Advertise On EU-Digest

Annual Advertising Rates

4/30/18

EU: Muslims make up 4.9% of Europe's population in 2016 Says Report Pew Research Center


Muslims make up 4.9% of Europe's population in 2016

Note EU-Digest: this figure is in total contrast to the nonsense European Populist politicians are saying, which is that the EU will become a Muslim Political Entity by 2030


Read more: Muslims make up 4.9% of Europe's population in 2016 | Pew Research Center

Mexico: US border authorities block Central American migrant caravan

US officials have told would-be asylum seekers at the Mexican border that the crossing is too full to process their cases. The migrants have already drawn the wrath of US President Trump during their trek through Mexico.

More than a hundred migrants from Central American countries have camped out at the US-Mexican border after being told by US border inspectors on Sunday that a crossing facility had no capacity for them

It was not immediately clear whether the migrants, who have traveled 3,200 kilometers (2,000 miles) through Mexico to the border at Tijuana, would be turned back or allowed in later.

"We have reached capacity at the San Ysidro port of entry," US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said in a statement. He added that the asylum seekers might need to wait temporarily in Mexico.

Organizers of the caravan expressed surprise that border inspectors were not ready to receive the group.

"They have been well aware that a caravan is going to arrive at the border," Nicole Ramos, a lawyer working on behalf of caravan members, told a news conference. "We can build a base in Iraq in under a week. We can't process 200 refugees. I don't believe it."

Read more: US border authorities block Central American migrant caravan | News | DW | 30.04.2018

Poll: Americans: Optimistic for country, but deep skepticism- by Dante Chinni

For all countries, there is a tension between the idea of what they’d like to be and the reality what they actually are. A new survey from the Pew Research Center finds the gap between America’s idealized vision of itself and its reality is especially wide right now.

Americans seem very sure of the vision they have for United States: A righteous, respectful nation of laws where everyone is treated equally. But they also seem to believe they are falling short of that idea – by quite a bit.

The Pew survey covered a wide range of topics concerning how people in the United States view their democracy, but one particular set of questions used the same phrases and asked whether they were “very important” to the country and whether they “describe the country well.” Some of the splits were remarkable.

Read more: Americans: Optimistic for country, but deep skepticism

USA: The NAFTA talks take on a new urgency - by Don Lee

The Trump administration appears to be closing in on a deal on a revamped North American Free Trade Agreement, but is up against a very tight political deadline to meet its goal of forcing a congressional vote on a new pact by the end of the year.

After months of making little progress, high-level trade officials from the U.S., Canada and Mexico indicate that negotiations have been gaining momentum, and analysts monitoring the talks the last several days said Friday that there was a fair chance of reaching an agreement in principle in weeks or even days.

The president’s chief trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, plans to continue discussions with his Canadian and Mexican counterparts in Washington on May 7. They need to close gaps on sensitive matters including trade in autos and farm goods and rules for handling investment disputes.

Canada and Mexico, rather than make politically unpopular concessions, may decide it better to prolong the talks, even at the risk of a U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA, as President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened.

Moreover, Mr. Trump’s practice of lumping different issues together for bargaining leverage has increased uncertainties about the fate of negotiations.

Last month, Mr. Trump gave an exemption to Canada and Mexico on hefty steel and aluminum tariffs, but only until May 1, saying what happens afterward would depend on how rewriting NAFTA comes along.

On Monday, Mr. Trump suggested that a NAFTA overhaul should include another one of his goals, tighter control of people entering from the southern border.

“Mexico, whose laws on immigration are very tough, must stop people from going through Mexico and into the U.S.,” the president said on Twitter. “We may make this a condition of the new NAFTA agreement.”

Read more: The NAFTA talks take on a new urgency | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

EU Budget: Brussels begins big battle on post-Brexit budget

The EU will this week unveil its first formal plans for a larger, one-trillion-euro-plus long-term budget after Britain’s departure, which threaten to further deepen divisions in the bloc.

From slashed farm funds that will anger French farmers, to development cash tied to respect for democracy, and demands for greater national contributions, the 2021-2027 budget promises to be an explosive mixture.

EU Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger, who will present the plans in Brussels on Wednesday (2 May), says that tough steps are needed to fill a 12 to 14 billion euro hole left by Brexit.

A race against time will follow, especially as the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, wants the budget agreed before the next European Parliament elections in May 2019, two months after Britain leaves.

EU states say it is “impossible” given the rifts between east, west, north and south, with countries anxious not to put their hands in their pockets at a time when populism on the march.

Read more: Brussels begins big battle on post-Brexit budget – EURACTIV.com

Communications Industry: German owned T-Mobile to acquire Sprint Corp in $26 billion deal

Deutsche Telekom subsidiary T-Mobile US agreed on Sunday to buy out Sprint Corp for $26 billion (€21.4 billion).

If approved, the deal will combine the third and fourth largest US wireless carriers, bringing competition down to three major cellphone companies.

Some of the specifics of the deal include: 

  • The two companies expect to complete their deal by the first half of 2019.
  • Deutsche Telekom, which controls T-Mobile, will own 42 percent of the combined company, and will control the board, nominating nine of the 14 directors.
  • The proposed all-stock deal values Sprint, owned by Japan's SoftBank Group Corp, at about $59 billion and the combined company at $146 billion, including debt.
  • The transaction is at a fixed exchange ratio of 0.10256 T-Mobile shares for each Sprint share, or the equivalent of 9.75 Sprint shares for each T-Mobile US share. 
 
Read more; German owned T-Mobile to acquire Sprint Corp in $26 billion deal | News | DW | 29.04

The Netherlands: Power failure closes Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport

Passengers using Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport have been told to expect major delays after a total power failure overnight led to the airport being closed.

Although the problem has been fixed, there were long hold-ups with some people abandoning their cars and heading to the airport on foot.

An airport spokesperson said: "It`s one of the busiest days at Schiphol airport. And then something like this happens. A power outage which knocks out your check-in systems. It goes downhill from there. But the safety of the passengers comes first. It is an unfortunate decision to close the airport."

The power outage, shortly before one o'clock on Sunday morning required Schiphol terminals to be evacuated. Passengers have been talking about their experiences.

Read more: Power failure closes Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport | Euronews

Iran Nuclear Agreement: Rouhani and Macron in talks to save the Iran Nuclear Deal

French President Emmanuel Macron and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, say they have agreed to work together over the next few weeks to preserve the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal despite threats by U.S. President Trump that he will pull out of it.

Following an hour-long phone call between the two leaders, Macron also said he hoped to broaden the discussions to include Tehran’s missile programmes, its nuclear activities beyond 2025 and the regional crisis in the Middle East.

The United States has been trying to drum up support for new sanctions against Iran, and has repeatedly threatened to tear up the agreement negotiated between six world powers.

Read more: Rouhani and Macron in talks to save the Iran Nuclear Deal | Euronews

4/29/18

North Korea US negotiations: Could Trump Win The Nobel Peace Prize? Peace in Korean Peninsula Would Be Significant Foreign Policy Achievement

With the unthinkable now cautiously possible, peace between North and South Korea, speculation about President Donald Trump becoming a Nobel Peace Prize winner has begun. If peace in the Korean Peninsula truly happens, the Nobel committee could be left with a difficult choice regarding Trump’s candidacy.

Recognizing those who helped bring peace to the region would seem like an easy choice, but a decision to give Trump the award could force the Nobel Prize committee into a fierce political debate on whether a man who has openly mocked foreign leaders, launched multiple airstrikes and has threatened war, deserves an award for peace.

But, if the reconciliation happens, how could Trump’s apparent achievement not be recognized? Donald Trump Jr. said regardless of what unfolds, his father won’t get the credit. “Remember who decides this stuff,” he tweeted. “... The globalist elite would never give him that win.”

