Switzerland: The Truth Knowledge And the History Of Their Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

Switzerland

Introduction The Swiss Confederation was founded in 1291 as a defensive alliance among three cantons. In succeeding years, other localities joined the original three. The Swiss Confederation secured its independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1499. A constitution of 1848, subsequently modified in 1874, replaced the confederation with a centralized federal government. Switzerland’s sovereignty and neutrality have long been honored by the major European powers, and the country was not involved in either of the two World Wars. The political and economic integration of Europe over the past half century, as well as Switzerland’s role in many UN and international organizations, has strengthened Switzerland’s ties with its neighbors. However, the country did not officially become a UN member until 2002. Switzerland remains active in many UN and international organizations but retains a strong commitment to neutrality.
History Early history

The earliest known tribes of the area were members of the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures. The La Tène culture developed and flourished during the late Iron Age from around 450 BC, possibly under some influence from the Greek and Etruscan civilizations. One of the most important tribal groups in the Swiss region was the Helvetii. In 15 BC, Tiberius I, who was destined to be the second Roman emperor, and his brother, Drusus, conquered the Alps, integrating them into the Roman Empire. The area occupied by the Helvetii – the namesakes of the later Confoederatio Helvetica – first became part of Rome’s Gallia Belgica province and then of its Germania Superior province, while the eastern portion of modern Switzerland was integrated into the Roman province of Raetia.

In the Early Middle Ages, from the fourth century AD, the western extent of modern-day Switzerland was part of the territory of the Kings of the Burgundians. The Alemanni settled the Swiss plateau in the fifth century AD and the valleys of the Alps in the eighth century AD, forming Alemannia. Modern-day Switzerland was therefore then divided between the kingdoms of Alemannia and Burgundy. The entire region became part of the expanding Frankish Empire in the sixth century, following Clovis I’s victory over the Alemanni at Tolbiac in 504 AD, and later Frankish domination of the Burgundians.

By 561 AD, the Merovingian king Guntram, Clovis I’s grandson, had inherited the Frankish kingdom of Burgundy, which stretched east nearly as far as the Rhine. East of this, the Alemanni were ruled under a nominal dukedom within Frankia, as the Franks filled the vacuum caused by the declining western reach of Roman Byzantium. By this time Frankia was beginning to form the tripartite character that would characterise the rest of its history. The territories were subdivided into Neustria in the west (referred to simply as Frankia at the time; the name Neustria did not appear in writing until some 80 years later), Austrasia in the northeast and Burgundy.

Throughout the rest of the sixth and early seventh centuries AD the Swiss regions continued under Frankish hegemony, with the Franks largely occupied with infighting about issues of succession amongst the Frankish sub-kingdoms (whose kings were close blood relatives). In 632 AD, following the death of Chlothar II, the entire Frankish realm was briefly united under Dagobert, who is described as the last Merovingian king able to exercise real power. Under Dagobert, the Austrasians agitated for self-governance as a means of countering the influence of the Neustrians, who dominated the royal court. Dagobert was forced by the strong Austrasian aristocracy to appoint his infant son, Sigebert III, as sub-king of Austrasia in 633 AD. The weakness of the realm became clear, and this led to consideration of the risks and benefits of rebellion by those subject to the Franks. After Sigebert III suffered a military defeat at the hands of Radulf, King of Thuringia, in 640 AD, the Alemanni also revolted against Frankish rule. The ensuing period of Alemanni independence lasted more or less continuously until the middle of the eighth century AD.

Mayors of the Palace had been appointed by the Frankish kings as court officials since the early seventh century AD to act as mediators between the king and the people. However, following Dagobert’s death in 639 AD, with infants on the throne in both Neustria (Clovis II—a babe in arms in 639 AD) and Austrasia (Sigebert III—about four years old in 639 AD), these court appointees assumed greater power, eventually to such an extent that they ended the rule of the Merovingian monarchs and took over the Frankish throne themselves. The first step was taken by the Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia, Grimoald I, who persuaded the childless Sigebert III to adopt his own son, Childebert, as heir to the throne.

Meanwhile in the Neustrian palace, the Mayors of the Palace, Erchinoald and his successor Ebroin, were likewise increasing their hold on power behind Clovis II and his successor Chlothar III. Ebroin reunited the Frankish kingdom by defeating and removing Childebert (and Grimoald) from Austrasia in 661 AD.

Chlothar III’s younger brother, Childeric II, was then installed as king of the Austrasians, and together they ruled the empire. When Chlothar III died in 673 AD, Childeric II became king of the entire realm, ruling from Austrasia, until he was assassinated two years later by members of the Neustrian elite. After his death, Theuderic III, son of Clovis II, ascended to the throne, ruling from Neustria. He and his Mayor of the Palace, Berthar, declared war on Austrasia, which was ruled by Dagobert II, son of Sigebert III, and Pepin of Herstal (Pepin II), the Arnulfing Mayor of Austrasia. Theuderic and Berthar were defeated by Pepin at the Battle of Tertry in 687 AD, after which Pepin was appointed the sole mayor of all Frankia, nominating himself as duke and prince of all the Franks. Pepin was the product of the marriage of two very powerful houses—that of the Pippinids and that of the Arnulfings. His success at Tertry was to mark the end of Merovingian power.

