Thursday, March 31, 2016

Like the US, China wants a national electricity grid. Unlike the US, China’s just building it.

Updated by David Roberts on March 30, 2016, 3:00 p.m. ET

Wind and sunlight are often concentrated in sparsely populated, remote areas. Getting wind and solar power to the population centers where it's needed involves building long-distance power lines. Lots of them.

Earlier this week I wrote about a new long-distance power line in the US and the long, slow path it took to win approval. It was proposed in 2009; construction is expected to begin next year and finish in 2020. Like everything involving electricity in the US, it had to navigate a skein of overlapping jurisdictions, multiple state and local authorities, and federal rules. Every landowner and stakeholder had their say.

So I chuckled when I ran across this Reuters headline yesterday: "China pushes for mandatory integration of renewable power." That's the other way to do it!

Migrant arrivals to Greece rise sharply despite EU-Turkey deal

Wed Mar 30, 2016 4:12pm EDT


Migrant and refugee arrivals to Greece from Turkey rose sharply on Wednesday, just over a week after the European Union and Turkey struck an agreement intended to cut off the flow and as hundreds marched through central Athens to protest that deal.

The demonstrators included human rights activists, students and migrants from among the thousands stranded in Greece by recent border closures across the Balkans.

Greek authorities recorded 766 new arrivals between Tuesday morning and Wednesday morning, up from 192 the previous day. Most entered the country via the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos.

Italy reported an even larger jump on Tuesday, when officials there said 1,350 people - mostly from Africa - were rescued from small boats taking a longer migration route across the Mediterranean as the weather warmed up.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Migrants in Greece, Ready to Go Anywhere in Europe, Scramble to Enter E.U. Relocation Program

Dimitris Bounias contributed reporting.

The New York Times

ATHENS — Under the glare of a naked light bulb, in the tiny one-room apartment where he has taken shelter with three other young Syrian refugees, Ismail Haki clutched the folded white card on which he has pinned all his hopes.

“It’s our only chance,” said Mr. Haki, as he and his companions displayed the cards that showed they have applied for asylum in Europe. “If this works, we don’t know what country we’ll end up in. But at least we’d be in Europe.”

The four men arrived in Greece last month after making a perilous trek from Aleppo, the war-torn Syrian city, to find a hoped-for path to Germany closed. After languishing in a military camp for two weeks, they turned in desperation to a final option and entered a European Union relocation program that might, if they are lucky, place them almost anywhere in Europe but Germany.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Quandary for Europe: Fighting a War on ISIS Within Its Borders

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The New York Times

LONDON — When the United States declared war on Al Qaeda after the Sept. 11 attacks, American leaders took the fight to the militant group’s hide-outs in Afghanistan, a faraway and failing state, with an invasion and occupation.

But for Europe’s leaders, who now consider themselves at war with the Islamic State after large-scale terrorist attacks at home, the challenge is more complicated: The enemy’s hide-outs are ghettoized parts of Paris, Brussels and other European cities that amount to mini failed states inside their own borders.

Greece Lags in Implementing Economic Reforms, Says Schäuble

Athens has yet to agree with creditors on what measures should be adopted
The Wall  Street Journal

Updated March 23, 2016 10:40 a.m. ET

BERLIN--German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said Wednesday Greece is still lagging behind in implementing economic overhauls promised last summer to its creditors in exchange for bailout money, expressing however optimism that a solution will be found.

Greek creditors—the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund—and Athens have yet to reach an agreement on the reforms that Greece must adopt.

Without such a deal, creditors cannot complete a review of its up-to-€86 billion ($96 billion) bailout program.

Brussels attacks are hurting refugees in Greece

By Nasos Koukakis, special to
18 Hours Ago

The terrorist attacks in Brussels is making it more difficult for the Greek government to manage the refugee crisis, as more and more EU countries become reluctant to allow the arrival of refugees into their territories.

On Wednesday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had a telephone conversation with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to complain about the poor results of NATO's operation in the Aegean Sea, initiated last month to discourage the influx of refugees and immigrants in the Greek islands.

NATO has been tasked to do reconnaissance and surveillance and to collect information and share this information in real time with the Turkish coast guard, the Greek coast guard and with Frontex to help manage the migrant and refugee crisis and cut the lines of illegal trafficking and smugglers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Belgium Warned of Attacks. It Wasn't Enough.

1268 MAR 22, 2016 9:17 AM EDT
By Josh Rogin
Only days ago in Brussels, as Western leaders celebrated the arrest of a key terrorist suspect, Belgian officials warned that there were dozens more jihadists at large in the city and that more attacks were being planned. They couldn’t have known how right they were.

I traveled to Brussels on March 16, to attend the German Marshall Fund's Brussels Forum, a meeting of U.S. and European officials, foreign policy experts and journalists, where the fight against terrorism was at the top of the agenda. Two U.S. senators and several Obama administration officials who attended had just passed through the main terminal of the Brussels airport. On Tuesday morning, it was hit by what Belgian authorities described as a suicide attack. At least 26 were killed and many more wounded at the airport, and in a parallel attack on the city's subway system.

Stocks fall, gold and govt bonds rise after Brussels explosions

Tue Mar 22, 2016 5:54am EDT


European stocks fell and investors rushed for the safety of gold and government bonds on Tuesday, after two explosions at Brussels airport killed several people and blasts at metro stations in the Belgian capital.

Travel sector stocks including airlines and hotels fell the most, pulling the broader indices down from multi-week highs as reports on the scale of the carnage in the de facto capital of the European Union unfolded.

