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2/28/09

The Real Truth: Euthanasia USA - Die with Dignity starting March 5, 2009

For the complete report from the Real Truth click on this link

Euthanasia USA - Die with Dignity starting March 5, 2009

On March 5, 2009, Washington State’s Death with Dignity Act will go into effect, allowing competent adults, expected to die within six months, to request a lethal dose of medication from a licensed pharmacist or physician. However, the patient must administer the drugs themselves. The “law provides safeguards for patients and physicians. For example, patients would need a medical opinion from two doctors verifying that they have less than six months to live. Physicians who prescribe the medicine and follow the rules would be protected from legal prosecution for promoting or participating in a suicide.”

Washington is the second state to enact a “Death with Dignity” law. Oregon has had a similar act in effect since 1997, under which 341 people have died.

EU-Summit: EU Eastern Bloc Countries Victims of Over-borrowing in Foreign Currencies and Large Current Account Deficits

EU-Digest

EU Eastern Bloc Countries Victims of Over-borrowing in Foreign Currencies and Large Current Account Deficits

EU leaders at Sundays informal summit meeting are not expected to take concrete decisions. The next official summit, on March 19-20, is likely to take more binding decisions.At this summit Western European governments are expected to express alarm that, apart from the strains the world financial emergency is imposing on the eurozone's unity, contagion threatens to spread into their banking systems and economies from the crisis-ridden EU Eastern Bloc Nations. This Sunday's EU summit will therefore certainly address the issue of financial stability in the non-eurozone, new member states.

Times Online: Eastern European banks given €24.5bn aid - by David Charter

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Eastern European banks given €24.5bn aid - by David Charter

A €24.5 billion (£21.8 billion) bailout of Eastern European banks was announced yesterday as efforts were stepped up to prevent the economic downturn causing a damaging East-West split on the Continent. The funds will come from the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the World Bank and the European Investment Bank (EIB). The EBRD, set up to help former Iron Curtain countries to make the transition from communist rule, will be providing up to €6 billion for the financial sector in 2009-10. The EIB will commit €11 billion and the World Bank €7.5 billion.

The move came as European leaders prepared for a summit tomorrow called by the Czech Republic, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.

2/27/09

BBC NEWS: Trim Euro MP expenses - "and control lobbyists influence"

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Trim Euro MP expenses - "and control lobbyists influence"

Bankers may currently occupy the prime slot as the public's hate figures, but revelations that EU parliament MEPs could add euro 1.2 m to their family income over a five-year term suggest that we are strong challengers for the role. It doesn't have to be like this. An MEP's salaries budget (euro 150,000 annually) can be used entirely to pay the salaries of staff. The office budget (euro 40,000) can be used entirely to pay the expenses of running an office.

With no executive body to insist upon a line to be followed, and with the freedom to forge cross-party alliances, individual MEPs can have a great deal more legislative influence than their counterparts at Westminster. Their actions can change the law of the land in 27 countries, not just one, and the lobbyists know this very well indeed.

The Triton - Alternative energy offers alternative to stock market


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Alternative energy offers alternative to stock market

Wind farming is experiencing explosive growth in the United States as state and federal mandates drive heavy demand for renewable energy sources. The Department of Energy reports that 20 percent of America’s electricity can come from wind. Developing wind power is an investment in rural America. Having said that, the next question is how can investors get involved in wind energy? Companies that manufacture and install windmills need land for windmill operation. These companies are typically not in the real estate business, so they go to companies that specialize in purchasing or leasing tracks of land. In rural areas, many different farm land owners may have to be put together to cover an area to develop a windmill farm. I am not going to get into the details of research and negotiations needed to close these deals. Needless to say, the windmill companies are not equipped to handle this process of setting up a place to put a windmill farm.

The investor on this kind of program can get upward of an 18 percent return per year. Similar to a short-term note this is typically a two-year program where you get interest payments and then your principal is returned at the end of the term.

Flanders Investment and Trade: Belgium world’s most globalized country

For the complete report from the Flanders Investment & Trade publication click on this link

Belgium world’s most globalized country

According to the KOF Index 2009, Belgium is the world’s most globalized country. Belgium ended up with a score of 91.02 and shares its top place with Ireland, ahead of the Netherlands and Switzerland.

The KOF Index of Globalization is calculated by the Swiss federal technical institute EPFZ. The index measures the economic, social and political dimensions of globalization. It can be used to compare the changing extent of globalization across a large number of countries and over more than 30 years.

A EURO BOND TO SUPPLANT US TREASURIES

EU-Digest

A EURO BOND TO SUPPLANT US TREASURIES

The chairman of the eurozone finance ministers, Jean-Claude Junker, has proposed that a common euro bond, backed by the cumulative economies of EU member nations, should be issued to attract foreign investors and provide inexpensive borrowing for smaller nations. As part of the plan, bonds would be issued to cover the first 40 percent of the overall eurozone government debt. “This would be senior debt, guaranteed by the whole euro area. Anything above the 40 percent would be junior debt that would be issued by individual governments,” according to Reuters. “If agreed on, common eurozone bonds would in a matter of a few years create a highly liquid bond market of some 4 trillion euros which could successfully compete with a similar size U.S. treasuries market for large investors like China” . So far, the movement has met resistance from Germany, which is afraid that its borrowing capacity would be burdened—weighed down by the other weaker European economies. One proposal currently being floated to bring the Germans on board, says Reuters, is to tilt the decision making on bond issuance “towards countries with the lowest spread on their debt”—a move that would be akin to “effectively putting Berlin in control” of how much gets borrowed and by whom.

The creation of a common European bond market would be a huge step forward for European integration but also have ramifications that reach far beyond Europe. The biggest casualty could be America.

America is currently home to the biggest debt market in the world. America borrows more than a billion dollars per day to cover government spending alone. America borrows further billions each day to cover the cost of imports that exceed its exports. This may be a big part of the scenario why Hillary Clinton chose China for her very first overseas trip as secretary of state. According to Agence France-Presse, while in Beijing on Sunday, “Clinton urged China … to keep buying U.S. debt.”

2/26/09

Sun2Surf: Women's Rights - Raped Saudi Arabian woman faces 100 lashes and a year in prison - by Sonia Randhwa

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Women's Rights - Raped Saudi Arabian woman faces 100 lashes and a year in prison - by Sonia Randhwa

In November last year, a 13-year-old Somalian girl was stoned to death, after her father reported that she had been gang-raped. In Saudi Arabia, a woman who was gang-raped and became pregnant after her ordeal faces 100 lashes and a year in prison. The problem is that these women, or girls, are viewed as having given their consent to the rape by being in a situation where men could force themselves upon them. Rape becomes adultery – though neither woman was married – and the women punished for crimes committed against them.

Note EU-Digest: Amazing that this seems to be going on with little or no protest from anyone.

Telegraph: European Commission proposes bodies to oversee banking risk and financial regulators - by Philip Aldrick


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European Commission proposes bodies to oversee banking risk and financial regulators - by Philip Aldrick

EU policymakers are proposing that two new centralized bodies be created to oversee banking risk and financial stability across the continent. The recommendation is made in a report to the European Commission compiled by a group headed by former Bank of France Governor, Jacques de Larosiere, but stops short of calling for a sole European regulator. Mr de Larosiere suggests a new European Systemic Risk Council that would pool and analyse all information for financial stability across the continent. It would be chaired by the European Central Bank and have representation from banking, insurance and securities supervisors.

EurActiv.com - Norway voices bold ambitions for offshore wind | EU - European Information on Energy Supply


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Norway voices bold ambitions for offshore wind | EU - European Information on Energy Supply

As the EU embarks on ambitious plans to boost its use of renewable energies, the oil-rich Nordic country is seeking to diversify its offering and swamp EU consumers with green electricity produced by large-scale offshore wind farms.Speaking in January during a Brussels round table on renewable energy, Elisabeth Walaas, Norway's deputy foreign minister, said offshore wind had "huge potential for Norway". According to wind mapping studies, the Nordic state ranks second only to Portugal in terms of offshore wind potential. "Norway's position is unique," Walaas says. The country already covers 60% of its overall needs with renewable energy, "which is three times as much as the EU's 2020 target".

MSN Money: The Insurance Industry - The next big financial meltdown? - by Michael Brush

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The Insurance Industry - The next big financial meltdown? - by Michael Brush

The life insurance companies that millions of Americans entrust to help protect their families or pay the bills in their golden years are caught in a downward spiral eerily similar to the one that has brought down banks and brokers. Like Bear Stearns and Lehman Bros. Life insurers Hartford Financial Services, Principal Financial Group, Lincoln National and many others all have significant exposure to mortgage-backed securities and other risky debt instruments. They're reporting huge losses that -- if they continued -- could trigger a meltdown. That could wipe out shareholders, who already have suffered declines of 20% to 40% in the past week alone. Customers with annuities or insurance policies might have to turn to state insurance backstop funds and settle for only a portion of the money they were expecting.

Health, auto and property insurers are better off. But based on how far life insurance stocks have fallen, investors are worried many won't survive at all.We're telling people to be more careful, particularly if you are going into longer-range products that involve significant upfront funding like annuities," says Bob Hunter, the director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America. "You want to make sure that the company is actually around when you want to get the money out. I'd say there's a good likelihood some of them will go under."

