Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

16 - 22 January 2017

by Bjinse Sun Jan 15th, 2017 at 10:00:33 AM EST

Your take on today's news media

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by Bjinse on Sun Jan 15th, 2017 at 10:02:18 AM EST
Turkish MP's back new constitution boosting Erdogan's powers

Turkey's parliament has given preliminary approval to a new constitution which will increase the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

There will be a second round of voting later this week and, if approved, a referendum will follow.

Critics claim it amounts to a power grab by Mr Erdogan.

But the president says the changed system will resemble those in France and the United States.

by Zwackus on Mon Jan 16th, 2017 at 01:19:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
CIA head John Brennan warns Trump to watch his tongue

Outgoing CIA Director John Brennan has warned US President-elect Donald Trump to avoid off-the-cuff remarks once he takes office.

He said spontaneity was not in the interests of national security.

Mr Trump is known for regularly making broad pronouncements on issues of national importance on his Twitter feed.

Mr Brennan also said that Mr Trump did not fully appreciate Russia's capabilities or intentions.

"I think Mr Trump has to understand that absolving Russia of various actions that it's taken in the past number of years is a road that he, I think, needs to be very, very careful about moving down," he said.

by Zwackus on Mon Jan 16th, 2017 at 01:22:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
UK Brexit-backer Nigel Farange to attend Trump inaguration

LONDON (AP) -- British anti-European Union politician Nigel Farage says he will attend Donald Trump's inauguration as U.S. president.

Farage, one of Trump's strongest U.K. supporters, told Sky News that he had been invited by Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant. He called the Jan. 20 ceremony in Washington "a great, historic event" and Trump's election "a political revolution."

Farage led the anti-EU U.K. Independence Party until November, and was a key player in Britain's vote to leave the bloc. He sees Trump as an anti-establishment ally, and visited the president-elect soon after the Nov. 8 U.S. vote.

Given that he declared victory and left politics, this is not as meaningful as it would have once been, but still.

by Zwackus on Mon Jan 16th, 2017 at 01:28:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interactive missile map reveals how messy a NATO-Russia war would be

The first of 3,500 American troops began rolling into Poland for a nine-month-long mission starting on Jan. 8, 2017. It's an unprecedented length of time for a U.S. armored unit to stay in Eastern Europe. The U.S. Army's 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division were heading to Zagan and Pomorskie, with the unit's 87 M-1 Abrams tanks following on trains.

It's the beginning of a bulked-up and continuous NATO troop rotation to counter a resurgent Russia. In addition to the tanks, the unit is bringing with it 18 self-propelled Paladin howitzers, hundreds of Humvees and 144 Bradley fighting vehicles which will spread out across Eastern Europe.

There hasn't been a U.S. military deployment in Europe this big since the Cold War.

But as the troops move beyond Zagan, they will fall under the shadow of Russia's land-based strike missiles in Kaliningrad, the Connecticut-sized enclave squeezed between Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea. Russia has invested heavily in building up its military presence there in recent years.

by Zwackus on Mon Jan 16th, 2017 at 01:32:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I enjoy contributing to these, but find it hard to gather European news in English other than the "US sources say X about European leader" type or silly fluff pieces. If anyone has suggestions for sources I could pillage, it would be appreciated.
by Zwackus on Mon Jan 16th, 2017 at 01:36:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Non US, non UK, yet English language sources?
Well, you have the Irish Times, oft quoted on this site.

Also from Germany: DW and Der Spiegel
Inter Press Service
Al Jazeera

by Bernard (bernard) on Mon Jan 16th, 2017 at 09:12:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Couple of specifically EU oriented sites : Euractiv is worth checking, also Politico.eu, which though written by Americans, is interesting.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Mon Jan 16th, 2017 at 09:29:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EU Observer
The Parliament Magazine
EU Politics newsfeed
EU Reporter
The European Magazine
EU Business
The Local Germany (click on Other Editions in the header for France, Spain, Italy, etc...)
Russian news sites Sputnik and Russia Today are all too easy to find.

I used to be afew. I'm still not many.
by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Wed Jan 18th, 2017 at 12:29:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Russia prepares to decriminalize some domestic violence

Moscow (CNN)There's an old Russian expression: "If he beats you it means he loves you."
Now, in a chilling reminder of that sentiment, Russian legislators are moving toward decriminalizing some forms of domestic violence. Women's rights groups fear it will reignite a problem that still plagues much of Russian society.

