President Trump Is Correct About Putting America First

TRUMP PUTTING AMERICA FIRST IS THE ONLY CORRECT THING TO DO

 

As anyone who reads the Blog surely knows by now, I am not at all a fan of Donald Trump. It is difficult for me to think of a civil word in the concept of describing this person. Those who follow this Blog also know that I am not a fan of Hillary Clinton so I hope that you understand this article today is not about being a Democrat or a Republican as I am neither. So far though I do believe that the Republican Party is bringing much harm to themselves by standing behind this President. I do believe that if the Republicans have not gotten the guts to stand with the Democrats and to impeach Trump from Office before the November 2018 Mid-term Elections they are going to get slaughtered in those Elections. On a side note, I also feel that the Christians who are standing with this President are doing a great dishonor to Christ and His Holy Name as there is nothing holy about Mr. Trump. It is right and correct to pray for our Leaders but it is sinful to back sinful policies in the name of Christianity.

 

Now to the main headline of today’s commentary. Ever since Mr. Trump in his Campaign started using the slogan ‘America First’ he has drawn a lot of fire and anger from ‘the left, Democrats and liberals’. To me this anger is total stupidity! I do totally believe that Mr. Trump is a total racists but I do not at all consider this ‘slogan’ to be racist in any way. If Mr. Trump was saying something along the lines of ‘Whites First’ then yes, that would be totally racist. Yet any Leader or want to be Leader of any country who doesn’t create policies to put his own Nation first has no business being a Leader of that Nation. Think about it for a moment, if Mr. Trump’s slogan was ‘China First, or Russia First’, do you think that the American people would have elected him?

 

If Chancellor Merkel of Germany vocally or via policies said her goal is to put the EU before Germany should be voted out of Office? If Prime Minister May of England did the same thing, should she be the Prime Minister? How about President Jinping of China, if he was pushing a policy of Japan first, would he still be the President of China? How about Mr. Putin of Russia, if he was saying ‘America First’, would he still be the President of Russia? What I am saying is, of course Mr. Trump should put the interest of America first, if he didn’t, wouldn’t he then be a traitor to his own Country? What I am saying is, just because you or I believe this person (I have a hard time calling him a man) to be ignorant self-centered scum of the Earth, it does not mean that everything he says is wrong nor from his racist Soul.

Trump threatens stop to Palestinian aid over Jerusalem row

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Trump threatens stop to Palestinian aid over Jerusalem row

President Trump photographed outdoors in mid-sentenceImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionMr Trump’s comments suggest he is planning to pull Palestinian aid funding

The US may stop aid payments to Palestinians who are “no long willing to talk peace”, President Trump said.

On Twitter, Mr Trump said the United States received “no appreciation or respect” in return for its aid.

He also said his controversial recognition of the contested city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital took the hugely divisive issue “off the table” for new peace talks.

Palestinians had said the move showed the US could not be a neutral broker.

The decision in December was also overwhelmingly condemned at the United Nations, where 128 countries voted against Mr Trump’s fulfilment of a campaign promise.

What did President Trump say?

The US President was tweeting a follow-up to earlier comments about aid payments to Pakistan, in which he said the US has received only “lies and deceit” in exchange for billions of dollars in aid.

“It’s not only Pakistan that we pay billions of dollars to for nothing,” the president began his tweet on Tuesday evening.

“As an example, we pay the Palestinians hundred of millions of dollars a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel,” he said.

“We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more.

“But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

What have the Palestinians said to anger the US?

Media captionWhy the city of Jerusalem matters

Jerusalem is one of the world’s most contested sites.

Israel claims the whole of the city as its capital. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Mr Trump, however, decided to formally recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, despite being warned it could cause unrest in the region.

He also said he would move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv, where all other nations have their consulates.

After the announcement, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he would no longer accept any proposals from Mr Trump’s government.

“The United States has proven to be a dishonest mediator in the peace process,” he said.

He also called Jerusalem the “eternal capital of the state of Palestine”.

What kind of aid does the US send to Palestinians?

Mr Trump’s tweets followed remarks from Nikki Haley, the US envoy to the United Nations, in which she said the US would stop contributing to the UN’s relief agency for Palestinian refugees.

The agency runs education, health, and social programmes. The United States is its largest governmental donor, handing over almost $370m (£270m) in 2016.

Speaking at a news conference, Ms Haley said: “The President has basically said that he doesn’t want to give any additional funding, or stop funding, until the Palestinians are agreeing to come back to the negotiation table.”

Nikki Haley points to a reporter off-camera at a media briefing in the UN, New York CityImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe United Nations’ overwhelming condemnation was “not helpful”, Ms Haley said

She said the UN’s vote to condemn Mr Trump’s Jerusalem decision was “not helpful to the situation”.

“The Palestinians now have to show their will that they want to come to the table. As of now, they’re not coming to the table but they asked for aid.

“We’re not giving the aid, we’re going to make sure that they come to the table,” she said.

The withdrawal of aid is likely to have a significant impact on the UN agency’s work, as the US contributes almost 30% of its overall funding.