Belgian media reported that at least 11 people had been killed and that one of the blasts at the airport was a suicide bomber. This came four days after the arrest in Brussels of a suspected participant in November militant attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.

"The initial reaction in financial markets has been airline stocks all lower, and safe-haven capital flow with gold, German government bonds and the Japanese yen in demand," said Brenda Kelly, head analyst at London Capital Group.

"The news has certainly overshadowed much of the euro zone economic data this morning," she said.

At 0915 GMT the FTSEuroFirst 300 index of leading shares was down 1 percent at 1,326 points .FTEU3. Germany's DAX was also down 1 percent and Belgian stocks were down 0.8 percent .BEL20. These indices had earlier been down twice as much.

The STOXX Europe 600 Travel & Leisure index .SXTP was the top sectoral faller, down 2.2 percent. Shares in major European airlines like easyJet (EZJ.L) and Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA) were down as much as 4 percent (LHAG.DE), and hotel company Accor (ACCP.PA) also fell 4 percent.

Gold rose 1 percent to $1,255 an ounce XAU=, and the yield on benchmark German government bonds fell to a two-week low of 0.18 percent EU10YT=RR. U.S. Treasury yields fell 2 basis points across the curve US2YT=RR US10YT=RR.

In currency markets the Japanese yen, often considered a something of a safe-haven asset, rose across the board, notably against the euro. The euro was last down 0.6 percent at 125.10 yen EURJPY= and the dollar was down 0.3 percent at 111.60 yen JPY=.

The single currency fell a third of a percent against the dollar to $1.1205 EUR=.


For financial markets, the events in Brussels came in a week where liquidity was starting to dry up ahead of the Easter holiday and investors were beginning to think about cashing in on a steep rally in stocks over the last few weeks.

"Coming up to the Easter holiday, people are going to be very reluctant to put more money into these (stock) markets. If anything, they will be more likely to take money out," said Michael Hewson, chief market strategist at CMC Markets in London.

"Anything like the events we're seeing in Brussels this morning is going to weigh on risk sentiment and risk appetite," he said.

U.S. stock futures pointed to a fall of around a third of one percent on Wall Street ESc1.

Investors paid little attention to the economic data released on Tuesday which showed a slight pick up in German business morale and euro zone business activity in March

Earlier, Asian stocks seesawed as hawkish comments from U.S. Federal Reserve officials clouded the monetary policy outlook less than a week after Fed Chair Janet Yellen had set out a more cautious path to interest rate increases this year.

The dollar got a mild boost from the suggestion that interest rate hikes could be on the way sooner rather than later.

Japan's Nikkei stock index .N225 added 1.9 percent, closing at a one-week high, after markets in Tokyo reopened after a public holiday on Monday. A weaker yen, before the Brussels-related rebound, gave a tailwind to local shares.

Elsewhere, sterling was one of the biggest losers among the major currencies after ratings agency Moody's said Britain's credit rating will be put under pressure by a marked slowdown in fiscal consolidation unveiled in last week's budget.

The warning came amid concerns about Prime Minister David Cameron's ability to keep Britain in the European Union after leading 'Out' campaigner Iain Duncan Smith resigned from the cabinet late on Friday.

Sterling was last down 0.6 percent at $1.4281 GBP=, more than two cents off Friday's one-month high of $1.4514.

It was a rare day of stability in oil markets, with U.S. crude futures unchanged at $41.53 a barrel CLc1 and Brent crude LCOc1 also flat on the day at $41.60.

(Reporting by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

Brussels Rocked by Deadly Attacks With Blasts at Airport, Subway

By James G Neuger and  Jonathan Stearns

Explosions ripped through the Brussels airport departure hall and a downtown subway station on Tuesday morning, causing deaths and injuries and spurring fears of imminent follow-up attacks in the capital of the European Union.
Belgium’s military sent reinforcements to Brussels after two bombs went off in rapid succession at the airport around 8 a.m., the peak check-in hour for morning flights within Europe. RTL news reported as many as 13 dead and 25 injured. An hour later, an explosion hit a subway station a short walk from EU headquarters, with conflicting reports of casualties.

Deal Appears to Curb Migrant Flow, but Greece Still Faces ‘Uphill Effort’


The New York Times

MYTILENE, Greece — Standing on the southern coastline of the island of Lesbos, Molhim Zreiki peered through binoculars across the narrow strait of the Aegean Sea dividing Greece from Turkey. During the past nine months, hundreds of thousands of refugees had crossed these waters on smuggler rafts to reach Europe.

But how many rafts reached Lesbos on Monday morning?

“None,” said Mr. Zreiki, one of the volunteers who have patrolled the beaches for months to help refugees as they came ashore.

The Greek Coast Guard did pick up two rafts near Lesbos early Monday and brought the 56 people aboard to the island, according to the local police. By comparison, in October an average of 4,400 refugees landed on the island every day.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

European Union Grapples With Plan to Return Migrants From Greece to Turkey

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The New York Times

BRUSSELS — European leaders edged closer early on Friday to a deal to return asylum seekers from Greece to Turkey despite a host of legal, political and moral issues raised by their latest effort to quell the migrant crisis.

The common stance agreed by the European Union’s 28 national leaders still needs the approval of Turkey’s prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu. He flew here late Thursday for face-to-face talks on Friday.

Those negotiations will revolve around what incentives to grant Turkey, which is not a European Union member, in return for Turkey’s taking on the job of housing more of the migrants while they wait for word on whether they qualify for resettlement in Western Europe.

