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European court OKs crackdown on e-cigarettes, packaging

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s top court dealt a blow to the tobacco industry Wednesday by approving sweeping new rules that will require plain cigarette packs, ban menthol cigarettes and regulate the growing electronic cigarette market.

Tobacco companies had protested a 2014 EU directive on the new rules, calling it disproportionate. But the European Court of Justice on Wednesday upheld the directive, arguing it’s in line with efforts to fight smoking and protect public health.

The court said it is OK to ban menthol and other flavorings that make tobacco more appealing. The directive also requires standardized, plain labels that cover at least 65 percent of all cigarette packs with health warnings.

The rules will require warnings for e-cigarettes, limit their nicotine levels to 20 grams and restrict advertising and sponsorship by their makers.

The Independent British Vape Trade Association said in a statement that it is disappointed by the ruling and argued it could push some e-cigarette smokers back to tobacco.

Among those welcoming the decision was French Health Minister Marisol Touraine, who said plain cigarette packs will be required in France starting May 20.

“It’s a victory for public health, a victory in the battle against lobbies, because in the fight against smoking … the obstacles are numerous,” she told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.

The EU Commission has come under criticism in the past for failing to fully disclose information about its dealing with tobacco lobbyists.

Marc Firestone, senior vice president at Philip Morris International, which had questioned the directive’s legality, said in a statement that the court didn’t address whether plain packaging is legal or reduces smoking rates. He said the ruling “reflects the substantial deference that the Court of Justice often shows to the EU institutions.”

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How the European Union is Manipulating the Syrian Refugees

Migrants arriving in Europe by boat

Triggered by the coordinated publication of the photograph of a young Kurdish child, Aylan Kurdi, drowned on a Turkish beach on the 3rd September 2015, European public opinion mobilised and mounted various demonstrations in favour of the refugees. Immediately, French President François Hollande and the chancellor of the German Federation Angela Merkel pronounced themselves favourable to a «permanent and obligatory European system of accomodation», while an immense crowd of people of mysterious origin began its progression across the Balkans. Only the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, spoke out against this sudden and massive migration.

The ESI proposition

Until then, the question of migration had been an economic problem, mainly between Africa and Italy. This was added to a problem internal to the Union – the demand of German heavy industry, expressed by its President Ulrich Grillo, of recruiting to Germany 800,000 East European workers who did not belong to the Schengen Area. Overnight, the problem of the humanitarian refugees fleeing a war zone was added to these two economic factors.

The first concrete proposition for responding to the new situation was formulated on the 17th September 2015 by the ESI, a think tank created in Berlin, and then clarified on the 4th October. It concerned the drawing up of an agreement between the EU and Turkey designed to stem the tide of migrants, while organising the transfer of 500,000 Syrian refugees to the Union over the next twelve months. In addition, Turkey would agree to take back the other migrants who continued to enter the Union illegally, while in exchange, it would receive a visa dispensation for all its citizens.

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Arrival in Greece of Afghan migrants from Turkey

«It is a recognition that the Syrian crisis is genuinely unique, creating a humanitarian crisis on a scale not seen in Europe since the Second World War», indicated the ESI, specifying that the initiative should come from Germany, in response to the Russian intervention in Syria.

And yet,

  • the ESI takes it as read that the Syrian refugees are fleeing «repression by Bachar’s régime» supported by Russia.
  • the ESI only takes into account the Syrian refugees, and not the Iraqi refugees, who are also persecuted by Daesh.

the ESI specifies that its plan also has the objective

  • of warning against the development of the extreme right in Austria – the director of this think-tank is Austrian ;
  • of preparing a similar operation for 1.1 million Syrian refugees currently based in Lebanon, and who will be sent on to North America and Australia. This concerns the application of Kelly Greenhill’s theories about the «strategic management of migrations as a weapon of war» [1], such as that observed by ESI researchers during the start of the war in Kosovo [2].

In addition, by proposing to send back the migrants to Turkey, the ESI seems to ignore that this country is not a stable state for refugees, and that it had refused to sign the Convention of 1951.

