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3/31/18

Poland: Donald Tusk: I’ll be back in Poland, and not to watch TV – by Michał Broniatowski

European Council President Donald Tusk hinted at a return to domestic politics in an interview Friday.

“I’m not going to retire,” he told Polish news channel TVN24. “In 2019 I will be back in Poland and let no one think that I will only watch TV.”

The former Polish prime minister refused to elaborate, saying: “I will not formulate scenarios for the moment and I hope there will be no emergency scenarios.”

He added: “I hope that Poles who dream about stable democracy and the rule of law will be able to win future elections — I will be the happiest man on earth if this materializes. If things go differently, I do not exclude anything.”

Tusk was speaking at the European Center of Solidarity, a museum and cultural center built in the Gdańsk Shipyard where the Solidarność movement was created in 1980.

On the fight between Poland and the EU, which accuses Warsaw of going against the rule of law, Tusk said: “The problem is that permanent solutions may be taken. For example, when we talk about future European funds. I wish Poland didn’t lose a single euro cent for this reason.

“I will not be on the side of the PiS [the ruling Law and Justice party, which is a political enemy of Tusk’s] in the debate in Europe concerning the rule of law. I will not justify wrong actions of PiS.”

Read more: Donald Tusk: I’ll be back in Poland, and not to watch TV – POLITICO

Middle East: US, Turkey on collision course in Syria′s Manbij

 The United States and Turkey are on a collision course in northern Syria, threatening to ignite a dangerous new phase in the Syrian civil war, undermine the fight against the "Islamic State" (IS) and redraw the map of the Middle East.

The epicenter of this brewing conflict is Manbij, where the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Turkish-backed rebels face off across a combustible frontline.

The SDF, a mixed Arab and Kurdish force, captured Manbij from IS with US-led coalition support in August 2016, extending the boundaries of the de-facto autonomous Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, or Rojava, across the west bank of the Euphrates River.

Fearing the Kurdish YPG militia, the dominant force in the SDF, would expand the offensive to link up with Kurdish-controlled enclave of Afrin further to the west, the Turkish military and Syrian rebel allies intervened in Operation "Euphrates Shield" in August 2016.

Seven months later Turkey and its rebel allies had vanquished IS and carved out a zone of control in northern Syria. Operation Euphrates Shield set the stage for the Turkish military and its rebel allies to launch an offensive against the YPG in Afrin, which they captured this March after a two-month offensive.

Read more: US, Turkey on collision course in Syria′s Manbij | News | DW | 31.03.2018

The Netherlands: banking industry electronic transactions work against consumers and in favor of banks during Public holidays and weekends - by RM



Banks in the Netherlands and probably also in many other places around the world are saying they can not make automatic electronic transfers during religious and other public holidays.

The question one should immediately pose ,when the banks make that statement is; why? Why should automatic banking transactions done on public holidays be any different from those done during the regular work week?

 For example: if you make an electronic transfer during the 4 day Easter holiday weekend in the Netherlands, say on Good Friday, to another bank account, the transferred money is immediately electronically debited from your own account, but than, the money only re-appears 4 days later on the account to which it was electronically transferred. before you see that transfer on your statement.

Obviously the question it raises is: WHAT DOES THE BANK DO WITH YOUR MONEY during those four days, or any other amount of time they hold it without telling you where it is or what they do with it during that time ?

What is happening to your money while it is hidden those four days of the Easter weekend or less during other regular Public holidays ?

The answer should not be too difficult to figure out . The bank has probably been making millions on interest and other speculative activities with your money.

If you ask the bank, however,  you will certainly get  a rather vague story.

Something definitely needs to be done here, especially given the bad reputation that banks have gained in recent years during and after the financial crises.

Almere-Digest

Syria: Is the US leaving their Kurdish Allies in Syria in the cold? As to Pompeo and Bolton: Don't Expect Trump's New Hawks to Save Syria

The conventional wisdom in Washington these days says that Secretary of Defense James Mattis is the one man who can save the nation from war. The new secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, is a hawk's hawk. And don't get the foreign policy establishment started on incoming National Security Adviser, John Bolton. President Donald Trump himself pines for military parades and asserts that torturing terrorists "works."

Like most conventional wisdom in the Trump era, however, this is all wrong -- for a number of reasons. But the first and most important one is Syria. Trump actually wants to cut and run from this tragic country. This is why there is no real strategy for the moment to counter the Russian-Iranian led campaign to unify the country for the dictator in Damascus, Bashar al-Assad. U.S. forces are in Syria only to destroy the Islamic State.

Trump made this point on Thursday at a rally in Ohio. "We're knocking the hell out of ISIS, we'll be coming out of Syria very soon," the president told the crowd. "Let the other people take care of it now."

"Let the other people take care of it" is a good summary of Barack Obama's approach to Syria. Consider this searing farewell statement from former diplomat Fred Hof as he prepares to leave his post as director of the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center this week. (Hof took on that post in 2012 after resigning from government to protest Obama's inactions on Syria.)

"President Obama would caricature external alternatives by creating and debating straw men: invented idiots calling for the invasion and occupation of Syria," he wrote. "He would deal with internal dissent by taking officials through multi-step, worst-case, hypothetical scenarios of what might happen in the wake of any American attempt, no matter how modest, to complicate regime mass murder. The ‘logical’ result would inevitably involve something between World War III and an open-ended, treasury-draining American commitment."

Hof concludes: "He did not mean to do it, but Barack Obama’s performance in Syria produced global destabilization."

This was the world Trump inherited in 2017. And despite his campaign rhetoric about the pointlessness of interventions, Trump did not just bug out. Instead he lifted restrictions on the rules of engagement for U.S. Special Forces fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and, in one of his administration's best moments, struck regime airfields after a nerve gas attack a year ago.

It's possible that Trump's promise to exit Syria is just bluster for the crowd. This was not a policy speech. It was a rally that focused mainly on building the border wall and immigration. Yet it's also possible Trump is finally taking control of the government, and we should expect policy to reflect his rhetoric in a way it has not up to now. 

Read Full report click here : Bloomberg

3/30/18

Belgium: Russian Poisoning case: Eight more Russians sent packing from Belgium

Eight more Russian diplomats are to be sent packing from Belgium and one from Ireland, but Russia's EU envoy is to stay in place.

The Belgian tally included seven to be expelled from Russia's mission to Nato, which is located in Brussels, and one from Russia's embassy to Belgium.

"Russia has underestimated the unity of Nato allies," Nato head Jens Stoltenberg said, announcing the move, which came in response to Russia's attempt to kill a former spy in England using a chemical weapon earlier this month.

"It sends a very clear message to Russia that it [its UK attack] has costs," he added.

The Belgian prime minister's office said it was committed to an "open and frank dialogue" with Moscow despite its move.

The Irish leader, Leo Varadkar, said the same day that he had expelled a Russian diplomat despite his country's history of neutrality in European conflicts.

Read more: Eight more Russians sent packing from Belgium

Turkey: Controversial Turkish-Azerbaijani gas pipeline gets major EU loan

Recently  the board of directors of the European Investment Bank (EIB) green-lighted a EUR 932 million loan to the Trans Anatolian gas pipeline (TANAP), the Turkish section of the Southern Gas Corridor, a month after handing out the largest ever fossil fuels loan to the western section of the same project.

The Southern Gas Corridor is the biggest energy project the EU is currently pursuing, with the intention of annually delivering 6 billion cubic meters of Azerbaijani gas to Turkey and additional 10 billion cubic meters to the EU. Scheduled to be completed later this year, the 1800 kilometers long TANAP would traverse Turkey from the border with Georgia to the border with Greece.