Pepin again tasted military success in his campaign to bring the Frisians, of Europe’s north coast, back under Frankish control. Between 709 AD and 712 AD he fought a similar campaign against the Alemanni, including those within the borders of present-day Switzerland, and succeeded in reimposing Frankish rule, for the first time since the Alemannic revolt of 640 AD. However Frankish control of this and other outlying areas was again lost when a Frankish civil war of succession followed Pepin’s death in 714 AD.

The war was a continuation of the ageless Neustrian–Austrasian rivalry. Pepin’s illegitimate son, Charles Martel (who was the son of Pepin’s mistress Alpaida), had been proclaimed mayor of Austrasia by the Austrasian nobility in defiance of Pepin’s widow, Plectrude, who preferred that her 8-year-old grandson, Theudoald, be appointed. Neustria invaded Austrasia under Chilperic II, who had been appointed by the Neustrians without the agreement of the rest of the Frankish peoples. The turning point of the war came at the Battle of Ambleve, when Charles Martel, using brilliant and unconventional tactics, defeated combined Neustrian and Frisian forces under Chilperic II and Mayor Ragenfrid. Charles struck when the Neustrians were marching home after triumphing at Cologne over Plectrude and the child Theudoald.

By 717 AD, Charles had confirmed his supremacy, with victory over the Neustrians at the Battle of Vincy, thereby marking the beginning of Carolingian rule over the Frankish empire.

After 718 AD, Charles, who was a brilliant commander, embarked upon a series of wars to strengthen Frankish dominion over Western Europe. This included bringing the Alemanni back under Frankish hegemony, and even, in the 720s AD, forcing some Alemannic elements to participate in his wars against their eastern neighbours, the Bavarians.

Alemannia, however, remained restless, with Duke Lantfrid in the late 720s AD expressing independence by issuing revisions of the laws of the Alemans. Charles invaded again in 730 AD and subjugated the Alemanni by force.

Charles is perhaps best known for stopping the Arab advance into Western Europe at the Battle of Tours in 732 AD, in a military stand that arguably halted Islamic expansionism into the European homeland.

When Charles died in 741 AD, the dominion over Frankia was divided between his two sons from his first marriage, namely Pepin the Short and Carloman. Carloman was given Austrasia, Alemannia and Thuringia, while Pepin took control of Neustria, Provence and Burgundy (including present-day western Switzerland).

By 743 AD, Carloman was vowing to impose a greater degree of control over Alemannia. This resulted ultimately in the arrest, trial and execution of several thousand Alemannic noblemen at the blood court at Cannstatt in 746 AD.

Carloman retired to a monastery in 747 AD, leaving Pepin to assume the Frankish crown (after a vote of nobles) in 751 AD. Pepin further strengthened his position by forming an alliance, in 754 AD, with Pope Stephen II, who then came all the way to Paris to anoint him king in a ceremony at St Denis’s Basilica. In return Pepin subdued the Lombards and donated the Exarchate of Ravenna as well as captured territory around Rome to the church. This was a turning point in the history of the Roman Catholic Church and Western Europe, as it foreshadowed later events under Charlemagne that led to formation of the Holy Roman Empire. It is claimed that Pope Stephen II tabled the forged Donation of Constantine during his negotiations with Pepin. The Donation is a falsified imperial order purported to have been issued by Constantine to give to Pope Sylvester I and all his successors dominion over not only the Western Roman Empire but also all of Judea, Greece, Asia, Thrace and Rome.

Upon Pepin’s death in 768 AD, the Frankish empire was passed to his sons Charles and Carloman I. Carloman withdrew to a monastery and died shortly afterwards, leaving Charles, later known as the legendary Charlemagne, the sole ruler of the Franks. Charles expanded Frankish sovereignty to include the Saxons, Bavarians, and the Lombards in northern Italy, and he expanded the empire into today’s Austria and parts of Croatia. He offered the papacy the promise of enduring Frankish protection, and he patronized monastic centers of learning.

Charles therefore emerged as the leader of Western Christendom.

By 1200 AD, the Swiss plateau comprised the dominions of the houses of Savoy, Zähringer, Habsburg and Kyburg. When the Kyburg dynasty fell in 1264 AD, the Habsburgs under King Rudolph I (emperor in 1273) extended its territory to the eastern Swiss plateau.

Old Swiss Confederacy

The Old Swiss Confederacy was an alliance among the valley communities of the central Alps. The Confederacy facilitated management of common interests (free trade) and ensured peace on the important mountain trade routes. The Federal Charter of 1291 agreed between the rural communes of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden is considered the confederacy’s founding document; even though similar alliances are likely to have existed decades earlier.

By 1353 the three original cantons had joined with the cantons of Glarus and Zug and the Lucerne, Zürich and Berne city states to form the “Old Confederacy” of eight states that existed until the end of the fifteenth century. The expansion led to increased power and wealth for the federation. By 1460, the confederates controlled most of the territory south and west of the Rhine to the Alps and the Jura mountains. particularly after victories against the Habsburgs (Battle of Sempach, Battle of Näfels), over Charles the Bold of Burgundy during the 1470s, and the success of the Swiss mercenaries. The Swiss victory in the Swabian War against the Swabian League of Emperor Maximilian I in 1499 amounted to de facto independence within the Holy Roman Empire.