The Duma has passed a bill in its first reading that has been dubbed the "slapping law." The pending legislation would consider an assault -- if it's a first offense that does not seriously injure the person -- an administrative, rather than criminal offense. The legislation would also apply to children.
Church and conservative influence
The bill's sponsors, including arch-conservative senator Yelena Mizulina, say the proposed law would simply bring family law into line with reforms passed last summer that loosened punishment for other minor assaults.
Mizulina has called the existing laws "anti-family" and a "baseless intervention into family affairs" that allows prosecution for just "a scratch."

I have to wonder about any Russia reporting coming from Amerian sources these days, but this doesn't seem obviously propagandistic, as far as I can tell -- but what do I know?

by Zwackus on Mon Jan 16th, 2017 at 01:38:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
it's been widely reported, including the BBC who have their own people out htere. No real reason to doubt it

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jan 16th, 2017 at 07:30:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"If Gibraltar wants a relationship with the EU, it will have to go through us": Spain's foreign minister

Alfonso Dastis, Spain's new foreign minister, seems to be of the opinion that a poor deal is better than no deal at all. He never raises his voice as he chooses the least-controversial words for his answers, picking his way around conflicts with a smile. This 61-year-old career diplomat with a background in law is familiar with the ins and outs of the European project, having served as Permanent Representative to the European Union under the first administration of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Dastis says he never thought he would one day be tapped for the post of minister. The day before his appointment, he received a telephone call in Brussels: it was Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría. Two months later, he spoke with EL PAÍS in what is his first interview with a print media outlet.

by Zwackus on Mon Jan 16th, 2017 at 09:07:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
yes, little more than a statement of the obvious but freighted with ominous implications. Geopolitically this matters more to the UK than Ulster

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jan 16th, 2017 at 07:33:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Absurdist theater in the European Parliament? | Europe | DW.COM | 16.01.2017
Liberal candidate, Guy Verhofstadt, thinks that his own chances will be improved by the fact that the two large factions are bickering amongst themselves. Verhofstadt initially attempted to win the support of the Italian populists of the "Five Star Movement." But the Eurosceptics were sorely out of place in the liberal group. They eventually balked, and Verhofstadt was forced to bury his alliance with "Five Star" leader Beppe Grillo. Asked what he thought when his odd plan backfired, Verhofstadt replied, "Bugger!" His future could in fact grow bleaker still, for the liberal faction is rumored to be looking to get rid of the ambitious Belgian as leader of their parliamentary group. Meanwhile, the "Five Star Movement" has remorsefully returned to the radical anti-European faction, which is still led by "Brexiteer" Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party.

So now we know why Five Star Movemet was changing groups. Or rather why ALDE leadership wanted them to.

by fjallstrom on Tue Jan 17th, 2017 at 01:07:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It would have been a strategically sound move for 5*M, Verhofstat erroneously believed he could speak for all the ALDE members and was hauled over the coals, opposition mostly coming from the Czech faction apparently, not sure why.
They would have had 17 members, giving them a hefty, compact say in ALDE, so it is disappointing, especially as the return to Farage's spent faction pleased no one.
The Italian press jeered at them yet they haven't lost any poll numbers. Verhofstat is the real twit here, if not a total twat like Nigel.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, 3 out of the 4 most-loved city mayors in Italy are M5*, topped by Torino's Chiara Appendino, further burnishing their perceived competence where the rubber meets the road in in actual government, not just noisy opposition (a smear successfully laid on them by Renzi's lapdog, government-subsidised media machine).
The press/state tv may be less disgustingly sleazy as the UK's, but it sucks badly. Italy's press credibility is freshly down rated to 74th, along with its financial system to bbb levels.
Virginia Raggi, the 5* mayor of Rome has had an impossible row to hoe, attacked by thuggish mudslinging from every side, even within the movement itself, very sadly. What the press omit to mention is in less than a year she has halved Rome's colossal debt. Rome had been managed by a coven of crooks for 40 years and the degradation of all public services was appalling, rats running riot in rubbish-strewn streets, bus system mismanaged to tragicomic levels etc.
Even with all she has done for the good, against a headwind, she came in second last. Her position is still rocky, hopefully the cracks revealed in high echelons of the movement won't spread.
They are going to need maximum coherence to keep making progress politically.
Renzi and his willing allies in the centre right will modify the electoral law to prevent the movement from governing unless it gets 50% of the vote. They are playing for time trying everything to suss how to keep power.
Renzi has claimed he wants elections soon, in June. No-one believes him as his parliamentarians don't collect a fat pension unless they hold their seats till Autumn.
Even without that no-one believes, he's emblematic of post-factuality.  

