Russia responds to NATO expansion with a missile deployment in European enclave

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November 2016EUROPEAN UNIONRussia will deploy two advanced missile systems to its far-west territory of Kaliningrad in a direct response to NATO expansion in Eastern Europe, a pro-Kremlin Russian lawmaker said Friday. Kaliningrad is a parcel of land disconnected from the Russian mainland that sits on the coast of the Baltic Sea, sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania. A Russian deployment of S-400 surface-to-air missiles and nuclear-capable Iskander balistic missiles to Kaliningrad, with its proximity to NATO member states, will undoubtedly heighten concerns among leaders of the transatlantic security alliance, who were already nervous over incoming American leader Donald Trump’s commitment to their collective defense pact. 
Viktor Ozerov, chairman of the defense committee in the Federation Council, Russia’s equivalent to the U.S. Senate, said according to the state-run RIA news agency that Russia had been forced into the deployment by the installation of a U.S. missile shield in Eastern Europe. “As response measures to such threats we will have… to deploy additional forces… This reinforcement includes deployment of S-400 and Iskander systems in Kaliningrad,” RIA quoted Ozerov as saying. Russian President Vladimir Putin warned in May, just a couple weeks after the U.S. anti-missile shield was declared operational at a site in Romania and days after U.S. and Polish officials broke ground at another site, near the Baltic Sea in Poland, that there would be “action in response to guarantee our security.”

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Raising the Stakes: This is a very significant strategic move by Russia in response to NATO and the U.S missile shield. Russia’s Deployment of S-400 missile batteries in Kaliningrad will make the Baltic region a no-go-zone in the event of a war.
Romania and Poland have requested a bolstered NATO presence in their countries in the wake of Russia’s annexation by force of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula. U.S. officials have always maintained that the missile defense shield in Romania is aimed at protecting against a missile threat from Iran. But NATO decided in early 2015 to establish new command-and-control centers in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria by the end of 2016, and those sites are indisputably intended to serve as a warning to an increasingly aggressive Russia that NATO remains resolute in its commitment to defend all members.
Putin views the defense, however — at least in his public rhetoric — as offense by the U.S. and NATO in a region that was, until recent decades, firmly within his government’s domain. “Why are we reacting to NATO expansion so emotionally? We are concerned by NATO’s decision making,” Putin said in an interview taped a couple weeks ago, set to air Monday in a documentary focused on Ukraine. “What should we do? We have, therefore, to take countermeasures, which means to target with our missile systems the facilities, that, in our opinion, start posing a threat to us,” Putin said in the interview.  –CBS News

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The Great Divide: After 2016 U.S. presidential election: ‘There are two Americas now’ – Trump vows to rebuild America

November 2016AMERICAN SOCIETYTwo weeks after the election of Donald Trump, this is how divided America has become: People have moved beyond staring at the vast gulf that divides them and proceeded to arguing over who is to blame for it, what to do about it and even whether it exists at all. “This idea that we’re now divided is being manufactured and spread by the media,” said Trump supporter Loy Brunson, 60, a musician in Provo, Utah. The protesters on the street? “Paid professionals hired to provoke,” Brunson said. The anger and vitriol online? “Hillary’s fault ever since she called us deplorables.” The growing number of hate crimes? “Played up by the left.”
To Kelcey Caulder, 22, the division is painfully real. The college student from Athens, Ga., feels its looming presence every time she thinks about her grandma, a Trump supporter and ardent opponent of abortion rights. They haven’t talked much since Caulder’s grandma found out that Caulder was voting for Democrat Hillary Clinton and told her granddaughter bluntly, “You’re going to hell.” Caulder tried to be understanding. “I think, in her way, she was trying to be protective of me,” Caulder said. “She wasn’t saying ‘Kelcey, go to hell.’ It was more like she was saying, ‘Kelcey, don’t you know this could send you to hell?’ ” But when her grandma unfriended her on Facebook, Caulder said, it was hard not to take it personally. Now, she is nervous about Thanksgiving, although she hopes the family dinner could be a chance to reconcile.
Trump supporters and Clinton supporters (including most of the media and Hollywood) viewed the political world through an entirely different set of eyes. It is therefore not surprising that disappointments, bitterness, and some antagonism between these two political camps still persists. That fundamental difference that polarized the two presidential camps went something like this: Many democrats viewed Clinton as the consummate politician. However, many Trump supporters viewed their candidate as the outsider who dared to take on the corrupt Establishment.  

