Walter Palmer DDS – Hunting in Africa Can Make You The Hunted One

A dentist from Minnesota is under fire this week as millions of people online are in an uproar over his killing of the famous lion “Cecil” from a Reserve in Zimbabwe. Authorities found the lion with his head removed and skinned left in the desert to rot a week ago, which caused international outrage. People searched for who it could have been, and which guides were responsible, for several days before finally releasing the identity as none other than a U.S. dentist by the name of Walter Palmer. The outrage incited further in the last few days online, with protests outside of his dental office, and the practice being closed indefinitely. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service also attempted to contact him for several days, with no luck. Ultimately yesterday his representative finally contacted the USFWS.

In his only public statement to date, Dr. Palmer indicated how he “deeply regretted taking the lion”, which has served to only fuel anger towards him given the language used. For many, Walter Palmer is a face they can vilify that represents the rich Westerns who pay fortunes to kill threatened African animals. This problem has grown in recent years with over 600 lions being killed for sport on the continent every year, mostly by rich Western hunters who will pay up to $100,000 for a license to kill one. His apology has fallen flat with those outraged by his behavior, as Cecil was a lion tracked and monitored as part of an Oxford University study. In addition, he was a local favorite that tourists loved to see, since he was not scared of people and would often lay close to passing safari goers.

The Hunter Becomes the Hunted

To say big game hunting for sport is unpopular is an understatement. In the latest poll from IFAW in 2014 showed that 82% of Americans support banning the import and sale of lion trophies, and 83.4% support the ban of elephant trophies of any kind. Those numbers show support for an issue that is rarely seen in any other facet of political life. Similar polls in the past have shown that while 70% of Americans would pay to Safari in Africa and see lions and elephants, only 6% would pay to hunt them. These are the kinds of one sided belief issues that truly are rare in the political landscape.

Given this, it’s hardly surprising the outrage that’s been thrown at Dr. Palmer for his unnecessary killing of a lion, who was protected. Not only did the doctor bait the lion off the reservation, but wounded him and chased him for over 40 hours due to his incompetence with the bow he used. His practice, River Bluff Dental, has had it’s Yelp page overrun with angry netizens, frustrated with his behavior and lack of remorse. Two Zimbabweans have been arrested in connection to this case so far, Theo Bronchorst, a hunter who allegedly took Palmer to the reservation for the lion, and Trymore Ndlovu the owner of the land where Cecil was killed. Both face up to 5 years in prison for illegal poaching.

As of yesterday July 31st, Zimbabwe’s government has issued an extradition request for Dr. Palmer so that they can try him there and potentially jail him for up to 5 years. There’s several things the government flags as illegal which Palmer did, particularly attempting to cover up and destroy the tracking collar the lion wore when after he had killed it. In addition, luring lions off the reservation is a crime in itself. Whether or not he broke a US law, and if the US will allow his extradition remains to be seen. One thing’s for sure, if history is any indication (such as Kendall Jones earlier this year), Walter Palmer will be paying for this for a long time.

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Greece’s Parliament Approves New Austerity Bill Despite Dissent

Anti-Austerity protestors spent much of the afternoon today in clashes with police around Parliament, as Greece voted on the latest bailout package. The nearly $100 billion EUR received by the country today marks the end of debt payments required for the next three years. However, as this vote was coming to the floor, dissent mounted among both the opposition parties and within Prime Minister Tsipras’ own ranks. Many see the bailout package as a raw deal for Greece, without a write down of some of their debt (slated to increase to nearly 200% of their GDP after this package). Many outsiders believe that Tsipras bet that the Eurozone would compromise before losing it as a member, and as it turns out, Germany was ready to move them off the Euro currency without any willingness to budge on their full debt repayment requirements.

All of this effort was for naught, as a very similar package to what was originally planned wound up passing overwhelmingly with a 229-64. This vote will allow Athens to keep a financial lifeline in tact, but at a very significant cost. They will need to raise taxes, cut tax evasion, decrease pensions, decrease significant social spending and sell nearly all State assets. Many political strategists did not see such hard terms being accepted at all just a few short weeks ago.

