Ukraine Not Trusting Putin’s Hints of Being Open to Peace Talk Deals

ukraine fights against russian invasionRussian President Vladimir Putin has been exhibiting openness to possible peace talks with Ukraine; but experience dictates a need to heed caveats being overshadowed by the talks of negotiations. Apparently, doubting Russia’s sincerity in pursuing negotiations since the Kremlin is known for using diplomacy as a tool.

It’s practical to distrust Pres. Putin’s hints about possible negotiations, especially now that Russia seems to be achieving the most successful offensive moments in the frontlines since the invasion.

It is not cynical to view Russia’s sincerity with distrust when it comes to offers of peace talks and negotiation. It’s a practical necessity since Putin dropped hints of Moscow’s willingness to enter into peace talks after launching a third wave of Ukraine invasion coming from the north of Kharkiv in the same month.

Background Supporting the Distrust Over Putin’s Hints of Peace Talk Negotiations

Historically, Russia considers extending negotiation offers only as a ploy to make opponents pause fighting to encourage furthering of peace talks deals. As was the case in 2015, the Kremlin talked peace over Syria while Russian jets pounded on civilians living in rebel-held territories. Also in 2015, Russian troops and its proxies launched a full assault against Debaltseve, a strategic town in Ukraine.

war0torn ukraineAccording to Reuters news agency, which cited 4 deeply connected and experienced Russian reporters as sources, the context of Putin’s peace talks statements floated at a time when Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko arrived to visit Russia. A similar occurrence happened in the past at a time when the Kremlin had used Belarusian territory in launching its military moves into Ukraine. Alexander Lukashenko’s visit last Friday was reportedly in connection with the joint tactical nuclear weapons drills conducted by the two countries.

Distrust over Putin’s peace talks signals also stemmed from the Russian president’s repeated questioning about the legitimacy of Volodymyr Zelensky’s Ukrainian presidency, since the Kyiv election that was supposed to confirm Zelensky’s re-election as president did not take place. Unfortunately the country had to delay elections at that time because Putin started a war against Ukraine that he thought would end briefly.

During the early days of the assault In Ukraine, there were unconfirmed reports about the arrival of ousted pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich in Belarus. Yanukovich’s mere presence in Belarus from where the attack was launched, gave rise to speculations of Putin’s plan to reinstall the ousted Ukrainian president as Russian proxy to power in Ukraine. As it was, Viktor Yanukovich had fled to Russia in 2014, after he was ousted by a series of angry street protests.

French Finance Minister Ramps Up Steps to Combat Continuing High Inflation

France has been ramping up the fight against inflation as the 11.1% rate has been running for 5 consecutive months, which is almost twice the overall rate for the year. Actually, the current inflation rate had eased down from its peak last year. Yet the cost of living, is still high particularly for food.

Manufacturers and retailers of consumer goods are passing blame on each other for being the party responsible for the increases in the prices of consumer goods. The increases are deemed unreasonable because in recent months, the prices of raw materials have been falling.

France Finance Minister Calls on Food Retailer and Suppliers to Reduce Prices

France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire held a two-day meeting in June with executives and representatives of 75 producers and retailers of food products in the country. The long and short of the talks held by the Finance Minister, had companies committing to freezing the price or slashing down the prices of some 5,000 everyday products.

Minister Le Maire said the companies had also agreed to engage in annual price negotiations. This will initially take place this coming September in order to have a view of the price projections for 2024, starting January.

Only 25 of Those Who Agreed Have Honoured The Commitment

In his recent announcement of the agreements entered with suppliers and retailers in June, Minister Lenier revealed that only 25 of the group of 75 producers and retailers of consumer goods had so far reduced prices; and only on a limited number of products.

The Finance Minister also revealed that multinationals Nestle, PepsiCo and Unilever are among the companies that refused to cooperate with the agreement. He also warned that retailers who did not pass on supplier’s price cuts to their customers are likely to face sanctions.
Minister Le Maire also said anti-fraud authorities would conduct checks to ensure the producers and retailers who signed the agreement had complied with their commitments.

International Journalists Report Russian Atrocities in Bucha, a City Located Near the Capital City of Khyiv

International Journalists Report Russian Atrocities in Bucha, a City Located Near the Capital City of Khyiv

While Ukrainian soldiers were able to recapture towns and villages, many were shocked to find multiple bodies of dead civiliansi strewn on the road to Bucha. Even more heartbreaking are the harrowing stories of rape, plunder and mass killings that joutnalists gathered as increasing proofs of Russia’s war crimes against the people of Ukraine.