“We need to put all our efforts into achieving an agreement with Turkey,” Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, told an early morning news conference. “These will be negotiations that will certainly be anything but easy,” she warned.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Life Inside The Horrid Camp On Greece’s Border

Many of the 14,000 people living in the Idomeni transit camp want to enter Macedonia and continue onto other European countries. But the borders are shut.
 03/17/2016 05:20 pm ET

The Huffington Post

Images taken inside a transit camp near the Greece-Macedonia border show the impact of Europe’s inaction in addressing the spiraling migrant and refugee crisis.

Up to 14,000 people live in the makeshift tent city located near the town of Idomeni, on the Greek side of the border, equipped to house about 2,000 people.

Many of the migrants and refugees in the camp arrived there after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey to the Greek islands, and hope to enter Macedonia and continue across Balkan countries — like Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia — toward more prosperous European countries like Germany. But that has recently become impossible as the Balkan countries recently shut their borders or tightened frontier policies to people without valid travel documents.

On Monday, hundreds of people stormed out of the Idomeni camp toward Macedonia, hiking for hours and wading through a rain-swollen river, only for many of them to be detained by Macedonian authorities who made them return to Greece.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

What Donald Trump Gets Pretty Much Right, and Completely Wrong, About China

Neil Irwin  @Neil_Irwin MARCH 17, 201

The New York Times

If there is one thing Donald Trump seems sure about, it is that the United States is getting a raw deal from China.

To people who spend time studying the United States’ economic relationship with China, Mr. Trump’s accounting of its dysfunctions contains both legitimate, accurate complaints and elements that completely misstate how things work between the world’s largest and second-largest economies.

“They’re killing us,” Mr. Trump has said in many debates, rallies and television appearances. He has threatened to put a 45 percent tax on Chinese imports “if they don’t behave.”

If you take Mr. Trump’s comments at face value, as president he would try to renegotiate a complex set of ties that has pulled hundreds of millions of Chinese out of dire poverty, made a wide range of goods available to American consumers at more affordable prices and contributed to the decline of American manufacturing.

Refugee crisis: Migrants arriving on Greek islands to be sent back to Turkey within days if deal goes through.

Angela Merkel says deal 'gives the EU a chance to get a sustainable, pan-European solution to the refugee issue'

Caroline Mortimer

The Independent

Refugees landing on Greek islands will be deported within days under a "decisive" draft deal with Turkey.

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said the deal “gives [the EU] a chance to get a sustainable, pan-European solution to the refugee issue".

She was speaking on the eve of a summit to sign the deal which will fast rack Turkey’s application to join the EU in exchange for readmitting refugees who have already crossed the Aegean Sea to Greece.

The Latest: Greece demands no ‘fortress states’ on migrants

The Washington Post

By Associated Press March 17 at 5:51 AM
BRUSSELS — The Latest on European efforts to respond to massive migration (all times local):

10:45 a.m.

Greece is insisting that European Union leaders meeting in Brussels must provide for sanctions against member states that unilaterally decide to shut out refugees.

Deputy Defense Minister Dimitris Vitsas, who heads a task force on migration, said Thursday that Europe should not contain “fortress-states.”

Athens has repeatedly criticized fellow EU member Austria for capping the number of migrants it lets in, which had a domino effect through the Balkans and left nearly 46,000 migrants stuck in Greece.

That figure includes 14,000 living in a waterlogged tent city set up round the closed Idomeni border crossing with non EU member Macedonia.

Greek authorities are trying to persuade people in Idomeni to move to organized shelters elsewhere, but have ruled out using violence to evacuate the camp.

A Journey Across Greece, a Bankrupt Land at Risk of Becoming a Refugee Prison More than 44,000 people are already trapped in the country, a number ticking upward each day, as aid groups warn of a potential humanitarian crisis by summer.


The New York Times

IDOMENI, Greece — Taha al-Ahmad’s family is sleeping in mud. His youngest daughter, age 1, lies beneath wet blankets, coughing inside their soggy tent. It has rained for days. Portable toilets are overflowing. Men burn firewood to stay warm. A drone circles overhead. Television trucks beam images of misery to the world.

It is primeval, and surreal, this squalid, improvised border camp of 12,000 refugees, a padlocked waiting room for entering the rest of Europe. Mr. Ahmad, barely two weeks out of Syria, does not understand why his family cannot cross the Macedonian border — roughly a football field away — and continue toward Germany. Hundreds of thousands of migrants passed through last year, but now Macedonia is closed. Europe’s door is slamming shut.

“I am in a very high degree of miserable,” Mr. Ahmad told me, speaking in a singsong English he learned in Syria, as our shoes sank into the muck.

“I ask my friends in Germany and Turkey: ‘What is happening? Tell us,’” he said. “We don’t know what is happening outside.”

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Mission accomplished? Russia to withdraw troops from Syria on Tuesday

Holly Yan-Profile-Image
By Holly Yan, CNN
Updated 0647 GMT (1447 HKT) March 15, 2016

(CNN)Russia's bombing blitz in Syria will end today, leaving behind both significant destruction and a Syrian regime to largely fend for itself.

The surprise announcement by Russia on Monday came as suddenly as the airstrike campaign started last September.

"The task that was assigned to the Ministry of Defense and the armed forces as a whole has achieved its goal," Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

But Russia's stated goal -- fighting terrorists like ISIS in Syria -- didn't match the reality on the ground, critics say. They point to the bombings of civilian areas as reason to believe Russia is actually helping its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, eliminate his opposition.

