Tag Archives: Thomson Reuters Foundation

US-EU RIFT GETS WORSE

Hello everybody,

The election dominates US news.   There are many conflicting reports.

In Michigan, polls show Trump losing to every prominent Democratic candidate.   Yet, at the same time, his rallies (and those for VP Mike Pence) attract audiences too big to be accommodated.

And note the following report from the Munich Security Conference (read article “Munich Security Conference,” further down).  “Europeans widely expect Trump to be re-elected this fall.”

Meanwhile, the Democratic debate held last night in South Carolina, shows the party tearing itself apart.   Amy Klobuchar said it best:   “If we continue to tear each other apart over the next four months, we will see Trump continue to tear the country apart for the next four years.”  Another House Democrat described the seven Democrats on stage as a “circular firing squad.”   They should remember the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 12:25 — “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” words quoted by Abraham Lincoln on the eve of the Civil War.  With Trump so universally “hated,” it’s incredible the Democrats can’t come up with a winning candidate!

The second issue that dominates the news is the coronavirus.  Hopefully, this will not have the death toll of the various plagues that hit the world during the Middle Ages.   Justinian’s “flea” (probably bubonic plague) killed a manageable 5,000 a day in the first month; then 10,000 a day.   The population was greatly diminished.   As with the coronavirus, it was spread through trade and international travel.   It was the same in the 14th century, 800 years later, when the plague hit Europe again.  The death toll was a staggering 50% of the people.  Just over a century ago, the Spanish flu infected 500 million people worldwide, about one third of the world’s population.   It killed an estimated 20-50 million, including some 675,000 Americans.

We will get through it, but it may kill millions before it’s over.

One final thought on the election:   At least two of the candidates for the Democratic party claim to be Christians.   Voters, however, should be careful here.   All seven of the people appearing last night support a woman’s right to murder her baby!  (To be fair, so do some Republicans.)

Have a great week.

Melvin   

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Very early this morning, I came across a show on PBS World called “Gzero World”, with Ian Bremmer. Today they were reporting from the Munich Security Conference on world security issues.  The first four items come from their website.

US-EU RIFT GETS WORSE

The risk of a major technology blow-up between the US and Europe is growing.   A few weeks ago, we wrote about how the European Union wanted to boost its “technological sovereignty” by tightening its oversight of Big Tech and promoting its own alternatives to big US and Chinese firms in areas like cloud computing and artificial intelligence.

Last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her top digital officials unveiled their first concrete proposals for regulating AI, and pledged to invest billions of euros to turn Europe into a data superpower.    (Gzero World, 2/25/2020)

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Communal violence in Delhi:   Over the past few days, India’s capital city has seen its deadliest communal violence in decades.  This week’s surge in mob violence began as a standoff between protesters against a new citizenship law that critics say discriminates against India’s Muslims and the law’s Hindu nationalist defenders.   Clashes between Hindu and Muslim mobs in majority-Muslim neighborhoods in northeast Delhi have killed at least 11 people, both Muslim and Hindu, since Sunday.   We’re watching to see how Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government responds – Delhi’s police force reports to federal, rather than local, officials.(Gzero World, 2/25/2020)

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Unlikely jihadist bedfellows:   For years, the jihadists of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have been at odds over territory and ideology. Bloody clashes between offshoots of the two groups have become commonplace in Yemen and Syria, further destabilizing those war-torn countries.   But now, strangely, ISIS and al-Qaeda linked groups appear to have joined forces in West Africa, recruiting locals and divvying up vast swathes of territory in the Sahel – a semi-arid area stretching across the southern edge of the Sahara Desert.  Motivated by mutual practical interests and common foes – Western forces and local governments – they’ve set aside their doctrinal differences and are gaining ground in states with weak central governments like Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, the US military recently said.  This all comes as the Trump administration is weighing a sizable drawdown of US troops in West Africa.  (Gzero World, 2/25/2020)

