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5/31/09

BBC SPORT- Cycling: Tour de FRance - Armstrong confident ahead of Tour

For the complete report from the BBC SPORT click on this link

Cycling: Tour de France - Armstrong confident ahead of Tour

Seven-time champion Lance Armstrong said he was in good shape ahead of his Tour de France comeback. The 37-year-old, who returned to racing this year after nearly four years in retirement, finished a creditable 12th overall in the Giro d'Italia on Sunday.Armstrong rewrote the record books in 2005 when he became the first rider to win seven Le Tour titles - all in succession. He retired after his final victory, only to return to racing at the beginning of 2009 to promote his Livestrong cancer charity.

LivMint.com: Can GM succeed as ‘Government Motors’?

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Can GM succeed as ‘Government Motors’?

With the US government expected to hold as much as 72.5% of the new firm that would emerge from bankruptcy, analysts say a big question is whether GM can concentrate on the difficult auto marketplace. “The tricky part is to leave day-to-day management to the executives of the company,” said Jeremy Anwyl, chief executive at auto research firm Edmunds.com. For the government, he said: “the temptation is to influence product decisions based on political considerations instead of market considerations, and that’s always a danger.” Anwyl said it is too soon to tell how the matter will be handled by the administration of President Barack Obama, which has pledged to get out of the business as soon as GM gets back on its feet. David Cole, chairman of the Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research, said the government officials “are smart, dedicated people, but they can’t learn the key issues of this industry in a short time.”

BBC NEWS?EU-Digest: GM Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing to rank as one of the largest bankruptcies in US history

For the complete results from BBC NEWS click on this link

GM Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing to rank as one of the largest bankruptcies in US history

President Barack Obama will give full details of the restructuring on Monday. He is scheduled to hold a press conference on the plan at around 1400 GMT (1500 BST) on Monday. The Obama administration had given GM a 1 June deadline to submit a viable revival plan or file for bankruptcy. A Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by GM would rank as one of the largest bankruptcies in US history. GM's European arm, which makes the Vauxhall and Opel brands, will likely be spared bankruptcy following a deal by Canadian car parts maker Magna to buy GM Europe.

“The legacy is gone,” said Brian Fredline, president of United Auto Workers Local 602, which represents workers at Lansing Delta Township, where Buick Enclaves, GMC Acadias and Saturn Outlooks are made. “The hope of the Midwestern American dream is gone.” Fredline has worked at GM for 24 years. His father worked there for 37. His grandfathers for 40 and 42 years, respectively. “It’s sad to see that my children will not have an opportunity to experience that same level of security that past generations have experienced,” he said.

5/30/09

The Salt Lake Tribune: When faith and science can coexist - by Corey Hodges

For the complete report from the Salt Lake Tribune click on this link

When faith and science can coexist - by Corey Hodges

The movie "Angels and Demons," the sequel to Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code," is another box-office hit. The story is again set in Vatican City and centers on the Roman Catholic Church, but this adaptation of Brown's novel is not as theologically confrontational as its predecessor. Tom Hanks returns as the fictional Harvard University symbologist, Professor Robert Langdon, who this time sets out to uncover clues of a secret society called the Illuminati, which has a centuries-long conflict with the Roman Catholic Church and seeks to avenge some of its members. Galileo's theory of a moving earth was believed, at the time, to contradict biblical passages and thus his science was considered heresy and he was put on trial. Critics use this as proof that the Catholic Church in particular and Christians in general, have a history of opposing science, but this of course is not the case. As in all matters, there are extremists who are completely opposed to science and see it as the antithesis of faith, but by and large people of faith are not opposed to scientific research. Most theists believe that God gave human beings the ability to make life-changing discoveries and thus science is itself a gift from God.

Many scientists have found that their research deepens their faith. Isaac Newton's study of gravity and its impact on how we view the universe led him to conclude: "This most beautiful system [the Universe] could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being." Francis Collins, the former director of the human genome project and an atheist turned Christian is quoted as saying, "When you make a breakthrough it is a moment of scientific exhilaration ... but it is also a moment where I at least feel closeness to the creator in the sense of having now perceived something that no human knew before but God knew all along."

Latin American Herald Tribune - Brazil to Allow International Companies to Bid for Huge Offshore Fields


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Brazil to Allow International Companies to Bid for Huge Offshore Fields

Brazil will invite international oil companies to bid for concessions in enormous, but technically challenging, offshore fields beginning next year, Mines and Energy Minister Edison Lobao told the Financial Times. The South American country had suspended the concessions in the so-called “pre-salt” area – so named because the estimated 80 billion barrels of high-quality crude in that new oil frontier lie far beneath the ocean floor under layers of rock and an unstable salt formation – shortly after it was discovered in 2007.

Foreign governments from China to the United States and international oil companies are lining up to help Brazil exploit its vast deposits, even as they are shunning Mexico and Venezuela. According to estimates by Brazil’s oil regulator, reserves in the pre-salt region could total as much as 80 billion barrels, or more than five times the country’s proven reserves of 14 billion barrels, and turn the South American giant into a major oil exporter.

Nigeria News - Royal Dutch Shell to go on trial in New York over complicity in the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others

For the complete report from Nigeria News click on this link

Royal Dutch Shell to go on trial in New York over complicity in the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others

Multi-National Royal Dutch Shell is to go on trial in New York today. Shell has been accused of complicity in the execution of aKen Saro-Wiwa and eight others in 1995. Ken Saro-Wiwa was a Nigerian activist who led criticism of exploitation by oil companies in Ogoni, his homeland. He was executed on November 10, 1995. Two lawsuits accused Shell and Brian Anderson, the former managing director of Shell Nigeria of complicity in the decision by the military government to hang the men. The son of Ken Saro-Wiwa, Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr said "In a sense we already have a victory, because one of the things my father said was that Shell would one day have its day in court.

The case is being seen as a test to determine if transnational companies owned or operating in the US can be held responsible for human rights abuses committed overseas.

Bloomberg.com: US ECONOMY - U.S. Inflation to Approach Zimbabwe Level, Faber Says - by Chen Shiyin and Bernard Lo

For the complete report from Bloomberg.com click on this link

U.S. Inflation to Approach Zimbabwe Level, Faber Says

The U.S. economy will enter “hyperinflation” approaching the levels in Zimbabwe because the Federal Reserve will be reluctant to raise interest rates, investor Marc Faber said. Prices may increase at rates “close to” Zimbabwe’s gains, Faber said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Hong Kong. Zimbabwe’s inflation rate reached 231 million percent in July, the last annual rate published by the statistics office. “I am 100 percent sure that the U.S. will go into hyperinflation,” Faber said. “The problem with government debt growing so much is that when the time will come and the Fed should increase interest rates, they will be very reluctant to do so and so inflation will start to accelerate.”

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia President Charles Plosser said on May 21 inflation may rise to 2.5 percent in 2011. That exceeds the central bank officials’ long-run preferred range of 1.7 percent to 2 percent and contrasts with the concerns of some officials and economists that the economic slump may provoke a broad decline in prices. “There are some concerns of a risk from inflation from all the liquidity injected into the banking system but it’s not an immediate threat right now given all the excess capacity in the U.S. economy,” said David Cohen, head of Asian economic forecasting at Action Economics in Singapore.

ALDE Group in the European Parliament : European Elections June 4 : Speaking out for your Civil Liberties: "First they came"


For the video on "Speaking out for your Civil Liberties" by the Alliance of liberals and Democrats for Europe click on this link

Speaking out for your Civil Liberties: "First they came"

European Liberals and Democrats launched a campaign highlighting the value of civil liberties and raising awareness about possible infringements of fundamental rights such as the freedom of speech, the right to privacy and the right to transparent law-making. See for yourself, if your civil rights are protected - click on the movie here.

BBC NEWS: Germany picks Magna to save Opel

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Germany picks Magna to save Opel

Germany has agreed a deal with Magna International, a Canadian car parts maker, to take over Opel, part of the European wing of US carmaker GM. German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck told journalists outside the chancellery shortly after 0200 local time on Saturday morning that a deal had been agreed. The German government is expected to provide an immediate loan facility of 1.5bn euros ($2.1bn, £1.3bn). The Magna deal should protect Opel if GM files for bankruptcy protection in the US on Monday, as is expected. The Canadian company has said it will put more than 500m euros ($700m; £435m) into Opel, which employs more than 25,000 people in Germany.Before the announcement of the deal, Magna said it planned to cut 2,500 jobs in Germany, about 10% of Opel's workforce in that country. Italy's Fiat, a former potential bidder, had said it would cut 10,000 jobs. GM operations in Europe will now be placed under the care of a trustee to shield them from the parent company's filing for bankruptcy protection in the US. By doing this the Germans have ringfenced Opel from the mother company and this has been achieved.

On Friday, a court in Sweden granted Saab, GM's other European business, an extension to its protection from creditors. The Swedish car maker first sought protection in February. It now has until 20 August to line up a new owner and to restructure its business. Saab is being sold off by GM separately.