Close allies
Russia has both economic and ideological reasons to support the Syrian regime, even as many other countries blame Assad for the deaths of thousands of dissidents.

U.S. confirms death of ISIS operative Omar al-Shishani

Barbara Starr-Profile-Image
By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent
Updated 2224 GMT (0624 HKT) March 14, 2016

CNN International

Washington (CNN)Two U.S. officials told CNN that the Obama administration has confirmed that ISIS senior operative Omar al-Shishani is dead.

The officials said he was injured in a U.S. airstrike last week and then died subsequently, though they wouldn't say how they know he is dead.

The initial U.S. assessment was that he was "likely killed" in the strike, but further assessments led them to understand he had been injured and only later died.

He was killed along with 12 additional ISIS fighters in a wave of strikes by drones and manned aircraft.

Since then, CNN has learned that Shishani was at a "shura," or meeting with other officials, at the time of the strike. U.S. officials had emphasized at the time it was publicly announced that they were not certain of his death and were assessing whether the strike killed him.

This Is The Anti-Refugee Party That Won A Big Victory In Germany

The Alternative for Germany party has surged in popularity amid Europe's refugee crisis.
 03/14/2016 06:57 pm ET

The Huffington Post

Nick Robins-Early
World News Reporter, The Huffington Post

An anti-refugee, ultra-conservative populist party made huge gains in Germany's regional elections on Sunday and further cemented its recent surge to the forefront of the nation's politics.

The controversial Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, secured seats in all three regions that voted and was the second-most-popular party in one of them.

The vote is a big victory for the once-fringe party, reflecting national divisions over how Chancellor Angela Merkel has handled the refugee crisis in the first major elections since she implemented Germany's open-border policy last year. Alternative for Germany has been steadily rising in polls since then, amid a current of anti-immigration sentiment.

Monday, March 14, 2016


BY REUTERS ON 3/14/16 AT 5:47 PM


SKOPJE (Reuters) - The Macedonian police are taking steps to return to Greece a group of migrants who evaded a border fence and crossed in to Macedonian territory on Monday, a police spokeswoman said.

"We are taking measures to return the group to Greece," the Macedonian police spokeswoman said. "Police and army have heightened security on the border at critical points."

The spokeswoman said she believed "several hundred" migrants had crossed, lower than an estimate of 2,000 made by a Reuters photographer.

Hundreds of migrants marched out of a Greek transit camp, hiked for hours along muddy paths and crossed a rain-swollen river to get around a border fence and cross into Macedonia, where they were detained on Monday, authorities said.

Greece steps up efforts to move migrants to sheltered camps

Sun Mar 13, 2016 12:55pm EDT Related: WORLD, GREECE


Greece increased efforts on Saturday to move thousands of migrants near the border with Macedonia to sheltered camps, as the spread of infection became a concern with one person in a sprawling tent city diagnosed with Hepatitis A.

Stranded in filthy conditions near the northern border town of Idomeni, at least 12,000 people, among them thousands of children, were waiting to cross the frontier although Macedonia and other nations along the so-called Western Balkan route have closed their borders.

Scuffles broke out at the camp in recent days as destitute people scrambled for food and firewood, while many have been sleeping in the open, often in the rain amid low temperatures.

Greek authorities handed out leaflets in Idomeni on Saturday informing people that the main route to northern Europe was shut. The pamphlets urged them to move to buildings and hospitality centers across Greece that have been set aside for the purpose, according to a government official from the country's refugee crisis management coordination body.

Greece: Stranded Migrants Head for Dangerous Route North


ABC News

Hundreds of migrants and refugees walked out of an overcrowded camp on the Greek-Macedonian border Monday, determined to use a dangerous crossing to head north.

More than 300 people, including dozens of children, were heading west toward a river that crosses the border, about 5 kilometers (3 miles) outside the village of Idomeni, where some 14,000 people are stranded at a sprawling camp.

They refused to turn back at a Greek police cordon outside the camp.

More than 40,000 people have been stranded in Greece after Macedonia and other ex-Yugoslav countries closed their borders to migrants and refugees — prompting them to seek more dangerous crossings.

Underscoring the risks, police in Macedonia said the bodies of two men and one woman, believed to be migrants, were found Monday in the Suva Reka river near the border with Greece. Twenty migrants crossed safely and another three were hospitalized, authorities said.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

China Weighs Letting Banks Sell Bad Debt to Investors


The New York Times

BEIJING — China is exploring a new way to grapple with its mounting pile of bad corporate debt, though its top central banker sought on Saturday to dispel worries that the plan would simply shift the burden to other parts of the country’s vast economy.

Under the tentative proposal, Chinese officials would allow banks saddled with growing quantities of bad loans to sell that debt to investors, said Zhou Xiaochuan, the governor of the People’s Bank of China. The goal is to help alleviate one of the major drags on China’s economy, the world’s second largest after the United States’ and a major driver of global growth.

But Mr. Zhou and a deputy central bank governor, Pan Gongsheng, said they would take steps to make sure the effort did not create the kind of risk-laden financial products that played a major role in the 2008 global financial crisis. The effort would be modest, regulators would monitor it closely, and mom-and-pop investors would be kept out, they said.

“There’s no need to exaggerate,” Mr. Zhou said at a news conference held as part of China’s annual legislative session in Beijing. “There’s not certainty that this would be a very big market.”

