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Brexit and Northern Ireland

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

Brexit Countdown: Why is the Northern Ireland border question so hard?

The international border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is about 310 miles long with, depending on how many tracks you include, as many as 275 crossing points.

In reality, the entire border is a crossing point because, apart from road signs changing from miles per hour to kilometres per hour, there is no physical infrastructure to see.

The concern is that all that could change when the UK leaves the European Union, and Ireland stays as an EU member state.

Why can’t there be a hard border?

Irish border sign

Part of the concern is political. The 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the basic building block of peace in Northern Ireland, removed security checkpoints from the border and helped make it all but invisible. Customs checks could undermine much of that progress.

Like many peace deals, the Good Friday Agreement is a masterpiece of creative ambiguity, allowing different people to take different things from different parts of the text.

Shared membership of the European Union made that much easier to achieve. Ireland wants a clear written commitment that the agreement will be respected in all its parts.

The other concern of course is economic. The economies of Northern Ireland and the Republic are completely interconnected. Huge amounts of goods and services cross the border every day without checks of any kind.

Brexit negotiators are currently looking through more than 140 areas of north-south co-operation, involving everything from the single electricity market to environmental protection.

It is also estimated that at least 30,000 people cross the border every day for work. The movement of people is governed by the Common Travel Area between the UK and Ireland, which predates the EU.

Both sides are determined that the Common Travel Area will remain in place, but that in itself doesn’t resolve the challenge of a hard border re-emerging.

So if no-one thinks a hard border is a good idea, why can’t everyone agree now that it won’t be re-imposed?

Because the UK has announced that it is leaving the EU single market and the customs union. That immediately turns the internal border in Ireland into an external border for the single market and the customs union – with all the potential checks that implies.

At the moment, all rules and regulations, north and south, are exactly the same – on food safety, on animal welfare… you name it.

Again, it’s a relationship based in large part on agreements covered by joint membership of the EU. As soon as that changes, border checks may have to begin again.

That’s why the Irish government wants a written guarantee from the UK that Northern Ireland will continue to follow EU rules – so goods can continue to move freely across the border.

“It seems essential to us,” said the Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney earlier this month, “that there is no emergence of regulatory divergence from the rules of the internal market or the customs unions which are necessary for meaningful north-south co-operation, or an all-Ireland economy that is consistent with the Good Friday Agreement.”

In other words, both Ireland and the rest of the EU are suggesting that Northern Ireland should stay within the customs union and the single market.

But there would have to be checks somewhere between the EU and the UK, wouldn’t there?

Yes. It would – in effect – push the customs border out into the Irish Sea… an internal customs border, if you like, between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Would that be acceptable to the UK government, or to its Unionist political allies in Northern Ireland, the DUP? In a word, no.

“We respect the European Union desire to protect the legal order of the single market and customs union,” the UK’s Brexit Secretary David Davis said in Brussels recently.

“But that cannot come at a cost to the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom.”

Couldn’t the UK simply declare the border open on a unilateral basis, and impose no checks or tariffs at all?

If it did that then, under World Trade Organization rules, it would have to do the same for the rest of the world. The UK economy would be swamped with cheap imports.

The EU would impose checks anyway which might allow the UK government to shift the blame on to Brussels. But that would be a pretty futile gesture.

So is there a solution?

Irish border

If it was easy, it would already have been done.

The EU argues that the UK’s red lines on Ireland – no border on the one hand, and UK exit from the single market and the customs union on the other – are fundamentally incompatible.

The British government has spoken of technological fixes such as pre-screening of goods, and trusted trader schemes.

The EU says such things could speed up border transit, but it would be nowhere near enough to avoid the return of some border checks.

Alternatively, Irish officials argue that there are already cases of rules and regulations being different in Northern Ireland than in the rest of the UK, and they point to other examples such as Hong Kong in China where there are different regulatory arrangements within sovereign states.

Intense negotiations are taking place to try to come up with a solution that would ensure a) no divergence of regulations in key areas; and b) the creation of some form of customs partnership on the island of Ireland, which doesn’t threaten the constitutional order of the UK.

But if a fix emerges that seems to turn Northern Ireland into a back door route into the single market, then other EU countries will cry foul.

So even if all parties agree in the next two weeks that “sufficient progress” on Ireland has been made, there will be a long way to go before any kind of lasting solution emerges.

How Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s first royal engagement compares to William and Kate’s

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry first royal engagement compared to Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

Just a few days after announcing their engagement, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have made their first official royal engagement as a couple.