Note EU-Digest: Let us not go overboard or jump to conclusions on this one. The meeting between the US and North Korean leaders has not had taken place yet, and "one meeting is a step in the right direction, but does not mean peace has been achieved". Regardless, the person who should get the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts is really the PM of South Korea, Lee Nak-yeo, who organized this upcoming meeting meeting and already held a meeting with the North Korean leader.

Read more: Could Trump Win The Nobel Peace Prize? Peace in Korean Peninsula Would Be Significant Foreign Policy Achievement

4/28/18

USA: Trump Tariffs: EU ready to hit back if Trump presses ahead - by Charles Riley and Alanna Petroff

The leader of Europe's largest economy will lobby Trump for a reprieve during a brief working stop at the White House on Friday. 

The same appeal was made earlier this week by French President Emmanuel Macron, who failed to secure concessions on trade during a high profile visit and state dinner. 

Observers say there is little chance of a breakthrough before tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the EU take effect on May 1. After announcing the tariffs in early March, the United States granted a number of temporary exemptions, including to the European Union. 

Unless the exemption is extended, or made permanent, the tariffs could spark a new trade fight between Europe and America, hurting business, the economy and jobs.
"We continue to be in constant contact with the US administration," a spokesperson for the European Commission said this week. "We expect a permanent and unconditional exemption from the US tariffs."

If it doesn't get want it wants, the European Union stands ready to retaliate. It has already published a list of hundreds of American products that it could target if Trump moves forward with the tariffs. The list runs to 10 pages and includes US cigarettes, sweetcorn, ovens, sailboats, lipstick and stainless steel sinks.

The response from Europe could come within days.
"Our expectation remains to be exempted, but we are ready if necessary," said the Commission spokesperson.

US exports worth €6.4 billion ($7.8 billion) are in the firing line. That's roughly equal to the value of steel and aluminum shipped each year from the European Union to the United States.

The worry is that the spat won't stop there. Trump has threatened to respond to any new EU trade barriers with a tax on vehicles made by European carmakers.

Read more: Tariffs: EU ready to hit back if Trump presses ahead

Chemical Industry - Pesticides Use in Europe: EU To 'Completely Ban' Outdoor Use Of Neonicotinoids, Blamed For Devastating Bees - by Bill Chappell

Citing concerns for food production, the environment and biodiversity, the European Union is set to "completely ban" the outdoor use of neonicotinoid insecticides that have been blamed for killing bees, and for keeping other bees from laying eggs.

"All outdoor use of the three substances will be banned and the neonicotinoids in question will only be allowed in permanent greenhouses where no contact with bees is expected," the EU announced on Friday.

An EU committee approved the plan to tightly restrict use of the insecticides, acting upon scientific advice from the European Food Safety Authority to tighten existing restrictions and protect bees, crucial pollinators.

The EFSA said in February that it had confirmed risks to both honeybees and to wild bees such as bumblebees posed by neonicotinoid pesticides.

"There is variability in the conclusions, due to factors such as the bee species, the intended use of the pesticide and the route of exposure," the head of EFSA's pesticides unit, Jose Tarazona, said at the time. "Some low risks have been identified, but overall the risk to the three types of bees we have assessed is confirmed."

Reacting to Friday's decision, Bayer CropScience, the biggest seller of neonicotinoids, called it "a sad day for farmers and a bad deal for Europe." Bayer added that the new rules "will not improve the lot of bees or other pollinators."

Bayer and another pesticide company have already challenged the EU's existing restrictions on neonicotinoids that were enacted in 2013. A verdict in that case is due next month.

 Read more: EU To 'Completely Ban' Outdoor Use Of Neonicotinoids, Blamed For Devastating Bee : The Two-Way : NPR

4/27/18

German-US Relations: Despite warmth, Merkel and Trump still differ on trade and NATO - by Jeff Mason and Andreas Rin

 German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump aired differences over trade and NATO on Friday at a White House meeting where they tried to put on a show of warmth and friendship despite tensions between the two allies.

With Trump poised to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum soon that will impact European exports, Merkel said the decision is now in Trump's hands on whether to grant exemptions to European Union nations.

"We had an exchange of views. The decision lies with the president," Merkel told a joint press conference after Trump complained about the U.S.-European trade imbalance, particularly in regards to automobiles.

Merkel's quick trip came the same week as a three-day state visit by French President Emmanuel Macron, who, like Merkel, pressed Trump on trade and urged him to keep the United States in a multi-national nuclear deal with Iran. Neither leader appeared to make significant progress convincing Trump on either issue.

Read more: Despite warmth, Merkel and Trump still differ on trade and NATO

4/26/18

Germany - To be or not to be? :Germany’s Populist Temptation - by Sławomir Sierakowski

Because populism is not an ideology in itself, it can easily appeal to mainstream political parties seeking to shore up flagging electoral support. There are always politicians willing to mimic populist slogans and methods to win over voters, even if doing so divides their own party. This has been proven by Republicans in the United States, Conservatives and Labourites in the United Kingdom, and Les Républicains under the new leadership of Laurent Wauquiez in France.

But the most ominous manifestation of this tendency can be found in Germany’s Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union. The CDU/CSU’s weak showing in last year’s parliamentary election, combined with the unprecedented gains by the populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), has created new schisms within the party grouping.

Other than in the former communist states of East Germany, the AfD’s strongest performance was in the CSU’s stronghold of Bavaria, which will hold local elections in October. Defending its right flank against the AfD has thus become the CSU’s foremost concern.

But the most ominous manifestation of this tendency can be found in Germany’s Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union. The CDU/CSU’s weak showing in last year’s parliamentary election, combined with the unprecedented gains by the populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), has created new schisms within the party grouping.

Other than in the former communist states of East Germany, the AfD’s strongest performance was in the CSU’s stronghold of Bavaria, which will hold local elections in October. Defending its right flank against the AfD has thus become the CSU’s foremost concern.

But Seehofer has always come across as something other than a German conservative. In fact, he has served as a sort of political godfather to Hungary’s authoritarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán. And now he sees his own opportunity.

Since the day the new German government was sworn in, it has been clear that Merkel’s trademark tactic of neutralizing potential critics by including them in her cabinet would no longer work. Seehofer immediately launched a cold war within the governing coalition.

Read more: Germany’s Populist Temptation

USA: Trump’s Washington: Drowning In Conflicts of Interest? - by Frank Vogl

Not a single day passes without new tales of the ganefs in the Trump Administration. “Ganef” in Yiddish means swindler. These are mostly small-time crooks, but not always.

The New York Times just highlighted the activities of Elliott Broidy, the deputy finance chairman of the Republican Party National Committee and a wealthy old friend of Donald Trump.

Broidy seems to have taken some lucrative payments for helping friends associated with the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to see that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is fired (he was), to influence U.S. foreign policy against Qatar, and to strengthen personal ties for the Saudi and UAE rulers with Trump.

When it comes to lobbying and the expense accounts of government officials, not to mention conflicts of interest, U.S. law — which is generally described as very tough in many other domains — is often as flexible as a rubber band.

At a minimum, the Trump team is unified by questionable ethics – small, big and sometimes ridiculous.

The Veterans Affairs Administration runs U.S.-based hospitals. Nevertheless, its chief, David Shulkin, needed to go on business to London and Copenhagen last summer with his wife. One of the highlights was a day watching tennis at Wimbledon.

The entire trip was billed to the Veterans Administration at a cost of over $100,000. When the details leaked, Shulkin first claimed that there were misunderstandings. Then he agreed to make a reimbursement.

Efforts at excuses or repayments are not, however, the style of his Trump cabinet colleagues, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Environmental Protection Agency chief Administrator Scott Pruitt. They just feel entitled.