Refugee crisis: Macedonia tells Germany they've 'completely failed'

Macedonia is 'paying for the mistakes of the EU' says President Ivanov, as his country seals its border with Greece
Charlotte Beale

The Independent

Macedonia’s President has told Germany "your country has completely failed" in its security response to the refugee crisis.

While praising the "humanity" of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door immigration policy, President Gjorge Ivanov said "the security situation has been entirely ignored" in an interview with German newspaper Bild.

Authorities in Macedonia, which is not a European Union member state, have seized 9,000 forged or stolen passports from refugees.

But Macedonian offers to share intelligence and data on alleged jihadists have been rejected by Europe, Mr Ivanov said.

"We were told: we cannot cooperate with you; you are a third party country."

Greece steps up efforts to move migrants to sheltered camps

Sat Mar 12, 2016 2:37pm EST Related: WORLD, GREECE



Greece increased efforts on Saturday to move thousands of migrants near the border with Macedonia to sheltered camps, as the spread of infection became a concern with two people in a sprawling tent city diagnosed with Hepatitis A.

Stranded in filthy conditions at a muddy tent city near the northern border town of Idomeni, at least 12,000 people, among them thousands of children, were waiting to cross the frontier although Macedonia and other nations along the so-called Western Balkan route have closed their borders.

Scuffles broke out at the camp in recent days as destitute people scrambled for food and firewood, while many have been sleeping in the open, often in the rain amid low temperatures.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Exclusive: Greece Won’t Use Force to Move Thousands of Migrants Stuck in Squalid Camp

Simon Shuster / Athens @shustry  March 10, 2016

Their influx has spiked again this week despite Turkey's pledge to stop their boats, a senior official in Athens tells TIME

Although the sprawling refugee camp on the Greek border with Macedonia is quickly turning into a humanitarian nightmare—with around 12,000 migrants refusing to leave until the border, on Wednesday, reopens—the Greek authorities have ruled out the use of force in trying to deport them or move them to organized shelters, the government official coordinating Greece’s response to the refugee crisis says in an exclusive interview with TIME.

“The only plan is to persuade them,” says Dimitris Vitsas, the Alternate Minister of Defense, speaking in his office in Athens. “There is no plan of violence. We will not use force.”

Thursday, March 10, 2016

China’s Outflows of Money Slowed in February


The New York Times

HONG KONG — Few economic statistics have gone as quickly from obscurity to the center of attention from international financial markets lately as China’s foreign currency reserves, widely seen as the best barometer of how long China can avoid a possible devaluation someday of its own currency.

Monthly changes in the reserves these days mainly reflect how much money is being sent out of the country by Chinese companies and families nervous about the country’s economic slowdown and sweeping anticorruption investigations. Over the last five weeks, the Chinese government has waged an aggressive campaign to stem the outflow, through almost daily pledges by officials not to devalue and through much tighter enforcement of the rules on sending money overseas.

Forget fracking. Choking and lifting are latest efforts to stem U.S. shale bust

Thu Mar 10, 2016 2:32am EST Related: GLOBAL ENERGY NEWS


Something is awry in the beleaguered U.S. shale patch: older wells, which normally gush oil or natural gas in their first few months before rapidly depleting, are not petering out as quickly as they should.

When oil prices began falling a year and a half ago in the deepest rout in a generation, many analysts expected U.S. crude production, especially from fracking in the new shale plays that contributed to a global supply glut, to follow quickly.

Refugee babies exposed to filth, infections at Greek border camp

 Wed Mar 9, 2016 8:42am EST Related: WORLD, GREECE


Six-day-old Asima lies on her back a few meters away from a line of public toilets used by crowds of refugees and migrants stranded at a muddy border outpost in northern Greece.

She is one of the youngest of thousands of children trapped in what aid workers say is a petri dish of filth and festering infections, as European leaders work out what to do with the growing masses fleeing conflict zones and heading to Europe.

Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says there are at least 40 pregnant women in Idomeni camp on the Macedonian border, and 40 percent of its population are children.

America's B-2s Sent To Deter China While B-52s Take On ISIS

By Tyler Rogoway
Yesterday 6:46pm
Washington is moving around its heavy bombers like chess pieces as it attempts to deal with growing threats around the globe. B-52s are already deployed to Spain, but others will also take over for the B-1 as the U.S. Air Force’s ISIS pounding precision bomb truck. In the Indian Ocean, B-2 stealth bombers will be heading to American island outpost Diego Garcia to project power across Asia.

Diego Garcia, which is located with the British Indian Ocean Territories, was a bustling epicenter for USAF bombers and tankers during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Today its airfield is far less active but the island remains a strategic outpost for the US and its allies.

The B-2s’ deployment to Diego Garcia comes as tensions are higher than ever in the South China Sea. Just last week the U.S. Navy sailed a carrier strike group into the heart of the disputed body of water, once again challenging Beijing’s blanket claim on the territory.

North Korean saber rattling has also come to a crescendo with proclamations that the rogue nation is readying its nuclear arsenal for a preemptive strike on South Korean and American forces taking part in the annual bilateral “Foal Eagle” war games.

Opinion: China's military is gearing up to compete with the U.S.

By Yvonne Chiu
Updated 0206 GMT (1006 HKT) March 10, 2016


Hong Kong (CNN)China's military is sending strong signals that it's gearing up to compete with the U.S. as a global superpower, engaging in a multi-faceted reform effort to modernize and professionalize its military.