Harry and Markle  carried out two separate engagements. The first was a visit to a charity fair hosted by the Terrence Higgins Trust to mark World Aids Day – a cause the Prince is famously passionate amount. The next is to Nottingham Academy where they will meet teachers and staff from Full Effect, a programme which aims to support at risk children and young people.

This step is the first of many for Meghan as she prepares to join the family and focus on her charity and humanitarian work after moving away from her acting career.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have given their first interview since their engagement was announced. Here are seven things we learned about their relationship.

The couple went on holiday together after two dates

Just weeks after they met, Prince Harry convinced Ms Markle to join him on a trip to Botswana.

“We camped out with each other under the stars,” the prince said.

“She came and joined me for five days out there, which was absolutely fantastic.”

He said being away allowed them to get to know each other without the usual pressures of royal life.

Harry designed the ring

They knew nothing about each other when they met

Ms Markle credited her American background – and lack of exposure to British tabloids – with allowing her to get to know Prince Harry naturally and organically.

For his part, the prince had never seen Suits, the American legal drama in which Ms Markle stars, and had never even heard of her before they met.

They were both pleasantly surprised by their blind date.

“I was beautifully surprised when I walked into that room and saw her,” he said.

“I was like, ‘I’m really going to have to up my game here’.”

Ms Markle is leaving her acting career

The pair also announced that Ms Markle will not continue acting.

“I don’t see it as giving anything up. I see it as a change. It’s a new chapter…” she said.

“Now it’s time to work as a team with you,” she said as she turned to Prince Harry.

They talked about forging a new role for themselves as a couple, focusing on the humanitarian causes over which they first bonded.

The prince said Ms Markle would easily take to the role of being a member of the Royal Family and said they were a “fantastic team”.

Prince Harry proposed over a roast chicken

he couple described a quiet night at home, cooking a roast chicken together, when the prince surprised Ms Markle by getting down on one knee.

Ms Markle described the moment.

It was “just a cosy night… trying to roast a chicken and it just – just an amazing surprise.

“It was so sweet and natural and very romantic,” she said.

And it was an instant “yes” from Ms Markle.

“I could barely let you finish proposing, I said – ‘can I say yes now’?”

The corgis like Meghan

Ms Markle confirmed that one of her two dogs has followed her to London.

And Prince Harry revealed the Queen’s corgis took to her “straight away” when she met the monarch.

They are looking forward to having children

Prince Harry’s brother and sister-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, are expecting their third child next year.

But Ms Markle laughed when Prince Harry’s answer to a question about their plans for having children was “not currently”.

The prince added: “One step at a time and hopefully we’ll start a family in the near future.”

‘Panama Papers’ scandal claims Spanish minister

Sunday, April 17th, 2016

The “Panama Papers” scandal has claimed another victim — Spain’s minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism resigned over charges of ties to a company in an offshore tax haven.

The government quickly accepted the resignation. “No one who has operated in tax havens may be in the government,” Finance Minister Cristobal Montoro said, the newspaper reports.

The resignation comes 10 days after Iceland’s prime minister, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, stepped aside following revelations stemming from the “Panama Papers” investigations that his family sheltered money offshore.

The investigations were triggered by the leak of millions of documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which has been the conduit for numerous offshore accounts set up by government officials, celebrities, sports figures and wealthy individuals worldwide. The leak, initially to the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, quickly spread to an international consortium of newspapers, including El Mundo.

The Spanish newspaper reported that a company owned by Soria and his brother used an offshore account until 2002, when he was mayor of Las Palmas, in the tax haven of Jersey, an independent island territory between Britain and France. The newspaper said the company’s true ownership “remained camouflaged behind a network of front men created by a subsidiary … based on the British island in the English Channel.”

Soria initially denied the allegations, but backtracked after additional information surfaced, including a copy of a document signed by him with a financial services company in Jersey.

Portraits of the Democratic candidates

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

Hillary Clinton

Bernie Sanders

presidential election 2016

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016
  • Iowa

    Si la plupart des États américains désignent leurs délégués nationaux pour la convention à travers une primaire, l’Iowa, avec cette année treize autres états, fonctionnent au « caucus ». Lors d’un caucus, les habitants de l’État en question (ici, l’Iowa) se réunissent – par exemple dans des écoles ou dans des bibliothèques. Ils n’y élisent pas directement les délégués qui les représenteront à la convention nationale : ils élisent des délégués de comtés, qui eux-mêmes choisiront leurs délégués nationaux.