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Korey, a student at the Georgetown University Law Center, said he is skipping Thanksgiving altogether because of lingering resentments in his family over the election. After he posted an anti-Trump message on Facebook, his father stopped talking to him, and his mother’s ex-husband threatened to write him out of his will. Korey, who asked to be identified by only his first name to avoid further angering his relatives, said he’s not ready to reconcile. In fact, he said, he plans to confront his father over his willingness to overlook offensive statements by Trump about immigrants, minorities, disabled people and women just to beat the Democrats.
“The lesson I took,” Korey said, “was you can do and say anything you want as long as you’re running as a Republican against Hillary Clinton, which cuts against everything he’s ever taught me about doing the right thing even when it’s not easy.” Even companies and commercial products have been forced in recent days to take sides. New Balance shoes were suddenly declared the official footwear of white supremacy by neo-Nazis and set on fire by some anti-Trump customers after a spokesman expressed support for Trump’s trade policies.

Trump supporters threatened to boycott Pepsi after PepsiCo chief executive Indra Nooyi said her employees were in mourning. At least three NBA teams said they would no longer stay at Trump hotels. Twitter was celebrated and castigated as it suspended the accounts of various leaders of the “alt-right,” a loose collection of far-right conservatives and white nationalists. Even the Girl Scouts organization in New York was drawn into controversy after sending out a post-election email noting: “Throughout the past two days, our girls have been calling us to express their worry about the future — and THEIR future.”
From her home in the Bay Area, Shannon Coulter, 45, has been updating an online Google doc of companies with ties to Trump that she and many other women have decided to boycott. The list includes several big retailers, such as Nordstrom and Macy’s, that carry Trump’s ties, daughter Ivanka’s shoes and other Trump-brand products. Before this election cycle, Coulter, an independent public relations consultant and registered Democrat, said she tried to understand Republicans and other conservatives: “I thought we had enough in common.” Not now. “We just elected a guy who questioned the nationality of our current president, who talks about how much he likes to grab women by their genitals, who is bringing a white nationalist into the White House,” Coulter said. “That’s just not something I can work with.”  –Washington Post

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Video Journal: World still reeling and shell-shocked from Donald Trump’s surprise win over rival Hillary Clinton

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November 2016WASHINGTON – As election evening began in Midtown Manhattan, people who wanted Donald Trump to win — loyal Republicans who risked the scorn of conservative critics to work hard on Trump’s behalf — were not only not sure he would win, they were actively trying to imagine the best-case scenario for his defeat. But how could so many people get it wrong? So many people said Donald Trump would never be president. A host of people even laughed at the idea – though none are laughing now. 

Let’s rewind the clock back to election night: At the Hilton Midtown, where Trump would hold his election-night event, a Republican strategist who had worked on the Dole campaign, two Bush campaigns, the McCain campaign and the Romney campaign had little confidence Trump would win, but felt sure he would exceed Romney. Even a close loss would have value, he explained, because it would likely force the Beltway Republicans who refused to help Trump to look into the mirror and ask whether they could have done more to elect a GOP president.
That’s the kind of thinking that was going on in the early evening of the most extraordinary election night in U.S. history. Trump supporters wanted Trump to win — that’s why they were there — but there were doubts galore. Even Jeff Sessions, the Alabama senator whose early endorsement was a huge boost for Trump, seemed unsure about a Trump victory. Sessions said that in the last few days he visited Trump county headquarters in Arizona and Virginia. He was struck by the intensity of the support there. “The feelings of the American public are legitimate, and the politicians need to hear it,” Sessions told me. “This isn’t going away. This isn’t a one-time thing.”
The implication was, if Trump lost, Trump’s focus on working Americans would go on. All the while, the Trump campaign was expressing optimism. I ran into Jason Miller, the communications director, the night before the election and the morning voting began. He said Trump strategists felt very good not just about Florida but about North Carolina and Ohio and Michigan and Pennsylvania and other Rust Belt states. –Star Beacon