2/25/09

Worldnet Daily: US Politics - Republicans: Repent! - by Lliana Mercer

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US Politics - Republicans: Repent! - by Lliana Mercer

Bush handed Obama "almost $11 trillion in Treasury debt, and deficits of more than $1 trillion." "W" also looted at least $1 trillion from the insolvent Social Security trust fund. His contribution to the mortgage meltdown cannot be overstated. Only a few months back, Republicans now baying about Obama's spending voted for Bush's $750 billion bank bailout and, earlier last year, for his "Stim." As did they go along with the trillions Bush poured into wars and other welfare. Nor will the incessant squealing about the country's slouch toward European-style socialism do. It only masks the real problem. Their highly socialized societies notwithstanding, Europeans have not been nearly as fiscally reckless as Americans. What does it say about the U.S. when the prime minister of "statist" France, François Fillon, "rejects demands that the French government seek to stimulate consumer spending … to lift France out of its economic slump"? In a speech in Lyon, Fillon fumed that "it would be irresponsible to choose another policy, which would increase our country's indebtedness."

The defining characteristic of the Unites States is debt – public and private. America is a debtor nation. Socialism is secondary to state squandering – and a consequence of it. Said Saint Augustine: "The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works." The US Republican Party has done the devil's work. To embark on the good, it must come clean about the bad.

EU-Digest: Dutch PM Balkenende and Deputy Justice Minister Nebahat Albayrak visit victims Turkish Airline crash


Dutch PM Balkenende and Deputy Justice Minister Nebahat Albayrak visit victims Turkish Airline crash victims

PM Balkenende and Dutch Deputy Justice Minister Nebahat Albayrak - who has joint Dutch/Turkish nationality - visited the hospital were victims were being treated late Wednesday evening. Residents who rushed to the crash site to offer help before the ambulances arrived, said that among the survivors were Dutch, Turkish and US nationals. Queen Beatrix expressed her "great empathy" with the passengers and victims' families, according to the Royal Information Service, while Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende was being kept up to date with details of the crash. Balkenende said his thoughts were with the families of the passengers. He added he spoke by phone with Turkish primes minister Tayyip Erdogan and gave him his condolences. Among the 80 injured, six were in a critical condition and may not survive, the head of the emergency team told reporters. The condition of a further 25 passengers was described as "serious", 24 passengers sustained light injuries, while the condition of 31 passengers still had to be established.

The plane was built in 2002 and its last technical inspection was in December 2008. According to the European Commission, Turkish Airlines underwent 100 ramp inspections in 2008, where "the results for safety and security have always been good." The last major air crash in the Netherlands was on October 4, 1992, when an El Al cargo Boeing 747F 4X-AXG hit several high rise buildings south Amsterdam's Bijlmer area, killing 43 people.

ABHaber: The EU-Turkey-Cyprus Triangle: "Setting the Stage" - by Hugh Pope

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The EU-Turkey-Cyprus Triangle: "Setting the Stage" - by Hugh Pope

Turkey has been converging formally with the European Union and its predecessors since it signed an association agreement in 1963, the same year the dispute between Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Turkey and Greece over Cyprus became both a cause and symptom of ups and downs in the EU-Turkey relationship. On the Mediterranean island, armed conflict has been minimal since the 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation of the northern third, and Turkey and Greece have smoothed over their differences since a 1999 rapprochement. But the 2004 entry of the Republic of Cyprus into the EU as a divided country imported this frozen conflict into the heart of Europe, and created an unbreakable triangle between the EU, Turkey and Cyprus.

IHT: EU businesses, workers call for economy stimulus

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EU businesses, workers call for economy stimulus.

European businesses and trade unions called Wednesday for more action to increase credit flow to companies and help lift Europe out of recession. European Union governments have agreed to spend some €200 billion — or 1.5 percent of the bloc's gross domestic product — to stoke growth. Companies insist that this must be "fully and rapidly implemented," while workers say it may not be enough.Two business groups — BusinessEurope representing major companies and the UEAPME group speaking for smaller employers — called on the EU to boost lending to businesses. They said some viable companies were threatened with collapse because short-term loans are now harder to get and far more expensive. It also called on the Commission to criticize EU nations that don't stick to the stimulus program or launch protectionist programs that undermine the EU's single market.

EUobserver: Sarkozy goes after US protectionism - by Elitsa Vucheva

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Sarkozy goes after US protectionism - by Elitsa Vucheva

French president Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday (24 February) called on the EU to protect its industry in the face of US protectionism, and said France and Italy would insist on this during a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels on Sunday. "There must be competition, but competition to build big European groups, not to make the totalities of our industries delocalize. France and Italy will as soon as Sunday [at an emergency EU summit] speak with one voice to ask Europe to take decisions, strong decisions," Mr Sarkozy told the press following a meeting with Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi in Rome.

The French president's comments come as the US earlier this month adopted a $787 billion (€617 billion) package to boost its economy. The bill contains "Buy American" provisions prohibiting foreign steel companies bidding for US infrastructure contracts financed by the plan. The European Commission has already raised concerns about the clause.

Alternet: Railroads: Let's Get Get Those Freight Trucks Off the Road and Put America Back on Tracks - by Philip Longman

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Railroads - Let's Get Get Those Freight Trucks Off the Road and Put America Back on Tracks - by Philip Longman

The railroad has long been reluctant to accept government investment in its infrastructure out of fear of public meddling, such as being compelled to run money-losing passenger trains. But now, like most of the industry, it has changed its mind, and it happily accepted Virginia’s offer last year to fund a small portion -- $40 million -- of the investment needed to get more freight traffic off I-81 and onto the Crescent Corridor. The railroad estimates that with an additional $2 billion in infrastructure investment, it could divert a million trucks off the road, which is currently carrying just under five million. State officials are thinking even bigger: a study sponsored by the Virginia DOT finds that a cumulative investment over ten to twelve years of less than $8 billion would divert 30 percent of the growing truck traffic on I-81 to rail. That would be far more bang for the state’s buck than the $11 billion it would take to add more lanes to the highway

MaineToday.com: Oil or wind off the Maine coast?

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Oil or wind off the Maine coast?

State geologist Robert Marvinney, director of the Maine Geological Survey, will testify today before the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, according to the state Department of Conservation. Marvinney doesn't think offshore drilling in the Georges Bank region is a good idea because it could hurt the fisheries industry. "We ought to use these areas for the best possible use, and for the Gulf of Maine, that's wind power," he said in a statement.

For more information about alternative energy resources click on this link

Turkish Plane Crashes In Amsterdam, 9 Die

Turkish Plane Crashes In Amsterdam, 9 Die

A Turkish Airlines plane with 135 people aboard slammed into a field while attempting to land at Amsterdam's main airport Wednesday, killing nine people and injuring more than 50, the area's acting mayor said. The aircraft fractured into three pieces on impact. The fuselage split in two, close to the cockpit, and the tail broke off. One engine was visible lying almost intact near the wreck in the muddy field and the other was some 200 yards (200 meters) from the plane and heavily damaged, an Associated Press photographer at the scene said. Gideon Evers, spokesman of the International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations, said the cause of the accident remained unclear. The captain of the aircraft, Hasan Tahsin, is considered very experienced and a former Turkish air force pilot.

2/24/09

Electric Power: Britain Exports - Seawind sees strong local wind market despite financial crisis in Chile - by Nathan Crooks

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Britain Exports - Seawind sees strong local wind market despite financial crisis in Chile - by Nathan Crooks

Britains renewable generation company Seawind does not expect the development of wind power in Chile to slow because of weakening global financial conditions, the head of Seawind's Chilean office Marcelo Banto told BNamericas. "On the contrary, the market here is very strong," Banto said. "A lot of other countries are having more problems than Chile and people are now seeing the country as a safe place to invest." The company in early February submitted an EIA for the US$63mn Hacienda Quijote wind farm in Canela, region IV.

Pending approval, developers would install 13 wind turbines to add 26MW of capacity to the country's central SIC grid. The project should be up and running in 2010, Banto said, adding the company has looked at turbines from three European companies.

VOA News - Insurance Giant AIG Expected To Post Biggest Ever Corporate Loss and is preparing for bankrupcy

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Insurance Giant AIG Expected To Post Biggest Ever Corporate Loss and is preparing for bankrupcy

Two government bailouts apparently have not been enough to keep one of the world's biggest insurance companies from again teetering on the brink of collapse. Reuters and CNBC television say American International Group will report a $60-billion loss next week. It would be the largest corporate loss in history. AIG is talking with government officials in an attempt to secure even more money, but media reports say the company is also preparing to file for bankruptcy if the talks break down.

Dallas News: Time for moderation in Israel

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Time for moderation in Israel

Israel faces a rare opportunity to revive Middle East peace talks with a unity government representing the major conservative, liberal and centrist points of view. Conservative Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu is tasked with forming a government, but his initial efforts to include the left-leaning Labor and centrist Kadima parties have been rebuffed.