The Merkel Plan

On the 23rd September, the European Council published a communiqué which, in turn, assimilated the question of the migrants to that of the war in / against Syria [3].

The main points of the ESI plan were resumed on the 7th October by Chancellor Angela Merkel, during an interview with journalist Anne Will on the TV channel ARD.

In order to present its project, now named the «Merkel Plan», the ESI organised conferences in Berlin, Ankara, Istanbul, Stockholm, Brussels and La Haye.

On the 12th November, independent of the emergency provoked by the hordes of migrants gathering in the Balkans, the Union organised a summit in Valetta to try to answer the structural question of economic migrations from Africa. It was agreed to create a special fund of 1.8 billion Euros for long-term projects which could offer a local economic perspective to Africans and help them to create stability at home.

On the 29th November, the Union organised another summit of the European Council, this time with Turkey. The «Merkel Plan» was adopted by both parties. However, an envelope of aid to Turkey was added, to the sum of 3 billion Euros.

The Council justified this sudden generosity as aid for the accommodation of the Syrian refugees who, until then, had cost Turkey 8 billion dollars – but there was no plan to pay an equivalent sum to Lebanon and Jordan, who together have hosted more Syrian refugees than Turkey. Yet the Council pretends to ignore that Turkish spending has already been reimbursed by the UNO, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and that Turkey has systematically looted the North of Syria –dismantling machine-tools and stealing antique treasures– for infinitely greater sums. And finally, the majority of the 2.7 million Syrian refugees in Turkey have been integrated into the local economy, to the extent that less than 240,000 have been placed under the protection of the World Food Programme.

In reality, Germany and France, who pushed for the creation of this donation, intend in this way to indirectly finance the continuation of the war against Syria, which will – according to them – put an end to the suffering of the refugees by overthrowing the Syrian Arab Republic.

On the 21st January 2016, the director of the ESI, Gerald Knaus [4], published an op-ed piece in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. He defended the principle of a closer and more direct cooperation between Germany and Turkey, but without involving the EU. He concluded that a failure of the «Merkel Plan» would lead to «reinforcing those who wish to abolish the right to asylum, who are against the refugees, against the Union, against Turkey, against Muslims, and who support Putin. » [5].

Gerald Knaus does not explain how the fact of dealing directly between Berlin and Ankara without involving Brussels would help the struggle against Euro-scepticism. Neither does he explain why Russia would want to see Syrian refugees drowning in the Aegean.

No-one reacted to these insanities, since the refugee question has not been treated rationally for a long time.

The Merkel-Samsom Plan

On the 28th January, when the six-month rotating presidency of the European Council fell to Holland, Dutch Prime Minister Mak Rutte and his ally, the President of the Workers’ Party, Diederik Samsom [6], announced to De Volkskrant that they had prepared concrete measures for the implementation of the «Merkel Plan» [7]. As a result, one now speaks of the «Merkel-Samsom Plan» when talking about the project presented by the ESI [8].

In passing, we learn that Diederik Samsom has been consulting with several European Socialist governments since November, and that he has already visited Turkey.

On the 18th March, the European Council, presided by Holland, confirmed the implementation of the 29th November agreement [9]. Except that, by some miracle, the 3 billion Euros which were to be paid to Turkey had now become 3 billion annually.

And yet in the time between the two European summits, the number of refugees who entered the Union illegally, through Turkey via Greece, is estimated at about 200,000.

Observations on a deviation

In six and one half months, we have gone from a crisis concerning migrants who were mostly African, and who drowned in the Mediterranean before reaching the coasts of Italy, to a windfall for German heavy industry, which was able to hire 800,000 workers at minimal cost, and then to an operation for financing the war against Syria and the displacement of its population.

