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12/17/17

Ocean Pollution and Fishing Industry: Are seafood lovers really eating 11,000 bits of plastic per year?

Fishing Industry Under Pollution warning
The claim: Seafood lovers could be eating up to 11,000 microscopic pieces of plastic a year.

Reality Check verdict: There is evidence of plastic microparticles being found in the particular mussels and oysters examined, but the research suggests that in order to consume that much plastic you'd have to be eating an average of more than four oysters or between 17 and 18 mussels a day.

The figure of 11,000 bits of plastic a year, which has been reported by the Daily Mail and others recently, comes from a piece of Ghent University research dating back to June 2014.

The researchers were investigating how much plastic is consumed by humans via water molluscs such as mussels and oysters.

The researchers looked at mussels which lived on farms in the North Sea and were bought in Germany, and at oysters from Brittany in France which were farmed in the Atlantic Ocean.

Farming in this context means the mussels and oysters lived on "rope" that hangs in seawater while they were growing.

First they examined the combined tissue of three mussels and two oysters which was about 15-20 grams of meat and found that there was an average of 0.42 plastic particles per gram.

While reports of this figure featured photographs of plastic bottles and other waste washed up on beaches, these particular particles are very small - if you put 11,000 of them in a line it would cover about 4in (11cm).

To get an idea of how many particles people were likely to be eating, the authors accessed data from the European Food Safety Authority's food consumption database.

Read more: Are seafood lovers really eating 11,000 bits of plastic per year? - BBC News

EU Politics: Europe Far Right and Populists hails Trump, slams EU, Islam, migrants - Philip Heijmans

ar right leaders promised to build a new Europe without the EU, as they rallied against Islam and praised US President Donald Trump's hardline immigration policy at a meeting in Prague over the weekend.

Populist politicians from France, the UK, Poland, Austria and the Netherlands wrapped up their gathering on Sunday, held under the banner: "For a Europe of sovereign nations".

The conference was hosted by the Czech Republic's anti-Islam Freedom and Direct Democracy party, which won nearly 11 percent of the vote in October and is chaired by Tomio Okamura, a Czech-Japanese politician.

The meeting closed a year of far-right gains across Europe, as demonstrated most recently in Austria.

Members of the Freedom Party of Austria, who were present at the Prague conference, were lauded for having just entered the country's new coalition government.

The National Front's Marine Le Pen, who lost out on the French presidency earlier this year after reaching the final round of voting, said the development was "excellent news for Europe.

"These successes show that the nation states are the future, that the Europe of tomorrow is a Europe of the people," she said.

Along with Dutch Geert Wilders, who leads the Party for Freedom, Le Pen upped a call to unify opposition to the EU under the Europe of Nations and Freedom coalition (ENF) - the smallest group, launched in 2015, in the European Parliament.

Closing Europe's borders to asylum-seekers is one of the group's key ambitions.

Read More: Europe far right hails Trump, slams EU, Islam, migrants | Czech Republic News | Al Jazeera

Germany′s Angela Merkel and SPD assess chances for grand coalition

Chancellor Angela Merkel, leader of Germany's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), is set to meet Social Democrats (SPD) leader Martin Schulz on Wednesday evening for the first unmediated discussions about whether to extend the country's current "grand coalition" government.

After their worst electoral performance in post-war German history, the SPD is wary about signing on for another stint as the junior partners to the CDU, along with their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). Indeed, Schulz twice categorically dismissed another grand coalition before being forced to change his position.

"It certainly wasn't a very good idea to rule out entering into another grand coalition so soon," political scientist Lothar Probst of Bremen University told DW. "But naturally the SPD still feels the pains of two grand coalitions in nine years, and many members of the grass roots — and not only there — feel that another one would be to their detriment."

Read more: Germany′s Angela Merkel and SPD assess chances for grand coalition | Germany | DW | 13.12.2017

USA Retail Stores In Trouble: Sears is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and Kmart could be its first casualty - Hayley Peterson

Wall Street analysts have made the same prediction every year for nearly the last decade: Sears is imminently going bankrupt. But the retailer has managed to stay afloat with loans from its CEO, the sale of valuable real estate, and the slow dismantling of its exclusivity over some big American brands.

This year is no different. Sears' pool of assets is shrinking and its core business is showing no signs of improvement, making the possibility of a bankruptcy or restructuring seem more likely than a turnaround at this point, according to Christina Boni, vice president at Moody's Investors Service.