In 2016, the second-largest donor, the European Union, donated less than half as much as the US.

EU Acts To Defend Judicial Independence In Poland

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION-PRESS RELEASE)

 

European Commission – Press release

Rule of Law: European Commission acts to defend judicial independence in Poland

Brussels, 20 December 2017

Despite repeated efforts, for almost two years, to engage the Polish authorities in a constructive dialogue in the context of the Rule of Law Framework, the Commission has today concluded that there is a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law in Poland.

The Commission is therefore proposing to the Council to adopt a decision under Article 7(1) of the Treaty on European Union (see Annex II).

The European Commission is taking action to protect the rule of law in Europe. Judicial reforms in Poland mean that the country’s judiciary is now under the political control of the ruling majority. In the absence of judicial independence, serious questions are raised about the effective application of EU law, from the protection of investments to the mutual recognition of decisions in areas as diverse as child custody disputes or the execution of European Arrest Warrants.

The Commission has also today issued a complementary (4th) Rule of Law Recommendation, setting out clearly the steps that the Polish authorities can take to remedy the current situation. Should the Polish authorities implement the recommended actions, the Commission is ready, in close consultation with the European Parliament and the Council, to reconsider its Reasoned Proposal.

Furthermore, the Commission has decided to take the next step in itsinfringement procedure against Poland for breaches of EU law by the Law on the Ordinary Courts Organisation, referring Poland to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Whilst taking these unprecedented measures, the Commission maintains its offer for a constructive dialogue to remedy the current situation.

1. Reasoned Proposal for a Council Decision

Over a period of two years, the Polish authorities have adopted more than 13 laws affecting the entire structure of the justice system in Poland, impacting the Constitutional Tribunal, Supreme Court, ordinary courts, National Council for the Judiciary, prosecution service and National School of Judiciary. The common pattern is that the executive and legislative branches have been systematically enabled to politically interfere in the composition, powers, administration and functioning of the judicial branch.

The Reasoned Proposal sets out the Commission’s concerns, recalling the steps taken under the Rule of Law Framework and the numerous contacts with the Polish authorities to try to identify a solution, and invites the Council to find that there is a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law. The concerns relate specifically to the lack of an independent and legitimate constitutional review and judicial independence.

Should the Polish authorities implement the remedial actions set out in the Rule of Law Recommendation accompanying its Reasoned Proposal, the Commission is ready to reconsider the Reasoned Proposal.

2. Rule of Law Recommendation

The Rule of Law Recommendation adopted today complements three previous Recommendations, adopted on 27 July 2016, 21 December 2016 and 27 July 2017. Today’s Recommendation focuses on the fresh concerns raised by the new law on the Supreme Court adopted by the Polish Parliament on 15 December 2017 and the law on the National Council for the Judiciary adopted on 15 December 2017. The Polish authorities have still not addressed the concerns identified in the first three Commission Recommendations, which remain valid.

Today’s Recommendation clearly sets out a set of actions that need to be taken by the Polish authorities to address its concerns. The Polish authorities are invited to:

  • Amend the Supreme Court law, not apply a lowered retirement age to current judges, remove the discretionary power of the President to prolong the mandate of Supreme Court judges, and remove the extraordinary appeal procedure, which includes a power to reopen final judgments taken years earlier;
  • Amend the law on the National Council for the Judiciary, to not terminate the mandate of judges-members, and ensure that the new appointment regime continues to guarantee the election of judges-members by their peers;
  • Amend or withdraw the law on Ordinary Courts Organisation, in particular to remove the new retirement regime for judges including the discretionary powers of the Minister of Justice to prolong the mandate of judges and to appoint and dismiss presidents of courts;
  • Restore the independence and legitimacy of the Constitutional Tribunal, by ensuring that its judges, President and Vice-President are lawfully elected and by ensuring that all its judgements are published and fully implemented;
  • Refrain from actions and public statements which could further undermine the legitimacy of the judiciary.

3. Infringement procedure on the basis of EU law

The College of Commissioners also decided to refer the Polish Government to the European Court of Justice for breach of EU law, concerning the Law on the Ordinary Courts and, specifically, the retirement regime it introduces.

The Commission’s key legal concern identified in this law relates to the discrimination on the basis of gender due to the introduction of a different retirement age for female judges (60 years) and male judges (65 years). This is contrary to Article 157 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and Directive 2006/54 on gender equality in employment.

In its referral to the European Court of Justice, the Commission will also raise the linked concern that the independence of Polish courts will be undermined by the fact that the Minister of Justice has been given a discretionary power to prolong the mandate of judges which have reached retirement age (see Article 19(1) TEU in combination with Article 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights).

Next steps

The Commission’s Recommendation invites the Polish authorities to address the problems within three months, and to inform the Commission of the steps taken to that effect. The Commission stands ready to pursue a constructive dialogue with the Polish Government. Should the Polish authorities implement the recommended actions, the Commission is ready, in close consultation with the European Parliament and the Council, to reconsider its Reasoned Proposal.