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US-China tit-for-tat retaliations:   The Trump administration is weighing up retribution against Chinese journalists and state-owned media – as well as Chinese intelligence agencies – after Beijing expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters last week over an opinion column that criticized Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus.  The Chinese Foreign Ministry, incensed by the “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia” headline, demanded an apology from the Journal before booting three of its reporters, none of whom had anything to do with the column.   If the US responds in kind, it could lead to a cycle of tit-for-tat retribution and animosity between Washington and Beijing just as a preliminary trade agreement appears to have eased mounting tensions between the world’s two largest economies.   We’re watching to see if the Trump administration follows through on its threat – or if it’s just bluster.  (Gzero World, 2/25/2020)

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MUNICH SECURITY CONFERENCE

The annual gathering of the Munich Security Conference provides a useful barometer for the health of the transatlantic relationship. Two years ago, Europeans were reeling from the first year of the Trump administration.   Last year, they were resigned to that reality and determined to press ahead.  This past weekend, everyone was searching for a savior to address critical challenges amid a lack of global leadership.

Europeans widely expect Trump to be re-elected this fall.   After their shock at his 2016 victory, they seem to be bracing for the worst, but remain unprepared for the consequences.   They inquired about Democratic presidential candidates, asking what Bernie Sanders would mean for Europe and whether Michael Bloomberg was a good compromise for moderates.  (Amanda Sloat, Brookings, 2/18/2020)

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TRUMP EMBRACED BY ENTHUSIASTIC INDIANS

“It was the Trumpiest of offers.

“A rally at one of the world’s largest stadiums.   A crowd of millions cheering him on.   A love fest during an election year.”   (Lansing State Journal, 2/24/2020).

The stadium is the world’s biggest cricket stadium.  I wonder if President Trump was aware that cricket was the preferred sport of fellow Republican, Abraham Lincoln?

An incredible welcome from the world’s second most populous nation.  President Trump is hoping for a trade deal with India.

Sadly, it coincided with massive demonstrations against a new Indian immigration bill, which discriminates against Muslims.  At least twenty people have been killed.

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ISRAEL NOW RECOGNIZED BY 161 COUNTRIES

161 countries now have diplomatic relations with Israel, which is the highest number that it has ever been for the Jewish state.  Increasingly, the community of nations cares less about Palestinian objections and more about what Israel has to offer.   (Israel National News, 2/24/2020)

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NEVER ENDING SYRIAN CONFLICT

At a four-way summit with the leaders of Russia, Turkey and France, Angela Merkel will seek to influence the future of the northern Syrian province Idlib.  The summit, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on the weekend is to be held next week.  It will explore options for ending the fighting in the province, where, over the past few weeks, Syrian troops have been advancing on militias.  Usually referred to as “rebels” in the German media, they are, in fact, dominated by an al Qaeda subsidiary.  The combat has deepened dissention between Russia and Turkey on how to go forward in Syria, raising new hopes among western powers for driving a wedge between Ankara and Moscow.   Prior to the summit, however, specialists are pointing out that Berlin hardly has any options for exerting influence in Syria.  The EU sees the overthrow of the government in Damascus as the precondition for granting desperately needed reconstruction aid.    (German Foreign Policy, 2/25/2020)

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MACRON VOWS CRACKDOWN ON POLITICAL ISLAM

“The problem is when, in the name of a religion, some people want to separate themselves from the Republic and therefore not respect its laws.” — French President Emmanuel Macron, February 18, 2020.   (Soeren Kern, Gatestone, 2/21/2020)

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SWEDISH MIGRANT CRISIS

“For the first time now, more crimes – in absolute terms – are committed by persons of foreign background than by persons of Swedish origin . . .   The most crime-prone population subgroup are people born [in Sweden] to two foreign-born parents.” — Report by Det Goda Samhället (“The Good Society”), summer of 2019. (Judith Bergman, Gatestone, 2/26)

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UK GROOMING GANGS TO REMAIN A SECRET

DAILYKENN.com — It’s a state secret.  No one is to know the ethnicity of grooming gang members.  The thugs are responsible for trafficking nearly 19,000 British girls in one year.

