Regions

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Austria’s coalition government falls after supposed corruption setup

There remain more questions than answers as details unfold regarding the supposed corruption that led to the resignation of Austria’s Vice Chancellor and Freedom Party (FPO) leader Heinz-Christian Strache and coalition government Chancellor and People’s Party (OVP) leader Sebastian Kurz calling for early elections. After Chancellor Kurz fired FPO Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, the remaining FPO ministers collectively resigned. Russia’s Kremlin denied its involvement, saying that “it doesn’t have anything to do with us and can’t have anything to do with us”.

One week ago, a video released by two left-wing German news media outlets, Spiegel and Süddeutsche Zeitung, appear to show Mr. Strache and colleague Johann Gudenus (who has since resigned from his elected position) on the island of Ibiza apparently offering lucrative government contracts to a prospective Russian investor in exchange for help influencing Austria's 2017 elections in favor of his party by purchasing Austrian news outlet Kronen-Zeitung.

Mr. Strache fell for the elaborate trap, which took place on an evening in July 2017, complete with the Mercedes Maybach and BMW M4 sports car. It was secretly filmed, in what seems to have been an intricately prepared and well-funded sting operation. Süddeutsche Zeitung said hidden cameras and microphones were installed in light switches and in a mobile phone-charging station at the villa. The microphones "recorded almost every word spoken" during the meeting which lasted almost seven hours, the paper said.

Mr. Strache resigned a day after the video was released and the governing coalition of OVP and FPO fell apart. Mr. Strache has acknowledged that the video was “catastrophic” but denies breaking the law and described the set up as a “political hit job” ahead of this weekend’s European Parliament elections, where nationalist parties such as his are poised to gain significant ground. In his resignation speech, Mr. Strache said the video was "a honey trap, directed by intelligence agencies". Mr. Gudenus issued a statement alleging he may have been drugged, claiming to have significant memory gaps and "I was a willing and compliant victim, who some one perhaps made docile with knock-out drops or some other drug."

On Thursday, Iranian-born lawyer from Vienna, Ramin Mirfakhrai, admitted at least partial responsibility for what took place in a press release from his lawyer Richard Soyer, which states (translation), "It was a civic motivated project in which investigative journalistic paths were taken,” only "democratic-political and legal considerations" were relevant in the publication, and "Due to the reactions of the politicians concerned, a self-dynamic unfolded as a result.”

Mr. Mirfakhrai is fluent in Persian, German, and English and runs several beauty parlors together with former Miss Austria beauty queen Katia Wagner. Mr. Mirfakhrai had established contact with Mr. Gudenus under the pretext of having potential buyers for his hunting property, and then between the FPO and Alyona Makarova, the wealthy niece of the Russian oligarch Igor Makarov – who does not have a niece. Early meetings leading up the Ibiza included Mr. Mirfakhrai’s lawyer and a Munich middleman named Julian H. who maintains a private detective agency in Munich and is also registered in Vienna.

On Friday, Mr. Strache filed a complaint against three "possible accomplices", announced in the newspaper Krone as his team works to identify those responsible for the video and said (translation), "I became an actor in a staged conversation situation against me. I have articulated in this situation mind games that were stupid and overall on the political floor."

Additionally, German satirist Jan Böhmermann, who causes international uproar with his abrasive comedy, said back in April that he was familiar with the video when he told an award ceremony via video link that he couldn’t attend as he was busy “discussing with a couple of FPO men in an Ibiza villa how I can take over the Krone newspaper”.

Chancellor Kurz filled the four ministerial vacancies left by the FPO by appointing unelected civil servants, who include a former Supreme Court president and two people with ties to the SPO. His election call, which may take place in September, appeared to defy President Alexander Van der Bellen, who has the power to dismiss governments and dissolve parliament; on Tuesday night Mr. Van der Bellen told political leaders to put country before party and said, “Now is not the time for campaign speeches.”

Chancellor Kurz must now form a minority caretaker government since his party holds only 62 seats out of 183 in parliament. “The emphasis is on a transitional government,” said President Van der Bellen, emphasising that the caretaker administration would be expected not to implement major new legislation or government spending.