Civil society groups – including Bankwatch, Counter Balance, 350.org, Re:Common, CEO, Friends of the Earth Europe and many others – have been repeatedly warning that the Southern Gas Corridor project is at odds with EU commitments on both human rights and climate action.
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A study released by Bankwatch in late January has shown that, due to fugitive methane emissions and burning of gas, the Southern Gas Corridor’s climate footprint could be comparable to that of coal, the dirtiest source of energy, or even worse.

In addition, there are mounting concerns over corruption among both governments and companies involved in realising the Southern Gas Corridor. In Turkey, all subcontractors hired by the state-owned energy firm Botas for the project have close ties to President Erdogan’s AK Party, according to a Bankwatch report from December 2016.

An international journalistic investigation published in April 2017 also unveiled the extensive network of politically exposed people in Turkey and Azerbaijan that stand to directly benefit from the project.

In light of the disturbing human rights situation under the increasingly authoritarian regimes in both Turkey and Azerbaijan, last December, 33 Members of the European Parliament wrote to EIB President Werner Hoyer, urging him to suspend plans to finance the TANAP project.

Today’s approval of the EIB’s loan adds to chain of investments in the Southern Gas Corridor from multilateral development banks now totalling over EUR 6 billion in public money.

This decision also took place a day after the European Court of Auditors criticized European financial support to Turkey for being particularly ineffective when it came to the independence of the Turkish judicial system, fighting corruption and media freedom.

Anna Roggenbuck, Policy Officer at CEE Bankwatch Network, said: “With the decision to finance TANAP, the EIB has shown its disregard to Europe’s commitments to climate change mitigation.This project has been approved without a proper climate impact assessment, and in contradiction to pledges under the Paris Agreement to keep global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius which entails limiting fossil fuels consumption.”

Colin Roche, extractives campaigner with Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “Like adding gas to a fire, today’s decision by the EIB, the EU’s investment bank, to pour more funds into new gas infrastructure is yet another cash injection for climate destruction. The more we invest in gas pipelines like TANAP the more we lock Europe into decades of fossil fuel dependency when we need to be moving to a fossil free future.”

Note EU-Digest: Obviously it would be of interest to many people - to hear the motives from the EIB what led them to provide loans for this controversial project.

Read more: Controversial Turkish-Azerbaijani gas pipeline gets major EU loan | Counter Balance

3/29/18

European Banking Industry: EU Commission wants fees cut on cross-border payments and transfers - by Irene Kostaki

Banks in the European Union will have to cut fees on cross-border payments, according to legislative proposals put forward by the European Commission on March 28.

European Commission Vice President for the Euro Valdis Dombrovskis’ plan is to make banks lower their consumer costs in the banking sector. The move is expected to reduce profits mostly for banks outside the 19 Eurozone member states, while the sector suffers from stiff competition from FinTech firms.

The EU’s second Payment Services Directive (PSD2), which came into force at the beginning of the year, lowers charges or has no fees for trans-national payments in euros within the Eurozone. Charges remain higher, however, for cross-border transactions from other EU countries outside the Eurozone.

Currency conversion fees will be capped for three years to put an end to excessive charges when EU citizens withdraw money or use their payment cards abroad or online for payments in or into euros.

“With today’s proposal we are granting citizens and businesses in non-euro area countries the same conditions as euro area residents when making cross-border payments in euro,” Dombrovskis, said on Wednesday.

When EU citizens buy abroad and decide to use the option provided and pay in their home currency, a local bank or other payment service providers will convert the amount of the transaction on the spot in exchange for a fee, a system known as a dynamic currency conversion fee.

“While dynamic currency conversion allows consumers to know immediately how much they have to pay, the use of this service is often more expensive than with their bank,” according to the European Commission.

The lack of necessary information to make the best choice often results in consumers being unfairly led towards the more expensive currency conversion option. The European Banking Authority will be tasked with drafting the necessary Regulatory Technical Standard to implement the new regulations, according to the EU executive

The EU Commission proposes a three-year transition period, after which, banks, credit cards, and other payment services will have to show currency conversion fees to consumers before they pay to allow each customer to determine whether it is cheaper to pay the conversion offered by their bank or the dynamic conversion service.

Russian Poisoning Drama Tit for Tat : Russia to expel 60 U.S.diplomats, close St. Petersburg consulate -- by Matthew Bodner

Russia will close the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg and kick out 60 American diplomats in response to Monday’s coordinated expulsion of Russian diplomats from the United States and a number of other countries, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday.

The move continues an ongoing escalation of tit for tat between Moscow and the West that began in early March with the alleged poisoning of a former Russian double agent on British soil with a Soviet-designed nerve agent. American officials said Thursday that another round might be coming.

“We reserve the right to respond,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in Washington. “Russia should not be acting like a victim,” she said, calling Moscow’s move “regrettable” and “unwarranted.”

U.S. Ambassador Jon M. Huntsman Jr. was summoned Thursday night to the Foreign Ministry, where Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov informed him of Russia’s response.

Read more: Russia to expel 60 U.S. diplomats, close St. Petersburg consulate - The Washington Post

Middle East Christian Communities: Why Did Christian Leaders in the Middle East Shun Vice President Pence's Visit?

The Middle East At Easter: "the US 
want Jesus to be a political Jesus"
According to Israeli news outlet Haaretz, Christian leaders in the Middle East shunned Vice President Mike Pence in his recent trip to their countries.

Christian leaders in Egypt and Jerusalem reportedly decided to boycott his visit, in an attempt to protest President Trump’s December 7th recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Pence was unable to visit Bethlehem, the city where Jesus was born, because it is located in the occupied region of the West Bank controlled by the Palestinian Authority who declared that Pence was ” unwelcome in Palestine.”

Pence declared that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is the “only true foundation for a just and lasting peace.” Arab Christians apparently disagree, wanting East Jerusalem to be the capital of a non-Israeli Arab state. Protestors held signs that read, “Pence you are desecrating our land. Pence go home.”

Pence reportedly completed his visit to the Middle East without meeting with any prominent Christian leaders from Egypt, Jordan and Israel. In his meeting with the Egyptian president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Pence raised the issue of protecting Egypt’s Christians from persecution.

After meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan, Pence’s remarks made clear their disagreement over a two state solution: “Friends occasionally have disagreements, and we agreed to disagree on recognizing Jerusalem. We agreed all parties need to come to the table. I hope I impressed on him our earnest desire to restart the peace process.”

In his speech to the Knesset today Pence used religious symbolism, quoted from the bible, and explained his support for Israel as a moral and religious obligation, not solely a political one. His speech was interrupted by numerous standing ovations by Israeli  Knesset members.

According to The Associated Press, Palestinian Christians reject Pence’s “brand” of Christianity:
They argue that such streams of evangelical Christianity have used religion to whitewash Israel’s harsh policies during its half-century-old rule over millions of Palestinians.
“For me, it’s a sick ideology,” said Munib Younan, the recently retired bishop of the small Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and former president of the Lutheran World Federation, an umbrella for churches with millions of believers.
 “When I say Jesus is love, they want my Jesus to be a political Jesus,” Younan, 67, a Jerusalem-born Palestinian, said in a recent interview at his West Bank church.

The AP adds that while Christian Arabs are a minority living in the West Bank, they lived peacefully next to their Muslim Arab neighbors, describing their neighborhoods as places “where the pealing of church bells often blends with the Muslim call to prayer.”

