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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Kazakhstan: EXPO-2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan, is worth a visit

Kazakhsta Capital Astana is a modern and friendly city
After a build-up lasting five years, Kazakhstan has finally opened EXPO-2017. If you’re in Astana between now and mid-September when it closes, you should go.

It might feel excessively corporate and you’ll probably come out of the EXPO-2017 site none-the-wiser on what exactly its Orwellian-tinged ‘Future Energy’ means, but don’t dwell on this — it’s not the real point of the exposition.

In reality it is putting Kazakhsta on the map for many people and they will be very positively surprised.

EXPO-2017 is a source of national pride and a must-do event for most ordinary Kazakhs this summer, at least for the ones who live in and around Astana.

And this pride and sense of fun is evident throughout EXPO-2017. The dozens and dozens of uniformed guides are courteous, speak excellent English and are genuinely helpful. The student volunteers beam with joy and are relishing the internationalism of the whole event.

As for the visitors, at the beginning of the expo it must have been 95% Kazakh. These were groups of families and friends touring the pavilion, drinking in each country’s take on EXPO-2017. This ranges from Britain’s glowing yurt to Iran’s focus on promoting its carpets.

The visiting Kazakhs, armed with selfie sticks and aging smartphones, weren’t the super rich who travel effortlessly around the world, these were Kazakhs who may never have left Central Asia, or been on a solitary trip to Europe. EXPO-2017 feels as if it has returned the international exposition series to its original mid-19th century Victorian era roots of bringing the world to a particular city.

And make sure you don’t miss out on the Caribbean pavilion, the least scripted section. The women from Belize, Haiti and Dominica will tell you how they are coping with four months in Kazakhstan, a country they hadn’t heard of until earlier this year.

Many Airlines are flying into  Kazakhstan with some special fares of less than euro 100.00 rt.. including:
Lufthansa flightsUkraine International flightsPegasus Airlines flights
Aeroflot flightsEtihad Airways flightsTurkmenistan Airlines flights
Air France flightsAir India flightsHainan Airlines flights
S7 Airlines flightsAtlasglobal flightsUzbekistan Airways flights



Friday, August 18, 2017

EU: Exports and low unemployment fuel rapid growth in central Europe - by James Shotter

Central Europe’s economies have continued their rapid expansion, outpacing their peers in western Europe as rock bottom interest rates and record low unemployment fuel consumer spending.

With the eurozone’s recovery also pushing up exports from the region, Romania’s economy grew at the fastest annual rate in the EU in the second quarter.

The Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary also reported strong growth, according to preliminary data on Wednesday.

Romania grew by 5.7 per cent year on year in the second quarter. The Czech Republic grew by 4.5 per cent, Poland by 4.4 per cent, Hungary by 3.6 per cent and Slovakia by 3.1 per cent. The EU grew by 2.3 per cent.

Read more: Exports and low unemployment fuel rapid growth in central Europe

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Spain -Terrorism: Barcelona attack: Van crashes into crowds in Ramblas tourist area

Deranged Radical Islamist Terrorists
A van has ploughed into crowds in the busy Las Ramblas area of central Barcelona in what police are treating as a “terror attack”.

A government official tweeted that 13 people have died and at least 50 have been injured.

Spanish police released a handout with information about and a photograph of Maghrebi Driss Oukabir, who is suspected of renting the van used to run down pedestrians in Las Ramblas.

The self-titled Islamic State group (ISIL) claimed responsibility for the deadly attack through its Amaq news agency.

"Once again a cowardly attack on innocent people by a deranged group of radial Islamist terrorists, whose territory of their self proclaimed "Islamic State" is crumbling away at an ever increasing speed".  

"To stay updated on terrorist movements{ check out the SITE Intelligence Group Website ". 

"SITE Intelligence Group is a for-profit US Bethesda, Maryland-based company that tracks online activity of white supremacist and jihadist organizations. From 2002 to 2008, SITE Intelligence Group was known as the Search for International Terrorist Entities (SITE) Institute. SITE is led by the Israeli analyst Rita Katz".

"On a personal basis, in case you see any suspect activities in your area or neighborhood, immediately contact your local police or security agency"..

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Britain: Former UK cabinet aid calls for new party to oppose Brexit

The former chief of staff to Britain’s Secretary of State for Exiting the EU has claimed that two serving cabinet ministers are interested in his idea of forming a new centrist ‘anti-Brexit’ party.

James Chapman, a former aide to David Davis and ex-Chancellor George Osborne, has told the BBC Brexit would be a ‘calamity’ as he stepped up his online campaign for a proposed ‘Democrat’ party, saying Britain’s impending departure from the bloc would spell demise for the conservative party.

Read more: Former UK cabinet aid calls for new party to oppose Brexit | Euronews

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Global Economy: The New World Order Is Leaving the U.S. Behind - by James Gibney

Of all the global consequences of President Donald Trump’s first half-year, surely one of the most surprising is the rise in multilateral diplomacy.

After all, this is the guy who came into office pledging to put America First. He downgraded the security guarantees of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to a definite maybe -- and only if its members ponied up more defense dollars. The Iran nuclear pact was “the worst deal ever,” and the Paris accord on climate change wasn’t much better. The Trans-Pacific Partnership was dead on arrival. Japan and South Korea’s free-riding days were over. The North American Free Trade Agreement was toast. The U.S. would ignore the rules of the World Trade Organization. And from its proposed cuts in foreign aid and United Nations peacekeeping to the empty offices and embassies of the State Department, the Trump administration has made clear how little it thinks of soft power and diplomacy.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the disintegration of the international liberal order. It’s started to reconstitute itself -- only not with the U.S. at its center. Unfortunately, that has less to do with a realization among our allies and partners that the burden must be more equitably shared than with the increasing recognition that Trump is not, as some U.S. diplomats liked to say about third world dictators during the Cold War, “someone we can do business with.”