Note EU-Digest:  Sad - Corruption in Government circles now not only seems limited to Dictatorships, Third World Counties, or Banana Republics

Read more: Trump’s Washington: Drowning In Conflicts of Interest? - The Globalist

Middle East - Syria - the Blame Game: Russia ‘won’t allow’ another US military action in Syria based on false flag says OPCW envoy

Russia’s envoy to the OPCW said it was crucial to avoid new false-flag attacks in Syria and that Moscow “won’t allow” US military action there, as he described details of Russian findings on the site of the alleged Douma incident.

New false-flag operations against Damascus are “possible, since our American partners are once again threatening to take military action against Syria, but we will not allow that,” Russia’s permanent representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Aleksandr Shulgin, said during a press conference in The Hague on Thursday.

The meeting was called by Russia’s OPCW mission and featured witnesses of the April 7 alleged chemical incident in the city of Douma. It highlighted the findings of Russian military experts, who were among the first to reach the site of the purported attack and locate the “munitions” that supposedly hit the residential buildings.

“Russian experts performed a detailed analysis of the information on the ground,” Major-General Igor Kirillov, the head of Russia’s Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Protection (RKhBZ) Troops, said. “Two gas cylinders, allegedly dropped by the government forces from helicopters, were found in two apartments.”

The cylinders and the damage they supposedly caused did not fit the tale of an airstrike entirely, Kirillov said. One of the cylinders lacked any makeshift upgrades, such as fins, to make it usable as an aerial munition, and, surprisingly, it was not even deformed.

“An empty gas cylinder found at the top floor. The apartment was partially destroyed earlier by an aerial bomb explosion, parts of roof and outer wall were missing,” Kirillov stated. “Other walls were sprayed with shrapnel. It’s quite peculiar that the cylinder was not deformed, which doesn’t fit its purported fall from a big altitude on concrete floor.”

Read more: Russia ‘won’t allow’ another US military action in Syria based on false flag – OPCW envoy — RT World News

Global Warming: 'We're doomed': Mayer Hillman on the climate reality no one else will dare mention - by Patrick Barkham

e’re doomed,” says Mayer Hillman with such a beaming smile that it takes a moment for the words to sink in. “The outcome is death, and it’s the end of most life on the planet because we’re so dependent on the burning of fossil fuels. There are no means of reversing the process which is melting the polar ice caps. And very few appear to be prepared to say so.”

Hillman, an 86-year-old social scientist and senior fellow emeritus of the Policy Studies Institute, does say so. His bleak forecast of the consequence of runaway climate change, he says without fanfare, is his “last will and testament”. His last intervention in public life. “I’m not going to write anymore because there’s nothing more that can be said,” he says when I first hear him speak to a stunned audience at the University of East Anglia late last year.

From Malthus to the Millennium Bug, apocalyptic thinking has a poor track record. But when it issues from Hillman, it may be worth paying attention. Over nearly 60 years, his research has used factual data to challenge policymakers’ conventional wisdom.

 In 1972, he criticised out-of-town shopping centres more than 20 years before the government changed planning rules to stop their spread. In 1980, he recommended halting the closure of branch line railways – only now are some closed lines reopening. In 1984, he proposed energy ratings for houses – finally adopted as government policy in 2007. And, more than 40 years ago, he presciently challenged society’s pursuit of economic growth.

When we meet at his converted coach house in London, his classic Dawes racer still parked hopefully in the hallway (a stroke and a triple heart bypass mean he is – currently – forbidden from cycling), Hillman is anxious we are not side-tracked by his best-known research, which challenged the supremacy of the car.

“With doom ahead, making a case for cycling as the primary mode of transport is almost irrelevant,” he says. “We’ve got to stop burning fossil fuels. So many aspects of life depend on fossil fuels, except for music and love and education and happiness. These things, which hardly use fossil fuels, are what we must focus on.”

Read more: 'We're doomed': Mayer Hillman on the climate reality no one else will dare mention | Environment | The Guardian

US Economy: An American recession may come just in time for Trump’s re-election bid - by Rich Miller

Here’s another reason to circle the 2020 election year on the calendar. It may well be the year of the next U.S. recession.

Hefty tax cuts, stepped-up government spending and robust global growth should help insulate the economy against a downturn over the next two years, in spite of last week’s stock market swoon. That would allow the expansion that began in 2009 to become America’s longest ever.

But after that, watch out, economists warn. Fading fiscal stimulus, higher and rising interest rates, and cresting world demand could leave the economy vulnerable to a contraction — just in time for the presidential campaign.

“2020 is a real inflection point,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc., in West Chester, Pa.

It’s not only President Donald Trump who needs to worry after claiming his policies of deregulation, deficit-widening fiscal measures and trade protectionism will lift the world’s largest economy out of a decade of mediocre growth. Investors should fret, too. A recession — or more accurately, the anticipation of

Read more: An American recession may come just in time for Trump’s re-election bid | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

France - US Relations: French President Emmanuel Macron rocks US Congress with great speech

French President Emmanuel Macron hit on the issues of climate change, nationalism, trade and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in his speech to a joint session of US Congress, calling on the United States to engage more with the world.

After what has been seen as a friendly state visit to Washington, Macron's speech laid out a view of global leadership starkly different from US President Donald Trump's "America First."

What Macron said
  • The United States and France have a long history together
  • He criticized Trump's isolationist principles
  • Climate change is real. We have no Planet B
  • Macron is sure the US will someday come back to to the Paris Agreement
  • We must fight against fake news
  • Iran will never have nuclear weapons nuclear weapons
  • At a press conference later, Macron said he believed Trump would pull the US out of the Iran nuclear deal
"We have disagreements between the United States and France. It may happen, like in all families," Macron said.

Read more: French President Emmanuel Macron rocks US Congress with speech | News | DW | 25.04.2018

4/25/18

EU Economic Review - Future Shape of Europe: Macron Vs. the Germans? - by Holger Schmieding

French president Emmanuel Macron travelled to Berlin for serious negotiations about the future shape of Europe. Will he achieve much?

Almost everybody would like to support him, partly to strengthen his hand against his anti-European adversaries at home. But hardly anybody in Berlin seems ready to breach “red lines“ drawn in the past.

Macron probably knows by now that he will have to settle for some modest changes for the time being, with only baby steps to be agreed by the time of the next EU summit on June 28-29, 2018.

Money isn’t the key issue. Germany is ready to spend more and put more of it at risk. But it would come with three key strings attached.

1. Berlin will insist that commitments involving serious amounts of money will remain subject to approval by the German parliament, as is currently the case for support programs of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). For those who love unwieldy German words, get used to “Parlamentsvorbehalt.“
2. Upon gradually completing the banking union, Germany will insist that each step to share risks comes after a step to reduce risks.
3. Partly because the Eurozone economy is doing fine at the moment and Germany is reluctant to endorse a major change in the governance of the Eurozone, Germany puts significant emphasis on changes for the EU rather than just the Eurozone level. For instance, this means improving controls of external borders (including significantly increasing the funding for FRONTEX), controlling migration and beefing up joint defense projects.

Read more: Macron Vs. the Germans? - The Globalist

Christianity: are some Christian NGO's on the payroll of the US Government?

A Christian Church Service in Vietnam
In March 1996 the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) adopted a resolution at its convention condemning collaboration between missionaries and intelligence agency employees.

In 1977, the CIA was prohibited from the recruitment of journalists, academics, clergy, and missionaries. However, speaking before a Senate intelligence committee, John Deutch, who was the CIA director during that time  testified that the spy agency could waive the ban in cases of "unique and special threats to national security."

The NAE has requested that Congress "correct this intolerable situation" of soliciting religious workers for covert activity. "For intelligence agencies to seek any relationship whatsoever with our religious workers must be unequivocally prohibited," says the  NAE.

Allowing such a loophole, endangers missionaries as well as church, relief, community development, and refugee workers in politically sensitive areas abroad.

The NAE has also urged missions organizations, not to provide information to any intelligence agency, although many already have such restrictions in place.

