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8/22/17

US Economy: U.S. Economic Forecast by the Conference Board

US GDP grew by 2.6 percent in the second quarter, after a rocky first quarter featuring just 1.2 percent growth.

A combination of rising investment growth, an improved external demand environment, and plenty of firepower coming from consumer spending suggests that the economy can grow by 2.6 percent for the rest of 2017 and by 2.4 percent in 2018, which is above the current trend.

Business investment gained momentum last quarter, growing at a 5.2 percent annual rate echoing stronger first quarter growth.

This brings investment growth in line with higher levels of business confidence that have prevailed since the end of 2016.

A large portion of investment growth occurred in the energy sector which may make it difficult to sustain over the next few quarters unless oil prices continue to show an upside. Still, equipment spending was an important source of strength, which signals upward momentum for industrial production over the next few quarters.

Consumer spending is also continuing to make large positive contributions to GDP growth thanks to rapid employment growth and high levels of consumer confidence. Further increases in spending may be on the horizon if tight labor markets induce new acceleration in wages.

For now though, wage and price inflation are contained, meaning that the Federal Reserve is likely to raise interest rates only once more in 2017. Capital costs are therefore unlikely to rise quickly which will help perpetuate the current upward moment in investment.

Finally, improved global conditions are also helping US economic performance in 2017, especially through exports and improved investment opportunities. The Conference Board’s Global Leading Economic Index suggests that emerging economies are also picking up some speed.

The Euro Area has been growing above a 2 percent rate, its fastest pace time since 2011. For the first time since the Great Recession, the US faces an external environment where all major global economies are performing well. Should these conditions persist, along with a weaker dollar, demand for exports and a healthy profit environment for MNCs will be sustained.

Read more: U.S. Forecast | The Conference Board

Internet: Saudi royals seek ban on .virgin, .sex, .catholic, .wtf and 159 more - by Kevin Murphy.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has objected to the proposed new top-level internet domains .virgin and .baby – applied for by Virgin Group and Johnson & Johnson respectively – on the grounds that they will encourage pornography.

The bizarre claims are among 163 complaints about new dot-word gTLD applications that the Saudi Communication and Information Technology Commission has filed with domain name gatekeeper ICANN over the last few days.

“We consider there is a risk that this string is used in the same way as .XXX to host pornographic websites,” the commission wrote in its objection to Johnson & Johnson's .baby application.

Read more: Saudi royals seek ban on .virgin, .sex, .catholic, .wtf and 159 MORE • The Register

North Korea: ‘The fate of the sinful U.S. ends here’: North Korea threatens to envelop Guam in missiles in new video

The Trump administration should be “keeping its eyes and ears open from now on,” North Korea has warned in an incendiary new video that shows senior security officials being engulfed in flames and U.S. President Donald Trump looking over a field of white crosses with the warning: “The fate of the sinful United States ends here.”

North Korea is not known for subtlety in its propaganda videos, and the latest clip, published by the Uriminzokkiri outlet, shows a North Korean missile headed toward the U.S. territory of Guam, which Pyongyang has been threatening to “envelop” with missiles.

The video was released on the eve of the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises between the American and South Korean militaries, which started Monday. The annual drills are mainly computer-based, but they nevertheless annoy North Korea and come at a particularly sensitive time.

Read more: ‘The fate of the sinful U.S. ends here’: North Korea threatens to envelop Guam in missiles in new video | National Post

Afghanistan: Trump to expand US military intervention in Afghanistan - by Julian Borger

In a televised address to troops at Fort Myer in Virginia on Monday night, Trump outlined what he claimed was a new strategy for Afghanistan and south Asia. But he did not say how many more troops he would send, how long they would stay, or what their ultimate objective was.

Before standing for the presidency and privately since entering the Oval Office, Trump had argued for a military withdrawal, but in his speech he made a rare admission that he had changed his mind. He avoided saying directly that his about-turn would lead to more soldiers being sent to Afghanistan, but his speech made clear that would be the outcome.
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“The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory,” Trump said. “They deserve the tools they need, and the trust they have earned, to fight and to win.”