The Old Swiss Confederacy had acquired a reputation of invincibility during these earlier wars, but expansion of the federation suffered a setback in 1515 with the Swiss defeat in the Battle of Marignano. This ended the so-called “heroic” epoch of Swiss history. The success of Zwingli’s Reformation in some cantons led to inter-cantonal wars in 1529 and 1531 (Kappeler Kriege). It wasn’t until more than one hundred years after these internal wars that, in 1648, under the Treaty of Westphalia, European countries recognised Switzerland’s independence from the Holy Roman Empire and its neutrality (ancien régime).

During the Early Modern period of Swiss history, the growing authoritarianism of the patriciate families combined with a financial crisis in the wake of the Thirty Years’ War led to the Swiss peasant war of 1653. In the background to this struggle, the conflict between Catholic and Protestant cantons persisted, erupting in further violence at the battles of Villmergen in 1656 and 1712.

Napoleonic era

In 1798 the armies of the French Revolution conquered Switzerland and imposed a new unified constitution. This centralised the government of the country and effectively abolished the cantons. The new regime, known as the Helvetic Republic, was highly unpopular. It had been imposed by a foreign invading army and destroyed centuries of tradition, making Switzerland nothing more than a French satellite state. The fierce French suppression of the Nidwalden Revolt in September of 1798 is an example of the suppressing presence of the French army and the local population’s resistance to the occupation.

When war broke out between France and its rivals, Russian and Austrian forces invaded Switzerland. In 1803 Napoleon organised a meeting of the leading Swiss politicians from both sides in Paris. The result was the Act of Mediation which largely restored Swiss autonomy and introduced a Confederation of 19 cantons. Henceforth much of Swiss politics would concern balancing the cantons’ tradition of self-rule with the need for a central government.

In 1815 the Congress of Vienna fully re-established Swiss independence and the European powers agreed to permanently recognise Swiss neutrality. The treaty marked the last time that Switzerland fought in an international conflict. The treaty also allowed Switzerland to increase its territory, with the admission of the cantons of Valais, Neuchâtel and Geneva – this was also the last time Switzerland’s territory expanded.

Federal state

The restoration of the power to the patriciate was only temporary. After a period of unrest with repeated violent clashes such as the Züriputsch of 1839, civil war broke out between some of the Catholic and most of the other cantons in 1847 (the Sonderbundskrieg). The war lasted for less than a month, causing fewer than 100 casualties; most of which were through friendly fire. However minor the Sonderbundskrieg seems to be when compared with other European riots and wars in the 19th century, it nevertheless had a major impact on both the psychology and the society of the Swiss and of Switzerland. The war made all Swiss understand the need for unity and strength towards its European neighbours. Swiss people from all strata of society, whether Catholic, Protestant, or from the liberal or conservative current, realised that the cantons would profit more if their economic and religious interest were merged. Credit to those who favored the power of the cantons (the Sonderbund Kantone), the national assembly was divided among an upper house (the Swiss Council of States) and a lower house (the National Council of Switzerland). Thus, the interests of the Federationalists were accounted for. Switzerland adopted a federal constitution and the use of referenda (mandatory for any amendment of this constitution) in 1848. This constitution provided for a central authority while leaving the cantons the right to self-government on local issues. In 1850 the Swiss franc became the Swiss single currency. The constitution was amended extensively in 1874 in order to take into account the rise in population and the Industrial Revolution. It introduced the facultative referendum for laws at the federal level. It also established federal responsibility for defence, trade, and legal matters.

In 1891, the constitution was revised with unusually strong elements of direct democracy, which remain unique even today. Since then, continued political, economic, and social improvement has characterised Swiss history.

Modern history

Switzerland was not invaded during either of the World Wars. During World War I, Switzerland was home to Vladimir Illych Ulyanov (Lenin) and he remained there until 1917. Swiss neutrality was seriously questioned by the Grimm-Hoffmann Affair in 1917, but it was short-lived. In 1920, Switzerland joined the League of Nations, and in 1963 the Council of Europe.

During World War II, detailed invasion plans were drawn up by the Germans, but Switzerland was never attacked. Switzerland was able to remain independent through a combination of military deterrence, economic concessions to Germany, and good fortune as larger events during the war delayed an invasion. Attempts by Switzerland’s small Nazi party to cause annexation by Germany failed miserably. The Swiss press vigorously criticised the Third Reich, often infuriating its leadership. Under General Henri Guisan, a massive mobilisation of militia forces was ordered. The Swiss military strategy was changed from one of static defence at the borders to protect the economic heartland, to a strategy of organised long-term attrition and withdrawal to strong, well-stockpiled positions high in the Alps known as the Réduit. Switzerland was an important base for espionage by both sides in the conflict and often mediated communications between the Axis and Allied powers.