Ynet.news.com: Europe's approach to Gaza hindering peace, Peres says - by Roni Sofer

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Europe's approach to Gaza hindering peace, Peres says - by Roni Sofer

"Unfortunately the international community, and particularly Europe, is oblivious to the reality in Gaza, which is that Hamas is a terror group that is acting mercilessly and irrationally towards its own people," President Shimon Peres said Tuesday. During a meeting with visiting European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering, Peres said "Europe and the international community, by expressing compassion for the situation in Gaza and compassion for Hamas' acts of terror, is not helping to improve the situation, but is deceiving the Palestinians – and this severely hinders peace and the bolstering of moderate elements in the region.

Note EU-Digest: "Come on Mr.Peres, wake up and smell the roses. Its time to get real and that includes Hamas and Israel."

CSM: From crisis, a more unified Europe?

For the complete report from the csmonitor.com clickon this link

Recent weeks show how tough it may be for America to unite behind an economic fix-it plan. Some governors differ with the president, while in Congress, Republicans and Democrats bicker. In Europe, though, a financial crisis pits nation against nation, East against West. The crisis threatens a decades-long drive toward unity. Or does it? It may yet happen that the economic challenge in Europe becomes so acute that, in the end, the crucible of crisis actually forces stronger financial and political bonds between countries. French President Nicolas Sarkozy serves as Exhibit A.This week, he and other West European leaders endorsed a global doubling of contributions to the International Monetary Fund. The IMF can surely use the infusion as it tries to catch tumbling economies in Eastern Europe.While exposing divisions, the financial and economic crisis in Europe also reveals how connected and interdependent all of these countries are. It points to the need for pan-European solutions, not a retreat to nationalism.

Encouragingly, such solutions are starting to be voiced. The idea of a euro-bond has been raised as an economic burden-sharing tool to support weaker countries. Austria, whose banks have the largest exposure to Eastern Europe, is pushing for a broad effort to help the East. Now, crisis is tearing Europe apart by the seams. In the long run, it could stitch it closer together.

Forbes: Google backs Europe case against Microsoft browser

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Google backs Europe case against Microsoft browser

Google Inc. wants to help European regulators prove Microsoft Corp. has stifled competition and innovation by bundling its popular Web browser with the Windows operating system. The decision to back the European Commission, announced Tuesday, isn't a surprise because Google wants to lessen the dominance of Microsoft's Internet Explorer with a competing Web browser called Chrome.

Businessweek: Euro up against dollar on US banking fears

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Euro up against dollar on US banking fears

The 16-nation euro rose Tuesday against the dollar as worries about the financial health of U.S. banks offset a small drop in German business confidence.The dollar was hurt by reports that Citigroup Inc. and insurer AIG have asked for billions more in aid from the government. The banking fears caused the Dow Jones industrials average and the Standard and Poor's 500 stock index to fall to their lowest close since 1997. Those concerns also offset news that business confidence, as measured by Germany's Ifo institute, declined slightly in February in Europe's largest economy. The institute said companies' expectations for the next six months improved slightly but their assessment of the current situation worsened.

A parallel ? - bailout of the banks in 2009 and bailout of Dutch slave owners in 1863 - by Rick Morren

EU-Digest editorial

A parallel? - bailout of the banks in 2009 and bailout of Dutch slave owners in 1863 - by Rick Morren

There is an interesting historical parallel between todays bailout of the banks by governments in the US and Europe and the bailout of Dutch slave owners in 1863 by the Netherlands Government.

When slavery was abolished in all colonies of the Dutch Kingdom on July 1, 1863 there were some 45.000 slaves. Most of them (34.000) lived in the former Dutch colony of Suriname, on the North Eastern coast of South America. Even though the Netherlands in 1848 had already decided that there should come an end to slavery, it took another 15 year before they got their act together as to the procedures which had to be put in place to make this happen. The main issue facing the Dutch Government at that time was how to re-activate the plantation based local colonial economies after their "free labor pool" would cease to exist.

Then, as is the case today, when it comes to bailouts, the Netherlands government of that time hardly considered what the economic impact of the abolishment of slavery would have on the freed slaves, but instead worried more about how to compensate the slave owners for the loss of their "free workforce" and on keeping them tied to the local economy.

Eventually the Dutch Government came up with a "bailout plan" which provided slave owners 300 "guilders" (euro 130) compensation for each slave they had lost as a result of the "emancipation process" in the hope that the slave owners would reinvest this capital back into the local economy, or by hiring former slaves to work their plantations. Unfortunately, nothing of the sort happened. Many unscrupulous plantation owners "cooked" the information on their books about the number of slaves they had and were compensated even for slaves that had died, or ran away; some sold their plantations to speculators; but most of them took their money and left the country. The formally thriving Suriname agriculture based economy could not be reactivated without the active participation of all the parties involved. History seems to tell us over and over again that economic trickle down policies, which failed in the past will also not work today.

2/23/09

Just Say No to Cheating: Germans Sexually Unpermissive during Carnival

SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

"Germans Sexually Unpermissive during Carnival

Carnival has a reputation for being little more than a giant, costume-adorned and beer-fuelled flirt fest. But most Germans, as it turns out, look down on carnival season cheating. Those over 60, though, are twice as likely to look the other way."

NewsAmerica- European Cinema: Oscars - Dickens Meets Bollywood in Slumdog Millionaire

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European Cinema: Oscars - Dickens Meets Bollywood in Slumdog Millionaire

"Slumdog Millionaire" is the underdog that did make it to the top with eight Oscars. The film about a young slum kid rising to the top of the Indian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" is as much a rags-to-riches story as it is about an India that's changing before our eyes. Director Danny Boyle had never been to India before making "Slumdog." He spoke to NAM editor Sandip Roy on the radio show New America Now long before the film became a monster hit."Slumdog" remained a hit in Europe over the weekend. Pic, which bagged seven BAFTA awards on Feb. 8, leapt up 15% in its sixth frame to gross $2.6 million at 410 for an exceptional income of $28.5 million for Pathe.

Note EU-Digest: Seven films funded by the EU's MEDIA film support program will compete in thirteen categories at this year's Academy Award ceremonies, to be held on Sunday 22 February. One of these MEDIA funded nominees, Slumdog Millionaire, will compete in the prestigious Best Film and Best Director categories. The MEDIA program will also be represented by three of the nominees for the Best Foreign Language Oscar, including Entre les Murs ("The Class", France), winner of the Palme d'Or at the 2008 Cannes film festival (IP/08/800). Last year, two films funded by MEDIA, the EU film support program, brought home Oscars. In the last three years, MEDIA funded films have won a total of eight Oscar awards. Seven films funded by the EU's MEDIA film support programme have been nominated for Oscars at this year's Academy Awards: Der Baader Meinhof Komplex (Germany, Uli Edel), Entre les murs (France, Laurent Cantet), Waltz with Bashir (Israel/France/Germany, Ari Folman), Happy Go Lucky (UK/Mike Leigh), The Duchess (UK/France/Italy, Saul Dibb), Slumdog Millionaire (UK/US, Danny Boyle) and the award-winning documentary, Man on Wire (UK/US, James Marsh)

The Independen: José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero: The Spanish presidency of the EU will focus on global solidarity

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The Spanish presidency of the EU will focus on global solidarity

The Spanish Prime Minister José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero who was speaking to a gathering of the Association of European journalists last week said: "A multipolar world is offering Europe a whole set of new chances for leadership, but we must make the most out of them. When Spain takes responsibility for the EU presidency we will turn to Africa, a continent that is progressively becoming more important. As to Russia, we must integrate it in the Euro-Atlantic space we are currently creating. And then, of course, the Middle East, and the efforts Europeans must make in order to achieve regional peace and stability, which must be built from scratch after the consolidation of the ceasefire and the re-channeling of a peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians. We are going to promote, firmly, the European Security and Defense Policy. We will try to promote the development of the revised European Security Strategy, planning our strategic targets according to the missions, capacities and partnerships. Before that, and since it is closely linked to it, we intend to elaborate a National Security Strategy, which I think will be very useful for the Government, but also for citizens to understand the challenges we face.

In a world characterized by uncertainty, after the collapse of the two great models that developed over the previous century, we will need a model and the new great commitment of both governments and societies in order to overcome this crisis. That model is Europe’s model, because Europe is, in the first place, the so-called “pax europea”. This European peace entails co-existence, rights, welfare, creativity and freedom. It is a guarantee to guide us in a multi-polar world, whose stability is based upon sustainable development and solidarity. The European peace is, and has been for 30 years, the best way for Spain to defend its principles and interests."

Note EU-Digest: Progressive thinking on the future of the EU by Mr. Zapatero. That is the way to go if the European model is to succeed. Bravo !

Globe and Mail: EU backs sweeping new financial rules - by Patrick McGroarty

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EU backs sweeping new financial rules - by Patrick McGroarty

European leaders mounted a united front against the global financial crisis Sunday, proposing sweeping new market regulations, but it remained unclear whether economic giants like the United States and China would go along. Heads of government and finance ministers from Europe's largest economies joined German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin to lay the groundwork for a common European position on economic reforms before an April 2 summit of the Group of 20 nations in London.Leaders from Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic agreed to press for sanctions on tax havens, caps for managers' bonus payments and a stronger role and increased funding for the International Monetary Fund.

“Europe will own up to its responsibility in the world,” Ms. Merkel told reporters following the talks.