PM May finally resigns amid increased attacks against nationalist supporters

British Prime Minister Theresa May finally announced her resignation Friday, which was met with the social media hashtag #Trexit and pubs erupting in cheers with enthusiasm equivalent to their favorite sports team having just won a championship.

In her resignation speech, PM May said, “So I am today announcing that I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Friday 7 June so that a successor can be chosen. I have agreed with the Party Chairman and with the Chairman of the 1922 Committee that the process for electing a new leader should begin in the following week. I have kept Her Majesty the Queen fully informed of my intentions, and I will continue to serve as her Prime Minister until the process has concluded.”

The UK is participating in European Parliament elections this weekend, the government having failed to deliver Brexit. Nationalist parties are projected to capture a minimum of 30 percent of European Parliament seats in elections across the European Union member countries between May 23 to 26. The UK’s new Brexit Party is among those posing a significant threat to the traditional political parties. In response, the far-left has raised their level of belligerence.

On Thursday, a 20-something man assaulted an 81-year-old widower, pensioner, and former paratrooper who was sitting outside the Aldershot, Hampshire polling station wearing a Brexit Party pin. As Don MacNaughton recounts, “Somebody came across the street to the polling station and he gave me the finger. He then started giving me verbal abuse and ran off. I didn't hear the abuse because I was laughing at him. Ten minutes later he came back with a milkshake, and he threw it over me. I again just curled up laughing, I didn't mind because it was my favourite flavour. If he had an argument with me, I would have been more than happy to debate with him, but instead he chose to assault me. The silly man hasn't put me off campaigning, heck no. He has cemented the iron will, I'm going to keep fighting on."

 The attack mimics that against Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage earlier in the week, when Jeremy Corbyn fan Paul Crowther, who is employed by the UK’s Sky News, threw a milkshake on Mr. Farage in front of jeering bystanders. Burger King suggestively tweeted that they would be selling milkshakes “all weekend” when Mr. Farage was in town campaigning. In 2002, Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn was shot and killed nine days before the general election – an escalation from an attack two months prior when a protestor threw cake at him.

The police are investigating the attack against Mr. MacNaughton but not against Mr. Farage, in another recent example of British police failing to protect the safety and democratic rights of conservative politicians and allowing far-left and Muslim protestors to threaten and harm both the politicians and civilians. Last week, Muslim gangs overran residential streets where Tommy Robinson was campaigning, throwing bricks and other objects, some of which hit children, as police watched on.

President Trump to change US immigration for the first time in 54 years

On Thursday, United States (US) President Donald Trump announced his plan to improve border security and reform the legal immigration system to favor applicants who speak English, are well-educated, and have job offers. The President will present a detailed overview of the plan in the coming weeks. The last time the country made changes to its immigration system was in 1965.

For decades, US immigration law has prioritized family-based immigration, where two-thirds of all people who are granted green cards each year have family ties to people in the country. President Trump plans to maintain legal immigration at 1.1 million people a year, where family-based immigration would account for one-third of this figure. Highly skilled people with jobs would be given priority, and could bring with them their spouses and children.

The immigration proposal is largely the work of senior advisers Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller, and economic aide Kevin Hassett. The team looked at the legal migration systems of Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand for how to shift American policy more toward attracting skilled workers and less on uniting extended families. They found that 12 percent of migration to the US was based on employment and skill, compared with 68 percent for Australia, 63 percent for Canada, 57 percent for New Zealand, and 52 percent for Japan. By giving a preference to immigrants proficient in English and with degrees or training and job offers, the reformed plan will allow 57 percent of green cards, which grant permanent legal residency, to be based on employment.

President Trump proposes to end the diversity lottery system, which offers applicants from countries with low immigration rates the chance to move to the United States. The plan also proposes changes to the asylum process, which the Trump administration says is abused. This would result in 10 percent of green cards being given to immigration for humanitarian reasons, down from 22 percent currently.

The plan also focuses on strengthening the country’s southern border wall with Mexico, which experiences very high levels of illegal immigration, human trafficking, and drug smuggling, and will improve the inspection of goods and people at ports of entry. An increase in fees collected at the border would pay for border security infrastructure.

