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2/28/19

Robots are coming: Is a robot coming for job?

Middle East: Egypt: President Sisi's brutal tactics is fueling violence and instability in Sinai

EU indulgence of Sisi’s brutal tactics is fueling violence and instability in Sinai 

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The Netherlands: Moroccan-Dutch employment reaches new records

Middle ERast: Israel: Benjamin Netanyahu faces corruption charges

Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel PM faces corruption charges

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Hanoi Summit: Trump and Kim abruptly cut short summit after failing to reach nuclear deal - by Philip Rucker, Simon Denyer, David Nakamura

President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un abruptly cut short their two-day summit Thursday after they were unable to reach an agreement to dismantle Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons.

Talks collapsed unexpectedly amid a disagreement about economic sanctions, with the two leaders and their delegations departing their meeting site in Vietnam’s capital without sitting for a planned lunch or participating in a scheduled signing ceremony.

Read more: Trump and Kim abruptly cut short summit after failing to reach nuclear deal

2/27/19

USA - Impeachment process Donald Trump kicked off: Trump’s bid for history in Hanoi is overwhelmed by Michael Cohen spectacle in Washington - by Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey

The Process has begun
President Trump spent Wednesday in Vietnam cozying up to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over grilled sirloin and chocolate lava cake and reaching for the legacy he wants: the great dealmaker negotiating a historic nuclear arms accord.

But halfway around the globe, an entirely different legacy for Trump was thrust to the fore by his longtime personal attorney and fixer — that of an alleged con man, liar, racist and, ultimately, criminal.

Michael Cohen’s explosive testimony to Congress was not only potentially humiliating for Trump. It also portrayed the president as an unreliable and dishonest man at the very moment he is conducting diplomacy with the world’s most erratic and untrusting dictator. And it propelled Trump’s presidency into greater legal and political peril.

On a day when two events of potentially lasting importance played out simultaneously some 8,300 miles apart, the spectacle in Washington overwhelmed the one in Hanoi.

This reality came into sharp relief as Trump sat down with Kim for a one-on-one chat before dinner here on Wednesday evening. Trump had just boasted of his warm relationship with the North Korean dictator, whom he called “a great leader,” when a reporter asked for his reaction to Cohen’s testimony. Trump did not respond and simply shook his head. But shortly thereafter, that reporter and three others were banned by the White House from covering the dinner because of what Trump press secretary Sarah Sanders called “sensitivities to the shouted questions.”

Cohen’s testimony added to the investigative morass that has consumed Trump’s presidency and served as a reminder of its continual state of turmoil. Although he sat in a hearing room addressing the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, 

Cohen might as well have been talking directly to his former boss when he said:
“I have fixed things,” he said, “but I am no longer your fixer, Mr. Trump.”

Read more: Trump’s bid for history in Hanoi is overwhelmed by Michael Cohen’s spectacle in Washington - The Washington Post

INF Treaty: Without the INF Treaty, Europe could see a new missile power. (Spoiler: It’s not Russia.) - by Mariana Budjeryn

The United States recently announced its withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, citing ongoing Russian violations. This raised alarm among arms control experts and many European states, which see the INF as a crucial element of European security.

The INF eliminated an entire class of missiles, prompting concerns about the adverse consequences of redeployments of INF-banned missiles to Europe by NATO and Russia.

But there’s another problem — more than a bilateral arrangement, the treaty also curtailed missile programs in former Soviet states, including Ukraine. The death of the INF could unshackle Ukraine’s missile program, too. Here’s what you need to know.

The U.S.S.R. and the United States signed the INF in 1987 to prohibit ground-launched missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles (500 and 5,000 kilometers). By 1990, the two countries had verifiably destroyed some 2,700 intermediate-range missiles. After the collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1991, Soviet obligations under the INF were multilateralized among all its recognized successors.

Ukraine emerged with ample nuclear and missile capabilities. It inherited the world’s third-largest arsenal of nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and strategic bombers — as well as a formidable military-industrial complex. This included the Yuzhnoye missile design bureau and plant in Dnipropetrovsk (now Dnipro), one of three premier suppliers of ICBMs for the Soviet arsenal. 

However, as a legal successor state of the U.S.S.R., Ukraine remained constrained by the INF’s limitations. 

Ukraine — along with Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia — also became a legal successor to START, a treaty that aimed to slash superpower strategic nuclear arsenals by 40 percent. The Soviet collapse left START unratified, with START-accountable nuclear arms strewn across the territories of the four states. The non-Russian successors, however, undertook the obligation to denuclearize completely and join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Read more at: Without the INF Treaty, Europe could see a new missile power. (Spoiler: It’s not Russia.) - The Washington Post

Middle East: Egypt hits back at Turkey over EU-Arab summit criticism – by Georgi Gotev

Egypt hit back Wednesday (27 February) at Turkish criticism of EU leaders for meeting their Arab counterparts in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh just days after Cairo executed nine people.

The foreign ministry accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of partisanship towards the Muslim Brotherhood, the outlawed Islamist movement that Egyptian authorities have said inspired the nine men executed last week to carry out the 2015 murder of the country’s top prosecutor.

His statement “clearly involves hatred and expresses its (Turkey’s) continued embrace and support of the Muslim Brotherhood,” ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez said.

He accused Erdoğan of hypocrisy, citing a list of alleged human rights abuses by Ankara.

“This … illustrates the lack of credibility of what the Turkish president is promoting,” Hafez said.

Erdoğan accused the European Union of insincerity on Tuesday for attending the joint summit hosted by his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday and Monday.

“Can we talk about democracy in EU member countries who accepted the invitation of Sisi, who has executed 42 people since he came to power and nine young people last week, although capital punishment is banned (in the EU)?” he asked.

“It is not possible to understand them. The EU is not sincere.”

Erdoğan himself has said he would approve the reinstatement of the death penalty if parliament submits such a proposal or if the measure is backed in a referendum.

Read more at: Egypt hits back at Turkey over EU-Arab summit criticism – EURACTIV.com

Canada: Inflation rate eases to 1.4 % in Canada

Inflation rate eases to 1.4% in January as gas prices plunge

European Airline Industry: Dutch surprise France by taking airline stake

Air-France KLM: Dutch surprise France by taking airline stake

2/26/19

Populists versus Labor Unions;: Tackling the populists, who call themselves the defenders of the 'forgotten people's among us", with their own medicine - by Peter Scherrer

Because union members are not immune to xenophobic and nationalist propaganda, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and its institute (ETUI) are even more involved than in the past in examining the reason for the growing ‘attractiveness’ of right-wing populist parties.