The measure was ultimately approved, even after a minimum of 10 protests occurred near Parliament throughout the afternoon, and large strikes crippled the city’s services. At least 15,000 demonstrators assembled in Syntagma Square this afternoon. Many of them did not ultimately clash with police, but a sizable minority caused serious disruption outside of Parliament.

Calling Tsipras’ Bluff?

With the previous referendum and ‘Oxi’ vote last week, it was clear that PM Tsipras wanted better terms, ones that included a renegotiation of the terms of their debt. These were soundly rejected, namely by Germany, who seemed to be unwilling to accept any renegotiation of the terms of the loans, or write downs of any fractional portion of the debt. Ultimately, the bill was passed much as it was originally written, just with more funds becoming available.

Tsipras spent much of the day and the day prior convincing the public that this bailout agreement was the best choice. However, defections even among his own party were significant prior to the vote being cast. Tspiras told parliament that they had to either accept the agreement, which he largely did not agree with, or have a default. There seemed to have been no wiggle room in the negotiations in the end. The Greek people accepting the bailout remains to be seen, as even with the most healthy projections for economic growth, Greece’s debt to GDP ratio will still be over 100% by 2030. This means this could be a very difficult decade for Greece as these loans result in severely reduced spending.

The IMF broke ranks with the European leaders by calling for debt relief on Tuesday, similar to Greece’s request. However, European leaders, spearheaded by Germany, ruled this out completely. The IMF does not believe Greece has the capacity to pay off its debt burden under any scenario as it stands. The European Commission continues to rule out debt relief as a possibility, until (or unless) Greece runs out of money again. Then this process will start all over again.


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Greece Submits Formal Bailout Proposal to EU Summit Leaders

In a shocking turn of events, Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, submitted a bailout package to the European leaders on the evening of July 9th. This package included a deal for 53.5 billion Euros in additional bailout funds enough to shore up the loan payments of the beleaguered Mediterranean country for another 3 years. This is likely in the hopes that the Greek economy would improve by then and allow them to begin paying off the low interest rates that the European Central Bank and IMF have given Greece until this point.

Greece did not ask for this bailout as it turns out without offering something in return. Tsipras offered a package of reforms to go along with it. Much of these as it turns out were the very same type of reforms originally demanded by their EU counterparts with the proposal from two weeks ago, that was soundly rejected by the Greek people. Among these reforms include pension savings, tax increases and significant spending cuts. This proposal is now set to be discussed this coming Sunday at the summit with all of the European leaders in Brussels.

In exchange for these reforms, Greece is asking for their debt to be refinanced to a level that they can actually pay. This would be significantly lower than the rates they have presently.  It still remains to be seen if this is a proposal that the rest of the Eurozone can accept, however. Creditors may want even more austerity measures to be put in place, but perhaps they have learned from their mistakes over the last few weeks. You cannot draw water from a stone, and it’s better to be repaid slowly at a lower rate than you expected than not repaid at all. If the creditors see the situation in this light remains to be seen.

Could This Crisis Be Coming to an End?

It’s still unclear what the creditors for Greece will be accept with this deal. A haircut of the debt appears to be out of the question, with Merkel in Germany saying as much earlier today. This debt will allow Greece breathing room until 2018 and will be sufficient to pay off the IMF loans and other creditors. They will then only owe funds to EU institutions. In addition, they agree to cut public pensions and increase sales tax (VAT) nationwide. Two key things austerity proponents have wanted for some time.  Issues of trust still linger, with the EU Commission unsure that Greece will ultimately be able to guarantee passage and national acceptance of any terms reached, unless they include significant debt right down (something Germany adamantly opposes).

Greece is not offering this as just another short term bailout. They also want restructuring of their debt, and 35 billion EUR in funds for growth related programs domestically. Debt relief is still the end goal for Greece, and the US. Pressure has been mounting on Chancellor Merkel to offer such terms, as debt relief is seen as a key factor in ensuring Greece’s growth is sustainable. Unfortunately, this is a very unpopular policy domestically in Germany.

At first glance this may seem like a bad deal for Greece, but they in fact get to stay in the Euro, and will have a fighting chance at recovering from this over the course of the next 3 years. Yet, even though this is heavily in the middle of where the EU parliament wanted them to be, it’s unclear if Germany will ultimately accept it. Some form of debt relief is required, something Germany continues to strictly oppose.