Who are these people?  No one knows because  Boris Johnson’s government won’t release statistics that reveal their ethnicity.

The truth is, of course, that the government doesn’t need to release the data because everyone knows the preponderance of the gang members are from non-white Islamic regions of the world.  Nearly all are ethnic Pakistanis.

It’s akin to the n-word.  No one dares say it, but everyone knows what it means.   Authorities said that releasing the data would not be in the public interest.

Survivors accused ministers of making “empty promises,” while a man who prosecuted abusers in Rochdale called for the Home Office to “show some courage and publish” its findings.

It comes after The Independent revealed that almost 19,000 suspected child sexual exploitation victims were identified by local authorities in just one year, sparking renewed calls for prevention efforts.   (Daily Kenn, 2/25/2020)

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GAY CONVERSION THERAPY BANNED IN MORE COUNTRIES

Global momentum is growing to ban so-called gay “conversion therapy,” with bills drawn up in nine countries, a rights group said on Wednesday.

The United States, Canada, Chile, Mexico and Germany are among countries seeking to outlaw the treatment, which includes practices from electric shocks to “praying away the gay” and is based on the belief that being gay or transgender is a mental illness that can be “cured,” Ilga, an LGBT+ advocacy group, said.

Worldwide, only Brazil, Ecuador and Malta have national bans on conversion therapy, condemned as ineffective and harmful to mental health by more than 60 associations of doctors, psychologists or counsellors globally, the Ilga study said.

“The main driving force [for reform] is survivors with their testimonies coming forwards,” Lucas Ramon Mendos, author of the Ilga report, which said 2020 could be a turning point in the fight against “therapies” that have ruined many lives.

“A lot of awareness is being created through their testimony,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.   (Rachel Savage, Independent, 2/26/2020)

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TO THE POINT

  • A headline in our local newspaper, the Lansing State Journal, appeared Monday.   It read: ‘White supremacy seeps into public, experts warn.”   It added:   “Incidents show startling jump over the past year.”   The article went on to show that violence emanating from “white supremacist groups” is increasing and is expected to grow further in the years ahead.   There is no excuse for violence.  But surely this is a reaction to the massive immigration of recent years and the constant emphasis on multiculturalism.   Until both change, there will be a constant threat from the political “right.”  It’s a reaction to the “extreme left.”
  • There’s a plan in Michigan to expand the options offered on payday loans.  These “short term, high cost financial products,” have trapped millions of families into a never ending “costly and potentially catastrophic cycle of debt.”  (David Snodgrass,  Lansing State Journal, 2/20/2020).   The bill “would allow lenders to charge a monthly service fee of 11% on the principal of a loan, equivalent to an APR of around 132%.   In practical terms, this means a borrower would end up paying more than $7,000 to pay off a $2,500 two-year loan.”   Heed the following biblical advice:  “If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.  Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you.” (Lev. 25:35-36)
  • I went to a concert on Monday evening.   The Academy of St Martin in the Fields played Brahms Symphony Number 4, along with a violin concerto by Paganini and a short piece by Mozart.  It was a delightful and relaxing evening with good friends.
  • Also relaxing (and gripping) is my latest “read:”   “The Race to save the Romanovs” by Helen Rappaport was published in 2018.  After the Russian revolution in 1917 the Romanov family were under house arrest.   When the communists came to power later in the year, their situation deteriorated fast.   Many people wanted to save them and their five young children, but no attempt got very far; eventually, they were all brutally murdered.   The Bolsheviks were, if nothing else, thorough – killing all their opponents for over seventy years!   The deaths of the children were particularly reprehensible.   Today’s Russians have tried to make amends by canonizing each member of the Imperial Family.  28% of Russians polled said they would like to see the monarchy restored.   But how do you restore it when you killed everybody off?    (Interestingly, 28% is roughly the support US presidents get; when you consider that only 54.9% bothered to vote in the last election.)    Maurice Paleologue was the French Ambassador to Russia at the time of the revolution.   He said the only man who could have saved them was Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.   The Russians had been fighting the Germans, along with the British and the French.  The Kaiser helped Lenin get to Russia and, when he assumed power, entered into a peace deal with him, so that Russia could leave the war.    The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk of 1918 could have (should have) included a clause freeing the Czar and his family.   Wilhelm was related to the Russian Imperial Family.  He particularly loved the children.   Why didn’t he save them?