Note EU-Digest - Jesus Christ represents love, not hatred or violence, and if politics and fanaticism was not injected into the Middle East as a result of  foreign interventions,  historical peaceful coexistence would still prevail there today.   

Read more: Why Did Christian Leaders in the Middle East Shun Vice President Pence's Visit?

3/28/18

USA: Evangelicals in America and Donald Trump: Chris Cuomo grills Rick Santorum on the hypocrisy of evangelicals - by Charlie May

The hypocrisy of Evangelical Christian conservatives in the era of President Donald Trump is unlike any other.

In an interview on CNN, "New Day" host Chris Cuomo talked with Rick Santorum, who is a senior political commentator for the network, as well as an evangelical, about their lasting support for the president. Cuomo pointed out the "apparent hypocrisy" of evangelicals who have continued to support Trump despite all of his unbecoming characteristics, hateful rhetoric or immoral behavior, all because the two have a common interest and want to advance a political agenda.

"When it suits the politics, the piety is great, and when it doesn’t the politics, the piety is easily excused, and that’s hypocrisy," Cuomo told Santorum. "Character either counts, or it doesn't."

He added, "With people who say they put faith first, character has to count, it always has...Now all of a sudden everything is forgivable."

Santorum said that's something that "goes on both sides" and pivoted to the actions of former President Bill Clinton, who was impeached after he lied about his relations with Monica Lewinsky.

"Let's just be honest about this," Santorum said. "The politics seem to trump everything these days, and unfortunately that is the case. The former Pennsylvania senator explained he has condemned Trump for actions he's disagreed with.

Cuomo quickly jabbed, "But you’re not going out of your way to talk about him with these affairs, either. Like the way you did with Bill Clinton."

Cuomo said Trump has been viewed by evangelicals as a King David figure. Santorum agreed and said admitted that King David was a flawed man.

"What else did King David do that made him acceptable to Christians and is a fundamental aspect in the Bible?" Cuomo asked,

"Psalm 51: It was fundamental to the forgiveness. It was fundamental to the acceptance of what he was as flawed because he knew it, and he begged forgiveness and promised to live his life differently going forward. It is in the Bible story because it is fundamental to the reckoning to it."

Santorum said that the issue of morality was an issue between Trump and God, not between Trump and anyone else. He explained that King David's contrition was not to "his fellow men, it was to God."

Cuomo asked: "Isn’t that convenient?"

Cuomo is right that evangelicals have looked the other way when Trump has said or acted in a way that is fundamentally contradictory to the very faith they claim to hold so dear. In the wake of his alleged extramarital affair with porn actress Stormy Daniels, evangelicals have adamantly stood by Trump's side.

One Republican lawmaker, however, has seemed to have taken issue with how evangelicals have handled themselves.

"I don’t know how many in the evangelical community can reconcile some of their positions at this moment," Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Penn., told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Tuesday night.

Brexit Vote Fraud: May says Vote fraud allegations will not derail Brexit

British Prime Minister Theresa May says her government will continue with plans to leave the European Union, despite allegations that the Leave campaign received illegal funds.

May said during Prime Minister's Questions: "Can I simply say this. If there are those who are trying to suggest that the Government should be rejecting the result of the referendum as a result of these sorts of claims, I will say very clearly, the referendum was held, the vote was taken, the people gave their view, and we will be delivering on it."

Two separate whistleblowers, one from Cambridge Analytica and one from within the Vote Leave group have instructed lawyers to hand over evidence to the Electoral Commission to outline their claims that Vote Leave acted illegally.

The allegations have scandalised Brexit, one year before the UK plans to leave the EU.

Facebook's Mark Zuckerburg has been forced to apologise for how his company used people's data and questions have been rasied about how tech companies have intervened within democratic processes.

Vote Leave officials deny breaking election rules and call this an attempt to undermine Brexit.

Read more: Brexit Vote Fraud - May says Vote Leave fraud allegatiions will not derail Brexit | Euronews

USA: Is Trump Marriage In Trouble? : Conservative Pundit S.E. Cupp Tells Melania Trump to Leave ‘Jerk' Husband Over Affair Claims - by Tierney McAfee

Conservative pundit S.E. Cupp is calling on First Lady Melania Trump to leave husband Donald Trump over explosive allegations that the now-president cheated with porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal in 2006.

Both of Trump’s alleged mistresses spoke out in bombshell interviews this past week, offering up intimate details of the alleged sexual encounters, which they claim took place when Melania was pregnant and shortly after she gave birth to their son, Barron, now 12. The White House has denied both affairs.

During her HLN show on Tuesday, Cupp compared Trump’s alleged affairs to those of then-President Bill Clinton the 1990s and urged Mrs. Trump to do what Hillary Clinton failed to do 20 years ago: “leave her jerk of a husband.”

“While feminists trotted [Hillary Clinton] out as a role model for strong women, all I saw was a woman who was humiliated time and again,” the HLN host said of Clinton’s decision to stand by her husband through multiple sex scandals.

“Melania may not have a political career to consider, but as first lady, she is an inherently important figure in American politics, and women are watching ― particularly young women,” Cupp added. “Melania should do for this generation of girls what Hillary Clinton did not do for mine and leave her jerk of a husband.”

Read mor: S.E. Cupp Tells Melania Trump to Leave ‘Jerk' Husband Over Affair Claims | PEOPLE.com

EU plan to improve army logistics across Europe- by Eric Maurice

 The European Commission launched on Wednesday (28 March) a plan to improve military mobility between member states, as part of a wider effort to step up its defence capacities.

The debate over Europe's ability to project troops on and across its territory was launched by the US and Nato in 2014 after Russia's invasion of Crimea.

"We must be able to quickly deploy troops," EU transport commissioner Violeta Bulc said at a press conference, adding that the plan was "one of very practical steps towards a fully-fledged defence union by 2025."

"I really hope this will never happen," she said about the need to move troops across Europe in response to a threat.

"But I don't want to be surprised," she added. "We try to ensure that in case things need to be activated, we can do it."

Under the plan, the commission, the member states and the European Defence Agency will define the military requirements, including the definition of infrastructure needed, and identify how they fit with current regulations.

The aim is to be able, by the end of next year, to draw up a list of "dual-use" projects to improve infrastructure that could used both for civilian and military transport.

A pilot analysis conducted last year showed that standards for road bridges or railroads were different between member states. Some bridges, for example, could not support oversized or over-weighted military vehicles, and some rails had an insufficient loading capacity.

The effort to update infrastructures for military will be part of an ongoing plan to create nine east-west and north-south 'core network corridors' to be completed by 2030.

Bulc noted that while €500bn was needed to complete the corridors, additional costs to adapt them to the military requirements will depend on the needs still to be identified.

Read more: EU plan to improve army logistics across Europe

3/27/18

Russia: : Vladimir Putin′s diplomatic catastrophe - OP-ED

"I don't believe it!" This was what Konstantin Stanislavsky, the father of modern Russian theater, told actors when he was not satisfied with their performance. The United Kingdom and its two dozen allies around the world spoke on March 26 as a collective Stanislavsky.

"You are lying!" This is the message behind an unprecedented expulsion of Russian diplomats by countries of the European Union, the United States, Canada and Australia. This demarche will now be included in all textbooks on the history of international relations. Even Saddam Hussein and the Kim dynasty in North Korea were spared such public humiliation. This is a serious political and diplomatic victory for British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Two elements of this drama drew my attention. Tiny Iceland once challenged the mighty Soviet Union when it was the first to recognize the restoration of Lithuania's independence in 1990.