One of the most significant developments is China's plans to establish an overseas military base—which would be contemporary China's first—in Djibouti. Construction started last month.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

E.U. Woos Turkey for Refugee Help, Ignoring Rights Crackdown

MARCH 8, 2016

The New York Times

ISTANBUL — The contrast was jarring: Just days after the police broke into the offices of an opposition newspaper using tear gas and water cannons, Turkey’s prime minister was greeted in Brussels with offers of billions in aid, visa-free travel for Turks in Europe and renewed prospects for joining the European Union.

The juxtaposition highlighted the conundrum Europe faces as it seeks solutions to its worst refugee crisis since World War II. To win Turkey’s desperately needed assistance in stemming the flow of migrants to the Continent, European officials seem prepared to ignore what critics say is President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s steady march toward authoritarianism.

It is a moment of European weakness that the Turkish leadership seems keen to capitalize on. As Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu arrived in Brussels this week, he upped the ante, asking for more financial aid than was previously negotiated and demanding visa-free travel by June, while offering to take back some migrants who had crossed into Europe.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Turkey Places Conditions on E.U. for Migrant Help

MARCH 7, 2016
The New York Times

BRUSSELS — Turkey surprised European Union leaders on Monday by hitting them with a new set of demands if it is to help stem the flow of refugees from Syria and Iraq and other migrants seeking to enter Europe.

Leaders assessed the demands at an emergency summit meeting in Brussels, where Turkey’s prime minister asked for billions of euros in new assistance, easier access to visas for Turks to go to Europe and the dramatic acceleration of talks on Turkey’s membership in the bloc, a discussion that has languished for years.

The toughening of the Turkish position underscored Ankara’s apparent attempt to win more support from Europe if it is going to be expected to protect the bloc from hundreds of thousands of new asylum seekers.

But after a long day of negotiations that stretched into the early hours of Tuesday, the European leaders had made only partial progress, with many of them still assessing the terms. Even so, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said leaders would meet again in Brussels on March 18.

Syria refugee crisis: Turkey and EU agree outline of 'one in, one out' deal Angela Merkel describes Turkish proposal as a ‘breakthrough’ but says time needed to agree final details

The Guardian

European leaders said early on Tuesday morning that they had reached the outlines for a possible deal with Ankara to return thousands of refugees to Turkey and were hopeful a full agreement could be reached at a summit next week.

Analysis One in, one out – the EU's simplistic answer to the refugee crisis
The proposal that Europe will resettle every Syrian that Turkey allows in from Greece is morally and legally complex
 Read more
Turkey’s prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, outlined proposals to resettle one Syrian refugee in Europe for every Syrian returned to Turkey from the Greek islands.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Next Level of the Refugee Crisis

MARCH 6, 2016
The New York Times

Calling what is happening in Europe a refugee crisis no longer captures the enormity of the problem. This is a catastrophe that will soon become far worse as warm weather swells the torrent of people fleeing war in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. With the European Union incapable of united action, country after country has imposed panicky controls on once-open borders to block the refugees.

On Monday, Macedonian police fired volleys of tear gas at asylum seekers who burst through a fence on the Greece-Macedonia border. The same day, France began clearing out “the Jungle,” an enclave near Calais with thousands of refugees waiting desperately to cross the English Channel into Britain. And as gates across Europe close to them, thousands upon thousands of people crowd into Greece, which is opening a new camp nearly every day.

Grexit back on the agenda again as Greek economy unravels

After three emergency bailouts and the biggest debt restructuring in history, talk has again turned to the country dropping out of the currency union

The Guardian

European finance ministers will once again deliberate over how to treat Greece’s ongoing debt crisis this week despite the country desperately grappling with refugees pouring across its borders.

A meeting on Monday of finance ministers from the eurozone will determine whether creditors are to be given the green light to complete a long-delayed review of Greek economic recovery plans.

The review has been held up by disagreement among lenders over how much more Athens needs to cut from public spending. It is seen as key to reviving Greece’s banking sector and restoring business and consumer confidence.

“I think the situation right now is more dangerous than it was last summer,” the former finance minister Gikas Hardouvelis told the Guardian.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Migrant Crisis Alters E.U. Calculations for Greece as Its Debt Struggle Continues

The New York Times

ATHENS — When Greece’s debt crisis threatened to sink the European Union’s single currency last summer, the rest of Europe, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, ganged up to deliver the Greek government a stern message: Overcome your domestic political problems and do what is necessary to hold the Continent together.

Eight months after Greece agreed to do its part, it is the rest of Europe that is failing to muster the will to address a threat to the bloc’s unity, this time the continued influx of migrants from the Middle East and beyond. And Greece, the main entry route for asylum seekers, has been largely left to fend for itself.

“We are now in the situation where Greece is essentially becoming a holding pen for refugees and is being asked to solve a problem created by other countries,” said Jens Bastian, an economics consultant based in Athens and a former member of the European Commission’s task force on Greece. “You are basically putting the management of Europe’s migrant crisis at the doorstep of Greece.”

Friday, March 4, 2016

European Commission Proposes EU Aid for Migrants Stuck in Greece

Tensions have flared at border with Macedonia as a result of border restrictions in the Balkans and Austria

The Wall Street Journal

Updated March 2, 2016 11:58 a.m. ET
BRUSSELS—The European Commission proposed the creation of a €700-million ($760 million) humanitarian assistance program, mostly to accommodate tens of thousands of migrants stuck in Greece as the main route into Europe becomes increasingly cut off.

The program, announced Wednesday, would follow a model so far used only in conflict zones, with the commission providing the funding to the United Nations’ refugee agency and other groups, which would then carry out aid efforts including setting up emergency tents and handing out aid.

