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    Angela Merkel Tag

    This weekend, President Obama traveled to Germany to talk trade, Russia, and the growing threat of Islamic extremists with the leaders of the other G-7 nations. Topping the list of topics up for discussion is the continuing threat of Russian aggression in Ukraine and other parts of Eastern Europe. The White House didn't put withdrawal from Crimea as a condition of restored relations between Russia and the west, but did push for the continuation of sanctions until Putin upholds his end of the so-called Minsk agreements, which were updated last year after Russia annexed the peninsula. According to reporters covering the meeting, Obama spent a great deal of time meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, leading some to believe that the relationship once tarnished by covert surveillance has repaired itself:
    Obama and Merkel met privately afterward at the nearby Schloss Elmau resort to coordinate their summit agenda before joining the leaders of Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Japan. Russian President Vladimir Putin was ousted from the group last year over his annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, although the crisis remains as fighting with pro-Moscow separatists spiked in the past week despite a ceasefire agreement negotiated four months ago in Belarus.

    Since February 2014, the Russian military has been taking steps to secure portions of eastern Ukraine; forces successfully annexed the Crimea, and Russian separatists in Ukraine have continued their attacks. Nations including the United States have advocated for providing Ukrainians with the means to defend themselves---that means tanks, weapons, and training---but Russian officials claim that such a move would constitute a threat to national security. The situation is quickly devolving, but world leaders are still holding out a sliver of hope that a compromise can be reached. At the Munich Security Conference this past weekend, Vice President Joe Biden met with European leaders to address continuing Russian aggression in Ukraine. Via CNN:
    Biden met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko earlier Saturday to discuss the situation in Ukraine. "We must judge ... any future agreement with Russia by the actions Russia takes on the ground, not by the paper they sign," Biden said. "Given Russia's recent history, we need to judge it by its deeds, not its words. Don't tell us, show us, President Putin. Too many times President Putin has promised peace and delivered tanks, troops, and weapons." While he's echoing much of what White House press secretary Josh Earnest has been saying during recent daily press briefings, neither Biden nor President Barack Obama has weighed in directly this week since tensions escalated. He would not discuss the possibility of U.S. ground troops in the region, but re-asserted the Ukrainian people's right to defend themselves. "We will continue providing Ukraine with security assistance, not to encourage war, but to allow Ukraine to defend itself," he said. "Let me be clear: We do not believe that there is a military solution in Ukraine. Let me be equally clear: We do not believe Russia has the right to do what they're doing."

    Greece's new prime minister Alexis Tsipras is finding out that his country's massive debt won't go away just because he wants it to. Maybe that's why Germany has a strong economy and Greece doesn't. Jane Wharton of Express UK reported:
    Merkel refuses to write off Greece's debt In her first interview since Syriza won the Greek election last weekend, Angela Merkel has made it clear the debt stands but she hopes they stay in the eurozone. The far-left party stormed to victory last weekend with 36 per cent of the vote, promising to ditch austerity and renegotiate the country's £180billion bailout from the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund - also known as the troika. Their finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has said this troika of global institutions is "rotten" and has refused to work with them to renegotiate bailout terms. Syriza is now beginning to roll back on the austerity measures imposed by the EU on the previous administration in exchange for the loans. However this morning the German Chancellor said that while Europe will continue to show solidarity with Greece and other nations hit by Europe's debt crisis, the debts must be repaid in full. Speaking to Hamburger Abendblatt, she said: "I do not envisage fresh debt cancellation. "There has already been voluntary debt forgiveness by private creditors, banks have already slashed billions from Greece's debt."
    It's amazing what can happen when a politician is told he can't spend money he doesn't have. The Tsipras administration, which knows it doesn't have the negotiating power (or money) to defy reality has quickly adopted a new position.