In June the Trump White House gave the Pentagon authority to deploy another 4,000 more troops to bolster the 8,400 there already, but the defence secretary, James Mattis, delayed ordering the deployment until there was a clearer expression of the administration’s strategy.
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In his own statement issued after Trump’s speech Mattis said he had ordered US military chiefs to “make preparations to carry out the president’s strategy” and that he would be talking to Nato allies, “several of which have also committed to increasing their troop numbers”.

“Together, we will assist the Afghan security forces to destroy the terrorist hub,” Mattis said.

Note EU-Digest: There they go again, as if they have not learned that US military "interventions or expansions" for the sake of "democracy", as the US likes to call it, has not worked anywhere in the world, with very few exceptions. In Europe these ongoing NATO military operations have only resulted in a massive refugee problem for the EU and Turkey. 

Unfortunately many of the EU member states still continue to support these totally destructive US military policies in the Middle East. As someone said recently: "The sentence "collateral damage" to cover-up millions of innocent civilians killed in US bombing raids was invented by the US military". 

Democracy never can come out of the barrel of a gun, it only comes by example and war is not one of those examples. 

Hopefully the EU will stop supporting these unwinnable wars.   

Read more: Trump to expand US military intervention in Afghanistan | US news | The Guardian

8/21/17

ECB concerned stronger euro could derail economic recovery

European Central Bank (ECB) governors are concerned that a further hike in the value of the euro, making exports less attractive and imports cheaper, could derail the economic region’s recovery. In minutes from their meeting on 19-20 July 2017, released on Thursday, they said there is a "risk of the exchange rate overshooting in the future". Some concerns were also voiced about "policy uncertainty in the United States".

Read more: ECB concerned stronger euro could derail economic recovery

Canada: Survey finds ‘dramatic shift’ in Canadian perception of U.S. approach to human rights - by Michelle Zilio

For the first time in 13 years, Canadians think they have more in common with Britain and Germany’s approach to human rights than that of the United States, a new survey suggests.

The finding is the latest in a 13-year tracking of Canadian and American perceptions of the bi-national relationship by Nanos Research and the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Survey participants on both sides of the border were asked which countries are closest to theirs on human rights. Forty-four per cent of Canadian respondents said Canada most closely aligns with Britain on human rights, followed by Germany at 25 per cent and the U.S. at 16 per cent.

Read more: Survey finds ‘dramatic shift’ in Canadian perception of U.S. approach to human rights - The Globe and Mail

Russia-US Relations: Kremlin hardliner to be next Russian ambassador to the US

Russian President Vladimir Putin has picked a career diplomat, considered a hard-liner, to be Moscow's next ambassador to the United States.

Anatoly Antonov, 62, spent 33 years working in the foreign ministry, before jumping to the defense ministry in 2011, where he became a deputy minister in charge of international relations.

He takes the job at a particularly tense time in US-Russian relations. Late last month the US imposed sanctions against Kremlin insiders in response to Moscow's interference in last year's US presidential election - a charge the Kremlin denies.

Read more: Kremlin hardliner to be next Russian ambassador to the US | News | DW | 21.08.2017

Spain: Police shoot fugitive city’s van attack wearing possible bomb belt

A police operation was underway Monday in an area west of Barcelona, and a Spanish newspaper reports that the fugitive in the city’s van attack has been captured.

Regional police said officers shot a man wearing a possible explosives belt in Subirats, a small town 45 kilometres (28 miles) west of Barcelona.

Younes Abouyaaqoub, 22, has been the target of an international manhunt since Thursday’s van attack in Barcelona. Authorities said Monday they now have evidence he drove the van that plowed down the city’s famed Las Ramblas promenade, killing 13 pedestrians and injuring more than 120 others.

Abouyaaqoub then is suspected of carjacking a man and stabbing him to death as he made his getaway, raising the death toll between the Barcelona attack and a related attack hours later to 15.

Read more: Spain: Police shoot man wearing possible bomb belt - Campbell River Mirror

The Afghanistan Cesspool: The case against Trump’s decision to continue the war in Afghanistan, explained by Trump - by Zack Beaucham

President Donald Trump will address the nation about the war in Afghanistan in a rare primetime speech on Monday night. He is expected, per the New York Times, to “open the door to the deployment of several thousand troops.” The exact number is unclear — most reports put it at 4,000 — but it’s clear that the speech will signal another escalation in America’s longest-running war.