Ultimately, there’s another factor at play here. Even if Tsipras gets his deal, as written, he still has to fight the battle back home of accepting these terms. Most of these reforms are what the Greek people already rejected.

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Shocking ‘No’ Heard from Greeks – Eurozone Skeptics Roil

After a heated debate leading up to the shocking referendum in Greece today, the vote clearly came to the side of the ‘Oxi’ (No) voters this evening. With a full 61% of the voters voting against the bailout terms, Greece is now on the brink of leaving the 19-member EU. Whether forced out by debt they can not possibly pay, with an inevitable default, or forced out by their own will against attempts to keep them in the Eurozone by the Trioka, Greece is now playing with fire and setting the stage for something few thought was possible only a few short weeks ago.

‘Europe is dying from the inside’ was heard from opposition on the far left and right across all of Europe today, as anti-EU leaders such as Nigel Farage and Geert Wilders took to social media and interviews describing the future Europe. These parties, such as the UK independent party, have been massively on the rise in recent years across all of Europe as countries battle with unsustainable immigration, poor economic growth, strained social programs and several crises.

What’s Next for the European Union

Anti-EU parties around Europe celebrated the announcement of the Greek referendum results, hoping it will hasten in similar votes in other countries. Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to hold a similar referendum in the UK before the start of 2017. Opposition leaders such as Nigel Farage of the UK Independent party see this has the perfect opportunity for the UK to follow suit, allowing them to finally control their own immigration and monetary policies.

Opposition parties around Europe lauded the decision of the Greeks to control their own destiny, hoping that countries with their own strong economies, like the UK, Netherlands and Finland will soon follow suit.  These plans will take time, they say, but should be easier for the countries not presently using the Euro like the UK.

Farewell to the Euro?

While the headlines tomorrow will focus namely on the Greek default, opposition parties are calling today the first day in the end of the Euro as a unified currency across the continent. These parties have gained significant support in recent elections all across Europe, garnering 25% of the European Parliament seats in the latest elections.  The far right leader in France, Marie Le Pen, called this a victory over the EU oligarchs, which have been blamed for years for their pillaging of 500 million citizens across Europe. They blame them for allowing immigration to tear at the foundations of Europe, undermining their culture and destroying the benefits of taxpayers.

Ultimately, if Greece does drop out of the $11 trillion + annual Eurozone, as many British banks now bet will occur, this will be the perfect setting for the UK’s referendum next year in which voters will be put to the same question of EU membership. Although polls today still show a small majority in support of continued membership, years of erosion of social programs and the tax base in the UK via immigration is creating increased incentives to defect. If Greece does leave, this will set a legal precedent for the action that did not exist before.

One thing that’s for sure, if Greece leaves, this will not be the end of the conflict. Unless the EU pushes to control and curb or even stop immigration, a source of great strife between the healthier and weaker economies, Greece likely will not be the last.

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US Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Gay Marriage Nationwide

In a shocking turn of events, at least for anti-gay marriage proponents, the US Supreme Court today ruled that denying marriage to certain classes of citizens is a denial of equitable treatment laws and the US Constitution. In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that marriage laws must treat all parties equitably, though there are many other forms of marriage states can still legally deny, for now. Gay marriage legalization has removed the ban still law in 14 US states.

Gay couples rushed to get married in various states with a previous ban, such as Texas, Ohio, Michigan and Georgia. US President Obama called the ruling “a victory for America” saying that increased equality is a benefit for the nation.  However, many anti-gay marriage advocates, such as the Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, called it a tyrannical imposition of the federal government on the rights of states.

The Controversy’s History in America

States have historically been the ones that have set marriage policies and rules. This has allowed states to block marriages that they deem “unfit” for the last several centuries. Not only did this include gay marriage, but also marriages of siblings and those under the age of 18. However, the Supreme Court ruling turned this on its head, at least partially. In the ruling the majority judgment stated gay couples could not be discriminated against by state laws, as there was no basis for the discrimination under various equal protection federal laws, and the US Constitution.