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EUROZONE: MCKINSEY report notes that unemployment in Eurozone drops to a ten year low

Notable in this month’s release of McKinsey’s Global Economics Intelligence (GEI) report is the unemployment rate in the euro area of 7.9 percent for November 2018, the lowest level since 2008. The seasonally adjusted index, maintained by Eurostat, held steady in December.1 Joblessness has fallen by more than one-third sincSeptember 2013, when the index was at 12 percent. The improvement has been slow but steady since that time—a point regarded as the nadir of Europe’s recession within a recession in the early 2010s. And in the wider European Union (EU-28), which includes high-employment countries such as Hungary, Poland, and the United Kingdom, the unemployment rate is even lower, at 6.6 percent, the lowest EU reading since recording began in January 2000.

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The Netherlands - California Relations: 100,000 tulips headed to San Francisco — and they're free for the picking - by Michelle Robertson

San Francisco will get a pop of color and a taste of Dutch culture next week with the deposit of 100,000 tulips in Union Square.

March 1 is American Tulip Day, a celebration of American tulips grown from Dutch-raised bulbs. To celebrate, Dutch flower bulb trader Royal Anthos, iBulb.org and the Consulate of General of San Francisco are transporting thousands of multicolor tulips to the bustling tourist center.

Visitors are invited to pick their own bunch of tulips to take home between 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., the three-and-a-half-hour stretch that the garden is open to the public. Access to the garden — and the tulips — is free.

The Netherlands has a long history of tulip cultivation and exportation. Originally cultivated in the Ottoman Empire, the tulip — Latin for "flower that looks like a turban" — arrived in Holland during the 16th century.

Frequently depicted in the artwork and literature of the Dutch Golden Age, the tulip went on to become one of the most prized objects of the period. Between 1634 and 1637, a speculative frenzy for tulips led to a period known as "tulip mania." Prizes for bulbs skyrocketed, triggering one of the country's first economic bubbles.

The Dutch went on to become the world's premier tulip exporters, with the U.S. its most avid customer. Each year, the Netherlands ships around 450 million tulip bulbs to the country, which are planted, grown and sold stateside. 

American Tulip Day, Union Square, March 2, 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., americantulipday.com. 

Read more: 100,000 tulips headed to San Francisco — and they're free for the picking

Child Sex Abuse : Silent hypocrisy reigns at most Christian denominations about sexual crimes committed in Catholic Churches against minors - by "a follower of Jesus"

"You are my children never forget that"
The most senior Catholic cleric ever charged with child sex abuse has been convicted of molesting two choirboys moments after celebrating Mass, dealing a new blow to the Catholic hierarchy's credibility after a year of global revelations of abuse and cover-up.

What is amazing is that  most Christian denomination, from Evangelicals to Orthodox, so far, have put their head in the sand and not come out condemning these practices jointly or individually.

Just in case they have forgotten, here is a direct quote from the Bible, as to the place children take in the teachings of Jesus.

"He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
— Matthew 18:1-5

By not speaking out openly against these sexual crimes committed against minors by fellow Christian denominations, Christian denominations in general won't be taken seriously, whatever they do or say.  

EU-Digest

Italy-Russia links highlight overall threat to EU democracy - by Amy Richards

Behind the small non-descript brown door of a mansion block in Moscow lie the headquarters of the company, Orion LLC.

This mysterious entity, which has an eclectic range of specialisms - from business consulting to heavy industrial machinery sale, construction projects, engineering design and market research - is owned by two key figures in the Italian political party, the League: Gianluca Savoini, president of the Lombardy-Russia Cultural Association, and Claudio d'Amico, a senior foreign policy adviser to the party.

Both wield significant influence.

Savoini is a former spokesperson for Italy's deputy prime minister and League chief, Matteo Salvini, and now attends meetings alongside him with high ranking Russian politicians.

And d'Amico is an advisor on the party's 'strategic international activities', who failed to declare ownership of the company when he was made city councillor of Sesto San Giovanni in 2017.

At the weekend, the Italian magazine L'Espresso published a series of cases where senior figures in and around Lega were linked to businesses based in Russia, and, more significantly, allegations that the party was in talks to secure funding through an oil deal brokered by Savoini.

The League has never hidden its desire to forge close economic and ideological links with Russia.

League representatives have frequently traveled to Russia and appeared regularly on state-controlled media there.

In 2017, a formal "cooperation and collaboration" agreement was signed between Russian president Vladimir Putin's ruling United Russia and the League, aimed at boosting business, legislative and cultural ties between the two countries.

And last year, Salvini tweeted his support for Putin in the Russian presidential elections, alongside an article denying claims of Russian involvement in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy, in the UK last year.

Key to a lot of this activity is the Lombardia-Russia Cultural Association, which Savoini runs and in which d'Amico plays a pivotal role.

Set up soon after Salvini took over the League, it aims to build a unity of mission between the two countries based on the core pillars of "identity, sovereignty and tradition".

There has been a lot of public attention on the role the Russian state may or may not be playing in setting political agendas abroad, particularly on the potential spread of disinformation aimed at undermining more established political parties, inciting division and anger, and fragmenting the European political landscape.

These are extremely serious accusations, which potentially threaten the very bedrock of Western democracy and it is right that they are fully investigated, whether by legal inquiries, as is underway in the US, or via counterintelligence operations.

But are we missing a trick by not putting these in the wider context of Russian business interests pursued by those holding political power across Europe?

As L'Espresso's coverage clearly highlights, neither Savoini nor d'Amico are alone in having a mix of political and business interests in Russia.

In Kalmykia (a federal district of Russia), for example, a fruit growing business, receives investment from Palmiro Zoccatelli, prominent member of the League and a key figure within the non-profit organisation 'Family and Civilisation', which organises pro-life events providing platforms for Alexey Komov, a protege of the Russian oligarch,

Konstantin Malofeev and another key figure in the Lombardia-Russia Cultural Association.

Sanctioned by the EU and US for providing financial assistance to pro-Russian extremists in Eastern Ukraine, Malofeev has been described as "the Russian billionaire carrying out Putin's will across Europe", and is also widely known for running homophobic conferences in Russia, allegedly assisting the Front National in securing loans from a Russian investment company, and seeking to build alliances between European far right parties.

Of course, this is not a trend isolated to Italy - politicians from across Europe have sought to find benefits in the economic potential of Russia's vast lands.

At the Yalta Economic Forum held this time last year, a coterie of representatives from Europe's far right and other radical political parties gathered to discuss investment opportunities in Crimea, despite the EU sanctions regime.

These included individuals from Austria's FPO, AfD in Germany, Belgium's Vlaams Belang and the National Front (now called the National Rally) in France.

There may be nothing in any of this.

After all, Russia is a global superpower with economic and political influence that extends well beyond the reach of almost any other country.

In an uncertain and turbulent world, of course it makes sense to form global alliances that could potentially offer economic and security benefits.

But perhaps it is the blurring of lines between the business and the political that should make us uneasy.

This is not just politicians drumming up investment support or opening doors for businesses - there are examples here of direct ownership and personal investment, with allegations of more serious divergence of cash directly into the coffers of political parties.