On Monday, Reykjavik announced a political and diplomatic boycott of Moscow, although Iceland is not a member of the EU and has no special relationship with Britain, unlike, say, Canada, Australia and the United States. Secondly, the Kremlin's "best friend," Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, decided to expel one Russian diplomat. The EU-bashing populist leader, known for his good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, showed where his real priorities lie.

And this may not be the end of the affair. European Council President Donald Tusk said that EU member countries could take additional steps. That is, those who have not yet expelled Russian diplomatic personnel, like Slovakia or Portugal, can still do so. Experts of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons are analyzing the substance that was used to poison former British spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. If they conclude that the substance was of Russian origin this could spur more expulsions. Tokyo is also biding its time. The Japanese foreign ministry says it is monitoring the situation closely but avoids answering the question whether Washington's main Asian ally would support the British and American position.

In a normal democracy, such a large-scale and public diplomatic disaster would have led to the resignation of top brass at the foreign ministry and special services as well as immediate parliamentary inquiry. It would have also greatly undermined the standing of the executive.

But Russia is not a democracy. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday defiantly went to play football with veterans of FC Spartak. The Russian embassy in Washington responded to the expulsion of 60 Russian operatives from the US with a Twitter joke. It asked its followers to choose online which of the three US consulates in Russia Moscow should close in response to the shutdown of the Russian consulate in Seattle.

Read more: Opinion: Vladimir Putin′s diplomatic catastrophe | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 27.03.2018

The Environment: China Has Met Its 2020 Carbon Target Three Years Early

China met its 2020 carbon intensity target — the amount of carbon dioxide it produces per unit of economic growth — three years ahead of schedule, according to the country’s top climate official, Xie Zhenhua. In 2017, China cut its carbon intensity by 46 percent from 2005 levels, a drop of 5.1 percent from the previous year, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

Xie announced the milestone at the country’s Green Carbon Summit on Monday.

As part of the Paris Agreement in 2015, China, the world’s largest emitter of CO2, had pledged to reduce its 2005 carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent by 2020. It has a goal of reducing carbon emissions by unit of GDP by 60 to 65 percent by 2030, and to halt increasing its emissions after that point.

China has struggled to meet another Paris pledge, however, to establish a national cap and trade system by 2017 for greenhouse gas emissions. Last December, the country launched emissions trading for the power sector, covering 1,700 companies and 3 billion tons of CO2 emissions, but a broader, multi-sector system has been delayed by technical problems and unreliable data, Reuters reported.

Read more:China Has Met Its 2020 Carbon Target Three Years Early - Yale E360

Middle East: GCC should now lobby US over Turkey’s Red Sea military ambitions - by Martin Jay

TO BE OR NOT TO BE THAT IS THE QUESTION
Martin Jay in his Op-Ed for the Al-Arabia newspaper writes  "How long will Trump’s patience hold out with Turkey particularly with the appointment of John Bolton who is clearly not a fan of President Recep Erdogan? Until now, GCC states, as well as Iraq have all been remarkably despondent to Turkey’s intervention in the region, despite reports that Qatar backed Turkey, with rumours of other neighbours supportive of Kurdish YPG forces in Afrin. Then there is the more recent somnolent stand by Iraq against Erdogan’s forces possibly moving into Sinjar region in pursuit of escaping PKK militants there
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Yet there are other plans by Turkey, which, if they don’t agitate America’s allies in the region, will certainly stir a hornet’s nest in Washington and finally place Turkey on a collision course with the Trump administration.

Since Afrin fell neatly into Erdogan's palm, the Turkish leader is making moves now to go ahead with his dream of being a regional power with its own hegemony - which of course is a dangerous thing – with Qatar as a key partner.

In recent months western press has little mentioned Turkey’s deal with Sudan, to effectively lease the historical Ottoman island of Suakin back to Turkey which has great plans for it to be a Red Sea military base – angering neighbouring Egypt which accuses Qatar of harbouring Muslim Brotherhood members. 

Qatar, it was always expected, would be a military partner on the Island and has already signed a $4bn deal with Sudan to develop and manage a port on the island, with a naval dock also planned to be constructed by Turkey.

With John Bolton about to take the post of national security adviser, a hawk sceptical about Turkey’s manoeuvres in the region, perhaps it’s time for Suakin Island to be raised


But this grandiose plan will also, in time, irritate neighbours when Turkey starts to flex its muscles in the Red Sea and starts to act as a regional power. Not only could such a move threaten to destabilize the Red Sea and Egypt’s Suez Canal but it will also create a problem for the Trump administration.
Turkey believes that it can use the location to leverage itself against both Egypt and Saudi Arabia – its regional foes who are weary of Ankara’s relations with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Yet Bolton's appointment of national security adviser might skupper such plans. His hatred of Turkey might push this issue up the agenda.

But equally, one might also ask is it time now for GCC countries to make their case to Washington to stop Turkey preparing to expand in the region? Should Washington intervene and derail Turkey’s plans of building its own military base on Suakin Island (which belongs to Sudan – a recipient of US aid) which can only, once operational, threaten Saudi Arabia and the entire region?

Turkey’s recent tumultuous period of Trump’s period in office has not stood it in good stead. There was the arrest of US consulate employees and the request from Erdogan that the US extradites Fethullah Gulen, Turkey’s prime suspect in the July 2016 attempted coup. In New York, a trial reached a guilty verdict against Turkish banker for evading US sanctions on Iran, which some say had Erdogan’s tacit approval. Turkey also leaked the secret locations of US forces in Syria, and when visiting the US in 2017 to meet President Trump, the Turkish leader’s personal guards clashed with protesters in Washington DC. Then there was the veiled threat by Erdogan to give US forces an “Ottoman slap”.

Not exactly a great impression for Trump’s people who never trusted Erdogan from the beginning anyway and now with Bolton – considered an extreme hawk among hawks – will all be aggregated negative collateral, perhaps contributing towards his recent comment against Erdogan.

Of course there are still questions over whether Iran will join Qatar and Turkey in its new foray into Red Sea superpower war games. But Iran and Russia are responsible for Erdogan’s new virility in the region as both allowed Turkish forces to take Afrin so as to tactically prevent Syria’s Assad from capturing one more inch of soil back, in a bid to clip his wings.

That same strategy may well be what is happening now in the Red Sea. Or perhaps Iran and Russia are playing a wait-n-see game. Certainly Russia has huge ambitions in the region and might consider being part of the Suakin gambit, or certainly supporting it as a counterweight to US hegemony in the Middle East in general. Yet Bolton’s admission in earlier articles that the US administration under Trump was confused about the YPG’s role in Syria and not seeing the problem with Turkey (which sees it as the PKK) is a clue that he will be a security adviser who wants to make corrections to Trump’s erroneous first year in office, which in the Middle East had to take on Obama’s strategies. But the Suakin Island was not part of that plan and Arab leaders should not dilly dally and hope Erdogan’s dream of restoring a modern Ottoman state in the region will vanish like mist over the Bosporus."

Note EU-Digest: the writer of this article Martin Jay is a Beirut based journalist who in 2016 won the highest press award given by the United Nations for his reporting on Syrian refugees in Lebanon. In Beirut he has worked on a freelance basis for Al Jazeera, DW, Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, Mail on Line, The National and regularly appears on TV commentating on geopolitics. He can be followed at @MartinRJay.