The organization of Human Rights Watch reported last Sunday that they had documented several of the war crimes in eastern and northern part of Ukraine. Included in the list is the murder and torture of Valentina Promac, a civilian who took refuge in her garage and refused to give the soldiers the gasoline they needed. Apparently, Russian soldiers are already desperate, hungry and fearful of the future that awaits them in Russia, for failing to win the war against Ukraine. .

Independent journalists who arrived at Bucha were met by dead bodies scattered and strewn across the streets, noting that some had their hands tied behind their back. They also found torsos wrapped in plastic bags as they apparently tried to hide in an outdoor concrete covering nearby. A woman who stayed inside her home and stood her ground behind her door appeared to have been peppered with bullets fired from outside her house. .

Behind the St. Andrew’s church, the soldiers and journalists found a hole filled with carelessly thrown dead bodies. The town’s mayor revealed that over 300 residents were killed, many of whom were buried in a mass grave.

Russia Maintains Its Propaganda by Calling the Bucha Atrocities as Lies

As the world learns with disbelief about the fate suffered by the people of Bucha, the Russian Defense Ministry simply dismissed them as lies spread by Ukraine to sway the European public’s opinion against Russia.

The Department continues to deny that there were incidences of violence in the city during the time the people of Bucha were under Russia’s control. The Russian government claims that the civilian massacre in Bucha was merely staged to portray Russia as the villain, in order to provoke further sanctions agasinst Russia and military actions against Russian soldiers.

Poland is Currently Sitting Tight on Rising Numbers of New COVID-19 Cases

Governments in many countries across Europe have been tightening restrictions in order to prevent the detrimental impacts of another wave of COVID-19 outbreak. Yet the government of Poland is sitting tight, not imposing new restrictions while the measures being enforced are often ignored, particularly by the unvaccinated.

Last Wednesday was so far the most tragic, as 24,239 new infection cases and 463 deaths were reported. Although the death toll dropped to 370 on Thursday, the number of new cases recorded still went up at 24,882.

Why the Polish Government Deems It Best to Do Nothing at All

Poland’s nationalist government has grown wary of beefing up its support base. Poland’s Health Minister Adam Niedzielski explained to the Polish media last Thursday that regrettably, the anti-vaccination movement in the country has grown relatively strong and in a way, professionally organized. In Poland, the least vaccinated regions correspond to those populations that overwhelmingly supported the Law and Justice Party (PiS) that was in rule two years ago.

Nonetheless, the Health Minister told the state-run news agency PAP that the government intends to impose restrictions, including mandatory vaccinations only if conditions reach a critical level of infections, specifically at a sustained number of between 35,000 and 40,000 new cases per day. In the meantime there is not enough justification or reason to require mandatory actions.

At present, the rate of vaccination in Poland is only 53 percent, which is still a long way off from the 70 vaccination rate that experts estimate that a country needs to achieve in order to slow down the spread of the pandemic.

Still, what is happening to Polish is also happening in some Central European regions, where the political right enjoys strong public support in refusing vaccination. As a result, those regions whilst having low rates of vaccination are the ones currently experiencing relatively higher rates of COVID-19 infection.

ECDC Warns European Countries of Delta Variant’s Dominance in Infection Cases

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) submitted surveillance data showing that the Delta variant is now a dominant concern in Europe. According to the ECDC, the new variant has been spreading fast across the European region; making it important for governments to reinforce efforts and measures for preventing widespread transmissions.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe warns that based on the ECDC surveillance data, the Delta variant was dominant in the majority of cases in 19 of 28 European countries, between 28 June and 11 July 2021. The median proportion of the Delta virus detected on a nationwide level in the 19 countries averaged at 68.3% domination over other sequenced virus; surpassing the previously dominant strain Alpha.

Inasmuch as the Delta variant has been detected in nearly all European countries, it is expected that the variant will continue to spread globally to become a dominant strain. Not unless another new, more competitive virus emerges.

Regional Director for WHO in Europe, Dr Hans P. Kluge, said that despite efforts to vaccinate people across EU member states, millions more remain unvaccinated. That is why numerous countries in Europe are still seeing a considerable increase in Delta various cases. According to Dr. Kluge,

“ Sadly, we are far from seeing a pandemic ending as many of the unvaccinated millions are ending up in hospitals instead.

