Category Archives: News

worldwide news

TV Analyst and New York Deli Owner: An Immigrant’s Pursuit of a Dream

For the last year, the deli that Egyptian-American Hatem El-Gamasy owns in Queens, New York has been the backdrop to on-air discussions on U.S. foreign policy and Middle Eastern affairs that are broadcast in Egypt. But when Egyptian broadcasters caught wind of his daytime job, the calls suddenly stopped. But VOA’s Ramon Taylor reports that El-Gamasy’s dream to achieve journalistic success carries on.

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Trump Claims Excellent Cooperation With Republican Lawmakers

President Donald Trump says he has excellent relationship with fellow Republicans in Congress. After a lunch meeting Monday Trump said he is “closer than ever before” to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican he had previously blamed for failing to accomplish the party’s agenda. Trump and McConnell promised speedy action to reform U.S. health care and slash taxes. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke has more.

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McCain Condemns ‘Half-Baked’ Nationalism in Liberty Medal Acceptance Speech

U.S. Sen. John McCain jabbed Monday night at unnamed pushers of isolationist politics, saying at his National Constitution Center Liberty Medal ceremony in Philadelphia that abandoning America’s role as an international leader is “unpatriotic.”

The six-term Republican senator from Arizona made the remarks after receiving the award for a lifetime of service and sacrifice to the country. In addition to recalling his more than two decades of Navy service and his imprisonment in a Vietnam prisoner of war camp, McCain took a moment to go a step further than the night’s other speakers, who lamented what many described as a fractured political climate.

“To abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems,” he said, “is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”

He continued: “We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil.”

None of the speakers, who included former Vice President Joe Biden, mentioned any current or former government officials during their remarks. But many referenced a time when bipartisanship – namely, the friendship between McCain and the Democrat Biden – wasn’t out of the ordinary.

“We often argued – sometimes passionately,” McCain said of himself and the former vice president. “But we believed in each other’s patriotism and the sincerity of each other’s convictions. We believed in the institution we were privileged to serve in.”

McCain joined the Navy in 1958 and rose to the rank of captain during his 22 years of service. In 1967, his plane was shot down over Hanoi, Vietnam, during a bombing mission, and he spent years in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp. He recently revealed that he’s fighting brain cancer.

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Cybersecurity Firm: North Korea Likely Behind Taiwan SWIFT Cyber Heist

Cybersecurity firm BAE Systems Plc said on Monday it believes the North Korean Lazarus hacking group is likely responsible for a recent cyber heist in Taiwan, the latest in a string of hacks targeting the global SWIFT messaging system.

“The likely culprit is Lazarus,” BAE cyber-intelligence chief Adrian Nish told Reuters by telephone.

The British firm has previously linked Lazarus to last year’s $81 million cyber heist at Bangladesh’s central bank, as have other cyber firms including Russia’s Kaspersky Lab and California-based Symantec Corp.

BAE’s claim that Lazarus is likely responsible for the hack on Taiwan’s Far Eastern International Bank demonstrates that North Korea continues to seek to generate cash through hacking.

Nish said he expects the group to continue to target banks.

“They are not just going to go away. They’ve built the tools. They are going to keep going back,” he said.

Still, he noted that the group appears to have had difficulty in pulling funds out of the banking system, after the massive Bangladesh heist, which prompted SWIFT and banks to boost security controls.

Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported last week that while hackers sought to steal some $60 million from Far Eastern Bank, all but $500,000 had been recovered by the bank.

BAE previously disclosed that Lazarus attempted to steal money from banks in Mexico and Poland, though there is no evidence the effort succeeded.

A security executive with SWIFT, a Belgium-based co-operative owned by banks, last week told Reuters that hackers have continued to target the message system this year, though many attempts have been thwarted by the new security controls.

SWIFT declined comment on the findings, which BAE detailed in a report on its website.

The report provides technical details on malware samples that BAE believes were likely used to target the Taiwan bank.

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Trump: ‘Total Termination’ of Iran Nuclear Deal Possible

President Donald Trump says his decision not to recertify Iran’s compliance with the Iran nuclear deal could lead to its “total termination.”

