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5/28/15

Fifa Scandal or Politics on Steroids ?: Why is the US policing a global game ?

The BBC asked in one of their recent programs - "America does not even like football, or so many people think. Why is it leading the charge against alleged Fifa corruption?"

Good question.

At dawn, Swiss police rounded up seven Fifa officials at the behest of US authorities who have conducted a massive investigation into corruption at football's governing body.
So how did a country where football is more niche than entrenched come to police the world's beautiful game?

"Too many countries are cowed by Fifa," said Alexandra Wrage, a former Fifa anti-bribery adviser who resigned in protest from the organization.

"As with international bribery more generally, the US Department of Justice has said they'll step up to investigate corruption if others won't," she said.

It is not clear what specific event - if any - prompted the US investigation. Some have pointed to the United States' failed bid in late 2010 to host the the 2022 World Cup, and suspicions that bribes were paid to encourage votes for Qatar.

Note EU-Digest:The US involvement in Fifa is questionable and looks much more like politics gone on steroids. Everyone is aware bribery in sports has been going on for years now, not only in the FIFA globally, but also in just about every sector of US sports.  Another possible point of this US contention could be that Russia will be hosting the next World Cup in 2018!  The country submitted its candidacy in early 2009 and was selected by the FIFA Executive Committee in Zurich on December 2, 2010, beating out England and joint bids from Portugal/Spain and Belgium/Netherlands. 

Who knows, the US might be wanting to turn this decision for Russia to host the 2018 world cup around by proving bribery charges favored the selection of Russia and in that way indirectly also punish Russia for the Ukraine crises.

Another aspect, and maybe the most important one, is that the commercial benefits of hosting a World cup and all the perks that come with it involves major corporate involvement and profits. 

This complicates matters even more, since corporate money these days,  more often than not,  usually controls political action.   

EU-Digest 


Finland, Russia's Neighbor, Says Reserves Right Despite Neutrality To Join NATO

Finland’s new Prime Minister will appoint a government cabinet this week, which may take the neutral Nordic country, Russia’s neighbor, in a new direction: towards NATO. In a recent policy statement, the new center-right coalition government said that the country may join NATO “at any time” over the next four years, shifting dramatically from its traditional neutral stance.

The move, which comes just a week after 900,000 Finnish reservists were sent letters to ensure they could be quickly contacted in the event of war, will likely surprise onlookers in Moscow who believed that the inclusion of the nationalist party and anti-NATO Finns Party in the new three-member coalition would see interest in joining the alliance waver.

"The previous government made sure that it did not apply for NATO membership during its time in office,” said Teija Tiilikainen, the director of the Finnish Institute for International Affairs, speaking to Defense News. “The new government's policy is different, it keeps the issue alive and the option open. It will be interesting to see how all this develops.”

Four years ago, when Finland’s previous government came to power, NATO membership was deliberately ruled out. Even two years ago, the subject was seldom discussed as a serious or necessary option for Finland. However. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014, the Kremlin’s continued involvement in the Ukraine war, and increased military activity in international waters and air space around Europe has seen public opinion shift.

A poll taken in September 2014 by Finnish-based pollster YLE showed that 43 percent of the Finnish public perceived Russia as a danger, up by 20 percentage points from March, when Russia annexed Crimea.

"All recent polls show that Finns are becoming increasingly concerned about Russian aggression in the region and want a stronger defense," said Kari Sundström, a Stockholm, Sweden-based political analyst. "Finns also want a higher level of spending for the military. Although majority backing for NATO membership is still lacking, over 55 percent of Finns support the holding of a referendum to decide the issue.”

Finland’s neighbor to the west, Sweden, announced Tuesday that it is ready to defend against any Russian aggression.  Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Leuven said that the Scandinavian country has “a plan of action” and “a possible solution in the case of Russian provocations in the air.”

Read more: Neutral Finland, Russia's Neighbor, Reserves Right To Join NATO As New Government Takes Power

Insurance Industry: Many Americans unclear whether domestic health insurance plan works outside the US

A surprising number of Americans are unclear whether their health insurance works outside the US, according to a new InsureMyTrip survey.

 Over twenty-five percent polled were not sure whether their domestic health insurance plan would cover any doctor or hospital visits while traveling outside the USA.

Thirty-nine percent said their domestic health insurance would provide coverage, while thirty-four percent believed their insurance plan would offer no coverage.

EU-Digest

USA - Killer Poison On The Loose: ‘No risk’ says Pentagon after anthrax error

A US military laboratory based in Utah is under investigation after mistakenly sending live anthrax bacteria to nine commercial labs and an air base in South Korea.