Read ,ore: GCC should now lobby US over Turkey’s Red Sea military ambitions - Al Arabiya English

EU-Turkey summit ends with 'no solutions' - by Nikolaj Nielsen

EU relations with Turkey remain tense following a meeting in Bulgaria where leaders from both sides outlined differences.

Speaking to reporters in the Black Sea resort of Varna on Monday (26 March), European Council president Donald Tusk said no solutions or compromises had been found between Ankara and the EU.

"If you are asking me if we achieved some solutions or compromises, my answer is no. What I can say that is that I raised all our concerns, as you know it was a long list," he said.

Tusk, along with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Bulgaria's prime minister Boyko Borissov, had met with Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan as part of a broader effort to improve fraught relations.

The two sides found common ground on migration, an area of cooperation that appears only to underscore tensions elsewhere. Outstanding internal issues on rule of law, the mass jailing of journalists, Turkish assertive military forays in northern Syria, wider conflicts with Cyprus and the detention of Greek soldiers, remain unresolved.

EU leaders had only last week in a summit in Brussels roundly condemned Turkey's "illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea" and demanded that Ankara respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus to explore and exploit its natural resources.

The same message was repeated in Varna, with Erdogan stating that he had handed over information to the EU leaders to explain Turkey's position that he claims respects international laws.

"Not until the European Union stops being overly critical, in particular certain members of the EU, we will not be able to engage fully in improving the relations," said Erdogan.

Read more: EU-Turkey summit ends with 'no solutions'

US Economy: not as rosy as some say - Dow closes nearly 350 points lower as tech stocks tank - by Fred Imbert and Alexandra Gibbs

Stocks closed sharply lower Tuesday, erasing earlier gains as a decline in the broader tech sector brought the major averages down.

The Nasdaq composite fell 2.9 percent as shares of Apple and Amazon declined. The S&P 500 pulled back 1.7 percent, with tech sliding 3.5 percent. The Dow Jones industrial average closed 344 points lower and re-entered correction territory, with Microsoft as the worst-performing stock in the index.

Earlier in the session, the Dow rose 243 points, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq also traded higher.

Facebook shares contributed to tech's losses as they fell 4.9 percent after Bank of America Merrill Lynch reduced its price target on the stock for the second time in five days. The cut comes as Facebook's fallout from the data scandal continues.

Russian Poisoning Case: The Russian Exodus: Over 100 Russian diplomats expelled from Europe and US

 Some 100 Russian diplomats were expelled from 15 European Union (EU) countries, Canada, Ukraine and the US,  in a show of solidarity with Britain over a nerve agent attack on a former spy

The British government blames Moscow for the hospitalization of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, using a powerful nerve agent in the English city of Salisbury on March 4. London has been seeking support from EU and NATO allies during an escalating diplomatic row with the Kremlin after they expelling 23 Russian diplomats on March 14

The EU ambassador representing the EU Commission in Bruxelles was also recently recalled in protest.

EU-Digest



3/26/18

EU RAIL INDUSTRY MERGER: Franco-German deal creates European high-speed railway champion conglomerate

Europe's High Speed  Railroad 
Network Best In The World
Train manufacturers Siemens and Alstom penned a merger agreement on Monday in Paris, pending an approval by anti-trust authorities.

The main rationale is the emergence of a Franco-German European champion able to compete with China’s state-owned CRRC giant. The new European champion will have a combined turnover of €15bn, about half the market share of CRRC

Alstom has just under 33,000 employees Europe'sworldwide, just over the Siemens Mobility section of 29,000.

The new company will be headquartered in France, which has a technological edge having developed the TVG high-speed train system. News of the merger in autumn 2017 was met with skepticism, with the French press opposing a majority stake by Siemens.

Siemens will own 50% of Alstom, gaining a 0,5% controlling stake over the next four years. The French government backs the Paris-based company and will be placing a major multi-billion Euro order for over 100-next generation TGV trains over the next three months.

Alstom employs 32,800 people worldwide. Siemens Mobility has 28,800 staff members.

Read more: Franco-German deal creates European high-speed railway champion

'EU Turkish Relations: Turkey needs Europe, Europe needs Turkey'

Turkey's not exactly the flavour of the month in the EU right now, but - as the two sides meet at a summit in Bulgaria - President Erdogan says it's time for the bloc to "keep to its promises."

Ankara kicked off formal membership negotiations in 2005 and, all these years on, they have effectively collapsed.

But there's a reluctance to walk away from each other.

"Europe should take its share of the refugees, so that we don't have to depend on people like Erdogan to manage the issue," said Philippe Lamberts, a Belgian Green MEP.

"That obviously requires a little bit of political courage, but at the end of the day, it's our strategic independence from Turkey."

Erdogan's alarmed the West with a massive purge following a failed coup attempt.

But Turkey remains the destination for many Syrians fleeing war - and an important ally in the NATO alliance. So is it really curtains for the membership bid?

"If Turkey cannot relaunch the reform process and is not anymore in a position to meet EU accession criteria, relations will evolve into a kind of partnership and will be shaped more and more around common interests and strategic priorities," commented political analyst Seda Gurkan.

"And Turkey is considered in Brussels actually as an important strategic neighbour or a key partner rather a candidate."

Three billion euros of fresh cash is expected to be pledged to Turkey to lengthen a deal on it taking in Syrian refugees. And for Ankara, the EU is its biggest foreign investor and trading partner.

"Turkey is not doing very well economically, it needs outlets" said Lamberts, "and it is very clear that bad relations with Europe are harmful to Turkey, so somewhere on the economic level Erdogan needs Europe and Europe in fairness needs Turkey."

With Syria, France has been one of the biggest critics of the Turkish military operation in Afrin - saying border security concerns did not justify it.

Read more: 'Turkey needs Europe, Europe needs Turkey' | Euronews

France - Extremism: the challenge of tracking 20,000 suspected extremists

France's interior ministry compiles something known as the "S file" (the "S" stands for security) which contains anyone suspected of being a radical, including potentially dangerous leftist and far-right activists.

There is also a separate list, the File for the Prevention of Terrorist Radicalisation (FSPRT), for people judged to be terror threats.

Radouane Lakdim, the gunman involved in last Friday's shooting spree in the southern French towns of Carcassonne and Trebes, was listed in the S File in May 2014 and the FSPRT in September 2015.

The file includes people who represent varying degrees of threat, from someone who is reported by his boss for not shaking hands with women to a minor who has recently converted to Islam.

But there are more serious cases of people in contact with members of the Islamic State (IS) group, or others who have left for or wanted to travel to areas controlled by IS in Iraq or Syria.

Once listed, a person will remain on the list for five years but might not be actively monitored. The file also contains records of potential links between suspects.

It updates gradually, as cases are reported by the security services or via calls to the toll-free tipline that launched in April 2014.

Read more: France and the challenge of tracking 20,000 suspected extremists - France 24

German- Spanish Relations - Catalan Rebellion: German court extends detention of exiled Catalan leader Puigdemont

The exiled Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has had his detention extended after appearing before a German court.

Puigdemont will remain in custody pending a decision on whether he will be sent back to Spain on sedition and rebellion charges. It's the start of extradition proceedings that could take months.

"He appeared calm and composed," said Schleswig city prosecutor Georg-Freidrich Guentge when asked outside the court to describe Puigdemont's appearance.

Catalonia's former leader was arrested on a European warrant on Sunday while crossing into the country from Denmark.