“That’s a very real possibility,” Trump said Monday as he began a meeting with his Cabinet at the White House. “Some people say that’s a greater possibility.”

In remarks that were at times prepared and other times off the cuff, the president said a lot of people agreed with what he did in pulling away from the 2015 accord, which Iran reached with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and the European Union.

None of the other parties to the agreement have endorsed Trump’s move, however, and EU foreign ministers, meeting Monday in Luxembourg, dispatched top diplomat Federica Mogherini to Washington to fight for the deal.

“Clearly, the ministers are concerned about the fact that messages on the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] might affect negatively the possibility of opening negotiations or opening even the space for negotiations with the DPRK [North Korea],” Mogherini told reporters after the bloc’s 28 foreign ministers held talks.

Trump defended the decision Monday, saying he felt strongly that something had to be done about a deal he has railed against, both as a candidate and as president, even though he twice recertified the agreement in the first months of his presidency.

“I’m tired of being taken advantage of as a nation,” he said at the cabinet meeting, flanked by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. “This nation has been taken advantage of for many, many years. For decades frankly, and I’m tired of watching it.”

The president did, however, hold out hope that the deal might be improved to his satisfaction when it goes back to Congress for further consideration. “We’ll see what phase two is. Phase two might be positive and it might be very negative,” he said.

‘More complete strategy’

Tillerson said Sunday that Iran is in “technical compliance” with the international agreement to curb its nuclear weapons development, but said Trump wants Congress to adopt “a more complete strategy” to fix what the U.S. leader sees as flaws in the pact.

Speaking to CNN, Tillerson said Tehran has a “demonstrated practice of walking right up to the limits” of the 2015 deal, prompting Trump’s decision not to certify compliance.

Tillerson, apparently explaining what “phase two” may entail, said Trump wants Congress — perhaps in a separate deal — to fix “a number of weaknesses” in the nuclear agreement, and address “a much broader list of threats” Iran poses with its military aggression and “destabilizing activities” in the Middle East.

Tillerson said Iran’s ballistic missile tests, which are not banned by the nuclear pact, must be curbed and a more definitive ban imposed on its nuclear program. He said the current pact “simply postpones the reckoning” over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

In the meantime, while Congress considers whether to adopt new sanctions, Tillerson said the U.S. and the other international signatories need to “fully enforce the agreement.”

Trust factor

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who negotiated the pact for Tehran, told CBS’ Face the Nation show that with Trump’s opposition to the deal, “Nobody else will trust any U.S. administration to engage in any long-term negotiation because the length of any commitment, the duration of any commitment, from now on with any U.S. administration would be the remainder of the term of that president.”

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told NBC, “I think right now you are going to see us stay in the deal, because what we hope is that we can improve the situation, and that’s the goal. So, I think right now, we’re in the deal to see how we can make it better, and that’s the goal. It’s not that we’re getting out of the deal. We’re just trying to make the situation better so that the American people feel safer.”

Tillerson rejected the contention that Trump’s decertification of the Iran deal weakens the U.S. position in dealing with the North Korean nuclear threat.

He said the U.S. stance on Iran means that it “will expect a very demanding agreement” with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to end his nuclear weapons development.

Trump has told Tillerson that it is a waste of time to try to negotiate with North Korea, but Tillerson said the U.S. leader actually supports talks with Pyongyang.

“These diplomatic efforts will go on to the time the first bomb drops,” Tillerson said in the CNN interview broadcast Sunday.

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In Harvey-hit County, Some in GOP Newly Confront the Climate

The church was empty, except for the piano too heavy for one man to move. It had been 21 days since the greatest storm Wayne Christopher had ever seen dumped a year’s worth of rain on his town, drowning this church where he was baptized, met his high school sweetheart and later married her.

 

He had piled the ruined pews out on the curb, next to water-logged hymnals and molding Sunday school lesson plans and chunks of drywall that used to be a mural of Noah’s Ark. Now he tilted his head up to take in the mountain of rubble, and Christopher, an evangelical Christian and a conservative Republican, considered what caused this destruction: that the violent act of nature had been made worse by acts of man.