Under Article 7(1) TEU, the Council must hear Poland’s position and obtain the consent of the European Parliament (on the basis of Article 354 TFEU, the European Parliament shall act by a two-thirds majority of votes cast, representing the majority of its component Members), before adopting a Decision by a four-fifths majority (22 of 27 Members of the Council entitled to vote on the basis of Article 354 TFEU), determining that there is a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law. The Council may also address recommendations to Poland, acting in accordance with the same voting procedure.

Background

Article 7(1) of the Treaty on European Union provides for the Council, acting by a majority of four fifths of its members, to determine that there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State of the common values referred to in Article 2 of the Treaty (see Annex II). The Commission can trigger this process by a reasoned proposal.

The rule of law is one of the common values upon which the European Union is founded. It is enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union. The European Commission, together with the European Parliament and the Council, is responsible under the Treaties for guaranteeing the respect of the rule of law as a fundamental value of our Union and making sure that EU law, values and principles are respected.

It is up to Poland to identify its own model for its justice system, but it should do so in a way that respects the rule of law; this requires it to safeguard the independence of the judiciary, separation of powers and legal certainty.

A breach of the rule of law in one Member State has an effect on all Member States and the Union as a whole. First, because the independence of the judiciary – free from undue political interference – is a value that reflects the concept of European democracy we have built up together, heeding the lessons of the past. Second, because when the rule of law in any Member State is put into question, the functioning of the Union as a whole, in particular with regard to Justice and Home Affairs cooperation and the functioning of the Internal Market, is put into question too.

The European Commission opened a dialogue with the Polish Authorities in January 2016 under the Rule of Law Framework (see Memo for more details). The Framework – introduced by the Commission on 11 March 2014 – has three stages (see graphic in Annex 1). The entire process is based on a continuous dialogue between the Commission and the Member State concerned. The Commission keeps the European Parliament and Council regularly and closely informed. The Commission has attempted to work constructively with the Polish authorities, as they have passed more than 13 laws impacting the Constitutional Tribunal, Supreme Court, ordinary courts, national Council for the Judiciary, prosecution service and National School of Judiciary.

The European Parliament has consistently supported the Commission’s concerns, including in the three Resolutions of 13 April 2016, 14 September 2016 and 15 November 2017. In addition, on 16 May 2017, the Commission informed the General Affairs Council of the situation in Poland. A very broad majority of Member States supported the Commission’s role and efforts to address this issue, and called upon the Polish Government to resume the dialogue with the Commission. The Commission provided a further update to the General Affairs Council on 25 September 2017, and there was broad agreement on the need for Poland to engage in a dialogue to find a solution.

A wide range of other actors at European and international levels have expressed their deep concern about the reform of the Polish justice system: representatives of the judiciary across Europe, including the Network of Presidents of the Supreme Judicial Courts of the European Union and the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary, the Venice Commission, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the United Nations Human Rights Committee as well as numerous civil society organisations such as Amnesty International and the Human Rights and Democracy Network.

For more information:

 

Annex I – Rule of Law Framework

 

Annex1

 

Annex II – Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union

1.   On a reasoned proposal by one third of the Member States, by the European Parliament or by the European Commission, the Council, acting by a majority of four fifths of its members after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, may determine that there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2. Before making such a determination, the Council shall hear the Member State in question and may address recommendations to it, acting in accordance with the same procedure.

The Council shall regularly verify that the grounds on which such a determination was made continue to apply.

2.   The European Council, acting by unanimity on a proposal by one third of the Member States or by the Commission and after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, may determine the existence of a serious and persistent breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2, after inviting the Member State in question to submit its observations.

3.   Where a determination under paragraph 2 has been made, the Council, acting by a qualified majority, may decide to suspend certain of the rights deriving from the application of the Treaties to the Member State in question, including the voting rights of the representative of the government of that Member State in the Council. In doing so, the Council shall take into account the possible consequences of such a suspension on the rights and obligations of natural and legal persons.

The obligations of the Member State in question under the Treaties shall in any case continue to be binding on that State.

4.   The Council, acting by a qualified majority, may decide subsequently to vary or revoke measures taken under paragraph 3 in response to changes in the situation which led to their being imposed.

5.   The voting arrangements applying to the European Parliament, the European Council and the Council for the purposes of this Article are laid down in Article 354 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Netanyahu told Macron he’d make ‘concessions’ within Trump peace plan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Netanyahu told Macron he’d make ‘concessions’ within Trump peace plan — report

PM denies Channel 10’s account, says some in Europe evidently want to misrepresent what he’s been saying

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) speaks with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of a meeting at The Elysee Palace in Paris on December 10, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / PHILIPPE WOJAZER)

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) speaks with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of a meeting at The Elysee Palace in Paris on December 10, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / PHILIPPE WOJAZER)

During their talks in Paris on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told French President Emmanuel Macron that he would be prepared to make “compromises and concessions” to the Palestinians within the framework of US President Donald Trump’s much-touted Middle East peace plan, Israel’s Channel 10 TV news reported on Tuesday.

The report, which quoted unnamed senior European diplomats familiar with the content of the two men’s discussions, was denied by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Channel 10 quoted brief excerpts from what it said were exchanges between Netanyahu and Macron in Paris on Sunday, and between Netanyahu and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Brussels on the following day.

