Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Greece Cracks Down on ‘Triangle of Corruption’ in TV


The New York Times

ATHENS — Since Greece opened its media to private broadcasting in the 1980s, the market has been an almost unregulated scrum. Licenses are given out on an ad hoc basis. Media outlets have proliferated. The chaos ushered in hundreds of millions of dollars of debt and invited the undue influence of banks, media barons and successive governments.

Now, the government led by the leftist Syriza party under Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says it wants to crack down on what it characterizes as a “triangle of corruption,” by auctioning off a limited number of licenses on Tuesday.

But whether that effort is actually aimed at bringing order to the market or is yet another attempt by a Greek government to shape the media to its advantage has set off a hot debate and an intense wrangle for power here.

After Initial Drop, Fresh Surge in Migrant Arrivals Puts Extra Strain on Greece

Rising numbers of asylum seekers disregard Europe’s strategy to deter them from making the journey

The Wall Street Journal

Aug. 30, 2016 6:47 p.m. ET
CHIOS, Greece— Yasmin Ali made the perilous crossing from Turkey to this Aegean island two weeks ago even though she knew she would be trapped here, unable to travel farther into Europe.

The 19-year-old Syrian economics student is one of a rising number of people disregarding Europe’s double strategy for deterring mass migration—a deal with Turkey to return new arrivals, and the closure of Balkan borders to the north—and stretching Greece’s capacity to absorb more asylum seekers even thinner.

Japanese Government Urges Another Increase in Military Spending

The New York Times

TOKYO — The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is requesting another increase in spending on Japan’s armed forces, with a plan to expand missile defenses that would test the nation’s commitment to pacifism and escalate a regional arms race with China and North Korea.

With rising threats from North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile program and repeated incursions by Chinese ships into waters surrounding a string of islands claimed by Japan, the request would let the Defense Ministry develop new antiballistic missiles and place troops on southern islands closer to the chain in dispute with China.

If approved, the budget proposal for 5.17 trillion yen, or $50.2 billion, formally submitted on Wednesday, would be the nation’s fifth-straight annual increase in military spending. It is a 2.3 percent rise over last year.

Why Euro Looks Stuck Even as Fed Gears Up to Move

On a trade-weighted basis, the euro has actually risen since quantitative easing started in 2015
The Wall Street Journal

Aug. 30, 2016 7:36 a.m. ET
Once upon a time, signs the Federal Reserve was gearing up to increase rates would have been big news for the euro. Policy divergence was a key focus for foreign-exchange traders. But times have changed.

True, the euro declined against the dollar in the wake of the Jackson Hole conference, but it was far from an extraordinary move. And the bigger picture is that at $1.117, the single currency is in the middle of a relatively narrow range that has held since February.

China charges American with espionage ahead of Obama’s Asia trip

The Washington Post

By Emily Rauhala August 30 at 10:37 AM
BEIJING — An American consultant who has been detained in China for more than a year has been formally charged with spying — news that could further complicate U.S.-China ties ahead of President Obama’s trip to Asia.

Sandy Phan-Gillis, 56, of Houston was arrested in March 2015 while traveling in southern China with a trade delegation and has been held without charge since.

“Based on our understanding, Phan-Gillis, because of suspected espionage, has been charged according to law by the relevant Chinese department,” Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said in a news conference Tuesday.

India and U.S. deepen defense ties with landmark agreement

By Rama Lakshmi August 30 at 4:30 AM
NEW DELHI — After nearly a decade of painstaking discussions, India and the United States signed a landmark defense agreement Tuesday that will increase the military cooperation between two of the world’s largest democracies.

The agreement was finalized during a visit to Washington by Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar, and it was touted as a symbol of deeper defense ties between the two nations in an increasingly tense part of the world.

The Latest: US asks Turkey to focus on fight against IS

The Washington Post

By Associated Press August 29
BEIRUT — The Latest on the developments in the Syrian civil war (all times local):

10:20 p.m.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter says the United States is trying to “de-conflict” U.S.- backed actions against the Islamic State by Turkey and by the American-backed Syrian Kurdish rebels known as the Syrian Defense Forces.