Mission Impossible: Trump wasn’t supposed to win and Hillary Clinton wasn’t supposed to lose. All the big money and influence was in Hillary Clinton’s favor. This was the most dramatic and profound presidential election in U.S. history. Why? If Wall Street heavy hitters and big banks endorse someone like Hillary Clinton, if Hollywood celebrities endorsed her, if you’re Clinton and former and acting U.S. presidents are you, if 51 national securities advisers tell you Trump is bad news, if every poll in America tells you Trump is losing to Clinton, if prominent Republicans from their own political party cross party lines and publicly announce they are going to vote for the Democrat nominee , if feminist supporters are galvanized against you and are voting for Clinton – if a tape surfaces just 2 weeks before the election incriminating you in some sexist, misogynist controversy, you’re not supposed to win a presidential election. You’re not supposed to be even close to winning. Yet Trump pulled off the upset win of the century. Donald J. Trump’s presidential election win may just go down as the most stunning political upset in history.

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Sarkozy goes down in flames on political comeback – France moves closer to the right

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November 2016FRANCENicolas Sarkozy has conceded defeat in the French rightwing primary vote. The former French president had attempted to stage a comeback for the 2017 elections but was forced to concede after Sunday’s votes saw him slipping further behind his fellow candidates. The country’s former prime ministers Francois Fillon and Alain Juppe were seen qualifying for a second round runoff of France’s conservative primaries on Sunday, first partial results of the vote showed.
The men are now the favorites to go head to head in the US-style voting system on November 27 – with the winner likely to win next May’s election. With votes counted from more than half of polling stations, Fillon was seen to receive 43.5 per cent of the votes, Juppe collecting 27.6 per cent and Sarkozy just 22.1 per cent.
In his concession speech, Sarkozy said: “I was not able to convince the voters… but I respect the result.” The 61-year-old added: “I have no bitterness, I have no sadness, and I wish the best for my country.” He said he would now vote for Fillon – who won the initial vote in a landslide victory. The news came after polls put Marine Le Pen ahead of Nicolas Sarkozy as preferred leader in the latest French presidential election polls. The far-right leader took 29 per cent of the vote when pitted against Les Républicains’ former president, with Nicolas Sarkozy eight points behind. The Ipsos poll saw the strong leader edging further ahead as French conservative voters turned out on Sunday to choose their candidate for next year’s presidential elections.  –Sun

France’s Rise of the Right: The conservative candidate’s main challenger may turn out to be far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who is hoping anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-establishment sentiment can propel her to the presidency. Le Pen, official candidate of her once-pariah National Front party, did not take part in the conservative primary. The conservatives’ campaign has focused on immigration and security concerns following recent attacks by Islamic extremists.
Islam is, of course, Le Pen’s strong suit — meaning she’s against its encroachment into Christian Europe, as is every patriotic Frenchmen and responsible European. Polls had already shown le Pen clobbering Sarkozy and she’s like to be able to defeat Fillon as well. Juppe had been tipped as le Pen’s strongest rival, but his second-place finish (which ensures him a runoff against Fillon) doesn’t bode well.  –PJ Media