At their Elysee Palace meeting, according to the report, Macron said to Netanyahu, “Trump told me that, within a few months, he will set out a peace plan that will be different from previous initiatives. It will be a move that will shake up the status quo.”

Netanyahu reportedly responded, “I’m still waiting to see the Trump initiative. I don’t know exactly what he is going to put on the table. But I will be prepared to make compromises and concessions within the framework of the plan he presents.”

To which Macron reportedly replied, “The trouble is that, in the wake of Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem, it will be complicated to advance a peace initiative.” Last Wednesday, Trump announced that the US recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and that he would ultimately move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini speaks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he arrives for their meeting at the European Council in Brussels on December 11, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Eric Vidal)

Quoting next from Netanyahu’s conversation Monday with Mogherini, the report said the prime minister told the EU foreign policy chief, “Trump is preparing a serious peace plan, and it must be taken seriously. At present, there are a lot of waves [in the wake of the Jerusalem announcement]. But when they die down, his plan will again be taken up.”

Netanyahu reportedly added, “Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem was cautiously worded. Read it carefully. It doesn’t close the door on negotiations for an agreement.”

The Prime Minister’s Office denied the key quotation in the TV report. In a statement, it said, “We firmly deny that the prime minister spoke of compromises and concessions. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he expects Trump’s plan will challenge him and [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas]. Apparently, there is an interest in Europe in presenting things differently.”

The report quoted the European sources as saying that both Macron and Mogherini were “skeptical” about Netanyahu’s professed readiness to compromise.

In a joint press conference after their meeting on Sunday, Macron expressed his disapproval of the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and urged Netanyahu to “show courage” in advancing peace talks.

Netanyahu, for his part, insisted that Jerusalem is as much Israel’s capital as Paris is France’s. And he said the sooner the Palestinians “come to grips” with that the fact, “the sooner we move toward peace.”

US President Donald Trump listens while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the press prior to their meeting at the Palace Hotel in New York City ahead of the United Nations General Assembly on September 18, 2017.(AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

Later Sunday, the prime minister told reporters that he was not yet fully aware of Trump’s peace proposal, but noted that Jerusalem is one of the “core issues” that will be on the table. “We never ruled out that Jerusalem be discussed. The Palestinians have their positions on it, and they are free to bring them up,” he said.

“We never rule out discussions — we rule out [certain] results,” he added, noting that his government’s opposition to a partition of Israel is well-known.

Standing next to Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, at the headquarters of the European Union after their talks on Monday, Netanyahu predicted that most countries on the continent would eventually recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move their embassies to the city.

“I believe that even though we don’t have an agreement yet, this is what will happen in the future,” he said. “I believe that all, or most, of European countries will move their embassies to Jerusalem and recognize it as Israel’s capital and engage robustly with us, for security, prosperity and peace.”

Mogherini later issued a flat rejection of that notion. “He can keep his expectations for others, because from the European Union member states’ side this move will not come,” she said, adding that the bloc — the Palestinians’ largest donor — would stick to the “international consensus” on Jerusalem.

She reiterated the EU’s stance that “the only realistic solution” for peace is two states — Israel and Palestine — with Jerusalem as a shared capital and borders based on the pre-1967 lines, when Israel captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the Six Day War.

And she pledged to step up efforts with the two sides and regional partners, including Jordan and Egypt, to relaunch the peace process.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walks towards Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis Quecedo (L) next to Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders (back-L) during a breakfast meeting with EU foreign ministers at the EU Council building in Brussels on December 11, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Leaving Brussels after a further meeting, with EU foreign ministers, Netanyahu told reporters who were traveling with him Monday that he had been asked whether he accepts the two-state solution, and that he replied by asking the ministers what kind of state the second one would be: “Would it be Costa Rica or Yemen?”

He said he also told them that it was high time for a more realistic discussion about where the region is headed, and said the current turmoil in the Middle East is due to a battle between “modernity and early medievalism.”

READ MORE:

Turkey Could Sever Ties With Israel If Trump Recognizes Capital

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Erdogan says Turkey could sever ties with Israel if Trump recognizes capital

Palestinians, Saudi Arabia, Arab League and European Union warn changing Jerusalem’s status could scuttle peace efforts

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, gestures as he gives a speech at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara, on December 5, 2017. (AFP Photo/Adem Altan)

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, gestures as he gives a speech at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara, on December 5, 2017. (AFP Photo/Adem Altan)

The status of Jerusalem is a “red line” for Muslims and changing it could prompt Turkey to cut its ties with Israel, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Tuesday, as US President Donald Trump reportedly geared up to recognize the city as the Jewish state’s capital.

Erdogan said Turkey, which currently holds the chairmanship of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, would immediately call a summit meeting of the pan-Islamic group if Trump went ahead with the move on Wednesday, and “set the entire Islamic world in motion.”

“Mr. Trump! Jerusalem is a red line for Muslims,” he said in a raucous televised speech to his ruling party that was greeted with chants and applause.

