Here’s why you should pay attention to this weekend’s German election

September 20, 2017

European elections countdown: In this part of our occasional series, we take a look at what is at stake in the upcoming German election.

If you’re searching for the opposite of last year’s loud, long and controversial American election, look no further than Germany.

On Sunday, voters there will head to the polls in a crucial yet strangely quiet election.

The two main contenders, conservative incumbent Angela Merkel and social democrat Martin Schulz, held only one TV debate, in which many of the key issues went undiscussed. And with the vote still days away, German parties are preparing to collaborate after the election rather than emphasizing their differences to sway the undecided.

Spanish Police Storm Government Buildings Trying To Stop Independence Referendum

Mac Slavo – September 20, 2017

Spanish national police have stormed ministries and buildings belonging to Catalonia’s regional government to put a stop to the region’s independence referendum.

In the early morning hours, armed officers arrived at various Catalan ministries, including the economics department, foreign affairs department, and social affairs department, and made arrests in an effort to stop Catalan independence.

The Guardia Civil, which acts with the authority of Madrid’s interior ministry, is searching for evidence regarding the planned October 1st referendum on Catalan independence, which Spain’s Constitutional Court has declared illegal.

The Catalan president has accused the Spanish government of effectively suspending the region’s autonomy and declaring a de facto state of emergency.

Police officers raided Catalan government offices on Wednesday and arrested 12 senior officials in a bid to stop an independence referendum being held in less than two weeks’ time.

Putin orders to end trade in US dollars at Russian seaports

RT – September 19, 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin has instructed the government to approve legislation making the ruble the main currency of exchange at all Russian seaports by next year, according to the Kremlin website.

To protect the interests of stevedoring companies with foreign currency obligations, the government was instructed to set a transition period before switching to ruble settlements.

According to the head of Russian antitrust watchdog FAS Igor Artemyev, many services in Russian seaports are still priced in US dollars, even though such ports are state-owned.

The proposal to switch port tariffs to rubles was first proposed by the president a year and a half ago. The idea was not embraced by large transport companies, which would like to keep revenues in dollars and other foreign currencies because of fluctuations in the ruble.

Artemyev said the decision will force foreigners to buy Russian currency, which is good for the ruble.

Trump ?slams the UN in his first UN appearance

President Trump used his inaugural address at the United Nations on Monday to criticize the world body for not living up to its “potential” because of bureaucracy and urged member nations to reject “business as usual” and take “bold stands.”

“In recent years, the United Nations has not reached its full potential because of bureaucracy and mismanagement, ” Trump said at the 72-year-old organization during a meeting on reforms.

Despite a ballooning budget and a doubling of staff since 2000, Trump said, “We are not seeing the results in line with this investment” and encouraged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to focus more on people than bureaucracy.

“We seek a United Nations that regains the trust of people from around the world,” the president said in his tightly scripted five-minute address. “In order to achieve this, the UN must hold every level of management accountable, protect whistle-blowers and focus on results rather than on process.”

Spanish authorities step up efforts to stop independence vote in Catalonia

DW – September 17, 2017

Spain’s central government is cracking down on information ahead of Catalonia’s October 1 vote that it considers illegal. Police have seized large troves of campaign material and shut down at least one website.

Spain’s paramilitary national police force said on Sunday that its agents had seized more than 1.3 million posters, flyers and pamphlets promoting Catalonia’s planned secession referendum.

The Civil Guard announced that the material was confiscated during a raid on an unnamed business that distributes advertising material in Barcelona province.

Also Sunday, Spain’s chief public prosecutor Jose Manuel Maza warned that Carles Puigdemont, the president of the Catalonian regional government, risks being arrested depending on how events unfold.

Proposed California Initiative Would Label Abortion ‘First-Degree Murder’

Michael Gryboski – September 13, 2017

California has announced that an initiative to label abortion “first-degree murder” can gather signatures to possibly be voted on through a state referendum.

California’s Democrat Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced on Sept. 8 that the new initiative was cleared to begin collecting the necessary number of signatures for the proposal to get on the 2018 ballot.