Immigration will likely be a key issue heading into the November 2020 Presidential and Congressional elections, and Republicans will now need to seek approval for the changes by Congress. Priorities of Democratic lawmakers are “Dreamers”, the children of immigrants in the country illegally, and immigrants in the country under Temporary Protected Status. It is currently unknown whether the reform plan will include provisions to help farmers and other seasonal employers obtain more guest workers.

The day before the reform announcement, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham proposed legislation to deal with the surge of migrants from Central America at the southern US border to address the immediate crisis.

President Trump pardons Conrad Black and investigates the FBI

It is a widely held belief that western legal systems today are not systems that produce justice. This week, American President Donald Trump pardoned Conrad Black as his Attorney General William Barr launched an investigation into government surveillance involving the Trump 2016 Presidential campaign. 

Conrad Black, a Canadian newspaper publisher who once owned The National Post and The Daily Telegraph and earned peerage in the British House of Lords, wrongly spent three years in an American prison on criminal fraud charges – “The two counts for which I have just received a presidential pardon, and of which I was "convicted" in 2011, after the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously vacated them only to have a self-serving appellate judge reinstate them, were for wire fraud and obstruction of justice,” as he wrote this week.

Describing the phone call he shared with the President this week, vindicating Mr. Black’s reputation, he writes,

He could not have been more gracious and quickly got to his point: he was granting me a full pardon that would "Expunge the bad wrap you got." He had followed the case closely and offered to come to give evidence at my trial in Chicago in 2007 on one of the counts (I was acquitted of that one). He said that there would be some controversy, "But you can handle that better than anyone." I asked "Do you authorize me to say that your motivation is that it was an unjust verdict?" He checked with the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, who was in the room, if this would be a problem legally, and was told and affirmed to me that I could say that was his motive and that he was reversing an unjust verdict. 

"We've known each other a long time," the president told me, "but that wasn't any part of the reason. Nor has any of the supportive things you've said and written about me." I suggested that he knew "better than anyone" the antics of some U.S. prosecutors. (I had had Robert Mueller as director of the FBI, which we caught installing illegal bugging devices in our home in New York and in many falsehoods; James Comey as deputy attorney-general, and Patrick Fitzgerald, now Comey's counsel, as U.S. attorney in Chicago. They were all, as my distinguished caller on Monday has described Comey, "bad cops.") We moved briefly on to generalities, greetings to wives, I thanked him for his call and again for the purpose of his call, and the conversation ended.

U.S. Attorney General Barr has now assigned John Durham, an attorney in Connecticut, to examine the origins of the Mueller investigation, in particular the FBI counterintelligence inquiry into the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016. Mr. Durham has previously investigated law enforcement corruption, the destruction of CIA videotapes, and the Boston FBI office's relationship with mobsters. He is set to continue to serve as the chief federal prosecutor in Connecticut.

Mr. Durham is tasked with examining the origins of the Russia investigation, determine if intelligence collection efforts targeting the Trump campaign were lawful and appropriate, and whether Democrats were the ones who improperly colluded with foreign actors. The investigation includes the pre-transition period, prior to November 7, 2016, including the use and initiation of informants, as well as potential Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) abuses.

Since last March, the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz has been investigating wiretap applications from 2016 and political bias among FBI officials, and this is nearing its completion. Republicans also have been looking for answers from U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber, who was appointed a year ago by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to review surveillance abuses by the FBI and DOJ and authorities' handling of the investigation into the Clinton Foundation. Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm behind the Steele Dossier that asserted collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, was retained by the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee (DNC).

Canadian report shows Millennials have the highest insolvencies

Key findings from Hoyes, Michalos & Associates, one of Canada’s largest personal insolvency firms, show the Millennial generation are filing insolvency at a much faster rate than their entry into the workforce. Born between 1980 and 2000, Millennials in 2011 comprised 28 percent of the Canadian workforce, rising to 34 percent by 2018. Their report shows that during this time, Millennials filing insolvency increased from 14 percent to 37 percent of insolvencies, an increase of 162 percent. After the Silent Generation (those 73 years old and older in 2018), Millennials are the most likely of any generational cohort to blame financial mismanagement as a primary cause of their insolvency, including the overuse of credit.