"Any foreigner living in a foreign culture already comes under a natural suspicion," says the Southern Baptist Convention Foreign Mission Board. "If this policy is reversed, it would totally erode the ministry of missionaries."

Regardless, however, statements by the Baptists or the NAE , a Christian non-governmental organization funded by the Pentagon was used to smuggle spy equipment into North Korea.

Investigative journalist Matthew Cole of the The Intercept has done lots of work in
ferreting out the details, of what must surely be one of the most ill-conceived military intelligence operations of all time, and that is saying quite a lot.

And Congress was reportedly fully briefed on North Korea , though that has been denied by at least one member of the Intelligence Oversight Committee, who accuses the Pentagon of never pausing to consider the potential blowback that it might produce.

NGOs are fair game for infiltration and cover by intelligence organizations, but their exploitation in that fashion is extremely uncommon. That is because it is impossible to control all the unwitting players in an NGO and any such operation would be susceptible to eventual exposure, with the damage derived from potential blowback far exceeding any possible gain. 


The United States government does in fact impose a ban on recruiting certain categories of individuals as spies. Clergymen are off limits partly for ethical reasons, but more because the exposure of such a relationship would be devastating both to the religious organization itself and to the United States government. Use of the U.S. taxpayer-funded Peace Corps is also banned because exploiting it would potentially turn its volunteers into targets for terrorists.

Recruitment of journalists whose reporting potentially might appear in the U.S. media is also forbidden because the distribution of intelligence agency-produced stories could be construed as an attempt to covertly influence opinion and policies inside the United States. Ironically, the federal government officially opposes spy agency disinformation even though it does the same thing through the judicious leaking of information from the White House and Pentagon.

Bottom-line: whatever way you want to look at it, NGO's, including religious ones, which operate overseas still remain one of the best resources for Government intelligence services as a collection point for intelligence information. From the ground level right up to the top political hierarchy.

In order to avoid this from happening, all Christian NGO's, wherever their global headquarters are, should make sure that they include in the preamble of their statement of purpose the wording "to bring the Gospel without any external , political, or foreign interference.

EU-Digest

4/24/18

Germany - Islam: German Muslim leader says anti-Semitism is a sin | News | DW | 24.04.2018

The head of Germany’s Central Council of Muslims has said anti-Semitism is sinful and must be tackled. His comments came after Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced concern about a "new phenomenon" of anti-Jewish sentiment.

Hatred and abuse of Jewish people are against the tenets of Islam, the president of Germany's Central Council of Muslims, Aiman Mazyek (pictured above), said, adding that the Muslim community had work to do in tackling the problem.

"Anti-Semitism, racism and hatred are great sins in Islam, therefore we will also never tolerate that," Mazyek told the Tuesday edition of the regional newspaper Rheinische Post.

The Muslim leader made his comments in response to remarks by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to an Israeli broadcaster at the weekend. Merkel told Channel 10 News that "refugees and other people of Arab origin are bringing a different form of anti-Semitism into the country."

Read more: German Muslim leader says anti-Semitism is a sin | News | DW | 24.04.2018

Turkey-German Relations: German lawmakers slam Turkish foreign minister′s Solingen trip

Turkish Foreign Minister Melvut Cavusoglu is planning to join the commemoration ceremony for a racially-motivated attack 25 years ago in Solingen. German politicians warn the appearance could be used as a campaign event.

No other foreign official has had German politicians across party lines rushing to find a microphone like Mevlut Cavusoglu. The Turkish foreign minister caused a stir this week after he announced plans to travel to Solingen next month to commemorate the five Turkish victims of a 1993 racially-motivated firebomb attack in the western German town.

"Solingen has a dignified, reflective commemoration planned for May 29," said Jürgen Hardt, the foreign policy spokesman for the conservative faction of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), along with their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). "It would be very unfortunate if the event were overshadowed and the peace disturbed by Turkish domestic disputes."

He warned that Cavusoglu's planned attendance could be viewed as promotion for Turkey's upcoming snap elections. Last week, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced he was bringing forward a presidential vote by a year-and-a-half, from November 2019 to June 24, 2018.

"There is no room for Turkey's election campaign in Solingen on May 29," Hardt said.
Alexander Graf Lambsdorff of the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) said that Turkey and Germany can work side-by-side to combat racism and commemorate events like the Solingen attack, but that cooperation stopped at election promotion. "The German government needs to take a clear stance," he told DW. "There can be no Turkish election campaign on German territory."

Read more: German lawmakers slam Turkish foreign minister′s Solingen trip | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 24.04.2018

Iran Nuclear Deal: Trump's oft-told tale of US payout to Iran not factual at all

President Donald Trump likes to tell a story about the U.S. paying out billions of dollars to Iran as part of the multinational deal freezing its nuclear program and easing sanctions against it. What he doesn't say is that most of that money was Iran's to begin with. The rest relates to an old debt the U.S. had with Iran.

The numbers and some details change in his retelling — dating back to the 2016 campaign — but his bottom line is always the same: The Obama administration was hoodwinked into giving Iran all that money, some of it in a huge and hidden bundle of cash.

The latest iteration of his claim Tuesday and the reality behind it:

TRUMP said : "The Iran deal is a terrible deal. We paid $150 billion. We gave $1.8 billion in cash. That's actual cash, barrels of cash. It's insane. It's ridiculous. It should have never been made. But we will be talking about it." — remarks before a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron. At a news conference Tuesday, he spoke about "giving them, Iran, $150 billion at one point."

THE FACTS: There was no $150 billion payout from the U.S. treasury. The money he refers to represents Iranian assets held abroad that were frozen until the deal was reached and Tehran was allowed to access its funds.

The payout of about $1.8 billion is a separate matter. That dates to the 1970s, when Iran paid the U.S. $400 million for military equipment that was never delivered because the government was overthrown and diplomatic relations ruptured.

That left people, businesses and governments in each country indebted to partners in the other, and these complex claims took decades to sort out in tribunals and arbitration. For its part, Iran paid settlements of more than $2.5 billion to U.S. citizens and businesses.

The day after the nuclear deal was implemented, the U.S. and Iran announced they had settled the claim over the 1970s military equipment order, with the U.S. agreeing to pay the $400 million principal along with about $1.3 billion in interest.

The $400 million was paid in cash and flown to Tehran on a cargo plane, which gave rise to Trump's dramatic accounts of money stuffed in barrels or boxes and delivered in the dead of night. The arrangement provided for the interest to be paid later, not crammed into containers.

Read more: AP FACT CHECK: Trump's oft-told tale of US payout to Iran

France-US Relations:Trump touts ‘wonderful friendship’ with Macron at ceremony "as he brushes Macron's dandruff from his jacket" - by Yaron Steinbuch

Donald Trump inspect Emmanuel Macron for dandruff
Hosting his first state visit, President Trump on Tuesday morning welcomed his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron to the White House during a formal arrival ceremony on the South Lawn.

The president and First Lady Melania Trump greeted Macron and his wife, Brigitte, amid heavy pomp as almost 500 service members from all five branches of the military stood at attention for a “Review of the Troops.”

Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Chief of Staff John Kelly were among those in attendance to shake hands with the two leaders and their spouses.

Trump and Macron both sent their condolences to the families of the victims of the deadly van attack Monday in Toronto, as well as to the Bush family after the death of former First Lady Barbara Bush.
Former President George H.W. Bush has since been hospitalized with a blood infection.

Speaking in French, Macron said he wished to “express our deepest sympathy to President Bush and his family,” adding that at this time, “We stand together.”

In his remarks, Trump hailed France for its role in helping to respond to a chemical attack on civilians in the Damascus enclave of Douma in Syria.

“Along with our British friends, the United States and France recently took decisive action in response to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons,” Trump said.

The two leaders are meeting on a number of issues, including the future of the Iran nuclear deal and the crisis in Syria.