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Au Nom Du Peuple (In name of the people): The American Revolution was said to have inspired the French Revolution. Will American populism inspire French populism for an outsider candidate? French National Front leader, Marine Le Pen (representing the Far-right), is rising in the polls. A victory for a candidate from the far-right in France would’ve been unthinkable just a decade ago.
Polls cannot be trusted: France begins voting in April next year in an election that could be an early litmus test of the momentum of nationalist movements. National Front leader Marine Le Pen is believed to now have a serious shot at the presidency with the Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls saying Mr. Trump’s victory had boosted her chances. The polls proved wrong in the recent U.S. presidential election, favoring Clinton, and to no one’s surprise; they were wrong again in the French election Sunday – showing Alain Juppe with a comfortable lead over his political rivals.
High unemployment, immigration and terrorism has helped increase the popularity of Le Pen’s party, while at the same time Socialist President Francois Hollande is hugely unpopular. But Ms Le Pen will have tough competition if she makes it through to the presidential run-off. The centre right-wing party Les Republicains is holding American-style primaries to choose a candidate, narrowing the choice to former Prime Ministers, Alain Juppe and Francois Fillon.  –ABC

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On the heels of BREXIT and Trump wins, Italy becomes the next populist battleground

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November 2016 ITALYMany have touted the French presidential election in early 2017 as the next test, after the upsets of Brexit and Donald Trump, of whether Western voters will continue to scorn establishment politics in favor of uncertain futures. In fact, Italy’s constitutional referendum on December 4 could mark the next big shakeup in one of the world’s ten biggest economies.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has staked his country’s future and his own career on the hope that the majority of Italians will back his gambit to reduce instability and political deadlock in Rome with a “Yes” vote. The exact measures of the referendum are complicated (indeed one Italian start-up, ProntoPro, is now offering an ‘explanation service’ to undecided voters), but simply put, it would reduce the number of legislators and rights of the upper house, the Senate, and give more power to the executive.
“Even if you change a comma in a law, it has to go back to the other chamber,” said Franco Pavoncello, president and professor of political science at John Cabot University in Rome, in an interview with DW. “The country has been struggling with this for decades.” On the surface, the choice appears simple: vote “Yes” to back the ruling center-left Democratic Party (PD) and reduce political bloat, or vote “No” to stick it to the establishment and keep the executive from consolidating power.
But by vowing to step down should “No” prevail, Renzi has conflated constitutional change and support for his premiership. And although he has confused voters in recent weeks by first walking back from, and then doubling down on this promise, “the likelihood is quite high,” according to Pavoncello, that a defeated Renzi would not remain in the Palazzo Chigi for long. “He has turned it from a constitutional moment into a political one, and that is quite unfortunate,” the professor said.
Opinion polls show an average lead of 5-8 points for the No vote. A high share of undecided voters though means the prime minister and his aides are still hoping to mount a comeback in the final stage of the campaign. If Mr. Renzi is defeated, his political career will not be the only casualty of the vote. Since taking office, the Italian prime minister has been a proxy for the country’s willingness to embrace change through reforms of its gridlocked political system and sclerotic economy. A loss could spell the end of that agenda. There are also mounting concerns that a victory for the No camp could trigger a loss of investor confidence in the eurozone’s third-largest economy, hurting appetite for its government debt and further damaging its struggling banks.
 But after Britain’s vote to leave the EU in June and Donald Trump’s upset victory in the US presidential election this month, the Italian referendum has been loaded with additional significance. Some see it as the next battleground in the struggle unfolding between the moderate, liberal, center and the increasingly successful populist forces across western democracies — with Mr. Renzi as the next domino to fall. “It could be another watershed moment for Europe so there is huge interest and attention,” says Andrea Montanino, director of the global business and economics program at the Atlantic Council. “Renzi is considered an anchor in a very complex picture.” –DW

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Russia’s warning to NATO: If you start a war, we will choke the life out of you

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November 2016WASHINGTON/MOSCOWSen. Tom Cotton, being considered by President-elect Donald Trump as a possible choice for defense secretary, on Thursday called for continued U.S. support of NATO and labeled Russian President Vladimir Putin an “adversary” in remarks that may put him at odds with the incoming commander-in-chief. Two days after Trump and Putin talked on the telephone about greater cooperation, Cotton, an Arkansas Republican and former 101st Airborne Division platoon leader in Iraq, said, “To improve our relations with Russia, what needs to happen foremost is Vladimir Putin needs to have a new set of boundaries,” an apparent reference to Russian expansionism in Crimea and Ukraine.
“It would be good, of course, if we had a better relationship with our adversaries,” Cotton said, but Putin will first “have to recognize that we are going to stand by our alliance structures.” He called on Russia to exhibit a “sense of reality” about U.S. support for NATO and understand that the alliance was “not a threat to Russia.” In numerous congressional hearings, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford have also called Russia an “adversary” and the No. 1 threat to the U.S. Cotton, who met with Trump on Tuesday in New York, was responding to questions including whether the Trump administration would lift sanctions on Russia at the fourth annual Defense One summit on national security issues in Washington, D.C.