Indeed, it is recognised that

  • On the 1st July 2015, the special representative of the UN General Secretary charged with international migrations, Peter Sutherland [10], forced the World Food Programme to diminish aid for Syrian refugees, making survival difficult for approximately 240,000 of those living in Turkey. In this way, the Anglo-Saxon pressure group that he represents intended to provoke a crisis which would harm the identity of the European nations. This decision, followed by the declarations of hospitality by the French President and the German Chancellor on the day following the publication of the photo of the corpse of young Aylan, led certain Syrian refugees to try for survival in Europe. Consequently, Peter Sutherland opposed the «Merkel-Samsom Plan», because it stabilises the populations, and uses the crisis against Syria alone.
  • The Imprimerie Nationale Française, which until 2011 supplied Syrian passports, created a large number which, at the start of the crisis, were distributed to non-Syrian economic migrants – mainly Lebanese – thus increasing the pressure of « refugees» in Europe.
  • The migration networks were organised not to bring Syrian refugees from Turkey to Europe, but to go and take Syrians from their homes in Syria and bring them to Europe. Rumours were spread which spoke of luxurious living conditions for Syrian refugees in Europe – a special airline was opened from Beirut, and a maritime line from Tripoli, to transport Syrians who were not refugees to Izmir. In the space of a few weeks, we saw middle-class citizens from Damascus and Latakia – who have always supported the Syrian Arab Republic – sell their businesses and take the road to exile.

Finally, and contrary to certain official declarations :

  • The link between the pressure of migrants in Europe and the war in / against Syria is artificial. It has been deliberately created in order to provoke both the acceptance of the migrations and the indirect funding of the war by the Union. Although several hundred thousand Syrians have already been forced to cross the Mediterranean, it is unlikely that millions of others will follow.
  • The mixture of populations that were organised to form the hordes of migrants who crossed the Balkans is particularly explosive. It includes Syrians and Iraqis, Afghans, Albanians and Kosovars etc. The fact that most of these people are Muslims should not obscure the fact that they have cultures and religious interpretations which are widely different – sociological origins and motivations which have no connection with one another.
  • Apart from the episode of the second half of 2015, the migratory pressure on Europe remains essentially African. However, over the next few years, it could become Turkish. Indeed, should Ankara deprive 6 million of its citizens of their nationality, as it has announced, these people will do anything to flee their country of origin, if possible, before they become stateless. A transfer which could be facilitated by the abrogation of the visas necessary to Turkish citizens wishing to enter the Schengen Area.

Keep in mind :

  • Three different group have manipulated the migrant crisis of the second half of 2015 :
    • the partisans of the destruction of national cultures, around ex-President of the World Trade Organisation, Peter Sutherland, who believes that this was a way of favouring global free-exchange ;
    • German heavy industry, around its President Ulrich Grillo, who hoped he would benefit from 800,000 new workers at minimal cost ;
    • France and Germany, represented by François Hollande and Angela Merkel, who saw a way of legitimising the indirect funding of their war against Syria.
  • These three groups have in common the fact that they support NATO, see each other on a regular basis, especially during the meetings of the Bilderberg Group, and share the same cynicism about populations. But their interests remain divergent, meaning that in the end, the states have won out over the partisans of global free-exchange.
  • As is often the case in this sort of crisis, the populations deliberately set into motion have not exceeded a few hundred thousand people. They were added to other currents, older and more constant. It is the false media interpretation of the facts that give the impression of an imminent transfer of millions of people.
Thierry Meyssan French intellectual, founder and chairman of Voltaire Network and the Axis for Peace Conference. His columns specializing in international relations feature in daily newspapers and weekly magazines in Arabic, Spanish and Russian. His last two books published in English : 9/11 the Big Lie and Pentagate.