Meanwhile they voted 20 billion Euros to bail in their best bankster buddies, and a bonus golden handshake for themselves!

They are iecking around with medical marijuana legislative reform debates and gay civil unions adoption policies, so it looks like they're working.
Few are fooled...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Jan 17th, 2017 at 06:14:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the update.

I can see many reasons for abandoning UKIP, less reasons for joining ALDE.

From a political content standpoint (there was a graph on voting the other day) M5* belongs in the left or green groups. I guess the left can be costly for a party that wants to be seen as neither left nor right. Are the greens still pissed about Grillo talking to UKIP first?

by fjallstrom on Tue Jan 17th, 2017 at 07:48:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The greens are hostile, not sure why as M5* eco-cred is impeccable and I think it would make the most sense. I wish I understood better.

The set-up stinks right now, imo. I think they should think more about preparing to govern Italy rather than focusing on Europe. The first actions will be UBI, a referendum on the Euro and the immediate removal of Italian troops from foreign lands.
So you can see why no-one's lining up to have such 'radicals' in their group.
Lets be clear, they are not anti-EU. Just the common currency, known locally as 'the cage'!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Jan 17th, 2017 at 08:05:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cynical thought - the Greens hate M5* because M5* has been politically effective, and the last thing the Greens want is to actually win.

Second cynical thought - the Greens hate M5* because Greens are more committed to neoliberalism than to being Green outside 1 or 2 issues, like anti-nuke.

by Zwackus on Wed Jan 18th, 2017 at 09:33:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wasn't going to go there, being under-informed on concrete improvements happened due to them, anyone got something they can boast about thanks to their intervention?

My impression -right or wrong- is that they are paper tigers, hope I am wrong!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Jan 18th, 2017 at 04:33:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How about this : the Greens are committed European federalists, in a post-national perspective, and well to the left of, for example, the EU Socialist group. M5S have been dicking around with a hard-right bunch who want to wreck the EU. Perhaps they find that level of cynicism a barrier to trust?

And where do you get this thing about EU Greens as neolibs? Personal fantasy, or what?

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Jan 23rd, 2017 at 07:28:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Aren't the German Greens part of the group? Doesn't say much about the others of course and traditionally the European parliament is a place you dump politicians you don't want to have around on the national stage for whatever reasons.
by generic on Mon Jan 23rd, 2017 at 08:04:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The German Greens are part of the group, yes. Largest national group (11 out of 51), but if they are neoliberals, then they aren't being followed by their colleagues from the rest of Europe. Why don't you look up voting patterns in the European parliament and see how neoliberal the Green group is?

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Mon Jan 23rd, 2017 at 10:41:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well I did pepper that comment with lots of hedges for a reason and I certainly wouldn't call the whole Green group neoliberal and I'm not sure why melo did. However I stand by my decision to apply the label to the German ones. You can't really make up the near total betrayal of basic principles with a lot of minor good votes.
by generic on Mon Jan 23rd, 2017 at 11:30:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Cynical Thought 1 is an accurate description of Green strategy.  Except in Iceland, where the Greens aren't a separate party.
by rifek on Wed Jan 25th, 2017 at 11:16:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
France's independent liberal candidate for President, Macron, is in the news recently.

The English-Speaking, German Loving, French politican Europe has been waiting for

Given the widespread appeal of anti-immigration and anti-European politics, Macron's position becomes all the more striking. It reflects not only his political and moral convictions but a strategic conviction as well: The French and the Germans, he believes, can still be rallied to the European project. He first expressed this position when, in early January, he published an editorial in Le Monde. Addressing the terrorist attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, he announced: "We are all Berliners, we are all Europeans." In crisp and compelling language, Macron argued for more and not less Europe. The answer was not to "expel refugees from the national community and build barricades between one another" -- the solution for which nationalists on both sides of the Rhine clamored -- but was instead to galvanize cooperation and compassion among Europeans. Whereas Le Pen and Valls see the refugees as a burden, Macron insisted they represented an "economic opportunity" for France and Europe.