That sentiment found its most trenchant expression in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s declaration, following Trump’s May trip to Europe, that the continent “must really take our fate into our own hands.” The net result of the Trump administration’s antipathy to free trade and cooperation on climate change and refugee resettlement was a united front against the U.S. at both the Group of Seven and Group of 20 meetings.

Jilted by the U.S., the other 11 members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership are moving ahead on their own. Canada and Mexico are working together more closely than ever to save Nafta. Asian nations are hedging their bets between the U.S. and China. Trump’s tough talk on Mexico has prompted it to reach out to its hemispheric rival Brazil on defense cooperation.

In conclusion: But even bilateral agreements require a degree of discipline and coordination that Trump has yet to display. For now, Trump’s reflexive trashing of President Barack Obama’s policy choices without offering any coherent alternatives has left the U.S. on awkward ground. It’s one thing for other countries to fill a diplomatic vacuum created by a gradual U.S. withdrawal; it’s another for them to do so in the wake of a scorched-earth retreat. If and when the U.S. recovers its strategic senses, it might find itself reduced to occupying a much less attractive seat at the multilateral table.

Read more: The New World Order Is Leaving the U.S. Behind - Bloomberg

Monday, August 14, 2017

Turkey’s economy: The next casualty of Erdoğan’s state of emergency – by Aykan Erdemir

For the past year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has exploited his country’s state of emergency to rule by decree, purging government ranks, imprisoning political dissenters and crushing independent media. But for all the attention paid to Turkey’s slippage in democratic norms, critics have largely ignored the heavy toll his brand of authoritarianism has taken on the country’s economy. The effects could be disastrous for Turkey’s future.

When Erdoğan first became prime minister in 2003, he inherited a struggling economy with a long list of structural problems. His greatest achievement during the first half of his 15-year tenure at the pinnacle of political power was to stick to a reform plan devised by the World Bank’s former Vice President Kemal Derviş and reorient Turkey’s foreign policy toward trade diplomacy.

But as he has consolidated power, he has become both more self-confident and more corrupt, replacing his original reform agenda with cronyism, nepotism and graft. Unless he ends his disastrous meddling in Turkish markets, the country’s volatile economy may well become the next casualty of last year’s abortive coup.

Turkey was already suffering from slowing growth and the highest percentage of youth not in employment, education or training, and the lowest labor force participation among OECD members. Morgan Stanley branded the country as one of “the Fragile Five” — overly dependent on short-term investment to finance its gaping current account deficit.

A key challenge for Turkey’s economy has long been weak governance. In 1995, a grand coalition of center-right and center-left parties established the Economic and Social Council, a quarterly consultative body to assemble labor, public, and private sector representatives to facilitate good governance.

But Erdoğan has refused to convene the Council since 2009, despite repeated calls to do so from the opposition. Under the current state of emergency, most economic decisions no longer involve parliament deliberations. They are simply the result of arbitrary decrees.

Erdoğan, for example, transferred the government’s stakes in Turkey’s flag carrier airline, two top public lenders, and fixed-line phone operator to the country’s newly-established sovereign wealth fund — and he did this simply with a decree.

The controversial fund is neither transparent nor accountable, and it’s exempt from the oversight of the Court of Accounts, which is responsible for auditing public administrative bodies.

To make matters worse, the fund is managed by cronies, including an Erdoğan adviser who once claimed foreign powers were trying to kill the president by “telekinesis.”

Turkey’s deteriorating rule of law has also eroded private property rights. In the past year alone, the government seized 879 businesses with assets worth over $11 billion, prompting potential buyers to worry about prolonged legal battles over ownership. The appointment of party loyalists to run these firms has only aggravated cronyism and mismanagement.

Read more: Turkey’s economy: The next casualty of Erdoğan’s state of emergency – POLITICO

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Brexit: EU should welcome the UK back from Brexit like the prodigal son - by Hugo Dixon

Pro-European Brits should put their heart into stopping Brexit rather than campaigning for a soft one. Mitigating the disaster of quitting the EU is a poor consolation prize.

Staying in the EU, on the other hand, is the real jackpot — and, since Theresa May’s disastrous general election, no longer a quixotic goal.

The soft Brexit brigade may gain comfort from the position papers the government will start publishing this week. These are expected to confirm that Mrs May is looking for a transitional deal to bridge the gap between quitting the EU and nailing down a new long-term relationship with our partners.

This shift is certainly welcome. But the government remains committed to leaving the EU’s single market and customs union, so its policy will still damage our economy.

Anyone who campaigns for soft Brexit will be doing the government’s dirty work for it. And, let us be clear, it is dirty work.

The cabinet’s disarray over what sort of Brexit they want is not just down to incompetence. They are trying to solve the impossible puzzle of getting a good Brexit. If the government wants to delay the pain, it will have to continue following the EU’s rules and paying into its budget for that transitional period.

Rather than giving Mrs May a helping hand, pro-Europeans should exploit her problems in order to drive further changes in public opinion. People have lost confidence in the prime minister’s ability to negotiate a good Brexit. Before the June general election, she seemed to walk on water; now she is drowning.

We will also find ourselves marginalised on the world stage and so less able to influence things that really matter to our citizens such as fighting terrorism, combating climate change and preventing the worst side-effects of globalisation.

Read more: EU should welcome the UK back from Brexit like the prodigal son