 

“I think the Lord put us over the care of his creation, and when we pollute like we do, destroy the land, there’s consequences to that,” he said. “It might not catch up with us just right now, but it’s gonna catch up. Like a wound that needs to be healed.”

 

Jefferson County, Texas, is among the low-lying coastal areas of America that could lose the most as the ice caps melt and the seas warm and rise. At the same time, it is more economically dependent on the petroleum industry and its emissions-spewing refineries than any other place in the U.S. Residents seemed to choose between the two last November, abandoning a four-decade-old pattern of voting Democratic in presidential elections to support Donald Trump.

 

Then came Hurricane Harvey. Now some conservatives here are newly confronting some of the most polarizing questions in American political discourse: What role do humans play in global warming and the worsening of storms like Harvey? And what should they expect their leaders — including the climate-skeptic president they helped elect — to do about the problem now?

Answers are hard to come by in a place where refineries stand like cityscapes. Nearly 5,000 people work in the petroleum industry. Some have described the chemical stink in the air as “the smell of money” — it means paychecks, paid mortgages and meals.

 

Christopher, like most people in Jefferson County, believed that global warming was real before the storm hit. Post-Harvey, surrounded by debris stretching for block after block, he thinks the president’s outright rejection of the scientific consensus is no longer good enough.

 

But how do you help the climate without hurting those who depend on climate-polluting industries?

 

“It’s a Catch-22 kind of thing,” he said. “Do you want to build your economy, or do you want to save the world?”

 


 

“Steroids for storms” is how Andrew Dessler explains the role global warming plays in extreme weather. Climate change didn’t create Hurricane Harvey or Irma or Maria. But Dessler, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University, and most scientists agree that warming and rising seas likely amplify storms that form naturally, feeding more water and more intensity as they plow toward land.

 

“It will be 60 inches of rain this time, maybe 80 inches next time,” Dessler said of Harvey’s record-setting rainfall for any single storm in U.S. history.

As a private citizen and candidate, Trump often referred to climate change as a hoax, and since taking office he and his administration have worked aggressively to undo policies designed to mitigate the damage. He announced his intention to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, a global accord of 195 nations to reduce carbon emissions, and his administration has dismantled environmental regulations and erased climate change data from government websites. This month, his Environmental Protection Agency administrator promised to kill an effort to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired plants.

 

Anthony Leiserowitz, a Yale University researcher, traces the politicization of the climate to 1997, when then-Democratic Vice President Al Gore brokered a commitment on the world stage to reduce greenhouse gases. The political parties have cleaved further apart ever since, and climate change denial reached a fever pitch as the Tea Party remade the GOP during President Barack Obama’s first term.

 

Americans tend to view the issue through their already established red-versus-blue lens, Leiserowitz said. But while there are fractions on each extreme, the majority still fall somewhere along a scale in the middle.

 

A new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll finds that 63 percent of Americans think climate change is happening and that the government should address it, and that two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the way Trump is handling the issue. Most Americans also think weather disasters are getting more severe, and believe global warming is a factor.

 

As the downpour from Hurricane Harvey stretched into its second day, with no end in sight, Joe Evans watched from the window of his home in the Jefferson County seat of Beaumont, and an unexpected sense of guilt overcame him: “What have we been doing to the planet for all of these years?”

Evans, a Republican, once ran unsuccessfully for local office. He ignored climate change, as he thought Republicans were supposed to do, but Harvey’s deluge left him wondering why. When he was young, discussions of the ozone layer were uncontroversial; now they’re likely to end in pitched political debate.

 

“I think it’s one of those games that politicians play with us,” he said, “to once again make us choose a side.”

 

Evans voted for Trump, but he’s frustrated with what he describes as the “conservative echo chamber” that dismisses climate change instead of trying to find a way to apply conservative principles to simultaneously saving the Earth and the economy. Even today, some Republicans in the county complain about Gore and the hypocrisy they see in elite liberals who jet around the world, carbon emissions trailing behind them, to push climate policies on blue-collar workers trying to keep refinery jobs so they can feed their families.

