Facebook's unveils its new digital cryptocurrency, Libra

Despite being heavily criticized over the past few years over its handling of personal data and privacy, Facebook says its new global digital currency, Libra, will be a currency that “works for everyone” and that people may be able to use it as early as 2020.

Some say the move into cryptocurrency could be a way to offset advertising losses. Facebook is also creating a subsidiary company, Calibra, that will offer digital wallets to spend the new currency. The wallets will be connected to other applications such as Messenger and WhatsApp.

Facebook’s cryptocurrency will be based on real assets, or what's known as a ‘stable coin’ that has either a traditional currency or government debt backing it, making it less volatile than, for example, Bitcoin. The independent association governing the currency from Geneva, Switzerland will be made up of representatives from an initial group of 28 companies including Mastercard, Visa, Paypal, Uber, Vodafone, Thrive Capital, and Spotify to name a few. Those companies will also contribute to the currency and each run a part of the currency's network.

The idea behind cryptocurrencies is to create a politically independent currency that would not be printed by any existing government. There are currently thousands of different cryptocurrencies in the world. A cryptocurrency is a type of virtual or digital currency designed to be secure for financial transactions, and isn’t run by a single bank or institution but instead by a computer network. It is built on a blockchain which is a distributed database, or ledger, that keeps track of who owns what that runs on, in some cases, thousands of computers.

Iran refuses to back down from nuclear advancement

Iran’s envoy to Europe, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, said last-ditch talks on Friday intended to persuade Iran to back off from its plans to breach limits imposed by its nuclear agreement with world powers were “a step forward, but it is still not enough and not meeting Iran’s expectations”.

In recent weeks, Washington has blamed Iran for attacks on ships in the Gulf, which Iran denies. Iran shot down an American drone last week claiming it had entered its air space. Washington said the drone was in international skies, and President Donald Trump ordered, then aborted, retaliatory air strikes on Iranian targets.

The talks came a week after Washington called off air strikes just minutes before impact, as American diplomats say Iran is days away from exceeding the maximum amount of enriched uranium allowed under its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which the United States walked away from last year. The Trump administration argues that the 2015 agreement reached under his predecessor Barack Obama was too weak because many terms are not permanent and it excludes non-nuclear issues such as missiles and Iran’s regional behavior. Washington says the aim of sanctions is to force Tehran to renegotiate.

Britain, Germany, France, Russia, and China are still on board with the nuclear agreement and held urgent talks with Iranian officials on Friday in Vienna in hope of persuading Tehran to hold off. The Europeans say breach of the agreement by Iran would escalate confrontation at a time when Tehran and Washington are at risk of a miscalculation that could trigger a war. Any move by Iran that violated the terms of the nuclear deal would put pressure on the Europeans to take sides, where a senior European diplomat said, “We want them to stay in the accord, but we won’t accept them messing us around.”

Iran said it is ramping up its nuclear program and had announced dates when this would push it past limits in the deal. The first big deadline passed on Thursday, the day Tehran said it would accumulate more enriched uranium than the deal allows. Another deadline falls on July 7 when Iran says it will have enriched some uranium to a purity forbidden under the deal. Tehran says it still aims to keep the deal alive and any breaches could be reversed.

Vladimir Putin says liberalism is "obsolete"

In an interview with the Financial Times prior to leaving for the G20 summit in Japan this weekend, Russian President Vladimir Putin said "the liberal idea” that has underpinned Western democracies for several decades had "outlived its purpose" as the public turned against immigration, open borders, and multiculturalism, calling these ideas "no longer tenable".

The four term President pointed to the waves of immigration from conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East which had fostered crime and social strains, in turn fuelling an anti-establishment backlash in Europe, saying, "[Liberals] cannot simply dictate anything to anyone," and that liberalism conflicted with "the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population."

He criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel for allowing large numbers of refugees to settle in Germany as a “cardinal mistake” saying, "This liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done. That migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants have to be protected."

President Putin said, “Every crime must have its punishment. The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.” Likewise, President Putin praised United States President Donald Trump for trying to stop the flow of migrants and drugs coming through and from Mexico.

President Putin praised President Trump as a "talented person" who knew how to relate to voters. Regarding the US-China trade war and geopolitical tensions in the Gulf between the US and Iran, President Putin said the situation had become “explosive” and stem from American unilateralism and the lack of rules underpinning world order.

Despite a struggling economy, President Putin has sought to establish Russia as a counterweight to the liberal Western order. His remarks carry weight since the liberal order that was established in the wake of the World War Two is starting to crack apart. Western nations have experienced the failures of liberalism in a rapid succession of events over the last decade from an ongoing financial crisis, Brexit and the undemocratic nature of the European Union, the rise of China as a major economic force, and an American President who wants his nation to prioritize its own citizens.

President Putin said liberal governments had not acted to reassure citizens but instead pursued a mindless multiculturalism embracing, among other things, sexual diversity. “I am not trying to insult anyone because we have been condemned for our alleged homophobia. But we have no problem with LGBT persons. God forbid, let them live as they wish,” he said. “But some things do appear excessive to us. They claim now that children can play five or six gender roles.” The President added, “Let everyone be happy, we have no problem with that. But this must not be allowed to overshadow the culture, traditions and traditional family values of millions of people making up the core population.”

Dalai Lama warns Europe to send Muslims and Africans back to their home countries

The Dalai Lama warned that the whole of Europe could become 'Muslim or African' if these economic migrants and refugees are not returned to their home countries. The Buddhist spiritual leader has been living as a refugee in India since fleeing Tibet in 1959. He said only a 'limited number' of migrants should be allowed to remain.