Turkey, Erdogan said, would “follow this struggle to the very last moment with determination and we could even go right up to cutting our diplomatic relations with Israel.”

Officials in Jerusalem rejected Erdogan’s threat.

Nabil Shaath, the Commissioner for External Relations of the Fatah movement, seen in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, January 18, 2012 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Nabil Shaath, the commissioner for external relations of the Fatah movement, seen in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, January 18, 2012 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Meanwhile, a senior Palestinian official warned that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would spell the end of Trump’s nascent Israeli-Palestinian peace push.

“That totally destroys any chance that he will play a role as an honest broker,” Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, told journalists on Tuesday.

“That takes away… the deal of the century,” he added, referring to Trump’s pledge to clinch the long-elusive peace deal.

Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit also warned of the “danger” of the United States recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or relocating its embassy there, calling on Washington to reconsider.

Abul Gheit told Arab government delegates that they had decided to meet in Cairo “given the danger of this matter, if it were to happen, and the possible negative consequences not only for the situation in Palestine but also for the Arab and Islamic region.”

US President Donald Trump visits the Western Wall, May 22, 2017, in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Saudi Arabia, a major partner to the American efforts to revive the peace process, added its voice, expressing “grave and deep concern” over the possible US plans.

If Trump decides to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital it would reverse years of US policy, even if he did not move the US embassy.

“Saudi Arabia (expresses) grave and deep concern over reports that the US administration intends to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem,” the official Saudi Press Agency said, citing a foreign ministry source.

“This step will have serious implications and will further complicate the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It will also obstruct the ongoing efforts to revive the peace process.”

The European Union also noted possible “serious repercussions” of the move.

Above: EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini

The EU, which supports a two-state solution to the conflict, warned against doing anything that would jeopardize the peace process.

“Since early this year, the European Union was clear in its expectation that there can be reflection on the consequences that any decision or unilateral action affecting Jerusalem’s status could have,” EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini’s office said in a statement.

“It might have serious repercussions on public opinion in large parts of the world,” it added. “The focus should therefore remain on the efforts to restart the peace process and avoiding any action that would undermine such efforts.”

Trump is expected to make an announcement on Jerusalem in a major policy speech Wednesday.

The mercurial president has yet to make his final decision, officials said, but is expected to stop short of moving the embassy to Jerusalem outright, a central campaign pledge that has been postponed once already by the new administration.

Facing dark warnings of a historic misstep and widespread unrest, Trump on Monday delayed a decision on whether to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. The White House said the president would miss a deadline on the decision, after a frantic 48 hours of public warnings from allies and private phone calls between world leaders.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the most contentious issues of the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel gained control of East Jerusalem during the Six Day War in 1967 and extended its sovereignty there in 1980, an effective annexation that remains unrecognized by the international community. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

READ MORE:

Taiwan should model itself on western welfare states?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘FOCUS TAIWAN’ AND THE BLOG OF ANDY TAI)

 

BACK TO LIST

Taiwan should model itself on western welfare states: democracy pioneer

2017/11/19 22:44:33

Taipei, Nov. 19 (CNA) Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良), the key figure that triggered the “Zhongli Incident” against ballot-rigging in 1977, hopes Taiwan can be a western Europe-style welfare state.

He expressed his sincere hope as he recently marked the 40 anniversary of Taiwan’s first mass demonstration since martial law was imposed in 1949.

Then a rising star in the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), Hsu broke ranks to run for magistrate of then Taoyuan County amid burgeoning opposition to one-party rule.

On the election day on Nov. 19, a large-scale riot broke out in Zhongli of Taoyuan after a voter reported witnessing the KMT rigging the ballot, culminating in the protesters setting fire on the Zhongli police station.

The KMT authorities responded to the protest with brutal force, resulting in two civilian deaths. The incident that eventually forced the KMT to accept the victory of Hsu was often seen as a “watershed” in Taiwan’s democratic development.

In a recent interview with the CNA, Hsu said that after three decades of efforts, Taiwan is now a democracy that enjoys freedom and openness and what it should pursue next is “economic democracy” because “the essence of democracy is equality.”

Taiwan should set its sights on establishing a social welfare system like those adopted in Western Europe countries to develop a humane and just society based on the principles of equal opportunity and progressive value, Hsu said.

To achieve the goals, the Democratic Progressive Party administration and whoever is in power in the future should provide adequate care for people through social welfare programs based on the respect for human rights, he added.

Turning to cross-strait relations, Hsu, who serves as chairman of Foundation on Asia-Pacific Peace Studies, a government-affiliated think tank, said that making Taiwan better in terms of the wellbeing of the people and the value it embraces, would “exert a positive influence on the development of China.”

Sponsored by the KMT to pursue a master degree in the U.K., Hsu said he was deeply influenced by the student movements around the world in the 1960s when he studied political philosophy at the University of Edinburgh from 1967 to 1969.

Being able to witness firsthand the civil rights movements and the fight for democracy, freedom and human rights made him feel ashamed of himself and forced him to do things for Taiwan and his generation, Hsu said.

“I was lucky to see that the hard work so many people had done has eventually come to fruition 40 years later,” Hsu added.