Switzerland’s trade was blockaded by both the Allies and by the Axis. Economic cooperation and extension of credit to the Third Reich varied according to the perceived likelihood of invasion, and the availability of other trading partners. Concessions reached a peak after a crucial rail link through Vichy France was severed in 1942, leaving Switzerland completely surrounded by the Axis. Over the course of the war, Switzerland interned over 300,000 refugees, 104,000 of which were foreign troops, interned according to the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers outlined in the Hague Conventions. 60,000 of the refugees were civilians escaping persecution by the Nazis. Of these, 26,000 to 27,000 were Jews. However, strict immigration and asylum policies as well as the financial relationships with Nazi Germany raised controversy. During the war, the Swiss Air Force engaged aircraft of both sides, shooting down 11 intruding Luftwaffe planes in May and June 1940, then forcing down other intruders after a change of policy following threats from Germany; over 100 Allied bombers and their crews were interned during the war. During 1944-45, Allied bombers mistakenly bombed the Swiss towns of Schaffhausen (killing 40 people), Stein am Rhein, Vals, Rafz (18 killed), and notoriously on 4 March 1945 both Basel and Zürich were bombed.

Women were granted the right to vote in the first Swiss cantons in 1959, at the federal level in 1971, and after resistance, in the last canton Appenzell Innerrhoden in 1990. After suffrage at the federal level women quickly rose in political significance, with the first woman on the seven member high council being Elisabeth Kopp from 1984–1989. The first female president was Ruth Dreifuss, elected in 1998 to become president during 1999. (The Swiss president is elected every year from those among the seven member high council). The second female president is Micheline Calmy-Rey who held the 2007 Swiss high office. She is originally from the French-speaking western area of canton Valais (Wallis in German). She is presently joined on the seven member cabinet/high council by two other women, Doris Leuthard, from the canton of Aargau and Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, from the canton of Graubünden.

In 1979 areas from inside the previous borders in the canton of Bern attained independence from the Bernese, forming the new canton of Jura. On 18 April 1999 the Swiss population and the cantons voted in favour of a completely revised federal constitution.

In 2002 Switzerland became a full member of the United Nations, leaving the Vatican as the last widely recognized state without full UN membership. Switzerland is a founding member of the EFTA, but is not a member of the European Economic Area. An application for membership in the European Union was sent in May 1992, but not advanced since the EEA was rejected in December 1992 when Switzerland was the only country to launch a referendum on the EEA. There have since been several referenda on the EU issue, with a mixed reaction to these from the population, the membership application has been frozen. Nonetheless, Swiss law is gradually being adjusted to conform with that of the EU and the government has signed a number of bilateral agreements with the European Union. Switzerland, together with Liechtenstein, has been completely surrounded by the EU since Austria’s membership in 1995. On 5 June 2005, Swiss voters agreed by a 55% majority to join the Schengen treaty, a result that was regarded by EU commentators as a sign of support by Switzerland, a country that is traditionally perceived as independent, neutral, or isolationist.

Geography Location: Central Europe, east of France, north of Italy
Geographic coordinates: 47 00 N, 8 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 41,290 sq km
land: 39,770 sq km
water: 1,520 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey
Land boundaries: total: 1,852 km
border countries: Austria 164 km, France 573 km, Italy 740 km, Liechtenstein 41 km, Germany 334 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: temperate, but varies with altitude; cold, cloudy, rainy/snowy winters; cool to warm, cloudy, humid summers with occasional showers
Terrain: mostly mountains (Alps in south, Jura in northwest) with a central plateau of rolling hills, plains, and large lakes
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Lake Maggiore 195 m
highest point: Dufourspitze 4,634 m
Natural resources: hydropower potential, timber, salt
Land use: arable land: 9.91%
permanent crops: 0.58%
other: 89.51% (2005)
Irrigated land: 250 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 53.3 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 2.52 cu km/yr (24%/74%/2%)
per capita: 348 cu m/yr (2002)
Natural hazards: avalanches, landslides, flash floods
Environment – current issues: air pollution from vehicle emissions and open-air burning; acid rain; water pollution from increased use of agricultural fertilizers; loss of biodiversity
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography – note: landlocked; crossroads of northern and southern Europe; along with southeastern France, northern Italy, and southwestern Austria, has the highest elevations in the Alps

World’s First Flying Car’s Are Now For Sale

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNBC)

 

The world’s first flying car that you can buy has been unveiled at the Geneva International Motor Show in Switzerland.

Dutch firm PAL-V revealed its final production model Tuesday and is now taking pre-orders for the car/aircraft on its website.

PAL-V said the first delivery will be made in 2019 once the production model has received final safety certifications.

Source: PAL-V

The firm claims the two-person vehicle has a top road speed of about 100 miles per hour (mph) while it can reach 112 mph in the air. With a maximum altitude of 11,000 feet, the air range is estimated to top out at around 350 miles.

Transforming from road to air isn’t quite as simple as pushing a button, requiring manual intervention, but Pal-V claims this can be done in less than 10 minutes.

The first limited edition model will retail at an expected 499,000 euros ($621,500) with only 90 available for sale. Thereafter a “Liberty Sport Edition” will be available for an expected price of 299,000 euros.

Flying lessons are included in the price and the company’s website is taking orders tied to hefty non-refundable reservation fees.

The flying car is certified to fly under the rules of U.S. and European safety agencies but owners will need a pilot’s licence. Pilots will also need access to a small airstrip to take off and land.