SLAVERY NOT A CRIME

Overview of domestic legislation prohibiting human exploitation.  Many of the 193 U.N. member states have not gone on to explicitly criminalise slavery and other exploitation.  Researchers noted that almost all countries had some form of domestic anti-trafficking legislation in place.   Image: Katarina Schwarz and Jean Allain

Slavery is not a crime for almost half the countries in the world.  Although laws allowing slavery have been scrapped worldwide, many of the 193 U.N. member states have not gone on to explicitly criminalise slavery.                                                                                                                                     by Sonia Elks | @SoniaElks | Thomson Reuters Foundation, 12 Feb 2020

“Slavery is far from being illegal everywhere and we hope our research will move the conversation beyond this popular myth,” said Katarina Schwarz, a researcher at the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab, which led work on the slavery database.

“It will surprise many people to learn that in all of these countries there are no criminal laws in place to prosecute, convict and punish people for subjecting people to the most extreme forms of exploitation.”   More than 40 million people are held in modern slavery, which includes forced labor and forced marriage, according to estimates by the International Labour Organization and the anti-slavery group the Walk Free Foundation.

There is no criminal law against slavery in 94 countries – almost half of U.N. states – said researchers at Rights Lab, which reviewed the study’s findings with the Castan Centre for Human Rights at Monash University in Australia.   It found almost two thirds of countries apparently failed to criminalize any of the main four practices associated with slavery – serfdom, debt bondage, forced marriage, and child trafficking – except in the context of human trafficking.

“Slavery in its nature looks to exploit people who fall slightly outside the rule of law,” Jakub Sobik, a spokesman for the charity Anti-Slavery International told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.  “There is a need for wide-ranging policies that address the wider context and systemic reasons why people are made vulnerable to being tricked and trapped and controlled by another person.”  (http://news.trust.org/item/20200212132545-vdpzu)

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GM PULLS OUT OF AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND, THAILAND

General Motors has been in Australia since 1856 when it first sold saddles to Australians.   In the 1960’s and 70’s they produced Holden cars, a popular brand that really caught on.  Now, they are selling up and moving out.   The big benefactor?

China.

It’s symbolic of what’s happening to American capitalism.  The US is losing out to competitors, especially the Chinese.

And it’s not just cars.   In the same week, President Duterte of the Philippines tore up the defense treaty with the US, preferring Beijing over Washington.   One reason may be Duterte’s stance on human rights, which has led to criticism from Americans.   China doesn’t care about human rights.

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CORONAVIRUS “MADE IN CHINA”

The Chinese Communist Party calls it “discourse management.”  It’s more than mere censorship and bigger than propaganda.   And Beijing is pretty good at it.   The party uses it to control its own people, but also to manage foreign governments.

Take the new coronavirus, for instance.   It may be a made-in-China global pandemic, and China might have bungled its handling of it, but that’s somehow irrelevant and China’s government says it’s “unhappy” with Australia.   Come again?

The outbreak is classified by the World Health Organization as a global health emergency.   It was created in China, of course.   The consensus among virologists is that the likely cause was the Chinese authorities’ persistent tolerance of unsafe animal and food handling practices.

After the 2003 outbreak of a novel coronavirus, the SARS epidemic, the Chinese government banned all trade in wild animals.  Once the crisis had passed, the authorities relaxed the ban, announcing 54 types of exemption.   In other words, it was going to happen again one day.   Then, once this outbreak was discovered, the Chinese authorities seriously mismanaged it.   This is now the subject of frenetic blame-shifting inside China.