WSJ: EU Plans Fresh Strike on Microsoft

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EU Plans Fresh Strike on Microsoft

Frustrated with past efforts to change Microsoft Corp.'s behavior, European Union regulators are pursuing a new round of sanctions against the software giant that go well beyond fines. The regulatory push is focused on a longstanding complaint against Microsoft: that it improperly bundles its Web browser with its Windows software. Rather than forcing Microsoft to strip its Internet Explorer from Windows, people close to the case say, the EU is now ready to try the opposite measure: Forcing a bunch of browsers into Windows, thus diluting Microsoft's advantage.

5/29/09

EUobserver: Sarkozy cancels Sweden visit over Turkey - by Elitsa Vucheva

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Sarkozy cancels Sweden visit over Turkey- by Elitsa Vucheva

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has canceled a visit to Sweden scheduled for next Tuesday (2 June) in order to avoid a clash on the question of Turkey's EU membership just days before the European elections and a month before Stockholm takes over the EU's rotating presidency. Officially, Mr Sarkozy's office said the trip was cancelled "for agenda reasons." Sweden favours further EU enlargement, including to Turkey. On Monday this week, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt told Le Figaro newspaper that the EU had "a strategic interest" in Turkey's EU integration and warned against "closing the door" to Ankara. "If we judge Cyprus to be in Europe, although it is as in island along Syria's shores, it is hard not to consider that Turkey is in Europe," Mr Bildt said, referring to Mr Sarkozy's repeated statements that Turkey is not a European country and does not belong to Europe.

In a reference to aid plans for the car industry - very much promoted by Mr Sarkozy - the Swedish top diplomat said that for him, "spending taxpayers' money to subsidise existing structures is a very good way of wasting money."

Ennahar Online - Algerian Harraga changed sex and married men for residency papers

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Algerian Harraga changed sex and married men for residency papers

A young man from Batna (Algeria) who failed to succeed at the Baccalaureate exam in the ninetie and limke other Algerian youth who like exploring and discovering new horizons, decided one summer day in 1997 to take his suitcase and go into the unknown. Not recognizing the borders, nor laws, visa requirement and border police, he left Batna to Tunisia, then to England via Turkey, Greece and several other European and Arab countries including, Spain, Germany, Italy, Holland, Syria, Lebanon and Morocco. The young Harraga, in order to obtain the nationality papers changed his gender and became a women. By this way, he and his fellows joined homosexuals associations to enjoy their rights and benefits. Eventually he managed to get his residence in Holland.

RT: Russia and EU moving closer on Ukraine gas transit issues

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Russia and EU moving closer on Ukraine gas transit issues

Russia has been warning of the possibility of a yet another gas crisis as Ukraine is again facing problems with gas payments, and is calling on Europe to give it a hand and jointly lend the to the transit country. Another spin in the Russia-Ukraine gas chronicle is centered this time on unpumped gas. Russia and Ukraine failed to agree on how Kiev would pay $5 billion for the gas it need to store for the winter and thus ensure smooth transit to Europe. Prime Minister Putin says the issued needs to be addressed.

Daily Finance/EU-Digest - "Resistance is becoming morally justified" - With GM nearly bankrupt, can America manage?

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"Resistance is becoming morally justified" - With GM nearly bankrupt, can America manage?

General Motors (GM) most likely has just a few days before it files for bankruptcy, marking the final death gasps of a company that once controlled 50 percent of the North American vehicle market and sported a peak market value (in April 2000) of $54 billion.While the bankruptcy is great news for America's bankruptcy lawyers and investment bankers -- the pilot fish of American business, snapping up the scraps of food left behind by the economic sharks who create new wealth -- GM's demise also raises a more troubling question: Can America manage? Or more specifically, can American managers still create world-leading industries or have we lost it? First, let's examine GM's pending bankruptcy and the huge amount of money to be made off it by those economic pilot fish. Weil, Gotshal & Manges, the New York firm handling the Lehman case, recently sought approval for billings of $55 million for just three months' work, and is expected to get more from GM.

GM, which has already gotten $19.4 billion in U.S. debt, will require almost four times more -- $40 billion to $70 billion in debtor-in-possession financing -- to create a new version of GM. Bankers will cash in on the GM bankruptcy gold rush as well.

America has recently proven itself to be a failure when it comes to sustaining an automobile industry and our finance industry has only succeeded in gaining control of the global economic system -- right before nearly wiping it out. So can the U.S. economic system still do anything right? Note EU-Digest: If the politicians like it or not, the buck stops with them. They have let this happen and they are still letting this disaster go on. Where is the regulation they promised to put in place around the world to reign in the "free wheeling" of the financial industry?. Maybe it's good to remind government leaders and politicians around the world on what Thomas Jefferson wrote to M. deStael in 1807, "When patience has begotten false estimates of its motives, when wrongs are pressed because it is believed they will be borne, resistance becomes morality". If changes today mean just re-establishing the status quo, millions of desperate people affected by the incompetence of their leaders could very well revert to revolution as the only valuable option for cleaning-up the mess the world finds itself in. Once the masses start moving it will be too late.

Wash.Post/mocoNews - 11.6 Percent Of European Broadband Connections Are Mobile - by James Quintana Pearce

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11.6 Percent Of European Broadband Connections Are Mobile - by James Quintana Pearce

High Speed packet Access (HSPA) accounted for 11.6 percent of PC broadband connections in Europe at the end of last year, according to Berg Insight that includes "active, data-only subscriptions involving USB dongles and embedded broadband" and excludes connections via mobile phones, notes ZDNet UK. The number of people who connect to the internet via HSPA/LTE on their PCs in Europe group by 74 percent year-on-year to 14.6 million, and is predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 30 percent over the next five years to hit 70 million in 2014. The sudden spike last year is attributed to carriers cutting the price of the mobile broadband connections, which are now far cheaper than they are in North America.

In North America only 4.5 percent of broadband connections are over mobile broadband technologies, but the market is expected to grow 43 percent each year to hit 35 million subscribers by the end of 2014. Berg Insight predicts that broadband service providers will have to offer their subscribers multiple access methods, and that "LTE will prevail as the main wireless technology also in North America. The idea to construct another nationwide network in the US based on any alternative technology does not seem credible in the current financial climate". Most experts, however, agree this would not be a good strategy and put the US far behind on the Internet development curve.

5/28/09

US Credit Crises - NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo takes action on protecting the consumer against collection agencies

EU-Digest

US Credit Crises - NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo takes action on protecting the consumer against collection agencies

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo Wednesday announced that his office had closed a collection agency in the state and said that nearly 20 other accounts receivable management firms had been subpoenaed to provide additional information about their collection practices. The announcements were part of what Cuomo called a “statewide inquiry into debt collection companies.” Cuomo’s office said in a press release that it had obtained a court order against Lamont Cooper and two debt collection firms he owns that operated in the state: Emanee Development, Inc. and Dial Tech LLC. The order stipulates that the companies will shut down and Cooper will be forced to pay restitution to consumers statewide. Cooper and his companies are permanently barred from engaging in the debt collection business and acting as brokers that buy and resell portfolios of consumer debt. The attorney general alleged that Cooper’s companies told debtors that they were criminals, threatened lawsuits and arrest, engaged in third party disclosure, and other violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). “At a time when New York families are already struggling with unprecedented levels of debt, unscrupulous collection agencies add salt to an open wound,” said Attorney General Cuomo in a press release. “Using fear and intimidation to take advantage of individuals facing debt is a shameful and illegal scare tactic. This judgment is the first step in this Office’s expanding investigation into debt collectors that violate the rights of consumers and operate outside of the law.” Cuomo also said that he has subpoenaed nearly 20 companies and law firms operating as debt collectors throughout the state.

Cuomo said that the probe of debt collection practices will include activities that are illegal under state and federal law, including fraudulent threats of criminal prosecution, harassing phone calls to consumers and their families, friends and employers, bringing lawsuits against and/or reporting consumers to credit reporting agencies without verifying that the consumer being targeted actually owes the debt, and failing to disclose that a caller is working for a debt collector.

Guardian.co.uk: France - EU elctions - Dati draws French into European poll with lashings of glamour - by Angelique Chrisafis

Rachida Dati


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France - EU elections - Dati draws French into European poll with lashings of glamour - by Angelique Chrisafis

Rachida Dati, the French justice minister, may have been lampooned for wearing catwalk fashion at inappropriate moments, but having been forced against her will to run in the European elections she remains ­defiant in her footwear. Once Dati was Nicolas Sarkozy's symbol of change, hugely popular with the public as the first woman of North African descent to hold a major government post. Now she is using the European election campaign to fight back from her fall from grace. Sarkozy, who insisted Dati run for European parliament as a graceful way of ejecting her from his cabinet, is also aware of the usefulness of the cameras that follow her everywhere.

"This is more than just an opportunity for me, it's crucial. The power of the European parliament is vast – and it has more and more power . . . Anyone who doubts the importance of Europe in our every­day lives is just putting their own future in danger", says Rachida Dati

The Tech Herald: US EPA chief praises Netherlands' water policy on fact-finding trip - by Richard Bowden

For the complete report from the Tech Herald click on this link

US EPA chief praises Netherlands' water policy on fact-finding trip - by Richard Bowden

In a sneak preview of the way future US water planning may be headed, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Lisa Jackson and Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu both praised the Dutch methods of water management during a week-long fact-finding trip. Jackson said her agency could learn a great deal from the Dutch way of learning how to mitigate flooding instead of attempting to prevent increased rain due to climate change. "As climate changes and we start seeing more and more rain we have to stop fighting it," news agency Associated Press reported Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson as saying. "There's not enough energy in the world to fight it."