Significantly, Macron repeatedly praised Merkel for maintaining, even in the face of terrorism, "our common values and preserving our common dignity by welcoming and lodging refugees in distress." But Macron had not only come to praise Merkel on her refugee policy but to provoke her on her monetary policy. Describing the euro as little more than a "weak Deutsche mark," he urged Germany to adopt a pro-growth and pro-investment strategy, all the while cutting slack to the EU's struggling members. Should Berlin fail to do so, Macron warned, the euro "would be dismantled in 10 years' time." In a clever riff on the concept of sovereignty -- which now has totemic significance for Europe's nationalist right -- Macron went on to argue that the euro will be saved only if Europe, and not its constituent members, acts like a truly sovereign body.


by Zwackus on Wed Jan 18th, 2017 at 01:10:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A lawyer for Julian Assange has indicated that the WikiLeaks founder is ready to face extradition to the US after Barack Obama commuted the sentence of US army whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
No comment on whether he's willing to be extradited to Sweden.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Jan 18th, 2017 at 04:28:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, that comes late enough that now it would be the Trump administration, and they owe him one or two.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi
by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Wed Jan 18th, 2017 at 04:44:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
With the EAW, won't the already established extradition to Sweden come first?
by fjallstrom on Thu Jan 19th, 2017 at 10:56:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The UBI Bait and Switch | Jacobin -
In sum, then, the Finnish political landscape around the UBI has fractured in a fairly discouraging way. On the right side of the spectrum, there is an idiosyncratic ethno-nationalist party whose position on the UBI is mostly incoherent, a skeptical conservative party that is mostly opposed, and a centrist party whose membership is split on the idea and whose leadership is interested but for all the wrong reasons.

On the Left, the traditional party of workers and the welfare state remains worried that any real UBI policy would undermine unions and social insurance, while the far left adores the kind of liberatory UBI that looks nothing like the actual UBI experiment the government ultimately approved.

by generic on Thu Jan 19th, 2017 at 09:30:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Bernard (bernard) on Sun Jan 22nd, 2017 at 11:48:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Europe pretended to be liberal-leaning-progressive, but the mask came off when we started bombing poor neighbouring countries along with the great hegemon.
This triggered memories of centuries of Euro-colonialism and support for ripoff resource extraction proxy dictators.
Russia tried to play nice with us and the whole world, remember Medvedev?
They got fucked six ways from Sunday and woke up fast, putting strongman Putin in his place.
We have betrayed the trust earned by our professed attention to human rights -so recent in our chequered history- so deserve what we get, I am afraid.
Of course Putin will use even hard right forces to try and split Europe, we showed him how to do it in Ukraine supporting their nazis!
But it's ECB hard money policies (and their pols reporting to Goldman Sachs) that made whole chunks of Europe into paupers, not fucking Putin! He may be an ass hole,  but he's also a trained spy, judo and chess guy and can run logical rings around lightweights like Kerry and rhetorical fantasists like Obama (the most Janus-like leader in history).

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Jan 22nd, 2017 at 12:30:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Bjinse on Sun Jan 15th, 2017 at 10:02:21 AM EST
2 Days from China to Europe by rail? Russia going for high-speed cargo trains

I've written extensively about the emerging network of trans-Eurasian direct cargo trains that is rapidly linking together dozens of cities in China and Europe. I often boast that these trains can make this 9,000-12,000 kilometer journey in less than two weeks -- and sometimes in as little as 10.5 days. Then a reader named Tony Restall left a comment on an article about the new train from the east of China to London and taunted:

"12,000 kms in 16 days -- seems like the Slow Train from China."

He then did the math which showed that if these trains were to travel around the clock, their average speed would only equate to 30-40 kilometers per hour.