Translation
Pete Kimberley

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مبادرة وايز تعلن أسماء المشاريع المتأهلة لنهائيات جوائز وايز لعام 2016

تأهُّل 15 مشروعًا بفضل توجهاتها الابتكارية المؤثرة على أكثر التحديات الراهنة إلحاحًا في مجال التعليم 4 مايو 2016 – كشف مؤتمر القمة العالمي للابتكار في التعليم “وايز” اليوم عن أسماء المشاريع الخمسة عشر التي وصلت مرحلة النهائيات المؤهلة للحصول على جوائز وايز للعام 2016. أطلقت مؤسسة قطر جوائز وايز عام 2009 تحت رعاية وتوجيه صاحبة […]

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Obama faces looming trade row with China 30 mins ago World

US President Barack Obama speaks at the 102nd White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in Washington, DC, on April 30, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM

US President Barack Obama speaks at the 102nd White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in Washington, DC, on April 30, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM

US President Barack Obama is facing a fresh trade row with Beijing that could inflame the 2016 election race and complicate his farewell visit to China in September.

Beijing is pressing Obama’s administration to treat China like a “market economy,” a move that would spell lower tariffs on controversial Chinese exports like steel.

The issue lit up the 2016 campaign trail Monday, when Obama’s Democratic heir apparent Hillary Clinton appeared to challenge the White House to deny China’s demand.

“I have made this clear, I’m going to say it again and I hope the press writes it so people in the administration see it, I am dead set against making China a market economy,” Clinton told steel workers in Kentucky.

“They don’t follow the rules and they don’t play by the rules,” she said, echoing longstanding allegations that China hurts US jobs and businesses by dumping goods on the market below cost.

The Chinese government denies such actions and has fought back against waves of US and European retaliatory tariffs.

Now Beijing is opening a new front, challenging the unfavorable and arcane way those tariffs are calculated for non-market economies suspected of dumping goods.

China argues its 2001 deal to join the World Trade Organization dictates that from December 11 the United States must change.

“We anticipate all WTO members to fulfill their treaty obligations on time, not to distort or delay its implementation,” Zhu Haiquan, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, told AFP.

– Rock and a hard place –
Few trade partners would argue China is a fully fledged market economy, but even fewer want to pick a fight with the world’s second largest economy.

Smaller nations like New Zealand and Singapore have already granted China market economy status ahead of the December crunch point.

The Obama administration insists its determination will be quasi-judicial, based on established Commerce Department criteria.

“Nothing in China’s protocol of accession requires that WTO members automatically grant China market economy status later this year,” a Commerce official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The official said that instead, China would have to “request a review of status” in the context of a specific dispute.

That stance is unlikely to wash with Beijing.

“If that’s how it comes out, then I expect China to bring a case to the WTO arguing that it is being denied what it bargained for,” said Gary Clyde Hufbauer of the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

“In China, this is a big issue because it has a lot of atmospherics to it.”

That risks making Obama’s September trip to Hangzhou for a G20 meeting — likely his last trip to China and one of his last meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping — an uncomfortable one.

And even if Obama avoids a public spat, he faces the prospect of presiding over a China trade dispute during his final months in office.

“They have a pattern of retaliating, so they will figure out some combination of industries where they can shift shipments from US sources to friendly sources,” said Hufbauer, predicting Chinese sanctions.

Any retaliatory measures would only be a blemish on trade worth trillions, but they could be a significant irritant nonetheless.

It would be a bitter irony for Obama, again undermining a presidency long effort to improve relations with China and “pivot” US foreign policy away from the Middle East and toward Asia.

And for Obama the issue is made more difficult by a 2016 election that has been a festival of protectionist rhetoric from both the left and the right.

Clinton’s opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal has already called into question the future of a landmark Obama achievement, designed to serve a counterbalance to China’s regional economic clout.

Meanwhile, candidates like Republican frontrunner Donald Trump routinely point to the roughly $368 billion trade deficit with China as evidence the United States is being taken for a ride.

Trump has ditched his party’s free trade mantra, provocatively stating “we can’t continue to allow China to rape our country.”

Figures like Erin Ennis, senior vice president of the US-China Business Council say the US must meet its WTO commitments to China, but common ground on anti-dumping measures can still be found.

But both Trump and Clinton are likely to keep up the pressure for a tough line as they battle for voters across America’s hard-hit rust belt in the general election.

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