Trump And The Great ‘Deflation’ Of America

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT)

 

Make America Great Again. America First. President Donald Trump’s professed view of, and vision for, America is unabashedly self-focused, putting the interests of the United States ahead of longtime international leadership roles in trade and democracy-building. On a grand scale, it’s been a retreat from such multilateral pacts such as the Paris climate change agreement. On a more focused level, it’s been protectionist trade moves such as the steep tariffs Trump approved this week on foreign washing machines and solar gear. If there’s a schoolyard theme to the approach of a president derided by his critics as a bully, it’s that the United States isn’t going to be pushed around anymore.

But as Trump prepares to speak before world thought leaders in Davos, Switzerland, then deliver his first State of the Union speech next week, foreign policy experts and veterans of previous administrations worry about the impact abroad and at home. The nation’s image has taken a hit among foreign nations who historically have looked to the U.S. for help and leadership, while domestically, Americans are increasingly unhappy with the government many grew up thinking was the model for the world.



“We’ve become America, the unexceptional,” laments Daniel Drezner, professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. As a foreign relations analysts and professor, “my job has been telling people not to panic,” whether it’s the 9/11 attacks or other crises. But now, “it’s really problematic,” Drezner adds.

“America’s standing in the world has dropped catastrophically,” says Simon Rosenberg, founder of the New Democrat Network, a think tank. “It could be that the golden age [of America] and the conditions that created it are coming to an end. What’s remarkable is that all of this is happening without any debate in Congress about any of this.”

Experts underscore that the United States is still a major world power, with a strong economy and a popular culture consumed and copied by people around the globe. The U.S. is a center for innovation, Rosenberg notes. And to be sure, it is a place where 11 million undocumented immigrants are desperately hoping to stay, and where millions more hopeful immigrants would like to live.

But recent trends – including, but not limited to, the election, bombastic rhetoric and policies of Trump – have given the country a serious branding issue. The 2018 Best Countries rankings have the United States dropping (again) this year, to eighth place, down from seventh last year (and fourth in 2016 before Trump took office). The Ahholt-GfK Nation Brands Index last year showed similar results, with the United States dropping from first place to sixth in the space of one year among 50 countries ranked. International tourism to the U.S. is down as is attendance by foreign students (who not only become leaders in their own countries, but subsidize tuitions of domestic students). For all the Trumpian worries about Mexicans coming to the United States illegally, there are more Mexicans going back over the border into Mexico than are migrating here (though the trend predates Trump’s election).

The U.S. economy remains a world power, but less dominant than it was. A generation that grew up being told to clean their dinner plates because “there are children starving in China” are now middle-aged, looking at an Asian economic and political power that greatly challenges the American influence. While the U.S. still has the largest economy in the world, perception among important U.S. trading powers show that China is eclipsing that role. According to a Pew study, seven European countries, as well as Canada and Australia, see China as the world’s leading economy. And the U.S. Is no longer one of the ten best countries to start a business in. It fell from number seven in 2017 to 13 this year in the Best Countries rankings.

Some of the trends pre-date Trump, while others appear to be a direct result of Trump’s election and policies. He pulled out of the Paris accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership for global trade, and has talked about renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, a pact Trump repeatedly has said is a bad deal for the United States but which free traders in his own party argue has been good for the economies of all three nations.

The trade moves, particularly the recent tariffs on washing machines and solar products, are not surprising from Trump, who owes his Electoral College victory to states like Michigan and Wisconsin which were hit hard from competition from overseas manufacturers, notes James Roberts, a former foreign service officer and an economics research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. But Roberts adds that global trade is here, and not going back. “We don’t want to make it easier for hard-working Americans to lose more ground, but we also know we have to be realistic. We aren’t going to be able to turn the clocks back,” Roberts says.

And Trump has been direct, too, about how much American effort and military might he’s willing to expend on so-called “nation-building,” laying out a doctrine of “principled realism” in a speech last August at Ft. Myer in Arlington, Va. “We will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in faraway lands, or try to rebuild other counties in our own image. Those days are now over,” the president said. And while the words were welcome to those who have grown weary of the burden of being the world’s policeman, others view the foreign policy doctrine and retreat from global agreements as part of a pattern that will cause deep wounds – all self-inflicted – with America’s relationships. The crisis with North Korea is a case in point, veteran diplomat Michael Froman, a professor at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, noted at a symposium the center held last week on Trump’s first year.

“There’s a risk that we go from being the indispensable nation to being isolated to being irrelevant,” said Froman, who was U.S. Trade Representative and deputy national security adviser in the Obama administration. A recent Gallup poll suggests Froman is not overstating it: median approval among 134 countries and areas of U.S. leadership is at a new low of 30 percent down from 48 percent in 2016. And the Best Countries data show that the U.S.’s political stability rating, as judged by the rest of the world, went from 11th in 2016, before Trump was elected, to 23rd in 2018.

Meanwhile, Americans themselves aren’t too happy with their own government and institutions. Aside from survey after survey showing low approval ratings for both the president and Congress, pride in the country’s very democracy is eroding. More than a third of Americans – 36 percent – say they are not proud of the way the country’s democracy is working, down from 18 percent three years ago, according to a poll by The Washington Post and the University of Maryland’s Center for American Politics and Citizenship. Seven in ten say the nation’s political divisions are at least as big as during the Vietnam War. A Pew Research Center poll in December found that 60 percent of Americans believe Trump’s election has led to worse race relations in the country.