While I explained that although these are direct trains that have a special "express" categorization, that doesn't mean they're moving non-stop around the clock. Through China, Central Asia, and Russia these trains make around 1,100 kilometers per day, while in Europe, where the rail network is more condense, their daily coverage drops to around 350 to 400 kilometers. But he had a point: although this is one of the faster cargo rail networks on the planet, it's really not going that fast.

by Zwackus on Mon Jan 16th, 2017 at 01:44:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed. They must be setting idle half of the time. 1,000km/day = 40Km/hr, or somewhat more than 20mph. In the USA freights regularly do somewhere around 55mph as I have observed when traveling by adjacent freeways in the same direction.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jan 16th, 2017 at 05:11:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Speed costs money. They're trying for a niche between air and ocean freight, beating the former on cost and the latter on speed.

I have my doubts, but it's not an insane business model.

High speed cargo rail seems like an uneconomical idea, by contrast, unless they want to use it as the backbone of a more general rail expansion, which could make sense.

Though of course there is something to be said for the national prestige of having the world's longest, fastest cargo rail line.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jan 16th, 2017 at 09:56:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It would seem eminently feasible to close to double the average distance per day. Target 80km/hr as the normal speed on reasonable track and try to have the trains moving at least 16-10 hrs per day. With fixed consist trains this should be feasible. No way existing ships can move through the Arctic Ocean at that rate, even in summer. Hydrofoils perhaps - but fuel costs would be a big issue.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Jan 17th, 2017 at 08:14:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm skeptical. They're already beating ships by three to four weeks, depending on final destination. I don't see the incremental cargo from beating ships by one more week justifying the increased unit cost.

At least that has not been the historical experience of the shipping lines: Customers might pay for moving in an entirely different speed class (air vs. ocean), but they won't pay for speed at the margin. Lots of people have tried to sell that, they usually end up losing money on it.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Jan 17th, 2017 at 10:17:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The other advantage rail has in this competition is seasonality. Trains may well slow to a crawl at times in the winter, but shipping, so far, will totally stop through the Arctic Ocean.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Jan 18th, 2017 at 06:17:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are no cargo ships going through the Arctic, and there won't be for some time still. Everything goes through Suez.

Once ships do start going North, it'll cut a week or two off the transit time advantage of the trans-Siberian trains, and the trains may need to speed up in order to remain distinct from ships in the minds of the customers. But that will be then, and this is now.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jan 18th, 2017 at 06:30:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The other reason to improve the kilometers/day is just to have faster turnover and thus more revenue from the enterprise. That should be the closing argument. How does that possibly hurt?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Jan 18th, 2017 at 06:19:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The strongest reason for ship traffic will probably be for bulk traffic that will only be profitable via water: possibly grain going east, wood products going west.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Jan 18th, 2017 at 06:25:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't see any plausible story about rail transport replacing container ships on this kind of distance. Simply on a capacity basis, a 100 TEU train has a capacity of 25 TEU/wk in each direction, while an ULCV has a capacity on the order of 2000 TEU/wk, meaning that you'll need to have 80 trains running simultaneously to replace a single ULCV.

There are over 40 ULCVs running on the east-west trade lanes, so you'd need on the order of a thousand trains running simultaneously, or about one train in each direction for every twenty kilometers of track, to have a third of current mainliner capacity.

I don't see that happening for what is fundamentally a niche market - there aren't that many freight customers who are willing to pay a premium for speed, and rail is never going to beat ship on cost.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jan 18th, 2017 at 06:41:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the pitch on the news is that it's for luxury food perishables. Apparently France and Italy have substantial sales of cheese and wine in China, wheras the UK hasn't really felt able to compete.

Yes, we have good cheese here these days, but I guess Greene King (a beer which is suddenly very fashionable in China) could fill a train full of their fizzy nonsense and do very well.

I don't know. It looks like a capability looking for a reason to exist.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jan 18th, 2017 at 08:15:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't think of any good reason you couldn't put those in refrigerated containers and sail them over. You can do that with flowers, surely it works for beer as well.