Carter says some of the SDF fighters are affiliated with the so-called YPG, a Kurdish organization that Turkey considers a terrorist group. Carter says the U.S. works with all SDF fighters “in our common interest to defeat” the Islamic State group.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Turkish Military Begins Major Offensive Into Syria in Fight Against ISIS

The New York Times

ISTANBUL — Turkey mounted its largest military effort yet in the Syrian conflict on Wednesday, sending tanks, warplanes and special operations forces over the border in a United States-backed drive to capture an Islamic State stronghold in Syria.

The joint offensive on the city of Jarabulus, one of the last border strongholds of the Islamic State, began hours before Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, the Turkish capital. The timing seemed aimed at easing tensions between the two countries raised by the failed coup in Turkey last month.

EU warns Greece statistics row 'dangerous' for bailout

Wed Aug 24, 2016 8:35am EDT
By Alastair Macdonald and Renee Maltezou | BRUSSELS/ATHENS
The European Union called on Greece on Wednesday to quash what Brussels said were false accusations the Greek statistics agency rigged data to help foreign creditors and warned that the row posed risks to Athens' current bailout programme.

The Greek government quickly replied that it was "surprised" at the call from the European Commission for it to take a stance on a judicial matter and insisted it respected the independence of the Elstat statistics office.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Refugee inflow into the Aegean Islands after the coup.

Aegean islands alarm as refugee numbers rise after Turkey coup attempt
EU voices fears that deal struck to curb migration is at breaking point as tensions grow between Turkey and Greece

The Guardian

Greek authorities on a number of Aegean islands have called for emergency measures to curtail a growing flow of refugees from Turkey, which Athens attributes to the impact of the attempted coup in that country.

Since the failed 15 July putsch, the number of Europe-bound migrants willing to make the perilous journey across the Aegean has increased noticeably, with the Greek government announcing that as of yesterday some 9,420 men, women and children had been registered on Lesbos and other islands.

Islamic State Strikes Oil, Gas Facilities in Iraq

Attacks at AB2 gas compressor station, Bai Hassan oil field kill at least five local workers

The Wall Street Journal

Updated July 31, 2016 2:01 p.m. ET

BAGHDAD—Islamic State claimed twin attacks on oil and gas facilities in northern Iraq on Sunday that killed at least five local employees, the latest in northern Iraq by the extremist group, which relies on oil for a significant portion of its revenue.

Four suicide bombers hit the Bai Hassan oil field, prompting an hourslong standoff with local forces, said a colonel with the Kurdish Peshmerga forces that control the area. The field is one of the largest in the region of Kirkuk, producing more than 175,000 barrels a day, according to oil officials.

Three of the attackers were dead, he said, and one remained at large.

Britain’s scientists are freaking out over Brexit

The Washington Post

By William Booth and Karla Adam July 31 at 3:00 AM
CANTERBURY, England — Britain has been a powerhouse of discovery since the age of science began. Newton, Darwin, Crick? They parted the curtain on gravity, evolution and DNA.

Now comes Brexit, and to use a non-scientific term, the scientists in the country are freaking out.

Since the vote to leave the European Union last month, leaders of Britain’s scientific academies are making dire predictions about what could happen to research and innovation here.

Damage to British research, the scientists warn, could be among the cascade of unintended — and largely unappreciated — consequences of the vote to exit the bloc.

The researchers worry that Britain will not replace funding it loses when it leaves the E.U., which has supplied about $1.2 billion a year to support British science, approximately 10 percent of the total spent by government-funded research councils.

Decree by Turkey’s Erdogan brings military more under govt

Middle East
 The  Washingtion Post
(Kayhan Ozer Presidential Press Service, via AP Pool/Associated Press)
By Cinar Kiper and Elena Becatoros | AP July 31 at 12:45 PM

ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a new presidential decree Sunday that introduced sweeping changes to Turkey’s military in the wake of a July 15 failed coup, bringing the armed forces further under civilian authority.

The decree, the third issued under a three-month state of emergency declared after the attempted coup, gives the president and prime minister the authority to issue direct orders to the commanders of the army, air force and navy.