Tensions have flared over the past few days at Greece’s border with Macedonia as a result of border restrictions put in place by Austria and Balkan countries last month.

UNHCR issues six-point plan to resolve Europe refugee crisis

Fri Mar 4, 2016 7:11am EST Related: WORLD, UNITED NATIONS


The United Nations refugee agency proposed a six-point plan to European Union heads of state on Friday to resolve the migrant crisis, warning that the situation was quickly deteriorating in Greece where some 30,000 refugees are stuck.

The U.S. just sent a carrier strike group to confront China

By David Larter, Navy Times 11:41 p.m. EST March 3, 2016

Navy Times

The U.S. Navy has dispatched a small armada to the South China Sea.

The carrier John C. Stennis, two destroyers, two cruisers and the 7th Fleet flagship have sailed into the disputed waters in recent days, according to military officials. The carrier strike group is the latest show of force in the tense region, with the U.S. asserting that China is militarizing the region to guard its excessive territorial claims.

Stennis is joined in the region by the cruisers Antietam and Mobile Bay, and the destroyers Chung-Hoon and Stockdale. The command ship Blue Ridge, the floating headquarters of the Japan-based 7th Fleet, is also in the area, en route to a port visit in the Philippines. Stennis deployed from Washington state on Jan. 15.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Five Things to Know About China’s ‘Two Sessions’

Charlie Campbell / Beijing @charliecamp6ell  1:29 AM ET


China's ruling elite gather for their yearly double shindig

China’s governing class descends on Beijing this week for the nation’s top two annual political meetings. The National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China’s top political advisory body, begins Thursday, with the main event, the National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s anodyne legislature, kicking off on Saturday.

The “two sessions,” as they are colloquially known in China, are an important bellwether for assessing government policy in a one-party state where most decisions take place behind firmly closed doors. Around 3,000 provincial administrators, top businessmen and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) bigwigs are expected to attend.

The U.S. and India are deepening military ties — and China is watching

The Washington Post

By Dan Lamothe March 2 at 2:57 PM

The U.S. military’s top officer in the Pacific urged Indian officials Wednesday to pursue even closer military ties with the United  States — part of a broader effort by the Pentagon to strengthen a relatively new partnership in the region, as China expands its military footprint in ways that alarm its neighbors.

Adm. Harry Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, said that  expanded cooperation between the United States and India will not only be critical to Washington’s re-balance toward the Pacific, but “will arguably be the defining partnership for America in the 21st century.” He said he shared a vision with U.S. Ambassador to India Richard Verma that Indian and U.S. naval vessels will soon steam together “as we work together to maintain freedom of the seas for all nations.”

New Migrant Crisis Flares in Greece

Thirty thousand stranded in Greece as EU tries to halt inflow from Middle East, South Asia and Africa

The Wall Street Journal

Updated March 2, 2016 10:16 p.m. ET

IDOMENI, Greece—A clampdown along Balkan borders has left 30,000 migrants trapped in Greece, marking a new stage in the humanitarian crisis swamping Europe.

Countries farther up the migration trail, from Macedonia to Austria, are now letting in only a few hundred a day, and sometimes no one.

Allowing migrants to be stranded in Greece is considered the EU’s last option to halt the relentless inflow of people from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. More and more EU governments have lost faith in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policy of stopping irregular migrants at Turkey, spreading bona fide refugees around the EU, and keeping Europe’s internal borders open.

Ms. Merkel warned this week of “chaos” in Greece, but other European Union leaders say there is no alternative to shutting down the Balkan migration route.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Philippine officials say China blocked access to disputed South China Sea atoll

Wed Mar 2, 2016 6:39am EST Related: WORLD, CHINA, SOUTH CHINA SEA


China sent several ships to a disputed atoll in the South China Sea, preventing Filipino fishermen from accessing traditional fishing grounds and raising tensions in the volatile region, Philippine officials said on Wednesday.

China had sent as many as seven ships to Quirino Atoll, also known as Jackson Atoll, in recent weeks, said Eugenio Bito-onon Jr, the mayor of nearby Pagasa Island in the Spratly Islands.

The Spratlys are the most contested archipelago in the South China Sea, a resource-rich region and critical shipping lane linking North Asia to Europe, South Asia and the Middle East.

"This is very alarming, Quirino is on our path when we travel from Palawan to Pagasa. It is halfway and we normally stop there to rest," Bito-onon Jr told Reuters.

EU launches emergency refugee aid scheme for Greece

 Wed Mar 2, 2016 7:12am EST Related: WORLD, UNITED NATIONS, GREECE, EURO ZONE


The European Union, faced with a burgeoning refugee crisis in Greece, launched a new aid program on Wednesday worth an initial 700 million euros that mirrors the kind of disaster relief it offers developing nations.

As European states have closed borders following the arrival of nearly a million migrants by sea from Turkey last year, the Athens government has appealed for help to house and care for tens of thousands still arriving and now stranded in Greece.

The European Commission's proposal will, if approved, switch 300 million euros ($325 million) this year from its 155-billion euro annual budget to the new Emergency Assistance scheme and 200 million next year and in 2018.

U.S. warns China on militarization of South China Sea




U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Tuesday warned China against "aggressive" actions in the South China Sea region, including the placement of surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island.

"China must not pursue militarization in the South China Sea," Carter said in a wide-ranging speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. "Specific actions will have specific consequences."

Asked what the consequences could be, Carter told reporters the U.S. military was already increasing deployments to the Asia-Pacific region and would spend $425 million through 2020 to pay for more exercises and training with countries in the region that were unnerved by China's actions.