Dig deeper behind the curtain of business interests in Russia and we find an intricate web of cultural, political and ideological ties, which make it difficult to be sure how much of the pro-Russian rhetoric deployed by some of the individuals involved is for their own personal benefit or because they genuinely believe it is in their party's interest - or their country's.

Does it matter, for example, that d'Amico, owner of the undeclared Russian company, travelled to Russia to observe the recent presidential elections there?

Or that he had previously been one of the observers to the hugely sensitive public vote on the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2016?

Is it concerning that the company's co-owner, Savoini, who is at the centre of the latest allegations related to Russian funding of the League, confirmed to the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, that he has been present at meetings between Salvini and members of Russia's national security council.

Politicians' business interests have long been a matter for public scrutiny, but the systems to record these - and hold those individuals to account who vie for the power to take decisions on the future direction of their country - must now be strengthened.

That means introducing tough rules that comply with the principles set out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Paris-based club of wealth nations.

These ought to include ensuring clear and comprehensive asset declaration and conflict of interest rules, regular required updates (at least annually), proper monitoring and enforcement, a sanctions regime that can lead to loss of office for a serious breach, and the easy access of this information to the public.

How can we be sure those holding public office are not acting in the interests of their business dealings if we simply do not know what these are?

A series of weak systems across the continent leaves European democracy ripe for exploitation.

And if we cannot act to protect that, we're facing a very dangerous future.

Amy Richards, who wrote this report for the EUOnserver is director of Global Witness, a London-based NGO, whose mission is 'exposing the economic networks behind conflict, corruption, and environmental abuse

EU-Digest









2/25/19

The Netherlands - heat wave in February: Temperatures could hit 20C in the Netherlands this week

Spring has come early to the Netherlands. With a sunny weekend behind us, it looks as though the good weather won’t let up for the next few days. Some Dutch weather records might even be broken, with forecasts predicting temperatures in the vicinity of 20C.

The southeast of the country can count on the highest temperatures these coming few days. If temperatures do reach 20C, the weather record of the fewest days since it was last 20C, could be broken. The record now stands at 134 days between October 26, 2013 and March 9, 2014. It would also be one of the few years that such high temperatures have been measured this early on in the year. The record for the earliest date in the year that it reached 20C belongs to 1990, when temperatures hit 20,4C in South Limburg on February 24.

Read more: Temperatures could hit 20C in the Netherlands this week

Britain - Brexit: Labour prepared to back new Brexit referendum

Jeremy Corbyn has told Labour MPs the party will move to back another vote if their own proposed Brexit deal is rejected on Wednesday.

Labour's Emily Thornberry said if the parliamentary process ended with a choice of no deal or the PM's deal, the public should decide.

Theresa May is under growing pressure to delay the 29 March Brexit date.

Labour have not yet made clear what their proposed referendum would be on, but a party briefing paper to MPs says that any referendum would need to have "a credible Leave option and Remain".

The prime minister, who will update MPs on the negotiations on Tuesday, has insisted the UK can still leave next month as planned.

The UK voted to leave the EU in a referendum in June 2016, but the withdrawal deal Mrs May negotiated with the EU has to be agreed by MPs - and it suffered a huge defeat by them last month.

Mrs May has ruled out a "meaningful vote" on her Brexit deal this week - saying one would be held by 12 March - but she will give MPs the chance to have their say on how the next steps for Brexit.

MPs will be able to table amendments to a government motion, putting forward their proposals on what they think should happen next.

Read more: Labour prepared to back new Brexit referendum - BBC News

EU: The EU parliamentary elections a battle for Europe's sou! - by Meriam Sorace

Moldova: Early results: No party secures majority in Moldova ballot - by V. Ghirda and N. Dumitrache

Near-final results from Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Moldova showed no party secured a majority, a result that could leave the former Soviet republic in limbo between pro-Western and pro-Russia forces.

With 97 percent of the votes counted early Monday, the broadly pro-Russia opposition Socialists had 31.5 percent, while the pro-European group ACUM had 25.9 percent. The incumbent Democratic Party was trailing in third place with 24.1 percent.

The election comes as the Democratic Party’s governing alliance has lost support over rampant corruption, falling living standards and the erosion of democracy in Moldova, a small landlocked nation between Romania and Ukraine.

President Igor Dodon forecast another election in the coming months. “We have a major risk of early elections,” he said after casting his ballot.

An inconclusive outcome could lead to instability, and Dodon and pro-Europe leader Maia Sandu have warned of demonstrations if elections are found to be marred by fraud.

If lawmakers fail to form a governing coalition within 45 days of the election result, the president will dissolve the legislature and call a new vote.

More than 3 million voters were eligible to choose representatives for the next four years to the 101-seat legislature. Parties needed to win a minimum of 6 percent of the ballots to enter Parliament.

Election authorities said voter turnout was just over 49 percent when polls closed.

ACUM party leader Maia Sandu told The Associated Press that the election was “the most undemocratic in the history of Moldova.”

“A gang of thieves ... has captured the state institutions” and are “scaring ... threatening and impoverishing us,” Sandu said Sunday as she urged Moldovans to vote.

One voter, Svetlana Druta, said she had voted to change the judicial system.

“We need to start from the top and then (change) elementary schools and kindergartens, and then we need a good health” system, she said.

Last year, the European Parliament called Moldova “a state captured by oligarchic interests.” The European Union also froze aid to Moldova after a local court invalidated the 2018 Chisinau mayoral election on a technicality, a move to thwart the apparent victory of a pro-Europe candidate.

But Vladimir Plahotniuc, the Democratic Party chief and the country’s de facto leader, insisted Sunday that the ruling party had brought “order and discipline” through its economic policies.

Despite that claim, an estimated 1 million Moldovans have moved abroad to find jobs, mainly in the EU and Russia.

Moldova’s voting system has been changed in what critics say is a ploy to help the two main parties — the Socialists and the Democrats — carve up influence.

About 340 international observers from 38 countries monitored the ballot.

Read more: Early results: No party secures majority in Moldova ballot

2/24/19

Middle East - Saudi Arabia: Saudi King Salman calls for an international stance against Iranian interference - but does not mention Jamal Khashoggi Murder

Saudi King Salman has called for a unified international effort to stop Iran’s support for armed militias, interference in the affairs of other countries, and its nuclear and ballistic programs.

The King said during the first EU-Arab League summit on Sunday being held in Egypt at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, that Tehran’s support for the Houthis in Yemen, and other militias in the region, as well as its aggressive practices and blatant interference in the affairs of other countries, require a unified international stance to force Iran to abide by international law.

He added that the Kingdom stresses the importance of a political solution to the Yemeni crisis on the basis of the Gulf initiative, the results of the Yemeni national dialogue, and Security Council resolution 2216.