"Continuing to fund shortfalls is becoming more challenging, particularly as Sears continues to bleed its asset pool," Boni told Business Insider. "This increases and elevates the risk of a bankruptcy."- by

Read more: Sears is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and Kmart could be its first casualty

12/16/17

USA Economy: US becoming 'world champion of extreme inequality' under Donald Trump, says UN poverty envoy - by Philip Alston

The United States under Donald Trump is fast becoming “the champion of inequality”, according to a scathing report by the United Nation’s expert on poverty.
 
While the US is one of the richest nations, entrenched poverty already experienced by many will be made worse by policies promoted by Mr Trump and the Republicans, in particular a planned tax overhaul that critics say gives huge cuts to the wealthy, it added.

“The American dream is rapidly becoming the American illusion, as the United States now has the lowest rate of social mobility of any of the rich countries,” said Philip Alston the UN Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

For the complete report on Mr. Alston's investigative visit go to http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22533&LangID=E 

Note EU-Digest: the obvious question the EU Commission and EU member states should ask themselves -"Isn't it important to urgently develop and maintain an independent economic and political course for Europe which benefits all its citizens? 

Read more: US becoming 'world champion of extreme inequality' under Donald Trump, says UN poverty envoy | The Independent

Spain-Poll: Only 24 Percent of Catalans Want Secession Bid to Continue

 A month after Spain cracked down on Catalonia's push for independence, an opinion poll shows that less than a quarter of the region's residents would like the secession bid to continue after the Dec. 21 election.

The poll published recently in El Pais newspaper showed 24 percent of Catalans favor pressing ahead with independence after the election while 71 percent would prefer an agreement with the central government on resolving Catalonia's problems within Spain.

Spain fired Catalonia's government, dissolved the regional parliament and called the election after lawmakers there declared independence Oct. 27.

Former regional leader Carles Puigdemont and some of his ex-Cabinet ministers are presently fighting extradition from Belgium and leading the election campaignnfor the upcoming elections.

Read more: PoOnly 24 Percent of Catalans Want Secession Bid to Continue | Business News | US News

EU - Portugal: United socialists & democrats commit to a progressive future for Europe

Progressive activists, party members and political leaders discuss their experiences at the PES Council in Lisbon, and our shared strategy to change Europe for the better. and more progressive Europe.

Read more and view video: United socialists & democrats commit to a progressive future for Europe – POLITICO

12/15/17

Germany: ′Free internet′ for Germany despite US repeal says Government

The US FCC on Thursday moved to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules,however,  the German Economics Ministry said Friday it would continue to support EU internet rules that forbid discriminatory access to the web.

"An open and free internet is indispensable for the successful development of a digital society that everyone wants to take part in," the ministry's spokeswoman, Beate Baron, told reporters. She declined to comment directly on the FCC's decision, but said that the German government had "taken note" of the US move.

Led by Trump appointee Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 in favor of scrapping 2015 rules, ending regulations that were meant to ensure all internet services are treated equally.

Pai said rolling back net neutrality was "restoring the light-touch framework that has governed the internet for most of its existence."

′Free internet′ for Germany despite US repeal | Business | DW | 15.12.2017

EU Military Staff, European Defence Agency, Military Communications Institute to Discuss Cyber Security in The Tactical Communications Domain

Attendees of the next Mobile Deployable Communications conference, taking place in Warsaw on the 1st and 2nd February 2018, will hear how leading military nations ensuring secure communications are being effectively operated in contested environments - with a dedicated focus on cyber security in the tactical communications domain.

At the event, Colonel Heinrich Krispler, Branch Chief Policies and Requirements, Communications and Information Systems Directorate, from EU Military Staff will present: 'Ensuring Robust and Efficient CIS Architectures and Cyber Defence for Military EU CSDP Missions and Operations'. This will cover: CSFP including goals of the Global Strategy; CSDP overview military and civilian missions and operations;

Cyber strategy and overview of conceptional framework of the EU including CIS and Cyber concept; Overview and status of different CIS and Cyber projects including EUMS approach FMN and CWIX; Vision EUMS: How to enhance information priority, CIS effectiveness and Cyber defence for military CSDP missions and operations.

Major Salvador Llopis, Project Officer Cyber Defence Technology, from European Defence Agency will present: 'An Insight into the Cyber Impact and the Convergence with Electronic Warfare on Deployable Communications'. Covering: Information Requirements for Cyber Defence and Electronic Warfare decision making;

The Value of Architectures for planning the CIS Infrastructure and their Defences for EU-led Operations; On the road to ensure the availability of the state-of-the art of Cyber Defence Technology.

