Category Archives: European Union

ECB Secretly Hands Cash to Select Corporations

Don Quijones reports for Wolf Street:

In June, the ECB began buying the bonds of some of the most powerful companies in Europe as well as the European subsidiaries of foreign multinationals. This pushed the average yield on euro investment-grade corporate debt to 0.65%. Large quantities of highly rated corporate debt with shorter maturities are trading at negative yields, where brainwashed investors engage in the absurdity of paying for the privilege of lending money to corporations. By August 12, the ECB had handed out over €16 billion in freshly printed money in exchange for corporate bonds.

Throughout, the public was given to understand that the ECB was buying already-issued bonds trading in secondary markets. But the public has been fooled.

Now it has been revealed by The Wall Street Journal that the ECB has also secretly been buying bonds directly from companies, thus handing them directly its freshly printed money.

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Italy Could Be the ‘Cataclysmic Event’ That Leads to the Fall of the Eurozone, Says Joseph Stiglitz

Will Martin reports for Business Insider:

Joseph Stiglitz portraitEurope is heading towards a “cataclysmic event” that could lead to the collapse of the euro and the end of the European project as we know it, according to Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.

In an interview with Business Insider following the launch of his latest book “The Euro: How A Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe” — which argues that the European single currency will inevitably cease to be at some point in the future unless drastic changes are made — Stiglitz said that a “disastrous” political event similar to the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union could trigger such a collapse.

“I think the most likely thing is something along the lines of a political cataclysmic event like Brexit. In other words, the eurozone’s member countries are democracies and one sees increasing hostility to the euro, which is unfortunately spilling over to a broader hostility to the broader European project and liberal values,” Stiglitz told BI from his office in New York.

Stiglitz continued: “That’s going to be the end. What’s going to happen is that there will be a definite consensus that Europe is not working. The diagnosis will be to shed the currency and keep the rest, or that Europe is not working and a broader rejection — like in the UK.

“So my worry that this is precisely that kind of political event [something like Brexit] is that is what will be the catalyst for change.”

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Trump’s ‘Extreme Vetting’ Test for Immigrants, His Position on NATO and Russia and his Campaign Head’s $13m Scandal in Ukraine

Amy Goodman speaks to Matt Taibbi, award-winning journalist with Rolling Stone magazine, Phyllis Bennis, author of Understanding ISIS and the New Global War on Terror and Linda Sarsour, director of the first Muslim online organizing platform, MPower Change. They join Amy Goodman to talk about a  number of issues including Donald Trump’s vow to institute “extreme vetting” of visa applicants, his position on NATO and Russia, and his campaign head’s $13 million scandal in Ukraine. (Democracy Now!)

Is Angela Merkel really on the ropes?

BBC Magazine writes:

Angela Merkel visits the 'Kuckucksnest' sports facility on 20 June 20, 2011 in Frankfurt am Main, GermanyAt the end of July, Germany was hit by a series of violent attacks, three of which were carried out by asylum seekers. So are Germans turning against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s refugee policy? Damien McGuinness in Berlin is not convinced.

“Merkel on the ropes!” screeched one headline, after the recent attacks in Germany, before going on to predict confidently that her “premiership is hanging by a thread”.

“Calls for Chancellor Angela Merkel to stand down grow,” wrote another paper.

But what’s interesting about these and similar articles is that they were written by English-speaking journalists reporting from outside Germany.

And in both these cases, the only evidence that Merkel’s government was apparently about to fall was a video filmed by Russian TV of right-wing extremists protesting in Berlin. No polling data. No evidence. Just that video.

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Brexit ‘will be delayed until end of 2019’

Aimee Donnellan and James Lyons report for The Sunday Times:

Britain could remain in the EU until late 2019, almost a year later than predicted, ministers have privately warned senior figures in the City of London.

Theresa May has been expected to enact article 50 in January, setting in train the formal two years of negotiations before Brexit.

Despite great political pressure to stick to that timetable, she may be forced to delay because her new Brexit and international trade departments will not be ready, City sources said.

French and German elections are also being cited as a cause for delay.

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The Time Is Ripe for Détente, 2.0

Jefrey Taylor writes for The Atlantic:

On July 20, Donald Trump shocked the Western politico-military establishment when he told The New York Times that the United States would protect Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, the three formerly Soviet Baltic countries that joined NATO in 2004, from a Russian attack only if they have “fulfilled their obligations to us.” In one fell stroke, Trump proposed to jettison the alliance’s foundational Article 5, which guarantees collective defense, in favor of some impromptu financial calculus. Then, during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention two days later, he declared NATO “obsolete” for failing to “properly cover terror,” adding that “many member countries [are] not paying their fair share [into the alliance]. As usual, the United States has been picking up the cost.”

Trump’s various offenses aside, on his latter point, there can be no doubt: of NATO’s 28 member states, only five spend the recommended 2 percent or more of their GDP per year on defense; Estonia is the sole Baltic country to meet the 2-percent benchmark.* The United States, meanwhile, covers 72.2 percent of NATO’s budget. Though even President Barack Obama has complained about NATO’s European “free riders”—given that the EU’s GDP may exceed that of the United States, the critique seems reasonable—Trump, by suggesting that a future U.S. president may, amid a hypothetical crisis of unprecedented magnitude, evaluate treaty obligations by consulting the alliance’s balance sheet alone is unprecedented. Add to that Trump’s apparent personal affinity for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusations from Democrats (even if they turn out to be groundless) that his business interests might predispose him to act in Russia’s interests, and his invitation (possibly proffered sarcastically) that Russia intervene in the U.S. presidential campaign by ferreting out Hillary Clinton’s illegally deleted emails, and you end up with a media maelstrom of his own making.

Yet the very questions Trump has raised about relations between Washington and Moscow—whether a de facto new Cold War is inevitable, and whether there’s any way out of this potentially catastrophic standoff—are worth asking. The ensuing debate would demand serious consideration by policymakers, a willingness to see matters from the Russian perspective, and, given the stakes, the involvement of the American public. After all, during the Cold War, public sentiment about the Soviet Union, and, by extension, the likelihood of nuclear war, influenced national politics in ways scarcely imaginable these days. Present circumstances require a similar reexamination now.

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Think the North and the Poor Caused Brexit? Think Again

Zoe Williams writes for The Guardian:

[…] How history judges Cameron – between hapless victim and appalling bungler – will not have a huge impact on our political landscape; the verdict on Gove, even less. There will be some lasting effect on Labour’s truths and confidence from an analysis of Corbyn, but we can’t hang anything off his performance during the referendum until we accept that both sides are right: he was beset by a hostile media and he was ambivalent.

This story about the deprived north, however, will have lasting and profoundly misleading consequences for the political landscape, if we don’t think more deeply about it.

The prevailing assumption is that the vote was one in the eye for metropolitan elites, and that the white working classes, the disenfranchised and unheeded, the voters hidden on estates, had finally given a message to the Westminster bubble that knew nothing and cared less about their concerns. In fact, most leave voters were in the south: the south-east, south-west – indeed the entire south apart from London voted leave.

They did so by slightly smaller margins – though it is interesting to note that Wales, apparently the hotbed of a self-sabotaging leave movement, driven by a deprivation that only the EU was interested in alleviating, voted out by a smaller margin than the south-west. Yet southerners voted in greater numbers; their votes were decisive. Furthermore, most leave voters are middle class, or at least were of the generation whose housing and pension windfalls put them squarely in the category of wealth.

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Mafia Holds Rome Hostage—With Garbage

Barbie Latza Nadeau reports for The Daily Beast:

[…] Cleaning up the city’s catastrophic garbage crisis was supposed to be the priority for Rome’s new mayor, Virginia Raggi, when she was elected in June. But already, more than a month into her mandate, the neo-mayor is struggling against a wall of corruption that is as high as the piled-up trash. And what could make matters worse is growing concern that Paola Muraro, the woman Raggi just tapped as the garbage czar to manage the crisis, has been embroiled in the criminal scandal that caused the problem in the first place.

A few weeks ago, after a video went viral of children in one of the city’s leafy suburbs counting the rats scurrying from a dumpster (25 in five minutes), Raggi promised she would have the mess cleaned up by Aug. 20. But it will be nothing short of a miracle if she even comes close to reaching that goal.

At issue is the simple fact that organized crime syndicates have run the Italian capital’s waste management system AMA for so long it is apparently impossible to keep the city clean without them.

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Dangerous Propaganda: Network Close To NATO Military Leader Fueled Ukraine Conflict

Christoph Schult and Klaus Wiegrefe report for SPIEGEL:

[…] The newly leaked emails reveal a clandestine network of Western agitators around the NATO military chief, whose presence fueled the conflict in Ukraine. Many allies found in Breedlove’s alarmist public statements about alleged large Russian troop movements cause for concern early on. Earlier this year, the general was assuring the world that US European Command was “deterring Russia now and preparing to fight and win if necessary.”

The emails document for the first time the questionable sources from whom Breedlove was getting his information. He had exaggerated Russian activities in eastern Ukraine with the overt goal of delivering weapons to Kiev.

The general and his likeminded colleagues perceived US President Barack Obama, the commander-in-chief of all American forces, as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel as obstacles. Obama and Merkel were being “politically naive & counter-productive” in their calls for de-escalation, according to Phillip Karber, a central figure in Breedlove’s network who was feeding information from Ukraine to the general.

[…] Breedlove sought counsel from some very prominent people, his emails show. Among them were Wesley Clark, Breedlove’s predecessor at NATO, Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs at the State Department, and Geoffrey Pyatt, the US ambassador to Kiev.

One name that kept popping up was Phillip Karber, an adjunct assistant professor at Georgetown University in Washington DC and president of the Potomac Foundation, a conservative think tank founded by the former defense contractor BDM. By its own account, the foundation has helped eastern European countries prepare their accession into NATO. Now the Ukrainian parliament and the government in Kiev were asking Karber for help.

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France to send heavy artillery to Iraq in fight against ISIS

Al Jazeera reports:

French President Francois Hollande has said that France will send heavy artillery to Iraq to support the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Hollande announced the plan on Friday, saying the artillery equipment “will be in place next month”.

Ground forces will not be deployed in the country, Hollande said, following a high-level security meeting in Paris, his fourth since the ISIL-claimed lorry attack in Nice on July 14, which killed 84 people.

The president also reiterated that the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle would be deployed in the region in late September to help in ongoing operations against ISIL, also known as ISIS.

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Munich gunman fixated on mass killing, had no Islamist ties

Joern Poltz and Karin Strohecker report for Reuters:

A video purporting to show the shooter, dressed in black, firing 20 shots has been posted on TwitterA German-Iranian teenager who shot dead nine people in Munich was a deranged lone gunman obsessed with mass killings who drew no inspiration from Islamist militancy, police said on Saturday.

The 18-year-old, born and raised locally, opened fire near a busy shopping mall on Friday evening, triggering a lockdown in the Bavarian state capital.

Seven of his victims were themselves teenagers, who police said he may have lured to their deaths via a hacked Facebook account on what was the fifth anniversary of twin attacks by Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik that killed 77 people.

The Munich shooting, in which a further 27 people were wounded, some seriously, was the third act of violence against civilians in Western Europe – and the second in southern Germany – in eight days.

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Will Trump Policy Unravel Traditional Neocons?

Sharmini Peries speaks to economist Michael Hudson who says Donald Trump’s divergence from the conventional Republican platform is generating indignant punditry from neocons and neoliberals alike. (The Real News)

EU eyes Israeli technologies for spotting militants online

Dan Williams reports for Reuters:

European powers are trying to develop better means for pre-emptively spotting “lone-wolf” militants from their online activities and are looking to Israeli-developed technologies, a senior EU security official said on Tuesday.

Last week’s truck rampage in France and Monday’s axe attack aboard a train in Germany have raised European concern about self-radicalized assailants who have little or no communications with militant groups that could be intercepted by spy agencies.

“How do you capture some signs of someone who has no contact with any organization, is just inspired and started expressing some kind of allegiance? I don’t know. It’s a challenge,” EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove told Reuters on the sidelines of a intelligence conference in Tel Aviv.

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A Third of Nice Truck Attack’s Dead Were Muslim, Group Says

Alissa J. Rubin and Lilia Blaise report for The New York Times:

When a Tunisian man drove a truck down a crowded street in Nice last week in an attack claimed by the Islamic State, more than one-third of the people he killed were Muslim, the head of a regional Islamic association said on Tuesday.

Kawthar Ben Salem, a spokeswoman for the Union of Muslims of the Alpes-Maritimes, said that Muslim funerals were being held for at least 30 of those who died during the Bastille Day attack, including men, women and children.

The Paris prosecutor’s office, which handles terrorism investigations, said on Tuesday that all 84 people killed in the attack had been formally identified, meaning that the number of Muslim fatalities may be even higher. The number of people who were wounded was also raised, to 308 people.

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Turkey Coup: Erdogan Purges 20,000 As EU Commissioner Voices Concern Over “Prepared Arrest Lists”

Tyler Durden reports for Zero Hedge:

[…] In total, approximately 20,000 political opponents “purged” just days after the conclusion of the failed coup.

At the same time speculation that the terribly planned “coup” was anything but came from the European Commission itself. As Reuters adds, the swift rounding up of judges and others after a failed coup in Turkey indicated the government had prepared a list beforehand, according to EU commissioner dealing with Turkey’s membership bid, Johannes Hahn, said on Monday.

“It looks at least as if something has been prepared. The lists are available, which indicates it was prepared and to be used at a certain stage,” Hahn said. “I’m very concerned. It is exactly what we feared.”

It is also exactly what Erdogan has expected and hoped for. And with broad western support for Erdogan over the weekend, his mission to concentrate all Turkish power in his own hands is now assured.

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The 50 American H-Bombs in Turkey

Eric Schlosser, author of Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, writes for The New Yorker:

B-61 nuclear bombs, the same model as those stored by the U.S. at airbases in various NATO countries, often under lax safeguards.[…] According to Hans M. Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, underground vaults at Incirlik hold about fifty B-61 hydrogen bombs—more than twenty-five per cent of the nuclear weapons in the NATO stockpile. The nuclear yield of the B-61 can be adjusted to suit a particular mission. The bomb that destroyed Hiroshima had an explosive force equivalent to about fifteen kilotons of TNT. In comparison, the “dial-a-yield” of the B-61 bombs at Incirlik can be adjusted from 0.3 kilotons to as many as a hundred and seventy kilotons.

Incirlik was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the wake of the Second World War; when Turkey joined NATO, in 1952, it became a crucial American base during the Cold War. With a flight time of about an hour to the Soviet Union, the base hosted American fighters, bombers, tankers, and U-2 spy planes. And, like many NATO bases, it stored American nuclear weapons. NATO strategy was dependent on nuclear weapons as a counterbalance to the perceived superiority of Soviet conventional forces. The threat of a nuclear attack, it was assumed, would deter Soviet tanks from rolling into NATO territory. And granting NATO countries access to nuclear weapons would strengthen the alliance, providing tangible evidence that the United States would risk a nuclear war for NATO’s defense.

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Women Rule the World: Don’t Celebrate Yet, Feminists

Kathleen Geier writes for New Republic:

Theresa May hadn’t been sworn in as Great Britain’s prime minister yet, but already some feminists were uncorking the champagne. “Is Theresa May Britain’s most feminist Prime Minister ever?” asked The Telegraph’s Radhika Sanghani. May is “passionate about women’s rights,” gushed Catherine Meyer, a former treasurer of the Conservative Party. The Globe and Mail’s Elizabeth Renzetti even went so far as to urge feminists to “get over Theresa May’s politics” because feminism is “about the primacy of choice in people’s lives: In this case, Theresa May has chosen to dedicate her life to a set of conservative political beliefs.”

The celebratory mood—and the claims that May’s ascension represented a victory for women—echoed many feminists’ response to Hillary Clinton’s clinching of the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. “Pinch yourselves again, ladies,” Lowery wrote. “Come 2017, it won’t just be a woman running America. It could be women running America. And it will be women running the world.” Indeed, if Clinton wins, women will be leading the three largest economies in the West—the U.S., Germany, and the U.K.—and they will be running the Federal Reserve Board and the IMF.

We know what this means for the female leaders themselves: more power, influence, and wealth. What does it mean, though, for the women below them? Sarah Kliff and Matthew Yglesias, both of Vox, argued that Clinton’s election as president would be, in Kliff’s words, a “huge deal” for women, resulting in more female candidates and more pro-women policies. This echoes the argument that Sheryl Sandberg popularized in her best-selling self-help book, Lean In. “More female leadership will lead to fairer treatment for all women,” Sandberg wrote (emphasis hers). But the available evidence doesn’t support these bold assertions.

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Nice Attack: A Mass Murderer Becomes a ‘Terrorist’ Based on Ethnicity, Not Evidence

Jim Naureckas writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

Truck used in Nice attacks (photo: Andrew Testa/NYT)[…] Despite the absence of any evidence of a political motivation, or indeed any motive at all—generally considered to be a key part of any definition of terrorism—the New York Times story still referred to the Nice killings as “the third large-scale act of terrorism in France in a year and a half.” The killings, Higgins wrote, “raised new questions throughout the world about the ability of extremists to sow terror.”

Why is the Times willing to label the Nice deaths “terrorism”—a label that US media do not apply to all acts of mass violence, even ones that have much clearer political motives (FAIR Media Advisory, 4/15/14)? In part, they seem to be following the lead of French authorities: “French officials labeled the attack terrorism and cast the episode as the latest in a series that have made France a battlefield in the violent clash between Islamic extremists and the West.”

But quotes from French officials made it clear that such claims were little more than guesswork: The story reported that Prime Minister Manuel Valls “said the attacker in all likelihood had ties to radical Islamist circles,” citing Valls’ statement to French TV: “He is a terrorist probably linked to radical Islam one way or another.” Later Valls is quoted noting that the attack happened on the French national holiday of Bastille Day.

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After Nice, Don’t Give ISIS What It’s Asking For

Murtaza Hussain writes for The Intercept:

Not much is yet known about Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the 31-year-old man French police say is responsible for a horrific act of mass murder last night in the southern city of Nice. In the wake of the killings, French President Francois Hollande has denounced the attack as “Islamist terrorism” linked to the militant group the Islamic State. Supporters of ISIS online have echoed these statements, claiming responsibility for the attack as another blow against its enemies in Western Europe.

While the motive for the attack is still under investigation, it is worth examining why the Islamic State is so eager to claim such incidents as its own. On the surface, ramming a truck into a crowd of people gathered to watch Bastille Day fireworks seems like an act of pure nihilism. No military target was hit. Initial reports suggest that the killings may lead to French attacks on ISIS’s already-diminishing territories in Iraq and Syria. And French Muslims, many of whom were reportedly killed in the attack, will likely face security crackdowns and popular backlash from a public angry and fearful in the wake of another incomprehensible act of mass murder.

But the Islamic State’s statements and history show that such an outcome is exactly what it seeks. In the February 2015 issue of its online magazine Dabiq, the group called for acts of violence in the West that would “[eliminate] the grayzone” by sowing division and creating an insoluble conflict in Western societies between Muslims and non-Muslims. Such a conflict would force Muslims living in the West to “either apostatize … or [migrate] to the Islamic State, and thereby escape persecution from the crusader governments and citizens.”

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Bastille Day Attack: Is the War on Terror a ‘Self-Fulfilling Prophecy’?

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak with Palestinian-American playwright Ismail Khalidi in Nice and French human rights and civil liberties activist Yasser Louati in Paris, about the Bastille Day attack that left more than 84 dead in Nice. (Democracy Now!)

Why Terrorists Keep Succeeding in France

Leonid Bershidsky writes for Bloomberg:

France is in the line of fire. Of the 16 terrorist incidents that took place in Western nations this year, five were in France, including the deadliest one — Thursday’s apparent lone wolf attack in Nice, which killed at least 84 people.

A little more than a week before the attack, a commission set up by the French parliament gave its version of the reasons for France’s endangered state in a massive report. Apart from an objective threat the country faces thanks to its colonial past and a failure to integrate North African immigrants, it also suffers from inadequate policing.

“All the French citizens who struck within the nation’s territory in 2015 were known, in one capacity or another, to judicial, penal or intelligence services,” the report says. “They have all been on file, watched, listened to or incarcerated along their path of delinquency toward violent radicalization.”

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The Death of the Middle Class Is Worse Than You Think

Chris Matthews reports for Fortune:

From Brexit to Donald Trump, if there’s anything that current events tell us, it’s that the man on the street is angry and wants change.

A new report from the McKinsey Global Institute, with the chilling title “Poorer than their Parents: Flat or Falling Incomes in Advanced Economies,” shows just why this is the case. According to the paper, the trend in stagnating or declining incomes for middle class workers is not just confined to the United States, but is a global phenomenon hurting workers across the wealthy world.

The report found that as much as 70% of the households in 25 advanced economies saw their earnings drop in the past decade. The study tracked income brackets, not individual households, from 2005 to 2014. That compares to just 2% of households that saw declining incomes in the previous 12 years.

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Ministry for Brexit

Ministry for Brexit (Cartoon)

Francois Hollande Calls for Expansion of ISIS War to Include Syrian al-Qaeda Affiliate Nusra Front

AFP reports:

French President Francois Hollande called on Saturday for international action against an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, warning that the recent losses sustained by the Islamic State (IS) group could embolden other militant groups.

“Daesh [an Arabic acronym for IS] is in retreat, that is beyond dispute,” Hollande said after a meeting with the leaders of the US, Germany, Britain, Italy and Ukraine on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Warsaw.

But Hollande added: “We must also avoid a situation whereby as Daesh becomes weaker other groups become stronger.”

Hollande singled out al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front as particularly standing to benefit from the US-led military campaign against its arch-rival IS.

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Brexit: No Second EU Referendum Despite Petition, Says Government

Nicola Slawson reports for The Guardian:

The hopes of more than 4.1 million people who signed a petition calling for a second referendum on the EU have faded, after a response from the government saying it was a “once in a generation vote”.

Parliament must consider all petitions that reach a threshold of 100,000 votes for a debate and, although the decision has yet to consider the motion for a debate, the Foreign Office responded to the signatories by email on Friday evening, pointing out that over 33 million have had their say.

Referring to the wording of the petition, which asks for a second vote to be held because the vote to leave did not surpass 60% of the vote and the turnout was less than 75%, the government response states that the European Union Referendum Act did not include rules about minimum turnout.

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Some Pundits Think the Solution to Right-Wing Populism Is Less Democracy

Adam Johnson writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

Foreign Policy: It's Time for the Elites to Rise UpThe core orthodoxies of neoliberalism are under attack by populist forces, and commentators are scrambling for a response. Some are suggesting more left-wing red meat. Others, a moment of self-reflection. But a number of pundits are doing that most noxious of political commentary pastimes—equating right and left responses to the failures of globalization and advocating that “elites” should fight back against the forces of inconvenient democracy.

First was Foreign Policy contributing editor James Traub (6/28/16), whose piece bore this cartoonishly Dickensian headline:

It’s Time for the Elites to Rise Up Against the Ignorant Masses

Magazine writers aren’t generally responsible for their headlines, but this one captured the flavor of Traub’s screed, which declared:

It is necessary to say that people are deluded and that the task of leadership is to un-delude them. Is that “elitist”? Maybe it is; maybe…it is now elitist to believe in reason, expertise, and the lessons of history.

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Obama Rebukes Poland’s Right-Wing Government

Rick Lyman and Joanna Berendt report for The New York Times:

President Obama chided Poland’s new right-wing leaders on Friday over moves that have effectively hobbled the country’s top constitutional court, the chief check on the government’s power, and urged them to do more to nurture democratic values and institutions.

The unusual public rebuke of a close American ally came after a private meeting between Mr. Obama and Andrzej Duda, Poland’s president, on the opening day of the NATO summit meeting in Warsaw.

“I expressed to President Duda our concerns over certain actions and the impasse around Poland’s constitutional tribunal,” Mr. Obama said. “I insisted that we are very respectful of Poland’s sovereignty and I recognized that Parliament is working on legislation to take important steps, but more needs to be done.”

The issue erupted shortly after the new government of the Law and Justice Party assumed power late last year. The Polish Parliament, dominated by members of the governing party, passed a law changing the way the top court was to function, making it almost impossible for it to overturn new legislation. The government then refused to recognize the court’s decision that the new law was unconstitutional.

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Growing NATO Buildup Echoes Cold War

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

All efforts to make this weekend’s Warsaw summit about the Brexit appear to have failed, and the US has shifted NATO’s focus back to increasing military buildups in Eastern Europe, all the while harping on about Russian “aggression” and the threat of a Russian invasion of the Baltic states.

NATO-Russia relations seem worse than at any time since the Cold War, with many fearing that the continued NATO escalation on the Russian frontier portends another protracted, and costly period of massive tensions with the Russians.

Russian officials, for their part, dismissed the buildup as part of NATO’s “anti-Russia hysteria,” saying the NATO leadership was “absolutely short-sighted” for continuing the moves. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov mocked NATO claims of Russian “aggression,” noting that “we aren’t the ones getting closer to NATO’s borders.”

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Is NATO Necessary?

Stephen Kinzer writes for the Boston Globe:

Secretary of State Dean Acheson signs the Atlantic defense treaty for the United States, April 4, 1949. Vice President Alben W. Barkley, left, and President Harry Truman converse during the signing. (AP Photo)Britain’s vote to quit the European Union was a rude jolt to the encrusted world order. Now that the EU has been shocked into reality, NATO should be next. When NATO leaders convene for a summit in Warsaw on Friday, they will insist that their alliance is still vital because Russian aggression threatens Europe. The opposite is true. NATO has become America’s instrument in escalating our dangerous conflict with Russia. We need less NATO, not more.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was founded in 1949 as a way for American troops to protect a war-shattered Europe from Stalin’s Soviet Union. Today Europe is quite capable of shaping and paying for its own security, but NATO’s structure remains unchanged. The United States still pays nearly three-quarters of its budget. That no longer makes sense. The United States should remain politically close to European countries but stop telling them how to defend themselves. Left to their own devices, they might pull back from the snarling confrontation with Russia into which NATO is leading them.

Russia threatens none of America’s vital interests. On the contrary, it shares our eagerness to fight global terror, control nuclear threats, and confront other urgent challenges to global security. Depending on one’s perspective, Russia may be seen as a destabilizing force in Europe or as simply defending its border regions. Either way, it is a challenge for Europeans, not for us. Yet the American generals who run NATO, desperate for a new mission, have fastened onto Russia as an enemy. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter preposterously places Russia first on his list of threats to the United States. Anti-Russia passion has seized Washington.

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NATO Takes Over US-Built Missile Shield, Amid Russian Suspicion

Yeganeh Torbati and Robin Emmott report for Reuters:

NATO took command of a U.S.-built missile shield in Europe on Friday after France won assurances that the multi-billion-dollar system would not be under Washington’s direct control.

The missile shield, billed as a defense against any strike by a “rogue state” against European cities, is one of the most sensitive aspects of U.S. military support for Europe. Russia says the system is in fact intended by Washington to blunt its nuclear arsenal, which the U.S. denies.

“Today we have decided to declare initial operational capability of the NATO ballistic missile defense system,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference.

“This means that the U.S. ships based in Spain, the radar in Turkey and the interceptor site in Romania are now able to work together under NATO command and control,” he said, adding that the umbrella was “entirely defensive” and “represents no threat to Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent”.

Russia is incensed at the show of force by the United States, its Cold War rival in ex-communist-ruled eastern Europe.

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