 

Evans isn’t sure if the disastrous run of weather will cause climate change to become a bigger priority for residents here, or if as memories fade talk of this issue will, too.

 

“I haven’t put so much thought into it that I want to go mobilize a bunch of people and march on Washington,” he said. “But it made me think enough about it that I won’t actively take part in denying it. We can’t do that anymore.”

 


 

Most in Texas didn’t believe climate change existed when Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University, began evangelizing about the issue years ago. Now studies estimate that 69 percent of Texans believe that the climate is changing, and 52 percent believe that has been caused by human activity. Most resistance she hears now is not with the science itself but over proposed solutions that mean government intrusion and regulation.

Jefferson County’s refineries produce 10 percent of the gasoline in the United States, 20 percent of diesel and half of the fuel used to fly commercial planes, said County Judge Jeff Branick, a Democrat who voted for Trump and then switched his party affiliation to Republican, in part because of his disagreement with the Democratic Party’s climate policies.

 

Branick doesn’t deny that climate change exists, but he calls himself a cheerleader for the petroleum industry and believes environmental policies are “job killers.”

 

John Sterman, a professor at MIT Sloan School of Management, said addressing climate change will invariably lead to gradual job losses in the fossil fuels industry. But communities have lost a dominant industry before, and those able to diversify can prosper. Jefferson County could look to the renewable energy industry, with jobs that require many of the skills refinery workers have, he said. Texas already produces more wind power than any other state.

 

Angela Lopez’s husband works in a refinery, so she understands the worry of the economic cost of addressing global warming. But her county is nicknamed “cancer alley” for its high levels of disease that residents have long attributed to living in the shadow of one of the largest concentrations of refineries in the world.

 

“It’s our livelihood, but it’s killing us,” Lopez said, standing in what used to be her dining room. Now her house in Beaumont is down to the studs. As Harvey’s floodwaters rose, she tried to save what she could. She piled the dresser drawers on the bed and perched the leather couch up on the coffee table. It did no good. The water didn’t stop until it reached the eaves, and the Lopezes lost everything they own.

 

Just about all of her relatives are conservatives, and indeed the political divides in the county run deep: Even as most of the communities along the Gulf Coast turned red years ago, Jefferson County clung to its Democratic roots. The county is ethnically diverse — 41 percent white, 34 percent black and 20 percent Hispanic — with a historically strong union workforce. Trump won Jefferson by just 419 votes.

 

“To come up with real solutions, you have to be honest with yourself about what causes something to happen,” Lopez said. “It’s not just because some storm came, it was bad and unprecedented. It was unprecedented for a reason, so we have to acknowledge that and start working toward being better. And part of that conversation should be climate change.”

On a porch outside another ruined house nearby, two neighbors who both lost everything to Harvey started having that conversation.

 

Gene Jones, a truck driver who didn’t vote, asked Wilton Johnson, a Trump supporter, if he thought climate change intensified the storm.

 

“I don’t think so, no,” Johnson said.

 

“You don’t? You don’t think about the chemical plants and the hot weather? You don’t think that has anything to do with it?”

 

“I can understand people believing that,” Johnson replied. But he blames natural weather cycles for upending their lives so completely.

 

Jones now lives in a camper in his driveway; Johnson’s father has been sleeping in a recliner in his yard to ward off looters.

 

Johnson feels like he’s gone through the stages of grief. At first, as he fled his home, he denied how devastating the storm might be. Then he got angry, when he realized nothing could be saved — not the family photos or the 100-year-old Bible that fell apart in his hands. He grew depressed and now, finally, he thinks he’s come to accept this new reality as something that just happened because nature is not always kind, and never has been.

 

And he remains unshaken in his support for Trump’s environmental agenda.

 

“We need to be responsible human beings to the Earth, but at the same time we shouldn’t sacrifice the financial freedoms,” he said. “What good is a great environment if we’re poor and living like cavemen? And vice versa, I understand the other side of that: What’s great about living in luxury when you can’t go outside?

