence that comes from finding that the world keeps spinning every time they do something they’ve been warned would have dire consequences, like withdrawing from the Paris climate accords or announcing plans to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

According to a half-dozen White House officials and outside advisers, Trump is viewing the shutdown through a similar lens, a view encouraged by White House aides, including senior adviser Stephen Miller and congressional liaison Marc Short, who urged him on Friday not to give in to Democratic demands, particularly on immigration.

Read more: Welcome to Trump’s whatever shutdown – POLITICO

1/20/18

USA: One year anniversary of Trump Presidency - a disaster for the US and the world

The US is "celebrating" Trump's one year in office today, as the President of the US, with a shutdown of the Government and demonstrations going on Nation-Wide

Trump's popularity at home and abroad are the lowest of any US President. In addition official records also show he did not tell the truth during interviews and speeches 2015 times during the first year of his presidency.

On the international scene the results are just as grim. The US relationship with Mexico and many other :Latin and Caribbean states are on a downward slope. His vulgar off the cuff  statements about Haiti and African states made him and the US enemies in both areas.

The Iran Nuclear deal and the Paris climate agreement are now both on shaky grounds,

Turkey's President Erdogan, whose nation is a member of the NATO, recently said he does not believe previous statements about keeping the Kurds at bay, made byTrump to him anymore, and today attacked the US Kurdish allies in Syria,

As Mr trump starts his second year in office, hopefully there still is a silver lining of hope above the dark clouds which seem to have covered the US. A nation which always was the shining light of democracy around the world.

EU-Digest

1/19/18

USA: Trump's 'Fake News Awards' Have a Sinister Subtext - by Albert R. Hunt

It's a cheap ploy, but it comes with a serious, sinister subtext. Trump has been making a case for changing U.S. libel laws to make it easier to punish publishers of news he considers "fake."

What he doesn't seem to realize is that actual fake news is already outside the protection of current laws.

That's the opinion of one of the foremost experts on U.S. libel law, Robert D. Sack, a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. Sack has focused on these issues for decades; before becoming a federal judge in 1998 he was a libel lawyer representing notable media clients like the Wall Street Journal.

Fake news, "invented and disseminated with the intention of fooling the recipient into believing it is genuine," is actionable under present law, he writes in the latest edition of his definitive two-volume treatise on defamation, "Sack on Defamation: Libel, Slander and Related Problems."

What he means is that if Trump were correct that mainstream news outlets deliberately published false information with the intent of making him look bad, he could successfully sue them without any changes to existing law.

Contemporary libel law grows out of a 1964 landmark Supreme Court case, New York Times v. Sullivan, in which the justices ruled that a public figure can win a defamation case only by showing that false and harmful charges against him were made with "actual malice."

That's a legal term-of-art that means publishing something knowing it was false or with "reckless disregard" for whether it was true or not.

This daunting standard applies only to public figures; ordinary citizens can win libel judgments if they are defamed negligently. It's designed to protect a free, aggressive press against intimidation or even bankruptcy.

In anticipation of Wednesday's "Fake News Awards" charade, Senator Jeff Flake, one of the few implacable Trump critics remaining among conservative Republican politicians, has prepared blistering remarks about the president's contempt for a free press.

Recalling Trump's charge that the press is "the enemy of the American people," the Arizona lawmaker noted that the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin used similar language to justify purges against real and imagined opponents. (Not that Stalin had a free press to worry about.)

"The president has it precisely backwards — despotism is the enemy of the people," Flake said in remarks prepared for delivery in the Senate. "The free press is the despot's enemy, which makes the free press the guardian of democracy. When a figure in power reflexively calls any press that doesn't suit him, 'fake news,' it is the person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press."

Read more: Trump's 'Fake News Awards' Have a Sinister Subtext - Bloomberg

Vatican: Pope shocks Chile ( and the World) by accusing sex abuse victims of slander

Pope Francis accused victims of Chile's most notorious pedophile of slander Thursday, an astonishing end to a visit meant to help heal the wounds of a sex abuse scandal that has cost the Catholic Church its credibility in the country.