Nearly two in five insolvencies are currently filed by Millennials and this trend is on the rise. On average, Millennial debtors owe CAD $35,733 in unsecured debt when they file insolvency. Nearly one third of carry student debt with an average loan of CAD $14,311 in 2018, an increase of 4.2 percent from the previous year. The HM&A report points to student loans as a significant factor in the rise in insolvencies, where one in five insolvencies involved student debt and 64 percent of student debt insolvencies are filed by Millennials. Under Canadian bankruptcy law, student loan debt is not automatically discharged by bankruptcy or a consumer proposal unless the debtor has been out of school for at least seven years. According to Canada Student Loans, students typically take between nine and 15 years to pay off their student loans in full.

The average tuition cost for a Canadian university is now CAD $6,500 with in-demand programs costing more than CAD $20,000 per year. The HM&A report shows that tuition hikes are taking their toll on recent graduates as higher debt upon graduation is not sustainable and therefore contributes to many graduates declaring insolvency much earlier than in the past. Overwhelming student debt is primarily a problem for women, where 63 percent of student debtors in 2017 were female, up from 58 percent in 2011.

In 2018, almost half of all Millennial debtors had at least one payday-style loan, up from 40 percent in 2017.  Access to quick, low credit money is perhaps the largest debt epidemic facing Millennials after student debt, who need it to make ends meet month-to-month. Millennial debtors using a payday loan now owe a total of CAD $4,792 on an average of four loans, accounting for 15 percent of their total debt. Even more alarming, their average payday-style loan size grew from CAD $920 in 2017 to CAD $1,189 in 2018.  13 percent of all Millennial fast cash loans were for CAD $2,500 or more, up from 6 percent in 2017.

After declining steadily from 2013 to 2016, Millennials are returning to the use of credit card debt and lines of credit. As Millennials become older, they both apply for more credit cards and increase their credit card limits as their incomes rise. In 2018, Millennials with credit card debt owed an average of CAD $11,716 on an average of 3 credit cards, an increase of 6.9 percent from 2017 balances. Millennials are highly likely to use credit to pay for everyday goods and services, including entertainment, groceries, and clothes, as well as make online purchases with credit cards, which can lead to financial problems when credit is used to balance their budget. They often view minimum payments as just another monthly expense to be covered.

60 percent of insolvent student debtors blamed job loss or income related issues as a primary cause of their insolvency. Millennials are working, but it is not likely stable or permanent employment. The average Millennial debtor has a take-home pay of CAD $2,431, which is 3.9 percent less than the average debtor and 10.3 percent less than Generation X. After paying for housing, transportation, and living expenses, Millennials have only CAD $243 available to support unsecured debt repayment (excluding their mortgage and car payment), which is the lowest of any generational cohort. This is a problem when the average monthly interest cost on their debt is CAD $1,0334.

HM&A says the financial dilemma facing insolvent Millennial debtors is their limited ability to maneuver. While the average Millennial debtor income has increased from CAD $2,275 in 2017 to CAD $2,431 in 2018, that growth is not enough to cover debt repayment. In addition, Millennials are less likely to be able to refinance. The overall trend since 2013 is a percentage of insolvencies involving homeowners, however, Millennials are much less likely to own a home, especially those filing insolvency. Millennial homeowners who have entered the market likely bought at higher prices, limiting their ability to refinance.

The average Canadian insolvent debtor in 2018 owed CAD $49,289 in unsecured debt. HM&A also says the most significant trend in 2018 is the increased risk of filing insolvency faced by all ages; the average debtor lives paycheque to paycheque, which is why he uses debt to pay for everyday living costs. Canadians spend 40 percent of household income on housing, substantially more than the maximum 35 percent recommended by financial experts. Transportation costs take up another 19 percent and personal and living costs consume 31 percent of income, significantly more than the 20 percent recommended maximum. Only 9 percent of income is available to cover debts, an amount which is insufficient to cover even the monthly interest costs). This leaves nothing left over for savings or an emergency fund, and creates a cycle of debt reliance that leads to the use of payday loans, multiple credit cards and high interest term loans.

Since HM&A began their bankruptcy study eight years ago, total household credit has increased by 43 percent. Consumer debt, the types of loans dealt with through a consumer proposal or bankruptcy, rose 30 percent during this same period. An extended period of low interest rates made all this debt affordable and low rates provide a refuge against the economic consequences of all this debt. Delinquency rates remained low as did consumer insolvencies, until recently.