Read more: German court extends detention of exiled Catalan leader Puigdemont | Euronews

EU ISIS PRISONERS IN IRAQ: EU adopts wait-and-see stance as European IS followers face execution

Dreams of living in an Islamic caliphate or dying as martyrs dashed, many former jihadi fighters from Europe now face the death penalty. Will the EU campaign to save citizens who reject its values?


"Kill lists" didn't eradicate them on the battlefield and local judicial systems won't resolve the dilemma created for the European Union by citizens who joined Islamic State and now are detained by the Iraqi government or Syrian militia groups. Most EU governments, some of which openly admit targeting their nationals with airstrikes, have no intention of bringing home almost anyone over the age of 10.

Having helped the Iraqi government push IS out of its territory, many EU leaders are relieved to hand over responsibility for holding and prosecuting the jihadis and their followers to the Iraqi judicial system. But Iraq says the death penalty is a likely sentence for those found to have been active fighters or even in key support roles. Vocal against capital punishment everywhere else in the world — even when former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein was sentenced to die — the EU has been virtually silent on its own citizens' fates.

Pieter van Ostaeyen, a Belgian expert on jihad movements, elaborated on the EU's dilemma regarding the detainees. "Are we outsourcing their executions to Iraq? That's a moral issue," he told DW. "But then of course we have to face the fact that these guys who have been captured and would return do have to fit in again in our society and what are we going to do with them?"

Read more: EU adopts wait-and-see stance as European IS followers face execution | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 26.03.2018

3/25/18

European Space Agency warns: China's Tiangong-1 space station 'will crash into Earth over Easter' possibly hitting populated areas- by Harry Pettit

China's out of control space station Tiangong-1 to crash on earth
China's out-of-control space station will crash into Earth this coming Easter weekend, according to the European Space Agency.

The agency's Space Debris Office has said Tiangong-1 will hit somewhere across our planet's northern hemisphere between March 30 and April 2.

Previous estimates suggested the rogue station, China's out of Cwhich is carrying highly toxic chemicals, would enter Earth's orbit on April 3.

According to experts tracking the station, it has the highest chance of crashing along a narrow strip around latitudes of 43 degrees north and south.


'At no time will a precise time/location prediction from ESA be possible,' the agency's Space Debris Office, based in Darmstadt, Germany, said in a statement.

The doomed 8.5-tonne craft has been hurtling towards Earth since Chinese scientists lost control of it in 2016.

Experts believe most of Tiangong-1 will burn up upon reentry, but shards as large as 100kg (220lbs) could strike Earth.

Scientist believe that even in 'high risk' areas, the chance of being struck by Tiangong-1 debris is about one million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jack. 

However, there is a chance parts of the station containing hazardous hydrazine could plummet into a highly-populated area.

Following Cities are listed as potential crash sites:

Barcelona Spain Milwaukee USA
Beijing China Monaco Monaco
Bilbao Spain Naples Italy
Boise USA New York USA
Boston USA Nice France
Boulder USA Philadelphia USA
Buffalo USA Pittsburgh USA
Cannes France Punta Arenas Chile
Chicago USA Rochester USA
Christchurch New Zealand Rome Italy
Cleveland USA Salt Lake City Spain
Concord USA San Sebastian Spain
Des Moines USA Sapporo Japan
Detroit USA Sioux Falls USA
Florence Italy Sochi Russia
Istanbul Turkey Stanley Falkland Islands
Kushiro Japan Toronto Canada
Madrid Spain Trelew  Argentina 
Marseilles France Valladolid Spain

3/24/18

EU: Overview - What is the Europe 2020 strategy about?

The Europe 2020 strategy is the EU's agenda for growth and jobs for the current decade. It emphasises smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in order to improve Europe's competitiveness and productivity and underpin a sustainable social market economy.

To reach this objective, the EU has adopted targets to be reached by 2020 in five areas:
  • Employment
  • Research & Development
  • Climate change & energy
  • Education
  • Poverty and social exclusion
What are the key targets to be reached by 2020?

The headline targets related to the strategy's key objectives at the EU level cover:
  • Employment:
    > 75% of the population aged 20 to 64 years to be employed;
  • Research & Development:
    > 3% of GDP to be invested in the R&D sector;
  • Climate change & energy: 
    > Greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced by 20% compared to 1990
    > Share of renewable energy sources in final energy consumption to be increased to 20%
    > Energy efficiency to be improved by 20%
  • Education: 
    > Share of early school leavers to be reduced under 10%
    > At least 40% of 30 to 34 years old to have completed tertiary or equivalent education
  • Poverty and social exclusion:> At least 20 million people fewer at risk of poverty or social exclusion.
The EU-level targets have been translated into  national targets in each EU country, reflecting different situations and circumstances.

EU-Digest - EUROSTAT

Internet High Speed Communications: 5G: how EU is helping to turn it into an engine for growth

The European Commission has prepared an action plan to facilitate the deployment of 5G across the EU. MEPs voted in favour of supporting the plan on 1 June, but stressed that coordination between EU countries would be crucial to avoid delays that were experienced when 4G was introduced as not enough spectrum was available.

Polish EPP member Michał Boni, the MEP responsible for steering the plan through Parliament, warned: "The member states have to understand that we have to avoid the fragmentation of decisions and solutions if we want to achieve the 5G objectives.”

He also stressed the importance of making it easier to invest in this: “Investments are the key for achieving 5G goals. The simplification of legal framework, flexible models for co-investments and long-term certainty and predictability are required.”

To watch the plenary debate in the EU Parliament click here: Video: watch the plenary debate on 5G

Read more: 5G: how EU is helping to turn it into an engine for growth | News | European Parliament

USA: March on DC - Students lead March for Our Lives and single out "NO-ACTION" politicians

"Since the time that I came out here, it has been 6 minutes and 20 seconds," she said finally. "The shooter has ceased shooting, and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape and walk free for an hour before arrest."

She added: "Fight for your lives before it's someone else's job."

In the 39 days since the shooting in Parkland, Florida, Gonzalez and her fellow student survivors have galvanized a nationwide movement for gun reform.

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of students gathered in the nation's capitol and at sister marches across the country and around the world to deliver a powerful, unified message: Enough is enough.

For Photo reportage click here: Photos: Students lead March for Our Lives

EU-Russian relations: At least 10 EU nations to expel Russian diplomats in spy row - by Daniel Boffey and Jennifer Rankin

Russian intelligence agents and diplomats across the European Union will be expelled next week in response to the use of a nerve agent in Salisbury, described by Emmanuel Macron as an “attack on European sovereignty”.

At least 10 EU member states will order Russian officials to leave, with the number of countries answering the UK’s call for action expected to rise in the coming weeks.

“What happened in Great Britain has clearly never been seen before,” the French president told reporters, at the end of a summit where EU leaders agreed unanimously that Moscow was “highly likely” to be responsible for the assault. “It is an aggression against the security and the sovereignty of an ally, today a member of the European Union, which demands a reaction.”

Note EU-Digest: Hopefully all other EU member states will take action, in addition to these 10 countries which already did.

Read more:  At least 10 EU nations to expel Russian diplomats in spy row | UK news | The Guardian

3/23/18

USA Trump Tariffs - EU threats against Trump tariffs work - Trump backs down, temporarily excludes EU, 6 other allies from aluminum/steel tarifs - by Lesley Wroughtons

Mommy Merkel will spank you Donald if you keep misbehaving
U.S. President Donald Trump has temporarily excluded six countries, including Canada and Mexico, and European Union states from higher U.S. import duties on steel and aluminum meant to come into effect on Friday.