NYT - Banking on the Brink - by Paul Krugman

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Banking on the Brink - by Paul Krugman

The case for nationalization rests on three observations. *First, some major banks are dangerously close to the edge — in fact, they would have failed already if investors didn’t expect the government to rescue them if necessary.*Second, banks must be rescued. The collapse of Lehman Brothers almost destroyed the world financial system, and we can’t risk letting much bigger institutions like Citigroup or Bank of America implode. *Third, while banks must be rescued, the U.S. government can’t afford, fiscally or politically, to bestow huge gifts on bank shareholders.

2/22/09

Business Journal: Principle Power plans Portugal offshore windmill project

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Principle Power plans Portugal offshore windmill project

Principle Power, which makes windmills that are erected in deep bodies of water, said it’s signed a deal with Portuguese energy utility Energias de Portugal (EDP) to install a wind power project off the coast of Portugal.

Mirror.co.uk: France: Cheapskate skiing - by Helen Beaty

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France: Cheapskate skiing - by Helen Beaty

Want to take the family on a ski holiday in Europe but worried about the cost? Helen Beatty shows you how to have a great time in the snow for a bargain price

NYT: E.U. Leaders Turn to I.M.F. Amid Financial Crisis - by Carter Dougherty

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E.U. Leaders Turn to I.M.F. Amid Financial Crisis - by Carter Dougherty

The leaders of Germany, Britain, France and other European nations called Sunday for the resources of the International Monetary Fund to double, to $500 billion, to help head off new problems in countries already hit hard by the global economic and financial crisis. Eyeing a contagion that is rapidly spreading to eastern Europe and even countries that use the euro, the leaders highlighted the crisis-prevention role of the I.M.F., an institution whose relevance to the current global economy seemed in doubt only a few years ago.

European Voice: EU takes aim at hedge funds and tax havens  - by Tim King

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EU takes aim at hedge funds and tax havens - by Tim King

The leaders of the European Union's biggest economies meeting agreed on Sunday that there must be stricter regulation of hedge funds, a crackdown on tax havens and an injection of capital for the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Their meeting in Berlin was billed as a preparation for the G20 summit of developed and developing economies to be held in London on 2 April. Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, who hosted Sunday's discussions, said the aim was to come up with a united EU position for that summit.

Merkel said that the meeting had concluded that “all market participants” need to be regulated and supervised. But she said that the details of how to regulate the hedge funds and rating agencies “have to be worked out”. She said action would be taken against “unco-operative players”, such as “tax havens and other places where untransparent business is carried out”.

2/21/09

Reuters.uk: Germany, France vow push for ambitious G20 reform

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Germany, France vow push for ambitious G20 reform

The leaders of Germany and France called on Saturday for an ambitious overhaul of world financial rules ahead of a summit where European nations hope to forge a common response to the global crisis. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will host the leaders of Europe's big economies on Sunday in Berlin and is keen for the meeting to focus on long-term financial reforms and not be hijacked by new problems, notably worries about the fragility of some euro zone and eastern European nations.

"We want to ensure that in the future there are no gaps in the world when it comes to supervising financial market products, market players and instruments," Merkel said in her weekly podcast.

Telegraph.co.uk: Karzai is US stooge says Afghan deputy president - by Ben Farmer and Dean Nelson

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Karzai is US stooge says Afghan deputy president - by Ben Farmer and Dean Nelson

In a clash which showed how fragile the Western-backed government has become, President Hamid Karzai was labelled a corrupt incompetent by his own understudy, Ahmad Zia Massoud. He responded in kind, saying Mr Massoud was part of an American conspiracy to oust him.The ferocity of the infighting reflects a collapse in support for the Afghan president - both within the Afghan coalitions who have supported him since his election in 2004, and among his backers in Britain, the United States, the European Union and NATO. During a visit to Kabul last week, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said that British financial and military support for the Afghanistan would only continue if Mr Karzai's government raised its game. Tensions erupted after Mr Massoud made a speech blaming greed and corruption in the Karzai administration for the hunger and poverty in the country. He also said that Mr Karzai's plan to delay the May election until August 20 and extend his term until then was unconstitutional.

The row lasted for ten minutes and had to be broken up by cabinet colleagues, who eventually moved the men onto the meeting's business agenda.

Popular Mechanics: Strange Architecture: Bridge Design in the Netherlands -

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Strange Architecture: Bridge Design in the Netherlands

The Dutch have a tendency to do things differently. Take their levees, which are giant storm-surge barriers specially made with synthetic textiles to keep the earth from eroding. Their bike paths are placed on equal footing as automotive roads. And their town planning, which merges private and public life by combining terraced houses with amenities like shops and sports facilities, is a far cry from the way American suburbs are planned. Then there are Netherlands' bridges. Because of prevalent rivers throughout the country and boat traffic as high as the volume of vehicles on the road, a bridge in the Netherlands needs to be able to quickly raise and lower over relatively small waterways. Your average hinged drawbridge would be too big for most Dutch waterways, and a long, steep bridge would eat up precious resources. Dutch architects answer this conundrum with the tail bridge. A tail bridge can quickly and efficiently be raised and lowered from one pylon (instead of hinges). This quickly allows water traffic to pass while only briefly stalling road traffic.

Bloomberg.com: Euro May Rise for Second Day on Eased Banking Concern in Europe - by Ye Xie and Anchalee Worrachate

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Euro May Rise for Second Day on Eased Banking Concern in Europe - by Ye Xie and Anchalee Worrachate

The euro may gain against the dollar for a second day on reduced speculation that eastern European banking losses will cause regional financial turmoil to worsen. The 16-nation currency rose yesterday from near a three- month low, and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said the euro will increase more than 6 percent to $1.35. The dollar and yen tumbled against most of their major counterparts on reduced demand for the U.S. and Japanese currencies as havens. “The euro is definitely oversold,” said Franco Marsico, Chappaqua, New York-based head of Greenbriar Forecast Inc., a currency hedge fund with $50 million under management. “A move above $1.30 will give me impetus to buy the euro more aggressively.”

Forbes: Economic Crisis Fears Overblown In Eastern Europe - by Parmy Olsen

Economic Crisis Fears Overblown In Eastern Europe - by Parmy Olsen

With the way Eastern European currencies and bank shares have dropped this week, it seems as if investors are expecting a full-blown financial crisis to hit the region and that Western European banks that had established themselves there are going to cut and run. Is such a nasty form of economic decoupling set to happen? The answer is no - "We really don't know what's going to be the peak cycle loan-loss charge," said Pedro Fonseca of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. "A lot of these foreign banks have made a lot of money in this region. They are not going to exit these markets, which hold a lot more promise than at home," he added. "What you will see is more careful lending." BNP Paribas has started trimming back operations in Ukraine and refocusing its efforts on collecting loans. (See "BNP Stung By Ukraine.")

Daily Times - NATO considers British proposal permanent force for Eastern Europe

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NATO considers British proposal permanent force for Eastern Europe

NATO is examining whether to set up a permanent military force in Eastern Europe to encourage regional allies to send combat troops to Afghanistan, the alliance’s top civilian official said on Friday. The idea, proposed by Britain to ease concerns in Eastern Europe about Russian belligerence since its war with Georgia, would see 3,000 troops drawn from the NATO Response Force (NRF), a contingent for use in the world’s hot spots. Britain’s idea was floated just as the United States announced that it would send some 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan, where NATO was struggling to cope with a Taliban-led insurgency.

Note EU-Digest: Most European countries have shown very little enthusiasm for NATO troop expansion in Afghanistan mainly because there are no solid long term plans or an exit strategy and insecurity as a result of a corrupt central government there.

2/20/09

Todays Zaman: ECJ drops visa requirement for Turks

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ECJ drops visa requirement for Turks

A top European court yesterday cleared the way for Turkish business people providing services in European Union member states to enter the EU without having to obtain visas first, a decision that experts say is a step toward removing many other restrictions EU countries currently impose on Turkish nationals.Murat Saraylı, chairman of the Young Businessmen's Association of Turkey (TÜGİAD) and president of Young Entrepreneurs for Europe (YES), said the ruling meant that the ECJ agreed that the restrictions imposed on Turkish entrepreneurs by EU countries up until now have been unfair and infringe upon the rights given by the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement. "There is no need to negotiate with the EU for easing up the visa application process," he said, "Because it is our natural right to enter EU territory to provide services ."

The implications of the verdict are not known yet, but some say it will mean a free pass for up to 50 million Turks to enter EU countries. "This decision paves the way for 48 million Turkish people who provide services; our employers, academics, journalists and everyone working in the services sector, ranging from barbers to belly dancers," said Professor Harun Gümrükçü of Akdeniz University at a press conference.

FT.com - Narrow-minded leadership hurts Europe - by Wolfgang Munchau

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Narrow-minded leadership hurts Europe - by Wolfgang Munchau

European leaders have woefully underestimated the crisis and possibly still do. The European economy is now heading towards a depression, with German gross domestic product falling at an annualised rate of almost 9 per cent. The early misjudgment of the crisis resulted in stimulus packages with two defects. They were initially too small but, more importantly, they were not co-ordinated. One important aspect of the economic meltdown is the presence of strong cross-country spillovers, both globally and inside the EU. The policy response failed to take account of these spillovers.

When European leaders meet for their anti-protectionism summit on March 1, they will produce warm words to reaffirm their commitment to the single market. I suspect they will continue to misdiagnose the crisis. Protectionism is not the root of the problem. The protectionism we are experiencing now is caused by co-ordination failure. It is neither sudden, nor surprising.