Trump and Putin on Tuesday spoke by phone and the transition team later put out a statement. “During the call, the two leaders discussed a range of issues including the threats and challenges facing the United States and Russia, strategic economic issues and the historical U.S.-Russia relationship that dates back over 200 years,” it stated. Trump told Putin “that he is very much looking forward to having a strong and enduring relationship with Russia and the people of Russia,” it stated.  –Military

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Sun setting on the West: Turkey could join SCO with Russia and China instead of EU, President Erdogan says

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November 2016 TURKEYTurkey could join the Shanghai Pact with Russia and China instead of the European Union, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said. Mr. Erdogan said Turkey should “feel relaxed about the EU and not be fixated” about joining it, as his country’s decades-long hopes of joining the EU reached their lowest point in the aftermath of the failed 15 July coup. “Some may criticize me but I express my opinion. For example, I have said ‘why shouldn’t Turkey be in the Shanghai Five?’” he told Turkish journalists on a plane from Uzbekistan, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) — also known as the Shanghai Pact — is a loose security and economic bloc led by Russia and China, which includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Mr. Erdogan said he had already discussed the idea with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. He has floated plans for Turkey to join the SCO several times, a move which could scupper the country’s long-standing EU membership bid.
The SCO option became clouded when the Turkish air force shot down a Russian war plane last November. In August, Turkish media reported Mr. Nazarbayev mediated a deal between Ankara and Moscow to smooth over the dispute. Turkey formally applied to become an EU member in 1987 and accession talks only began in 2005, even though Ankara’s aspirations to become part of the bloc dates back to the 1960s. Brussels has harshly criticized the Turkish government’s crackdown on alleged coup plotters, urging Ankara to comply with rights and freedoms criteria.
Mr. Erdogan is looking to expand his powers by changing Turkey’s constitution. This week, Mr. Erdogan warned the EU to decide by the year’s end on its membership bid, threatening call a referendum on whether to continue membership discussions. Turkey and the EU agreed to speed up membership talks in March as part of an accord on curbing the flow of refugees into Greece. The deal was made in return for several incentives for Ankara including EU cash assistance for Syrian refugees in Turkey, as well as visa-free travel to Schengen area for Turks.  –Independent

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Populism takes over the world – elite establishment still baffled and clueless how the world is changing

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November 2016GEOPOLITICS When you first encounter the word “populism,” you might think it’s a close cousin of democracy, with all the positive connotations that go along with it. And for some, it may well seem a purer form of a process by which politicians harness the will of the majority. But that’s only part of the picture. Populism—ostensibly a belief in the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people—often requires a bogeyman, be it an existing government, the supposed cultural elite, the media, or a particular ethnic, racial, or religious group.
As a form of horizontal political power, populism has been instrumental to legal, agrarian, and social reforms through the years. But it’s also played a starring role in the rise of demagogues and therefore some of the ugliest episodes in human history. Republican Donald Trump’s electoral-college victory over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton last week was an unprecedented triumph of populism in the U.S.—one that leveraged feelings of victimization by a shrinking white majority who blame lost opportunity on U.S. President Barack Obama, the political establishment, wealthier urbanites, and immigration.
America is hardly alone in this phenomenon. The forces of globalization and mass immigration from North Africa and Syria into Europe have already triggered a flood of populist rhetoric from the Philippines to Greece to the U.K., and many, many places in between. In the coming months, the wave of populism will take aim at the Netherlands, Austria, Germany and France. What happens after that is anyone’s guess.  –Bloomberg

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The tragedy of being on the wrong side of history: U.S. President Barack Obama was clear about distancing himself from the rise of populism in the U.S. and the world. He also reiterated that he was neither the catalyst for Donald Trump’s meteoric political rise to power in the U.S. nor was he the reason former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton loss the 2016 presidential election to her Republican rival. However, whether Barack Obama admits it or not he was part of the reason both incidents happened in America. As this presidential election results proves, Barack Obama has demonstrated just how much he and most U.S. politicians are out of touch with rural and mainstream America.