According to a press release from Padilla’s office, the initiative, if approved, would end “a woman’s state constitutional privacy right to terminate a pregnancy, and to use certain birth control methods.”

Texas’ Ban on Dismemberment Abortions Takes Another Hit

Dave Andrusko – September 15, 2017

Last week we reported that U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel of the Western District of Texas had issued a temporary restraining order blocking Texas’ Dismemberment Abortion Ban—part of Senate Bill 8—while the full lawsuit brought by the abortion industry against the State of Texas moves forward. The TRO had been scheduled to expire in 14 days—Friday.

On Thursday, Judge Yeakel “grant[ed] a request from the attorney general’s office and abortion clinics suing the state, and extended by some three weeks his order blocking the law, to Nov. 22,” the San Antonio Express reported. He also set a Nov. 2 trial date for the lawsuit brought by the abortion industry against the State of Texas.

Judge Yeakel’s initial order was issued Aug. 31, a day before the law was set to take effect.

In addition to banning dismemberment abortions, Senate Bill 8 also prohibits partial-birth abortion and regulates the disposition of the remains of abortion victims.

Venezuela Has Officially Abandoned The Petrodollar – Does This Make War With Venezuela More Likely?

Michael Snyder – September 14, 2017

Venezuela is the 11th largest oil producing country in the entire world, and it has just announced that it is going to stop using the petrodollar.  Most Americans don’t even know what the petrodollar is, but for those of you that do understand what I am talking about, this should send a chill up your spine.  The petrodollar is one of the key pillars of the global financial system, and it allows us to live a far higher standard of living than we actually deserve.  The dominance of the petrodollar has been very jealously guarded by our government in the past, and that is why many are now concerned that this move by Venezuela could potentially lead us to war.

I don’t know why this isn’t headline news all over the country, but it should be.  One of the few major media outlets that is reporting on this is the Wall Street Journal

The government of this oil-rich but struggling country, looking for ways to circumvent U.S. sanctions, is telling oil traders that it will no longer receive or send payments in dollars, people familiar with the new policy have told The Wall Street Journal.

Before we go any further, we should discuss what we mean by the “petrodollar” for those that are not familiar with the concept.  The following comes from an excellent article by Christopher Doran….

Catalonia kicks off banned independence referendum campaign

DW – September 14, 2017

Catalan separatists have officially launched their campaign for an independence referendum. The region has also said it will stop sending financial accounts to Madrid to prove public funds aren’t going to the referendum.

Crowds packed into a bull ring in the port of Tarragona on Thursday night to open the pro-independence campaign for a planned referendum on seceding from Spain.

Supporters sporting makeshift ballot boxes as hats shouted “We will vote!” as they waved around non-official ballot papers.

The high-profile event was attended by Catalan President Carles Puigdemont as well as representatives from Catalonia’s main pro-independence parties and associations.

The “yes” camp has two weeks to rally support for the vote and win over critics who are reluctant to take part in the referendum, which is due to take place on October 1.

EU Chief Wants to Force Single Currency on All Member States

Vijeta Uniyal – September 13, 2017

In his State of the Union speech, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker laid out his plan to impose a single currency on all the 28 EU member states. Presently only 19 members of the EU have introduced the euro as their official currency. Juncker also called for a more centralized union with its own ‘European finance minister’ and ‘European monetary fund.” He “wants to make the euro compulsory throughout the European Union, including in poorer eastern countries,” the British newspaper Daily Express noted.

The EU Chief’s statements come at a time when several eurozone countries face severe economic and social crises, often a direct result of fiscal imbalances caused from a single European currency. The youth unemployment in Greece, Spain and Italy ranges between 40 and 50 percent. Despite the rescue packages worth more than € 200 billion, the Greek economy is still teetering on the verge of total bankruptcy.

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who was in the EU parliament during the State of the Union speech in his capacity as the British MEP, lambasted Juncker’s proposal to expand the powers of the EU without consulting the people, comparing the EU to the Communist Soviet Union.