The striking thing is that the war in question is one that Trump vocally and repeatedly criticized in the harshest possible terms for years before taking office.

“I think the same as what I’ve been thinking for the past couple of years: What are we doing there? These people hate us,” Trump said in a 2012 Fox News appearance. “We’re spending hundreds of billions of dollars, trillions of dollars, on this nonsense — and the minute we leave, everything blows up, and the worst guy gets it. The one who hates this country the most will end up taking over Afghanistan.”

Read more: The case against Trump’s decision to continue the war in Afghanistan, explained by Trump - Vox

8/20/17

Mobile Phones: EU -Wide Free Roaming Charges A Boost For European Tourism And Users

EU-Wide no more roaming charges
Whether you voted remain or leave, the European commission has come to your aid. Holidaymakers are about to get free mobile phone roaming across Europe and a host of other destinations from 15 June – for the next two years, at least.

Following a long campaign and a series of staged roaming price cuts, the EU Commission has finally put in place a long-cherished aim – the ability of Europeans to make same-cost mobile calls and data downloads irrespective of which EU country they are in.

But fears remain that once Brexit takes place the gains could be reversed for Britain. And holidaymakers will still need to be careful about getting caught out in some non-EU countries such as Switzerland, Andorra and even the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, which are not formally part of the EU or even the European Economic Area (EEA).

Some mobile operators are choosing to include these areas in their new roaming-free packages, but others are not. What’s more, Turkey appears to be half in, half out – Vodafone is treating it the same as the EU but others are not.

Already initial reports show that free roaming in the EU since June 15 has been a huge success for consumers and tourism.

EU-Digest

Bio-Economy:the Netherlands Is Taking Aim at One of America's Fastest-Growing Sectors

One of the fastest growing and most important pieces of the American economy is also often one of the most overlooked. Despite accounting for an estimated $324 billion in GDP in 2012 -- over 2% of the total economy -- growing at annual clips that exceed 10%, and accounting for over 5% of the total economy's growth from 2007 to 2012, the biotech sector doesn't get the policy attention it deserves.

While Uncle Sam has taken a hands-off approach to nurturing one of its prized economic drivers, the tiny Netherlands is doing things quite a bit differently. I recently had the chance to meet with representatives and entrepreneurs from Holland at the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology in Montreal to learn more. Turns out, the United States could learn a thing or two.

The biotech sector, or bioeconomy, is defined as all revenue generated from genetically modified microbes, plants, and cell lines. Although the word "biotech" is often used interchangeably with "biopharma", that's an insult to the power of biology. And in fact, biopharma is the smallest part of the biotech sector!

Read more: The Netherlands Is Taking Aim at One of America's Fastest-Growing Sectors | Business Markets and Stocks News | host.madison.com

France-EU: Macron to show Eastern Europe how much he cares – by Philippe Wojazer

The French president will also use a trip through Central and Eastern Europe to show French voters that he hasn’t given up on a key electoral pledge: changing the European Union to make it more “protective” of its citizens — in order to better tackle populism and Euroskepticism.

The French president has long promised to spend part of the summer on a tour of European capitals to explain his proposals to improve the EU and defend his push for reforming the bloc’s controversial directive on posted workers, which he denounced as unfair during his election campaign.

However, Macron has a limited schedule with only three stops planned — Austria, Romania and Bulgaria — and a further two EU leaders are traveling to meet the French president.

In Vienna next Wednesday, Macron will meet Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern as well as Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and Slovakia’s Robert Fico. In Bucharest the next day, he will meet Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and Prime Minister Mihai Tudose. Then, on August 25, he will meet President Rumen Radev and Prime Minister Boyko Borisov in Varna, Bulgaria.

A Macron aide insisted the trip “also has a symbolic dimension. [Macron] wants to show France’s intent to rekindle links with the former Eastern Europe after years of neglect” under the presidencies of Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande.

Read more: Macron to show Eastern Europe how much he cares – POLITICO

Britain: Brexit realities dawn in UK - by Lisbeth Kirk

Just over a year after a small majority voted for Britain to leave the EU, new realities are dawning on both the in and the out camps.

On the remain side, Brexit looks increasingly inevitable, but on the leave side, it looks more painful than previously imagined.

Read more: Brexit realities dawn in UK