The brighter side revealed by the ECDC surveillance data is that it clearly demonstrates that becoming fully vaccinated significantly diminishes the risk of contracting the severe disease that could lead to fatality.

ECDC Emphasizes the Importance Revitalizing Efforts in Preventing Delta Variant Spread

Dr Kluge gives advice to European countries that already eased down implementation of public health and social distancing measures, to do the following:

  1.  Increase access to free testing;
  2. Urge quarantine for affected contacts;
  3. Require isolation of confirmed cases;
  4. Strengthen contact tracing in ways that can immediately break transmission chains
  5. Ensure vaccination of those highly at risk of becoming infected.
  6. Expand undertakings for virus sequencing,

EU Members Agree to Open Their Country to Vaccinated Foreign Travelers

Last May 20, officials of European Union countries convened in Brussels, and all agreed to welcome vaccinated foreign travelers in their respective countries.


Vaccinated individuals already inoculated with the last recommended dose within at least 14 days, prior to arriving in a European Union country, will be permitted to enter. News of the decision was received warmly buy the flailing tourism industry of EU member nations. Countries with a highly vaccinated population like Israel and the US also welcomed the news as they are also likely to benefit from the union’s decision.

Still, it remains unclear on how EU member nations will accept incoming foreign travelers in the future. The European Commission’s president Ursula von der Leyen, has not yet provided any details on when or how EU countries open up for tourist travel. Her statements only acknowledged that the present travel restrictions will soon change but largely dependent on vaccination certificates. Vaccines that are approved include AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna.

Technical Discussions on Proof of Vaccinations Still Ongoing

The European Union and US authorities are in the talks on making COVID-19 vaccination certificates as an acceptable proof of immunity for foreign travelers. This will allow the European Commission to put forward a modification in the policy that aims to restore trans-Atlantic leisure travels.

Technical issues being discussed by both the US officials and the EU, include how the vaccine certificates will be made. They are taking in mind that these certificates must be readable in any place so that travelers can freely use them without any restrictions or issues.

According to EU Commission officials based in Brussels, the discussions are still ongoing and that the possible will likely be low-tech. For instance, a tourist arriving in Europe can obtain an E.U. vaccine-certificate equivalent by presenting an authenticated certificate issued by his or her government.

UK-Japan Trade Agreement Eases Years of Tension Caused by Brexit

Anxieties over Japanese firms leaving the UK as a result of Brexit seemed to have died down, after the UK-Japan trade agreement took effect in January 2021. The British government in fact considered historic the trade agreement entered with Japan, since it was the UK’s first major trade deal as an independent country.

Actually, the signing of the agreement came at a time when tension among Japanese businesses was already high due to the uncertainties posed by Brexit. In 2016 when the British government announced withdrawal from the European Union, the government of Japan had expressed public concerns; warning that Japanese investors and companies will rethink their position in Great Britain if the exit from EU membership will turnout to be disorderly.

It took several years before the UK government was able to finalize deals with the EU Commission, since the Brexit announcement. As a result, not a few Japanese firms left the UK, which brought down the numbers from a previous 1,084 to 951 during the tumultuous and seemingly unending rounds of Brexit deal negotiations.

Until finally last September 11, 2020, the UK-Japan trade deal was announced and that it was set to take effect at the very beginning of year 2021. The actual agreement was formally signed in October 2020.

A Brief View of the UK-Japan Trade Agreement

Japan is currently the UK’s 13th major export market for important British goods, as Japan had accounted for 1.9% of all UK exported products sold overseas last year. The US-Japan trade deal is said to be built around the UK economy, to help create the much needed jobs that will drive economic growth throughout the country. Overall and in the long run, the deal is expected to boost the British economy by an estimated £15 billion.

The deal will provide strong tariff reductions for both countries, with the UK reducing tariffs on pork, beef, and other food and drink exports, Japan, on the other hand, will reduce on Hitachi and Nissan exports

EU Drug Regulator Hit by Cyber Attack; Pfizer COVID-19 Data Gets Hacked

Last week, the European Medicines Agency reported a cyberattack that enabled hackers to illegally access data on Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine. It is not clear when the hacking incident took place as the agency disclosed that they discovered the cyber attack only recently. The European drug regulator refused to give more details as the investigation is still ongoing.