When the first cases started turning up in the city of Wuhan in mid-December, two weeks before the official disclosure on December 31 that there was a new virus, sick people were turned away from local hospitals and sent home to infect other people and die.  The hospitals were told to report “zero infections.”

Why?   Because an important meeting of provincial and city officials was under way in Wuhan and only good news was permitted.   The cover-ups and delays were “reprehensible” according to an eminent Australian virologist, John Mackenzie.      (Peter Hartcher, Sydney Morning Herald, 2/18/2020)

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GOG AND MAGOG  — COULD RUSSIA ATTACK ISRAEL?

Russia’s ambassador to Syria this week issued what some saw as a veiled threat should Israel continue bombing Iranian assets in the war-torn country.

On February 6, an aerial attack on a target near Damascus killed 20 Syrian and Iranian military officials.   It also caused Syrian air defenses to inadvertently fire on an airplane carrying 172 passengers.   The plane managed to safely land at a nearby airport.

Israel Defense Minister Naftali Bennett later hinted that the attack was just another in a long series of Israeli strikes against Iranian assets that are admittedly in Syria for the purpose of threatening the Jewish state.

But Russian Ambassador Alexander Yefimov wasn’t interested in Israeli justifications.

In an interview with Sputnik Arabic, Yefimov called the Israeli raids “provocative and very dangerous.”   He further cautioned that “this increases the possibility of conflict over Syria.”

Since Syria is already in conflict, his warning was taken to mean that the ongoing Israeli raids could eventually result in an armed clash between the Jewish state and Russian forces in the region.

Israeli political and military officials have never been shy about referencing the biblical “War of Gog and Magog.”   It’s something they believe is going to happen.  (Israel Today, 2/17)

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GERMAN CRITICISM OF US BREAKING INTERNATIONAL LAW

In reference to the US drone-murder of Iran’s General Qassem Suleimani, German government advisors are warning against a growing number of violations of international law by the United States.   For years, “the foreign policy of the Trump administration has demonstrated that it has been a particular strain on international law,” observes an analysis published by Berlin’s German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP).  Suleimani’s murder suggests that Washington is now beginning to extend its “war on terror” tactics, that had already become common-place under President Barack Obama – such as drone-murders – to leading representatives of foreign nations, it considers to be “a threat.”  In the future, “state representatives should fear for their lives, when they travel outside their country,” because “the consequences for international diplomacy are hardly predictable.”  The SWP advises the German government to take a clear stand.  Of course, in its attempts to implement its globalist policies over the past few decades, Berlin, too, has repeatedly violated international law, often as an accomplice of the USA.    (German Foreign Policy, 1/28)

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Watch Israel’s new laser weapon shoot drones out of sky                   by Yaron Steinbuch, 12 Feb 2020

An Israeli drone defense system fit for “Star Wars” has shot down multiple maneuvering targets with a high-powered laser beam, according to reports.   “The system achieved 100 percent success in all test scenarios,” defense technology company Rafael said in a statement about its Drone Dome C-UAS, or Counter-Unmanned Aerial System, the Times of Israel reported.   “The stages of the interception included target detection, identification and interception” with the laser beam, it said in a video of a recent demo of the system.   In the footage, a vehicle-mounted system is shown engaging the targets, including zigzagging drones.   In one test, three drones flying in formation were downed in rapid succession.  “Drone Dome is designed to address threats posed by hostile drones both in military and civilian sites,” Rafael said.

Drone Dome refers to a package that includes a search radar, drone radio command detector, an electro-optical sensor, and command-and-control system, according to Popular Mechanics.  The system can detect objects as small as 0.021 square feet at 2.1 miles.  Once detected, it locks onto the drone, keeping it in its cross hairs as it maneuvers in any direction.   When the laser is blasted, it melts away the drone’s plastic housing and destroys its electronics, sending it to the ground.     (https://nypost.com/2020/02/12/watch-israels-wild-new-laser-weapon-shoot-drones-out-of-sky/)

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 Munich Security Conference:  France’s Macron envisions new era of European strength                                                                                                  The French president projected a vision of a Europe with new military power at the Munich Security Conference.   As the only nuclear power in the EU, he also foresaw greater European sovereignty.