On Tuesday evening, Macron will be honored with Trump’s first state dinner, where about 150 guests will dine on rack of lamb and nectarine tart before enjoying a performance by the Washington National Opera

Note EU-Digest: Even though the US President tried to be on his best behavior during the Macron welcoming ceremony, he was not able to contain himself to show his "macho side",  when, while speaking about his good relationship with Macron, he leaned over to him and brushed away some imaginary dandruff, and said: I like him a lot, so much so, that I even brushed off the dandruff he had on his jacket.

As Herbert Read, a famous British art historian, poet, literary critic and philosopher wrote: "The worth of a civilization or a culture is not valued in the terms of its material wealth or military power, but by the quality and achievements of its representative individuals - its philosophers, its poets and its artists. Unfortunately the President of the US, Donald Trump possesses none of these qualities. 

EU-Digest

4/23/18

USA: Lack of Gun Control And NRA Opposition Results In More Deaths at Waffle House slaying - suspect arrested after massive manhunt

The AR-15 Also Known As The NRA Special Killing Machine
The mentally unstable gunman suspected of killing four people in a late-night shooting at a Waffle House restaurant was arrested near his apartment Monday after hiding from police for more than a day, authorities said.

Police and federal agents had mounted a massive manhunt in Nashville for 29-year-old Travis Reinking after the Sunday morning attack, in which a gunman clad only in a jacket opened fire with an assault rifle on a diverse crowd at the restaurant before a customer disarmed him.

Reinking was formally charged late Monday with four counts of criminal homicide and held on a $2 million bond, court records show.

Construction workers told officers earlier Monday that a person matching Reinking's description walked into the woods near a construction site, Metro Nashville Police Department Lt. Carlos Lara told reporters. A detective spotted Reinking, who lay down on the ground to be handcuffed when confronted, Lara said

Reinking carried a black backpack with a silver semi-automatic weapon and .45-caliber ammunition, Lara said. Detectives cut the backpack off him while he was cuffed.

It's not clear why Reinking attacked shortly after 3 a.m. Sunday, though he may have "mental issues," Nashville police Chief Steve Anderson said earlier.

Police said Reinking opened fire in the restaurant parking lot before storming the restaurant, which had about 20 people inside. Four people — three of them black and one Hispanic — were killed and four others injured before a customer wrestled the weapon away and Reinking, who is white, ran out, police said.

Police said Reinking stole a BMW days before the attack. The car was quickly recovered, but authorities did not immediately link the theft to Reinking.

Meanwhile, authorities in Illinois shared past reports suggesting multiple red flags about a disturbed young man with paranoid delusions.

Another sheriff's report said Reinking barged into a community pool in Tremont, Illinois, last June, and jumped into the water wearing a pink woman's coat over his underwear. Investigators believed he had an AR-15 rifle in his car trunk, but it was never displayed. No charges were filed.

Last July, Reinking was arrested by the U.S. Secret Service after he entered a restricted area near the White House and refused to leave, saying he wanted to meet President Donald Trump. Reinking was not armed, but at the FBI's request, Illinois police revoked his state firearms card and seized four guns from him, authorities said.

The AR-15 used in the shootings was among those seized.

"There's certainly evidence that there's some sort of mental health issues involved," Tazewell County Sheriff Robert Huston said. But he said deputies returned the guns to Reinking's father on the promise he would "keep the weapons secure and out of the possession of Travis."

Reinking's father "has now acknowledged giving them back" to his son, Aaron said.


Read more: Waffle House slaying suspect arrested after massive manhunt

Canada - terrorism: Toronto collision leaves 9 dead, 16 injured; suspect in custody

Nine people are dead and 16 are injured after the driver of a van plowed into multiple pedestrians in Toronto on Monday, Acting Police Chief Peter Yuen said.

The driver, who authorities said hit pedestrians on a busy street north of downtown Toronto, was in custody after leaving a trail of destruction stretching up to a mile, officials said. The van has been located, Toronto Police media representative Gary Long said.

Authorities have not said publicly if the vehicle collisions were intentional. But a law enforcement official briefed on the situation in Toronto told CNN the incident is believed to be deliberate.

The incident happened in the North York area at the intersection of Yonge Street and Finch Avenue, police said.

The suspect covered between a half-mile and a mile in the vehicle, said Stephen Powell, district chief for Toronto Fire.

Read more: Toronto collision leaves 9 dead, 16 injured; suspect in custody

EU ASYLUM LAW: EU granted 500,000 people asylum protection in 2017

EU member states as well as Norway, Iceland and Switzerland granted protection status to 538,000 asylum seekers in 2017, according to new data released by Eurostat recently.

Another 24,000 refugees were resettled in the region last year.

Last year's asylum seeker figures represent a 25% drop from 2016, when 710,000 asylum seekers qualified for international protection in the bloc.

Two forms of protection are offered under EU law: refugee status — for people fleeing persecution, and subsidiary protection — for those who face serious harm if they return to their country of origin, and who don’t qualify as refugees. But protection may also be given for humanitarian reasons, such as on grounds of ill health or if the person is an unaccompanied minor.

Around a third of such asylum seekers in Europe came from Syria last year, followed by Afghan citizens (19%) and Iraqis (12%).

Note EU-Digest:The Eurostat figures in this report are not very clear. 

According to the data listed in this re, a third (33.%) of asylum seekers come from Syria, followed by Afghanistan with 19% and Iraq with 12%. Added together 64%. 

Where do the rest of the asylum seekers (36%) come from? 

Probably a large number of them from Africa, who come to Libya by illegal means to make the crossing to Europe. In our  opinion, these are mainly "economic migrants" and not asylum seekers, just as most of them from Afghanistan and Iraq. It is also striking that many of the asylum seekers are young and able men . The EU and the governments of the Member States must, as far as their migrants and asylum policies are concerned do a far better job, Right now it can only be qualified as being barely functional.

READ MORE: EU granted 500,000 people asylum protection in 2017 | Euronews

Global Conflict: throughout the ages has been caused by Nationalism, Religion, Revenge, Economic and Territorial gain and will eventually destroy this planet if we don't do something about it

Mankind is digging it's own grave
Wars have been a part of human history for thousands of years, becoming increasingly destructive with industrialization and the subsequent advances in technology.

Typically a war is fought by a country, or group of countries, against an opposing country with the aim of achieving an objective through the use of force.

Wars can also be fought as Proxy Wars, or within a country, however, in the form of a civil war, or in a revolutionary war.

Of course, the causes of a war beginning are often numerous and several reasons for war can be intertwined in a complicated way, rather than there being just one single, clear cause. The ego's of some world leaders can also play an important part.

Many theories have been put forward over the years for why wars happen and some of the greatest minds have offered their ideas.

The main reasons why wars usually start were given as being the result of:  Nationalism, Religion, Revenge, Economic and Territorial gain

This phenomena unfortunately begins already at a very basic local level, were most people in the world still show to have a very nationalistic, tribal, territorial viewpoint, specially when it comes to how they identify themselves.

When a Dutchman visit another country, he or she will usually identify herself or himself as " I am Peter/Anna and I am from Holland".

This goes for just about any nationality visiting another country.

Maybe it would be better, if we all  would adhere to what one wise man once said: "the world is mine and wherever I can live in peace and harmony I will call home.

Yes indeed aren't we all citizens of this planet we call earth, regardless of were we were born or what religion we profess?.

At least if we could all agree on that, it would be far easier to deal with all those other causes of war

EU-Digest

4/22/18

EU-US Relations: Macron, Merkel Set to Visit Trump With Iran Deal Hanging in the Balance - by Felicia Schwartz and Laurence Norman

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit the White House next week, hoping to persuade President Donald Trump against pulling the U.S. out of the Iranian nuclear agreement at his self-imposed May 12 deadline.