Nonetheless, the two drug manufacturers, Pfizer and BioNTech released a statement in which it was mentioned that some of the hacked documents were related to the regulatory submission for the BNT162b2, a COVID-19’s vaccine candidate. The two companies said their own computer systems were not breached, whilst giving assurance that no information related to the trial participants were acquired.

What Does the EMA Cyber Attack Imply?

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) assured Pfizer and BioNTech that the hacking incident will not affect EMA’s timeline with regard to their review of the vaccine.

Additionally, more information concerning the investigations are yet to be announced but the EMA said they will do so in congruence with the EU laws.

Marene Allision, Chief Information Security Officer at Johnson & Johnson’s, commented that while major pharmaceutical companies have strong barricades against hackers, problems lie with the systems of third parties like the European Medicines Agency, as they do not have strong defenses in performing their roles as part of the process.

According to Microsoft, the EMA hacking incident is not the only time an organization or company connected with Covid-19 vaccines became a target of cyber attack because they have discovered similar occurrences last month. Microsoft disclosed that hacking attempts to unlawfully acquire valuable data from top vaccine researchers and pharmaceutical companies, were backed by the governments of North Korea and Russia.

The said hackers have been targeting countries that have made progresses in their research for coronavirus treatments and vaccines, such as France, Canada, South Korea, US, and India.

WHO Worried Over COVID-19 Resurgence in European Countries

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that over half of the countries in Europe are seeing a more than 10% surge in new Covid-19 cases. WHO Regional Director, Dr. Hans Kluge said that in the past two weeks, the increases in Georgia, France, Spain, Montenegro, Ukraine, and the U.K. have reached twofold.

Dr. Kluge voiced concern,saying that a “very serious situation is unfolding before us.” This WHO official cited Spain and France as among the countries that are now seeing more new daily cases; in numbers are higher than they had recorded when the disease first peaked in spring.

In an interview with CNN, the Head of Emerging Diseases and Zoonosis at WHO, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, said that what worries them is that along with the increased cases, they are also seeing increases in hospitalization and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) cases. Dr. Van Kerkhove said that in some hospitals in France, ICUs are currently reaching full capacity. In the UK, the rates of hospitalization are doubling every eight days.

Health Experts’ Worries Stoked by the Approaching Flu Season

In a separate news report Chris Whitty, UK’s Chief Medical Officer and Patrick Vallance, UK’s Chief Scientific Advisor, had warned early this week that if UK’s trend of having new cases every 7 or 8 days continues, the country can expect that by October, as many as 50,000 new cases will be reported daily.

The WHO health officials are worried that as Europe and the U.S. are about to enter the flu season, health systems will be overwhelmed. That is if governments do not do anything to curtail the resurgence of COVID-19 in their respective territory,

While UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is about to impose a 2-week lockdown as some form of “circuit breaker,” U.S. president Donald Trump continues to downplay the COVID-19 health crisis by claiming that the U.S. is doing far better than European countries.

Although it is true that in comparison, Spain and France have surpassed the US’ 117 daily new cases per 1 million, by recording 129 and 215 daily new cases on a per million basis. Yet in truth, the U.S. still leads in the actual daily count with its trend of recording an average of about 38,000 new infections per day.

The number is expected to increase further as Trump continues to defy mitigation measures by holding indoor political rallies in which safe distancing and the wearing of masks are not observed,

Italy Shows Readiness in Holding Safe and Unique Events

Italy, once the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, but now nearly recovered, held a festival to show readiness of its event industry.  The bold move came after the gradual steps taken in May in reopening the country’s economy.

The Web Marketing Festival of the Search On Media Group, regarded as the biggest national innovation and marketing festival organizer, conducted three days of online training in hybrid form from June 04-06, 2020 at the Palacongressi in Rimini.

The WMF festival aptly centers on safety and innovation to present solid proof that Italy’s event industry is all set to resume business. After all, the government of Italy has given the Emilia-Romagna region, along with other parts of the country, has been given permission to allow the holding of traditional conferences, starting June 15, 2020.

Main Features of the WMF Event

The WMF In June was actually a regular event but held in an innovative format, where more than 200 attendees comprising speakers, artists, guests and staff participated in a unique setting
Trainings on themes like Artificial Intelligence, Content Marketing, Export, Digital Tourism, E-Commerce, International Markets, Onp and Philanthropy, Start-ups and SEO were carried out simultaneously in 30 vertical training rooms inside an online multiplex area.