The mission was impressed by a number of Dutch innovative tactics to repel flooding including mixing water with sand dunes, building up minor waterways and the doing away with pavements to allow water to soak through to the earth. Jackson said the Dutch strategy to deal with excess water came down to "the idea that when it rains, the rush is not to pump out, but to be able to hold an amount of water."

Strategy Page: Air Transportation: AirBus Clobbers Russia Again on Indian tanker sale

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Air Transportation: AirBus Clobbers Russia Again on Indian tanker sale

The Indian Air Force decided to buy six Airbus A330 MRTT (Multi-Role Tanker Transport) rather than six Russian IL-78 aerial tankers. India has already been using six IL-78s since 2003, but felt the MRTT was a better value. India has been souring on Russian military equipment for the last decade, and this is another example. Poor reliability and maintenance support, as well as unpredictable pricing, has led India to depend increasingly on the West for military gear.

Huffington Post - US Economy - Fear and Looting in America: Are They Really Out of Money? - by Les Leopold

For the complete report from the Huffington Post click on this link

US Economy - Fear and Looting in America: Are They Really Out of Money? - by Les Leopold

The US bubble boom produced by those fantasy financial instruments it helped create a slew of billionaires. As Obama likes to point out, "This is America. We don't disparage wealth. We don't begrudge anyone for achieving success." But is there some limit beyond which success spills into obscene accumulation? At the very least we should be careful not to lose sight of how much money billionaires possess. In researching The Looting of America we tracked the wealth of the super-rich.In 1982, the top 400 individuals held an average net worth of $604 million each (in 2008 dollars). By 1995, their average wealth jumped to $1.7 billion. And in 2008, the 400 top winners averaged $3.9 billion each.... The total for the 400 high rollers adds up to a cool $1.56 trillion. That's equal to about 10 percent of the entire gross domestic product of the US.

We certainly could have a heated argument about how much of this wealth derived from the derivative-driven boom that just went bust. But surely we can all agree that those top 400 are sitting on a huge pile of money, while our country is going deeply into debt to fix a financial system that has contributed mightily to their enrichment.

Here is a dangerous thought. What if we had a very steeply progressive wealth/income tax that reduced the net worth of the super-rich to "only" about $100 million each? You wouldn't be suffering if you had $100 million kicking around. Now do the math: The 400 richest x $100 million each would equal $40 billion. That would leave about $1.52 trillion to help pay back the country for the Wall Street meltdown that we, our children and their children will be subsidizing. Maybe we're not so out of money after all?

Germany blames U.S. for scuttling deal on Opel

EU-Digest

Germany blames U.S. for scuttling deal on Opel

Reuters reported that the fate of German car maker Opel hung in the balance on Thursday after marathon talks on shielding it from the looming bankruptcy of its U.S. parent General Motors ended without a deal. German ministers told reporters after more than 12 hours of negotiations in Berlin that a bidding battle for Opel had narrowed to a two-way race between Italian car maker Fiat and Canadian auto parts company Magna.

The Germans blamed GM and the U.S. Treasury for the failure to agree a plan to tide Opel over until a deal with one of those suitors can be sealed. "We have made demands on the U.S. Treasury and expect answers by Friday and we will need these answers in order to agree a plan," Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said.

Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck said he was hopeful a deal could be reached on Friday that would save Opel. But he spoke of "surprises and disappointment" with the U.S. negotiators, saying GM had shocked participants by announcing it needed 300 million euros in additional short-term cash. Roland Koch, premier of the state of Hesse where Opel is based, added: "I think we can say clearly that a big part of the problems tonight came from the combination of new figures from General Motors and a not very helpful negotiating stance from the Americans, from the U.S. Treasury." Guttenberg said insolvency remained an option for Opel if U.S. negotiators refused to budge.

Cut Flower Market nosedives worldwide: Economy, climate batter the cut flowers market

EU-Digest

Cut Flower Market nosedives worldwide: Economy, climate batter the cut flowers market

Demand for flowers dipped by about 25 percent this year as recession-hit consumers in traditional European and US markets tightened spending on luxuries. "What we see now is that people are conscious of their spending, they think twice before they buy a bunch of flowers, a bottle of wine, or a new car," says a flower distributer in Miami.

Earnings have also been hit by currency fluctuations. The effect of this problem is also that the labor-intensive horticultural industry in Latin-America and Africa is bearing the brunt of this economic problem. Countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Colombia, Peru, Uruguay and other cut flower growers, which count on this industry as a major source of employment are badly hurting as a result. With unemployment figures continuing to rise in the nations which traditionally purchase flowers the future for the flower industry certainly can not be described as "rosy".

5/27/09

AP: France reports sharp drop in wine, champagne sales

For the complete report from AP click on this link

France reports sharp drop in wine, champagne sales - by Scott Sayare

As wallets grew thinner around the world, fans of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne cut back heavily on their purchases of French wine in 2008, according to French government statistics released Tuesday. French households drank almost 10 percent less wine last year than in 2007, and exports by French vintners sank 15 percent by volume and almost 30 percent by value in the first quarter of 2009, the agriculture ministry reported. "It's a phenomenon of the current economic situation, so we need to be prudent and not sound the alarm," said Xavier de Volontat, who heads an association of French vintners. "We'll have to be prudent vis-a-vis our members in the months to come. It's true that they're being patient, but they have to be able to get by economically." France's chateaux and vineyards have voiced concerns for their future after seeing orders plunge since the end of 2008.

In 1960, the average French adult drank almost 175 liters of wine per year — more than four times as much as the average for an entire household in 2008. And wine has been harder hit in recent years than beer or spirits — the French drink only half as much total alcohol today as 50 years ago.

NYT: France Opens First Military Base in the Gulf - by Matthew Saltmersh

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France Opens First Military Base in the Gulf - by Matthew Saltmersh

President Nicolas Sarkozy opened France’s first military facilities in the Gulf on Tuesday, deepening the government’s alliance with the United Arab Emirates and highlighting its shifting foreign policy priorities. Mr. Sarkozy attended a ceremony to open French naval, air and army facilities in Abu Dhabi. The bases are the first permanent French military installations to be built outside of French territory since the process of decolonization began more than half a century ago. The Gulf is of geopolitical importance both because of its gas and oil resources and because of its proximity to Iran. Abu Dhabi sits just 225 kilometers, or 140 miles, directly across the Gulf from Iran.

Bloomberg.com: Germany Seeks to Wean Opel From GM After 80 Years - by Andreas Cremer and Tony Czuczka

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Germany Seeks to Wean Opel From GM After 80 Years - by Andreas Cremer and Tony Czuczka

The German government aims to wean General Motors Corp.’s Opel unit from its U.S. parent after an 80-year association, insulating the European carmaker from a GM bankruptcy while buying time for negotiations with investors. Talks on securing Opel’s future hosted by Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin later today won’t “decide everything” and may not result in a preferred bidder, government spokesman Thomas Steg said in Berlin. Efforts will focus on forging an agreement with U.S. and GM officials to place Opel in a trust that would receive 1.5 billion euros ($2.1 billion) in loans, Steg said. “Naturally it’s attractive for the investors if Opel is kept alive,” Peter Bosch, an auto analyst at Oliver Wyman Consulting in Munich, said by phone today. “And it’s attractive for the government because it allows time for negotiations that can be conducted in peace to get the best result for Opel.”

ESA Portal - OasISS mission heading to ISS with ESA astronaut Frank De Winne - first European to become Commander of International Space Station

OasISS mission heading to the International Space Station


For the complete report from the ESA Portal click on this link

OasISS mission heading to ISS with ESA astronaut Frank De Winne-first European to become Commander of International Space Station

ESA astronaut Frank De Winne is heading to the International Space Station at the start of his six-month OasISS mission. Together with Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Robert Thirsk, De Winne launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, at 12:34 CEST (10:34 UT) today. Their Soyuz TMA-15 spacecraft is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) at 14:36 CEST (12:36 UT) on Friday 29 May. The arrival of De Winne, Romanenko and Thirsk at the ISS will mark the first ever six-member ISS crew, as they join the three Expedition crewmembers already in residence on the Station: Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, NASA astronaut Michael Barratt and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata.

For the first four months of his OasISS mission, De Winne will be a Flight Engineer as a member of the Expedition 20 crew, reporting to Expedition 20 Commander Gennady Padalka. With a rotation of three of the six crew members due in October, De Winne will take over as Commander of the Expedition 21 crew until his return to Earth in November. He is the first European to take on this role.

Barcelona wins European Champions Soccer League against Manchester 2-0

EU-Digest

Barcelona wins European Champions Soccer League against Manchester 2-0

In a match which Barcelona controlled throughout the game with perfect ball control Manchester was unable to get a grip on the game. Striker Samuel Eto'o made the first goal for Barcelona ten minutes into the game, with Manchester's Dutch goalkeeper, Edwin van der Sar, touching the ball but unable to stop it going in. Lionel Messi clinched the game for Barcelona with a brilliant second goal well into the second half. Barcelona has now wsold out crowd of about 83.000 people with some 350 million people watching the game on TV.