In a presidential proclamation published late on Thursday, Trump said he would suspend tariffs for Argentina, Australia, Brazil, South Korea, Canada, Mexico and the European Union, the U.S.’s biggest trading partner, until May 1, 2018 as discussions continue.

After May 1, Trump would decide whether to permanently exempt the countries based on the status of talks, the White House said in a statement.

Earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that the EU would respond firmly if the United States did not exempt European steel and aluminum.

The EU also has published a list of US products, services and corporations  which would immediately be targeted if Trump did not back down from his tariff threats..

Note EU-Digest: the response by the EU and Mrs. Merkel in reference to the Trump proposed tariffs was excellent, and an example of how the EU should continue to deal with Donald Trump's tantrums,wild threats, and fantasy, about making America great again.  

EU-Digest - from Reuters report

USA: Trump threatens to veto omnibus bill because it does not address DACA recipients, fully fund border wall

President Trump said he might veto the sweeping $1.3 trillion spending bill passed early Friday — a move that likely would lead to a government shutdown — because it does nothing to address the fate of young undocumented immigrants and does not fully fund his border wall.

In a Friday morning tweet, Trump said that those protected from deportation by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program have been “totally abandoned” by Congress, and he blamed the Democrats.

On Thursday afternoon, senior Trump administration officials told reporters that Trump intended to sign the spending bill, making no mention of the president’s concern. Several aides were trying to convince the president Friday not to follow through with his threat.

Note EU-Digest: As expected Donald Trump backed down and signed the bill as he understood that he was going to get the full blame by his own party and the Democrats, for shutting down the Government if he did. Signing the bill will, however, have the result that it will increase the already super high national deficit to disastrous and uncontrollable figures.  You don't need to be an Einstein to understand that.

Read More: Washington Post

3/22/18

The Netherlands: "Big Brother" Wire Tapping: Government Wire Tapping Powers 'rejected' by Dutch in Referendum


The Netherlands Rejects "Big Brother" wanting to watch them
The Netherlands put to a referendum new legislation, officially the Intelligence and Security Law.

The bill gave new powers to the Netherlands' intelligence services.

They would be able to install wire taps on whole areas, rather than just individuals, store information for up to three years and share this data with other spy agencies.

An independent panel would have to approve these wire taps before they could go ahead.

Both the lower and upper chambers of the Netherlands parliament passed the law last year,

Voters, however, in the Netherlands appear to have narrowly rejected the new online data collection powers for intelligence agencies in the referendum which was held in on March 21.

With about 90% of votes counted, 48.8% have rejected the powers, with 47.3% in favour.

An exit poll by the national broadcaster had earlier suggested a victory for "yes".

Supporters say the powers could help fight terrorism, while opponents say the law could be invasion of privacy.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte has promised to take the Referendum vote seriously --And he better do so, even though the result is non-binding, this no-vote will  require a re-debate in parliament. 

This is a controversial issue, which would have  allowed "Big Brother" to put their nose even deeper into Dutch citizens personal privacy, under the nebulous pretext of national security. As if there are not enough government agencies already infringing on citizens privacy.

EU-Digest

Turkey’s Erdogan: Leader-for-Life?

The country’s leader since 2003 has been adept at evading term limits or restarting the clock on them.

1. In the bitterly contested 2017 constitutional referendum, Turkey narrowly approved a change to the executive structure of government.
2. This change made the presidency the dominant executive office in the country with no more prime minister.
3. That adjustment completed Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s transition from Prime Minister (2003-2014) to President (2014-present).
4. This was reminiscent of Vladimir Putin’s musical chairs strategy in Russia, where he served as president for two terms, then prime minister with the same power for one and then returned to the presidency.
5. The 2017 Turkish presidential reforms also meant that the existing limit of two five-year terms, although unchanged, will only be applied beginning with the next term, 2019-2024.
6. Erdogan could therefore serve as president for three consecutive terms until 2029 without modifying the official term limit.
7. If he does, it would bring his total tenure as Turkey’s leader possibly to as many as 26 years.
8. For half a century, the continent of Africa stood out as the center of “leaders for life” – politicians who managed to hold on to power for decades.
9. Now that trend is returning to major nations on the world stage and Turkey’s president is a prime example.
10. However, it is also fair to note that other major countries – usually those with parliamentary-led systems – have never had tenure limits for their leaders. Germany’s Angela Merkel, for example, is in her fourth term as Chancellor.

Read more: Turkey’s Erdogan: Leader-for-Life? - The Globalist

Armageddon: 'Collapse of civilisation is a near certainty within decades' - by Paul Ehrlich

A shattering collapse of civilisation is a “near certainty” in the next few decades due to humanity’s continuing destruction of the natural world that sustains all life on Earth, according to biologist Prof Paul Ehrlich.

In May, it will be 50 years since the eminent biologist published his most famous and controversial book, The Population Bomb. But Ehrlich remains as outspoken as ever.

The world’s optimum population is less than two billion people – 5.6 billion fewer than on the planet today, he argues, and there is an increasing toxification of the entire planet by synthetic chemicals that may be more dangerous to people and wildlife than climate change.

Ehrlich also says an unprecedented redistribution of wealth is needed to end the over-consumption of resources, but “the rich who now run the global system – that hold the annual ‘world destroyer’ meetings in Davos – are unlikely to let it happen”.

The Population Bomb, written with his wife Anne Ehrlich in 1968, predicted “hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death” in the 1970s – a fate that was avoided by the green revolution in intensive agriculture.

Many details and timings of events were wrong, Paul Ehrlich acknowledges today, but he says the book was correct overall.

“Population growth, along with over-consumption per capita, is driving civilisation over the edge: billions of people are now hungry or micronutrient malnourished, and climate disruption is killing people.”

Read more: Paul Ehrlich: 'Collapse of civilisation is a near certainty within decades' | Cities | The Guardian

'Christianity as default is gone': the rise of a non-Christian Europe - by Harriet Sherwood

Europe’s march towards a post-Christian society has been starkly illustrated by research showing a majority of young people in a dozen countries do not follow a religion.

The survey of 16- to 29-year-olds found the Czech Republic is the least religious country in Europe, with 91% of that age group saying they have no religious affiliation.

Between 70% and 80% of young adults in Estonia, Sweden and the Netherlands also categorise themselves as non-religious.

The two most religious countries, Poland and Lithuania, and the two least religious, the Czech Republic and Estonia, are post-communist states.

The trend of religious affiliation was repeated when young people were asked about religious practice. Only in Poland, Portugal and Ireland did more than 10% of young people say they attend services at least once a week

Note Almere-Digest.  Pew Research Center in 2015 said Europe’s Christian population is expected to shrink by around 100 million people in the coming decades. Maybe, as someone suggested, it is not that there is something wrong with the message, but rather that today the problem lies with those who bring the message. 

It seems they have forgotten that Jesus, in most, if not all his spiritual teachings, professed an egalitarian society, whereby the division between rich and poor has been erased. It is little wonder that the Romans crucified him, and that his followers were persecuted. And, of course, it is the polar opposite of what today's "conservatives" stand for. 

Early Christians practiced a form of "socialism". Acts of the Apostles tells us, "The believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he or she had need." Isn't it time for Christians to become revolutionary again when it comes to bringing the message of redemption, and willing to fight for it?