 

“I just don’t think we should look at two storms and say, ‘We’re ruining the Earth! Shut the plants down!'”

 


 

When Wayne Christopher was a boy in Jefferson County, it got so hot he remembers frying eggs on the sidewalk. It has always been hot here, and there have always been hurricanes.

 

But it seems to him that something is different now. There is a palpable intensity in the air, in the haze that hangs over the interstate. The region has warmed about two degrees in his lifetime, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and annual rainfall has increased by about 7 inches on average. Christopher counts the number of times a beach road he’s driven on all his life has had to be rebuilt because the ocean overtook it.

 

“The sea keeps moving in — water rising, land disappearing or eroding or whatever you want to call it — it’s happening,” said Christopher, who is 66 now and retired after toiling more than 40 years for the railroad. “I think Mother Nature can come back, but there’s a point to where, if we just keep on and keep on, I don’t know if she can come back.”

 

He thinks the president he helped put in office should do something: take the threat seriously, research before he talks or tweets, not dismiss established science as a hoax because acknowledging it’s real would mean acknowledging that something must be done.

 

But like many others here, Christopher is not pushing to stick with the Paris climate agreement or other global coalitions because he’s not sure it’s fair that the United States should invest in clean energy when other countries that pollute might not. He worries that could cause more job losses to overseas factories, put a squeeze on the middle class and forfeit a slice of American sovereignty.

 

His wife, who also supported Trump, cocked her head as she thought about that sentiment.

 

“I can see the pros, I can see the cons,” Polly Christopher said. “But if you were to simplify it to your children, and they say, ‘Well, everybody else is doing it, if I do it what difference is it going to make?’ you would just get on them and say, ‘You’ve got to do the right thing. Right is right, and wrong’s wrong.'”

 

For weeks, the couple have been gutting Memorial Baptist Church, a place they consider their home. The congregation dwindled over time to about 45, mostly older people, and it was so hard to make ends meet the church canceled a $19,000-a-year flood insurance policy just two months before Harvey hit. Now it could cost some $1 million to rebuild, meaning the church may never be rebuilt at all.

 

So when Christopher’s granddaughter came by to help, found the piano in the otherwise empty sanctuary, sat down and started to play, he was overcome with a sense of grief.

 

“In my head I was thinking the whole time, this could be the last time that piano is played inside the auditorium,” he said. Then she started to sing: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound …”

 

“It did something to me,” he said.

 

Both he and his wife believe President Trump has a responsibility to look at the destruction Harvey left them with and act accordingly.

 

“He’s got a business mind. Whatever it takes to make money, that’s what he’s going to do to make America great again,” Christopher said, and that’s why he voted for Trump. “But it does make me wonder if he looks at global warming as a real harm. Because you can make all the money in the world here. But if you don’t have a world, what good is it going to do you?”

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US Top Court to Intervene in Government’s Email Dispute With Microsoft

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear an appeal from the Justice Department on whether U.S. investigators can obtain emails stored overseas if they have a search warrant.

Since 2013, Microsoft has defied U.S. authorities in turning over emails that were stored on a data center in Ireland. While the investigators had a search warrant to obtain private records – in this case, emails – regarding a drug-trafficking case, Microsoft argued the warrant was valid under U. S. law but did not apply to other countries.

Microsoft’s lawyers maintained that the Stored Communications Act of 1986, the federal law that regulates electronic records, does not extend beyond the United States. Under the same logic, the tech company argued foreign governments could cause Microsoft to turn over data stored on U.S. servers.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court in New York overruled the Justice Department in favor of Microsoft. The Microsoft-Ireland decision, as it has come to be known, set a precedent for tech companies on U.S. soil. Essentially, tech companies can withhold digital evidence of crimes in the United States if the data is on a foreign server.

“Hundreds, if not thousands, of investigations of crimes – ranging from terrorism to child pornography to fraud – are being or will be hampered by the government’s inability to obtain electronic evidence,” Jeffrey Wall, Deputy Attorney General, said in the appeal, which was made in June. “The decision protects only criminals whose communications are placed out of reach of law enforcement officials because of the business decisions of private providers.”