I can see a market for a product that cuts half the transit time off shipping, but never as more than a niche product. By not overbuilding capacity, they can afford to accept only the cargo that is willing to pay for speed. A twenty thousand TEU mainliner can't do that, because there just isn't that much cargo willing to pay for speed, but a 100 TEU train plausibly could, as long as you're not trying to run too many of them.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jan 18th, 2017 at 09:47:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree - for any item that can withstand only being shipped for half of the year. Things that have a shorter shelf life may utilize trains. A lot of automotive parts and finished product along with a lot of fresh foods and perishable packaged goods get shipped by rail in the USA, despite much of the country having good access to river barge or ocean ports.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Jan 18th, 2017 at 09:48:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What would prevent ships from working for half the year? Even most ice-hazard ports only need ice-breakers for 3-5 months.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jan 18th, 2017 at 10:47:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I was discussing shipment via the Arctic ocean, which has only recently been navigable in the summer. It is a so much shorter route that it seemed that it would be the competition. Of course ships could go via Suez or around the Cape and do.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Jan 19th, 2017 at 03:58:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are various other reasons than navigability that you might want to go through Suez, such as the possibility of transshipment in the area around Singapore or Morocco.

Also, ice-class mainliners are something of an oddity, so the "navigability" of the Arctic route has some non-trivial caveats.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jan 19th, 2017 at 08:12:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some of that sitting idle will be the transfers entering and leaving Russia.

china and Europe have 4 foot 8 and a half inch gauge, Russia has 5 foot 3 inch. So all the containers have to be transferred onto different trains at the borders

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jan 16th, 2017 at 07:38:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A typical train is 100 TEU, or between 50 and 75 containers, and is about two thirds of a kilometer long, easily allowing three gantry cranes to operate on it simultaneously.

A gantry crane can shift 20-30 boxes per hour, and you will have six of them working simultaneously to accomplish 100 to 150 lifts in total. Assuming the receiving train is ready on arrival, the whole operation should be over and done with inside three hours, including shunting. It adds a failure point for potential delays, and the temptation to discharge and then let the boxes wait overnight in the rail yard for the pickup train, but the time involved in the actual lift-on/off operation is not really that important in the scheme of a two-week journey.

More significant would be rest hours, crew changes, spare time set aside for contingencies like trees falling on the tracks, idling on sidings waiting for trains to pass in the opposite direction on single-tracked stretches, and all the other personnel and maintenance logistics involved in driving through two thousand kilometers of some of the most hostile landscape on Earth.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Jan 17th, 2017 at 08:35:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There has to be a question mark against the capacity of the rail network to make a serious dent in sea traffic.  It's not just the rail lines which could be the bottleneck, but the siding's, storage areas, onward links to other lines/cities and road links to cope with such huge volumes of heavy goods. However incremental growth seems more than possible with improved lines, speeds, signalling systems, computerised network management etc. In addition, cost is less of an issue with high value items like iPhones and electronic equipment, although theft in transit could be. The other issue is security in unstable states en route - e.g. eastern Ukraine.  If anything the development of the network could make a marginal contribution toward improved economic development, jobs, and stability along the route.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jan 18th, 2017 at 08:15:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the present interest rate environment, keeping an extra three weeks' worth of stock in transit is not really an issue for electronics. They don't cycle off-market fast enough that you risk having to burn the last shipment.

The niche I would envision would be stuff that's too perishable to be shipped by sea (but that's a shrinking niche market, as reefer boxes get better every year), or which needs to reach the market fast, like new fashion collections.

Another niche I could see is that when moving a new product to market, you can send the first shipment by rail, cutting a month or so off your launch date, and then gradually shift to ship as your inventory levels off.

But I think you're right to see this project more in geopolitical terms than in commercial. I doubt it'll ever be a good idea as a purely commercial venture, but as a way to decrease border tensions subsidizing it is a lot cheaper (and likely more effective) than buying tanks.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jan 18th, 2017 at 09:55:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And security would be a reason to have St. Petersburg as the western terminus before handing off to shippers other than China and Russia. At least there would be no worries about failed states along the route. (Unless pirates again roam the Baltic.)

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Jan 19th, 2017 at 04:01:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On the positive side the vast majority of the distance is in just two countries - Russia and China - so that is only one such delay in each direction. The whole issue seems to be whether or not there is sufficient volume and value of traffic both ways. I don't think that will be an issue. Let the Asian Development Bank finance the entire system.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Jan 17th, 2017 at 08:22:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bristol to Barcelona: "Be as ambitious as possible with new local currency"

As Barcelona develops its plans for a future local currency, which is due to be launched next year, it is keeping a close eye on the example of Bristol, in the United Kingdom. It has been four years since the south-western English city launched the Bristol Pound, a currency that runs parallel to sterling, and seeks to promote the local business sector. Ciaran Mundy, the CEO of the Bristol Pound, has plenty of advice for the Catalan capital: "Be ambitious, and seek to include a great diversity of businesses," he says.