A separate Pew poll found that a paltry 18 percent of Americans feel they can trust the government in Washington to do what’s right “just about always’ or most of the time.” And an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll reveals that Americans have limited confidence in almost every pillar of the country’s government and democracy, including the nation’s public schools, courts, organized labor and banks. Clocking in even lower on the confidence level were big business, the presidency, the political parties and the media. For the first time, a president went into the week before his State of the Union with the possibility that the government would not be open as he spoke because of disagreements within Congress and between Congress and the White House over immigration and children’s health care. During the standoff, Capitol Hill Republicans said they weren’t sure what the president wanted in the critical negotiations.

Congress approved a three-week fiscal extension earlier this week, sparing both branches of government that public embarrassment at Trump’s Tuesday speech to Congress.

“I do think its dangerous and it’s certainly possible that we got into a situation that is extremely hard to get out of,” says Michael Hanmer, a University of Maryland professor and research director of the school’s Center for American Politics and Citizenship.

“There’s a ton of disagreement on issues and how to do things. The only real agreement is that government isn’t working well,” Hanmer says. “The institutions that we fall back on are broken, and there’s a lack of faith in [both] those institutions and the people running those institutions.”

International relations professor David Rothkopf attributes much of the shaky world standing to Trump – but that also means the United States can recover. Much of the “reshuffling” of the world order, too, is due to the separate development in other nations, including Germany and France as well as China, he notes.

“It’s clear that the U.S. standing is falling in these polls. It’s also clear that some of that is due to the Trump presidency, so we have to wonder to what extent that is temporary,” says Rothkopf, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “America is not its president” alone, he says. Trump administration officials, meanwhile, assure Americans that this president is not engineering a global retreat. “America first does not mean America alone,” Gary Cohn, head of Trump’s National Economic Council, told reporters ahead of Trump’s Davos visit. But for the moment, at least, America is not in first place.

With Some Countries, China Is in the Red

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BLOOMBERG NEWS)

 

With Some Countries, China Is in the Red

Supply chains and commodity needs mean China doesn’t run massive trade surpluses with everyone
August 20, 2017, 8:00 AM EDT

From

China’s big trade surpluses hog all the headlines, but imbalances go both ways.

South Korea’s $72.2 billion surplus with the People’s Republic in fact tops a list of more than 40 nations that export more to the country than they import from it, followed by Switzerland and Australia, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Besides commodity exporters such as Iran and machinery producers like Germany, smaller economies such as Ireland, Finland and Laos round out the tally.

Imports by the world’s biggest exporter show how its humming factories prop up other economies – and for some of those, what’s on the line should they find themselves involved with territorial disputes or geopolitical tensions with one of their biggest customers.

In Asia, South Korea and Malaysia are among the most vulnerable to China’s economic arm-twisting, while Japan and Vietnam look relatively immune, according to Bloomberg Intelligence estimates based on their trade surpluses with China as a share of total output.

One of China’s biggest appetites is for machines and electronics from South Korea, Malaysia and Germany, according to World Bank data from 2015, the most recent year available.

Semiconductors from South Korea and Malaysia account for much of that as they’re brought in and then installed in other electronic products assembled in China’s factories.

The iPhone itself is an ecosystem that illustrates the global reach of far-flung supply chains. China’s assembly lines for the device incorporate expensive components imported from sources including Germany, Japan, South Korea, the U.S. and Taiwan.

Such complex and crucial trade relationships give South Korea something of a buffer against Chinese reprisals like those it faced last year after agreeing to install a U.S. missile defense system.

“Eighty percent of Korean exports to China are intermediate goods, and everyday people can’t see them from the outside or feel them,” said Yang Pyeongseob, a senior research fellow at the Korean Institute for International Economic Policy in Beijing.

China’s factories, construction sites, vehicles soak up oil, metal and materials from commodity exporters around the world, so when the economy sneezes it spurs big swings in things like the Australian dollar or Mongolian gross domestic product.

Those two countries are key suppliers of iron ore, precious metals and coal. Meanwhile, oil from Angola, Oman, Iran, and Venezuela helps keep China’s cars and trucks running, and Turkmenistan sends natural gas. Chile offers metal, mainly copper, but wine and cherries are more familiar South American imports on Chinese supermarket shelves.

Swiss trade is driven by pharmaceuticals, chemicals and precision instruments and watches. The surplus size may have been distorted by commodities trading, which doesn’t necessarily lead to actual shipments.

South Africa’s shipments include diamonds, gold and wine. Elsewhere in the southern hemisphere, Brazil was China’s top overseas source of soybeans, soy oil, beef and sugar last year, according to China’s Ministry of Commerce. The most populous nation imported 38 million tons of soybeans alone from Brazil last year.

And farmers in New Zealand are increasingly stocking those supermarket shelves for more discerning consumers. China imported more lamb from New Zealand than anywhere else, the most wheat from Australia, and the largest amount of fruit and nuts from Chile.

 

 

— With assistance by Catherine Bosley, and Xiaoqing Pi

Couple’s Frozen Bodies Found on Glacier 75 Years After Disappearance

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

‘We Spent Our Lives Searching For Them.’ Couple’s Frozen Bodies Found on Glacier 75 Years After Disappearance

8:17 AM ET

The frozen bodies of a couple who disappeared 75 years ago have been discovered side by side on a glacier near a ski lift above the Les Diablerets resort in the Swiss alps.