Bloomberg.com: U.K. Presses Europe for More Afghan Troops After Obama’s Surge - Kitty Donaldson and Mark Deen

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U.K. Presses Europe for More Afghan Troops After Obama’s Surge- Kitty Donaldson and Mark Deen

Defense Secretary John Hutton rebuffed suggestions that the U.K. needs to bolster its presence in Afghanistan, calling on European allies to do more after President Barack Obama sent another 17,000 U.S. troops there. After years of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, the British military is already overstretched and unable to add troops immediately, officers say. “The ball is absolutely in Europe’s court now, and we need to pick it up if we are going to be seen to be responsible, effective allies of the U.S. who are doing all the heavy lifting in Afghanistan,” Hutton said. The U.K. already has almost 8,300 troops in the theatre, the second-biggest contingent after the U.S. The U.S. currently has about 37,000 troops in Afghanistan.

Note EU-Digest:The EU (Europe) is right in being hesitant on Afghanistan. NATO has no serious long term plan as to "how to proceed on Afghanistan". There is a corrupt government there and the financial priorities of our own continent presently outweigh any further expenditures on nebulous military activities.

2/19/09

SportingNews.com: David Beckham's failed American adventure - by Dave Larzelere

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David Beckham's failed American adventure - by Dave Larzelere

David Beckham’s relatively short stint in the MLS appears to be over, as AC Milan director Umberto Gandini plans to fly to Los Angeles tomorrow with a team of lawyers aimed at securing Beckham’s services for at least the next year. If that deal goes through, which seems likely given Beckham’s resolve to stay in Milan, it’s hard to imagine that we’ll ever see Becks playing soccer here in the States again, unless it’s on tour with Milan or some other high-profile European club.

And so ends Beckham’s big Hollywood gambit. By all accounts, it has been an enormous bust, for Beckham, for the Galaxy, and for MLS.

Czech president shakes up "sleepy and docile" parliamentarians in speech to EU parliament plenary

Czech President Vacláv Klaus


EU-digest report

Czech president shakes up "sleepy and docile" parliamentarians in speech to EU parliament plenary

While the Czech Lower House of parliament approved the EU Lisbon treaty, their president Vacláv Klaus gave a stinging speech in the EU parliament against the EU's rigid structure and operational procedures, which he said lack flexibility and the inclusion of the European population in its decision making. Mr. Vacláv Klaus, who is known for saying what he thinks, like calling global warming and climate change a myth, kept true to his reputation and stirred-up the "usually sleepy and docile" EU parliamentarians into a frenzy, when he told them that "between citizens and EU representatives there is a great distance - not only geographically". He also spoke of the "bureaucratization of the decision-making process" in the EU, likening the trend to the totalitarian communism that stifled Czech democracy for more than four decades.

Many MEPs walked out of the chamber during Mr Klaus's speech, which was animated by both applause and boos. To some the walkout of parliamentarians during his speech seemed to prove what Mr.Klaus was saying. "Here, there is only one alternative and those who dare think about different options are labeled enemies of European integration."

theParliament.com: Czech lower chamber approves EU reform treaty

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Czech lower chamber approves EU reform treaty

The Czech Republic, which currently holds the EU presidency, moved a step closer to ratifying the document on Wednesday when MPs in the second chamber voted 125 to 61 in favour of adopting it. However, the treaty, which is aimed at streamlining the functioning of the EU 27-nation bloc, must also be approved by the upper house of parliament, where a vote is expected in April.

2/18/09

Businessweek: Soccer Clubs Europe: Big Money, Growing Woes - by Mark Scott

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Soccer Clubs Europe: Big Money, Growing Woes - by Mark Scott

American billionaires George Gillett and Tom Hicks were in the vanguard of sports investing when they shelled out $310 million in 2007 to buy Liverpool FC, one of England's biggest and richest soccer clubs. Money was easy, so they took on $500 million in debt to build a big new stadium and cover the team's operating costs. The payout looked promising.Then the global credit crunch hit and the math started to fall apart. The stadium was postponed and the Americans finagled a six-month extension on their loan. But the $500 million comes due in July 2009, and refinancing in the current climate seems implausible. Instead, Gillett and Hicks hope to sell the club for as much as $700 million—still not a bad return on investment—to Middle Eastern buyers.

IHT: Army rethinking plan to reduce US troops in Europe

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Army rethinking plan to reduce US troops in Europe

The U.S. Army is reconsidering again its plan for drawing down troops in Europe and thinking of leaving more troops there than planned. Gen. Carter Ham, the Army commander in Europe, said Thursday that because U.S. troops in Europe have been used so much in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they do not get to participate in exercises with European allies as much as he would like. Currently 42,000 American soldiers are in Europe, but a plan already approved by the military would reduce that number to 32,000 within five years.

Note EU-Digest: There is no valid reason for US troops to continue to be stationed in the EU or the rest of Europe. If anyone can explain why they need to be they are welcome to say so.

Denver Business Journal: Vestas : Stimulus package a ‘shot in the arm’ for alternative-energy industry, Colorado execs say - by Cathy Procter

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Vestas: Stimulus package a ‘shot in the arm’ for alternative-energy industry, Colorado execs say - by Cathy Procter

“The stimulus package is a shot in the arm,” said Roby Roberts, the senior vice president of external affairs for Vestas, the Danish wind turbine manufacturer that is planning to make Colorado its major manufacturing center in the United States. Vestas last year opened a manufacturing plant in Windsor, north of Denver, to build the giant blades that turn in the wind, generating electricity. The company also has announced plans for two more manufacturing plants in Brighton and Pueblo for other pieces of its wind turbines. And the company’s suppliers are following Vestas to Colorado. A three-year extension in tax credits for producing wind energy, until 2012, is the longest extension the industry has ever had in the United States. The timeline will stabilize the market and open it up to buyers who hadn’t been interested in wind energy before, Roberts said. The package also has tax credits for U.S.-based manufacturing of the equipment associated with renewable energy, Robert said.

Bloomberg.com: ECB’s Mersch Opposed to (US) Zero Interest-Rate Policy - by Angus Whitley

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ECB’s Mersch Opposed to (US) Zero Interest-Rate Policy - by Angus Whitley

European Central Bank council member Yves Mersch said he’s against following the example of the U.S. Federal Reserve and lowering interest rates to zero. “I do not consider that we are in the same position as other countries,” Mersch told Bloomberg News in Kuala Lumpur, where he was attending a meeting of central bankers. “We are an independent central bank.” He declined to comment further. The ECB has reduced its key interest rate to 2 percent, matching a record low, to fight Europe’s worst recession since World War II. President Jean-Claude Trichet signaled last week the bank may cut rates by another 50 basis points in March. Still, it would be “inappropriate” to lower the benchmark to zero, Trichet said. Mersch, who heads Luxembourg’s central bank, said he agrees with Trichet.

Note EU-Digest: Most European economists agree that lowering interest rates to zero is only a short term solution and mainly favors the business sector and not the consumers.

2/17/09

EPP-ED Group in the EU Parliament: Venezuelan Expulsion of EU MEP Luis Herrero unacceptable says Joseph Daul, Chairman

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Venezuelan Expulsion of EU MEP Luis Herrero unacceptable says Joseph Daul EPP-ED Group Chairman

The Chairman of the European People's Party and European Democrats in the European Parliament (EPP-ED, centre-right), Joseph Daul, condemned the expulsion from Venezuela of MEP Luis Herrero, who was part of a delegation of five MEPs of the EPP-ED, guests in this country of the Conservative opposition forces as observers of the referendum on constitutional reform.

"This expulsion by force, because of statements critical of the authorities and without explanation, is an attack on freedom of expression, which confirms that the regime of Hugo Chavez departs every day a little more from the freedoms that must be the norm in any democracy, "said Joseph Daul, who also denounced the unacceptable treatment that Venezuelan security forces have inflicted on the Spanish MEP.

PSE News - The Socialist Group in The European Parliament: "Venezuela must strengthen dialogue, inclusion and consensus"

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The Socialist Group in The European Parliament: "Venezuela must strengthen dialogue, inclusion and consensus"

The Socialist Group in the European Parliament’s coordinator for the "EuroLat" Latin-American Assembly, Luis Yáñez-Barnuevo, has delivered a positive assessment on the outcome of the referendum that took place last weekend in Venezuela with a view to reforming the country’s constitution and removing the limitation on the number of presidential terms of office. "The victory for the ‘yes’ camp, with 54% of the votes in this referendum, demonstrates on the one hand that Venezuela has respected the democratic process; President Hugo Chávez therefore deserves to be congratulated on his triumph," said Luis Yáñez.

However, in the view of the PSE Group coordinator, "these results demonstrate that Venezuela is a country almost split in two and therefore also point to the need to foster dialogue, inclusion and consensus in order to build Venezuela’s future."