  • la primaire du New Hampshire :

    Plus traditionnelle que le caucus, la primaire est une élection à bulletin secret. Les électeurs peuvent alors voter pour le candidat de leur choix.

    Dans le New Hampshire, la primaire est une élection semi-ouverte pour les votants qui ne font partie d’aucune faction politique. En revanche, s’ils sont inscrits, par exemple au parti républicain et qu’ils votent à une primaire démocrate, ils ne pourront participer à la primaire républicaine (et vice-versa).

    Si la primaire du New Hampshire est ouverte à toute personne souhaitant voter, les règles du jeu changent selon les états – la plupart ayant choisi le concept d’élection dite fermée, mais on y reviendra plus tard.

  • Super Tuesday

    C’est le jour des primaires le plus conséquent puisque c’est à cette date que le plus grand nombre d’Etats votent simultanément. En 2012, 12 états voteront lors du Super Tuesday à l’issue duquel environ 40% des délégués nationaux seront nommés.

    La convention nationale, qu’est-ce que c’est ?

    La convention nationale du Grand Old Party* aura cette année lieu à Tampa, en Floride, les 27 au 30 août prochain.

    Pour remporter l’investiture, et représenter le parti républicain contre le candidat démocrate, le concurrent devra rassembler au moins 1142 délégués sur 2282. Au premier tour, on trouve deux types de délégués : les « pledged » (qui se doivent de voter pour le candidat qu’ils représentent à la convention nationale républicaine) et les « unpledged », qui sont libres de voter pour n’importe lequel des concurrents. En revanche, au second tour, tous les délégués (qu’ils soient « pledged » ou « unpledged ») peuvent voter pour le candidat de leur choix. Cependant, il est tellement rare de voir un second tour à la convention nationale que tu peux tranquillement oublier ce dernier point.

    A l’issue de la convention nationale du parti républicain, nous connaîtrons le nom du candidat du parti de l’éléphant* en course pour le poste de Président des Etats-Unis.

    En outre, ce sera soit pendant, soit après la convention que nous connaîtrons le « ticket » du candidat. Le « ticket » contient deux noms : celui du candidat à la présidence des Etats-Unis, ainsi que celui de son co-listier ou de sa co-listière qui brigue la vice-présidence.

    Qui peut voter lors des primaires républicaines ?

    Tout dépend du type de la primaire en question. Selon les états, il n’existe pas moins de quatre types de primaires :

    • En cas de primaire ouverte, un électeur indépendant, inscrit comme démocrate ou républicain peut voter.
    • En cas de primaire semi-ouverte, un électeur démocrate peut voter à la primaire du parti républicain. Ce faisant, il ne pourra cependant plus voter pour la primaire démocrate de son état car il y a obligation de ne s’exprimer que pour un seul parti.
    • En cas de primaire semi-fermée, les sympathisants du parti rpublicain et les électeurs dits indépendants peuvent voter.
    • En cas de primaire fermée, seuls les électeurs sympathisants du parti républicain* peuvent voter

NY snowstorm

Sunday, January 24th, 2016

link for great pictures of the NY snow storm !!

ny snow

Les excuses de Trudeau pour les pensionnats autochtones, « chapitre sombre » de l’histoire du Canada

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

tout d’abord, afin de poser le sujet, un lien en français

des liens en anglais

afin de compléter ici

New Zealand is getting a new flag !

Friday, December 11th, 2015

read more about it here

guns kill more Americans than terrorism

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

Oregon college shooting: Figures reveal Obama is right that guns kill more Americans than terrorism

Terrorism deaths versus gun-related deaths in the US

In an interview with a local television station in Philadelphia in August, President Obama drew a distinction between the effects of gun violence and terrorism.

“What we know,” he told ABC, “is that the number of people who die from gun-related incidents around this country dwarfs any deaths that happen through terrorism.”


Ten killed in shooting at Oregon Community College, Roseburg

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

Ten people were killed and another seven injured Thursday after a 26-year-old gunman opened fire in a classroom at a community college here in southern Oregon.

Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said the gunman was shot and killed during an exchange of gunfire with officers at Umpqua Community College. Hanlin refused to name the killer, saying, “I will not give him the credit he probably sought prior to this horrific and cowardly act. You will never hear me mention his name.”

A federal law enforcement source identified the gunman as a local Oregon man, Chris Mercer. The official said Mercer was armed with up to four firearms, including one rifle. Investigators were interviewing his mother to try and determine what caused his rampage.

Oregon shooting AP