Hsu said that he was drawn into the study of the European common market, the predecessor of the European Union set up in 1957 by France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, when he studied in the U.K. — when whether the U.K. should join the market was heatedly debated.

Hsu said that his views on cross-strait relations between Taiwan and China can also be traced back to what he had learned from the history of Europe.

“Is the problem between Taiwan and China more difficult to solve than the feud between France and Germany? No, it’s not. Then why can’t Taiwan and China collaborate with each other to make the world more equitable and humane?” Hsu said.

(By Wu Jui-chi, Fan Cheng-hsiang and Shih Hsiu-chuan)
Enditem/sc

 

 

White Nationalists Disrupt Polish Independence Day

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Nationalist protesters disrupt Poland independence day events

White nationalists disrupt Polish independence day

White nationalists disrupt Polish independence day 00:51

Warsaw, Poland (CNN)Tens of thousands of nationalist protesters disrupted Poland’s independence day events Saturday, waving flags and burning flares as they marched down the streets of Warsaw.

Demonstrators carried banners that read “White Europe, Europe must be white,” and “Pray for an Islamic Holocaust.”
Some wore masks and waved red and white Polish flags, chanting “Death to enemies of the homeland,” and “Catholic Poland, not secular.”

Police estimate that 60,000 people took part in the nationalist demonstration.

Police estimate that 60,000 people took part in the nationalist demonstration. While the vast majority were Poles, other protesters came from all over Europe.

Poland regained its independence in 1918.

One of the lead organizations behind the nationalists march is the National Radical Camp, which has previously taken to the streets to protest against Muslim immigration,gay rights, the EU and anything it considers undermines Polish Catholic values.
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Tens of thousands attended the march in Warsaw.

While support for the group remains small, its critics argue that the Polish government, which has struck a nationalistic tone and linked immigrants to crime and disease, has fostered an atmosphere of intolerance and xenophobia that has emboldened it.

Some of those marching lit flares during the event.

Earlier on Saturday, the Polish capital had seen a far smaller demonstration by groups condemning the protesters’ hijacking of Polish independence day, which falls on November 11.

Far-right marchers waved flags as they took part in the march.

The day celebrates the re-birth of Poland in November 1918, 123 years after the Prussian, Habsburg, and Russian empires carved up Poland among themselves and erased it from the map of Europe.
But in the past few years, the holiday has been overshadowed by the far-right march and fears of violence.
Polish President Andrzej Duda led the formal celebrations of Polish independence day in central Warsaw. After laying a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier, he told the crowd to remember the price of freedom and independence.

Catalonia’s leaders are jailed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Catalonia’s leaders are jailed a week after the region declared independence


Thousands of people rally outside the regional presidential palace in Barcelona on Tuesday to show their support for those appearing in court. (Manu Fernandez/AP)
 November 2 at 4:12 PM
 A Spanish judge on Thursday ordered the jailing of eight of Catalonia’s separatist leaders a week after the region declared independence, extending the tough crackdown on the breakaway effort.The decision not to free the former officials on bail ahead of their trials on charges of rebellion, sedition and the misuse of public funds came after an Oct. 27 takeover of the region following the Catalan Parliament’s vote to secede.

The imprisonments set off an immediate outcry from independence advocates in Catalonia, who said they fit into a repressive pattern from the Spanish state that began when national police intervened with truncheons and violence to try to prevent an independence referendum from being held on Oct. 1. Town squares across Catalonia filled with protesters after the decision was announced late Thursday afternoon.

A prosecutor also asked Judge Carmen Lamela to approve an international arrest warrant for former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium on Monday alongside other officials. An extradition request would set the ground for a difficult diplomatic dance between Spain and Belgium, which allows E.U. citizens to claim political asylum and which is partly ruled by Flemish nationalists sympathetic to the Catalan cause.

Lamela planned to decide on the warrant Friday. In denying bail, she said the leaders still in Spain were a flight risk, citing the retreat by Puigdemont and others to Brussels.

 Play Video 0:48
Catalan secessionist leaders arrive at court without Puigdemont
Catalonia’s secessionist leaders arrived at a Madrid court Nov. 2 to answer charges of rebellion and sedition. The region’s former president Carles Puigdemont said he would not turn up. (Reuters)

Puigdemont refused to appear at the Madrid court on Thursday, saying that the charges were politically motivated. The leaders are facing prison terms of up to 30 years. In all, 20 officials are charged.

Apart from the eight people sent to jail Thursday, a ninth was allowed free on bail of $58,000 because he resigned from the Catalan government before the independence declaration.

“A long and fierce repression lies ahead. We must combat the situation as Catalans do, without violence, in peace,” Puigdemont said Thursday in a televised address to Catalans that appeared to be recorded in his Brussels hotel room. He has said that he remains Catalonia’s leader and that the decision by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to use constitutional powers to strip him of office was illegal.

The decision to put the former officials behind bars meant that the highest-profile Catalan separatist leaders will probably not be able to run in Dec. 21 regional elections that Rajoy called after dismissing the government. After darkness fell Thursday, the former officials were transferred in police vans with flashing blue lights to the Alcala-Meco Prison outside Madrid.