The shipments which were part of a military research project continued for a full year before the error was noticed.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims no one was at risk although four people have been started on preventative measures.

When anthrax becomes airborne, it can cause a deadly illness.That occurred in 2001, when anthrax sent through the US mail to government and media targets killed five people.

The mishap comes 11 months after scores of CDC employees were potentially exposed to live anthrax spores when the Center similarly mishandled samples.

Note EU-Digest: this is not only extremely incompetent but also dangerous to people around the world, not withstanding the assurances the Pentagon has been giving to the contrary, which do not have a record of always being accurate.  

Read more: ‘No risk’ says Pentagon after anthrax error | euronews, world news

5/27/15

Britain: 10 Questions for the Labour Party - by David Held

Following a largely unexpected election defeat, David Held poses 10 questions for the Labour Party with significance far beyond Britain. 

The UK general election was tumultuous and the results, particularly for Labour and the Liberal Democrats, disastrous. Of course, the position of Labour is better than that of the Liberal Democrats, but the combined fate of their decline is disheartening and disorienting for anyone on the centre- left.

The surprise and shock of the outcome to many was, of course, fuelled by the false trail of expectations led by the polls. But when all is said and done the results were seismic.

Into the chasm of failure have stepped would-be leaders with manifestos and numerous commentators, nearly all offering instant solutions that would push the party further to the left, centre or right. I have read countless attempts to tell the Labour party where they went wrong. The enemies of the party bask in the glow of these fragilities while everyone else seems to rush in with ready-made solutions.

The rush to provide instant solutions to tomorrow’s problems is mistaken and will not help rebuild the crumbled edifice of Labour. Instead, I think the failure of Labour raises some very important questions, which need to be thought through carefully.

This is a moment for deliberation about the key questions ahead; not a moment for false closure which will produce the semblance of a new direction without the foundations of one. The questions have to be right before answers sought.

For complete report click here: 10 Questions for the Labour Party | Global Policy Journal - Practitioner, Academic, Global Governance, International Law, Economics, Security, Institutions, Comment & Opinion, Media, Events, Journal

FIFA: US officials blast FIFA 'World Cup of Fraud' - by Don Emmert

US officials on Wednesday said FIFA executives arrested earlier in Switzerland had corrupted global football as US and Swiss authorities launched separate and vast inquiries into the sport’s world governing body.

Seven of the most powerful figures in global football faced extradition to the United States on corruption charges after their arrest on Wednesday in Switzerland, where authorities also announced a criminal investigation into the awarding of the next two World Cups, in Russia and Qatar respectively.

"The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States," Attorney General Loretta Lynch told a press conference in New York on Wednesday.
"It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks," she said, flanked by top FBI and US tax agency representatives.

Reacting to the move by US prosecutors, FIFA chief Sepp Blatter said he was determined to “root out any wrongdoing in football” and that the investigations would help reinforce measures that had already been taken internally. “We will ensure that those who engage in [misconduct] are put out of the game,” Blatter said in a statement.

Read more: france 24 - US officials blast FIFA 'World Cup of Fraud' - France 24

Britain: Cameron embarks on delicate European charm offensive - "do what I say or else"

BREXIT
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron this week faces a delicate task when he embarks on a whirlwind diplomatic tour to try to convince European leaders to help him push for a string of EU reforms to scale back Brussel's overriding political powers. The tour comes on the back of Cameron’s campaign pledge to reshape Britain’s ties with the European Union, which helped his Conservative Party win an outright majority in the May 7 elections.

Under pressure from eurosceptics, the British prime minister promised in 2013 to hold a referendum on whether Britain should leave Europe by 2017 if he won the general election.

On Wednesday, Queen Elizabeth II confirmed the government’s plans to hold an in-or-out EU vote as she read out a list of proposed legislation at the State Opening of Parliament in London.

“My government will renegotiate the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union and pursue reform of the European Union for the benefit of all member states,” the queen said in her speech.

Yves Bertoncini, director of the Paris-based think-tank Institut Jacques Delors, said that while “Denmark and the Netherlands are expected to lend Cameron a supportive ear when it comes to (curbing) migration… Germany and Sweden, who need migration for the sake of their economies, are sure to be opposed”.

Given that Cameron will need unanimous support from EU’s members in order to push through any treaty changes, Bertoncini said the British premier is dealing with “a real challenge” to get everyone on board.

If Cameron fails to show his electorate that he has been able to renegotiate Britain’s position ahead of the referendum, Britain could very well be heading towards an EU exit – but without any of the necessary alliances in place, Bertoncini said.