Marcelin and Francine Dumoulin, who were 40 and 37 years old at the time of their disappearance, went missing after going to feed their cattle on a mountain pasture above Chandolin, on August 15, 1942. It was the first time Francine Dumoulin had accompanied her husband on such an excursion, the Swiss publication Le Matin reports.

For months after the couple’s disappearance, local villages carried out various search operations, to no avail. “One day, we had to [accept] the obvious,” the couple’s youngest daughter, Marceline Udry-Dumoulin, told Le Matin. “They were not coming back.”

Udry-Dumoulin, who is now 79 and became an orphan when she was four, said she and her six siblings spent their “whole lives” looking for their parents, “without stopping.” She told Le Matin that they hoped to give them “the funeral they deserved one day.”

“I climbed the glacier three times afterwards, always looking for them,” she said. “I kept wondering if they had suffered and what had become of them. I now have the pleasure of having answers to these questions.”

The couple’s bodies were discovered last week and their identity investigated by the Valais police. They were wearing World War II-era clothing and were said to be “perfectly preserved” in the glacier. According to Le Matin, such discoveries are becoming increasingly common as the glacier continues to melt.

U.S. Missile Attack On Syrian Shayrat Airfield Was Significant But Insufficient

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

Opinion

Shayrat Attack… Significant but Insufficient

Last week’s morning was a turning point in the US dealing with the Syrian crisis. When 59 missiles Tomahawk were launched towards Shayrat airport, this was the first direct attack by the |United States on Bashar Al-Assad regime since the beginning of the revolution six years ago.

The attack has stopped a US clinical sleep towards complications of a war that has resulted in the worst humanitarian crisis in recent history. Surely, speaking about whether the US has started practically correcting its stance is early. This might be a sole step and reaction for a massacre that was one among many committed by Assad’s regime – but it is at least a sign that the world is facing a new US administration that has done in less than four months what has not been done by the former administration in eight years.

The attack on Shayrat airbase, although it was surprising and important, is a small step in changing the field condition and ending the Syrian tragedy. Maybe, if the attack happened when Barack Obama threatened with the “red line” in 2013 and before the Russian military intervention then its influence might have been bigger – it might have contributed to supporting the opposition and putting huge pressure on Assad’s regime.

One strike will not change the horrible way Assad treats civilians and will not affect his power, even if it prevents him from using chemical weapons soon. Nonetheless, Washington believes that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapon in Khan Sheikhoun massacre and, thus, it should be punished.

During the Iranian-Iraqi war, the US supported Iraq against Iran, but soon after that it turned against Saddam Hussein regime after it used chemical weapons in Kurdistan. Also, Shayrat attack might be viewed as a warning to Moscow that their might be consequences for the acts of its ally, Assad.

Russians deceived the international community in 2013 agreement that admitted Assad has submitted his ammunition of chemical weapons, although Moscow knew that Assad kept some storage that was used later on without facing any real consequences by the international community.

Throughout the past years, the regime has carried out airstrikes that killed hundred thousands of innocent Syrians – it used the tactics of starving and bombing hospitals as well as chemical attacks. Despite that, Assad did not face any real consequences, not even once, for his barbarism. However, this time, the Trump administration saw that it has to destroy one of Assad’s airbases to prevent warplanes from striking innocent people and dropping Sarin gas on them.

It is true that the US attack is a huge symbolic step but it will be considered a limited tactic if compared to the facts on ground. If Trump’s slogan was “America first” then this does not necessarily mean acting indifferently towards the world matters but means that America stays strong and leads the world.

The US is not Switzerland to act impartially towards international conflicts and 50 Tomahawk missiles alone will not trigger a huge change. If the US chooses the relatively low-cost option represented in limited military response such as Cruise missiles, then it can also take an international efficient step against Assad’s regime through exerting pressure to implement the international resolutions – establishing safe zones.

As much as striking Shayrat airbase has achieved several goals, its influence will be limited with time if it remained a sole step and not a new strategy. Six years of war have proven that only Russia, Iran and “Hezbollah” are messing in the Syrian territories to support a practically collapsed regime.

The military strike at Assad’s regime might be a first step towards regaining respect to the international resolutions and pushing the international community, US in the lead, to play its role in putting an end to the Syrian tragedy.

Salman Al-dossary

Salman Al-dossary

Salman Aldosary is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

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Reality Is: Honesty Or Truthfulness Is Not Tolerated Concerning Islam

(This article is courtesy of the Times of Israel)

After 4 years, Turkish pianist cleared of insulting Islam

A Turkish court has acquitted world-renowned pianist Fazil Say of blasphemy on Wednesday, four years after he first went on trial on charges of insulting Islam in a case that raised alarm about freedom of expression in Turkey.

The Istanbul court ruling ends a long-running legal saga which began in October 2012 when Say went on trial on charges “insulting religious beliefs” in a series of Twitter posts.

In a hugely convoluted process, the Turkish classical star was initially handed a 10-month jail sentence in 2013 before a retrial was ordered the same year in which he received an identical sentence.

Turkish pianist Fazil Say, center, stands during a performance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in 2009 (photo credit: AP/Virginia Mayo)

Turkish pianist Fazil Say, center, stands during a performance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in 2009 (photo credit: AP/Virginia Mayo)

But the Supreme Court of Appeal in October 2015 overturned the sentence, sending it back to a lower court for a final ruling.