The move was condemned even by some pro-union Catalan leaders, who said it was needlessly harsh.

“This is a black day for democracy and for Catalonia,” said Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, who appeared close to tears as she spoke to journalists late Thursday. Colau has said she believes Catalonia should have more autonomy but should not be independent.

The crackdown drew condemnation from several other leaders in Europe, including the heads of Scotland and Belgian Flanders, two regions that have sought independence or more autonomy from their national governments.

“Jailing democratically elected government leaders = more than bridge too far,” the leader of Belgium’s Flanders region, Geert Bourgeois, wrote on Twitter.

That was echoed by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who wrote that “regardless of opinion on Catalonia, the jailing of elected leaders is wrong and should be condemned by all democrats.” She added: “The disagreement about Catalonia’s future is political. It should be resolved democratically — not by the jailing of political opponents.”

Opinion polls show that support for independence in Catalonia is growing but that slightly less than half of the population seeks a split.

Braden Phillips contributed to this report.

Egypt’s Sisi Seeks more Coordination with EU to Confront Terrorism

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Sisi Seeks more Coordination with EU to Confront Terrorism

Tuesday, 31 October, 2017 – 10:30
Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi speaks during a news conference at the El-Thadiya presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt. (Reuters)
Cairo – Mohammed Abdo Hassanein

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi stressed the importance of strengthening coordination and consultations with the European Union (EU) in regional files to confront joint challenges emerging from the existing regional crises, topped by terrorism and its repercussions on the security of the Middle East and Europe.

Sisi received on Monday Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn in the presence of Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

The president welcomed the EU official, stressing that Egypt pays great attention to its ties with the EU in light of their bilateral cooperation within the framework of the Egyptian-European partnership agreement, said presidential spokesman Bassam Rady.

Sisi also affirmed that the EU is the first trade partner of Egypt.

For his part, Hahn voiced the EU’s keenness on bolstering the existing cooperation with Egypt, which is considered one of the most important neighboring countries.

He hailed Egypt’s pivotal role in the region as it is the main pillar of stability and security, lauding steps taken over the past years to achieve stability and efforts exerted to fight terrorism and illegal migration..

The meeting tackled means of promoting joint cooperation in various developmental issues, as well as the latest regional developments, including Egypt’s efforts to achieve Palestinian reconciliation and settle the Libyan crisis.

The two sides agreed on continuing coordination and consultation pertaining to the various regional issues, the spokesman reiterated.

In this context, during a joint press conference with Hahn, Shoukry pointed out that the meeting provided ample opportunity to address human rights issues.

The Egyptian point of view was raised regarding the aspirations of the society and the government to promote human rights, the positive role of civil society organizations and the attention given by the government to address these issues from a comprehensive perspective.

Shoukry also shed light on Egypt’s efforts to prevent any type of illegal immigration from its territory, stressing that this stems from the Egyptian state’s responsibility to control its coasts, prevent illegal immigration and eliminate human trafficking.

The meeting also included the singing of a memorandum of understanding, which outlined the allocation of European financial assistance to a number of development projects in accordance with Egypt’s Sustainable Development Strategy 2030.

Fact-checking President Trump’s speech on the Iran deal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Fact Checker

Fact-checking President Trump’s speech on the Iran deal

 October 14 at 3:00 AM
 Play Video 3:00
Trump’s Iran deal announcement, in 3 minutes
President Trump announced Oct. 13 that his administration would take new steps going forward to confront Iran. (The Washington Post)

In his speech on the Iran nuclear agreement, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), President Trump made a number of factual assertions. The deal was negotiated by Iran, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France and China), Germany and the European Union.

Here’s a guide to some of his rhetoric, in the order in which he made these statements.

“The regime harbored high-level terrorists in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, including Osama bin Laden’s son.”

The president recounted a long list of aggressive acts by the Iranian government toward the United States since the shah was overthrown in 1979, many of which would be familiar to Americans. This claim — that Iran harbored al-Qaeda terror suspects — might be less well-known, but it was recently documented in a 2017 book, “The Exile,” by investigative reporters Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy.

The book noted that the steady flow of senior al-Qaeda figures into Iran after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was controversial among various factions. The government actually made some arrests and sent some al-Qaeda figures back to countries of origin. But the Revolutionary Guard was more supportive. Trump, in using the phrase “regime,” glosses over the debate within the country.

“The regime remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, and provides assistance to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist networks.”

Trump suggests the assistance to al-Qaeda continues to the present day. This is in line with the latest State Department Country Reports on terrorism, released in July, which said: “Since at least 2009, Iran has allowed AQ facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through the country, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria.” This phrasing marked a shift from previous reports, which indicated the support was in the past.

“The previous administration lifted these sanctions, just before what would have been the total collapse of the Iranian regime, through the deeply controversial 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.”