“The Kingdom had made great efforts to ensure the success of the Sweden negotiations and called for the follow-up of the implementation of what had been agreed upon in those talks and to hold the Iranian-backed terrorist militias responsible for the situation in Yemen,” the King said at the summit.

The Saudi monarch also described the Palestinian issue a priority among Arab countries and referenced last year’s Arab League Summit in Dhahran which was renamed the “Jerusalem Summit.”

He reiterated Saudi Arabia’s steadfast position toward restoring all the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.

King Salman said that Saudi Arabia, like many other countries, has suffered from terrorism and has spearheaded many international efforts to combat it at all levels. According to the King’s speech, this included efforts in drying up terror groups’ financial resources and stressing the importance of continuing joint action against terror financing and money laundering.

He also spoke on the refugee and migrant crisis, saying that the displacement of people due to wars and conflict remained at the top of pressing humanitarian issues.

“We hope that this summit will help to find solutions for them,” the King said.
He added that Saudi Arabia has provided more than $35 bln in aid to more than 80 countries in the humanitarian, charitable and developmental fields.

Note EU-Digest: Unfortunately King Salman during his presentation kept silent, nor give any explanation or excuse for the brutal murder by the Kingdom of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. 

UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, who is leading an international human rights inquiry into the murder, visited Turkey between 28 January and 3 February. 

The preliminary report on the inquiry says Khashoggi "was the victim of a brutal and premeditated killing, planned and perpetrated by officials of the State of Saudi Arabia".

The Saudi Kingdom also has a very poor record on human rights
  
Read more at: Saudi King Salman calls for an international stance against Iranian interference - Al Arabiya English

British EU Relations: More Brexit talks early next week after no breakthrough in Brussels - by Irene Kostaki

The EU’s 27 ambassadors met on February 21 to assess the Brexit talks that took place in Brussels earlier in the week and are awaiting any progress in the discussions that are planned to take place in the week, EU sources confirm.

The European Union’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, debriefed the bloc’s ambassadors about the talks between European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and UK Prime Minister Theresa May on February 20, as well as a discussion Juncker had with his team on the EU side with the UK’ Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Stephen Barclay and Britain’s Attorney General Geoffrey Cox.

After assessing the meetings, the UK side has pushed forward the ‘guarantees’ that were agreed upon during the February 20 talks between Juncker and May.

“Yesterday, the Prime Minister reiterated that the simplest way to get legally binding changes to the (Irish) backstop is to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement. That remains the (UK) government’s position,” said the spokesman from the Department for Exiting the European Union, adding that the focus of the two will now be on “guarantees relating to the backstop that underline, once again, its temporary nature and give an appropriate legal assurance to both sides, as well as alternative arrangements and a political declaration, to reach a mutually acceptable agreement”.

The issue of the Irish backstop has been one of the most contentious issues that have plagued the still-unresolved negotiations between Brussels and London. The backstop is designed as an insurance policy, that, in the event that the two sides cannot reach an agreement before the United Kingdom withdraws from the EU, Northern Ireland will remain within the European Union’s regulatory and customs arrangements indefinitely to prevent the emergence of a hard border.

Barclay and Cox “held productive talks with Barnier and his team” to discuss both sides’ current talking points and to reposition their focus on what can be done to conclude a “successful” deal as soon as possible.

“There was an agreement that the talks should now continue urgently at a technical level until the teams of the chief negotiators meet again early next week. Meanwhile, the Attorney General (Cox) will explore further legal options with Barnier’s team.

The EU’s position, at this point, is clear in that the bloc’s approach to the backstop remains unchanged and the leaders of the European Union are determined not to hold a special ‘Brexit Summit’ unless it is clear that a deal has the needed support in the House of Commons to pass. Thus far, however, the sort of consensus that Brussels is looking for from their British counterparts remains elusive.

Juncker has been very vocal in expressing the sentiment of many others all of whom have grown tired of the stalled negotiations, saying, “I have something like Brexit fatigue.” Juncker still believes that a no-deal scenario for the UK is the most likely given the narrow five week timeframe that London has to pass the deal.

“This Brexit thing is deconstruction, it’s not construction. Brexit is the past, it’s not the future” Juncker said. Focusing on his efforts in the coming days, Juncker said, “we are trying to deliver our best efforts in order to have Brexit be organised in a proper and civilised way that is well-thought-out.” He later went on to lay the blame on the British parliament for its inability to pass legislation needed to complete the Brexit process.

“Every time they are voting, there is a majority against something. There is never a majority in favour of something,” said Juncker “If a no-deal happens, and I can’t exclude this, this will have terrible economic and social consequences both in Britain and on the Continent…my efforts are oriented in a way that the worst can be avoided, but I’m not very optimistic when it comes to this issue.”

Read full report here: More Brexit talks early next week after no breakthrough in Brussels

USA: Republican opposition mounts against Trump's emergency declaration, could trigger President's first veto- by Chris Sommerfeldt

President Trump is on a collision course with his own party.

A growing number of Republican senators are openly criticizing Trump's attempt to build a border wall without congressional approval, paving the way for an intra-party clash that could prompt the President to issue his first-ever veto.

Ten Republican senators have publicly questioned Trump's national emergency declaration, which the White House says frees up about $8 billion in taxpayer funds for the construction of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, including Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, and Marco Rubio of Florida.

"I'm disappointed...with the President's intention to declare an emergency to build a wall," Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who is typically committed to Trump's agenda, said after the planned declaration was first announced Feb. 14. "Extraconstitutional executive actions are wrong, no matter which party does them."

Jerry Moran of Kansas, another loyal Trump backer, raised similar concerns last week. "If it gets used this time, what's the next instance in which it becomes used?" Moran asked.

Republican insiders say several more members are privately skeptical, which could prove problematic for Trump as a measure is set to be taken up in Congress this week to block the order altogether.

"The private number is way higher, around 25 or so in total," said longtime GOP strategist Evan Siegfried, citing private conversations with aides and members of Congress.

A congressional source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a couple dozen Senate Republicans remain critical of Trump's controversial order but likely won't vote against it out of fear of political repercussions.

Read more: Republican opposition mounts against Trump's emergency declaration, could trigger President's first veto

USA - Venezuela - North Korea: Trumps legal reckoning coming - are his worst troubles yet to come - or will he use Venezuela and North Korea to divert attention to his problems?

2/23/19

North Korea US Realtions: - Trump Kim Jong Summit: Kim Jong Un sets off to meet Trump - amid warnings of a food crisis in North Korea and Mueller Report in US - by Saskia O'Donoghue

 The North Korean leader is set to meet the U.S. President for their second summit in Vietnam as the Asian nation say they've been forced to slash food rations

Read more: \
Kim Jong Un sets off to meet Trump - amid warnings of a food crisis

Immortality: Could Silicon Valley's quest for immortality be a fate worse than death - by Adam Gabbatt

Venezuela: the end of Maduro could be near as Venezuela soldiers abandon posts at Colombia border.