Lieutenant Colonel Bartosz Jasiul, Head of Cyber Security Laboratory, C4I Systems' Department, from Military Communications Institute will present: 'Cyber Security of Communication Systems based on R&D activities of Military Communication Institute'. Covering: Threats targeting communication and IT systems; Risks assessment of critical infrastructure; Cyber Security Laboratory capabilities; National and international initiatives.

Read more: EU Military Staff, European Defence Agency, Military Communications Institute to Discuss Cyber Security in The Tactical Communications Domain — EUbusiness.com | EU news, business and politics

The Netherlands tops the Good Country Index - by Mina Solanki

Amsterdam downtown
This year, the Netherlands has climbed to the top of the Good Country Index. Based on several indicators, this index ranks countries according to what they contribute to the greater good of humanity.

A Good Country is a country that helps its people and does not harm, but preferably furthers the interests of people in other countries as well. No moral judgements are made about the country being assessed.

This year, the Good Country Index published its third edition, with previous editions assessing countries in 2016 and 2014. In this edition, the index focussed on 163 countries and ranked them according to seven categories.

The seven categories were: global contribution to science and technology, culture, international peace and security, world order, planet and climate, prosperity and equality and health and wellbeing.

For each category, five indicators were used, which were given fractional rankings. The category ranking resulted from calculating the mean of the five indicators, and the overall ranking from the average of the categories. The data used to determine the ranking was from 2014, unless otherwise purported in the results.

The Netherlands took overall first place, in the 2017 edition, scoring particularly well on global contributions to culture, world order and prosperity and equality. In these categories, the Netherlands scored second, third and fourth place respectively. Notably, the Netherlands did not score first place in any one category.

Taking second and third place were Switzerland and Denmark. Switzerland obtained its highest score, second place, in the global contribution to planet and climate, and Denmark also landed second place in the global contribution to prosperity and equality.

Following on from Switzerland and Denmark, Finland and Germany placed fourth and fifth in the Good Country Index. Neither scored first place on any one category. In sixth place is the first of the countries assessed to score first place on a category, namely Sweden, with first place for the global contribution to health and wellbeing.

Finishing at the bottom of the ranking are Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan in respective 161st, 162nd and 163rd place. Libya takes last place in the global contribution to culture.

Read more: he Netherlands tops the Good Country Index

Stock Markets: Bitcoin buyers should be prepared to lose all their money, top UK regulator warns

Bitcoin buyers have been issued a "serious warning" from one of Britain's leading financial regulators.

Andrew Bailey, chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), told BBC's "Newsnight" on Thursday, "If you want to invest in bitcoin, be prepared to lose all your money."

Bailey said a lack of backing from governments and central banks for the world's most popular digital currency was evidence that putting money into bictoin was not a secure investment. He also said buying bitcoin was akin to gambling because it had the same level of risk.

Bitcoin's meteoric price rise has stunned critics and enthusiasts alike, leaving investors scrambling to understand the driving factors for the digital currency's runaway rally.

Bitcoin traded at $17,159 on Friday morning, according to CoinDesk's bitcoin price index. The digital currency has a market value of approximately $291 billion — the largest among the cryptocurrencies. A year ago, one bitcoin was worth around $780.

"If you look at what has happened this year, I would caution people … We know relatively little about what informs the price of bitcoin," Bailey told the BBC.

Soaring interest from institutional and retail investors has prompted global exchanges, such as the Cboe, to launch futures contracts.

Meantime, CME Group is poised to a launch bitcoin futures contract on Sunday and a German stock exchange operator is reportedly considering whether to follow suit.

The launch of bitcoin futures contracts represents a significant step in the legitimization of cryptocurrencies, according to some market participants. Futures are derivatives, or financial instruments, that obligate a trader to either buy or sell an asset at a specified time and at a specified price.

Bitcoin bulls have frequently referenced the cryptocurrency's scarcity value as a primary reason for its staying power. Somewhat like gold, bitcoin supply grows at glacial and ever-decreasing fixed rates with only 21 million bitcoins set to be in existence.

But while the trading of bitcoin futures on two of the world's largest exchanges is expected to provide a layer of official oversight that had not previously existed, several leading voices have expressed skepticism.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon called bitcoin a "fraud" that would eventually blow up, while billionaire investor Warren Buffett urged traders to "stay away from it," calling the rally a "mirage."


Read more: Bitcoin buyers should be prepared to lose all their money, top UK regulator warns