EurActiv.com - EU Elections 09 - Eurosceptics will not gain ground in EU elections

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EU Elections 09: Eurosceptics will not gain ground in EU elections

One of the youngest MEPs in the European Parliament, German liberal Alexander Alvaro, told EurActiv in an interview that Eurosceptics will try to gain ground at the European elections next June, but will not succeed "because in times of crisis, voters do not want to try new experiments". Alvaro pointed out that local elections on the same day will cause more people to cast their ballot. But enlargement and recent referenda in Ireland, France and the Netherlands have also boosted interest in the European Union, Alvaro maintains. "People are more aware that the Union exists," he said, underlining the growing interest of young people in issues discussed at intergovernmental and international level. "They see that only if we are united can we fight climate change [or] work on the energy crisis, on the financial crisis [or] be of substantial help in Gaza," the MEP said.

"I think that the voters have realized that the European Union is their political future, and they want to become involved," he added.For the first time, social media will allow candidates to create more direct links with their electorate. But "Europeans are not Americans," stressed Alvaro, who is gathering supporters on online social networking service Facebook. According to the German MEP, Europeans are still more interested in picking up a newspaper. "We are going to give it a try, but it will surely have a different impact than the one we saw in the US elections. We just have different cultural ways of doing political campaigning," he said.

European Parliament: Europe acting together can face up to the economic crisis 

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Europe acting together can face up to the economic crisis

Strong European leadership to tackle the current crisis of confidence and investing in environmental protection projects will help soften the effects of economic slowdown, according to MEPs and national MPs. MEPs and national parliamentarians from the 27 Member States and the candidate countries continued on Tuesday their two-day Joint Parliamentary Meeting, organised by the European Parliament and the Czech EU Presidency, to discuss “A New Deal for European Economic Recovery?” . Speaking at the conclusion of the two-day debate, EP President Hans-Gert Pöttering said EU must "act together and find common answers" to the crisis. Protectionism, he said, could annihilate the advantages of the Single Market and create "the foundations for a disaster". President Pöttering also expressed his support for the euro, without which, he said, the European economy would be in much greater trouble. "Everything we can do to maintain the stability of the European currency" has to be done, he said.

Note EU-Digest: the time of playing protectionist and nationalistic games is over. Its time to pass the Lisbon treaty and work together as one strong team. United we stand divided we will certainly fail.

Truthdig - Bad News From America’s Top Spy - by Chris Hedges

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Bad News From America’s Top Spy - by Chris Hedges

Thursday when Washington’s new director of national intelligence, retired Adm. Dennis Blair, testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He warned that the deepening economic crisis posed perhaps our gravest threat to stability and national security. It could trigger, he said, a return to the “violent extremism” of the 1920s and 1930s. The United Nations’ International Labor Organization estimates that some 50 million workers will lose their jobs worldwide this year. The collapse has already seen 3.6 million lost jobs in the United States. The International Monetary Fund’s prediction for global economic growth in 2009 is 0.5 percent—the worst since World War II. Denis Blair said, “The primary near-term security concern of the United States is the global economic crisis and its geopolitical implications,” Blair told the Senate. “The crisis has been ongoing for over a year, and economists are divided over whether and when we could hit bottom. Some even fear that the recession could further deepen and reach the level of the Great Depression. Of course, all of us recall the dramatic political consequences wrought by the economic turmoil of the 1920s and 1930s in Europe, the instability, and high levels of violent extremism.” Adm. Blair also warned the Senate that “roughly a quarter of the countries in the world have already experienced low-level instability such as government changes because of the current slowdown.” He noted that the “bulk of anti-state demonstrations” internationally have been seen in Europe and the former Soviet Union, but this did not mean they could not spread to the United States.

naked capitalism: Will Eastern Europe Trigger a Financial Meltdown?

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Will Eastern Europe Trigger a Financial Meltdown?

We've commented from time to time that a possible financial flashpoint is countries that got themselves in the same fix as Iceland , of having a banking sector engaged in the generally risky practices that were standard form recently, and was outsized relative to the economy (Willem Buiter also points out that that precarious situation is made worse by having your own teeny currency).In Poland, 60pc of mortgages are in Swiss francs. The zloty has just halved against the franc. Hungary, the Balkans, the Baltics, and Ukraine are all suffering variants of this story. As an act of collective folly – by lenders and borrowers – it matches America's sub-prime debacle. There is a crucial difference, however. European banks are on the hook for both. US banks are not. Almost all East bloc debts are owed to West Europe, especially Austrian, Swedish, Greek, Italian, and Belgian banks. En plus, Europeans account for an astonishing 74pc of the entire $4.9 trillion portfolio of loans to emerging markets.

Note EU-Digest: most of the quotes in this blog come from the conservative British newspaper the Telegraph, one of the most anti-EU newspapers in the UK, who would love to see the EU disintegrate. It won't happen and to make matters worse for them, Britain might even be forced to accept the euro as its currency in order not to implode economically.

Market Watch: Daimler takes euro 1.50 billion loss on Chrysler charges, lower sales - Mercedes Benz sales slump 22% - by Simon Kennedy

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Daimler takes euro 1.50 billion loss on Chrysler charges, lower sales - Mercedes Benz sales slump 22% - by Simon Kennedy

German car maker Daimler on Tuesday said it swung to a net loss of 1.53 billion euros ($1.93 billion) in the final quarter of 2008 after a sharp drop in sales at its Mercedes-Benz division and heavy losses linked to its stake in Chrysler. The car maker also slashed its dividend payout and offered a grim outlook for 2009. The group's loss followed a profit of 1.7 billion euros a year earlier, while revenue declined 12% to 23.24 billion euros.

Channelnewsasia.com: Dollar gains as central European currencies plunge

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The dollar gained against the euro on Monday as currencies in central Europe were hit by a sharp fall that analysts said was due to the high levels of debt in those countries. The euro was trading at 1.2767 dollars late on Monday in London compared to 1.2856 dollars late on Friday. Note EU-Digest: the euro presently (February 17) stands at 1.26 versus the dollar.

FT.com - German foreign minister visits Iraq - by Chris Bryant

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German foreign minister visits Iraq - by Chris Bryant

Frank-Walter Steinmeier arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday on the first visit by a German foreign minister since Germany opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.The visit signals a clear shift in in Berlin’s diplomatic and economic engagement with Baghdad, coming some 22 years after a German foreign minister last set foot in Iraq. The trip takes place less than a month after Barack Obama took office as president, having pledged to withdraw US troops from the country. Officials in Berlin said it was not a coincidence that the visit was taking place now that the White House had a new occupant, who has signaled a new approach towards Iraq. During his visit, Mr Steinmeier will pledge Germany’s support towards rebuilding the country and announce measures to bring about closer economic cooperation. He will be accompanied by representatives of German industry who may hope to restore business ties with Iraq now that the security situation in Baghdad has somewhat improved.

The Netherlands - Dutch PM Balkenende: "Dutch Economy to shrink by 3.5% in 2009

Dutch PM Jan Peter Balkenende


EU-Digest special report of this morning's Dutch PM press conference on the Dutch economy

This morning in a press conference the Dutch PM Balkenende stated that the Dutch economy had "dramatically" deteriorated based on the latest figures supplied by the Central Planning Bureau (CBP). He noted that the time frame in which this had happened was unbelievably fast. He stated that figures from the CBP showed that the Dutch economy would shrink by 3.5% in 2009 and by .25% in 2010. Estimates also are that the unemployment figure, which at the end of 2008 stood at 3.9%, and was among the lowest in Europe, would increase to 5% by the end of the year and close to 9% in 2010. Consumer spending is still expected to increase by 2.5% in 2009 and remain the same in 2010. Inflation will remain at 1%. Balkenende stressed that finding remedies for the increasing unemployment during this recession period was going to be one of the Governments main objectives. He said , "the government will not walk away from taking painful decisions, because simple and fast solutions do not exist in these situations. There is no free money, everything we are spending belongs to the taxpayer."

2/16/09

The Independent - US wind energy - Energy blowing in the wind


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US wind energy-Energy blowing in the wind

With a new green initiative as part of the Obama administration’s plan for sustainable energy, wind power looks like a breath of fresh air. However, a new study, released last week by regional transmission organizations, says it could cost $50 billion to $80 billion to upgrade the electrical transmission grid to accommodate wind power, according to the Times Picayune. Those figures are the cost of adding up to 15,000 miles of new extra-high-voltage lines to the regional power grid east of the Rocky Mountains. That figure does not cover the $700 billion cost of building wind farms. Currently the Southwest Power Pool, which handles transmission issues for utilities in Louisiana and nearby states, has not had an application from wind harvesting businesses in Louisiana. Despite the cost, wind entrepreneur Herman J. Schellstede, CEO of Wind Energy System Technologies, in New Iberia, has been pushing to build wind farms offshore in Louisiana for years.

Bloomberg.com: Latin America - Venezuela Bolivar Gains on Speculation Chavez to Rein in Budget

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Latin-America-Venezuela Bolivar Gains on Speculation Chavez to Rein in Budget

Venezuela’s bolivar rose the most in a month on speculation President Hugo Chavez will take measures to offset a plunge in oil revenue after winning a referendum yesterday that eliminates term limits. The bolivar jumped 2.7 percent to 5.65 per dollar in unregulated trading at 3:34 p.m. New York time from 5.80 on Feb. 13, traders said. It had slumped 4.3 percent over the past month amid concern that Chavez was putting off tax increases and spending cuts as he focused on winning the referendum, which allows him to extend his presidency beyond 2013 “We’re not expecting Chavez to see the light and take a more pragmatic approach, but he will at least now be able to make the necessary adjustments to address the widening deficit,” said Edwin Gutierrez, who manages $5 billion of emerging-market debt, including Venezuelan securities, at Aberdeen Asset Management Plc in London.