The French and German leaders support the Iran Nuclear Agreement and want to persuade President Trump that the US remains a part of it,

Read more: Macron, Merkel Set to Visit Trump With Iran Deal Hanging in the Balance - WSJ

EU staff propose partnership changes for next research programme

European Commission officials are looking at ways to simplify and reorganise research partnerships involving industry and foreign countries in the next research programme, according to a draft staff working document seen by Science|Business.

These include plans to “rationalise” several industry-focused competitions found in the current research programme, Horizon 2020, a change in rules on foreign access to EU research, and proposals to sweep away more of the complicated rules and acronyms that bedevil parts of the programme.

The paper, circulating for at least a few weeks, determines a blueprint for Framework Programme 9 and suggests the Commission will propose adopting many of the features of Horizon 2020, but with several substantial modifications. A final version of the paper, a so-called Impact assessment of the new programme, is expected to be published in the first week of June.

Commission officials declined to comment on the paper. But when asked about similar, earlier drafts circulating privately in Brussels, senior Commission officials have cautioned that the final plan in June could be very different – and say they don’t wish to appear to confirm ideas that may not yet have gone through the full, internal Commission approval process. After the publication of this paper in June, the European Council and Parliament will debate the plan for another few years before it takes effect in 2021.

Read more: EU staff propose partnership changes for next research programme | Science|Business

India approves death penalty for child rapists

India’s cabinet on Saturday approved the introduction of the death penalty for child rapists after recent cases shocked the country into nationwide protests.

The decision was taken after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called an emergency meeting of his cabinet upon his return from an official visit to Europe. The law is expected to come into effect in six-month-time, once it is signed by the President.

Nationwide protests started earlier this month after police revealed that an eight-year-old Muslim girl had been gang-raped by Hindu men in an Indian-administered part of Kashmir, back in January.

Read more: India approves death penalty for child rapists | Euronews

4/21/18

Turkish EU relations minister slams Netherlands, Austria for undemocratic move over election campaign

Turkish EU Relations Minister U Minister Ömer Çelik criticized the
"It is evident that Austrian Chancellor [Sebastian Kurz] and Dutch [Prime Minister Mark Rutte] do not base such decisions on democratic values and greet anti-Turkey and racist political movements," Çelik said, adding that these leaders contribute to the growth of racist groups which oppose European values.

The minister urged the Netherlands and Austria to act using commonsense and refrain from damaging democratic values, which threatens the rise of populism and animosity in the political sphere.

Netherlands' "undemocratic" decision to follow Austria's lead to ban Turkish politicians from campaigning for the upcoming snap elections in Turkey, accusing both countries of hypocrisy for being in favor of democracy in Europe but the opposite outside of the bloc.

In a statement posted on his official Twitter account, Çelik said that the leaders of both countries welcome anti-Turkey and xenophobic political movements.

He criticized the hypocritical stance of both countries by saying that they should not defend democracy solely for the bloc but should defend the same principles when it comes to countries outside of the bloc.

"If they really want their words regarding democracy to be credible, they should make decisions without the influence of anti-Turkey sentiment" he added.

Austrian Prime Minister Kurz announced Friday that his country will ban Turkish politicians from holding meetings in the country, which has a sizeable Turkish minority.

The Dutch PM followed Kurz's lead and also said any campaign event regarding the snap elections would not be welcome in his country.

Relations between Turkey and some European countries, including the Netherlands, Austria and Germany were significantly damaged last year during the constitutional referendum. Turkish ministers and politicians in favor of a "yes" vote for the referendum were banned from holding rallies, while those in favor of the "no" vote freely hytelany interference.

Note EU-Digest: If President Erdogan likes it or not, it is high time the EU Commission launches a law which prohibits foreign immigrants, who have become European citizens, to vote in elections of their country of origin, and prohibits foreign politicians to campaign in the EU on behalf of their own local campaigns. This is not only a question of Democracy, but also one which guarantees the sovereignty of nations without foreign intervention on any level.

Read more: EU minister slams Netherlands, Austria for undemocratic move over election campaign - Daily Sabah

4/20/18

Britain: Racism is as British as a cup of tea (Opinion) - Kehinde Andrews

Britain is meant to be celebrating 70 years since the arrival of the steamship Windrush, which brought with it 500 people from the Caribbean and marked the start of mass migration to the UK from the British Empire.

But the festive mood has been broken by the realization that a number of the Windrush generation -- who migrated as children and have spent decades in Britain -- have been classified as illegal immigrants, and are therefore losing jobs, being detained in immigration centers and even facing deportation to countries of which they have no memory.

Public and political pressure has forced Prime Minster Theresa May to apologize. But it was her Conservative Party's policies that created the scandal in the first place.

The Windrush generation was welcomed to help rebuild the nation after World War II -- before Britain imposed restrictions on immigration starting in the '60s.

The problem is that although anyone who migrated before 1973 should have automatic right to remain, they were children at the time and may have no documents to prove their status.

People are now being caught up in the "hostile environment for illegal immigrants" created by May, which strengthened the duty of workplaces to carry out immigration checks. It is through these kind of checks that longstanding residents are being declared illegal.

To understand the crisis and the political context in which it sits, we need to go back to Britain's vote for Brexit in 2016. Even some of the leaders campaigning for Brexit take back our borders" to stop uncontrolled immigration being a vote winner. Public sentiment against immigration before the vote had shifted the politics of all the major parties to the right.

During May's time as home secretary, the UK Home Office instituted some of the most draconian immigration policy in British history, which included sending out vans allowing Africans to drown in the Mediterranean as a deterrent to potential migrants.

In their appeal to minority voters, those pushing for Brexit promised that reducing immigration from Europe would mean that Britain could re-engage with her former empire,
now known as the Commonwealth.

Read more: Racism is as British as a cup of tea (Opinion) - CNN

EU Low Carbon Energy - Coal: HSBC pulls the plug on coal as a viable source of - Cecilia Jamasmie

HSBC has joined an increasing list of large banks by announcing Friday it would not longer finance coal-fired plants, oil sands and arctic drilling

The move, announced by Europe’s largest bank at its annual meeting as part of its new energy policy, seeks to head off criticism from investors who want the institution’s actions to be aligned with the Paris

Agreement, a global pact to limit greenhouse gas emissions and curb rising temperatures.

Daniel Klier, HSBC’s sustainability boss, said the decision reflected the bank’s ambition to help its customers make the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Read more: HSBC pulls the plug on coal | MINING.com

US 2020 Republican primaries:Nikki Haley could beat Donald Trump hands-down in Republican primaries and become America's first female president?

Political insiders in the US and overseas rate Nikki Haley, (42) the most politically attractive, candidate given she has lots of Government Administrative and International experience re: former governor of South Carolina and presently US Ambassador to the United Nations, 

Insiders  are estimating that if she ran in 2020, she would win hands-down against Donald Trump in the Republican primaries . 

More important - however-for the Republican party is that she would probably also beat any candidate the Democrats could come up with if she was elected as the Republican Presidential candidate. 

Given that she is also of Indian-American origen would make her also an attractive Presidential candidate for other US ethnic minorities. Bottom-line she certainly has the potential to topple Trump in the Republican 2020 primaries and become the next US President.

EU-Digest

Middle East: Israel marks its 70th anniversary, but not everyone shares the joy

Sirens sounded throughout the country at 11:00 a.m. local time on Wednesday, when even in Israel's most vibrant cities life is being paused for two silent minutes, with cars pulling over at the side of the road and people standing still, paying their respects to the dead. Independence Day itself, however, is anything but silent.

Just a few meters outside Jerusalem's Damascus Gate, young Jewish settlers are raising donations "to expand Jewish presence in the West Bank," they shout at passersby. "Every Shekel will bring us closer to redemption," 15-year-old-Naomi tells DW. She generally refuses to talk to the media, but said that "for the holy sake of rebuilding Judea and Samaria, no measure is too extreme."