Venezuela soldiers abandon posts at Colombia border

Russia - Italy relations: Russia has offered Italian Populist Salvini EURO 3 million for his EU election campaign

Russia offered Italy's Salvini €3m for EU election. This is a shame for Italy. So if you ever wondered why Salvini is so pro-Russia, now you know.

USA: Microsoft workers protest against US military Hololens project awarded to Microsoft


Microsoft workers protest $480m Hololens US military deal

Read more at:

2/22/19

USA - "Why are Republicans supporting a pathological lying narcicissistic US President?" Pelosi just challenged Trump’s corruption and lies. Here’s what should come next. - by Greg Sargent

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and her fellow House Democrats just introduced a resolution to terminate President Trump’s national emergency. In coming days, the resolution will likely pass the House, setting in motion a process that will force a Senate vote on it. Either Senate Republicans will side with Trump, or they’ll pass the measure, after which Trump will veto it.

This represents a small challenge to Trump’s corruption and lies — to his corruption of our institutions and political system with autocratic and authoritarian conduct, and to the deep rot of bad faith at the core of his willingness to declare a national emergency to build his wall based on false pretenses and invented metrics.

The move probably won’t succeed in terminating the emergency. But it points to something we need to see a lot more of: discussion of concrete proposals and actions designed to fortify our institutions and democracy against Trump’s ongoing degradations of them, and to restore confidence in them once Trump is gone.

Read more at: Pelosi just challenged Trump’s corruption and lies. Here’s what should come next. - The Washington Post

EU - Saudi Relations: EP budget chair seeks clarity on Saudi lobbying and College of Europe - Nikolaj Nielsen

The EU-funded College of Europe must clarify its financial ties to Saudi Arabia, the chair of a powerful European Parliament (EP) budgetary committee has said.

The demand follows revelations last week by this website that the Saudis had paid the College of Europe to meet MEPs in a closed-door briefing at the EP as part of what the post-graduate institute describes as an "information or training exercise".

"This is clearly a type of action, which characterises a lobbyist organisation," said German centre-right MEP Ingeborg Graessle, who presides over the EP's budgetary control committee, in a letter sent on Wednesday (20 February) to College of Europe rector Jorg Monar and seen by EUobserver.

The Saudi-EP meeting on 19 February came less than a week after the EU parliament had passed a resolution condemning the abuse of human rights in Saudi Arabia.

It also followed recent moves by the European Union to put the Kingdom on a terror finance blacklist, as well as an arms embargo by Germany and several other EU states over the Saudi regime's murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October.

"Bearing in mind that the College of Europe receives funds from the EU budget, we as the discharge authority of the EU, need to have a clear picture of your undertakings in order to safeguard the interests of EU taxpayers," Graessle said in her letter.

Read more at: EP budget chair seeks clarity on Saudi lobbying and College of Europe

USA - Corporate America: Amazon: biggest company in the world, paid no US Federal tax in 2018

Amazon paid no federal tax for 2018 – but how much profit did it earn?

Note EU-Digest: "Amazon made $ 11.2 billion in 2018 "

Read more at: 

USA: Al Gore admits US poverty shocking - but warns climate crises will make it worse

Al Gore admits US poverty 'shocking' – but warns climate crisis will make things worse

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Israel: Netanyahu's embrace of far-right extremists may seal his fate - by Brinley Bruton and Paul Goldman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has proved to be the Houdini of Israeli politics — an expert escape artist who extricates himself from the trickiest of situations to remain in power.

But his latest gambit may prove to be the beginning of the end of his more than a decade on the world stage.
Netanyahu announced earlier this week that he was forging an alliance with a fringe extremist party inspired by an American-born rabbi who advocated a Jewish theocracy and the forced removal of Palestinians.

Ex-military chief Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party, subsequently announced they were joining forces in a bid to oust Netanyahu in the April 9 elections.

Opinion polls suggest their centrist coalition, known as the Blue and White after the colors of the Israeli flag, could triumph over Netanyahu's Likud at the ballot box. Three major corruption cases further cloud Netanyahu's future.

Read more: Netanyahu's embrace of far-right extremists may seal his fate | Euronews

Cyberwar: What happens when a nation-state cyber attack kills? - by Danny Palmer

The increasing sophistication and power of state-backed cyber attacks has led some experts to fear that, sooner or later, by design or by accident, one of these incidents will result in somebody getting killed.

It might sound far-fetched, but a former head of the UK's intelligence agency has already warned about the physical threat posed by cyber attacks and the potential damage they could do.

"Nation-states are getting more sophisticated and they're getting more brazen. They're getting less worried about being caught and being named -- and of course that's a feature of geopolitics," said Robert Hannigan, who served as director general of GCHQ from 2014 to 2017.

"The problem is the risk of miscalculation is huge," he said, speaking at a security conference in London last month. "If you start to tamper with industrial control systems, if you start to tamper with health systems and networks, it feels like it's only a matter of time before somebody gets hurt and somebody is ultimately killed."

Read more at: Cyberwar: What happens when a nation-state cyber attack kills? | ZDNet

2/21/19

North Korea - US Meeting: China's shadow looms large over second Trump-Kim summit - by Katrina Yu

As North Korea's main ally, Beijing is keen on concrete results in upcoming vietnam meeting between North Korea and the US.

Read more at: China's shadow looms large over second Trump-Kim summit | China News | Al Jazeera

China-US relations: Tariff issues continue to be sticking points as both China and US continue their haggling in trade war talks

BRITAIN: Theresa May to face ministerial revolt over a no-deal Brexit

BRITAIN: Brexit - Scotland: PM Scotland Nicola Sturgeon says delay Brexit inevitable

A delay to Brexit is 'almost inevitable', Scotland's Nicola Sturgeon tells FRANCE 24 In an interview with FRANCE 24, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon weighed in on the current Brexit impasse, saying she believes it's "almost inevitable" that the process will be delayed. The SNP leader also insisted she had a "democratic mandate" for a second referendum on Scottish independence, saying she will soon reveal when she intends to call one.

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USA: Donald Trump Will Win reelection in 2020 - by Luther Campbell

The American people are tired of this. Trump has changed the narrative on what it means to be "presidential." It's no longer about being a stoic leader like Abraham Lincoln or a polished statesman like Barack Obama. All those flowery words about hope and change went out the door with the first black president.

A survey released last week by a Washington, D.C., polling firm of 20,000 registered voters from both parties shows the Democrats have failed to seize on Trump's unpopularity.  About 36 percent of Democrats polled said their party makes too many compromises. And another 20 percent who identified less with the Democrats plan to support a presidential candidate from a different party in 2020.

Voters, whether they lean to the right or the left, are hungry for leaders who keep it real and will take the gloves off in a fight. They want populists who will push radical ideas, which is why Trump keeps fighting for his border wall. His base wants it and it guarantees him at least 35 percent of the vote in two years.