Google News: Tonight - Manchester Barcelona fight for Europe's top soccer title in Rome

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Tonight - Manchester Barcelona fight for Europe's top soccer title in Rome

Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs has called their Champions League showdown with Barcelona in Rome the "dream final". Barcelona duo Thierry Henry and Andres Iniesta continued their respective bids to be fit for the Champions League final as they returned to squad training, albeit not at the same level as their team-mates. Following on the heels of the European Song Festival Final this will be another huge soccer event watched by millions all over the world. The soccer spectacle between Barcelona and Manchester starts tonight 20.30 CET at the Olympic stadium of Rome.

European Parliament: More FAQs on the European elections 


For the complete report from the European Parliament

More FAQs on the European elections

Europe goes to the polls in 10 days when people have the chance to elect a new set of Members for the European Parliament. Ahead of the ballot - in which an estimated 375 million people are entitled to vote, we look at some of the questions we have been getting about the practicalities of the election and how it will work exactly.

Change is only possible by letting your voice be heard. Make use of your democratic right as an EU Citizen and vote on June 4.

This report (click on the link) provides a sample of what the European Parliament has been asked by some of the voters

5/26/09

Wired: The New Socialism: Global Collectivist Society Is Coming Online - by Kevin Kelly

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The New Socialism: Global Collectivist Society Is Coming Online - by Kevin Kelly

We're not talking about your grandfather's socialism. In fact, there is a long list of past movements this new socialism is not. It is not class warfare. It is not anti-American; indeed, digital socialism may be the newest American innovation. While old-school socialism was an arm of the state, digital socialism is socialism without the state. This new brand of socialism currently operates in the realm of culture and economics, rather than government—for now.

Communal aspects of digital culture run deep and wide. Wikipedia is just one remarkable example of an emerging collectivism—and not just Wikipedia but wikiness at large. Ward Cunningham, who invented the first collaborative Web page in 1994, tracks nearly 150 wiki engines today, each powering myriad sites. Wetpaint, launched just three years ago, hosts more than 1 million communal efforts. Widespread adoption of the share-friendly Creative Commons alternative copyright license and the rise of ubiquitous file-sharing are two more steps in this shift. Mushrooming collaborative sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, the Hype Machine, and Twine have added weight to this great upheaval. Nearly every day another startup proudly heralds a new way to harness community action. These developments suggest a steady move toward a sort of socialism uniquely tuned for a networked world.

Washington Post: Last Minute Schedule Change - Obama Adds Saudi Arabia As First Stop to Mideast Trip - by Michael D.Shear

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Last Minute Schedule Change - Obama Adds Saudi Arabia As First Stop to Mideast Trip - by Michael D.Shear

President Obama will travel to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for a previously unannounced visit during which he will discuss Mideast peace with King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, press secretary Robert Gibbs said today. The visit will take place the day before Obama is to deliver a speech in Cairo, Egypt. In the speech, he is expected to speak broadly to the Muslim world and also discuss his hopes for peace in the region. Gibbs said that Obama will hold no public events in Riyadh but will have a private dinner with the King and will spend the night in the city before heading to Egypt.

New Scientist: Europe's HIV followed holiday routes - by Ewen Callaway

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Europe's HIV followed holiday routes - by Ewen Callaway

HIV's European tour may have begun in the Mediterranean. A new genetic map plotted from viruses in hundreds of people suggests that many European strains of HIV trace their ancestry to Greece, Portugal, Serbia and Spain. Sun-seeking tourists from northern and central Europe might account for the pattern, the study's authors say. The vast majority of the study's participants said they acquired their infections in their home country, so the patterns could be a vestige of HIV's emergence and early spread through Europe in the early 1980s, probably after arriving from the US.

That's not certain, though, and the patterns could also be a result of more recent transmissions, says Dimitrios Paraskevis, a virologist at the University of Athens, Greece, who led the study of viruses from 16 European countries and Israel. The story is unclear because his team's analysis was not designed to pin a date to the spread of HIV through Europe.

Pravda: Europe and Islam - When a Muslim woman puts a headscarf on, she manifests her humility toward God, not man

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When a Muslim woman puts a headscarf on, she manifests her humility toward God, not man

A paranja or a hijab has become the symbol of sexual humiliation for the Christian world. Unlike a Christian woman, a woman in Islam does not symbolize a demonic instigation, which constantly misleads men. A hijab is a symbol of piety and modesty. When a Muslim woman puts a headscarf on, she manifests her humility toward God, not man. In addition, Muslim women want to be appreciated for their character and good deeds – they prefer it more in comparison with sex appeal appraisals. Quran tells woman to cover her head, neck and chest to protect her honor and dignity - a Muslim woman is not an object of sexual attraction. She is free to walk naked in front of her husband. Furthermore, the religion tells woman to do her best to make her husband like her. The missionary position is said to be considered the only decent sexual position in Christianity. Quran does not prohibit any positions in sex: “Your wives are your field. You may walk on that field as you like,” the book says.

Irish Times: To inflict unity on Europe's diverse peoples is so divisive - by Richard Pine

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To inflict unity on Europe's diverse peoples is so divisive - by Richard Pine

"The financial crisis has highlighted the lack of a common European policy among its leaders. With Gorbachev modelling Vuitton handbags, one wonders what sort of world glasnost has created. But also – and much more seriously I think – it demonstrates a systemic crisis. Having already given away so much of their sovereignty, countries and regions are now expressing a distaste for, or suspicion of, what unity actually means. The appeasing catch-all slogan “unity in diversity” is an obscenity – at best, high-octane bovine effluent, at worst an arrogant condescension to the smaller and more diverse cultures, designed to fool the greatest number of people for as long as possible.

It is diversity which actually creates Europe – more interesting in its differences than in its conformity and orthodoxy. Europe has more chance of being saved by a Sarakatsani folk-singer’s wisdom than by the prancing of a financial or political princeling or, god forbid, an economist. I want Europe to be a vibrant, positive, constructive entity, but I see less and less of it every day, compared to the 1970s, when my enthusiasm was ignited and my European work began. Europe needs integrity without integration, coherence without cohesion."

VisionMedia: Mortally Wounded? Global Finance and Banking Systems in Crisis

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Mortally Wounded? Global Finance and Banking Systems in Crisi

So how different is this crisis? Not different at all, according to Carmen M. Reinhart (University of Maryland professor of economics and former deputy director at the Research Department of the International Monetary Fund [IMF]) and her colleague Kenneth S. Rogoff (Harvard professor of economics and former chief economist and director of research for the IMF). In a paper published in April 2008 titled “This Time Is Different: A Panoramic View of Eight Centuries of Financial Crises,” Reinhart and Rogoff concluded that “the 2007–2008 US sub-prime financial crisis is hardly exceptional.” Perhaps the issue is not whether the system is mortally wounded but whether it is fundamentally flawed. Reinhart and Rogoff have documented nearly a millennium of national indebtedness—public and private—that leads to default, bank failures, currency devaluation and debasement, and inflation.

The Journal Of Commerce - White Paper: The Global Infrastructure Boom of 2009-2015 - by J.Gerritsen

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White Paper: The Global Infrastructure Boom of 2009-2015 - by Eric J.Gerritsen

In response to the financial crisis of 2008, governments around the world have pledged to spend trillions of dollars over the next few years on what is loosely called “infrastructure” and what amounts to the biggest global build-out of physical economic assets in the history of man. This global infrastructure boom will intensively unfold between 2009 and 2015 and will transform how the world looks, gets educated, moves goods and services, creates wealth, treats the sick, cares for the poor, powers its homes and businesses, and wages war. The amounts of infrastructure money sloshing into the world economy defy imagination: The Obama administration will spend $150 billion of its $787 billion stimulus plan on infrastructure and is expected to add to that; China has pledged $585 billion and stands ready to do more; India is expected to spend $500 billion on infrastructure from now until 2015; the European Union, $252 billion; Japan, $129 billion; Canada, $12 billion; Australia, $4.7 billion, Singapore, $13.8 billion; Germany, $42 billion; and so on.

This great infrastructure boom will create winners and losers. Losers will squander infrastructure spending on corruption and ineptitude. Winners will create powerful new engines of economic growth for generations to come based on new energy, globally competitive health care and strong educations. What then is infrastructure? Broadly speaking, infrastructure refers to all the stuff we use day today but never think about: water from the tap; the road to work; the bridge we cross on the way to work; what happens when we flush the toilet; the energy accessed when we switch on a light; the runways our planes land on.

Tree Hugger: 540 MW Wind Farm Proposed for Shetland Islands - by Matthew McDermott

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540 MW Wind Farm Proposed for Shetland Islands - - by Matthew McDermott

If all goes well the Shetland Islands will have quite a wind power feather in their cap: Viking Energy (a joint venture between the Shetland community and Scottish and Southern Energy) has submitted an application for a 540 MW wind farm, to be built on the central mainland of Shetland. The wind farm is expected to take up about 250 hectares, consist of 150 turbines of 90 meters in height. Estimated cost is about euro 850 million ($1.25 billion). Expected revenue over the lifetime of the project is anticipated to be about euro 28 million ($36 million) per year. Construction could begin as soon as 2011 and be completed by 2016.