In an interview this week, the 83-year-old Dalai Lama said, “European countries should take these refugees and give them education and training, and the aim is return to their own land with certain skills.” When the interviewer asked what should happen to migrants and refugees who want to stay in their adopted countries, he replied, “A limited number is okay, but the whole of Europe [will] eventually become Muslim country, African country - impossible.

There are thought to be around 70 million refugees worldwide. In a speech last year in Malmo, Sweden, the Tibetan Buddhist said refugees should return to help rebuilt their own countries. In that speech, the Dalai Lama said, “Receive them [migrants], help them, educate them, but ultimately they should develop their own country. I think Europe belongs to the Europeans.” He said while Europe is “morally responsible” for helping “a refugee really facing danger against their life,” these people ultimately should be returned to their homelands.

Following the surge in migration from African and Muslim countries in 2015, the Dalai Lama said in an interview with German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that “Europe, for example Germany, cannot become an Arab country,” and that there were “too many refugees” in Europe.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has lived in India, which granted him asylum in 1959, after fleeing the capital Lhasa during the Tibetan uprising.  He set up a government-in-exile in Dharamsala in northern India and launched a campaign to reclaim Tibet from China, which gradually evolved into an appeal for greater autonomy - known as the so-called 'middle way' approach.

Facebook gives user data to French courts over ‘hate speech’

In the first instance of a social media company formally collaborating with governments, Facebook has agreed to hand over to judges the identification data of French users who are suspected of so-called ‘hate speech’ on its platform.

According to Parliamentary Undersecretary for Digital Affairs Cedric O, the decision by the world’s biggest social media network comes after successive meetings between Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and French President Emmanuel Macron, who want to take a leading role globally on the regulation of hate speech and the spread of false information online. Last week, Undersecretary O met with Facebook’s head of global affairs, former Deputy Prime Minister for the United Kingdom Nick Clegg. In a following interview, Undersecretary O said, “This is huge news, it means that the judicial process will be able to run normally. It’s really very important, they’re only doing it for France.”

Prior to this, Facebook had cooperated with French justice on matters related to terrorist attacks and violent acts by transferring the IP addresses and other identification data of suspected individuals to French judges who formally demanded it.

Undersecretary O, whose father is South Korean, was formerly an aide to socialist Minister Dominique Strauss-Khan. He is one of President Macron’s earliest followers and has been influential in shaping the President’s thinking on Big Tech as an advisor at the Elysee in the first two years of Mr. Macron’s presidency. Since his appointment in March, Undersecretary O has made the fight against hate speech online a key priority through regular contacts with Facebook’s top executives, including founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Last year, the discussions began on how to best regulate tech giants with a meeting between Mr. Zuckerberg and President Macron, which was followed by a report on tech regulation last month that Facebook’s founder considered could be a blueprint for wider EU regulation.

France’s parliament, where President Macron’s governing party has a comfortable majority, is currently debating legislation that would give a new regulator the power to fine tech companies up to 4 percent of their global revenue if they don’t do enough to remove hateful content from their network.

Undersecretary O also supports French startups being bought by larger American companies, saying, “My only goal is to spur the creation of a lot of companies. I have no problem with the fact that some of them are bought by U.S. companies, as long as they don’t have critical technology.” Undersecretary O is against the idea of breaking up Big Tech monopolies of companies such as Facebook or Google, whose size, weight on the Internet, and financial firepower have turned them into systemic players just as much as big banks.

Sonia Cisse, a counsel at law firm Linklaters, said, “It is a strong signal in terms of regulation. Hate speech is no longer considered part of freedom of speech, it’s now on the same level as terrorism.” With Facebook’s latest move, France is now a clear frontrunner in the quest to regulate big social media outlets, and other platforms might follow suite, Ms. Cisse said.

Canadian government approves Trans Canada pipeline expansion

On Tuesday, the Canadian government approved expansion of the 66-year-old Trans Canada crude oil pipeline that it bought last year for CAD $4.5 billion from Kinder Morgan Canada. Hoping to appease energy supporters ahead of the October federal election, the Liberals angered environmental activists despite also declaring a climate emergency this week.

The Liberal government previously approved the expansion in 2016 but that decision was overturned last year after a court ruled the government had not adequately consulted indigenous groups. Though Ottawa expects legal challenges to this latest approval, construction will resume shortly. This is expected to take two and a half years and could be in service by the second half of 2022.

The project triples Trans Mountain’s capacity to carry 890,000 barrels per day from Alberta’s oil sands to British Columbia’s Pacific coast and alleviates congestion on existing pipelines and diversify exports away from the United States. Western Canada’s oil production has expanded faster than pipeline capacity, causing a glut of crude to build up.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been under intense pressure from both western Canadian Premiers and energy supporters who accuse him of doing too little for the oil industry, and from environmental groups who wrongly see the oilsands as a highly polluting source of crude production.

Trans Mountain still requires various permits and route approvals in British Columbia, where that province’s far-left New Democratic Party government opposes the project. BC Premier John Horgan said his government was “disappointed” with the federal government’s decision but would not unduly withhold construction permits. However, the BC government plans to appeal a recent BC Appeal Court ruling that the provincial government cannot restrict the flow of oil on pipelines that cross provincial boundaries.

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association said in a statement that the decision will help create billions in economic benefits across Canada as it allows Canadian oil to reach higher-paying international markets. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, a frequent critic of PM Trudeau, said, “This is now a test for Canada to demonstrate to the rest of the world we are a safe place in which to invest. We will measure success not by today’s decision but by the beginning of actual construction and more importantly by the completion of the pipeline.