Meanwhile, two kilometers west of the Old City, 28-year-old Ahmed is helping tourists find their way around the lively quarter. He manages a boutique hotel and is constantly in touch with visitors from all over the world – as well as from other parts of Israel.

"Israel's Independence Day is like any other day for me," he says. "A constant reminder of what I don't have – but also of what I can have." Ahmed is hoping to move to Germany with his girlfriend, to get his master's degree there and eventually find a job. "My parents obviously don't want me to leave," he admits. "Not only because I will be far from them, but also because – in their words – they don't want us [Palestinians] to leave this land for the Jews."

When he was younger, he reveals, he couldn't stand Israelis. "I cursed soldiers. I cursed all of them." But now that he speaks fluent Hebrew and is in daily contact with many Israelis, he thinks differently. "When you are taught from day one that the other people want to destroy you – what are you supposed to think? I don't blame Israelis. I don't blame Palestinians either."

"We have every reason to celebrate,” says 42-year-old Miri Hajbi, a high school teacher who brought her two teenage daughters to watch the annual airshow passing above Sacher Park, one of the most attended events in the city. "We are strong, we are united, we have a blooming high-tech industry and a powerful army – we made it against all odds,” she pauses for a bit, "and whoever's got a problem with that is welcome to test us."

Her words resonate with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statements at the ceremony, in which he declared that the Jewish state was becoming a "world power," adding that its light would overcome what he called its enemies' "darkness."

In another 70 years' time, he continued, "you'll find a country that is many times stronger because what we've done until today is just the beginning.”

Read more: Israel marks its 70th anniversary, but not everyone shares the joy | News | DW | 19.04.2018

4/19/18

EU-Singapore: Trade and Investment Protection: EU and Singapore successfully on Trade and Investment Protection Agreements

The European Commission has given the green light to clear an EU-Singapore trade and investment agreements that aim to take bilateral relations to a new level and comes on the heels of the recently signed EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement,

The speed by which Brussels moved to wrap-up both agreements is being seen as an effort to send a strong message to US President Donald J. Trump about the EU’s approach to fair and rules-based international trade.

The EU-Singapore pacts are the first bilateral trade and investment agreements concluded between the EU and a Member State of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and will serve as a reference point for other trade and investment agreements, including negotiations between the EU and Malaysia that were launched in 2010, as well as similar ongoing talks between the EU, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia that began in 2012.

The EU-Singapore deal is the most significant as the wealthy city-state is by far the EU’s largest ASEAN partner, with total bilateral trade in goods at €53.3 billion in 2017 and services at €44.4 billion in 2016.

Read more: EU and Singapore successfully on Trade and Investment Protection Agreements

4/18/18

Turkey: Erdogan Calls Snap Election for June; Lira, Stocks Rally -

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called elections a year earlier than scheduled, moving to consolidate his one-man rule of the region’s largest economy.

The vote will complete the transformation of the political system, eliminating the prime minister’s job and weakening the role of parliament. Turkish markets rallied after Erdogan’s announcement in Ankara that the country will go to the polls June 24 to pick a president, almost certainly ratifying his hold on power.

“In calling an early election, Erdogan must feel confident he and his AK Party have the necessary numbers to achieve victory," said Paul Greer, a London-based portfolio manager at Fidelity International. "That itself should reduce market uncertainty."

Erdogan’s ruling party has never called early elections in the nearly 16 years it’s been in power, and repeatedly rejected speculation that it’d call them this year. Many analysts had predicted an early vote nonetheless, saying a deteriorating economic outlook and fighting in neighboring Syria would prompt him to move up the date rather than risk re-election in a downturn.

Erdogan, who defeated an attempted coup in 2016, has stoked nationalist fervor since launching an incursion into Syria in January, playing the same card as other strongmen, such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

“It has become a necessity for Turkey to overcome uncertainties as soon as possible amid developments of historical importance in our region as well as the cross-border operation we’re carrying out in Syria,” Erdogan said in announcing the vote.

Read more: Erdogan Calls Snap Election for June; Lira, Stocks Rally - Bloomberg

EU Democracy: France′s Emmanuel Macron calls for revival of EU democracy

In his first speech before the European Parliament, France's Emmanuel Macron called for energetic changes and open debate with EU citizens. Macron also decried the bickering among EU politicians as a "fool's game."

France's president, Emmanuel Macron, urged changes to address concerns and fears of EU citizens in a speech aimed at boosting unity amid a string of crises.

Speaking to EU lawmakers in Strasbourg on Tuesday, he urged the deputies to create a "proper debate on convictions and proposals" and make "EU democracy come alive" as the bloc starts preparations for the May 2019 elections for the European Parliament. The vote is the first EU-wide election since before the UK voted to leave the union.

Read more: France′s Emmanuel Macron calls for revival of EU democracy | News | DW | 17.04.2018

Britain - Brexit: The Complete Failure Of The Brexit Project- by Simon Wren-Lewis

The Brexit project is already a complete failure. That statement may seem odd, as we are less than one year away from leaving the EU. But what happens in March 2019 if all goes to plan? We leave the EU, but remain in the Single Market (SM) and Customs Union (CU). It is not Brexit means Brexit, but Brexit in name only (BINO). All the UK ‘gains’ is the inability to influence the rules and laws we have to follow as part of the SM & CU.

If the Brexiters were being honest, the transition is worse than not leaving. Not only do we lose the sovereignty they perceive as a result of being in the SM & CU, but we also lose our current say in how the SM & CU are run, and we still pay into the EU budget. In sovereignty terms that is going backwards. Free movement continues, although again if Brexiters were being honest they were never too worried about immigration: that was just a hook to catch voters with. But all the things that Brexiters do go on about like freedom to make trade agreements with other countries are impossible during transition.

Brexiters may well convince themselves that transition is just an embarrassing phase before their new dawn. They can only do that because they have never concerned themselves with details, whether those are details about how trade works or details about negotiations. The reality is very different. There is no solution to the Irish border problem except staying in the Customs Union and Single Market for goods.

Read more: The Complete Failure Of The Brexit Project

4/17/18

Arms Industry: USA arming the world: Inside Trump's “Buy American” drive to expand weapons exports - by Matt Spetalnick and Mike Stone

In a telephone call with the emir of Kuwait in January, U.S. President Donald Trump pressed the Gulf monarch to move forward on a $10 billion fighter jet deal that had been stalled for more than a year.

Trump was acting on behalf of Boeing Co, America’s second-largest defense contractor, which had become frustrated that a long-delayed sale critical to its military aircraft division was going nowhere, several people familiar with the matter said.

With this Oval Office intervention, the details of which have not been previously reported, Trump did something unusual for a U.S. president – he personally helped to close a major arms deal. In private phone calls and public appearances with world leaders, Trump has gone further than any of his predecessors to act as a salesman for the U.S. defense industry, analysts said.

Read more: Arming the world: Inside Trump's “Buy American” drive to expand weapons exports

USA: Disturbing facts about the US Infrastructure and a variety of other problems which are getting worse by the day

The US infrastructure and the country is in dire need of repair
Someone once said that you can tell a lot about a nation by the condition of the infrastructure.

So what does the US infrastructure say about America?  It says that America is in a very advanced state of decay.

At this point, much of America is being held together with spit, duct tape and prayers.  Roads are crumbling and thousands of its bridges look like they could collapse at any moment.  The power grid is ancient and over a trillion gallons of untreated sewage is leaking from aging sewer systems each year.

US  airports and seaports are clogged with far more traffic than they were ever designed to carry.

Approximately a third of all of the dam failures that have taken place in the United States since 1874 have happened during the past decade.  The national parks and recreation areas have been terribly neglected and the US railroads system is a bad joke.

