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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

NATO under pressure from Trump will symbolically join anti-′Islamic State′ Saudi backed coalition

Several NATO sources on Wednesday said that the strategic military alliance would join the US-Saudi led coalition against the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" (IS) armed group.

The decision is expected to be formally announced on Thursday at the meeting of NATO leaders in Brussels, the sources said.

The leak was made public hours after NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg called on the alliance to do more to combat terrorism, following the suicide bomb attack at Manchester Arena that killed 22 people.

Diplomats said the decision comes under pressure from President Trump and is mainly political and symbolic, because all 28 NATO members already contribute to the coalition fighting to retake areas of Iraq and Syria from the extremist group. Some, like Germany, only taking part in support roles such as reconnaissance and logistics.

For America, the lessons of the European tragedy are there to be learned. There is only one solution to the problem of terrorism and it doesn’t involve going abroad in search of monsters to destroy.

The EU must withdraw all its troops from the Middle East – a possibility that doesn’t bear the economic consequences it once did, given the creation of new technologies that make domestic oil production and alternative energy far easier.

For the US the message is that spending billions of dollars defending and sustaining the Saudi monarchy and the Gulf states – some of the most repressive regimes in the world, is throwing money down the drain, and for what?

The interventionists( Republicans and Democrats alike) declare that America’s role as a “global leader” represents the defense of our values. But really, does a regime that beheads “infidels” represent American or European values? Indeed, there is basically no operative difference between the internal rule of the ISIS “caliphate” and the Saudi Kingdom. Yet we are obsessed with destroying the former and cuddling up to the latter.

It’s not too late for the Europeans, who were forced to sleep in a bed they did not make for themselves, to finally step out of that bed, and focus on cleaning-up the ISIS mess at home by themselves, with plans and strategies of their own. 


France: Macron′s new environment chief: Greenwashing or green leading?

Nicolas Hulot, France's most famous environmental activist, is known for making waves. As a famous television personality, he has used his television show as a platform to attack pesticides, nuclear power, and even capitalism as a whole. "Our model is not sustainable," he has declared.

Last week, France's new president Emmanuel Macron nominated Hulot, widely known for his nature documentaries, to be the country's next environment minister. It was a surprising name in a list of cabinet nominations that were mostly center-right and market-friendly.

Hulot, who supported Macron's far-left rival Jean-Luc Melenchon, has been a noted opponent of free trade deals - something Macron champions. Hulot ran unsuccessfully as a Green political candidate in 2012.

He stands in particular contrast to Macron's nominee to be prime minister, the center-right Edouard Philippe. Philippe worked as a lobbyist for French nuclear energy group Areva from 2007 to 2010.

Now, companies are scrambling to figure out whether the appointment could mean an increase in environmental regulation - and a drastic phaseout of nuclear power - or whether it is merely a political gesture.

Read more: Macron′s new environment chief: Greenwashing or green leading? | DW Environment | DW | 23.05.2017

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Alternative Energy: Germany approves onshore wind farms expansion

German authorities have approved hundreds of megawatts in additional capacity at onshore wind farms. The price at which it awarded the projects was below expectations, pointing to stronger competition.

The German Economy Ministry announced Friday it had approved 807 megawatts of capacity at onshore wind parks.

The projects were granted at an average price requiring a subsidy of 5.71 eurocents ($0.89) per kilowatt hour of power, marking a price reduction of 20 percent on previous deals.

Approval procedures had been closely watched by turbine manufacturers, project developers and utilities after recent offshore wind farm auctions included bids for zero-subsidy deals for the middle of the next decade as the industry is requested to cut costs.

Friday's auction was the first for onshore wind projects under the latest changes to the renewable feed-in tariff law in Germany accompanying the nation's transition from fossil fuels to green energy excluding nuclear.

Read more:  Germany approves onshore wind farms expansion | Business | DW | 19.05.2017

Monday, May 22, 2017

EU: MEPs welcome unity on Brexit and call for reform of the EU

MEPs welcomed the unity of the 27 Member States and the EU institutions with regard to Brexit and also called for a reform of the EU to benefit all its citizens.

The President of the European Council Donald Tusk presented to MEPs the Guidelines for Brexit negotiations agreed by the Member States at the summit on 29 April. He welcomed the alignment with the ‘red lines’ set by the European Parliament. The detailed negotiating mandate will be presented for adoption at a  Council meeting on 22nd May, pointed out the President of the Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.