5/25/09

70% of the estimated $1.95 billion dollars of China's reserves is in US treasuries, and China also holds about a quarter of US debt held by foreigners

EU-Digest

70% of the estimated $1.95 billion dollars of China's reserves is in US treasuries, and China also holds about a quarter of US debt held by foreigners

Blogging Stocks and the Financial Times report that China’s official foreign exchange authority is still buying record amounts of US government bonds, in spite of Beijing’s increasingly vocal fear of a dollar collapse, according to officials and analysts. Senior Chinese officials, including Wen Jiabao, the premier, have repeatedly signalled concern that US policies could lead to a collapse of the dollar and global inflation.

China still buys US treasuries because it is the most liquid and largest world trading market. China's State Administration of Foreign Exchange (Safe) said that it would disrupt any other world market if China shifted its assets elsewhere. The actual amount of China's reserves is a state secret. However it is assumed the 70% of the estimated $1.95 billion dollars of China's reserves is in US treasuries, and that China holds about a quarter of US debt held by foreigners. Bottom line is that if the US economy crashes, so will the Chinese. So it is quite clear that over the long term China wants to cut its exposure to US treasuries and consequently has already eased restrictions for state owned companies to acquire competitors abroad.

Huffington Post: U.S. Economy Risks Dire Prospect of Hyperinflation - by Sheldon Filger

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U.S. Economy Risks Dire Prospect of Hyperinflation - by Sheldon Filger

"Massive quantitative easing by the US Fed is pouring trillions of U.S. dollars into the money supply, essentially conjured out of thin air. This is being done without transparency, the rationale being that frozen credit markets require a vast expansion of the money supply in an attempt to get the arteries of commerce flowing again. Similarly, the U.S. government is spending vast amounts of money it does not have, with the Treasury Department selling unprecedented levels of government debt in a frantic effort to fund the wildly expanding U.S. deficit. These two forces, quantitative easing and multi-trillion dollar deficits, are the core ingredients of an explosive fiscal cocktail that I believe will ultimately lead to hyperinflation."

"What is most frightening about the policy moves being enacted by the Fed and Treasury is that their actions may not be a reckless gamble after all. They may have come to the conclusion that only hyperinflation will enable the United Sates to avoid national insolvency. In effect, they may be pursing the exact opposite course undertaken by Paul Volcker in the early 1980's. If that is their prescription for the dire economic crisis confronting the U.S., then one must conclude that Ben Bernanke, Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers have learned nothing from history. Once the spigot of hyperinflation is tuned on, it becomes a cascading torrent that is almost impossible to switch off, and which in its wake inflicts inconceivable levels of economic, political and social devastation."

nrc.nl - European elections 2009 - 'The feeling is that Europe has saved France from crisis' - by Marc Leijendekker

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European elections 2009 - 'The feeling is that Europe has saved France from crisis' - by Marc Leijendekker

There is a widespread feeling that Europe and the euro have protected France from the financial crisis. Of course we have some technical issues, over fishery for example. And some people continue to make fun of bureaucrats in Brussels who want to decide the size of goat cheese. But that has not increased. There is no feeling of malaise." In matters of diplomacy and defense, the French support a more European approach.

New York Times: Green Inc. Column - Looking at Europe’s Green Ways - by Kate Galbraith

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When Chicago’s mayor, Richard Daley, visited Germany some years ago, he was struck by the concept of “green roofs” — flourishing gardens atop homes and businesses. He came back to Chicago and founded the most ambitious green roof program in the United States.Edward Regan, an assistant general manager at Gainesville Regional Utilities in Florida, spent 10 days in Germany last year on a trip with other utility executives. Among the things that struck him were Germany’s “feed-in tariffs” — requirements that utilities pay a fixed, above-market price to producers of renewable power. Upon returning to the United States, Gainesville implemented the first citywide feed-in tariff in the United States.

It makes sense for the United States to search abroad for expertise, because Europe has taken the lead in ushering in the new-energy revolution. Germany enacted feed-in tariffs in 1991. It now leads the world in the production of solar power, despite ample cloud cover. For Americans — raised in a culture of large cars and large houses, in which the cost of energy is an afterthought — seeing how the other half lives can be illuminating.

5/24/09

Guardian.uk/Observer: America's new green guru sparks anger over climate change U-turns - by Ed Helmore

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America's new green guru sparks anger over climate change U-turns - by Ed Helmore

US energy secretary Steven Chu will fly to Europe this week to begin talks that will be crucial in the global battle against climate change. The 61-year-old physicist will hold key discussions with energy ministers from the G8 nations in Rome before travelling to London to take part in a debate with Nobel prize winners on global warming. The arrival of Chu, himself a physics Nobel laureate, comes as the scientist-turned-politician finds himself attacked by environmentalists over decisions he has made about America's campaign to fight global warming. Green groups have accused him of being "contradictory and illogical" and of failing to demonstrate sufficient dynamism in establishing a new, low-carbon approach to transport and power-generation in the United States. In recent weeks, Chu - who was appointed energy secretary by Barack Obama in December - has revealed that he is no longer willing to block the construction of new coal-powered electricity plants in the US, despite widespread opposition from green groups and having initially said that he would not permit their construction.

UPI: NATO isn't prepared for new land wars in Europe - by Martin Sieff

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NATO isn't prepared for new land wars in Europe - by Martin Sieff

There's one thing that Bush administration Republicans and Obama administration Democrats agree on when it comes to national security issues: The day of major land wars between major industrialized states is over. In fact the nearest thing there has been to such a war in the past generation was between two relatively small states -- Iran and Iraq, which fought a bitter ground war that cost close to a million dead -- possibly many more -- from 1980 to 1988. The idea that such a tragedy could occur again in modern Europe, six and a half decades after World War II ended, is inconceivable to liberals and conservatives alike in Washington. The possibility of having to fight such a war is even more appalling and inconceivable to the military planners who are paid to prepare for it in European nations and in NATO alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

Economist.com: World Economy - Emerging economies: Decoupling 2.0

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World Economy - Emerging economies: Decoupling 2.0

Remember the debate about decoupling? A year ago, many commentators—including this newspaper—argued that emerging economies had become more resilient to an American recession, thanks to their strong domestic markets and prudent macroeconomic policies. Naysayers claimed America’s weakness would fell the emerging world. Over the past six months the global slump seemed to prove the sceptics right. Emerging economies reeled and decoupling was ridiculed. Yet perhaps the idea was dismissed too soon. Even if America’s output remains weak, there are signs that some of the larger emerging economies could see a decent rebound. China is exhibit A of this new decoupling: its economy began to accelerate again in the first four months of this year. Fixed investment is growing at its fastest pace since 2006 and consumption is holding up well. Despite debate over the accuracy of China’s GDP figures (see article), most economists agree that output will grow faster than seemed plausible only a few months ago. Growth this year could be close to 8%. Such optimism has fueled commodity prices which have, in turn, brightened the outlook for Brazil and other commodity exporters.

academic.ru: Napoleon and the Jews

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Napoleon and the Jews

The ascendancy of Napoleon Bonaparte proved to be an important event in the emancipation of the Jews of Europe from old laws restricting them to Jewish ghettos, as well as the many laws that limited Jews' rights to property, worship, and careers.

During the siege of Acre in 1799, Bonaparte prepared a proclamation declaring a Jewish state in Palestine, though he did not issue it. The siege was lost to the Ottoman and the plan was never carried out. Some historians, including Nathan Schur in "Napoleon and the Holy Land," believe that the proclamation was intended purely for propaganda purposes, and that Napoleon was not serious about the creation of a Jewish state. Some believe that the proclamation was made in order to win the heart of Haim Farhi, the Jewish advisor to the ruler of Acre, Ahmed al Jazzar, and to bring him over to Napoleon's side, as Farhi was the actual commander of the defence of Acre on the field.

Still, this proclamation in 1799 is counted by some as having historic importance in the history of Zionism, because it was made by the major political power of its time, many years before Theodor Herzl's "Der Judenstaat" or the Balfour Declaration. Napoleon's indirect influence on the fate of the Jews was even more powerful than any of the decrees recorded in his name. By breaking up the feudal trammels of mid-Europe and introducing the equality of the French Revolution he effected more for Jewish emancipation than had been accomplished during the three preceding centuries.

NYT: As Stimulus Piles Up Dollars, Their Value Falls - by Jack Healy

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As Stimulus Piles Up Dollars, Their Value Falls - by Jack Healy

The dollar was on a roll just a few months ago, bounding higher against foreign currencies as investors sought a safe hiding place for their money amid a global downturn. But now, many are rethinking their decision to buy American.The Federal Reserve is printing money from thin air, and the government is issuing trillions of dollars in new debt as it tries to spend its way out of the recession with a huge stimulus package, new lending programs, health care overhauls and automotive rescues. Experts warned there might not be enough demand to sop up all those new dollars and dollar-denominated Treasury securities. That led investors to fret about the sustainability of the United States government’s AAA sovereign credit rating after the Standard & Poor’s ratings agency warned this week that the sovereign rating of Britain — which is spending hundreds of billions of pounds to engineer a recovery — is under threat.