“The United Kingdom would find itself in a hopeless situation, and be pressured from all corners. Neither the Europeans nor the Americans have any interest in losing this powerful ally in the heart of Europe.”

Read more: Europe - Cameron embarks on delicate European charm offensive - France 24

EU officials say Greece not close to debt deal

A Greek government official was quoted by news agencies Reuters and AFP as saying on Wednesday that his country and its creditors had started drafting a technical-level agreement, pointing to progress in long-running talks to unlock more financial aid for the cash-strapped southern eurozone nation.

"At the Brussels Group of credit negotiators, procedures to draw up a staff-level agreement are beginning," the government source said.

This is the closest that Greece and its creditors have come to a deal to unlock 7.2 billion euros ($7.8 billion) of bailout loan money in roughly four months of talks.

Read more: EU officials say Greece not close to debt deal | Business | DW.DE | 27.05.2015

EU: Poll shows majority EU citizens want refugees stopped before they cross Mediterranean - by RM

Europeans want refugees stopped at departure points
In a recent poll conducted by EU-Digest in April and May 88.89%  polled said refugees and migrants should be stopped before they make the dangerous Mediterranean crossing.

Only 11.11% said that those reaching EU shores should be processed as legal immigrants.

No one  polled felt that the EU had done an effective job so far in coping or dealing with this momentous problem

The new recently posted EU-Digest poll (May 27 thru June 27) focuses on the increased concerns surrounding the secretive Transatlantic Trade Negotiations ( TTIP) between the European Union and the USA.

Critics say this controversial trade deal presently being negotiated will remove safety standards on a large number of essential products, including agricultural products, pesticides, food and medicines, as well as dismantle financial regulations designed to prevent banks from creating another financial crisis, to mention just a few.

The agreement would also make it easier for multinationals to sue governments and could lead to significant slashes in EU regulatory laws related to environmental pollution controls and a variety of safety and health standards.


EU-Digest

5/26/15

TTIP: EU dropped pesticide laws due to US pressure over TTIP, documents reveal

US trade officials pushed EU to shelve action on endocrine-disrupting chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility to facilitate TTIP free trade deal.

EU moves to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility were shelved following pressure from US trade officials over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal, newly released documents show.

Draft EU criteria could have banned 31 pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). But these were dumped amid fears of a trade backlash stoked by an aggressive US lobby push, access to information documents obtained by Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe show.

On 26 June 2013, a high-level delegation from the American Chambers of Commerce (AmCham) visited EU trade officials to insist that the bloc drop its planned criteria for identifying EDCs in favour of a new impact study.

Minutes of the meeting show commission officials pleading that “although they want the TTIP to be successful, they would not like to be seen as lowering the EU standards”.
The TTIP is a trade deal being agreed by the EU and US to remove barriers to commerce and promote free trade.

Responding to the EU officials, AmCham representatives “complained about the uselessness of creating categories and thus, lists” of prohibited substances, the minutes show.

The US trade representatives insisted that a risk-based approach be taken to regulation, and “emphasised the need for an impact assessment” instead.

On 2 July 2013, officials from the US Mission to Europe visited the EU to reinforce the message. Later that day, the secretary-general of the commission, Catherine Day, sent a letter to the environment department’s director Karl Falkenberg, telling him to stand down the draft criteria.

“We suggest that as other DGs [directorate-generals] have done, you consider making a joint single impact assessment to cover all the proposals,” Day wrote. “We do not think it is necessary to prepare a commission recommendation on the criteria to identify endocrine disrupting substances.”

The result was that legislation planned for 2014 was kicked back until at least 2016, despite estimated health costs of €150bn per year in Europe from endocrine-related illnesses such as IQ loss, obesity and cryptorchidism – a condition affecting the genitals of baby boys
.
A month before the meeting, AmCham had warned the EU of “wide-reaching implications” if the draft criteria were approved. The trade body wanted an EU impact study to set looser thresholds for acceptable exposure to endocrines, based on a substance’s potency.

“We are worried to see that this decision, which is the source of many scientific debates, might be taken on political grounds, without first assessing what its impacts will be on the European market,” the chair of AmCham’s environment committee wrote in a letter to the commission. These could be “dramatic” the letter said.

In a high-level internal note sent to the health commissioner, Tonio Borg, shortly afterwards, his departmental director-general warned that the EU’s endocrines policy “will have substantial impacts for the economy, agriculture and trade”.

The heavily redacted letter, sent a week before the EU’s plans were scrapped continued: “The US, Canada, and Brazil [have] already voiced concerns on the criteria which might lead to important repercussions on trade.”