World Bulletin: Agriculture/Tomatoes Turkey's southeastern city to export tomatoes to Europe

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Agriculture/Tomatoes:Turkey's southeastern city to export tomatoes to Europe

Turkey's Sanliurfa province aims to export tomatoes to Germany and Russia, and earn 1 million USD from its exports, the head of a local association said. "We are making use of geothermal energy in seven facilities in Sanliurfa's Karaali village and growing vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and cucumbers under modern conditions," Muslum Yanmaz, the head of the Greenhouse Business Association in the Southeastern Anatolian Project (GAP) region, told AA correspondent. Sanliurfa is at the top of provinces producing cotton, wheat, red lentil and corn in Turkey. In recent years, greenhouse industry has developed in this city. Earlier, Sanliurfa used to sell only cotton and cereals produced in agricultural areas. However, in recent years, this province is producing vegetables in greenhouses and selling them to not only other Turkish provinces but also exporting them.

AgriHolland Nieuws/EU-Digest: Cut Flowers Industry - Export of flowers from Holland drop 8% in January

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Export of flowers from Holland drop 8% in January

Exports of flowers from Holland dropped 8% in January in comparison to January last year. The overall export of flowers in January amounted to 354 million euro so far this year. Street vendors, flower shops and super markets also saw a considerable drop of their cut flower sales as a result of the economic downturn. In addition to make matters worse credit provisions to flower companies have also been greatly reduced.

EurActiv.com - EU spending on R&D slips further behind US

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EU spending on R&D slips further behind US

Europe is drifting further behind the United States in R&D funding, according to a new study, which shows that the EU may never close the research gap with the US if it fails to boost investment in the services sector. The study, conducted by European Investment Bank economist Kristian Uppenberg and published yesterday (February 9) by the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), shows that the EU is likely to fall short of achieving the Lisbon Strategy goal of investing 3% of GDP on research by 2010.

EVRO Intelligence: Sweden may not be a model - by Leif Pagrotsky

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Sweden may not be a model - by Leif Pagrotsky

"The idea of a Bad Bank appears to get more and more popular day by day as a solution to all kinds of problems in countries suffering from banks paralyzed by toxic assets. Often the Swedish experience of bad banks in the early 1990’s is used as an example of how great this idea is. Some times the lessons derived from our experience are based on misunderstandings of what we actually did, and how our system worked. The initiative to set up a bad bank in Sweden was taken not by politicians, but by the management of Nordbanken. In contrast to today’s situation, the assets were not bonds, but usually entire companies. But like today’s toxic assets, there was no market and a rapid disinvestment would have triggered dramatically low prices that would have sent values of all assets in the economy tumbling, with more bank failures as a result. Furthermore, this was not a way to help private banks get rid of their troubled assets, although it is obvious that it had enormous positive side-effects on all banks. My view is that this solution was only possible because the Government was already in possession of all the assets."

EUobserver: YES - Irish poll shows swing in favour of Lisbon treaty - by Honor Mahony

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Irish poll shows swing in favour of Lisbon treaty - by Honor Mahony

A new poll has shown a swing in favour of the Lisbon treaty in Ireland as the main political parties argue about when would be the best time to hold a second referendum on the document. According to a survey carried out by the Irish Times newspaper, 51 percent are in favour of the treaty while 33 percent would vote against it. The swing in Lisbon's favour comes amid the country's convulsions in the economic crisis, which has caused massive job losses. The state of the Irish economy has prompted comparisons between it and non-EU member Iceland, where the government collapsed over the crisis and which has needed an International Monetary Fund bailout. Politicians have said that if Ireland was not in the EU, it would be in the same situation as the small Arctic country.

Washington Post: US economic meltdown - Nationalize the Banks! We're all Swedes Now - by Matthew Richardson and Nouriel Roubini

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US economic meltdown - Nationalize the Banks! We're all Swedes Now - by Matthew Richardson and Nouriel Roubini

"The U.S. banking system is close to being insolvent, and unless we want to become like Japan in the 1990s -- or the United States in the 1930s -- the only way to save it is to nationalize it. The sub-prime mortgage mess alone does not force our hand; the $1.2 trillion it involves is just the beginning of the problem. Another $7 trillion -- including commercial real estate loans, consumer credit-card debt and high-yield bonds and leveraged loans -- is at risk of losing much of its value. Then there are trillions more in high-grade corporate bonds and loans and jumbo prime mortgages, whose worth will also drop precipitously as the recession deepens and more firms and households default on their loans and mortgages.

The financial Web site RGE Monitor suggests that total losses on loans made by U.S. banks and the fall in the market value of the assets they are holding will reach about $3.6 trillion. The U.S. banking sector is exposed to half that figure, or $1.8 trillion. Even with the original federal bailout funds from last fall, the capital backing the banks' assets was only $1.4 trillion, leaving the U.S. banking system about $400 billion in the hole. Nationalization is the only option that would permit us to solve the problem of toxic assets in an orderly fashion and finally allow lending to resume. Of course, the economy would still stink, but the death spiral we are in would end."

Alternet: Global Warming: Firestorms and Deep Freeze: Climate Change May Bring Both - by Scott Thill

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Global Warming: Firestorms and Deep Freeze: Climate Change May Bring Both - by Scott Thill

Deniers of catastrophic climate change have been clinging to extreme rainstorms and snowstorms, such as those recently witnessed in the U.K. or American East Coast, like life rafts off the Titanic. They still argue that such record-breaking deep freezes disprove global warming. But they're desperately seeking semantics, while the rest of the world is waking up to reality. Which is this: Catastrophic climate change will feature as much ice as fire. It probably already has.

"Scientifically, it would not be correct to make the statement that the current weather in Australia, the U.K. and U.S. are examples of climate change," explains Jian Liu, chief of the Division of Environment Policy Implementation's climate change adaptation unit at the United Nations Environmental Program. "Rather, these are extreme climate events; whereas climate change is something that can only be observed by looking at the average conditions over long periods of time. But while the general average trend is one of a warming climate, this does not mean that extreme cold events or snowstorms will not take place.

2/15/09

Bloomberg.com: Alternative energy - GE, Vestas ( Denmark) , FPL Benefit From Energy Funds in Stimulus

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Alternative energy - GE, Vestas ( Denmark) , FPL Benefit From Energy Funds in Stimulus

Vestas Wind Systems A/S, FPL Group Inc. and General Electric Co. would benefit from at least $61 billion to promote cleaner energy in the U.S. stimulus measure negotiated in Congress. The $789 billion spending agreement struck by House and Senate lawmakers has direct spending and tax breaks for power lines, wind mills and smart meters, according to summaries issued by congressional leaders. The measure awaits final approval in both chambers. The federal aid would come in a recession that has dried up credit markets, caused cuts in clean-energy production and raised U.S. unemployment. The economic decline, the worst since the Great Depression, has set back companies developing clean and renewable energy sources after a record year in 2008.

EasyBourse: Poland - Walesa Drops Venezuela Visit After Chavez Threatens To Bar Him

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Walesa Drops Venezuela Visit After Chavez Threatens To Bar Him

Former Polish President Lech Walesa has canceled a visit to Venezuela, after President Hugo Chavez threatened to ban the Solidarity leader. "This behavior is not very mature and insults a Polish citizen," Walesa's spokesman, Piotr Gulczynski, said Thursday. Walesa, the 1983 Nobel Peace prize winner, was scheduled to arrive in Venezuela Friday for five days of meetings with students and non-governmental organizations, Gulczynski told Poland's PAP news agency. Walesa has described Chavez as a "demagogue" and a "populist" and said government opposition must be allowed. He tried to visit Venezuela in November, but authorities talked him out of it for an unspecified "security reason."

The New Nation - China surpasses Germany GDP

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China surpasses Germany GDP

Analysts in Beijing have reportedly said that China revised upwards its 2007 growth figures indicating the Asian giant overtook Germany as the world's third largest economy. China's economy expanded by 13.0 per cent in 2007, up from a previous calculation of 11.9 per cent, the National Bureau of Statistics said. The economy was worth 25.7 trillion Yuan in 2007, or about US$ 3.5 trillion based on the exchange rate at the end of that year. At market exchange rates, China in 2007 was the third largest behind the United States and Japan, as IMF resident representative is quoted to have said.

NYT: Treasury Boss Taking Fire in Europe Over Stimulus - London Thomas

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Treasury Boss Taking Fire in Europe Over Stimulus - London Thomas

Last week Giulio Tremonti, Italy’s finance minister and Mr. Geithner’s host for the weekend, gave a tart review of the Obama administration’s stimulus in a local newspaper here. “If the problem is an excess of debt, the cure is not adding more debt, whether that debt is public or private,” he wrote in the Corriere della Sera. Italy is one of the most indebted countries in Europe. Its debt surpasses its annual gross domestic product. The national debt of the United States, by contrast, was about 40 percent of G.D.P. at the end of 2008, but Moody’s expects that to rise to 60 percent by 2010 as a result of the recession and spending tied to the federal bailout and stimulus programs. On Saturday, Mr. Tremonti also spoke disdainfully of the “Buy America” provision in the stimulus plan, which covers iron, steel and manufactured goods, as a political slogan. He and other ministers emphasized the importance of keeping the American economy free of protectionism.