And the Istanbul court on Wednesday supported the appeal court decision to overturn the sentence against Say and ruled he should be acquitted, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Say, 45, has played with orchestras across the world including in Berlin, New York, Tokyo and Israel and regularly gives sold-out solo recitals that often mix Mozart with Turkish traditional sounds.

The charismatic pianist — who is also a renowned composer — was prosecuted for Twitter posts in 2012 that allegedly attacked Muslims.

One of which was a re-tweet which said: “I am not sure if you have also realized it, but all the pricks, low-lives, buffoons, thieves, jesters, they are all Allahists. Is this a paradox?”

Jailed Princess: Will She Be Freed, Exiled, Killed, Or Become President?

(This article is courtesy of the Washington Post)

Uzbek president’s death puts a new spotlight on the strange story of the country’s ‘jailed princess’

September 3 at 7:25 AM

As the head of an authoritarian regime sometimes likened to North Korea, Islam Karimov was known to be ruthless. The president of Uzbekistan whose death became public Friday was accused of having his political opponents jailed, exiled or even killed.

A particularly delicate case, however, is his daughter Gulnara Karimova, 42, who was believed to be one potential successor of Karimov until a few years ago.

Her fall demonstrated how divided a country Uzbekistan had become — and how brutal Karimov’s leadership had turned.

Karimova made headlines in 2014, when she was put under house arrest by her father. Secret recordings, obtained by theBBC and published that year, offered a firsthand account of how Uzbekistan’s once-most prominent face has turned into the country’s most famous prisoner.

In the secret recordings that were later sent abroad via USB stick, Karimova said: “I’m not talking about myself now. We need medical help.” She indicated that “no one [answered] why we’re kept in the house,” and she seemed particularly worried about her daughter Iman, who suffers from a heart condition.

Did Islam Karimov consider his daughter a threat to his own popularity?

According to a confidential U.S. diplomatic cable from 2008, published by Wikileaks, Karimova used to be a favorite of her father and was simply referred to as the “Uzbek princess.” After graduating from Harvard in June 2000, she became adviser to several foreign affairs officials and advanced to the position of deputy foreign minister.

In a 2005 U.S. cable, she was described as “the single most-hated person” in the country. According to the cable, she was perceived as greedy, power-hungry and interested in using her father’s power to her own financial advantage. The diplomatic analysis concluded that recent PR campaigns “promoting [her] virtue and selflessness [were] likely part of a larger strategy to clean up the First Daughter’s image.” Another file from 2010 specifies that by then, Karimova was believed to own the largest conglomerate of Uzbekistan, which she used “in support of [her] private business interests.” But then, things started to go wrong.

When the suspicious conglomerate was abruptly shut in 2010, Karimova moved on to become ambassador to Spain and the Uzbek representative to the United Nations in Geneva. At the same time, she successfully worked on an alternative career as a singer. John Colombo, who produced one of her music videos, told theBBC that, back then, Karimova “owned the country. She was everywhere.” As her alter-ego GooGoosha, she dominated Uzbek radio stations and, according to Colombo, “people seemed to love her” — a remarkable change after having been described as the most-hated Uzbek only years earlier.

The glamour of her music videos, however, didn’t win over her critics. At a runway show in New York promoting Karimova’s brands in 2011, protesters demanded an end to alleged child labor in Uzbekistan and tried to raise awareness of the precarious human rights situation in the country. The show was canceled by organizers of New York Fashion Week.

In 2011, the Associated Press critically described Karimova: “Glamour queen. International diplomat. Plunderer of the poor.” In 2013, she was overwhelmed by a major corruption scandal in Sweden, in which journalists made public that Telecommunications giant TeliaSonera had allegedly bribed Uzbek officials to enter the country’s mobile phone market. Despite denials from TeliaSonera, the path of the money was traced back by prosecutors to Karimova — a scandal in which she seems to have lost the loyalty and support of her dictatorial father.

Karimova faced a separate investigation related to money laundering in Switzerland in March but is believed to have already been under house arrest back home by then. According to the Economist, Uzbek tax prosecutors had recently begun to look into her businesses.

Her empire rapidly crumbled: Charities and TV stations belonging to her were shut down, luxury stores and jewelry lines she had founded were closed. Although her Twitter account has since been suspended, she voiced loud protest on the social media platform, writing that the forced closures were “a serious attack on civic organizations, and on thinking society as a whole.”

Within only six years, Karimova went from being Uzbekistan’s deputy foreign affairs minister to the reputed owner of the country’s largest conglomerate. After working in secret, she became the most prominent face and voice of the Uzbek nation. Then, she turned into one of the most outspoken critics of the country’s government. Photos sent to The Washington Post in 2014 appeared to show confrontations between Karimova and her guards, while she was under house arrest.

Such confrontations “occur all the time whenever she tries to go out the door, to get some air or to see if people are around and particularly when she is requesting extra food,” her spokesman, Ryan Locksley, told The Post then.

Karimov’s death has now put a new spotlight on the fate of his daughter, who was once supposed to succeed him.

A version of this post was first published in 2014. It was updated Sept. 3, 2016. 

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