Streaming links featured Italy’s important venues for culture and sport, along with social testimonials and musical entertainment.

At the Templo Room, a center stage for a live TV showmin hosting format that included a grand line-up of famous celebrities and personalities from the world of current affairs, journalism, sports, and members of national as well as European politics.

A first-of-its-kind Expo Online Area served as platform form for over 80 exhibitors and start-ups in the likes of ESA, Intel, Infinity, Nex and Shopify, just to mention a few. The online exhibition platform allowed exhibitors to connect to participants who attended the live meetings, which enabled consultations and appointment set-ups.

WMF Event a Major Feat for IEG

The holding of the WMF 3-day online trainings was also a huge success for the Italian Exhibition Group (IEG), which owns the Palacongressi di Rimini venue. The IEG intends to maintain a permanent fully-equipped room, for clients who plan to hold their 2020 appointment in hybrid form.

IEG venues are among Europe’s stylish yet eco-friendly event spaces, highly appreciated for keeping their eco-compatibility, technology and digitalization at the highest standards and versatile as well.

Europe Beset by Covid-19 Outbreak

Countries across Europe are battling the coronavirus outbreak, as new cases increased the number of confirmed Covid-19 infections.


Italy is said to be the hardest hit, reporting a growing number that has reached more than a thousand; including five deaths that raised the country’s previous death toll. Confirmed cases were also reported by France, Germany and the UK, with the Czech Republic reporting its first case of Covid-19 infection.

In Paris, France, a number of sites and local events have been identified as having the potential to put people at risk of infection. The Louvre Museum, for one, shut down last Sunday (March 01, 2020), after about 300 of the museum’s staff voted in favor of a shut down. In line with the decision, the Louvre management assured ticket holders that they will be refunded.

Moreover, France like Switzerland, has banned mass gatherings, whilst telling French citizens to take all the necessary precautions; including not greeting each other with the customary “la bise” or a peck on both cheeks. As of this writing, the number of confirmed cases in France has reached a total of 100, a jump from the 38 reported last February 28 (Friday). Nine of which are said to be in critical condition.

More on the Coronavirus Outbreak Report from Italy

Italy’s confirmed cases of infections saw a rise of 40 percent in a matter of 24 hours, bringing the total number to 1,700, and the death count to 34. The country’s top health officials foresee that hospital systems will experience a “tsunami effect.”

At Milan’s Sacco Hospital, Massimo Galli, the director of Sacco’s Department of Infectious Disease said,

In the point of view of health system organizations, the virus spread has already reached an emergency level.

As it is, the levels of warning have been raised in Lombardy and Veneto provinces. New waves of infected individuals arrived at hospitals, altogether intubated in order to overcome the effects of the coronavirus disease.

UK December 2019 General Election : Will It Break the Brexit Deadlock Before January 31, 2020?

The UK Parliament overwhelmingly approved the holding of another snap election on December 12, 2019, as a way to break the Brexit deadlock, before the EU Commission’s final deadline on January 31, 2019.

In asking the people to vote for another Prime Minister, the outcome could, but not with certainty, decide the Brexit issue; either to move forward under the deal negotiated by incumbent PM Boris Johnson, or be off-the-table once and for all.

Although the outcome of the election does not guarantee that a new PM will garner the majority votes required to decide on the long-running Brexit deal or no-deal issue, the major parties involved see it as the only way to break the Brexit deadlock.

Who Will the UK Voters Choose?

Actually, UK voters are also divided over the Brexit issue as recent polls show 34 percent of those surveyed, now prefer staying with the EU. Those who indicated approval for a No-Deal Bresit represented only 23% percent of the respondents.

PM Johnson, whose Brexit plan was approved by the EU but again turned down by majority of the British Parliament, will campaign for a Brexit under the terms he previously negotiated, or to forge on with a No-Deal Brexit.

Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose party believes in remaining with the EU but with concessions to certain reforms, will be calling on UK voters to kick out PM Johnson and his “do or die” Brexit moves.

Liberal Democratic leader Jo Swinson holds a view that is more aligned with the Labour Party, as the liberal’s agenda is to stop Brexit from happening altogether.