Democratic voters want politicians willing to do the same. That's why Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went from bar-tending to legislating on Capitol Hill. Ocasio-Cortez won because she is not afraid to push ideas such as proposing a 70 percent marginal tax rate for anyone making more than $10 million. Polls show a majority of Americans, including conservatives, support this.

Note EU-Digest: It all depends on the Mueller report. If there is no direct indication there was collusion between Trump and  the Russians, the scenario in the story by the Miami New Times could very well materialize. However, if Trump is accused in the Mueller report of collusion, by having had either direct links with the Russians, before, during, or after the elections, his "road to hell" will only begin in earnest.

Read more: Donald Trump Will Win in 2020 | Miami New Times

2/20/19

EU: Microsoft discovers Russian hacking campaign ahead of EU parliamentary elections

Italy: 5 star movement could split as a result of a row over Salvini

Could a row over Salvini split the 5-Star Movement? | euronews answers

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USA: To be or not to be? Pompeo says Alabama woman who joined ISIS can't return to US even though US wants other countries to do so

Pompeo says Alabama woman who joined ISIS can't return to U.S.

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EU - US trade: Is the US forcing a confrontation with the EU on tariffs ?

EU: Russia - Hackers: Russian hackers targeted US think tanks in Europe

A hacking group that is thought to be linked to Russian military intelligence targeted the European offices of two American think tanks, Microsoft revealed late Tuesday.

Fancy Bear, the same hacking group that is believed to be behind some of the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee, targeted The Aspen Institute and The German Marshall Fund of the United States, Microsoft said. The German Council on Foreign Relations was also targeted.

"We've seen and continue to see efforts by nation-states and others to influence elections in democracies around the world including in Europe," Tom Burt, Microsoft's vice president of customer trust and security, said in a blog post.

Read more: Russian hackers targeted US think tanks in Europe

2/19/19

Middle East - Saudi Arabia: US Congress Oversight Report: Trump Officials Tried to Rush Nuclear Technology Transfer To Saudis - by Tim Mak and Ayesha Rascoe

NPR reports that The Trump administration sought to rush the transfer of American nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia in potential violation of the law, a new report from the House Oversight and Reform Committee alleges.

Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings' staff issued an "interim staff" report Tuesday, citing "multiple whistleblowers" who raised ethical and legal concerns about the process.

"They have warned about political appointees ignoring directives from top ethics advisers at the White House who repeatedly and unsuccessfully ordered senior Trump administration officials to halt their efforts," the report states. "They have also warned of conflicts of interest among top White House advisers that could implicate federal criminal statutes."

The committee's report alleges that the major drivers behind the effort to transfer U.S. nuclear technology were retired Gen. Michael Flynn, who served as the president's national security adviser, and Thomas Barrack, who chaired Trump's inauguration committee. Flynn was fired in February 2017 for lying about conversations with the Russian ambassador to Vice President Pence and the FBI.

For about seven months in 2016, including during the presidential transition, Flynn served as an adviser to IP3 International, a private company seeking to build nuclear plants in Saudi Arabia.

The whistleblowers told the committee that Flynn continued to advocate for IP3's plan even after he joined the White House as the president's national security adviser in 2017.

The Atomic Energy Act requires that Congress approve any transfer of nuclear technology to a foreign country. The committee's report states that a senior director at the National Security Council (NSC), Derek Harvey, "reportedly ignored ... warnings and insisted that the decision to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia had already been made."

The NSC's lawyers realized that Flynn had a possible conflict of interest that could violate the law, the whistleblowers said, and told NSC staff to stop working on the nuclear technology transfer plan. Despite Flynn's firing in February 2017, the plan appeared to continue to progress with Trump's support.

The committee announced that it intends to launch an investigation into this matter "to determine whether the actions being pursued by the Trump administration are in the national security interests of the United States, or, rather, serve those who stand to gain financially as a result of this potential change in U.S. foreign policy."

Shortly after the release of the report, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., announced that his panel would be coordinating with Cummings' staff to explore these allegations.

Tuesday's disclosure of a plan to sell nuclear technology comes as the United States considers its relationship with the Saudi government in the wake of the killing of writer Jamal Khashoggi.

Following his death, the House and Senate have both passed resolutions to limit U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led coalition fighting in the Yemeni civil war. The Senate also passed a resolution by voice vote — reflecting unanimity — that was fashioned to "hold Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi."

The report also comes as President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is scheduled to travel next week for a trip to the Middle East that includes a stop in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the committee's report.

EU-Digest

The Netherlands: Dutch economy braces for Brexit shockwave

'A bit messy on the other side': Dutch economy braces for Brexit shockwave


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France: French Politicians in a united march against anti-semitism

Germany: Saudi female refugees in Germany still living in fear for reprisals from Saudi Government and their families

Saudi women refugees in Germany: Still living in fear

Note EU-Digest: Bravo Germany, shame on Britain, USA, France and others who are still exporting billions of dollarsn and EURO's in  goods and weapons to Saudi Arabia, 😞

2/18/19

The Netherlands: British citizens in the Netherlands and Brexit: A quick update as to your status if Brexit happens


If you are a British expat or British national living in the Netherlands, the end of the uncertainty regarding your legal residence in the Netherlands post-Brexit is not yet in sight. The UK parliament voted down the Brexit Agreement and a No-Deal Brexit is closer than ever.

Brexit: If there is a deal

The right of residence for Hritish nationals living in the Netherlands or Dutch nationals living in the UK is no longer a topic of debate. If an agreement is reached in time, it is likely that the section on rights of residence will be taken from the voted down Agreement. You can find an overview of your rights in the case of an agreement here.

Brexit: if there is No-Deal 

The Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) has made known what the rights of British citizens and their family members in the Netherlands are in case of a No-Deal.
During the transition period from March 29, 2019, until July 1, 2020, British citizens and their family members legally residing, working and / or studying in the Netherlands before March 29, 2019, will keep these rights of residence.

During the transitional period, you will need to apply for a Dutch residence permit. You will receive an invitation from the IND to apply for this permit. To obtain a Dutch residence permit, you need to comply with the requirements for residence laid down in EU Law:
  • Employees or self-employed persons must continue to be employed or self-employed.
  • Economically inactive residents must have sufficient resources not to become a burden on the social assistance system of the Netherlands and have comprehensive health insurance coverage.
  • Students must be enrolled at a recognised private or public educational institution accredited or financed by the Dutch government, and have sufficient resources to not become a burden on the social assistance system of the Netherlands as well as have comprehensive health insurance coverage.
Once you have obtained a Dutch residence permit, you are not required to comply with any integration measures and you are entitled to work in the Netherlands without a work permit.
British students will retain their rights to statutory tuition fees and student finance if they meet the conditions applying to EU citizens.

After 5 years of legal residency in the Netherlands, you can apply for a Dutch permanent residence permit. If you already have a Dutch residence permit (temporary or permanent), nothing will change for you.