Globalism and Free Trade deals, financed by big banks, have taken off and left 99% of the world’s population economically reeling on the sidelines of prosperity. Central banks have keep interest rates virtually non-existent long enough to both prop up the stock market and to send untold billions of dollars hemorrhaging out of equity markets into real estate thereby pushing home prices and the prices of rental properties again beyond the reach of most hard-working Middle and Low class Americans. Inflation has risen. Wages have remained stagnant. With most manufacturing jobs in the U.S. continuing to evaporate because of Free Trade deals and many more drying up due to outsourcing and automation – most Americans are stuck in a low-wage job hell, they have very little in savings, or they are living just below or just above a nightmarish level of economic destitution. The stock market has inched up making the rich even wealthier while, by the same token, it has also created the greatest economic disparity gap between the rich and poor in the history of the modern world. Again, few seemed to be concerned with this harsh reality before the 2016 presidential election. While Obama was railing against populism, Greeks were rioting and protesting in the streets. 

Obama said this is not an “us versus them” issue but that’s exactly what it is. As long as the establishment favored the elite “us,” and not “them” (the poor) nobody had a problem with the system or even felt a moral compulsion to ever change it. Now the shoe is on the other foot  with the populist revolt – and the “us” (the common people) says the world had virtually forgotten about them. Being in the 1% doesn’t matter much when it’s the majority who rule by the electoral process. The sadder reality is the world will never come to its senses. Even now, a good majority of the shell-shocked disgruntled wealthy globalist elites still don’t get it. Instead of building a bridge to the common people with their wealth, they are constructing underground bunkers, panic rooms, and building higher security walls around their property to further distance themselves from the very people who contributed to their wealth and prosperity.
BREXIT, and the U.S. election is a wake-up call to the globalist machine. The direction you’re going in is wrong. It has done nothing but economically stripped countries of their manufacturing base and enriched the wealthy. Now, it’s time for the ordinary people to be heard – to share in some of the prosperity that is rotting from mass accumulation in your storehouses. I dare you to live their anguish. To construct some semblance of a future with their broken dreams. To listen to their cries and then understand this: If there is no evolution – then there will be a revolution.

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Remember the Alamo but prepare for the Apocalypse: Elite in Texas to build underground city

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November 2016TEXAS Some upper-income Texans are headed down below, not Australia, but in an large underground bunker complex. An investor group is planning for a doomsday scenario by building a $300 million luxury community underground replete with the latest leisure amenities like a golf course and shooting range. The development, called Trident Lakes, is in a little town called Ector, which is just northeast of Dallas. Residents will enjoy an equestrian center, 18-hole golf course, polo fields, zip lines and gun ranges. Retail shops, restaurants and a row of helipads are also in the works. For those looking to “get away,” they’ll also be able to enjoy three white sand beaches and a neighborhood spa.
“We’ve evolved it into long-term sustainability instead of a survival community,” Trident Lakes CEO Jim O’Connor told the Houston Chronicle, adding that the 400 planned condos will house about 1,600 people. “The concept is to build a community that will last two centuries or longer. That means we’re looking at designs that include earth structures that won’t be exposed to the elements.” Residents will first be able to move-in possibly as soon as 2018, O’Connor said, with construction slated to potentially begin next year.