EUobserver/EU-Digest: EU-Russia summit ends with prickly exchange over energy - by Andrew Rettman

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EU-Russia summit ends with prickly exchange over energy - by Andrew Rettman

Originally billed as an uneventful meeting on technical issues such as trade tariffs, the EU-Russia summit in the Far East on Friday (22 May) ended in open disagreement over foreign policy and energy security. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned that the EU's new Eastern Partnership project to improve relations with six former-Soviet states risks inflaming political tensions. "I'll put it succinctly. We tried to convince ourselves [that the EU project is harmless] but in the end we couldn't," he said, newswires report. "What worries us is that in some countries attempts are being made to exploit this structure as a partnership against Russia."

The Russophile President Vaclav Klaus stayed on message at the summit, repeating the EU lines that Russia is a "strategic partner" and that the Eastern Partnership "is not aimed against anybody." But comments he made in Czech daily Lidove Noviny before the Khabarovsk meeting have caused anger inside the EU. "I don't see Russia as a threat but as a big, strong and ambitious country to which we must certainly pay more attention than to the likes of Estonia and Lithuania," the paper quoted him as saying.

Note EU-Digest: President Vaclav Klaus is certainly on target here. The EU must consider Russia's demands certainly more serious than the more emotional and the politically motivated demands by some of the former Soviet countries which have become EU member states.

5/23/09

Canada.com: Northern shrimp could be 'canary' of climate change say biologists in EU, Canada and US - by Richard Foot

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Northern shrimp could be 'canary' of climate change say biologists in EU, Canada and US - by Richard Foot

In an article to be published Friday in the journal Science, federal biologists from Canada, along with partners in the United States and Europe, reveal that North Atlantic shrimp have developed the ability to expertly time the hatching of their eggs to coincide with the release of springtime ocean algae blooms, on which the baby shrimp feed. What makes this such an exquisite feat of nature is that the egg hatching --which occurs, on average, within days of the algae bloom -- is not triggered by the bloom itself, but by ocean temperatures that dictate the incubation period of the eggs. Shrimp populations in different Atlantic climatic zones have adapted their reproductive cycles to cope with longer or shorter incubation periods--but in each case the periods are timed to coincide with local algae blooms.

In warmer parts of the ocean -- off the coast of Maine, for example --shrimp lay their eggs only a few months before the annual spring algae bloom. In colder parts, such as the waters off Iceland, where eggs need more time to incubate, shrimp eggs are laid almost a year before the bloom. So important is ocean temperature to the shrimp's survival that Koeller says the species is extremely vulnerable to climate change, which could play havoc with egg incubation times.

Farm Focus: Russia cuts off pork and hog exports from NS Canada - by Jim Romahn

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Russia cuts off pork and hog exports from NS Canada - by Jim Romahn

Government officials in Nova Scotia Canada have confirmed that Russia has cut off pork and hog exports from Ontario, Alberta and Nova Scotia. Swine flu is the reason that has been given. The H1N1 virus that began in Mexico has spread around the world, and in Canada passed from a worker who visited Mexico to a herd of about 2,200 pigs in Alberta. That herd is under quarantine, even though the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has said it’s a mild form of the virus that is relatively common in pigs. They usually have the sniffles for a week to 10 days and fully recover.

Canada and World Health Organization officials say the virus in pigs poses no health risk to pork consumers. Russia is one of a number of countries, albeit none of them in North America or Europe, who have banned exports of Canadian hogs and pork since the first cases of H1N1 arose in Canada at the end of April.

Reason Online: Going Dutch: Should America follow the model of the Netherlands on taxation and regulation? Absolutely. - Michael Moynihan

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Going Dutch: Should America follow the model of the Netherlands on taxation and regulation? Absolutely. - Michael Moynihan

Like its neighbors to the north, the Netherlands has "succeeded" by greatly reducing state intervention into the economy and, in bargaining with the powerful Dutch labor unions, scaling back generous sick leave and unemployment benefits. The Economist recommends the Dutch model, too—as a model for liberalization of markets and shrinking of the welfare state: "A welfare state that is too generous, and a labour market that is too rigid? Follow the Dutch example of chipping away at the first and quietly introducing flexibility into the second. Taxes that are too high and public spending that defies cutting? Look at the Dutch tax reforms that sharply lowered the burden of direct taxes, and at the finance ministry's tough spending controls." As the Dutch economist Ruud A. de Mooij points out, public expenditure as a percentage of GDP decreased from 62 percent in 1982 to 44 percent in 2007, helping spur much of the growth in the previous two decades. But with shifting demographics and generous benefits for those who opt out of the job market, the system, he notes, is still in a perilous state.

There are indeed lessons to be learned from countries like the Netherlands. Which means that supporters of the "European model" must acknowledge that most of these successes—as is the case in many other European countries—are the result of a significant overhaul of base social democratic assumptions about government control of labor markets and health care systems. In other words, as the U.S. moves towards them, they continue to move towards us.

Examiner.com: British commercials for vibrators and condoms are the best in the world - by Jennifer Gunter

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British commercials for vibrators and condoms are the best in the world - by Jennifer Gunter

Misinformation is the biggest enemy of a healthy and safe sex life. If you don't know how to have good sex it is harder to be sexually fulfilled.
Vibrators are a great way for women to enhance their sexual experience. The problem? They are also one of the best-kept secrets. There is an occasional column in a women’s magazine, but the only advertisement to hit the public airwaves is from Trojan for their finger-vibe. It only appears on late night television and it is so bad is laughable (even worse than the ads for erectile dysfunction!). Trojan has made an inspiring commercial before, their “Men are pigs unless they wear a condom ad”, so it is disappointing they couldn’t find the same creative spark to support female orgasm, especially when they want women to shell out $19.99 for their product. Perhaps Trojan realized they wouldn’t get these ads on television so didn’t invest the capitol. After all, two of the major networks, FOX and CBS rejected the Trojan “Pigs” commercial all the while running advertisements for erectile dysfunction.

This is not the case in Europe. Ads for vibrators not only appear on television but they are also creative and cheeky. Hands down the best ads come from Durex, a British company whose motto is “ Sex plays a fundamental role in our physical and emotional wellbeing and a rewarding sex life should be everyone’s to enjoy”. Amen sister!

BBC NEWS: Prostitution - Spain holds 'voodoo' traffickers

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Prostitution - Spain holds 'voodoo' traffickers

Spanish police have arrested 23 people suspected of trafficking Nigerian women into the country and forcing them into prostitution by using voodoo curses. Experts said the women were scared into submission because of a vow they were forced to take on the graves of their ancestors before they left Nigeria. The money the women earned was then kept until they had paid off the debt incurred getting to Spain, police said. The traffickers allegedly supplied women for the sex trade across Europe.

AP: Opel returning to European Ownership - Magna, Sberbank team up in Opel bid

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Opel returning to European Ownership - Magna, Sberbank team up in Opel bidd

Canadian auto parts maker Magna International Inc. says it is joining forces with Russia's biggest lender, Sberbank, in a bid to take a majority stake in General Motors Corp.'s Opel unit.In a statement released late Friday, Aurora, Ontario-based Magna for the first time offered details of its bid, one of three from companies interested in Opel. Magna and Sberbank propose to invest a total of euro700 million ($977 million) in Opel, based in Ruesselsheim, Germany. An unspecified portion of that would be guaranteed by the German government, the statement said. A possible deal would leave Magna with 20 percent of Opel and state-controlled Sberbank with 35 percent, while parent GM would retain 35 percent and 10 percent would go to Opel employees, it added.

5/22/09

Forbes.com: Not Your Father's Diesel - 50% of European Cars are diesel - Hannah Elliot

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Not Your Father's Diesel - 50% of European Cars are diesel - Hannah Elliot

For now, Europe leads the world in diesel prevalence. About 50% of the vehicles in Europe have diesel engines, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association. Belgium, Luxembourg and France are the most diesel-friendly countries in Europe these days, with a near-80% penetration. Diesels in Europe registered their highest levels in Europe in 2007, up 40% over their level in 1990. Part of the reason for that rapid growth is fuel-tax differentiation that favored diesel fuel. Europeans have also solidified diesel's place in their driving culture at large.Engines that run on diesel fuel use combustion to produce power, but they lack spark plugs, compress air at twice the compression ratio as a gas engine and send fuel directly into the combustion chamber, rather than using a throttle to regulate airflow.

Calgary Herald: IEA Yedlin: Warning about an oil supply crunch

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IEA Yedlin: Warning about an oil supply crunch

The IEA revisited its forecasts of last year, where it said the world needed to invest $1 trillion a year in order to ensure there would be enough supply to meet growing demand by 2030.