In line with negotiator Michel Barnier, most MEPs emphasised the unity between the EU institutions and the 27 Member States, who are determined to act together to reach a balanced agreement with the United Kingdom.

The debated focused on the basis for future negotiations, as recalled by Michel Barnier:

  • no negotiations on the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom can take place before “tangible progress” on the exit agreement is made,
  • guaranteeing the rights of European citizens affected by the UK’s decision to leave the EU,
  • the Northern Ireland peace process must be upheld (including the absence of physical border between Ireland and Northern Ireland),
  • the United Kingdom must respect all the financial commitments made as a Member State.
    MEPs underlined the importance of unity and trust so that, in parallel to negotiations being carried out for an ‘orderly withdrawal’ of the UK, the reform of the Union can take place to rapidly respond to citizens’ concerns and make the benefits of European integration much more visible. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

EU Trading Practises: Trust in EU trade policy boosted by court decision – by Christofer Fjellner

European trade policy has been in limbo for a couple of years. The big question everyone has been asking is whether modern free trade agreements can be ratified by the European Union at all. If a modern agreement must be ratified by national parliaments, no one knows if it will finally be ratified at all.

On Tuesday (16 May), the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the proposed EU-Singapore free trade agreement must indeed be ratified by all national parliaments but it clearly draws the line of what is exclusive EU competence and what falls to be ratified by member states.

It might sound like bad news but it actually can lead to a good way forward. So far, all major EU trade agreements, such as the ones with Canada and Korea, have been mixed. Now we know the lay of the land.

In essence, the court says that the EU has exclusive competence to negotiate on trade in services, intellectual property rights, provisions none labor and environmental standards and competition policy – all areas member states have previously been hesitant to leave to EU trade nnegotiators.

Read more: Trust in EU trade policy boosted by court decision –

Saturday, May 20, 2017

European Aircraft Industry: How Airbus Designed Its Flying Car

How Airbus dreamed=up the wild design for it flying car  merged with totally-not-kidding plans to deliver vehicles worthy of George Jetson. And so, the idea of flying where you now drive finagled its way into the “umm, so this could really be real” column.

So far, this wannabe industry has attracted mostly brash startups, with Uber cheering them on, ready to help deploy whatever tech they can make fly. But one member of the bandwagon offers the gravitas that comes with nearly 50 years of building real life airplanes. Airbus is in the flying car game, and it’s ready to embrace a new way to take off.

“It seems like the future has gotten here faster than we all expected,” says Zach Lovering, the head of Vahana, Airbus’ personal, autonomous, electric, lust-worthy, flying machine.

 “There clearly is a convergence of technology that has happened to make this a reality for all of us.”

He’s talking about the lightweight materials, cheaper and better batteries, and improved avionics software that make aviation experts think electric planes that take off and land vertically could be commercially viable in just five years.

Read more" How Airbus Designed Its Flying Car, Vahana | WIRED

Saudi Arabia: Trump's plan to create an Arab NATO with a collection of dictators, tyrants and thugs is bound to fail - by Robert Fisk

"The Savior ? "
Counter Punch reports that Donald Trump set off on Friday to create the fantasy of an Arab Nato. There will be dictators aplenty to greet him in Riyadh, corrupt autocrats and thugs and torturers and head choppers. There will be at least one zombie president – the comatose, undead Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria who neither speaks nor, apparently, hears any more – and, of course, one totally insane president, Donald Trump. The aim, however, is simple: to prepare the Sunni Muslims of the Middle East for war against the Shia Muslims. With help from Israel, of course.

The incubator of terrorism
Even for those used to the insanity of Arab leadership – not to mention those Westerners who have still to grasp that the US President is himself completely off his rocker – the Arab-Muslim (Sunni) summit in Saudi Arabia is almost beyond comprehension. From Pakistan and Jordan and Turkey and Egypt and Morocco and 42 other minareted capitals, they are to come so that the effete and ambitious Saudis can lead their Islamic crusade against “terrorism” and Shiism. The fact that most of the Middle East’s “terrorism” – Isis and al-Qaeda, aka the Nusrah Front – have their fountainhead in the very nation to which Trump is traveling, must and will be ignored. Never before in Middle Eastern history has such a “kumidia alakhta” – quite literally “comedy of errors” in Arabic – been staged.