Bond bankers and investors at the annual meeting of the International Capital Markets Association in Stockholm warned that the heavy reliance on debt financing and slow economic growth are leading to the creation of debt bubbles, which risk destabilizing the entire financial system should a major shock occur. Ultra-low interest rates have prompted companies and governments to load up on debt faster than ever before, often selling bonds with less protection for investors. That has led to concerns that a turn in market sentiment could result in a credit crunch. Hans Stoter, global head of core investments at AXA Investment Managers told the conference, “There is much more debt in the world than there was before ... and most of that growth is coming out of debt financing with interest rates so low.” International Montery Fund (IMF) estimates show leverage in the system has increased 50-60 percent since the financial crisis a decade ago, with debt now worth some 230 percent of economic output globally.

Failing Brexit, the UK will take part in European Parliament elections

As Britons continue to watch and wait for their government to deliver the Brexit they democratically voted for, the United Kingdom will now take part in European Parliament elections on May 23 as – according to Prime Minister Theresa May's de facto deputy David Lidington – there is not enough time left to get an exit deal ratified by Parliament before then. "

The elections – following last week’s local elections in England, which saw a dramatic fall in support for both the Conservative and Labour parties, will cost over GBP 95 million. Many in Britain believe them to be a waste of time and the public on both the Leave and on Remain side appears to be looking for ways to punish the traditional parties and send a message of revolt.

The new Brexit Party, led by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, is leading the polls with over 30 percent support and projected to gain a healthy number of seats in the EU Parliament. Turnout in EU elections is historically low in the UK, but this year high numbers are expected to use their vote as a fresh ballot on Brexit. Mr. Farage recently welcomed former Conservative Shadow Minister Ann Widdecombe into the party, who claims many of her Conservative colleagues have given up on PM May.

The Sunday Times reported that the Conservatives would offer new concessions to Labour in a Brexit agreement for their cooperation to pass a deal, including a temporary customs union with the EU until a national election is due in June 2022, at which point “Labour could use their manifesto to argue for a softer Brexit if they wanted to and a new Conservative prime minister could argue for a harder Brexit.” Most Conservatives oppose a customs union since it would stop Britain from reaching its own trade deals with other countries.

Brexiteer MP Andrea Jenkyns called on PM May to quit in the Commons, saying, “She’s tried her best. Nobody could fault or doubt her commitment and sense of duty – but she has failed. The public no longer trust her to run Brexit negotiations. Isn’t it time to step aside and let someone else lead our country, our party and the Brexit negotiations?” To which PM May retorted, “This is not an issue about me and it’s not an issue about her. If it were an issue about me and the way I vote, we would already have left the European Union.

The 1922 Committee capitulated to PM May delay tactics once again. The Prime Minister had been given a deadline of 4pm on Wednesday to set out a timetable for her departure, but she bought herself another week when backbench MPs agreed to meet with her next week. The Committee had discussed changing its rules to allow a confidence vote in the leader to be held every 6 months rather than every 12 months, as is currently the case, which would allow another confidence vote to be held next month. However, the executive narrowly voted against a rule change.

Sir Graham Brady, Chairman of the Committee said PM May intended to put a Withdrawal Agreement Bill before Parliament again “in the near future.” Leaving the meeting, Nadine Dorries said, “She’s not given any decision, there’s no timetable and they need to get on with it. We need to make sure we get that final decision soon.”

Charges against Canadian Vice-Admiral over shipbuilding contract dropped

This week, Vice-Admiral Mark Norman of Canada’s Royal Navy was cleared after the Crown’s federal prosecutors stayed their charge of breach of trust citing no "reasonable prospect of conviction." In March 2018, the second-in-command of the military was suspended and charged for allegedly leaking cabinet secrets in favour of Quebec-based Davie Shipbuilding in relation to a CAD $700-million shipbuilding contract when the Conservative party was in government. The RCMP has not commented on specifics of its investigation since a second criminal case is still before the courts, involving a different public servant also accused of leaking details on the shipbuilding deal.