Recent hurricanes which hit America showed how vulnerable the  levees and dikes are, and drinking water systems all over the country are badly outdated.  Sadly, at a time when we could use significant new investment in infrastructure,  the spending on infrastructure is actually way down.

Back during the 50s and the 60s, the U.S. was spending between 3 and 4 percent of GDP on infrastructure.  Today, that figure is down to about 2.4 percent.  But the US does not have any extra money to spend on infrastructure because of reckless spending and because of the massive amount of national debt that it has accumulated.

Here are 21 facts about America’s failing infrastructure

#1 The American Society of Civil Engineers has given America’s crumbling infrastructure an overall grade of D.
#2 There are simply not enough roads in the United States today.  Each year, traffic jams cost the commuters of America 4.2 billion hours and about 2.8 million gallons of gasoline.
#3 It is being projected that Americans will spend an average of 160 hours stuck in traffic annually by the year 2035.
#4 Approximately one-third of all roads in the United States are in substandard condition.
#5 Close to a third of all highway fatalities are due “to substandard road conditions, obsolete road designs, or roadside hazards.”
#6 One out of every four bridges in America either carries more traffic than originally intended or is in need of repair.
#7 Repairing all of the bridges in the United States that need repair would take approximately 140 billion dollars.
#8 According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, our decaying transportation system costs the U.S. economy about 78 billion dollars annually in lost time and fuel.
#9 All over America, asphalt roads are being ground up and are being replaced with gravel roads because they are cheaper to maintain.  The state of South Dakota has transformed over 100 miles of asphalt roads into gravel roads, and 38 out of the 83 counties in the state of Michigan have transformed at least some of their asphalt roads into gravel roads.
#10 There are 4,095 dams in the United States that are at risk of failure.  That number has risen by more than 100 percent since 1999.
#11 Of all the dam failures that have happened in the United States since 1874, a third of them have happened during the past decade.
#12 Close to half of all U.S. households do not have access to Public bus or rail transit.
#13  The US's aging sewer systems spill more than a trillion gallons of untreated sewage every single year.  The cost of cleaning up that sewage each year is estimated to be greater than 50 billion dollars.
#14 It is estimated that rolling blackouts and inefficiencies in the U.S. electrical grid cost the U.S. economy approximately 80 billion dollars a year.
#15 It is being projected that by the year 2020 every single major container port in the United States will be handling at least double the volume that it was originally designed to handle.
#16 All across the United States, conditions at many of our state parks, recreation areas and historic sites are deplorable at best.  Some states have backlogs of repair projects that are now over a billion dollars long….
#17 Today, the U.S. spends about 2.4 percent of GDP on infrastructure.  Meanwhile, China spends about 9 percent of GDP on infrastructure.
#18 In the United States today, approximately 16 percent of our construction workers are unemployed.
#19 China has plans to build 55,000 miles of highways by the year 2020.  If all of those roads were put end to end, it would be longer than the total length of the entire U.S. interstate system.
#20 The World Economic Forum ranks U.S. infrastructure 23rd in the world, and we fall a little bit farther behind the rest of the developed world every single day.
#21 It has been projected that it would take 2.2 trillion dollars over the next 5 years just to repair our existing infrastructure.  That does not even include a single penny for badly needed new infrastructure.

So where did the US go wrong?

Well, one of the big problems is that the US have become a very materialistic "me first" society that is obsessed with short-term thinking.  Investing in infrastructure is something that has long-term benefits, but these days Americans tend to only be focused on what is happening right now and most politicians are only focused on the next election cycle.

Another major problem is that there is so much corruption and waste in the US  system these days. Special interest groups and corporations have basically total control over the US political system

The government certainly spends more than enough money, but very little of that money is spent wisely. Too much is going into military spending, without questions asked; No one in America seems to have figured out that the US is not obliged to be the global cop to keep the weapons industry happy.

And sadly, the US simply does not have the money that it  needs for infrastructure because of all the debt that it has have piled up.

Unless the Trump Administration puts their money where their mouth is ( which they have not done so far) the federal government, state governments and local governments are all struggling to stay afloat in an ocean of red ink, and unfortunately that means that spending on infrastructure is likely to be cut even more in the years ahead.

It is high time everyone in America wakes up to the reality that "business as usual" is not working anymore and that radical change is needed. So far no one has seriously stepped up to the plate. 

EU-Digest

EU does not agree with Trump Administration proposal as to new sanctions against Iran

Trump Administration burning Climate and Iran agreements
The European Union has not agreed  to Trump Administration proposed new sanctions against Iran amid fears that punishing Tehran for its missile program would not stop US President Trump from abandoning a separate nuclear deal.

The EU is eager to safeguard the nuclear pact, under which Tehran agreed to curb its ambitions for at least a decade, but Trump has been a fierce critic.

Commenting on the EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg, Free University of Brussels political scientist Firouyeh Nahvandian said that economic ties between some European countries and Iran are much more important than damaging reports on Iran's human rights record by the United Nations or the European Parliament.

Trump has threatened not to extend U.S. sanctions relief on Iran related to the nuclear agreement.

The deal sees the West mostly lifting extensive sanctions in exchange for Iran curbing its nuclear program

EU-Digest

EU-USA Relations: EU drags US to WTO over steel, aluminum tariffs

EU-US Relations turn sour
The European Union on Monday complained to the World Trade Organization over US tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The move comes despite US President Donald Trump temporarily exempting the 28-nation bloc from the tariffs that have threatened to trigger a trade war.

The EU made following statement in reference to their WTO complaint
  • The EU rejects the "national security" justification for the US tariffs and believes they have been imposed just to protect US industry.
  • It wants to hold consultations with the US as soon as possible.
  • The aim of the discussions would be to "exchange views and seek clarification regarding the proposed measures."

Read more: EU drags US to WTO over steel, aluminum tariffs | News | DW | 16.04.2018 

Britain and the Brexit disaster: Fake news inquiry raises concerns over targeting of voter - by David Pegg and Pamela Duncan

The parliamentary committee investigating fake news has published excerpts of interviews with individuals connected to Leave.EU and SCL that it says raise concerns about how voters were targeted in the Brexit referendum.

In one clip, the founder of SCL, Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, can be heard comparing Donald Trump’s political campaigning strategy to that of Adolf Hitler.

The committee chair, Damian Collins, said the interviews provided “a unique insight into the private thoughts of key people at Leave.EU and SCL” and that some of the statements would “raise concerns that data analytics was used to target voters” concerned about immigration.

“Some of the things they [Cambridge Analytica] did tell us, which we did copy – no question about that – was about these small clusters: you need to find out where these people are and what matters to them,” Wigmore said.

“What we were able to deduce from that – remember, as an insurance company, you have actuaries who work for you. Actuaries are brilliant: they’re mathematicians. If you give them a problem, and you say right we want to ... here’s some stuff, give us probabilities, they came up with the probabilities of the areas that were most concerned about the EU.

“We got that from our own actuaries. We had four actuaries, which we said: ‘Right, tell us what this looks like from our data.’ They [the actuaries] are the ones that pinpointed12 areas in the United Kingdom that we needed to send Nigel Farage to.”

In his interview with Briant, Oakes explained how an electorate could be motivated to support a particular candidate by attacking minority groups.

Oakes presented Hitler’s demonisation of Jews as an example of this strategy, asserting that Hitler “didn’t have a problem with the Jews at all, but the people didn’t like the Jews … So he just leveraged an artificial enemy”.

He continued: “Well that’s exactly what Trump did. He leveraged a Muslim ... I mean, you know, it’s ... it was a real enemy. Isis is a real, but how big a threat is Isis really to America?”

Note EU-Digest: Isn't it high time Britain grasps on to the reality that BREXIT was the bigest mistake it ever made and that it never is too late to change course.

Read more: Fake news inquiry raises concerns over targeting of voters in Brexit referendum | Politics | The Guardian