Historically, states have been the ones to dictate marriage laws, and this in fact will not be changing by this ruling. States still have the right to discriminate certain parties, just not those based upon sexual orientation, at least for now. The minority opinion in this ruling did state that this could open the door for challenges for other prohibitions of marriage in states (such as siblings or first cousins), but so far, this has not been taken up in court as of yet.

At the Scene of the Ruling Today

Loud cheers were heard immediately following the ruling with many people breaking into a chant of “USA! USA!” upon hearing the news.  There were very few anti-gay activists at the US Supreme Court this morning, being easily overwhelmed by thousands of gay rights supporters. Within minutes of the ruling couples were lining up at courthouses across most states that previously had a ban, such as Georgia and Texas.  One Ohio resident at the courthouse said he had hoped soon the idea of gay marriage would be a thing of the past, and instead people would just think of this as “marriage” and equal for all. He had been dealing with the fallout of his partner who died some years ago, and he couldn’t get survivor benefits from his pension as they were not legally married.

The first US state to legalize same sex marriage was Massachusetts in 2004.  After a decade of legal turmoil and states successfully banning it in their  state Constitutions (which would be difficult to remove in the future), 2015 marks the end of that struggle for those supporters of marriage equality. Although it will be a challenge to drag people into the future, many same-sex marriage advocates say the move in that direction is now inevitable.

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Vice President Joe Biden’s Son, Beau Biden Dies after Battle with Cancer

Vice President Joe Biden announced that his oldest son, Beau Biden, passed away on Saturday after a long battle with cancer. Beau Biden, who was the former attorney general of the state of Delaware, was only 46 years old. During his diagonsis of brain cancer, he had previously announced he would run for governor in the state of Delaware next year. Beau Biden was a major in the National Guard for the state of Delaware having served there for a number of years. His diagnosis began in 2010 when he suffered a stroke, which was followed by a surgery 3 years later due to a brain lesion.

President Obama in an address mentioned the courage and integrity of Beau Biden, noting that he “took after his dad” following in his footsteps in his legal education and political career. In 1972, a car accident resulted in the death of Joe Biden’s first wife and infant daughter. He was newly elected to the U.S. Senate at the time, but wound up being sworn in at the hospital where his wife and young daughter were being treated. After this, Joe Biden notably made it a point to regularly drive home to Delaware to spend as much time with his children as possible.

President Obama Honors Beau Biden

President Barack Obama delivered the eulogy at the funeral for Beau Biden, having passed away a week before. Obama praised Beau’s service to his country, comparing his “big heart” to that of his father, the Vice President. When he concluded his eulogy, the President stepped down from the podium at the St. Anthony Padua Church and embraced Joe Biden, kissing him on the cheek. The President’s comments broke with his usual unemotional appeals, showing his love and care for both the Vice President and his son.

Obama noted that the integrity of Beau Biden was shown strongest in his refusal to run for the U.S. Senate, because he felt the need to help the people of Delaware. In recent years Beau had made a name for himself in the state helping to protect children who were victims of abuse.

Vice President Joe Biden did not speak during the funeral, but his daughter Ashley and son Hunter eulogized their brother during the ceremony. The arrival of his eldest son’s cortege was led by a pipe band with the Vice president following behind in dark glasses and the rest of the family looking bereft as they followed the hearse towards the cathedral.  Political allies to Joe Biden and those from the other party attended, with majority leader of the Senate Mitch McConnell attending as well as Minority Leader of the House Nancy Pelosi.

The funeral on Saturday closely followed two days of mourning for Beau Biden, which had showcased the unfortunate deep emotional anguish of the Vice President. The American flag over the White House had been lowered to half staff for the funeral on Saturday as well to honor Joe Biden’s son. Over 1000 people were at the Cathedral today to mourn for Beau Biden, and many politicians were there including Bill and Hillary Clinton.

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6 Simple Lifestyle Changes that Will Transform Your 2015

If you’re like most people with a roof over your head, a meal in your stomach and a car in your driveway, you know first hand that living life can get pretty expensive. As such, simple changes to our lifestyle can make a big difference in our pockets. However, not only can they help you with keeping more money in your pocket every month, but also enable you to shed unwanted pounds and live a healthier life.  These are two goals that nearly all of us can get behind.