The pipeline is a vital conduit to help Canadian oil reach higher-priced international markets. According to a National Energy Board filing, eighty percent of the expanded pipeline’s total capacity has been contracted to companies including Suncor Energy, Canadian Natural Resources, and Exxon-owned Imperial Oil. Numerous indigenous groups have said they are interested in investing in it.

Trans Mountain has stockpiled about 30 percent of the pipe it needs and would resume construction where it left off a year ago, at the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, BC, and between Edmonton and Jasper, Alberta.

President Trump Kicks off his 2020 re-election campaign

Supporters of American President Donald Trump lined up 40 hours early ahead of his re-election campaign kickoff in Orlando, Florida on Tuesday. The President tweeted that the rally would be “record-setting” after the campaign received over 100,000 ticket requests for an arena that fits 20,000.

Under the new campaign slogan ‘Keep America Great’, President Trump said, “Our Country is doing great, far beyond what the haters & losers thought possible – and it will only get better!” Addressing his supporters, he said, “America will never be a socialist country. Ever. Republicans do not believe in socialism. We believe in freedom.”

President Trump said the Democratic Party is becoming “more radical,” dangerous, and unhinged than at any point in history. Illegal immigration cuts off the path of the most vulnerable Americans and schoolchildren are being threatened by illegal MS-13 gangsters, while mass illegal migration reduces living standards and strains public resources. The President said the Democrats’ embrace of open borders and illegal immigration is “morally reprehensible and it’s the greatest betrayal of the American middle class and, frankly, American life our country has as a whole…nobody has seen anything like it.” He lambasted California Democrats for giving health care to illegal migrants instead of helping homeless citizens.

Additionally, the President said Democrats do not want a border wall with Mexico now, contrary to earlier statements, simply because he the President at this time pushing for the move. “Democrats want to splinter us into factions and tribes…. They want us divided,” he said and added that the 2020 election is a verdict on whether Americans want to live in a country where people who lose elections want to spend two years shredding the constitution and ripping the country apart because they refuse to concede.

In terms of the economy, President Trump said his new tariffs are working and America has added 16,000 manufacturing jobs each month since he took office and that China took former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden for “suckers” to take advantage over the United States on trade.

President Trump asked the crowd to imagine what the “angry, left-wing mob” would do if they were in charge of the country in 2020, citing what the Democrats wrongly did to Brett Kavanaugh, where it wasn’t about the Democrats wanting to win but about wanting to “destroy him with false and malicious accusations.

Speaking the trend of the left-wing censoring those who disagree with them, the President also warned that the Democrats want to pack the courts and radicalize judges in order to “shut down your free speech” and “use the power of the law to punish their opponents.” He said the Democrats will “strip Americans of their Constitutional rights” while flooding the country with illegal migrants with hopes that they will expand their political base.

Ireland declares a Climate Emergency while encouraging third-world mass migration

Under the Irish government’s new climate plan, social engineering will force citizens into “higher density” cities to ‘revolutionise’ people’s lifestyle and behaviours. According to Ireland’s Transport Minister Shane Ross, who proposed banning fossil fuel vehicles nationwide, massive tax hikes, bans, and additional red tape will pave the way to a “vibrant” Ireland of zero carbon emissions by 2050. The goal is to avert a “climate apocalypse” by forcing people “out of private cars because they are the biggest offenders for emissions.

The proposal unveiled on Tuesday outlined more than 180 measures to decarbonise the Irish economy, including making private car ownership prohibitively expensive and petrol and diesel car sales will be banned by 2030, at which point the general carbon tax will be increased from 20 Euros per tonne to “at least” 80 Euros.

Last year, the government committed to increase Ireland’s population of 4.7 million people by an additional million people through mass migration from third-world countries, such as Africa and the Middle East. Prime Minister and leader of the globalist Fine Gael Leo Varadkar, who is of Indian origin, said “Our approach will be to nudge people and businesses to change behaviour and adapt new technologies through incentives, disincentives, regulations and information.”

Coal and peat-fired power stations are replaced with wind farms and other “green” energy sources in order to meet the requirement that 70 per cent of electricity will be generated from renewables by 2030. Scientists including Cambridge engineering professor Michael Kelly, who has previously explained that such proposals “represent total madness”, say the plans to dramatically slash carbon emissions by ditching tried and tested energy sources such as coal and nuclear in favour of renewables will necessarily result in a collapse in living standards.

In energy terms the current generation of renewable energy technologies alone will not enable a civilised modern society to continue,” Mr. Kelly asserted in a peer-reviewed paper published in 2016, pointing out that renewables such as solar, wind, and hydro power supply just seven per cent of electricity needs globally while “the rate at which fossil fuels are growing is seven times that at which the low carbon energies are growing”.

The Hughes Medal-decorated physicist cautioned, “The call to decarbonise the global economy by 80% by 2050 can now only be described as glib in my opinion, as the underlying analysis shows it is only possible if we wish to see large parts of the population die from starvation, destitution or violence in the absence of enough low-carbon energy to sustain society.

YouTube now censors political parties, starting with Spain’s Vox

In Spain’s national election in April, the new nationalist Vox Party (translated, ‘vox’ means ‘voice’) earned record gains and YouTube's parent company Google noted search enquires for Vox were three times higher than searches for the both left wing Socialists and Popular Party. In its latest purge this week, YouTube deleted the Spanish Vox Party’s entire channel as the Google-owned platform continues to target and censor right-leaning and conservative political content.

Vox demanded an explanation YouTube as to why their account has been closed or suspended without any explanation. The party tweeted, “The decision to remove the channel is a serious attack on the freedom of expression and dissemination of a political party.”

Later, they tweeted, “The three people who have denounced us are left-wing activists… We have found that other political parties and progressive channels use the same audiovisual resources without being denounced for it.

In another tweet, Vox said, “We call on these platforms, who claim to fight online abuse, to pursue groups of progressive trolls who report in an organized manner and for ideological reasons to all those accounts that do not conform to their unique thinking.

The Vox party later used the blacklisting to accuse YouTube of bowing to the demands of left-wing activists, saying, “We take advantage of this fact to show our outrage at the arbitrary actions of Twitter, Facebook and Google; hypersensitive to the requests of activists of totalitarian Marxism and the establishment. We show our support to all those who, like us, have been affected by these arbitrary actions by those responsible for these social networks in recent months.

Earlier this month, YouTube announced it was imposing a major crackdown on “hate speech”. Days before the election in April, Facebook removed numerous large pro-Vox pages which had a combined reach of millions at the request of Avaaz, a left-wing non-governmental organization (NGO) that is funded by George Soros.

In April’s general election, the Vox Party won 24 seats in the Spanish parliament, obtaining around 10 percent of the nationwide vote, as well as three MEP’s in May’s European Parliamentary Elections.

The world's largest Ocean Cleanup of garbage and plastic begins

While governments are distracted with the intangibles of climate change and carbon taxes, private innovation is creating positive results in environmental protection. In 2013, then-18-year-old Dutch inventor Boyan Slat founded his start-up called The Ocean Cleanup with the mission to develop “advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic.” Last weekend, his floating boom system was deployed from San Francisco Bay for testing and is estimated to clean up half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within its first five years.

Ocean Cleanup’s USD $20 million system aims to remove 90 percent of the 1.8 trillion pieces of trash floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a vortex of trash discovered in the mid-1980s that is created from an ocean gyre in the central North Pacific, between Hawaii and California, by 2040. Each boom will trap up to 150,000 pounds of plastic per year as they float along the circulating ocean currents between California and Hawaii. The system takes advantage of natural oceanic forces to catch and concentrate the plastic. In terms of creating a system for cleanup, the gyre is a benefit by prevents the further distribution of the garbage patch.

The beta cleanup system of booms are comprised of 600-meter long floaters that can collect about five tons of ocean plastic per month. Following the present testing, the floating boom system will be towed out 1,400 miles to the garbage patch around mid-October and begin collecting trash. The floating boom drifts along with the local currents, creating a U-shaped formation. As the boom floats, it collects trash in the U shaped system, which has 10 feet of netting below it to collect smaller fragments of plastic. Once the boom is full, a vessel will meet the boom to collect the plastic and transport it to land for sorting and recycling. Its 10 feet of netting is not deep enough that fish are unable to swim below it, therefore the hope is the boom will collect trash and not fish.

There are five garbage patches in the world’s oceans, of which the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest. The Ocean Cleanup is backed by investors including Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and Marc Benioff, the chief executive of Salesforce. The company will welcome corporations and philanthropists to sponsor their own cleanup system in coming years.

Chief Operating Officer Lonneke Holierhoek said, "We really see the urgency in starting the cleanup because there's so much harm that could happen with this plastic that's floating out there." According to the World Economic Forum, oceans are expected to contain more plastics than fish by 2050. As noted on The Ocean Cleanup website, "Research shows the majority of plastic by mass is currently in the larger debris. By removing the plastic while most of it is still large, we prevent it from breaking down into dangerous microplastics" that can absorb toxic substances and travel up the food chain.


UK comedian ‘jokes’ about throwing battery acid instead of milkshakes on opponents

On an episode of the BBC’s Heresy, British comedian Jo Brand said, “Certain unpleasant characters are being thrown to the fore and they’re very, very easy to hate. And I’m kind of thinking, why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid?” She added, “That’s just me. I’m not going to do it, it’s purely a fantasy. But I think milkshakes are pathetic, I honestly do, sorry.” Ofcom said it had received 19 complaints, as well as the Metropolitan Police about the BBC Radio 4 comedy programme, which has resulted in an investigation being launched.

The BBC defended Ms. Brand’s comments on their panel show, which "challenges established ideas and questions received wisdom", in an episode dedicated to subject of Brexit and the trend of 'milkshaking' politicians such as Nigel Farage. Mr. Farage, Tommy Robinson, a UKIP candidate, and even a war veteran at a polling station had milkshakes thrown over them by protesters leading up to the recent European Parliament elections.

The live audience for Tuesday night’s show reacted with laughter. The host, Victoria Coren Mitchell, said at the end of the broadcast that Heresy was a series set up “to test the boundaries of what it’s ok to say and not say”. A BBC spokesman said: “Heresy is a long-running comedy programme where, as the title implies and as our listeners know, panellists often say things which are deliberately provocative and go against societal norms but are not intended to be taken seriously.”

Mr. Farage was not impressed with Ms. Brand’s comments, tweeting, “This is incitement of violence and the police need to act” and “This is way above any norms of free speech - it is appalling and the fact that the BBC spends £177 million a year on light entertainment and comedy… this was a pre-recorded programme which they still chose to put out.” He described the comments as “completely and utterly disgusting. Can you imagine if I was to tell a story like that, about somebody on the other side of me, an Anna Soubry or someone like that? I reckon the police would knock on my door within 10 minutes. I think it’s appalling.”

In response, Ms. Coren Mitchell replied, “Nigel! I’m genuinely disappointed. We don’t agree on everything, but I would totally have had you down as a free speech man. Especially when it comes to jokes,” and added that “all people should be free to make jokes about anything.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May asked the BBC to explain why it had approved the joke for broadcast, suggesting that it “normalised” violence against politicians, as in the case of Labour MP Jo Cox ‘s murder. There is an increasingly hostile environment for politicians requiring the need for bodyguards, when until recently the only politicians in Britain who required a security detail were the Prime Minister and Home Secretary. Mr. Farage has required private bodyguards for at least five years, which says something about the climate of intolerance that he faces.

For several years comedians have refused to have shows for fear of their retribution, pointing to the violent behaviour on college campuses. The far-left have set the standards for what is acceptable to say and think and who receives punishment by way of censorship and harassment. In the case of Ms. Brand’s comments, the tables are turning on them in their own game.

Europe’s nationalists form an "Identity and Democracy" coalition

A new European Parliament alliance was unveiled on Thursday called Identity and Democracy (ID). Uniting Eurosceptics who aim to transfer power from Brussels to capitals, the new alliance of nationalists holds 73 of 751 seats in the Parliament, putting them in fifth place. The ID brings together some of the former member parties of the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), the Europe of Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), and the Europe for Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) groups.

ID is an alliance between nine nations, including Marine Le Pen's National Rally of France, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini's League party, and Germany's Alternative for Germany (AfD). Ms. Le Pen said, “We have changed the political chessboard of the European Union," adding that the group would "colour" future debates in the hemicycle like never before. "We're not carrying over the same dynamic. The fact that the members of the ID group are now participating in governments is evidence of our new maturity," she said.

Deputy PM Salvini's foreign affairs advisor Marco Zanni was elected as ID's chairman while the National Rally's Nicolas Bay was elected his deputy. The parties have bridged differences to unite around the broad goals of returning power to EU member states, curbing immigration and preventing the spread of Islam in Europe. Without full cohesion among other Eurosceptic parties scattered across different political groups in the EU assembly, including the Brexit Party, ID lacks enough seats to block or hold up legislation. ID is courting other nationalist parties, such as Spain's Vox, to join; "The message to all of those parties who have a radically different view of Europe, if we can work together ... that would benefit all of us," said Mr. Zanni.

The new bloc of 73 MEPs includes:

  • 27 MEPs from the League (Italy)

  • 23 MEPs from the National Rally (France)

  • 11 MEPs from Alternative for Germany

  • 3 MEPs from Vlaams Belang (Netherlands)

  • 3 MEPs from the Austrian Freedom Party

  • 2 MEPs from Freedom and Direct Democracy (Czech Republic)

  • 2 MEPs from the Finns Party

  • 1 MEP from the Danish People’s Party

  • 1 MEP from the Estonian Conservatives Party

Britain’s Brexit Party under Nigel Farage will not be joining the ID. Mr. Farage demanded to be named group President if he was to join, to which Ms. Le Pen and Mr. Salvini refused. Mr. Farage allegedly stormed out of a meeting as a result.

Earlier on Wednesday, the European Liberals' alliance with French President Emmanuel Macron's La République en Marche announced that the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group would be renamed Renew Europe.

Anti-Chinese government protests break out in Hong King

Protest erupted in the streets in reaction to Hong Kong’s city’s legislature postponing debate on an extradition bill, which many people fear will undermine freedoms and confidence in the commercial hub. Hong Kong’s China-backed Chief Executive Carrie Lam urged a swift restoration of order but vowed to press ahead with the legislation despite the reservations about it, including within the business community.

The protests began on Sunday in what organizers said drew more than a million people for the biggest street demonstration since the 1997 handover of the former British colony back to Chinese rule. Authorities shut government offices in the financial district, which is overlooked by the towers of some of Asia’s biggest firms and hotel chains, for the rest of the week after some of the worst violence in Hong Kong in decades. The Civil Human Rights Front, which organized Sunday’s huge march, said it was planning another demonstration this Sunday.

The 1997 handover included a deal to preserve special autonomy until the city is formally part of China in the year 2047, but many in Hong Kong accuse China of extensive meddling since then, including obstruction of democratic reforms and interference in local elections. The extradition bill, which will cover Hong Kong residents and foreign and Chinese nationals living or traveling through the city, has sparked concern it may threaten the rule of law that underpins Hong Kong’s international financial status.

Beijing rejected accusations of meddling and Chinese state media said this week “foreign forces” were trying to damage China by creating chaos over the bill. The English-language China Daily said the “lawlessness” would hurt Hong Kong, not the proposed amendments to its law.

Ms. Lam and her officials say the law is necessary to plug loopholes that allow criminals wanted on the mainland to use the city as a haven. She has said the courts would provide human rights safeguards. Opponents of the bill, including lawyers and rights groups, say China’s justice system is marked by torture and forced confessions and arbitrary detention. Democratic city legislators condemned Lam and what they said was heavy-handed police action.

Police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray on Wednesday in a series of skirmishes to clear demonstrators from the legislature. Hong Kong Police Commissioner Stephen Lo said what began as a peaceful gathering on Wednesday had degenerated into a riot with protesters “acting violently in an organized manner”. Police arrested 11 people and fired about 150 tear gas canisters at the crowd. The city’s hospital authority said a total of 81 people were injured in the protests. 22 police were injured according to Commissioner Lo. Police also later arrested two students at the University of Hong Kong after a raid on a student hall of residence, according to an official at the university.

On Monday, the United States’ State Department said it was gravely concerned about the proposed amendments to the extradition laws, warning they could jeopardize Hong Kong’s special status. Senior congressional lawmakers from both parties responded to the crisis by introducing legislation that would require the US government to provide an annual justification for the continuation of special business and trade privileges afforded to Hong Kong. Democratic Representative Jim McGovern, one of 13 co-sponsors of the proposed legislation, said in a statement, “If the extradition bill moves forward and Hong Kong’s autonomy and democratic institutions continue to erode due to interference from the Chinese government, the Congress has no choice but to reassess whether Hong Kong can receive preferential economic and trade benefits under U.S. law.”

Polls show low support for PM Trudeau due to his carbon tax

With a Canadian federal election kicking off after the summer holidays, two new polls show Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may be in trouble.

PM Trudeau’s national carbon tax is very unpopular across the country, and since his election in 2015 several provinces have elected conservative Premiers vowing to fight both PM Trudeau’s carbon tax and among the individual provinces.

A Forum Research poll shows 45 percent of Canadians are opposed to the carbon tax, 28 percent are in favour, and 27 percent are neither for nor against it. In terms of how motivated voters are, those opposed feel much more strongly than those in favour, and the issue strongly influences how two-thirds of Canadians will vote this October.

84 percent of those who oppose the carbon tax said the policy will play a large role in informing their vote compared to only 53 percent of those who support the tax. While 80 percent of Conservative supporters who are opposed to the carbon tax, only 48 percent of Liberal voters are excited to vote based on their support of the tax. This spells trouble for the Liberals and good luck for the Conservatives to capitalize on.

Of the poll results, Forum Research President Lorne Bozinoff said, “The carbon tax looks like it’s motivating its opponents in far greater numbers than its proponents. Additionally, Conservative supporters are far more opposed than Liberals are in favour. If the Conservatives can consolidate the opposition around this issue, and make it the focal point of the campaign, the Liberals’ re-election prospects are severely diminished.”

A separate poll by Forum that focused on the leaders of the federal political parties showed Canadians are dissatisfied across the board. All three leaders of the three major parties – the Liberals, Conservatives, and the NDP – have a net disapproval rating.

Only 34 percent of respondents approve of PM Trudeau’s performance and 56 percent disapprove.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has similar numbers, with 33 percent saying they approve of his work as opposition leader, while 45 percent disapproved.

Leader of the New Democrats Jagmeet Singh has just 23 percent saying they approve of his performance while 40 percent disapproved.

Only Green Party Leader Elizabeth May had a positive net approval rating of 44 percent approving her performance and 22 percent disapproving.

On these results, Forum Vice-President William Schatten said, “That’s not great news for the Liberals, right? It’s dividing the vote on the left now between arguably three parties, the Liberals, the NDP and the Greens. So this benefits the Conservatives.”

Overall, Forum projects the Conservatives lead in public support with 34 percent compared to 30 percent for PM Trudeau’s Liberals. Maxime Bernier’s new People’s Party has steadily climbed in support since January to a present 4 percent.

In Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system, Forum projects the Conservatives to win the most seats with 151, compared to 134 for the Liberals, 27 for the NDP, and 23 for the Bloc Québécois. There are 335 seats in the House of Commons, which means 170 seats are required for a majority government. Last week, a senior Conservative source suggested that a struggling NDP that lags far behind in fundraising and popular support would have no choice but to prop up a Liberal minority government.

Facebook and Google lose $137 billion as they censor more conservatives

Politicians from both the Republican and Democrat parties face increasing pressure to apply tougher regulation on technology giants and break the companies up. European officials have already been aggressively pursuing antitrust cases against American tech firms, including Google, while until now, the US has been mostly hands-off. The United States Justice Department’s (DOJ) is now preparing to investigate Google and other companies, marking the Trump administration’s first concrete step to scrutinize the potentially anti-competitive conduct of a large technology firm.

Lax enforcement in America has allowed tech platforms to dominate their markets. Earlier this year, the Trump administration set up a task force within the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to examine the conduct of tech companies and their past mergers. President Donald Trump and many Republicans have complained that Facebook, Google, and Twitter suppress conservative views. YouTube and Facebook purged and demonetized thousands more mainly conservative accounts this past week, including the accounts of history professors.

Following the recent wave of headlines reporting antitrust investigations against the companies this week, Facebook and Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. lost USD $137 billion in market value. Facebook lost USD $41 billion this week as said the FTC scrutinized whether the companies’ practices harm competition in the digital market under an agreement with the US Justice Department.

A report from the DOJ announced it is preparing an antitrust investigation into Google, leading to the company’s loss of USD $52 billion. Stocks for Netflix and Amazon also sold off sharply. Netflix lost USD $2.5 billion from its market value and Amazon lost USD $41 billion.

The DOJ and the FTC have agreed to split up antitrust oversight of technology giants, with the antitrust division taking over scrutiny Alphabet Inc.’s Google and the FTC getting oversight of Amazon. The DOJ has been given jurisdiction over a potential probe of Apple.

No charges for Julian Assange over CIA WikiLeaks

The United States Justice Department has decided not to charge WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Espionage Act charges for his role in exposing some of the CIA’s most secret spying tools. WikiLeaks was responsible for publishing one of the CIA’s most potent arsenals of digital code used to hack devices, called Vault 7. The leak was one of the most devastating in CIA history and both essentially rendered those tools useless for the CIA and gave foreign spies and rogue hackers access to them.

Following the recent decision by the Ecuadorian embassy in London to hand over Mr. Assange to the authorities, for whom there was an arrest warrant for by the US government, prosecutors’ aggressively set upon the WikiLeaks founder on controversial Espionage Act charges. Some legal experts said these charges would not hold up in court.

There were two central factors preventing prosecutors from pursuing the charges against Mr. Assange. The government is running out of time to extradite him to the United States from the United Kingdom, where he is being held. Extradition laws require the US to bring any additional charges against Mr. Assange within 60 days of the first indictment, which prosecutors filed in March, accusing him of helping former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning hack into military computers. Prosecutors were also worried about the sensitivity of the Vault 7 materials and legal experts said broaching such a classified subject in court risks exposing even more CIA secrets. The CIA has never officially confirmed the authenticity of the leaked documents, even though analysts widely believe them to be authentic. The Justice Department will instead pursue charges against Mr. Assange on one count for allegedly assisting Ms. Manning and the 17-count Espionage Act indictment. Ms. Manning is in jail over her refusal to testify before a grand jury in the Assange case. Her lawyers have argued that if the Justice Department does not intend to bring further charges against Mr. Assange, the previous need for her testimony should be rendered moot.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for national security at the Justice Department until 2017 Mary McCord said, “There is no question that there are leak cases that can’t be prosecuted against the leaker or the leakee because the information is so sensitive that, for your proof at trial, you would have to confirm it is authentic. So, the irony, often, is that the higher the classification of the leaked material, the harder it is to prosecute.

Press freedom activists have warned that charges against Mr. Assange could criminalize everyday journalistic behavior, such as soliciting sensitive information from government sources. Federal officials insist they have a strong case, arguing that Mr. Assange is not a journalist and intentionally published the names of confidential sources in war zones over the objections of national security officials.

President Trump goes on a state visit to the United Kingdom

Outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May invited American President Donald Trump on a state visit to the United Kingdom to further a post-Brexit trade deal between the two nations. In a joint news conference, President Trump lauded the US-UK relationship as the "greatest alliance the world has ever known". This is only the third state visit by a US leader to the UK.

The week-long visit is mostly ceremonial, including audience with Queen Elizabeth II in London, D-Day commemoration ceremonies on both sides of the English Channel, and his first presidential visit to Ireland, which will include a stay at his coastal golf club.

At Monday morning’s arrival, the Trumps were greeted by Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, at Buckingham Palace. They chatted with members of the Guard of Honor as the rest of the American delegation, from a terrace, observed the elaborate arrival ceremony, complete with the playing of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’. Royal gun salutes were fired from nearby Green Park and from the Tower of London. President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump had a private lunch with the Queen followed by inspection of a collection of artifacts and a wreath-laying at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey. That evening, President Trump was honored at an extravagant state dinner hosted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

Conservative party leadership candidate and former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had a "friendly and productive" 20-minute phone call with the President.  Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage was believed to have had a private meeting with President Trump after he was seen at Winfield House, where the President stayed.

Despite leading an anti-Trump rally, Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn had requested a meeting with the President, which was declined. President Trump said, "He wanted to meet today or tomorrow and I decided I would not do that. I think he is from where I come from somewhat of a negative force. I think the people should look to do things correctly as opposed to criticize - I really don't like critics as much as I like and respect people who get things done - so I decided not to meet."

Despite the friendly reception given by the monarch and her family, the mainstream news media chose to elevate undiplomatic comments from the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan that ignore the national interests of the country and reason for President Trump’s invitation. Mayor Khan wrote a column titled “It’s un-British to roll out the red carpet for Donald Trump” calling the President a "global threat," listing the President’s most controversial policies, and likening them to the actions of European dictators of the 1930s and 1940s.

Given that one of the primary reasons for the timing of President Trump’s visit was to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in line with the role played by the United States in the liberation of the continent from the tyranny of Nazism and Communism, Mayor Khan’s comparison of the President with a “20th century fascist” was offensive and an insult to the memory of the thousands of Americans and Europeans who died fighting actual fascism.

President Trump, as any democratically elected leader, was deserving of a welcome befitting the status of his office and his great country, as PM May also represents. Ahead of President Trump's arrival, Mayor Khan posted additional comments on Twitter, including "I think there are many, many racists who think he's their poster boy" and claiming racist groups across the world "have been normalised and mainstreamed because of Donald Trump".

In an address filmed by ELLE UK, the Mayor of London addressed President Trump directly, publicly denouncing everything that the President stands for in what the magazine called a “heartfelt call to arms”. In the video, Mayor Khan said, “President Trump, if you're watching this, your values and what you stand for are the complete opposite of London's values and the values in this country.”

In response, President Trump tweeted, "@SadiqKhan, who by all accounts has done a terrible job as Mayor of London, has been foolishly “nasty” to the visiting President of the United States, by far the most important ally of the United Kingdom. He is a stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London, not me.......Kahn reminds me very much of our very dumb and incompetent Mayor of NYC, de Blasio, who has also done a terrible job - only half his height. In any event, I look forward to being a great friend to the United Kingdom, and am looking very much forward to my visit. Landing now!

UK Conservative party leadership race kicks off amid May’s resignation

On Friday, Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May stepped down as leader of the governing Conservative party, triggering a leadership election to replace her; she will remain as Prime Minister throughout the process.

PM May announced she would step down last month after failing to deliver Britain’s departure from the European Union on time, deepening a political crisis in a divided country struggling to move on from a 2016 referendum on Brexit.

The leadership race is defined by Brexit and competing approaches on how to deliver Britain’s biggest foreign policy shift in more than 40 years. Candidates have argued over the merit of no-deal Brexit, whereby the UK would leave the EU without a deal. Polls show a no-deal Brexit is preferred by the British public. Official nominations will be received on Monday. Following four rounds of voting, the new leader will be announced on July 22.

YouGov poll

YouGov poll

Former Foreign Minister and mayor of London Boris Johnson is the favorite, championing a tough stance on Brexit. He says Britain should leave with or without a deal by the new deadline of October 31 and is seeking to persuade Conservatives that he is the only candidate who could win a new national election for the Conservative Party, which has suffered heavy loss in public support over PM May and her government’s failure to deliver Brexit. Other leading contenders include the current Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt and Environment Minister Michael Gove, who both take a less hardline stance on Brexit.

WW2 veterans commemorate 75th anniversary of D-Day

Wednesday marked the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 1944, the largest ever seaborne invasion that made western Europe's liberation from Nazi Germany in the Second World War possible.

Leaders from every country that fought alongside the United Kingdom on D-Day joined Queen Elizabeth II in Portsmouth for the first day of the anniversary events. The Queen paid tribute to the "heroism, courage and sacrifice" of those who died to 300 veterans, who were then waved off on the cruise ship MV Boudicca as it headed to the Normandy commemorations.

On Thursday, the leaders of France, Britain, and the United States paid tribute to the sacrifice of the veterans and of those who died in the D-Day landings, drawing to a close two days of commemorations. Wreaths were laid, a minute's silence was held, and veterans linked arms and sang, before watching an RAF flypast.

D-Day was the largest combined land, air, and naval operation in history where 156,000 Allied troops landed in Normandy, France across five beaches. Approximately 7,000 ships and 10,000 vehicles comprised the landing that took the lives of 4,400 Allied men, 4,000 to 9,000 Nazi’s, and thousands of French civilians.

58,000 Americans landed on Utah and Omaha beaches, 54,000 British on Gold and Sword beaches, and 21,000 Canadians on Juno beach. The Kieffer commando, a group of 177 French "green berets", also landed on Sword Beach, integrating with the British Royal Marines. The airborne assault included 23,000 men (13,000 Americans and 10,000 British) who landed by parachute or glider in Normandy or on the Cotentin Peninsula. By comparison, the Nazi’s 7th army were outnumbered with 150,000 men spread throughout all of Normandy.

Almost 12,000 tonnes were bombed in one day. By the morning of June 7, there were 3,000 civilians dead in Normandy, by September 1944 the death toll had risen to 20,000, and 150,000 were forced to flee their homes.

Emboldened Salvini threatens collapse of the Euro with a new Italian currency

Eurosceptic Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini announced, “I don’t govern a country on its knees” following significant wins for the Lega party in the European Parliament elections last week. Minister Salvini, who is widely seen as the true leader of the country, can force a national snap-election at any time but has ruled out early elections which would capitalise on the triumph as coalition government partner the 5-Star Movement had a poor showing in the parliamentary elections and its support is dramatically reduced at home in favour of Lega. Lega commands support from 40 percent of the country alongside the Eurosceptic Brothers of Italy, particularly in territories on the front line of migrant flows and left to fend for itself by Europe.

In the face of a European Union (EU) ultimatum, warning Italy that it is in breach of debt rules, Minister Salvini theatened to launch a “parallel currency” to rein in public spending and called for tax cuts. In an interview on Tuesday, Minister Salvini said, “Until unemployment falls to 5 percent, we have a right to invest. We have regions where youth unemployment is 50 percent. We need a Trump cure, an Orban cure, a positive fiscal shock to restart the country. Not everything all at once, but the goal is in the government contract.”

Italy faces 3.5 billion Euros in fines and has 48 hours to respond to the EU’s written notice. Lega chairman of Italy’s house budget committee Claudio Borghi said, “We’re not Greece. We are net contributors to the EU budget. We have a trade surplus and primary budget surplus. We don’t need anything from anybody. And we are in better shape than France.” He continued, “We have far more bargaining power. We know will be stiff resistance at every level but this time we intend to impose our line.

Emboldened by his EU Parliament victory, Minister Salvini is planning to push ahead with reducing Italian income taxes to a flat rate of 15 percent, which would cost 30 billion Euros and be funded in part by cutting other spending. Minister Salvini said he would reduce Italian unemployment from 10 percent to 5 percent by focusing on “the real economy” and not on the “old parameters” of the European budget deficit rules.

In an interview with Italy’s state broadcaster, Minister Salvini said, “The music has changed everywhere. In all of Europe, in France, in Finland, in London and Berlin it has changed.” Italy’s size and importance to the EU meant his desire to change fiscal policy should be respected by Brussels, he said, adding, “We are the second industrial nation of Europe, we are a founding member, we have a population of 60 million. We pay Europe, we are one of the net contributors, we send 6 billion Euros to Brussels in respect to what we get back every year.

Lega’s strategy is to offer EU leaders a choice: reform the EU treaties to enable fiscal expansion and allow the European Central Bank to act as lender-of-last-resort or face the consequences. In a streamed video on Facebook, Minister Salvini said, “I am going to ask the new European Parliament and the new European Commission for a grand European meeting to discuss work, growth, investment and about public debt. And about the role of the ECB as a guarantor of stability and wealth, and as the guarantor of debt. Are we all equal? Yes. I don’t understand why the bonds of Germany should be negative while the bonds of the Italian state should be costing us 2 percent.”

This autumn’s new EU Commission will see the political battle brought to the fore when Italy’s budget is sent to Brussels. Yet, Germany and the northern states have refused to rebuild the eurozone on viable foundations before the next global downturn hits and have rebuffed all proposals for EMU fiscal union and debt sharing.

The EU’s ultimatum has needlessly provoked the newly-triumphant leader of Europe’s second biggest manufacturing power. Former chief economist of the Italian treasury Lorenzo Codogno said EU leaders guaranteed the next Italian banking crisis last year when they cleared the way for easier sovereign debt restructuring, whereby there can be no further rescues by the eurozone bail-out fund (ESM) unless debt is deemed sustainable. “Other European countries are preparing for Italy’s default,” he says. The ECB may not legally buy Italy’s debt until the country requests a formal bail-out under stringent conditions, requiring a vote in the German Bundestag. This would entail a takeover of Rome by the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.