However, the question of who will be elected Prime Minister still depends on the Ministers of Parliament whom UK citizens will vote to represent them. The question of whether the Brexit deadlock will be broken, can only happen if the winning party’s elected MPs will make up the majority (326 seats) of the parliament voters.

What is a No-Deal Brexit and Why It is Causing Chaos in the British Parliament

Watching the recent UK news of how the British parliament is getting more chaotic during sessions, makes one interested in knowing what exactly does a No-Deal Brexit signify for the entire United Kingdom.

The long running struggle to arrive either at a Brexit Deal with the European Union or a simple No-Deal Brexit, has in fact resulted in the resignation of original Brexit negotiator, former British Prime Minister Theresa Mary May. Her replacement, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is fighting for a No-Brexit Deal, going as far as kicking out Conservatives who voted to block the no-deal proposition, sending the British Parliament into total chaos.

To add insult to injury, another Tory, Phillip Lee, walked away from the Conservative Party only to defect and join the Liberal Democrats right in the middle of PM Boris Johnson’s speech. According to MP Lee, he is sad to note that

“The Brexit process helped to transform the once great Conservative Party into something more akin to a narrow faction.”

What are the Potential Consequences of a NO-Brexit Deal?

What are the potential consequences of a No-Deal Brexit Deal that they could throw an entire parliament into a state of chaos?

As a result, Ministers of Parliament opposed to the no-deal proposition being pushed by Prime Minister Johnson was able to seize control of the legislative body; allowing them to block legislation that would have seen Britain exit from the European Union with nary an agreement, which is what a no-deal Brexit means.

First off, a ‘no deal exit from the European Union means there is no need for a 21-month transition period for the changes to take effect. Public and private entities in the UK, as well as consumers have to immediately respond to whatever changes transpire without room for making adjustments.

One of the main concerns about a no deal scenario is that life and employment could become uncertain for most Britons and others who reside in the UK. .

In terms of trade, the UK will have to pay the EU tariffs, which in turn could mean higher prices of imported European goods. On the other hand, some UK-made products may be initially rejected by countries belonging to the European Union. Not unless the EU’s required certification and authorization have been satisfied by a UK company.

While Britain would no longer be bound by EU rules, it would have to face the EU’s external tariffs. As a result, the prices of EU imported goods and manufacturing materials will go up in British shops. In light of such developments, some UK-based manufacturers may find it more advantageous to transfer business operations in an EU-member country.

When it comes to movement of people across the UK and EU borders, a separate and new set of immigration controls, which the UK or EU will impose, would mean delays in processing of documents in every border.

Although the UK government will no longer have to pay £13 billion as annual contribution to the EU budget, the British government stands to lose some EU subsidies, such as the yearly £3 billion allotment given to UK farmers. At the moment, since there is still no clear path to take, both the UK and the EU are still bound to honour their financial commitments for the 2019 budget.

The border dividing Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, will likely serve as an external border zone for the EU in case of a no-deal scenario. As physical infrastructure will likely be put in place, in which the enforcement of customs and immigration controls will be heightened at this point.

Yet one of the concessions put forward by the UK Government in the event of a no-deal Brexit is that they intend to carry out negotiations that aim to avoid imposition of hard border rules. Moreover, and even for a brief period, there will be negotiations for new tariffs on goods passing through the borders between the Republic of Ireland and the UK’s Northern Ireland.

Controversial Melania Trump Statue in Slovenia, Explained as a Piece of Conceptual Art

Melania Trump, the FLOTUS to POTUS Donald Trump has been honored with a life-size wooden sculpture of her image, or something of that sort. Actually, the sculpture unveiled last Friday (July 05, 2019) does not in anyway resemble the former fashion model and now the first lady of the United States; except for the powder blue outfit she wore at Trump’s inauguration ceremony.

The wooden statue stands tall and high on a vacant lot about five miles outside of Sevnica, a town in Novo Mesto, Slovenia where Melania was born. Despite the oddness of how the wooden sculpture looks, Slovenians take pride that the current first lady of America hails from their town. Say one Sevnica local,

She is our beauty, no matter what, even here. She looks like she just walked out of a beautiful naive painting,”

The essence of her beauty though, escaped the statue as none of the facial details resembled Melania’s features. The artist used a chainsaw to carve the entire figure out of a live linden tree, nine feet from the ground. That explains why everything looks rough, block-like and uneven. The eyes are just a pair of ovals bulging under a single brow. The nose, rather than chiseled, was a mere unflattering blob at the center. Some of the locals likened the carved image to a “Smurfette,” which is in fact, a befitting description of the statue’s appearance.