Francis said that until he sees proof that Bishop Juan Barros was complicit in covering up the sex crimes of the Rev. Fernando Karadima, such accusations against Barros are "all calumny."

The pope's remarks drew shock from Chileans and immediate rebuke from victims and their advocates. They noted the accusers were deemed credible enough by the Vatican that it sentenced Karadima to a lifetime of "penance and prayer" for his crimes in 2011. A Chilean judge also found the victims to be credible, saying that while she had to drop criminal charges against Karadima because too much time had passed, proof of his crimes wasn't lacking.

"As if I could have taken a selfie or a photo while Karadima abused me and others and Juan Barros stood by watching it all," tweeted Barros' most vocal accuser, Juan Carlos Cruz. "These people are truly crazy, and the pontiff talks about atonement to the victims. Nothing has changed, and his plea for forgiveness is empty."

The Karadima scandal dominated Francis' visit to Chile and the overall issue of sex abuse and church cover-up was likely to factor into his three-day trip to Peru that began late Thursday.

Karadima's victims reported to church authorities as early as 2002 that he would kiss and fondle them in the swank Santiago parish he ran, but officials refused to believe them. Only when the victims went public with their accusations in 2010 did the Vatican launch an investigation that led to Karadima being removed from ministry.

The emeritus archbishop of Santiago subsequently apologized for having refused to believe the victims from the start.

Read more: Pope shocks Chile by accusing sex abuse victims of slander

Switzerland-Davos: How the Fourth Industrial Revolution can help us prepare for the next natural disaster - Scott L David

In the wake of recent devastating hurricanes, floods, wildfires and earthquakes in North America, the Caribbean, Latin America and South Asia, preparing for natural disasters has never been more urgent. Some estimates suggest flooding damage to coastal cities will cost around US$1 trillion per year by 2050. The cost of naturally-caused forest fires - which exceeded $2billion this year and set a new US record - continues to rise.

The human suffering from these emergencies is beyond calculation. Threats to people and property from acts of nature can’t be prevented. Yet, the second-order vulnerabilities they create can be significantly reduced.

The “fog of indecision,” is one such vulnerability that results from institutional hesitancy to collaborate and share data in emergency settings. It’s something that can’t continue. Inaction will only contribute to avoidable suffering.

The technologies and systems of the Fourth Industrial Revolution offer very powerful assets for responding to natural disasters. With nearly 6 billion mobile phone users worldwide, connected individuals have proven to be one of the most effective and efficient ways of strengthening resilience when disaster strikes.

Likewise, social media, drones, satellite imagery and predictive analytics have all been tremendously helpful for coordinating responses and accelerating the recovery of individuals and communities in the aftermath of recent natural disasters.

Read more: How the Fourth Industrial Revolution can help us prepare for the next natural disaster | World Economic Forum

Scotland- China Relations: Liu Yandong heralds bilateral cooperation in education and research - by Du Xiaoying

Visiting Chinese Vice-Premier Liu Yandong received an honorary doctorate from the University of Edinburgh on Tuesday during the second day of her four-day official visit to the United Kingdom.

Speaking at the ceremony during which she accepted the honor, which was made in recognition of her contribution to the deepening of Sino-UK ties in the "golden era", Liu stressed that "China has entered a new era, and China-UK relations have entered a golden age".

She said universities now play an important role in the future of China and UK cooperation.
"We hope that universities in both countries can be engaged in more practical cooperation and cultivate more talents with global vision and open minds, so they can keep generating more strategic and innovative products in order to contribute more to China-UK relations, and together solve many global challenges that we face today," said Liu.

The University of Edinburgh has a long tradition of welcoming students from China and the first Chinese students ever to graduate from a European university studied at the university. Timothy O'Shea, principal of the University of Edinburgh, said it also has a proud tradition of promoting the teaching of the Chinese language and Chinese culture to students from all over the world.