The series of events was described as “incredible” by the the Green MEP Bas Eickhout. “These documents offer convincing evidence that TTIP not only presents a danger for the future lowering of European standards, but that this is happening as we speak,” he told the Guardian.

A commission spokesperson insisted that health and environmental concerns would be fully addressed, despite pressure from industry or trade groups.

“The ongoing EU impact assessment procedure is not linked in any way to the TTIP negotiations,” the official said. “The EU will proceed to the adoption of definitive criteria to identify endocrine disruptors, independently from the further course of our TTIP negotiations with the US.”

Note EU-Digest: "the statement by the commission spokesperson on the issue, however,  does not sound very convincing"

Read more: EU dropped pesticide laws due to US pressure over TTIP, documents reveal | Environment | The Guardian

USA - Democracy on the rocks? The Super Rich Have a New Way to Buy Elections - by Robert Faturechi and Jonathan Stray

US Super PAC's
Super PACs bankrolled by a single donor quadrupled their share of overall fundraising in 2014. And there’s no sign of letup in ’16.

The wealthiest Americans can fly on their own jets, live in gated compounds and watch movies in their own theaters.

More of them also are walling off their political contributions from other big and small players.

A growing number of political committees known as super PACs have become instruments of single donors, according to a ProPublica analysis of federal records. During the 2014 election cycle, $113 million—16 percent of money raised by all super PACs—went to committees dominated by one donor.

That was quadruple their 2012 share.

The rise of single-donor groups is a new example of how changes in campaign finance law are giving outsized influence to a handful of funders.

The trend may continue into 2016. National Review recently reported that Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination would be boosted not by one anointed super PAC but four, each controlled by a single donor or donor family.

The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling helped usher in the era of super PACs. Unlike traditional political action committees, the independent groups can accept donations of any dollar size as long as they don’t coordinate with the campaign of any candidate.

The Super Rich Have a New Way to Buy Elections - The Daily Beast

Healtcare USA on the ropes: Senate GOP prepared to replace Obamacare subsidies - Jennifer Haberkorn and Rachael Bade

Preparing for a Supreme Court decision that could strike down Obamacare’s subsidies for nearly 7.5 million people this summer, Senate Republicans are coalescing around a plan to resurrect them — at a steep price for the White House.

With several Senate Republicans facing tough reelections, and control of the chamber up for grabs, 31 senators have signed on to a bill written by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) that would restore the subsidies for current Obamacare enrollees through September 2017. But the administration would have to pay a heavy price — the bill would also repeal Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates and insurance coverage requirements.

“In that moment of what could be political chaos, we’re offering such a reasonable proposal that solves a mess,” Johnson said. “It fixes a mess caused by a sloppily written law, unlawfully implemented. All we’re asking for is a little bit of freedom back, which would be, I think, pretty popular,” Johnson said. Even Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is backing Johnson’s measure, along with the rest of the chamber’s GOP leaders.

Johnson, who’s got a tight race in 2016, says the legislation would be a bridge to ensure that consumers can keep the insurance they have — a promise that President Barack Obama was widely criticized for breaking in 2014.

But even if Johnson could somehow persuade Obama and Senate Democrats to accept his plan — a herculean task — the bigger problem will be his Republican colleagues in the House.

The growing divide between the two chambers leaves the GOP in an awkward spot. The court could gut Obamacare in June, handing Republicans a long-sought victory they couldn’t achieve legislatively. But without a backup plan that the whole party supports, the GOP has no way to blunt the political damage if millions of Americans lose the ability to pay for their health insurance.

Note EU-Digest; It seems like the Republican's opposition against just about everything the present Administration proposes or has proposed has reached a level now which can be earmarked as purely destructive.

Read more: Senate GOP prepared to replace Obamacare subsidies - Jennifer Haberkorn and Rachael Bade - POLITICO

Banking Industry: Forex manipulation further undermines trust in international banking

A new scandal undermining the reputation of international banking has been added to a long list of previous cases. Under the spotlight this time is a group of leading institutions in Europe and the US.
Analysts say a regulatory void underlies the accusations and subsequent multi-million dollar fines resulting from foreign exchange market manipulations.

As the British financial control authority issued one of the most expensive fines in its history, experts expressed the view that it may not be the last scandal in the sector.

Trust is now at a tipping point as investors consider changing their investment to other trading destinations.

American and British authorities, fined six international banks a total of around $6 billion – about 5.5 billion euros – for manipulating foreign exchange rates. JP Morgan, Citigroup, Barclays. and Royal Bank of Scotland confirmed their attempts to manipulate currencies, in which prices of daily transactions averaged five trillion dollars.
Read more: Forex manipulation further undermines trust in international banking | euronews, Business Middle East