Onlookers are unable to figure out if the statue is meant as a tribute to the U.S. first lady, or to make fun of her. Still, in spite of the deformed features, it is supposed to be a serious piece of art. There is an art gallery, a conceptual artist and a blue-collar, pipe-layer who dabbles on occasional artwork, involved in its creation.

The Melania Trump Statue at Slovenia, Intended as a Conceptual Art Piece

Lukas Feireiss, the curator of the Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana involved with the concept of installing the woodwork in Melania’s hometown, said that it is indeed puzzling. Yet in knowing the artist behind its creation, the very ambiguity of the wood monument is its strength and beauty.

As it turned out, the Melania Trump statue is a piece of conceptual art devised by an American international art provocateur named Brad Downey. This artist is known for his display of artistic contradictions by way of sculptures, drawings, paintings and films.

The Melania Trump statue is his latest concept, for which he sought an amateur sculptor who was born in the same place and period as Melania Trump, to do the actual chainsaw carving, The contrast he intended to show is the divergence in stature achieved by two individuals born in the same month, year and place.

Downey found his amateur sculptor in the person of Ales “Maxi” Zupevc, a hard-working fellow who digs ditches and lays cable pipes for a civil engineering company. He engages in sculpture as a hobby. Zupevc is from a town near Sevnica where Melania grew up and was born in April, 1970; the same month and year when the U.S. first lady was born in the same hospital.

In a short documentary produced by Downey, Zupevc says he taught himself woodworking but only as a hobby; a reprieve from his backbreaking work as a ditch digger and pipe layer.

According to Zupevc, Downey handed him a photo of Melania Trump for him to copy by using as chain saw in sculpting the log. He received instructions that if there is one thing that must appear exactly as it is, is Melania’s powder blue Inauguration Day dress and pumps.

Zupevc is proud of his work, and hopes Melania, whom he thinks owns half of America, would be happy,

Populism : An Overview on What It’s All About in Politics

Populism is best described rather than defined, because it does not have specific context, except for a promise of addressing the needs of the neglected masses. Its concept promotes the idea that the political divide is between the morally upright masses and the corrupt ruling elite.

The division is built on the premise that those who rose to political power are dependent on the support provided by their political party as well as beholden to the elite who donated funds for their political campaign. As a result, traditional politicians whether right or left wing, tend to legislate based on the political goals of his or her party, which often times are for the benefit of the elite rather than the ordinary masses.

Reasons Why Populist Leaders are Chosen

Support for populist leaders rise if there are critical reasons that influence voters from detaching their politics from a traditional political party.

The Director of the European Consortium of Political Research (ECPR), Martin Bull, explained that the swell in support for populist parties in Europe, started to happen between 2008 and 2011, when the banking crisis in European countries transformed into sovereign debt crisis.

Widespread corruption is the most common reason that makes voters in Europe turn to populist leaders. This is exactly what happened in Slovakia in the country’s recent presidential elections. The killing of a young investigative reporter who had been investigating a high profile corruption case, enraged a country that was already calling for reforms aimed at eradicating political corruptions in the government.

The Slovakian people’s anger translated into overwhelming votes that catapulted a politically inexperienced, female environmental lawyer into becoming Slovakia’s first woman president.

Concerns and Issues Against Populism

Although populism is regarded as akin to democracy, it is not by itself without fault. Dr. Bull argues that when people no longer trust an established system, strongman leaders may emerge. As an authoritarian leader, many make promises to introduce changes, which when scrutinized may not be as feasible as had been projected.

Populist leader Donald Trump promised jobs to millions of unemployed Americans by limiting the influx of migrants, and by preventing undocumented immigrants from entering the country. He argues that doing so will lessen competition over employment opportunities intended for natural born Americans.

However, Trump’s promise did not include addressing issues on why many of America’s natural-born citizens are competing for low-paying jobs that do not require skilled workers; or why not many Americans can afford higher education that will enable them to qualify for high-paying careers.

As critics of populism put it, often times promises of populist leaders contain only a few grains of truth.

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2018 Review: Populism swept through Europe in 2018

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European Values, Identity, and Politics in 2019

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