Now it is warning of a supply crunch that will start to be felt by 2012 as a result of the amount of money not being invested in exploring for and developing new oil supply. The biggest pull back in investment, it notes, is taking place in countries that are not members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and in resources that are harder to bring on stream. And yes, Canada is highlighted as having been hit hardest, presumably because of the cost to develop the oil sands. v

nrc.nl - Belgium stands alone in its defence of Europe

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Belgium stands alone in its defense of Europe

The other day on the Dutch TV talk show Pauw & Witteman, a huge political gap was revealed in the political landscape of the low countries. Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian prime minister who is now running for the European parliament, was explaining how only Europe can save the world from the financial crisis. More Europe was needed, Verhofstadt said, not less. An Obama-style plan on a European scale, led by a European economic government, is how he argues it in his new book, The way out of the crisis. To make their point, the hosts invited Verhofstadt to watch a cascade of images of no-voters in France, the Netherlands and Ireland in referenda on the European constitution in 2005 and 2008. And didn't Europe's political leaders themselves want less rather than more Europe? Both Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel got into a nationalist frenzy over the credit crisis.

Verhofstadt was unfazed. Give it a few years, he said, and Sarkozy and Merkel and even Bos of the Netherlands will come to realize that the solution can only come from Europe. It's just a matter of waiting for the crisis to really hit home. It was a reply based on an old recipe: if you can't prove your point in the present, appeal to the future. But when exactly will that future be upon us?

Note EU-Digest: Pauw and Witteman, two arrogant Dutch journalists, who like their country seem too big for their boots, could not swallow the fact that Mr. Verhofstadt was right on target in what he said. Unfortunately many of today's European politicians are mediocre, inward looking, self centered and unable to see the big picture. Eventually this political mentality, if not reversed, will destroy the EU and the hand that feeds them. This is specially true for the Netherlands, which is dependent on trade with its European neighbors. Europe needs more politicians like Mr. Verhofstadt

The Washington Post: U.S. to Steer GM Toward Bankruptcy - by David Cho, Peter Whoriskey and Kendra Marr

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U.S. to Steer GM Toward Bankruptcy - by David Cho, Peter Whoriskey and Kendra Marr

The Obama administration is preparing to send General Motors into bankruptcy as early as the end of next week under a plan that would give the automaker tens of billions of dollars more in public financing as the company seeks to shrink and reemerge as a global competitor, sources familiar with the discussions said.

The shifts into and out of bankruptcy are landmarks in the Obama administration's attempt to broker a historic restructuring of the American auto industry in the space of months. The legal tactic is viewed by some as the best means of reviving the companies. But the speed of the government-led transformation has triggered complaints that the rights of investors and dealers are being trampled. Meanwhile, fears that a bankruptcy could lead to cascading business failures are spreading throughout GM's vast chain of suppliers.

Time Magazine: Vaclav Klaus: The Man with the E.U.'s Fate in His Hands - by Katerina Zachovola


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Vaclav Klaus: The Man with the E.U.'s Fate in His Hands - by Katerina Zachovola

The Czech Republic is one of four E.U. countries — out of 27 — that are yet to finish ratifying a treaty that would allow the enlarged bloc to reform its institutions. The goal of the Lisbon Treaty, which the E.U. has been working on since its failed attempt to pass a constitution in 2005, is to boost the E.U.'s influence on the world stage by making it more effective. The Czech government first submitted the treaty for ratification in parliament in January 2008, but its opponents, encouraged by euroskeptic Klaus, managed to put the painstakingly negotiated accord on the back burner for over a year. Finally, the Czech Senate was the last parliamentary chamber in the E.U. to approve the treaty on May 6, passing the hot potato onto the president, whose signature is required for ratification. Klaus, 67, opposes the treaty as a boon to the E.U.'s bigger members and a threat to his country's sovereignty, and he has since kept Europe on tenterhooks as it waits to see whether or not he will sign.

In a sign that he may not intend to kill the reform pact outright, Klaus gave up a chance to chair the E.U.'s June summit in Brussels, at which E.U. leaders plan to appease Irish voters before Ireland holds its new referendum. The summit will instead be chaired by new Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer, who supports the treaty.

5/21/09

CNNMoney.com: US Fed's economic forecast worsens - Unemployment could hit more than 10% - by Chris Isidore

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US Fed's economic forecast worsens - unemployment could hit more than 10% - by Chris Isidore by Chris Isidore

The Federal Reserve's latest forecasts for the U.S. economy are gloomier than the ones released three months earlier, with an expectation for higher unemployment and a steeper drop in economic activity. The Fed's forecasts, released as part of the minutes from its April meeting, show that its staff now expects the unemployment rate to rise to between 9.2% and 9.6% this year. The central bank had forecast in January that the jobless rate would be in a range of 8.5% to 8.8%, but the unemployment rate already topped that in April, hitting 8.9%.

International Nordic News: Christianity - Today is Ascension Day: Nordic nations take holiday -

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Today is Ascension Day: Many European nations take a holiday

Today is Ascension Day, the 40th day of Easter, when the Bible says Jesus ascended to heaven to sit at the right-hand of God. The day is always celebrated on a Thursday and is a public holiday in many countries, including Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and many other European countries. On this day, schools and offices are shut and visitors may find restrictions to shop, restaurant and travel services too. In Sweden many people go out to the woods at 3am or 4am to hear the birds at sunrise. It is considered good luck if a cuckoo is heard from the east or west. These jaunts are called gokotta, or “early cuckoo morning”.

BBC NEWS : Georgia mutiny suspect shot dead

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Georgia mutiny suspect shot dead

Georgian police have shot dead a man suspected of playing a key role in a mutiny at a military base earlier this month, the interior ministry has said. Gia Krialashvili was killed in a shoot-out with police as they tried to arrest him in a western suburb of Tbilisi, it said. Two other suspects were wounded. All three men have military backgrounds and are suspected of masterminding the brief mutiny at Mukhrovani on 5 May.

The Daily Green: US Car Fuel Efficiency - Obama Fuel Economy Standards Lag Behind World

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US Car Fuel Efficiency - Obama Fuel Economy Standards Lag Behind World By 2016, the average U.S. vehicle will get 35.5 mpg -- a 40% improvement over today's fuel economy. But only two 2009 models get better than 35.5 mpg, and only one of those would meet European or Japanese fuel economy standards today.The new fuel efficiency and carbon dioxide emissions standards are the first U.S. regulation of greenhouse gases, and they will boost fuel efficiency of American vehicles by some 40% by 2016. But even then, when U.S. cars get an average of 35.5 mpg, the U.S. will lag behind Chinese efficiency standards today. And U.S. cars won't even approach the efficiency of European or Japanese cars today.

Businessweek: Air France-KLM-Delta Deal: Atop the Atlantic - by Carol Matlack

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Air France-KLM-Delta Deal: Atop the Atlantic - by Carol Matlack

Most of the world's major airlines cozied up long ago in alliances to improve efficiency and expand their route networks. But Air France-KLM and Delta (DAL), partners in the SkyTeam alliance, significantly tightened their embrace on May 20 as they sealed the creation of a $12 billion-a-year joint venture that will become the biggest operator of flights between the U.S. and Europe. The joint venture will take over all North Atlantic flights now run by the two carriers, including those operated by a KLM-Northwest Airlines joint venture before Northwest's 2008 merger with Delta. All told, the new JV will handle about 50,000 passengers a day, or 25% of all North Atlantic traffic.

Guardian.uk: Russia and EU begin summit amid mutual exasperation - by Luke Harding

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Russia and EU begin summit amid mutual exasperation - by Luke Harding

Russia and the European Union were today holding a summit intended to improve their battered relationship, amid mutual exasperation and irritation in Moscow at the EU's recent attempts to lure eastern European countries away from Moscow's orbit. Russia's president, Dmitry Medvedev, was hosting a two-day EU-Russia summit in the far eastern city of Khabarovsk, close to Vladivostok and Russia's Pacific coast. EU leaders, including the European commission president, José Manuel Barroso, arrived in the city this morning. The summit comes at a time of growing frustration between Brussels and Moscow over a host of issues ranging from energy policy to the war in Georgia. The EU was irritated by Russia's gas war in January with Ukraine and Medvedev's failure to pull Russian troops out of the breakaway Georgian republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Today EU's Barroso stuck a conciliatory note. "Russia and the EU are interdependent. The global financial and economic crisis stresses the need to develop the potential of our relationship, remove obstacles and co-ordinate our efforts," he declared, saying that "regular and frank dialogue" was the way to overcome "difficult" issues.

5/20/09

EurActiv.com - Scholars condemn alternatives to Turkey's EU entry | EU - European Information on Enlargement & Neighbours

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Scholars condemn alternatives to Turkey's EU entry | EU - European Information on Enlargement & Neighbours

Turkish scholars yesterday (19 May) categorically rejected calls by France and Germany to replace the country's planned EU accession with a "privileged partnership".Speaking at a Brussels conference organized by the 'TR Centre for Turkey in Europeexternal ', a think-tank, Turkish academics warned that it would be "impossible" for the country to accept any other kind of relationship with the EU than full membership.

"A privileged partnership will not provide an incentive for deep political transformation," said Şevket Pamuk from the London School of Economics. Pamuk - who is the brother of Nobel prize winner Orhan Pamuk - argued that if EU leaders keep saying that Turkey will never become an EU member, it will be very difficult for the country to tackle its internal problems successfully. Speaking at a Brussels conference organised by the 'TR Centre for Turkey in Europeexternal ', a think-tank, Turkish academics warned that it would be "impossible" for the country to accept any other kind of relationship with the EU than full membership.