2/14/09

chron.com/EU-Digest: Cut Flower Sales - Economy may deflect Cupid’s arrow on Valentine's Day

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Cut Flower Sales - Economy may deflect Cupid’s arrow on Valentine's Day

Vases filled with red roses, baby’s breath and greenery fill the coolers at Fannin Flowers. But they’re not flying off the shelves as quickly as Lolies Holleman would like. “I think it’s because of the recession,” said Holleman, after waiting on a customer who ordered a delivery of flowers and chocolate. “It’s a little slow.” Sales are down about 10 percent compared to last year, one reason the company only opened two of its three Fannin Street flower shops, she said. During peak seasons like Valentine’s Day, the business typically opens all three of its locations.

Note EU-Digest: Christmas sales were one of the worst we've seen in years," said Boylen, the third-generation owner of Martin Flowers, which dates back to 1927. "It's a trend happening across the country. From FTD orders we get from other states, quantity is down significantly for Valentine's Day." Media Youngblood, who has owned Mable's Flower Shop in Bessemer for 14 years, said her sales are half of what they were a year ago. 1-800-Flowers.com reported last month that it expects revenues to decline as much as 10 percent this year. Flower shipments from Ecuador to the United States are down 23 percent so far this year in what is normally peak season, said Gonzalo Luzuriaga, president of Expoflores, the country's main growers' association."And the quality has also slipped," Markowski said. Ecuador sold $523 million in flowers from January to November 2008, but its central bank predicts sales will drop by $150 million this year. The country produces 17 percent of cut flowers imported into the United States. Importers in South Florida, the cut-flower capital of the United States, are also feeling the pain. Roughly two-thirds of all cut flowers sold nationwide come through Miami International Airport, mostly farmed in Colombia, Ecuador and other Latin American nations. A few South American farms have folded. As prices for fertilizers and jet fuel soared last year, some found their profits so squeezed they could not cover higher costs. Banks have been tightening credit to growers too, stung by the U.S. financial meltdown.

hurriyet.com.tr: Turkish PM says works on new constitution to begin after elections

Turkish PM says works on new constitution to begin after elections

Turkish PM says works on new constitution to begin after elections

Erdogan said it was necessary to reach a compromise among political parties for a constitutional amendment, and the government would seek compromise with other parties as of April. The prime minister said that the government was thinking of getting Parliament Speaker Koksal Toptan involved in the process again. In September 2008, Toptan sent a letter to chairmen of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and the Democratic Society Party (DTP) and proposed to set up four separate committees to debate constitution, parliamentary by-laws, European Union (EU) adjustment regulation, and some other important laws.

Flightglobal: Airbus and partners gear up for A350 production - by Max Kingsley-Jones

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Airbus and partners gear up for A350 production - by Max Kingsley-Jones

Airbus and its programme partners across Europe and the USA are gearing up for the launch of A350 XWB production with the construction of factories or extensions to existing infrastructure.The bulk of A350 production will be undertaken by Airbus's European plants - including the factories it has hived off into the French and German standalone divisions Aerolia and Premium Aerotech, respectively. Construction began in January of the A350's flagship final assembly line adjacent to the A330/A340 complex in Toulouse, and the building of new factories for the twinjet is under way elsewhere in France, in Germany, Spain and the UK, as well as in the USA.

Wall Street Journal: ECB, U.K. Spar on Bank Rules - by Alistar MacDonald and Joellen Perry

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ECB, U.K. Spar on Bank Rules - by Alistar MacDonald and Joellen Perry

A top European Central Bank policy maker said he expects European lawmakers to give the central bank supervisory powers over big euro-zone banks whose businesses cross borders. But the U.K. intends to steer clear, raising questions about the effectiveness of a European financial regulator that would have no oversight over the region's financial center.Laying out the most forceful case to date for why the ECB wants to spearhead supervision of cross-border euro-zone banks, ECB executive-board member Lorenzo Bini Smaghi said Thursday that the current patchwork of national oversight in the 27-nation European Union is "fragile" and hasn't "worked as expected." "The ECB is ready to assume responsibility for the tasks," Mr. Bini Smaghi said in a speech at the European Parliament in Brussels, echoing recent statements from other ECB policy makers, including President Jean-Claude Trichet. "I expect the European Commission...to give the ECB powers in macro supervision." A provision in the European Union's founding treaty allows the ECB to take on additional duties with the unanimous backing of the EU's 27 member nations.

2/13/09

IHT: U.S. loath to follow Europe on bank plan - by Landon Thomas

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U.S. loath to follow Europe on bank plan - by Landon Thomas

When it comes to formulating an effective strategy for reviving the fortunes of hobbled U.S. banks, the administration of Barack Obama is playing catch-up compared with countries in similar straits in Europe. For all the huge sums of taxpayer money already committed, analysts say, the problem is that it is proving all but impossible to clean up balance sheets, raise lending and bolster capital without being prepared to take some sort of government ownership and control over the most troubled banks.

At a time when the market capitalization of the top U.S. banks is collectively below $500 billion, the International Monetary Fund is estimating that financial write-downs will rise to $2.2 trillion. As a result, a number of analysts contend, the Obama administration will ultimately be compelled to admit that even with recent capital injections, some large banks like Citigroup and Bank of America may well become insolvent.

2/12/09

Times Online: Banned Dutch MP Geert Wilders hits out at 'cowards' after being sent back - by David Charter

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Banned Dutch MP Geert Wilders hits out at 'cowards' after being sent back - by David Charter

Geert Wilders, the far-right Dutch politician, branded the British Government “the biggest bunch of cowards in Europe” after he flew in to Heathrow yesterday and was promptly put on the first plane back under the Home Secretary's banning order. “It was the worst welcome of my life,” the Freedom Party MP told The Times as he sat on the runway yesterday evening waiting to return to the Netherlands after being denied entry because he was deemed to pose a threat to public order. On the flight back, Mr Wilders vowed to appeal against the ban and make another attempt to visit Britain soon. But it became clear last night that Jacqui Smith’s prohibition order had brought Mr Wilders massive publicity in Britain and many more online searches for his controversial antiIslamist film, Fitna.

The decision to refuse Mr Wilders entry provoked Maxime Verhagen, the Dutch Foreign Minister, to call David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, to protest against the decision. “The fact that a Dutch parliamentarian is refused entry to another EU country is highly regrettable,” Mr Verhagen said.

Climate Action: The Climate action and renewable energy package, Europe's climate change opportunity

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The Climate action and renewable energy package, Europe's climate change opportunity

On 23 January 2008 the European Commission put forward a far-reaching package of proposals that will deliver on the European Union's ambitious commitments to fight climate change and promote renewable energy up to 2020 and beyond. In December 2008 the European Parliament and Council reached an agreement on the package that will help transform Europe into a low-carbon economy and increase its energy security. The EU is committed to reducing its overall emissions to at least 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, and is ready to scale up this reduction to as much as 30% under a new global climate change agreement when other developed countries make comparable efforts. It has also set itself the target of increasing the share of renewables in energy use to 20% by 2020. The "Climate action and renewable energy package" sets out the contribution expected from each Member State to meeting these targets and proposes a series of measures to help achieve them.

The Copenhagen Post: Denmark - Windpower: Slowdown in wind energy capacity

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Slowdown in wind energy capacity

Denmark - Windpower: Slowdown in wind energy capacity

Denmark risks losing its position as the leading European wind energy nation, according to new figures released by the European Wind Energy Association. Germany increased its wind power capacity 21 times as much as Denmark in 2008, while Spain increased capacity by eight percent and Portugal tripled its wind power capacity. Seventeen percent of Danish electricity is produced by wind power, which is still the highest level in Europe, but Germany is catching up with 10 percent.Denmark has been lagging behind in increasing wind power capacity due to regulations making it financially unattractive to erect new wind turbines. The law change in December now makes it easier to finance the construction of a windmill.

guardian.uk: Dutch right wing politician Geert Wilders plans to defy UK entry ban to show controversial film critical of Qur'an - by Haroon Siddique


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Dutch right wing politician Geert Wilders plans to defy UK entry ban to show controversial film critical of Qur'an - by Haroon Siddique

Geert Wilders, the rightwing Dutch politician accused of Islamophobia, said today he was planning to defy a ban on entering the UK and hoped to arrive this afternoon. But a spokesman for his Freedom party said he feared Wilders, who was due to show his 17-minute film Fitna, which criticizes the Qur'an as a "fascist book", at the House of Lords today, would not be allowed to leave the Netherlands by the airline.

On Tuesday, Wilders received a letter from the Home Office refusing him entry because his opinions "threaten community security and therefore public security".

Note EU-Digest: Even though we do not agree with the political viewpoints of Mr. Wilders, it is not only a scandal but also illegal that one member of the EU (in this case Britain) bars entry on to its territory by a parliamentarian of another member state (in this case the Netherlands). Maybe Britain and all members of the EU should be reminded in a "resolution" by the EU Parliament that the EU is a community of democratic, secular states, with freedom of movement by its members, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion.