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Turkey: Police raid suspected ISIS militants in Istanbul, five wounded

Turkish special forces raided buildings in Istanbul used by suspected members of an Islamist militant group active in neighbouring Syria and Iraq late on Monday, leaving three policemen and two suspects wounded, police said.

The five - including a man and a woman thought to belong to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) - were hit after people in the buildings opened fire on security forces, police added.

ISIS is among fragmented Islamist groups fighting against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in a three-year conflict. It is has also battled Iraq's government in that country's western Anbar province.

Ankara has repeatedly denied it is arming rebels inside Syria, but its highly publicised opposition to Assad has raised fears that Turkey may have become a safe haven for Islamist militants battling against Damascus.
If ISIS's involvement is confirmed, it would be the first clash with the group inside a Turkish city.

The raid in Istanbul's residential Umraniye neighbourhood came a week after two members of the security forces were killed in the southern Turkish province of Nigde when suspected members of ISIS opened fire from a truck, and just days before Turkey holds high stakes municipal polls.

Read more: Police raid suspected militants in Istanbul, five wounded | News , Middle East | THE DAILY STAR

Terrorism: France to stop citizens joining Syria war - EU member state Governments and EU parliament must also act

ISIS in Syria and Iraq
Aljazeera reported that France has unveiled steps to stop its citizens from joining the Syrian civil war and prevent young French Muslims from posing a threat to their home country.

France, which has been a staunch opponent of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, estimates the number of its nationals directly involved in the Syrian conflict is about 500, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a radio interview.

President Francois Hollande has prioritized the crackdown on groups and individuals planning domestic attacks since a Toulouse-based al Qaeda-inspired gunman, Mohamed Merah, shot dead seven people in March 2012.

But with the Syrian conflict entering its fourth year, the government has increasingly come under fire for failing to stop its nationals - some of whom are as young as 15 - from heading to Syria.

"France will take all measures to dissuade, prevent and punish those who are tempted to fight where they have no reason to be," Hollande told reporters on Tuesday.

The Dutch Government also reported recently that two Dutch Muslim nationals, who are part of a group of at least 150 other Dutch citizens, who have joined radical Muslim groups like ISIS, Al Qaeda and others  in Syria,  blew themselves up in suicide attacks in Syria and Iraq.

As ISIS’s name suggests, the interests of the group and its current leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi go beyond Syria. Its members believe that the world's Muslims should live under one Islamic state ruled by sharia law. 

War and instability in Syria and Iraq have given it an opportunity to attempt to build a proto-state in the adjacent Sunni-majority areas of these two countries, before spreading further. 

Its 7,000 or so fighters in Syria have expended as much energy on consolidating the group’s rule in towns and cities behind rebel lines as fighting the regime. ISIS is willing to use ruthless tactics to assert its authority. 

Once in control of an area it has told women to cover up and kidnapped journalists, aid workers and Syrian activists. Beheadings and suicide bombings are now a regular feature of ISIS There are also many other EU Muslim citizen, including Germany and Britain, who have voluntarily joined radical Muslim groups like ISIS in  the Syrian conflict.

Many people fear that "rebel fighters" returning home to Europe will have become so radicalized that they could become a danger to their local societies.

There seems to be an urgent need for EU member state Governments and the EU Parliament to legislate laws which forbid and punish anyEuropean citizen for joining external conflicts or radical fighting Units.



The Netherlands:- Environment: Most of us know we should live in a sustainable way. But it doesn't happen because we don't feel involved.

Most of us know we should live in a more environmentally sustainable way. But it does not happen because we do not really feel involved.

How can policymakers change the way people think? This is what the InContext project, funded by the EU, hopes to answer. Leading European research institutions in the fields of transition, behaviour and sustainable development are trying to create a manual for change.  

This manual should ultimately be developed into a so-called ‘Transition Theory’ that is, as yet, unproven. And this theory, in its turn, should make it possible to change people’s mindset. For example, towards living in a more environmental sustainable way.

A number of pilot projects have been initiated in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. The idea was to put this theory to the test, to refine it and hopefully to prove it right. For example, in the Dutch city of Rotterdam a community centre in the neighbourhood of Carnisse was facing cutbacks. It was due to be closed down in January 2012.  Drift, the Dutch Research Institute for Transitions, which is a project partner, took it upon itself to help the people of Carnisse save it.

Project leader Julia Whittmayer, researcher and consultant, and other colleagues of Drift invited residents to come up with ideas, and to present them in brain storming sessions. This resulted in a plan of action. This also gave people an opportunity to decide themselves how they could help.  

It was expected that this process would provide inspiring examples from amongst the residents of Carnisse to motivate others to spring into action. Thus they would ultimately make a ‘bigger noise’ and save the community center. But to Whittmayer’s dismay, many preferred “to be told what to do!” instead.

It might be true that inspiring examples can help change. But it is just as true that some people rather want to be told what to do, according to behavioural psychologist Max Mulder, who is a market researcher at the Dutch consultancy called Beautiful Lives, based in Hilversum.

Read more: Most of us know we should live in a sustainable way. But it doesn't happen because we don't feel involved.

France: Revolutionary analysis questions basic distribution of wealth - by Paul Sweeney

Few economists inspire popular movements, but Thomas Piketty has. “We are the 99 per cent”, the slogan of the Occupy Movement, was based on his in-depth analysis with Emmanuel Saez of income distribution and inequality in the US in 2003. 

The Frenchman’s new book Capital in the 21st Century is already causing a stir. Some reviewers have called it the economic book of the year, others of the decade.

Piketty’s ground-breaking work on the historical evolution of income distribution is impressive, but he covers many other areas, including the erosion of meritocracy by inherited wealth, public debt, education, health and taxation. He also proposes challenging ideas for funding the social state in the 21st century. 

Piketty’s central point is that when the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of economic growth, the economy automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities which undermine the meritocratic values on which democracy is based.

Unless capital owners consume all of the return on their capital, more will remain for them and they get richer, effortlessly. 

In the late 19th century, the amount of private wealth was a staggering six or seven years of national income.
Two world wars and the Depression wiped out much of this wealth and, since the second World War, the emergence of welfare states, nationalisation of monopolies, labour-friendly governments and high income and inheritance taxes greatly reduced accumulated capital. 

In the public mind, that trend towards equality seemed to be normal, but Piketty shows it was an exceptional period, which will not be repeated on current trends.

It is already over in the US, where average real incomes have hardly risen since the 1970s, despite high productivity. The labour share of national income has been declining in most countries for over 30 years.

This optimistic public misperception was shaped by the work of Nobel economist Simon Kuznets, who argued that, as economies developed, inequality appeared to fall and then stabilised. The labour share of national income seemed to stabilise at about 75 per cent. The distributional issue seemed to be settled and economists ignored it and most still do. 

However, Kuznets only examined a short period of time (1914-1948) and only the US. It was the wars, the Depression and state “interference” that reduced the inequality, rather than any self-correcting market mechanism, he argues.

In Capital ’s 650 pages of tightly argued data-based economics, Piketty and others have compiled their argument from data stretching back to the 1700s. 

Note EU-Digest:  Capital in the 21st Century is a must read book for every economist and Government  Ministers of Finance and Economic affairs. Also people who have no educational economic background can read it because of its simple and very clear definitions as to the workings of economics.

Read more: Revolutionary analysis questions basic distribution of wealth - Economic News | Ireland & World Economy Headlines |The Irish Times - Fri, Mar 28, 2014

Slovenia - Italy: 4.4 earthquake in Slovenia and Italy, near nuclear plant

A 4.4-magnitude earthquake has struck Slovenia southwest of the country’s capital, Ljubljana, at a depth of 12.4 kilometers, says USGS.

According to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Center, the magnitude of the quake was measured at 4.5, with a depth of 2 kilometers.

The earthquake took place about 200 kilometers from a nuclear power plant at Krško, a town in eastern Slovenia. The plant is co-owned by Slovenia and Croatia.

The quake struck at about 11:00 local time (09:00 GMT).

According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), the quake hit about 5 kilometers northeast of the Slovene town of Ilirska Bistrica, 32 kilometers northwest of the Croatian city of Rijeka and 37 kilometers east of the Italian city of Trieste.

Read more: 4.4 earthquake in Slovenia, Italy, nr nuclear plant — RT News

Ukraine: Photos show undercover Russian troops - by Arwa Damon, Michael Pearson and Ed Payne

Do a series of photos of gun-toting men wearing green uniforms prove Russian forces are operating in eastern Ukraine?

Ukrainian officials point to the pictures in a dossier obtained Monday by CNN, arguing that the images show Russian "sabotage-reconnaissance groups" acting in Ukrainian towns.

The images, Ukrainian officials say, prove organized Russian activity in the region.
CNN cannot independently confirm the photographs, some of which were first published in The New York Times.

The dossier shows what Ukrainian officials say are images of well-equipped gunmen in eastern Ukraine who look similar to photographs of Russian forces taken in Crimea, Russia and during Russia's 2008 invasion of Georgia.

Last week, Ukrainian security officials told CNN they had arrested a Russian military officer and a woman Ukrainian officials said is a Russian intelligence agent.

Moscow has disavowed involvement in the takeover of government buildings in eastern Ukraine or other acts by often-masked pro-Russian gunmen.

Read more: Ukraine: Photos show undercover Russian troops -

Middle East: Syria conflict: West criticises Assad election plan

The US has dismissed a Syrian plan to hold a presidential election on 3 June as a "parody of democracy".

UN chief Ban Ki-moon also condemned the plan, saying it could torpedo efforts to broker a deal to end the three-year civil war, which has killed 150,000.

Government forces have made gains recently, but rebels still control vast territories. It is unlikely that voting would be held in those areas
President Bashar al-Assad is expected to seek a third seven-year term.

The government recently framed an election law that stipulated all candidates must have lived in Syria for the past 10 years.

Read more: BBC News - Syria conflict: West criticises Assad election plan

Economics: Capital in the 21 Century: Still Mired in the 19th - by Dean Baker

Thomas Piketty's new book on the history and future of capitalism (Harvard University Press) is a bold attempt to pick up where Marx left off and correct what he got wrong. While there is much that is useful in this lengthy and well-written book (Piketty and his translator Arthur Goldhammer can fight over credit), it owes too much to the master, and not in a good way.

For backdrop, economists and social scientists in general have a huge debt to Piketty. His work with Emmanuel Saez has advanced enormously our understanding of income distribution at top end. The World Top Income Database that they constructed along with Facundo Alvaredo and Anthony Atkinson is an enormously important source of data that economists are just beginning to analyze. This book is a further contribution in providing a wealth of information about historical trends in income distribution and returns to capital over large parts of the world.

Piketty begins his book by dissing the unnecessary complexity of economics. While the theoretical excursions of the last four decades have been an effective employment program for economists, they have done little to advance our understanding of the economy. The book itself is laid out in a way that makes it easy for the non-expert to understand, with the mathematics kept to a bare minimum.

Based on his analysis of capitalism's past, Piketty has a grim picture of the future. The story is that slowing growth will lead to a rise in the ratio of capital to income, which we have already seen throughout the world with the rise in stock and house prices. This is turn will imply growing inequality as wealth distribution is hugely unequal and there is little reason to believe that the market will somehow reverse this inequality. Piketty's remedy is higher income taxes on the rich and wealth taxes, solutions that he acknowledges do not seem to have good political prospects right now.

While the book presents this story with the sort of the determinism that many have seen in Marx's theory of the falling rate of profit, there are serious grounds for challenging Piketty's vision of the future. First, there are many aspects to the dynamics that have led to the redistribution to profit and high earners in the last three decades that are likely to change in the not too distant future.

The top of my list is the loss of China as a source of extremely low cost labor. According to the International Labor Organization, real wages in China tripled in the decade from 2002-2012. While these data are not very accurate, there is little doubt that wages in China are rising rapidly. While Chinese wages still have a long way to go before they are on a par with wages in the United States or Europe, its huge cost advantage is rapidly disappearing. Manufacturers can look for other low-wage havens, but there are no other Chinas out there.

The loss of extreme low wage havens is likely to enhance the bargaining power of large segments of the workforce.

However, perhaps a more fundamental objection to Pikettys' grim future is the fact that a very large share, perhaps a majority, of corporate profit hinges on rules and regulations that could in principle be altered. My favorite example is drug patents. This industry accounts for more than $340 billion a year in sales (@ 2 percent of GDP and 15 percent of all corporate profits). The source of its profits is government granted patent monopolies.

Suppose the government weakened patent rights or allowed low-cost generics from India to enter the country, profits and presumably the value of corporate stock in the sector would crumble. Is there a fundamental law of capital that prevents this from happening? The same could be said about the patents that provide the basis for enormously profitable tech companies like Apple. Are we pre-destined never to take steps to weaken these laws which lead to enormous corruption and economic waste?

Another big profit sector is cable and telecommunications where we seem to have unlearned the lesson from intro-econ that monopolies are supposed to be regulated to prevent them from gouging consumers. Obviously the monopolists won't like to see their profits eroded, but allowing near monopolies to operate without regulation does seem like an aspect of capitalism that can be altered in the future as it was in the past.

The financial sector has gone from accounting for less than 10 percent of corporate profits in the 1960s to over 20 percent in recent years. Is there a law of capitalism preventing us from instituting financial transaction taxes like the UK has had on stock trades for more than three centuries or breaking up too big to fail banks?

Piketty is not just pessimistic when it comes to profit shares. He also tells us there is little hope that improved corporate governance will put a lid on CEO pay. Is it really implausible to believe that shareholders will ever be able to organize themselves to the point where they can do something like index CEO stock options to the performance of other companies in the industry? This means the CEO of Exxon doesn't get incredibly rich by virtue of the fact that oil prices rose. Is it a law of capitalism that shareholders will forever throw money in the toilet by giving unearned bonanzas to CEOs?

These and other areas might be viewed as important institutional details that get short-shrift in the book. To take another example, in an analysis of returns on university endowments Piketty attributes the extraordinary returns to the endowments of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale to the fact that they could afford top quality financial advisers. This is another source of inequality for Piketty; the rich can buy good financial advice, while the average person has to rely on their brother-in-law.

Harvard, Princeton and Yale undoubtedly have sophisticated financial advisers, but many equally sophisticated advisers don't consistently produce above market returns. An alternative explanation is insider trading. The graduates of these institutions undoubtedly could prove their alma maters with plenty of useful investment tips.

I have no idea if such insider trading takes place, or if so whether it is a major factor explaining above average returns, but it would provide an alternative and more easily remedied fix for this particular source of inequality. A few years in jail for some prominent perps would do much to curtail the practice.

Rather than continuing in this vein, I will just take one item that provides an extraordinary example of the book's lack of attentiveness to institutional detail. In questioning his contribution to advancing technology, Piketty asks: "Did Bill [Gates] invent the computer or just the mouse?" (To be fair, the comment is a throwaway line.) Of course the mouse was first popularized by Apple, Microsoft's rival. It's a trivial issue, but it displays the lack of interest in the specifics of the institutional structure that is crucial for constructing a more egalitarian path going forward.

In the past, progressive change advanced by getting some segment of capitalists to side with progressives against retrograde sectors. In the current context this likely means getting large segments of the business community to beat up on financial capital. This may be happening in the euro zone countries where there is considerable support for a financial speculation tax - although the industry is fighting hard.

In terms of drug patents, India's generic drug industry is a natural ally for progressives everywhere who care both about public health and want to stop the upward redistribution to drug barons. In the United States, public options for both health care insurance and retirement savings accounts could be a boon not only to workers who use them, but also small businesses who lose valued workers to larger employers who offer better benefits.

The list of options could be extended considerably, but the point is that capitalism is far more dynamic and flexible than the way Piketty presents it in this book. Given that we will likely be stuck with it long into the future, that is good news.

Read more: Capital in the 21 Century: Still Mired in the 19th (See correction) | Dean Baker


Middle East: Saudi Arabia jails lawyer and human rights activist in ongoing crackdown on dissent

Saudi Arabia must immediately release prominent human rights activist and lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair, who was arrested following his fifth hearing at the Specialized Criminal Court on Tuesday and taken to al-Ha’ir prison without an explanation, said Amnesty International.

Waleed Abu al-Khair was detained in connection with his human rights work. He is now facing charges almost identical ones he was convicted of by another criminal court back in October 2013.

“Authorities in Saudi Arabia are clearly punishing Waleed Abu al-Khair for his work protecting and defending human rights.

 He is a prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Said Boumedouha Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

“Waleed Abu al-Khair’s detention is a worrying example of how Saudi Arabian authorities are abusing the justice system to silence peaceful dissent. Nobody should be jailed for peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression.”

Waleed Abu al-Khair is among a dozen prominent activists who were all sentenced in 2013 to long prison terms based on trumped-up charges that the authorities resorted to after failing to silence them by other means, including the threat of prosecution and other extra-judicial means of intimidation.

He was brought before the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh on 6 October 2013, on charges that included, among other things, “breaking allegiance to and disobeying the ruler”, “disrespecting the authorities”, “offending the judiciary”, “inciting international organisations against the Kingdom” and “founding an unlicensed organization”.

Read more: Saudi Arabia jails lawyer and human rights activist in ongoing crackdown on dissent | Amnesty International

Energy-Fracking: British Poll finds: Wind farms more popular than fracking sites - Fracking dangerous to your health

Fracking good for the corporate world - but not for your health
More people would prefer a wind farm in their local council area than a fracking site, according to research published recently by YouGov for the renewables company, Ecotricity.

When asked “Which of the following energy projects or plans would you prefer to have operating in your council area”, 62% said a wind farm, 19% said a fracking site and 19% said they didn’t know.

The research found that a wind farm was more popular than a fracking site, regardless of political opinion.

The preference for wind farms was lowest UKIP and Conservative supporters and highest among Lib Dem and Labour supporters

Conservatives: 50% chose wind, 33% chose fracking, 17% did not know
Labour: 76% chose wind, 9% chosefracking, 14% did not know
Lib Dem: 78% chose wind,14% chosefracking, 8% did not know
UKIP (Eurosceptics): 41% chose wind, 36%chose fracking, 24% did not know

Interesting note about these figures is that the Conservatives and the right-wing UKIP Eurosceptics had the least understanding of what fracking is all about.

Women were more likely to support wind farms than men. The research found that among women, 68% of women would prefer a wind farm, compared with 9% who would prefer a fracking site. The figures for men were: 56% would prefer a wind farm, compared with 29% a fracking site.

Fracking was more popular in older people. According to the research, of those that preferred fracking over wind, 29% were over 60.

To watch a video on what Fracking does to the environment and your health click here.


EU-US Trade Negotiations: Chemical industry secretly manipulating US-EU trade negotiations

A leaked document from the December 2013 round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations exposes the extent of chemical industry influence over secretive ongoing US-EU trade negotiations. Chemicals industry proposals to TTIP would have a chilling effect on the regulatory environment, slowing down the implementation of precautionary decisions on toxic chemicals, undermining democratic decision making and stifling the innovation of safer alternatives.

A report published today by ClientEarth and CIEL shows that the leaked proposal from lobby groups, the American Chemistry Council and the European Chemical Industry Council, would damage future protective legislation on toxic chemicals.

For years the US government and the chemical industry has complained about protective EU chemicals laws being a trade barrier, with some industry groups calling it the largest transatlantic trade barrier. The major aim of the TTIP is to minimise what it calls technical barriers to trade. Its actions could weaken the implementation of vital laws to protect people and the environment. 

“This proposal illustrates two huge and interrelated problems with TTIP,” says Baskut Tuncak, Staff Attorney for the Center for International Environmental Law, “the privileged position of industry to craft language in the trade agreement without public input, and the unlimited potential of TTIP to affect the ability of countries to regulate on toxic chemicals, energy and climate change, food and agriculture, and other critical issues.” 

“The overriding theme of the proposals is secrecy,” says Vito Buonsante, ClientEarth Lawyer. “The industry wants to restrict the transparency of information, which is essential if people are to make choices about what they expose themselves to. They also want to undermine the democratic process by putting decision making in the hands of industry dominated committees.”

The report also shows that the leaked proposals would have a particularly damaging effect on legislation concerning chemicals that interfere with hormonal systems, such as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). EDCs are found in everyday products such as sunscreens, deodorants and children's toys.

The ClientEarth’s and CIEL’s joint report is available at:  

Read more: ClientEarth - environmental lawyers | Chemical industry secretly manipulating US-EU trade negotiations (TTIP) [2463]

France: Thousands rally for France’s Brittany reunion and greater autonomy

Nantes residents in France’s west rallied for their city’s reunification with Brittany where it historically belonged, and the greater autonomy of the area.

Those who gathered at the Saturday event demanded that Brittany’s rights be expanded and its historical boundaries restored. Among the main slogans that were shouted by the crowd, were: “Get Nantes back into Brittany”, “Reunite Brittany”, and “Live, work and decide in the reunited Brittany.”
The estimates of those present at the march range from 5,500 people, according to police, to up to 15,000 people, as the organizers claim.

The majority of the participants were representatives of the “Red Hats” movement who are known for speaking out against Francois Hollande’s economic policy last year.

“Currently, France is the most de-centralized state in Europe,” the mayor of the town of Carhaix, Christian Troadec, stated at the rally.

Read more: FRANCE : Thousands rally for France’s Brittany reunion and greater autonomy — RT News

Pollution: Climate change experts call for institutional reform to battle global warming

A UN-backed panel of climate change experts has released another major report warning that governments around the globe have to move faster - and cooperate better - to prevent dangerous levels of global warming.Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC said reaching climate change targets will require technological advancement and instiutional reform. 

See the video: Climate change experts call for institutional reform to battle global warming | All media content | DW.DE | 15.04.2014

US Political System : "It's time for America to get rid of the two-party system" - by Bart McPherson

The article "Who's Setting the Agenda?" in the Press-Register on April 9 has some comical aspects. It seems both national political parties are in a tizzy over their partial loss of control over the elections. Their whining leaves one cold.

What is there about the way politics in this country has "progressed" over the past four or five decades that makes one believe we should preserve the prerogatives of the two political parties? The fact that Barack Obama and John McCain were judged to be the best two choices out of 300 million Americans tells you something about how effectively they pick and promote top candidates for the top job in the world.

It is time the election of presidents is taken out of the exclusive hands of the two entrenched political parties.

There are two major developments today that have the political parties, as well as much of the national media, nervous. They see a possibility that those entities may be losing the enormous power that they have had in our national elections.

First, the dedication of people on both sides of the fence to get more involved, financially and otherwise, in national elections with all that that implies for the future of politics.

Second, and possibly even more important, is the developing monster called the internet. It seems that people do not yet realize what a powerful weapon has been dropped in their laps. Never before in history has it been possible for literally millions of people to message their politicians instantly.

It staggers the imagination as to the possibilities if the people get organized and use their new power to put their opinions before their politicians instantly and in stunning mass. Politicians must and will react immediately to such inputs from their constituents.

It is entirely possible that we are entering a new age where the people, for the first time, can be heard from directly in a most powerful way.

Politicians heretofore have had it made – if they can satisfy their political party and their media supporters they have little to fear from the people. Voters have felt they have had little influence on their government. Can that be about to change?

Read more: It's time for America to get rid of the two-party system |

Ukraine: Putin playing the long game over Russian kin in Ukraine - by Christian Lowe

Russia's decision last week to sign a peace accord on Ukraine does not mean that the Kremlin is backing down, rather that President Vladimir Putin is prepared to be patient in pursuit of his ultimate objective.

That aim, his own reflections and those of people close to his way of thinking seem to indicate, is one day to re-unite Russian speaking peoples, including those living within the borders of Ukraine, within one common home.

As a skilled tactician, Putin knows that to push too fast to achieve this ambition could be damaging for Russia - as demonstrated by the Western threat of tough sanctions and Europe's rush to wean itself off Russian gas supplies.

Signing the four-way agreement on Ukraine in Geneva last week, and thereby showing the West that it was willing to compromise, made tactical sense for Russia.

With another four years before he needs to seek re-election, and the strong chance of winning another 6-year term after that, Putin can take his time, giving him an advantage over his Western rivals whose policies are driven by more short-term imperatives.

"Now the main thing is to keep the powder dry and be prepared for the eventuality that the crisis in Ukraine is going to last a long time," said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, a journal which has the Russian foreign minister on its editorial board.

Read more: Putin playing the long game over Russian kin in Ukraine | Reuters

Pharmaceutical Industry: Do free samples influence the way doctors prescribe drugs?

A new study from Stanford University's School of Medicine found that doctors who are allowed to hand out free samples of expensive drugs prescribe those drugs more often than doctors who don’t have access to free samples. Dr. Alfred Lane, senior author of the report, talks with Hari Sreenivasan about the implications of the findings.

See more: Video: Do free samples influence the way doctors prescribe drugs? | Watch PBS NewsHour Online | PBS Video

Middle East: Arab elections do not herald democracy - by Sharif Nashashibi

Instead of heeding popular demands for an end to autocracy, Arab leaders have adapted to maintain their longevity, promising cosmetic reforms without ceding any real power.

They are neither embracing nor opposing the Arab Spring, but - more conveniently for them - managing it. It is a remarkable turnaround since the ouster of strongmen in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. It seems we have underestimated our dictators.

One of the cosmetic reforms that have become trendy is holding elections, but not the kind that take place in real democracies. Instead of one-man races, tolerated opposition parties and figures are now allowed to take part, but without any chance of success.

Furthermore, Arab leaders have decided to make the results a little more credible than the near-100% approval that they are used to, while still claiming popular support that would be the envy of genuinely elected leaders. It makes one almost miss the days when our dictators did not pretend to be democrats.

Algerians have just gone to the polls, and Iraqis, Egyptians and Syrians will follow suit in the coming weeks and months. However, this does not herald an outbreak of democracy, merely its façade. Besides Iraq, the results of the other elections are a foregone conclusion, and in all cases, the processes are deeply flawed.

Read more: Arab elections do not herald democracy - Al Arabiya News

Netherlands - Kosovo: KLA war crimes hearings to begin in the Netherlands - by Peter Cluskey

A new international court, funded by the European Union, is expected to begin hearings in the Netherlands as early as next year exclusively to try crimes allegedly committed by Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian rebels during their war with Serbia in 1998 and 1999.

The court is expected to cost in the region of €170 million to set up, but its running costs and the length of time it will need to remain in existence will be impossible to calculate until it begins its work and issues its initial indictments, all in a difficult domestic political climate.

The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) rebels had the backing of NATO during the war in which some 10,000 people were killed and 300,000 displaced. It was brought to an end by a campaign of allied air strikes, the first ever launched without the approval of the UN Security Council.

The rebels emerged from the conflict as national heroes. Their former political chief, Hashim Thaci, was elected first prime minister of a newly independent Kosovo in 2008, and described at one point by US Vice-President, Joe Biden, as “the George Washington of Kosovo”.

But as the sickening extent of the bloodshed committed by all sides in the Yugoslav wars began to emerge, the KLA too was accused of atrocities – specifically of trucking prisoners across the border to secret torture camps in Albania, and most notoriously of trafficking in the organs of dead Serbs.

Read more: KLA war crimes hearings to begin in the Netherlands - Crime & Law News from Ireland & Abroad | The Irish Times - Mon, Apr 21, 2014

EU-Turkey: Economic integration should come first - by Angelo Santagostino

In the past fortnight, two interesting reports by the Independent Commission (IC) and the World Bank (WB) on Turkey’s relation with the EU have been released. Both give an insightful view of the situation concerning the bilateral relations between EU-28 and a negotiating candidate state such as Turkey. Both share a common view concerning the foreseeable developments of economic integration between both parties.

In the chapter on the Turkish economy, the IC states, “Beyond existing trade, there is much potential for trade between the EU and Turkey in the field of services and public procurement, as well as agricultural goods, were the EU-Turkey custom union to be extended to these two sectors.” This possible development however, was not resumed in the conclusion, where “a credible accession process” is considered the main road for Turkey “to jump into the high income country category.”

Nevertheless, no statement on the opening of Chapters 1 and 3 on the free movement of goods and on the right of establishment and freedom to provide services can be found in the report.

The IC calls for a reset in the accession process this year in order to generate an impact on reform (like the one of 2001-2) and considers that, “there is no better place to start than to open Chapters 23 and 24 in accession talks on the judiciary and fundamental rights, and justice, freedom and security.” 

Read more: EU-Turkey: Economic integration should come first - CONTRIBUTOR