“We cannot always go through the United States, no, we have to think in a European way as well,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on stage at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) on Saturday as he continued a theme of his presidency: projecting bold European sovereignty onto the international stage.

He was referring specifically to Europe’s nuclear assets, pointing out a key difference to the Cold War era when Europe’s nuclear shield was primarily coordinated by the US.   “Now we have to be able to say clearly that if we want a sovereign Europe, if we want to protect our citizens, then we do need to look at that aspect, also with a view to Germany,” he said.   To show his commitment, Macron has already invited Germany to take part in a strategic dialogue over France’s nuclear weapon policy.

The UK’s exit from the European Union has shifted added responsibility onto France.   Though the UK and France are of course still NATO partners, along with the US and Germany, France is now the only nuclear power in the EU, which leaves the Paris government balancing its nuclear defense strategy between, as Macron put it, “the ambitions of NATO and Europe.” (Deutsche Welle, 15 Feb, 2020)  (– Extract from:  (https://www.dw.com/en/munich-security-conference-frances-macron-envisions-new-era-of-european-strength/a-52389586)

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Munich Security Conference:   African leaders absent from Sahel talks
Germany and other world powers meeting in Munich raised concerns about the deteriorating security situation in the Sahel region.  But African heads of state who had been invited were conspicuously absent.

Not a single head of state from the continent attended, despite the growing threat of terrorism and the armed conflicts tearing it apart.

A report by Save the Children, published as world leaders convened in Munich, Germany, said at least 95,000 children had been killed or maimed across the world since 2005.  Tens of thousands were abducted and millions were denied access to education.

Germany makes a case for the Sahel:   In the absence of African leaders, to bring the matter to the table, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer called for an increased effort in the fight against Islamists in Africa.   “The Sahel is a key region for Europe, for example, when it comes to migration or the threat of terrorism,” she said, adding:   “That is why it is so important that Germany remains committed there, militarily as well.”  Kramp-Karrenbauer’s statement was encouraging to the Central African Republic’s defense minister, Marie-Noelle Koyara.   “I take this opportunity to thank the German government for making such a wise decision,” the CAR defense minister told DW.

African children were the worst affected, according to Save the Children.   Some 170 million across Africa and the Middle East are living in war zones.  “You will see that most of the violent conflicts do not feature,” Dan Smith, director of SIPRI, an international think tank dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control, and disarmament, told DW.

Smith is disappointed the international community is not paying attention to the crisis unfolding in Africa.

“They (Africans) are not part of the thinking of the security community that is gathered here,” Smith adds.  “That doesn’t mean that this community’s concerns are irrelevant, but they’re not focused on the Sahel; they are not focused on the Horn of Africa.”(https://www.dw.com/en/munich-security-conference-african-leaders-absent-from-sahel-talks/a-52398078)

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 EU’s Franco-German axis will stutter without the Brits, says Vestager
“I think we will see a new dynamic in the union, but it will take some time before we fully recover,” the EU competition and digital chief said.            by Simon Van Dorpe, Politico.eu, 30 Jan 2020

France and Germany will struggle to drive the EU without the British “energy” that helped Paris and Berlin work together, EU competition and digital chief Margrethe Vestager said today.  “One of the things we will be missing is of course the energy.   Because we have a French-German axis – but part of the energy to make that axis work comes from, came from, the U.K.,” Vestager said when asked what she would miss about Britain.    Vestager said that other member countries, “maybe changing coalitions of member states,” would have to step into that void.  “I think we will see a new dynamic in the union, but it will take some time before we fully recover,” she said. Vestager attended the Brexit vote in the parliament on Wednesday, which she said was “really touching because you see it is real.”  Vestager also said she would miss the sense of humor of the Brits, which she said was similar to the Danish.