6 Simple Ways to Improve Your Lifestyle this Year

1.  Buy Bulk or Grow Your Own Food – Yeah, growing your own food is actually a very economical and cost saving option for many people. If you have a little bit of land in your yard, roughly 1/8th an acre, you can grow a lot of vegetable and fruit needs. In addition, you will also be eating a lot healthier if you need to eat things you grow yourself.Another option for city dwellers is to buy produce in bulk, and avoid buying other foods to force yourself to eat healthy at home. If you have a lot of produce that will expire soon, and no other options for food, you can come up with new and creative ways to make foods. For the non-kitchen inclined there are actually apps out there where you plug in ingredients that you have in your refrigerator and they spit out recipe ideas.

2.  Get Rid of the Car – On average, Americans will spend over $8800 a year just to drive and maintain a sedan which travels roughly 15,000 miles. There are many public transit options in many areas people are not aware, and bike riding is all but accessible to the majority of drivers in the US, even for longer distances. Bike riding, with a good bike, is possible for distances of at least 10 miles each way, without requiring a person to be in tip top shape. Not only do you exercise more, you help save the environment, and save a ton of money each year.

3.  Tailor Your Own Clothes – Sure, this may seem basic, but many people don’t know how to sew very well. If clothes rip, or break, they simply toss them. Unfortunately this is a waste, as sewing them closed or fixing them takes only a few minutes, but saves tons of money ($30-100 to replace the item).

4.  Buy Used When You Can – For the already initiated frugal individuals out there, they’re used to buying things second hand. You can always find things second hand for cheaper than new, and often in the exact same condition. There’s a saying, the moment you drive a new car off the lot, the car loses 15% of its value at a minimum. But is the “used” car really different than the new one that point?

5.  Embrace the Frugality – As we’re often told, “the more you have the better you are”, many people find it difficult to not have “stuff” around them and be able to buy even more stuff. As Amanda Folson, a blogger who writes about how to stay frugal but live like you’re not, there are ways to keep your lifestyle high, have a lot of nice things, but pay pennies for them.

6.  Make the Most Out of Space You Have – Before trying to get an even bigger house or apartment, are you sure that you need it? Sure, the “American Dream” may be to have a huge mansion and barely enough furniture in it to live on, but this is just extra work for you, extra money spent, and more stuff to go wrong.  Think about if you need more space, only once you fill up what you have with essentials.


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Why the World’s Move to “Westernized” Foods is Killing Us

The developing world is rapidly changing from an agrarian society into one of full urbanization. Half of the world’s population now lives in cities with this figure expected to rise into the 70% range by the 2050s. Inevitably, this “progression” into urban areas also comes with it reduced physical activity and more demands on a person’s time. This results in the consumption of more speedy foods, prepackaged foods, and not surprisingly a more “Western” diet.

Dr. David Tilman, a professor in Ecology at the University of Minnesota, noted that as incomes rise, so do the consumption of calories and meat. These are typically more expensive ingredients, things that are high in sugar and meat or fish. As such, these desirable foods are eaten more once a person has more income to expend on food. As this rises, in a contradictory manner, a person becomes increasing malnourished. In addition to these problems, access to processed foods also increases. Diets deficient in natural fruits and vegetables have significant negative impacts on health.

What Is the Actual Diet of Westerners?

There’s no one answer to this, as people vary, but by far the differences between Western and Eastern diets is the consumption of refined sugars, highly saturated fats, protein from meat, and a reduced intake of vegetables and natural fibers like in fruits. Colloquially, this ‘Western’ diet is know as the “meat-sweet” diet, coined after its two primary constituents. In emerging economies, many of these foods are rare, and people have the time to cook, or live in a more rural area where the only foods available are vegetables and fruits which are locally grown.

The Health Consequences

Increasing your risk of infections – Ian Myles from the US National Allergy and Infectious Diseases office notes that eating foods high in sugar and fat, particularly processed foods, through the immune system for a tailspin. Palmitic Acid in particular is confused by our immune system as the bacteria E. Coli, which can cause an immune response. This lowers our immune system’s ability to cope with diseases, and increases our risk of falling ill.