The Supreme Court will hear the case early next year. Unlike most cases regarding privacy, the case does not hinge on Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure, but the Stored Communications Act of 1986 on electronic records and privacy.

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Populism Again Casts Shadow Over Booming Eurozone Economy

For months, the outlook for the eurozone economy has brightened thanks to a series of electoral defeats for populist parties in key states like France. Now, following votes in Germany and Austria and the uncertainty over the Spanish region of Catalonia, concerns are growing again about the potential impact of euroskeptic politics.

The euro has edged lower in recent weeks despite data showing that the eurozone economy is enjoying one of its strongest periods of growth since the global financial crisis exploded a decade ago. On Monday, it was down 0.3 percent at $1.1785, having been above $1.20 at the end of August for the first time in two years.

 

One of the reasons relates to the electoral success of populist forces, first in Germany in late-September when the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany received almost 13 percent of the vote and won representation into the country’s parliament for the first time. Though the center-right Christian Democrats came out on top, the authority of Chancellor Angela Merkel was somewhat undermined by AfD’s relative success and she has still to forge a new coalition.

 

The populist tide was further evidenced in Sunday’s Austrian election, which saw the right-wing Freedom Party come second with around 27 percent of the vote — enough to possibly become part of a government led by the People’s Party and its 31-year-old leader, Sebastian Kurz.

 

The impact of a coalition involving a party that has sought to downplay the country’s Nazi past could hinder efforts to further integrate the economies of the 19 countries that use the euro, as advocated for by new French President Emmanuel Macron.

 

“Even though Austria is highly integrated and depends on the eurozone’s structure and openness, a new Austrian government will make the eurozone’s life harder, trying to push through self-interests,” ING economist Inga Fechner said.

 

Also of potential concern to the unity of the eurozone is the uncertainty surrounding Catalonia following its disputed independence referendum earlier this month. On Monday, there was still a lack of clarity as to whether the region’s leader, Carles Puigdemont, has declared independence following the vote that Madrid has deemed illegal.

 

The Spanish government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has repeatedly said it’s not willing to negotiate with Puigdemont if independence is on the table, or accept any form of international mediation. The government has threatened to activate Article 155 of Spain’s Constitution, which could see Madrid take temporary control of some parts of Catalonia’s self-government.

 

All these signs of populism come at a time when the European economy is enjoying one of its most sustained upswings for a decade. A run of economic indicators have shown that the recovery, especially among those countries that use the euro currency, has been gaining momentum through 2017. The recovery, which has also seen unemployment come off highs, has prompted speculation that the European Central Bank will start to ease back on some of its emergency stimulus measures in the coming months.

 

Many economists ascribe the improving economic backdrop to the defeat of populist politicians earlier this year, notably in France where National Front leader Marine Le Pen lost overwhelmingly in the presidential runoff against Macron. Her defeat come a few weeks after Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam Freedom Party fared worse than anticipated in Dutch elections.

 

At the start of this year, the rise of populism was considered by many economists as the gravest cloud hanging over Europe’s economic future, especially as worries over Greece had abated. The Brexit vote in Britain in the summer of 2016 had shown how vulnerable the region could be to populist movements. The great fear for those overseeing the euro currency is that a party may come into government seeking to get out of the single currency and revert to the country’s original currency.

 

What’s occurred in the past few weeks is evidence that those populist forces are not done yet.

 

Simon Derrick, chief currency strategist at BNY Mellon, said “it would make sense for the euro to weaken if concerns about populism in the eurozone re-emerged.”

 

The next potential worry is Italy, where elections have to be held by May 2018. The country has for years grown more slowly than other developed economies and there are concerns that a party seeking to blame the country’s problems on the euro could make headway in the elections, potentially triggering more volatility for a currency that’s spent years dodging crises. In August, former premier Silvio Berlusconi floated the idea of a parallel currency being introduced in Italy.

 

 

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