“I was very close to [former U.K. Commissioner] Jonathan Hill; I was sitting next to [Hill’s successor] Julian King when he was the Commissioner here and I miss them, because they come with a U.K. culture,” she said.   She told an anecdote of how she struggled to communicate in English at the start of her first mandate and when she asked Hill if he didn’t find it exhausting how the other commissioners treated his language, he said: “Of course not, I’m so honored that you’re all trying.”
(https://www.politico.eu/article/eus-franco-german-axis-will-stutter-without-the-brits-says-vestager/)

Brexit punches 12-bln-euro hole in EU finances
by Agence France-Presse, 30 Jan, 2020

Brussels – When Britain leaves the European Union at midnight on Friday the bloc will lose the second-biggest net contributor to its budget, leaving a 12-billion-euro ($13-billion) hole in its finances.  The United Kingdom will continue making budget contributions this year under an agreed post-Brexit transition period.   But from 2021 Europe will have to look elsewhere.  This further complicates an already fraught debate between the remaining member states over the EU’s 2021-2027 long-term budget, called the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).   The European Commission has had a proposed MFF on the table since May 2018, and its new president Ursula von der Leyen is keen to get it approved soon.   But a so-called “Frugal Five” of wealthy mainly northern countries — Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden — are seeking to limit EU expenditure.   And a rival “Friends of Cohesion” group of 16 eastern and Mediterranean countries wants to defend the budget rules.

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Frustrated by liberal policies, some Oregon residents petitioned to leave the state – by moving the border with Idaho westward.

The movement secured initial approval from two counties and aims to get enough signatures to put the proposal on ballots in November, according to the group called Greater Idaho.  If the group succeeds, voters in southeast Oregon may see a question on whether their county should become part of Idaho by redrawing the border.   “Rural counties have become increasingly outraged by laws coming out of the Oregon Legislature that threaten our livelihoods, our industries, our wallet, our gun rights, and our values,” Mike McCarter, one of the chief petitioners, said in a news release. “We tried voting those legislators out, but rural Oregon is outnumbered and our voices are now ignored.  This is our last resort.” (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/02/17/oregon-idaho-border-petition-secede/4789936002/)

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TO THE POINT

  • After a five-month delay, Afghanistan’s electoral commission named Ashraf Ghani as the winner of the country’s presidential election.   The result was delayed after supporters of Mr. Ghani’s leading challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, accused the commission of bias and threatened to form a parallel government.  The victory gives Mr. Ghani a second five-year term as president.  (The Economist 2/19/2020)
  • Three of Britain’s remaining overseas territories are under constant threat from Spain (Gibraltar), Argentina (Falkland Islands) and Mauritius (Diego Garcia, home of a big US naval base in the Indian Ocean).   Vladimir Putin, soon to be proclaimed dictator of Russia, has given his support to Argentina’s claim on the Falklands.   At one time, the three territories would have had nothing to fear as they would have been protected by the Royal Navy.   Not any more – Italy’s navy is now bigger than Britain’s.  Quite a comedown for what was the world’s greatest navy before World War II.   The navy is not even going to be big enough to stop Europeans fishing in British waters, post-Brexit.
  • The British government announced the first details of its post-Brexit plans for immigration policy.  It promised that there would be no more visas for low-skilled workers and no freedom of movement between Britain and the rest of the European Union.  Visa applications will instead be judged on a “points-based” immigration system.  (The Economist 2/19/2020)
  • German man leaves €7 million fortune to far-right AfDAn engineer who died in 2018 has donated his entire estate of gold, property and patents  to the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. The endowment is one of the largest ever given to a German political party.
  • A locust plague which has now reached coronavirus-struck China may be the “fifth trumpet” prophesied in the Book of Revelation, according to wild claims.  (https://www.express.co.uk/news/weird/1243557/locast-swarm-china-coronavirus-book-revelation-seventh-seal-trumpet-jesus-christ-god-)