If you have an EU permanent residence permit, the IND will automatically change your permit to a Dutch permanent residence permit. IND will inform you as soon as your national permanent residence permit is ready for collection.

Do you hold another EU-nationality besides your UK nationality? You will keep your right of residence as an EU-citizen after Brexit if you continue to meet the requirements laid down in EU law.

You can find a complete No-Deal overview here.

Coming to the Netherlands post-Brexit

According to IND, you will need to fulfill the same conditions to obtain residency as any other non-EU citizen.

However, you will be exempt from the requirement to obtain a provisional residence permit (machtiging tot voorlopig verblijf or mvv) in order to travel to and enter the Netherlands for a potential long-term stay.

This means that you can first travel to the Netherlands and submit an application for residency after arrival.

Dual Citizenship

When it comes to Brexit, political initiatives have been tabled to allow British nationals living in the Netherlands to keep their UK nationality when obtaining Dutch nationality and vice versa. However, the outcome of these initiatives is most uncertain.

Luckily, the current Dutch Nationality Act already creates the possibility to obtain dual citizenship.

In case you have any further questions relating to Brexit or dual citizenship, you can contact  the Dutch Government IND office or a legal office specializing in Dutch immigration laws.

EU-Digest

USA: 16 States Sue to Stop Trump’s Use of Emergency Powers to Build Border Wall - by Charlie Savage and Robert Pear

 A coalition of 16 states, including California and New York, on Monday challenged President Trump in court over his plan to use emergency powers to spend billions of dollars on his border wall.

The lawsuit is part of a constitutional confrontation that Mr. Trump set off on Friday when he declared that he would spend billions of dollars more on border barriers than Congress had granted him. The clash raises questions over congressional control of spending, the scope of emergency powers granted to the president, and how far the courts are willing to go to settle such a dispute.

The suit, filed in Federal District Court in San Francisco, argues that the president does not have the power to divert funds for constructing a wall along the Mexican border because it is Congress that controls spending.

Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California, said in an interview that the president himself had undercut his argument that there was an emergency on the border.

“Probably the best evidence is the president’s own words,” he said, referring to Mr. Trump’s speech on Feb. 15 announcing his plan: “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.”

The lawsuit, California et al. v. Trump et al., says that the plaintiff states are going to court to protect their residents, natural resources and economic interests. “Contrary to the will of Congress, the president has used the pretext of a manufactured ‘crisis’ of unlawful immigration to declare a national emergency and redirect federal dollars appropriated for drug interdiction, military construction and law enforcement initiatives toward building a wall on the United States-Mexico border,” the lawsuit says.

Read more: 16 States Sue to Stop Trump’s Use of Emergency Powers to Build Border Wall - The New York Times

Romania: Top EU official praises fired Romanian corruption prosecutor and says fight must continue

Top EU official praises fired Romanian corruption prosecutor, says fight must continue

Russia:Gazprombank freezes accounts of Venezuela state oil company PDVSA


Russia’s Gazprombank freezes accounts of Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA

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Germany: Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump on cars - by Andrew Rettman

Russia could be a Cold War-type "partner" for Europe, German leader Angela Merkel has said.

But US policy on Iran was "depressing" and its claim that German cars were a "security threat" was "scary", she added in a speech at the Munich Security Conference, an international congress in Germany, on Saturday (16 February).

Russia had "illegaly" annexed Crimea, "attacked" eastern Ukraine, and "violated" a ban on short-range nuclear missiles, Merkel said.

The EU ought to consider extra sanctions on Moscow over its recent naval aggression against Ukraine, she added.

But there was hope of returning to better times via diplomacy, she also said.

"After the fall of the Berlin Wall, we certainly had the hope ... that we could come to a beter cooperation," Merkel said.

"If we got Russian gas already in the Cold War ... and the old German Federal Republic introduced Russian gas on a large scale - then I don't know why times today should be so much worse that we cannot say: Russia remains a partner," Merkel said, referring to the former West Germany.

Merkel spoke amid an EU rift with US president Donald Trump on Iran and on transatlantic trade.

Trump, last May, walked out of an EU-backed nuclear arms control pact with Iran and has threatened EU firms with sanctions if they did business there.

He has also imposed tariffs on EU products, including German cars, which his administration has described as posing a risk to American "security".

"We have to be careful about this split [on Iran], which is very depressing," Merkel said.

e."Look: we are proud of our cars; and we may as well be. These cars are also built in the United States of America. South Carolina is the largest BMW plant - not in Bavaria, South Carolina," she added, referring to a German region and a US state.

The chancellor mocked previous US justifications of the tariff regime.

"If these cars, which are no less threatening by the fact that they are built in South Carolina than by being built in Bavaria, are suddenly a threat to the national security of the United States of America, that scares us," she said.

She made an impassioned appeal for a return to normal US ties.

"We have to fight for Europe. We have to fight for multilateralism," she said.
Her views were echoed by a senior EU official and a former US one at the Munich event.

 Read more: Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump on cars

2/16/19

Democracy splutters—good governance under pressure - by Christof Schiller

Eroding standards of democracy and growing political polarisation are severely hampering the implementation of sustainable reforms. This is one of the main findings in the Sustainable Governance Indicators (SGI) 2018 study by the Bertelsmann Foundation.

SGI is an international monitoring tool, which sheds light on the future viability of all 41 countries in the OECD and the European Union. On the basis of 140 indicators, we assess democratic standards, the quality of governance and reforms in the areas of economics, social affairs and the environment. More than 100 international experts are involved in our cross-national survey.

The most recent study highlights how waning standards of democracy and growing political polarisation hamper sustainable reform. Governments in countries including the United States, Hungary and Turkey are deliberately stoking social tensions rather than seeking consensus.

The report shows that the quality of democracy in many western industrial nations is waning, with democratic standards declining in 26 of the countries surveyed, compared with similar data from four years earlier. ‘Even within the OECD and the EU, the model of liberal democracy is subject to growing pressure—in some countries this means that even central democratic and constitutional standards such as media freedoms are already severely damaged or undermined,’ it finds.

Read more at Democracy splutters—good governance under pressure • Social Europe

USA - Deficit spending: Financial experts debunk Trump’s tax cut mythology as the national debt explodes

With the national debt hitting record-breaking highs, Axios chief financial correspondent Felix Salmon had bad news for MSNBC on Wednesday: President Donald Trump’s tax cuts would never pay for themselves.

Host Stephanie Ruhle brought up the president’s insistence that his tax cut will generate enough economic growth to pay for itself. “We know it takes time for that to happen,” she said. “But why aren’t we seeing it yet?”

“Because it’s not going to happen,” replied Salmon as Ruhle groaned audibly. “No one believed that when they insisted it. No one believes it now.”

“That’s not true,” she shot back sarcastically. “Republicans did.”