The Crown says the decision was made solely by the Director of Public Prosecutions, and denied that there was any interference in that decision. The federal government has announced that it will pay Vice-Admiral Norman's substantial legal fees, which have grown to more than CAD $500,000. Vice-Admiral Norman's legal team, which is led by prominent defence lawyer Marie Henein, says the federal government owes him a formal apology. “Vice-Admiral Norman has been through a great deal, his family has been through a great deal. There is a supply ship that is operational, on time, and under budget thanks in part to Vice-Admiral Norman. I think it’s time to say sorry to him,” Ms. Henein said on Wednesday. Vice-Admiral Norman has not ruled out pursuing a civil suit against the government.

Ms. Henein had previously questioned why members of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government had not been questioned and revealed that her office had been conducting its own investigation for several months that included interviews with former Conservative ministers and staff. Some have questioned whether Vice-Admiral Norman would ever have been charged if the RCMP or the public-prosecution service had reached out to the Conservatives.

This week former Conservative Ministers Jason Kenney, Erin O'Toole, and Peter MacKay said that they had spoken to Vice-Admiral Norman's lawyers but the RCMP had never approached them. In a televised interview, now-Alberta Premier Kenney said he reached out to Vice-Admiral Norman in the spring of 2015 to get input from the navy on procuring a naval supply ship. Mr. Kenney said that military brass wanted a 30-month procurement process but that he had a hunch the navy wanted to get something in the water faster. During a conversation at a dinner, Mr. Kenney said that Vice-Admiral Norman told him that the Davie ship was what best suited their needs, and Mr. Kenney ultimately took that advice to Cabinet.

Mr. Kenney is now raising questions about why the RCMP did “little or nothing” to talk to members of the previous Conservative government ahead of, or as part of the now stayed court process, saying, “Obviously I had material information about this whole transaction this whole issue and I never heard from the Crown, I would have quite happily cooperated with them as well.

Iran defies international sanctions to pursue nuclear

Iran had threatened to begin enriching stores of uranium, which goes against their commitment to the Obama-era nuclear deal and gives Iran the potential to develop nuclear weapons. The United States is now on high alter after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani outlined the terms of a partial withdrawal from the agreement this week. The President threatened to begin enriching his stores of uranium if the remaining countries in the deal refuse to help Iran find relief for its sanctioned oil and banking sectors.

In 2015, Iran along with China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council), Germany, and the European Union signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.

Under the deal, Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpile of enriched uranium and reduce the number of its gas centrifuges by about two-thirds the number of for 13 years. In the 15 years to follow that, Iran agreed to only enrich uranium up to 3.67 percent and limit this to a single facility using first-generation centrifuges for 10 years. They also agreed to not build any new heavy-water facilities for 15 years. The reasoning behind this timeframe is the belief that by 2030 the people involved in the 1979 Iranian revolution will no longer be politically active.

In return, if the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a report verifying the implementation of the nuclear-related measures by Iran, some or all sanctions by the United Nations (UN) and EU against Iran would be terminated or suspended, allowing Iran to recover USD $100 billion of its assets currently frozen in overseas banks.

Under American law, the Iran deal is non-binding; in May 2018, United States President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal, and in November that year effected sanctions with the intention of forcing Iran to dramatically alter its policies, such as their support for Islamic terrorist organizations and development of ballistic missiles. President Trump called the Iran deal "horrible" and said the United States would "work with our allies to find a real, comprehensive, and lasting solution" to prevent Iran from developing nuclear arms.” All major European companies abandoned doing business afterward.

Under the sanctions, Iran is not allowed to sell excess enriched uranium and heavy water to other countries. Until last week, some countries were allowed to continue buying limited amounts of sanctioned Iranian oil. The Iranian President has now also pulled out of a planned deal to sell off excess uranium from its nuclear power sector and set a 60-day deadline for the leaders of Britain, China, France, Germany, and the EU to negotiate better terms for the 2015 Iran deal.

President Rouhani announced, “The Americans will see for themselves that over the next few months we will continue to export our oil…there are six other doors available and the Americans don’t know it. We have to export our oil by all means possible within our power and stand up against them — the Americans.

Government sanctioned land expropriation is central in South Africa’s upcoming election

On May 8, South Africa will hold its sixth general election since the end of the apartheid system in 1994, in what is being called the most important election since the birth of democracy 25 years ago. President Cyril Ramaphosa of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) will likely retain power if the ANC holds onto its political dominance.