"It has already made a huge difference in the way our citizens understand money,"  Mundy explains. "People from Bristol can see that change is possible and that they can attach a value to their money," Bristol was not the first city to create a local currency but it has been the most popular so far. In the UK, the town of Lewes, East Sussex, and the Brixton area of London have both run their own experiments, and there are now around 25 cities in the country, including Exeter and Liverpool, that have a similar local method of payment.

by Zwackus on Mon Jan 16th, 2017 at 09:10:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Bjinse on Sun Jan 15th, 2017 at 10:02:24 AM EST
Donald Trump says Merkel made 'castastrophic mistake' on migrants

Asked about a possible deal with Russia, he said nuclear weapons should be part of it and "reduced very substantially", in return for lifting US sanctions.


"If you look at the European Union, it's Germany - it's basically a vehicle for Germany," he said.


Talking about international security, Mr Trump argued that he had said "a long time ago that Nato had problems. One; that it was obsolete because it was designed many many years ago, and number two; that the countries weren't paying what they're supposed to pay."

Has anyone here seen the German version in Bild? How is this being recieved/spun there?

by Zwackus on Mon Jan 16th, 2017 at 01:07:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I know a lot of people have made the argument that we should just ignore what Trump says, that it's just a smokescreen for the movement Conservative establishment and their eternal wishlist of insanity. I disagree. Trump has always been his own man, and he certainly wasn't their choice. Their agenda will go through only at the price of absolute fealty to him and his personal agenda, and he will brook no criticism of his bizarre and random foreign policy pronouncements.

What he says matters, because its a matter of ego for him, and he loves seeing government bureaucrats and establishment Republicans bow to his will just as much as he loves throwing sand in the eyes of liberals.

by Zwackus on Mon Jan 16th, 2017 at 01:07:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A prescription for deadlock. That is the hopeful outlook - and why Trump is preferable to Pence. Let the Republicans drink their cup to the dregs.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jan 16th, 2017 at 05:15:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you're right about Trump's ego needing to be stroked, but I think you're too optimistic that this will materially inhibit the movement conservative wishlist of insanity. He's too scatterbrained for that. If you don't like one of his policies, you go "yes, Mr. President, Sir," and then slow-walk it for two weeks until he has the opposite brain-wave (which you then naturally takes and runs with as fast and as far as possible).

Pence is an old hand at pandering to idiots, I'll bet you he knows that game.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jan 16th, 2017 at 09:48:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How Donald Trump keeps trampling on Hill GOP's big plans

Paul Ryan invited Donald Trump's most senior advisers to Capitol Hill a week ago to head off a quiet tug-of-war between congressional Republicans and Trump officials over tax reform. For more than two hours, the speaker laid out his alternative to Trump's plan to slap tariffs on companies that move jobs overseas, which he believed would encourage companies to stay in the U.S.

But not even a week later, Trump dismissed Ryan's idea, calling it "too complicated." And now Ryan is left with a potential trillion-dollar hole in his tax plan.

It was the latest instance of the president-elect big-footing Hill Republicans' carefully laid policy plans. Trump hasn't even set foot in the Oval Office, yet his tweets and offhand comments on everything from tax reform and Obamacare to prescription drug prices and a border wall have backed lawmakers into a corner over and over again -- and in some cases sent them right back to the drawing board.

It's a wake-up call for GOP leaders, many of whom hoped Trump would let them take the lead in writing legislation to carry out his campaign agenda, given his own lack of policy experience.

by Zwackus on Wed Jan 18th, 2017 at 09:35:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Guardian
In an interview with Bild and the Times, the US president-elect had indicated that he would aim to realign the "out of balance" car trade between Germany and the US. "If you go down Fifth Avenue everyone has a Mercedes Benz in front of his house, isn't that the case?" he said.
Even he doesn't have a house on Fifth Avenue. And nobody is allowed to stand, let alone park there.
"How many Chevrolets do you see in Germany? Not very many, maybe none at all ... it's a one-way street."
At least that last bit is right. Gabriel's comment
Asked what Trump could do to make sure German customers bought more American cars, Gabriel said: "Build better cars."
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon Jan 16th, 2017 at 02:04:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As Drew pointed out elsewhere, VW are having to buy back all their diesels while US subsidiaries like Opel, Vauxhall and Fords are everywhere here

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jan 16th, 2017 at 07:43:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Davos Elite Fret About Inequality Over Vintage Wine and Canapés - Peter S. Goodman - Ny Times
What is striking is what generally is not discussed: bolstering the power of workers to bargain for better wages and redistributing wealth from the top to the bottom.