"This visit by Vice-Premier Madame Liu Yandong to Scotland and the university is another manifestation of our longstanding partnership and common aspiration in promoting global education and nurturing new generations of global citizens," he said.

Jonathan Seckl, vice-principal of the university, said: "It is a great honor and privilege to present Madame Liu Yandong with the doctorate of the university. In doing so, we recognize her leading role in promoting and nurturing our teaching and research capacity in Chinese language and culture, as well as the university's profile and reputation in China."

He said the university acknowledges Liu's immense contribution to promoting the understanding of China and its culture globally, and promoting friendship and understanding between nations.

Liu is also scheduled to meet with a number of senior figures, including Prime Minister Theresa May, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, and Princess Anne and Prince Andrew at Buckingham Palace.

"The UK-China relationship is strong and continues to deliver benefits for both countries, so I am delighted to welcome Madame Liu to the UK for the People-to-People Dialogue," said Johnson upon her arrival in the UK.
 
Read more: Liu Yandong heralds bilateral cooperation in education and research - World - Chinadaily.com.cn

Predictions over the long term: AI, climate change: Looming disasters humanity can’t ignore

What if we could have stopped catastrophic disasters like Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami and the threat of Islamic State?

Two national security and counter-terrorism experts believe governments were warned about some of the world’s most horrific events. Not only that, they say there are new predictions about the future we should not ignore.

R.P. Eddy, a former director of counter-terrorism at the White House National Security Council, and Richard Clarke, who served more than a decade in the White House as national co-ordinator for security and counter-terrorism, said for nearly every catastrophe in the world, there was an expert who said it would happen but was ignored.

In 2012, then ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, warned the White House a group similar to Al-Qaeda would form and take over large areas of land and even major cities.

He made the prediction after seeing the conflict that began to arise on the ground in Syria.

His views were ignored and then Islamic State began to propagate, becoming more dangerous and causing global terror. Just last month Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Manchester attack at the Ariana Grande concert, which killed 22 people. Yesterday, the group claimed responsibility for a bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, that killed 90.

The first person to ever win the Polk, Pultizer and Peabody awards, Laurie Garrett, predicted the devastating rise in HIV/AIDS. She, too, was ignored.

“She saw these men dying of a disease called ‘gay related immune deficiency’, ‘GRID’, or ‘gay cancer’,” Mr Eddy told the Huffington Post.

“They didn’t know what it was. Gay men didn’t think they had a transmissible disease. They thought they were sharing a cancer somehow, but just by looking at them and seeing the hypocrisy sarcoma on their face, Laurie Garrett knew this was a contagious illness and started getting the media to pay attention.”

Mr Eddy and Mr Clarke have released a new book, Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes, to pre-empt future disasters and warn those in power not to hide away from the inevitable.

For the complete report click here: : AI, climate change: Looming disasters humanity can’t ignore

USA - Crime - White supremacists committed most extremist killings in 2017 says ADL

White supremacists and other far-right groups committed the majority of extremist-related murders in the United States last year, according to a new report by the Anti-Defamation League. 

 Read more: White supremacists committed most extremist killings in 2017: ADL | Euronews

1/18/18

USA: Is Trump A Racist? - Half of the US population believes he is says Pro- Republican Rasmussen Poll

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Thursday shows that 45% of Likely U.S. Voters approve of President Trump’s job performance. Fifty-four percent (54%) disapprove.

The latest figures include 28% who Strongly Approve of the way the president is performing and 44% who Strongly Disapprove. This gives him a Presidential Approval Index rating of -16. (see trends).

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey also finds that 50% of Likely U.S. Voters believe the president is a racist. Forty-three percent (43%) disagree and say his opponents are accusing him of racism for political gain. (To see survey question wording, click here.)  

Read more: Is Trump A Racist? - Rasmussen Reports®