He said China's behavior had fueled trilateral agreements that would have been "unthinkable" even a few years ago.

Are investors starting to not care about China?

Seema Mody
11 Hours Ago


The news out of China, bad or good, just doesn't seem to have as much bite anymore.

Sure, downbeat Chinese economic data on the first day of trading in 2016 ignited a global market sell-off. But as the year has worn on, the impact is diminishing.

Tuesday's disappointing manufacturing data showing activity at Chinese factories in February contracted and was at the lowest level since November 2011 didn't translate into higher stock market volatility or investor angst. In fact, U.S. markets surged as traders' focus turned elsewhere.

Similarly, news to start the week that China's central bank was cutting reserve requirements failed to generate a rally, as monetary easing otherwise might.

U.S. Captures ISIS Operative, Ushering in Tricky Phase


The New York Times

WASHINGTON — An elite American Special Operations force has captured a significant Islamic State operative in Iraq and is expected to apprehend and interrogate a number of others in coming months, ushering in a new and potentially fraught phase in the fight against the extremist Sunni militant group.

American defense officials described the capture as a crucial development in battling the Islamic State but said it also raised questions about handling what is likely to be a growing group of detainees.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

What China Has Been Building in the South China Sea

UPDATED February 29, 2016

China has placed runways and radar facilities on new islets in the South China Sea, built by piling huge amounts of sand onto reefs. The construction is straining already taut geopolitical tensions

The New York Times

The speed and scale of China’s island-building spree in the South China Sea last year alarmed other countries with interests in the region. After announcing in June that the process of building seven new islands by moving sediment from the seafloor to reefs was almost done, China has focused its efforts on building ports, three airstrips, radar facilities and other military buildings on the islands. The installations bolster China’s foothold in the Spratly Islands, a disputed scattering of reefs and islands in the South China Sea more than 500 miles from the Chinese mainland.
China’s activity in the Spratlys is a major point of contention between China and the United States, and has prompted the White House to send Navy destroyers to patrol near the islands twice in recent months.

Greece's refugee crisis: PM says country is overwhelmed

Alexis Tsipras speaks out as Greece struggles to care for 30,000 trapped migrants and Brussels prepares urgent aid

The Guardian

The arrival of tens of thousands of refugees has plunged Greece into an unprecedented crisis the likes of which no nation could manage alone, the country’s embattled prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has said.

Speaking as the European commission signalled it was putting together an urgent humanitarian aid package for the country after predictions that more than 200,000 men, women and children will be marooned there by summer, the leftwing leader said Brussels had promised “support and solidarity”.

“We are experiencing the biggest refugee crisis since the second world war,” he told Greek Star TV. “The problem surpasses the powers of the country, the strength of a government and the innate weaknesses of the European Union.”

Army's Delta Force begins to target ISIS in Iraq

Barbara Starr-Profile-Image
By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent
Updated 2227 GMT (0627 HKT) February 29, 2016


Washington (CNN)The U.S. Army's elite Delta Force operations to target, capture or kill top ISIS operatives have begun in Iraq, after several weeks of covert preparation, an administration official with direct knowledge of the force's activities told CNN.

The official said the group has spent the last several weeks preparing, including setting up safe houses, establishing informant networks and coordinating operations with Iraqi and Peshmerga units. It's the same strategy that Special Operations forces have used in previous deployments to combat zones.

Several Pentagon and military officials declined to discuss specifics of the so-called Expeditionary Targeting Force with CNN.

But Defense Secretary Ash Carter seemed to confirm in comments made at the Pentagon on Monday that the Special Operations forces had begun missions.

China's PMI Reports Show Slowdown Deepening as Services Slip

  Bloomberg News
March 1, 2016 — 3:01 AM EET Updated on March 1, 2016 — 9:11 AM EET


China's factory gauge extended its stretch of deteriorating conditions to a record seven months while a measure of services fell to the weakest in seven years, underscoring the challenge for policy makers as they seek to cut overcapacity in manufacturing without derailing growth.
The manufacturing purchasing managers index dropped to 49 in February, missing the median estimate of 49.4 in a Bloomberg News survey of economists. It hasn’t been weaker since January 2009. Numbers below 50 indicate conditions worsened. In a sign China’s slowdown is spreading, the non-manufacturing PMI -- which has been outperforming the factory measure -- fell to the lowest level since December 2008.

Violence Erupts in Greece as Migrants Try to Cross Into Macedonia


ATHENS — It was a scene of a type that could become all too common in coming months: Thousands of increasingly desperate people backed up at the frontier between Greece and Macedonia on Monday, stymied in their efforts to reach Germany. A group of angry asylum seekers busted through a razor-wire fence. Armed police officers fired tear gas as frenzied crowds chanted, “Open the border!”

Less than a week after Austria and nine other European countries took steps to stem the flow of refugees from Greece toward Germany and other prosperous countries, the spasm of violence on Greece’s northern border brought to life the perils of the European Union’s inability so far to settle on a common policy to address the migration crisis.

War in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and repression and economic hardship across the Middle East and Africa continue to compel large numbers of people to strike out for Europe. Germany continues to signal that it will accept legitimate refugees, especially from Syria. As the weather grows warmer and the sea crossing from Turkey to Greece safer, the number of people arriving is expected to spike, putting a huge strain on Greece, which in effect is becoming a giant holding center for migrants who cannot go forward because of the new border restrictions, but will not or cannot go back.