On top of all this, they have to listen to Trump’s ravings on peace and Islamic “extremism”, surely the most preposterous speech to be uttered by a US president since he is going to have to pretend that Iran is extremist – when it is Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi Isis clones who are destroying Islam’s reputation throughout the world. All this while he is fostering war.

For Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (henceforth MbS) wants to lead his Sunni tribes – plus Iraq if possible, which is why Shia Prime Minister Abadi has been invited from Baghdad – against the serpent of “terrorist” Shia Iran, the dark (Shia) “terrorist” Alawite regime of Bashar al-Assad, the “terrorist” Shia Lebanese Hezbollah and the aggressive “terrorist” Shia Houthis of Yemen. As for the Gulf states’ own Shia minorities and other recalcitrants, well, off with their heads.

Much has been made (rightly) of MbS’s threat to ensure that the battle is “in Iran and not in Saudi Arabia”. But, typically, few bothered to listen to Iran’s ferocious reply to the Saudi threat. It came promptly from the Iranian defence minister, Hossein Dehghan. “We warn them [the Saudis] against doing anything ignorant,” he said, “but if they do something ignorant, we will leave nowhere untouched apart from Mecca and Medina.” In other words, it’s time to start building air raid shelters in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dhahran, Aramco headquarters and all those other locations dear to American hearts.

 Indeed, it’s difficult not to recall an almost identical Sunni hubris – almost four decades ago – to that of MbS today. The latter boasts of his country’s wealth and his intention to diversify, enrich and broaden its economic base. In 1980, Saddam was determined to do the same. He used Iraq’s oil wealth to cover the country in super-highways, modern technology, state-of-the-art healthcare and hospitals and modern communications. Then he kicked off his “lightning war” with Iran.

It impoverished his oil-rich nation, humiliated him in the eyes of his fellow Arabs – who had to cough up the cash for his disastrous eight-year adventure – led to Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, sanctions and the ultimate Anglo-US invasion of 2003 and, for Saddam, the hangman’s noose.

Yet this leaves out the Syrian dimension. Sharmine Narwani, a former senior associate of St Antony’s College – and an antidote for all those sickened by the mountebank think-tank “experts” of Washington – pointed out this week that US support for Kurdish forces fighting under the dishonest label of “Syrian Democratic Forces” are, by advancing on Raqqa, helping to cut Syria off from Iraq. And that Kurdish forces are now reported as “retaking” Christian or Muslim Arab towns in the Nineveh province of Iraq, which were never Kurdish in the first place.

Kurds now regard Qamishleh, and Hassakeh province in Syria as part of “Kurdistan”, although they represent a minority in many of these areas. Thus US support for these Kurdish groups – to the fury of Sultan Erdogan and the few Turkish generals still loyal to him – is helping to both divide Syria and divide Iraq.

This cannot and will not last. Not just because the Kurds are born to be betrayed – and will be betrayed by the Americans even if the present maniac-in-charge is impeached, just as they were betrayed to Saddam in the days of Kissinger – but because Turkey’s importance (with or without its own demented leader) will always outweigh Kurdish claims to statehood. Both are Sunnis, and therefore “safe” allies until one of them – inevitably the Kurds – must be abandoned.

Meanwhile, you can forget justice, civil rights, sickness and death. Cholera has quite a grip on Yemen now, courtesy of the criminal bombing attacks of the Saudis – ably assisted by their American allies long before Trump took over – and scarcely any of the Muslim leaders whom Trump meets in Riyadh do not have torturers at work back home to ensure that some of their citizens wish they had never been born. It will be a relief for the fruitcake president to leave Israel for the Vatican, albeit given only a brief visitation to – and short shrift by what the Catholics believe – is a real peacemaker.

That only leaves one nation out of the loop of this glorious charivari: Russia. But be sure Vladimir Putin comprehends all too well what is going on in Riyadh. He will watch the Arab Nato fall apart. His foreign minister Lavrov understands Syria and Iran better than the feckless Tillerson. And his security officers are deep inside Syria. Besides, if he needs any more intelligence information, he has only to ask Trump.

The BBC reports that In stark contrast to the upbeat statements of Saudi officials concerning US President Donald Trump's visit to the kingdom on 20 May, many Arab Twitter users have taken a more sceptical view of the trip.

At one point on Saturday, though, the term "Trump's daughter" in Arabic was the top-trending topic worldwide on Twitter.

Many have taken to satire, posting images referencing negative comments by Mr Trump about Islam and Muslims. Their reaction comes ahead of his much-anticipated speech at the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh on Sunday.