“It’s not just a hole in the ground to hide in — it’s going to be one of the most plush resorts in all of Texas, if not America,” Trident Lakes spokesperson Richie Whitt told the Sherman Herald Democrat. “People are getting fearful of this world — there’s ISIS, there are things like Zika virus to race relation and the police brutality they see on TV — people are nervous. People want a place they can have safety for themselves and for the future of their families,” Whitt added. “If need be, it’s going to be one of the safest places on Earth.”

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From BREXIT to Trump, Europe reels from a tumultuous year of populist crises and uprisings

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November 2016 GEOPOLITICSThe European Union’s founders believed its unity would be forged in crisis, but after BREXIT and the election of Donald Trump to the White House the bloc looks shakier than ever. On Sunday, foreign ministers from the 28 EU countries will hold talks in Brussels on the impact of a president who has previously questioned the decades-old transatlantic pact to defend the continent. With populists on the rise, Russia posing an increasingly menacing presence to the east, the migration crisis and the endless fallout from the Eurozone debt crash, many fear perpetual turmoil. EU President Donald Tusk said on Wednesday that the events of 2016 were a “warning sign for all who believe in liberal democracy,” and urged Europe to “finally get our act together.”
But Trump’s election has made it harder to regroup, given that Europe — while trying to stay pragmatic in dealing with Washington — has no idea what to really expect from the billionaire. And European Commission Chief Jean-Claude Juncker is worried that a lot of time could be wasted teaching Trump about Europe. “Mr. Trump, during his campaign, said that Belgium was a village somewhere in Europe,” Juncker told students in Luxembourg on Friday. “We must teach the president-elect what Europe is and how it works,” he said. “I believe we’ll have two years of wasted time while Mr Trump tours a world he doesn’t know.”  Soul-searching has been the order of the day in Brussels ever since the body-blow of Britain’s vote in June to become the first country to leave the EU in its 60-year history.

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Tusk warned at the time that the “Western political civilization” that has kept Europe at peace since World War II was now at risk. That “civilization” has seen both sides of the Atlantic broadly sharing the same commitment to the free market and liberal democracy, with America propping up Europe’s defenses. Until now. Trump’s campaign threats to abandon the collective defense pledge that is the bedrock of the NATO military alliance was a major shock for Europe. Juncker also warned that Trump’s campaign rhetoric displayed huge ideological differences with Europe. He noted the businessman-turned-reality TV star had “taken a view of refugees and non-white Americans that does not reflect European convictions and feelings.” Both Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Francois Hollande have called on Trump to uphold democratic values in a sign of Europe’s concerns.

Trump’s apparent closeness to Russia will also be ringing alarm bells in Europe as it debates whether to keep up sanctions over the Ukraine crisis and looks for solutions to the conflict in Syria. “The post-Second World War global leadership role of Western liberal democracy was already challenged,” said Fabian Zuleeg of the European Policy Centre think-tank. “But a Trump administration will increase US isolationist tendencies, which is a further blow to this leadership role.” Rattled European leaders have issued calls, after both Brexit and the Trump win, for Europe to seize its own destiny and tackle what they have dubbed a “polycrisis.” Trump and Brexit are at least being seen in some quarters as an opportunity to boost EU unity, with the bloc’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini saying it can be a “superpower” for peace.
Officials insist the bloc is more resilient than it is given credit for — just as the EU’s founding father Jean Monnet wrote in his memoirs that “Europe will be forged in crises.” But so far the EU’s main response has been its time-honored one: Call more meetings. Analysts say that is not enough. “Europeans are muddling through,” Judy Dempsey of the Carnegie Europe think-tank told a seminar this week. “One wonders how many wake-up calls the Europeans actually need to do something.” The timing is increasingly urgent. France holds presidential elections next year and far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s chances of pulling off a Trump-like coup are suddenly being taken more seriously. Far-right parties are also hoping for a boost in polls in the Netherlands and Austria, while Merkel, increasingly taking a role as the EU’s moral anchor, is up for re-election. Brexiteer-in-chief Nigel Farage exults over what many others fear. “Don’t think that the democratic revolution is over,” he tweeted. “There are plenty more shocks to come. 2017 may surprise us as much as 2016.” – Yahoo

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