Changing Your Gut Bacteria Flora – The bacteria in your stomach and intestines is of critical importance in everything from your mental health, to your metabolism. Every person has about 1 kilogram of bacteria in their bodies. The ones in your stomach and intestines are highly sensitive to the foods you eat. Eating the wrong things can actually kill “good” bacteria and allow the “metabolism slowing” kind to flourish in their place. It’s very difficult to fix this once the bacteria have been completely removed, which makes good diet practices that much more important.

Obesity and Diabetes Risks  – As of 2014, over 600 million adults are obese worldwide, and 2 billion are now overweight. This is a complete transformation from just a few decades ago when malnutrition and lack of access to food was far more commonplace. A multitude of diseases are associated with obesity, including type 2 diabetes, inflammation of joints, arthritis, heart disease, and cancer. Heart disease is now the number one killer in America, even surpassing smoking related illnesses for the last decade.

Many of these issues can be resolved through proper dieting and more due care being paid to what foods we eat each day. In addition, proven treatments like the HCG plus drops protocol, have shown themselves to be a great benefit for users looking to lose weight and stay healthy.  HCG has been demonstrated in numerous studies to boost metabolism and decrease appetite, which are two of the key causes of weight gain.  Yet, ultimately, this diet also employs a total transformation of the person’s eating habits, and what foods they are permitted to eat. Fruits and vegetables are a critical part of the diet, and all foods are converted to more natural ingredients.

There’s no quick fix to weight gain, and no quick fix to eating healthy foods. Both things are critical to get under control, even if a person chooses a proven aid to help them achieve their weight loss goals. Ultimately, the changes that are occurring with the Westernization of the world will result in obesity and poor health unless we select natural fruits and vegetables as the major stables of our diet again.


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EU Denies Calls to Send Peacekeeping Forces to Eastern Ukraine

EU leaders have told Ukraine officials today that although they are concerned about continue breaches of the ceasefire on the Eastern Ukrainian border, they will not send peacekeeping troops into the region. European Council President Donald Tusk indicated that only civilian representatives would enter the region, and no troops would be deployed. In recent days, pro-Russian rebels have continually bombarded the key port city of Mariupol, to the East of the rebel controlled region.

Ukrainian President Poroshenko said during the meeting that they needed peacekeepers to monitor the frontlines and the rebel controlled border with Russia. Musk did emphasize that EU sanctions against Russia would remain in place, until the ceasefire conditions were fully realized and remained in place for an extended period. Given Russia’s stalwart resolve that they are not supplying the rebels and Russian troops there are “volunteers” this seems unlikely to occur in the near term.

Continued Fighting Impacts Ukraine’s EU ambitions

On Sunday, OSCE observers noted what they called the most intense shelling of the town of Shyrokyne since the fighting began there back in mid-February of this year. Heavy weapons including tanks were spotted in rebel-held areas near there, they said. As the EU leaders met with Poroshenko in Kiev, they could hear the shelling occurring just a few short miles away. Tanks were visible when looking out over the frontline near the region, and shells for armored batteries were noted.

The economic toll of this war weighs heavily upon the greater ambitions of Ukraine and the EU. There’s simply no way for the two to become closer in trade while this continual fighting continues. The EU visit marks a period where the leaders of the Union want to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people, to help resolve what the West has seen as undue aggression from the East for the last year. The rebels will probably just view this as another collaboration with who they view as “Western” enemies.

Calls for Further Reform

This is the first summit that occurred since since the EU-Ukraine agreement was signed last June.  The EU is still anxious to see the Ukraine take steps to reign in debt, inflation and corruption which was rampant prior to the next government’s takeover. Although it will be difficult to control spending in a time of protracted war.  The EU agreed to delay the implementation of this association agreement until next year, after Russia complained and called the agreement ‘suspicious’. Russia believed this would merely allow cheap goods to flood the Russian market from the EU.

Mr. Juncker, the President of the EU Commission, noted that the living conditions faced by Ukrainians were ‘very difficult’ and pledged during the summit to do more to help. He pledged increased financial support to help them along with these painful reforms, which are required by the association agreement. He noted that it was clear Ukrainians wanted ‘to live in a corruption-free country’.  One of the major areas in desperate need of change is the heavily subsidized and extremely expensive energy sector. Huge energy inefficiencies, lack of trade with Russia after the conflict, and poor infrastructure have been a major drain on national resources.

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