There is little evidence that the Iranian government was on the verge of “total collapse,” though it was certainly struggling because of international sanctions. The Obama administration had been able to win broad international support for crippling sanctions precisely because it convinced Russia and China, two major Iranian partners, that the pressure was designed to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions and force the government into negotiations. If the government had started to teeter because of the sanctions, especially if it was perceived as part of an American campaign of regime change, that support probably would have been withdrawn.

JCPOA “also gave the regime an immediate financial boost and over $100 billion its government could use to fund terrorism. The regime also received a massive cash settlement of $1.7 billion from the United States, a large portion of which was physically loaded onto an airplane and flown into Iran.”

Trump often suggests the United States gave a $100 billion to Iran, but these were Iranian assets that had been frozen. The Treasury Department has estimated that once Iran fulfills other obligations, it would have about $55 billion left. (Much of the funds were tied up in illiquid projects in China.) For its part, the Central Bank of Iran said the number was actually $32 billion, not $55 billion. Iran has also complained that it cannot actually move the money back to Iran because foreign banks won’t touch it for fear of U.S. sanctions and their U.S. exposure.

As for the $1.7 billion in cash, this was related to the settlement of a decades-old claim between the two countries. An initial payment of $400 million was handed over on Jan. 17, 2016, the same day Iran’s government agreed to release four American detainees, including The Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian. The timing — which U.S. officials insisted was a coincidence — suggested the cash could be viewed as a ransom payment.

But the initial cash payment was Iran’s money. In the 1970s, the then-pro-Western Iranian government under the shah paid $400 million for U.S. military equipment. But the equipment was never delivered because the two countries broke off relations after the seizure of American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Iran.

Two other payments totaling $1.3 billion — a negotiated agreement on the interest owed on the $400 million — came some weeks later.

“The deal allows Iran to continue developing certain elements of its nuclear program and, importantly, in just a few years, as key restrictions disappear, Iran can sprint towards a rapid nuclear weapons breakout.”

JCPOA has been in place for two years. Certain provisions of the nuclear aspects of the deal do not last indefinitely, but virtually all phase out between years 10 and 25. It’s doubtful Iran would have agreed to an indefinite ban on nuclear activities, given that it has a right to have a nonnuclear program under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Critics of the agreement argue that Iran’s past behavior suggests it will cheat in any case and thus has forfeited its rights.

Trump does not mention that under the agreement, Iran is permanently prohibited from acquiring nuclear weapons, and will be subject to certain restrictions and additional monitoring indefinitely. (Readers may also be interested in a previous fact check we did on whether Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons; we found the claim dubious.)

It’s unclear why Trump refers to a “few years” before a potential nuclear breakout. Nonnuclear provisions having to do with arms-related transfers to and from Iran will expire in three years, or possibly sooner. In six years, U.N. Security Council restrictions end on any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

“Those who argue that somehow the JCPOA deals only with nuclear matters and should be judged separate from the restrictions in [U.N.] Resolution 2231 fail to explain that a nuclear weapon is a warhead and a delivery system,” noted David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, in testimony before Congress. “Today, the delivery vehicle of choice is a ballistic missile.”

“The Iranian regime has committed multiple violations of the agreement. For example, on two separate occasions, they have exceeded the limit of 130 metric tons of heavy water. Until recently, the Iranian regime has also failed to meet our expectations in its operation of advanced centrifuges.”

Trump is right that Iran twice exceeded the deal’s limit on heavy water. But supporters of the deal say it shows JCPOA is working. Iran tried to take advantage of fuzzy language in the agreement but was immediately caught by international inspectors; the other partners objected and forced Iran to come back into compliance.

As for the centrifuges, the deal limits both the number and type of centrifuges Iran is permitted to use. Again Iran tried to take advantage of ambiguous limits — “roughly 10” advanced centrifuges — by operating slightly more than that number.

The dispute for the moment also appears to have been resolved, though Albright in his testimony noted that “Iran has also built and operated more advanced centrifuges than it is allowed, and it has misused quality assurance limitations to conduct banned mechanical testing of advanced centrifuges.”

“There are also many people who believe that Iran is dealing with North Korea. I am going to instruct our intelligence agencies to do a thorough analysis and report back their findings beyond what they have already reviewed.”

This was a puzzling statement. The phrasing suggests there is not enough evidence to claim that Iran has dealings with North Korea, but the intelligence agencies will keep looking. But it raises the question about why the president made the assertion in the first place.

“It is under continuous review, and our participation can be canceled by me, as president, at any time.”

The other partners to the agreement dispute that Trump has the authority to end the deal. In an unusual joint statement, British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron noted: “JCPOA was unanimously endorsed by the U.N. Security Council in Resolution 2231. The International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA through its long-term verification and monitoring program.”

Similarly, Federica Mogherini, the E.U. foreign policy chief, said no one country could terminate the deal. “This deal is not a bilateral agreement,” she said. “The international community, and the European Union with it, has clearly indicated that the deal is, and will, continue to be in place.”

However, a president can stop waiving nuclear sanctions at any point, causing nuclear sanctions to come back into force. Moreover, U.S. law requires Trump to waive nuclear sanctions regularly, so he could simply not do anything and nuclear sanctions come back. In effect, that would terminate the deal, whether the other partners like it or not.

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