    Although the media has recently been less focused on Ebola, the disease is still impacting Africa and the death count now tops 7000. Meanwhile, a new epidemic of a disease that was once thought well-contained by vaccinations may be occurring in my home state of California. The number of cases of whooping cough (pertussis) has skyrocketed this year.
    Nearly 10,000 cases have been reported in the state so far this year, and babies are especially prone to hospitalization or even death. ...Whooping cough is cyclical in nature and tends to peak every three to five years. The last outbreak of the disease in California was in 2010. But doctors are discovering that immunity from the current vaccine may be wearing off on a similar timeline. Medical recommendations suggest booster shots after eight years, but doctors are seeing kids who received a booster three years ago getting sick. Public health officials are considering an update to the recommendations to account for the dip in immunity seen after three years. Plus, many kids in some areas aren't getting vaccinated at all. The highest rates of whooping cough are found in the Bay Area counties of Sonoma, Napa and Marin, which also have some of the highest rates of parents who opt out of vaccinating their children. Doctors believe these kids are the root of the current and recent epidemics.
    Whooping cough feels like a cold at first, but an intense cough that develops later can produce a "whooping" sound. The disease is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. It can be treated with antibiotics, but the drugs may not be effective when the illness is in the severe coughing stages. Whooping cough can last for weeks and is especially dangerous to infants under 1 year. California isn't the only state seeing jumps in pertussis infections.

    The Times of Israel sums up the casualties so far.
    As of Saturday afternoon, the death toll in Gaza from Israel’s Operation Protective Edge had climbed to 127 people, after Israeli forces struck 60 targets overnight Friday and into Saturday; Israel had no breakdown on the proportion of civilian and combatant casualties. Among the dead was a relative of former Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, named as Nidal al-Malash, who the Israeli army said was in a terror cell that was hit as it prepared to fire rockets at Israel. No Israelis had been killed by rocket fire as of Saturday afternoon, though several were injured, including an Ashdod man badly hurt in a rocket strike at a gas station Friday. A Haifa woman suffered a fatal heart attack dashing for shelter on Friday.
    The Times also notes that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "that all Gaza casualties were 'the responsibility of Hamas,' since the Strip’s Islamist rulers deliberately put Gazans in harm’s way by firing on Israel, hiding out, and storing weaponry among the civilian population." In an implicit admission of Netanyahu's charges, Hamas told Gaza residents not post photographs of rockets being fired from their neighborhoods to social media. Also as the IDF tweets: 2014-07-13_065803_IDF_Warning

    (Photo: The Guardian) The US has begun the awkward process of notifying intelligence services in some countries that documents obtained by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden contained information about their cooperation with the US. From the Washington Post:
    U.S. officials are alerting some foreign intelligence services that documents detailing their secret cooperation with the United States have been obtained by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, according to government officials. Snowden, U.S. officials said, took tens of thousands of documents containing sensitive material about collection programs against adversaries such as Iran, Russia and China, operations that in some cases involve countries not publicly allied with the United States. The process of informing officials in capital after capital about the risk of disclosure they face has been painful and delicate. In some cases, one part of the cooperating government may know about the collaboration while others — such as the foreign ministry — may not, the officials said. The documents, if disclosed, could compromise operations, officials said.
    The duty of informing these other intelligence services, according to the Post, has fallen to the the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. This news comes as the administration is on the defensive about allegations that the NSA monitored the cell phone of German chancellor Angela Merkel.  President Obama spoke with Merkel on Wednesday, where he "assured the chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor," according to Politico.

    The European Union is in deep water but that, thankfully, hasn't stopped the Europeans from laughing at themselves. einige Schadenfreude (some Schadenfreude): "Dinner for One" (with subtitles) There are apparently a series of videos with Merkel and Sarko dubbed over discussing the Euro Crisis. It's pretty funny ...

    Over at the DailyBeast, Stefan Theil has a really great write-up about rich nations interacting with poor nations, using a comparison of Texas/Louisiana/Florida & Greece/Italy/Spain.   Imagine 27 Barack Obamas and John Boehners trying to get a debt and banking crisis under control. That, in essence,...

    Consider me a fan of Norway.  I traveled there extensively in my youth, and still have friends there.  It is a beautiful country, with a traditionally pro-American foreign policy.  It saddens me to see Norway have its version of the London bus bombings. Former congressional candidate...

    KathleenDespite the fact that it is nowhere near a tsunami-prone area, the German government announced that it will phase out nuclear power over the next decade. Currently, Germany receives roughly a quarter of their energy from nuclear sources and no alternatives were cited in the...

    In the past two weeks or so, everyone has been discussing the tragedy in Japan. In addition to the death toll, news headlines have been relentlessly speculating the impact of the Fukushima reactors. Matthew Shaffer's latest piece in NRO helps amalgamate some of the...

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