... It is a conversation fueled in part by fear: If the world is indeed in the throes of a populist insurrection, the pitchforks could do worse than to point here.

... Yet the solutions that have currency seem calculated to spare corporations and the wealthiest people from having to make any sacrifices at all, as if there is a way to be found to tilt the balance of inequality while those at the top hang on to everything they have.

More entrepreneurialism, mindfulness training, education focused on the modern ways of technology: These are the sorts of items that tend to get discussed here as the response to the plight of those left behind by globalization. That perhaps private equity overseers should not be paid 1,000 times as much as teachers while availing themselves of tax breaks is thinking that gets little airing here.

... But I have not yet heard a good conversation about what changes in globalization would address inequality."

That is not an accident, he [Stiglitz] surmised. Any sincere list would have to include items that involve transferring wealth and power from the sorts of people who come to Davos to ordinary workers via more progressive taxation, increased bargaining rights for labor unions, and greater protections for labor in general.

... Which means that the global populism insurrection is unlikely to lose momentum anytime soon.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Thu Jan 19th, 2017 at 09:22:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I used to think that the best way to make use of Davos is to drop a tactical nuclear device on it while the WEF is in session. Maybe it's more useful now as an increasingly irrelevant laughingstock.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Thu Jan 19th, 2017 at 09:24:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nuclear would have had long term damage. Better just suck the oxygen from the place. An added benefit would be that it would have given them the opportunity, for a few seconds, to experience how people have felt from what they did.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi
by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Fri Jan 20th, 2017 at 01:12:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're in a cheery mood today.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jan 20th, 2017 at 02:25:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Either way it would totally disorganize the current system for years. Probate lawyers would have a field day. Some families would come through fine. Others might never recover. But a lot of business opportunities would suddenly appear and it is hard to imagine that such an event would INCREASE concentration of wealth.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Jan 20th, 2017 at 03:54:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There was a brilliant parody account :

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Mon Jan 23rd, 2017 at 07:56:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Moscow, Trump inauguration inspires Russian hopes of new nationalist era
Alexander Dugin, a far-right Russian philosopher who has long supported Trump, and of whom the new US president's chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has spoken positively, said he believed that Putin would now play nice with Trump, in order to win long-desired concessions in Europe and across the world.

"We don't have to do anything: we just have to not annoy Trump, not make him angry or provoke him with belligerent rhetoric, and everything will fall into our hands, like apples in the autumn. You don't even need to shake the tree; they just come tumbling down on their own."

by Bernard (bernard) on Sun Jan 22nd, 2017 at 12:00:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A sea of pink hats and protest signs at the Frankfurt Women's March
It was a crisp and sunny Saturday afternoon downtown Frankfurt. Rhythmic chants echoed through off of shopping centers and historic buildings as a sea of people punctuated by bright pink knit hats, rainbow flags and signs declaring "#WhyIMarch", "Girls just want to have fun-damental human rights" and "Women's Rights Matter" moved through the heart of Europe's financial capital. Walking at the very front of the march were three little girls bundled up in winter coats and knitwear. "Hey hey ho ho discrimination has to go" and "No means no" they shouted, as the protest moved forward.

In Berlin:

In Paris:

Parisian creativity:

A quick reminder (Putin holds Trump by the balls):

Heck, even in the Antarctica:

by Bernard (bernard) on Sun Jan 22nd, 2017 at 12:23:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Bjinse on Sun Jan 15th, 2017 at 10:02:27 AM EST
by Bjinse on Sun Jan 15th, 2017 at 10:02:30 AM EST
by Bjinse on Sun Jan 15th, 2017 at 10:02:34 AM EST
by Bjinse on Sun Jan 15th, 2017 at 10:02:38 AM EST

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