“We have seen actually that national debt increasing much faster than even the pessimists thought it would when the tax cut was passed,” Salmon continued, pointing to “massively” slower corporate earnings.

“All of this amazing new growth we were promised from the tax cuts isn’t happening. It’s like a single one-shot sugar high which increases the debt in perpetuity without really giving us anything sustainable.”

Note EU-Digest :
  • The US national debt topped $22 trillion in February, and it's the first time the debt has ever hit that threshold.
  • The record follows a year in which the budget deficit was $779 billion, the highest since 2012, and the amount of debt issued topped $1.3 trillion, the most since 2010.
  • A debate is growing around how much the nominal amount of government debt really matters to the economy. 
  • Spreading out the debt over each US tax payer would put every US taxpayer in debt by $ 134, 838;000

Read more: Financial experts debunk Trump’s tax cut mythology as the national debt explodes | Salon.com

Germany: Pence met with silence after mentioning "Fuhrer" Trump in Munich speech - by Tal Axelrod

 Vice President Mike Pence was met with silence on Friday when he mentioned President Trump at a security conference in Munich.

"I bring greetings from the 45th president of the United States of America, Donald Trump," Pence said, before being met with a lengthy silence.

Pence traveled to Germany this week for the annual Munich Security Conference along with a bipartisan delegation, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

In remarks on Friday, Pence knocked North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies, whom he said "still need to do more."

"The United States expects every NATO member to put in place a credible plan to meet the 2 percent threshold. And, by 2024, we expect all our allies to invest 20 percent of defense spending on procurement," he said.

Pence on Friday also blasted China and Russia in front of delegations from both countries.

"Under President Trump's leadership, the United States has also made it clear that China must address the longstanding issues of intellectual-property theft, forced technology transfer, and other structural issues in China that have placed a burden on our economy and on economies around the world," he said.

Pence later noted the U.S.'s move to withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The decision to withdraw has triggered questions about the potential impact on European security and the global strategic environment amid weakened U.S.-Russia relations.

 Read more: Pence met with silence after mentioning Trump in Munich speech

USA: Robert Mueller seeks over 19 years in prison for ex-Trump campaign chair Manafort

Mueller seeks over 19 years in prison for ex-Trump campaign chair Manafort

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Britain - Brexit: May suffers another embarrassing defeat on Brexit in a Parliament vote

May suffers embarrassing defeat in Brexit parliament vote Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a defeat on her Brexit strategy on Thursday that undermined her pledge to European Union leaders to get her EU divorce deal approved if they grant her concessions.

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2/15/19

EU Renewable Energy: The Netherlands still trailing behind on EU renewable energy targets

The Netherlands is trailing the rest of Europe when it comes to reaching sustainable energy targets, according to new figures from the European statistics agency Eurostat.

In 2017, just 6.6% of the energy used in the Netherlands came from sustainable sources, but the target is 14% by 2020, Eurostat says. Luxembourg, where 6.4% of energy consumption derived from biofuels, hydro or wind power, solar or geothermal energy in 2017, has a 2020 target of 11%.

The Eurostat statistics show 11 EU countries had already reached their targets two years ago. In Sweden, for example, more than half the energy is sustainable.

The EU as a whole aims to make sure 20% of gross final energy consumption comes from renewable sources by 2020

Read more at: The Netherlands still trailing behind on EU renewable energy targets - DutchNews.nl

EU Millitary Forces: Germany wants UK military ′as close as possible′ after Brexit

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told DW that Europe would welcome continued military cooperation with the UK after Brexit. She shared the Munich Security Conference podium with her British counterpart.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen on Friday told DW that Europe was working on ways to continue defense cooperation with the United Kingdom in the event of Brexit.

"We are working on a regulation — the so-called third-state regulation — that gives access to countries like our British friends, which we want to have in our European Defense Union," von der Leyen said. "This is the goal to have our British friends as close as possible."

Von der Leyen was speaking after she opened the Munich Security Conference alongside British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson. During his speech, Williamson urged Germany to continue military cooperation at a European level outside of NATO and the EU.

Read more: Germany wants UK military ′as close as possible′ after Brexit | News | DW | 15.02.2019

Trade agreements: what the EU is working on

The EU negotiates various trade deals all over the world, but they depend on approval by the European Parliament. Read our overview of the negotiations in progress.

On 13 February, MEPs voted in favour of EU-Singapore trade and investment protection deals, which will eliminate nearly all tariffs within five years. This comes only two months after MEPs approved a major trade agreement and a strategic partnership with Japan.

Trade agreements are very important to the EU as they are a key driver of economic growth. In 2015 the EU was the world's biggest exporter and importer of goods and services, covering 32.15% of the global trade, ahead of the US (12.01%) and China (10.68%). New trade agreements create new business opportunities for European companies, leading to more jobs being created, while consumers can look forward to more choice and lower prices.

There are concerns that trade agreements can lead to job losses in some sectors due to the increased competition, but these deals always create more jobs than they destroy. Another concern is that they could lead to high quality standards for products such as food being watered down. However, as the EU represents such a large market, it is in a good position to impose its standards on foreign companies. For MEPs, quality standards are always a red line in trade agreements and any attempt to lower them could be a reason for them to reject them. In addition EU negotiators often include clauses regarding human rights and labour rights in trade agreements to help improve the situation in the country we are trading with.

Read more: Trade agreements: what the EU is working on | News | European Parliament

USA: Trump declares himself dictator with National Emergency announcement

National emergency: Trump's 'clear abuse of power' faces torrent of lawsuits

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The End Times: What are the biggest threats to humanity?

What are the biggest threats to humanity?
 
Yes Donald Trump could also be one of the causes, however there are also quite a few more.

US - EU tensions over Iran overshadow Warsaw Mideast Summit

US-Europe tensions over Iran overshadow Warsaw Mideast summit Foreign ministers and senior officials from 60 nations gathered in the Polish capital Warsaw Wednesday where the United States hopes to ratchet up pressure on Iran despite concerns among major European countries about heightened tensions with Tehran.


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USA - Gun Control: One year ago Parkland shooting: shame on you Mr. Trump and the US political establishment, scandalous, isn't serious Gun Control worth a national emergency - by RM

One Year ago: In Memory of the Parkland Massacre
Today the narcissist US President is calling for a national emergency to build a totally unnecessary wall, even though.some 40.000 people were killed by gunfire during the past year in America. More than in all other industrialized countries in the world combined.

 Isn't that worth a call for a national emergency instead of one for a border wall ? 

Come on America, putting armed guards in schools is not the answer. Neither is allowing the sale of military automatic weapons, or not presenting proper legislation to stop these massacres.

Organizations like the NRA, and all those politicians who are on the take from them, should be ashamed.

They not only have the blood of those innocent human beings killed in the Parkland shooting on their hands, but also the thousands of people who die every year by gunfire in America. Scandalous, there is no excuse for this.