Currently, there is factional infighting amongst all leading parties and a general loss of faith amongst the nation’s electorate. The vote will elect members of the National Assembly (which forms the basis for national administration), provincial legislatures in each province (which determines provincial government rule), and who will become the next President of South Africa. 48 parties will seek to earn support from nearly 27 million voters.

A generation after white minority rule ended in 1994, efforts by the governing ANC to address persistent racial disparities in housing, land ownership, and services are failing. South Africa’s economy has hardly grown over the past decade and government revenue continues to come in below estimates. In a number of townships across the country, residents have taken to the streets in recent months to demand land, houses, sanitation infrastructure, water, and electricity. President Ramaphosa, who took office last year, has promised to accelerate land redistribution, improve service delivery, and build a million houses over five years. Public anger has been aggravated by perceptions that some government officials and their business allies are growing rich from corruption. A spokesman for the police’s elite “Hawks” unit said it was investigating allegations of tender irregularities in a number of municipal housing and other improvement projects but did not provide details.

In 2018, President Ramaphose, who was a prominent trade union leader and a close associate of Nelson Mandela, said the ruling ANC should initiate a parliamentary process to amend the constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation. "The ANC will through the parliamentary process finalize the proposed amendment to the constitution that outlines more clearly the conditions under which expropriation of land without compensation can be effected” the billionaire former businessman said, adding that “it has become pertinently clear that our people want the constitution to be more explicit" about the expropriation proposal, which is viewed by the South African white minority as forceful expulsion that can incite violence against farmers.

The motion was brought forward by Julius Malema, who is the leader of the radical Marxist opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters. It passed by a wide margin of 241 votes to 83 against. Mr. Malema has gained notoriety for his outspoken views towards South Africa’s white population and previously been convicted of hate speech for singing the apartheid-era struggle song “Shoot the Boer” – Boer means farmer for the Dutch. Mr. Malema has described land seizures as “teaching whites a lesson” and wants ownership to closer reflect South Africa’s population, where 80 percent of people describe themselves as black African, 8 percent white, and 9 percent as “coloured”. Mr. Malema told the parliament, “The time for reconciliation is over. Now is the time for justice. We must ensure that we restore the dignity of our people without compensating the criminals who stole our land.

The Boer farmers have owned their land since the 1600s, which was uninhabited prior to that. The broad public consensus that most privately owned land remains in white hands, with a few thousand white commercial farmers possessing the most fertile lands, makes it a potent symbol of wider economic disparities. According to a 2017 government audit, white people own 72 percent of farmland where white South Africans own 24 percent and the remainder is held by private enterprises. Black South Africans directly own 1 percent of the country’s rural land. Approximately 10 percent of land in white ownership has been transferred to black owners since the end of apartheid, which is only a third of the ANC's target.

South Africa’s High Court recently rejected a legal challenge brought by AfriForum, a civil rights group representing the white Afrikaner minority, against President Ramaphosa’s plans for land expropriation without compensation. The government was accused of drawing up a list of almost 200 farms it allegedly wants to seize from white farmers and a document was being circulated by ministers as the ruling powers prepare to implement the policy.

A record number of white South African farmers have put their land up for sale amid fears the ruling party is considering confiscating properties bigger than 25,000 acres. White farmers in South Africa are being targeted in a series of brutal attacks over land that are being overlooked by police and implicitly encouraged by the country’s parliament. Activist groups promoting the rights of white people in the country claim one farmer is murdered every five days, on average, and that South African authorities are tacitly approving attacks by turning a blind eye to the violence.

South Africa has the highest rape rate in the world and the second highest murder rate. Since the official state census in 1996, more than 400,000 white South Africans have left the country. There were roughly 128,000 commercial farmers in South Africa in 1980 but today there are only 40,000 commercial farmers left in South Africa. Since 1994, conservative estimates cite more than 70,000 white South Africans have been murdered, of which more than 4,000 were commercial farmers; exact figures are difficult to come by as the South African police fail to report most of the murders that take place. Many of the murders involve hideous torture, including rape, without charges or arrests to follow.