Read more: 'Christianity as default is gone': the rise of a non-Christian Europe | World news | The Guardian

3/21/18

The Netherlands: In Dutch municipal elections Jessy Klaver's Greens and PM Rutte's VVD end up as the winners

Jesse Klaver Chairman Greens
In the Dutch Municipal Elections, Jesse Klaver (32) - of the Greens (Groen Links) and PM Rutte's party (VVD) seem to have ended up as the winners.

Right wing Nationalists, anti-EU, and pro-Trump and Putin parties of Thiery Baudet (FVD) and Geert Wilders (PVV) made some gains, but overall did worse than expected.

Jesse Klaver (32) prior to being elected the chairman of the Greens party, chaired the youth union of the Christelijk Nationaal Vakverbond, (the youth section of the Federation of Christian Trade Unions of the Netherlands) from 2009 to 2010 (see also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_Klaver)

In Rotterdam, Netherlands largest city DENK, the party of Tunahan Kuzu of Turkish descen, was also one of the big winners.

EU-Digest

3/20/18

Social Media: Facebook Besieged by Wall Street, Washington and Europe - by Brandon Kochkodin

Facebook Inc.’s grim week is getting grimmer.

The company on Tuesday was beset on two continents by governments suddenly focused on data security and investors unliked its stock to the point that it lost $60 billion in value.

The Menlo Park, California, company, whose social network is a ubiquitous venue for social and political life, is drawing the unaccustomed unwelcome attention after the disclosure that it released the personal data of 50 million users to an analytics firm that helped elect President Donald Trump.

The company, Cambridge Analytica, has been implicated in dirty tricks in elections around the globe.

Facebook has struggled to respond to the fast-moving imbroglio, and even Facebook workers have been in the dark.

The company held a staff meeting today to answer their questions and address staff questions about what Facebook knew and when. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg plans to address employees on Friday at a previously scheduled all-hands meeting. For those not privy to the internal meetings, here are the latest developments:

Read more here: Facebook Besieged by Wall Street, Washington and Europe

British Russian Relations: Expelled Russian Diplomats Head Home As U.K. Mulls Furthur Poisoning Response

Twenty-three Russian diplomats who were ordered out of Britain in response to the poisoning of a former spy with a deadly nerve agent arrived home on March 20, as London decided not to impose further sanctions on Moscow for now.

The diplomats, who Prime Minister Theresa May said were spies, had been given a week to leave Britain as tension mounted over what officials say was the first known offensive use of a nerve toxin in Europe since World War II.

Three buses with diplomatic license plates left the Russian Embassy in London in the morning as embassy workers waved, Reuters reported. The diplomats boarded a plane to Moscow's Vnukovo airport, where it landed later in the day.

A patriotic imperial-era Russian march played as the buses carrying diplomats and their families left for the airport, state-run Russian news agency TASS reported
Read more: Expelled Russian Diplomats Head Home As U.K. Mulls Furthur Poisoning Response

Trump Tariffs: China reacts to Trump's tariffs by vowing to open its markets further - Simon Denyer

China responded to the threat of new tariffs from the United States by vowing Tuesday to further open its own markets to foreign trade and investment, while warning that a trade war between the two nations would hurt both sides.

President Trump is preparing to impose a package of $60 billion in annual tariffs against Chinese products, a move that he says will punish China for intellectual property theft and create more U.S. jobs, administration officials say. He is determined to bring down the U.S. trade deficit with China, which reached $375 billion last year.

But China’s premier, Li Keqiang, said the issue should be solved through dialogue and negotiation.

“No one will emerge a winner from a trade war,” Li told a news conference at the conclusion of China’s annual parliamentary session. “What we hope is for us to act rationally instead of being led by emotions.”

Read more: China reacts to Trump's tariffs by vowing to open its markets further - The Washington Post

European Weather: now falls on first day of spring in much of Germany - The Local

Berlin in particular turned into a vast snowscape, with all parts of the city from Treptower Park to Alexanderplatz coated in a growing amount of white.

The day has a historic average temperature of 8 degrees, according to Accuweather.com, in contrast to today's high temperature of 3 degrees and low temperature of -4 degrees.

Read more: Snow falls on first day of spring in much of Germany - The Local

3/19/18

The Netherlands: Local elections 2018: what the parties say about integration

Democracy In Action. Not only Dutch Armenians, but also Dutch Turks, Dutch Moroccans, Dutch Kurds, Dutch from Suriname and Antillean decent and many other nationalities, who immigrated to the Netherlands, will be running in the upcoming Dutch municipal elections on March 21.

In Amsterdam alone there are 28 parties participating in the municipal elections. The Dutch municipal elections of 2018 will be held in 335 municipalities in the Netherlands. This election will determine the composition of the municipal councils for the following four years.

Ahead of the March 21 local elections, Dutch News asked the main parties in the 10 Dutch cities with the biggest international populations to set out their position on three key issues: housing, integration and jobs.

Here are their answers to the question: ‘Local authorities have a key role to play in integrating new arrivals and ensuring they learn Dutch. How is your party planning to encourage the international community to integrate fully into local life?

Click here to read the complete report: Local elections 2018: what the parties say about integration DutchNews.nl

China: U.S. expected to impose up to $60 billion in China tariffs by Friday -

The Trump administration is expected to unveil up to $60 billion in new tariffs on Chinese imports by Friday, targeting technology, telecommunications and intellectual property, two officials briefed on the matter said Monday.

One business source, who has discussed the issue with the administration, said that the China tariffs may be subject to a public comment period, which would delay their effective date and allow industry groups and companies to lodge objections.

This would be considerably different from the quick implementation of the steel and aluminum tariffs, which are set to go into effect on March 23, just 15 days after President Donald Trump signed the proclamations.

A delayed approach could allow time for negotiations with Beijing to try to resolve trade issues related to the administration's "Section 301" probe into China's intellectual property practices before tariffs take effect.

Read more: U.S. expected to impose up to $60 billion in China tariffs by Friday - AOL News

US Economy: Does Donald Trump eye a weak dollar?

The higher tariffs on steel and aluminum imports that US President Donald Trump announced in early March have shattered Europeans' faith in their transatlantic ally. They, and many others for that matter, are now asking just how reliable the US is in economic matters.

Donald Trump's zig-zag policy style is creating fears among partners, who have started talking about a trade war as a spiral of higher tariffs and countermeasures seems irreversible. Ahead of the Buenos Aires meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bankers, there's also fresh talk of a looming currency war which could be triggered by individual nations keeping their currencies down artificially with a view to securing a competitive edge in international trade.

As early as January, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin emphasized at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that a weaker dollar would be good for the US.

Read more: Does Donald Trump eye a weak dollar? | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 19.03.2018

Britain - Brexit: Negotiators ready Brexit transition deal, Irish border uncertainty persists

Negotiators from the European Union and Britain on Monday hailed major progress in the Brexit talks, but conceded there had been no breakthrough on keeping open the Irish border.

Britain is due to leave the European Union at the end of March 2019, but Brexit talks must be concluded by this fall to leave national parliaments in the bloc time to ratify any deal.

"We have travelled a large section of the path toward an orderly withdrawal," EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters in Brussels. He said that negotiators, working day and night recently, had agreed on "a large part of what would constitute" the draft legal treaty governing Britain's departure.

He said the two sides have also reached an agreement on a transition period to help ease Britain out of the EU once it officially leaves on March 29, 2019. Barnier said the period would be "of a limited duration," in all likelihood ending on Dec. 31, 2020.

Read more: Negotiators ready Brexit transition deal, Irish border uncertainty persists - France 24