Note EU-Digest: Not allowing Turkey membership into the EU after they meet all requirements of membership would be a mistake of historical proportions which Europe will come to regret and possibly destroy the EU. .

EUobserver: China lies at heart of Europe's recovery, says Brussels - by Andrew Willis

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU President Vaclav Klaus, who hosts the EU-China Prague summit


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China lies at heart of Europe's recovery, says Brussels - by Andrew Willis

Speaking on the eve of the eleventh EU-China summit to be held in Prague, European commissioner for external relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner highlighted the central role China will play in Europe's economic recovery. "China is one of our most important partners in meeting the challenges of today and tomorrow," Ms Ferrero-Waldner told policymakers and diplomats gathered in Brussels for a conference on EU-China relations organised by Friends of Europe and the Security and Defence Agenda, a pair of Brussels think-tanks. Exports from the EU's 27 member states to China rose to €78 billion in 2008 compared to €26 billion in 2000, while its imports from China rose from €75 billion to €248 over the same period.

Note EU-Digest: The trade figures between the the EU and China nevertheless reflects a substantially increased trade deficit for the EU with China which needs to be addressed. China's carbon emissions problem could possibly be used as a trade off in coming to acceptable solutions as to fair trade and climate change

Flanders Investment and Trade: Port of Antwerp receives Chinese Shipping Star Award

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Port of Antwerp receives Chinese Shipping Star Award

Flanders Investment and Trade: Port of Antwerp receives Chinese Shipping Star Award

Chinese Internet site ‘ShippingChina’ has awarded the Port of Antwerp with a ‘Shipping Star Award’ in the ‘Foreign Ports’ category. The ranking was based on votes cast by (among others) traders, freight forwarders and logistics companies in China. This is the fifth year that the awards have been given out. Two years ago, the Port of Antwerp only came in 16th, whereas last year it took second place. This year Antwerp succeeded in defeating Hamburg and took the number one position. The sharp rise up this ranking is testimony to the constant quality improvement efforts of the Port of Antwerp management and personnel.

The criteria for this award include efficiency of operation, the level of port dues, the provision of information, an ability to deal with unforeseen problems and the degree of international standardization.

5/19/09

Times Online: ABN Amro axes 6,500 jobs in Fortis integration - by Tom Bawden

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ABN Amro axes 6,500 jobs in Fortis integration - by Tom Bawden

ABN Amro announced plans to cut up to 6,500 jobs, or 10 per cent of its workforce, as the Dutch bank looks to reduce costs as part of its integration with Fortis Bank Nederland.The job cuts came as Lloyds Banking Group said it would eliminate another 625 jobs across the UK and Wales in its wholesale banking division, as part of the integration of its HBOS business. ABN said the net job loss would be between 5,500 and 6,500. The group also plans to create 1,500 new positions. The cuts are designed to save the merged entity between €1 billion and €1.3 billion.

The Dutch government bought Fortis Bank Nederland last October, while in December it replaced Fortis as the dominant shareholder of ABN Amro.

Shanghai Daily: 'Stress tests' for banks the latest sign of US crony capitalism - by Sin-ming Shaw

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'Stress tests' for banks the latest sign of US crony capitalism - by Sin-ming Shaw

For 20 years, Americans have denounced the "crony capitalism" of Third World countries, especially in Asia. But, just as those regions have been improving their public and corporate governance, crony capitalism is alive and well in the United States, a country that the world long considered the gold standard of a level playing field in business. The recently completed "stress tests" of US banks are but the latest indication that crony capitalists have now captured Washington, DC. It is no surprise that stock markets liked the results of the stress tests that US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner administered to America's big banks, for the outcome had been leaked weeks before. Indeed, most professional investors trashed the tests as dishonest even as their holdings benefited from a rising market. Even The Wall Street Journal, usually financial markets' loudest cheerleader, disparaged the tests' integrity.

The government had allowed bankers to "negotiate" the results, like a student taking a final examination and then negotiating the grade.

Seeking Alpha: Fundamentals Don't Support Oil at $55-$60 a Barrel

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Fundamentals Don't Support Oil at $55-$60 a Barrel

The recent run up in oil prices to near $60 per barrel are both surprising and concerning to me. While oil pulled back some last week, it still trades in the $55-$60 range. It is dangerous to make a near term directional call on oil prices. Doing such is more speculation than investment. However, the latest report called the Short Term Energy Outlook (STEO) released last week by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) paints a picture of falling demand, stabilizing production, and building inventories. To me, the data compellingly supports a correction in oil prices in the coming months. Even $55/barrel oil is high in the presence of falling demand despite all the talk of “green shoots” in the economy.

Bloomberg: Fata Morgana Europeana - European Bonds Decline as Confidence Soars, Equities Advance - by Mathew Brown

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Fata Morgana Europeana: European Bonds Decline as Confidence Soars, Equities Advance - by Mathew Brown

European government bonds fell as a report showed German investor confidence climbed to a three-year high this month, and as stock-market gains sapped demand for the safety of fixed-income assets. The decline pushed the yield on the two-year note up from the lowest level in six weeks. The ZEW Center for European Economic Research’s index of investor and analyst expectations rose to 31.1, from 13 in April. Stocks climbed as speculation three U.S. banks will repay $45 billion of government funds stoked optimism the worst of the financial crisis is over.

“Economic confidence is better and this is helping stocks and stopping the recovery of the euro-region bond market,” said Peter Mueller, a fixed-income strategist in Frankfurt at Commerzbank AG, Germany’s second-biggest lender. “The risks for the market remain to the downside.”

The Netherlands: Why do the Dutch have so many crazy names? - its all Napoleons fault!

EU-Digest

The Netherlands: Why do the Dutch have so many crazy names? - its all Napoleons fault

In 1810 Napoleon Bonaparte annexed Holland, along with Switzerland and the Hanseatic cities of Hamburg, Lübeck and Bremen. Holland had already, since 1806, been under the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother, King Louis (Lodewijk) Bonaparte. However, not happy with his brother’s rather benevolent and friendly rule over Holland , and very unhappy with his brother's lack of serious enforcement of the ban on trade and shipping between Holland and arch-enemy Britain, Napoleon abolished the Kingdom of Holland in 1810, and a few months later annexed it and placed it under direct French rule. Even though Napoleon pretty much plundered Holland and eventually left it in economic shambles, both he and his brother instituted civil reforms, codes and laws that would form the basis for much of the Netherlands’ civil law as it exists today. Louis established a monetary system using the Guilder, along with a penal law code. Other laws were applied, all modeled on French law.

As part of the total Dutch emersion into the French civil code system, Napoleon, on August 11, 1811, decreed the mandatory registration of births, deaths and marriages, and compulsory military service. According to the decree, in part: "Those of our subjects of the Departments of the former Holland… who until now have not had fixed surnames and given names, must adopt them during the year, and declare them before the officers of the civil registry… where they reside…Those having known surnames… will be excepted. They who wish to conserve their names will nevertheless be required to declare them." While the decree seems quite clear, the story how the Dutch adopted, invented or changed their family names becomes quite complicated and maybe even hilarious. Prior to the Napoleonic era in Holland, family names were not legally required and thousands of Dutch people did not have “proper” family names at all. In the pre-Napoleon era the Dutch traditionally used a “patronymic” system,in which “the father’s first name became the first son’s last name, and the other kids got the left over names from the grandfather, great grandfather and so on.

So when the Napoleonic order came, the Dutch with their independent mind, pragmatism, stubbornness, and believe it or not, sense of humor, most Dutch did not take Napoleon seriously and looked at this “name system” as a temporary law that would be repealed once Napoleon left Holland. So, they deliberately adopted and registered family names that were funny, ridiculous, confusing, and sometimes even sexual and offensive-sounding—many of the latter supposedly at the expense of Napoleon and the French occupiers. Names selected included: Naaktgeboren (Born naked) •Suikerbuik (Sugar belly) • Spring in ‘t Veld (Jump in the Field)• Poepjes (Little sh*t) • Schooier (bum) • van den Boom ( From the tree) • Scheefnek (Crooked-neck) • Piest (urinates) • Zeldenthuis (Hardly ever home) • van Puffelen (the farter) •Rotmensen (Rotten people) • De Keizer (The Emperor - to mock Napolean). Unfortunately selecting weird and funny names was a joke that backfired for the Dutch. The civil registration system introduced by Napoleon has “stuck” to this day—and so have most of those silly, funny, strange Dutch family names.

Greener Computing: Ericsson and WWF Sweden Want ICT to Be 'Carbon-Posititve'

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Ericsson and WWF Sweden Want ICT to Be 'Carbon-Posititve'

Telecom giant Ericsson and World Wildlife Fund Sweden want to encourage the information and communication technology (ICT) sector to become “climate-positive” and help other sectors reduce their emissions. Climate-positive means a company’s products help avoid more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than the amount produced by the company internally. Research suggests the ICT industry generates about 2 percent of global GHGs, but its products have the potential to reduce emissions in other sectors by more than 15 percent.

The partnership's three general areas of focus include the development of methodology for calculating the carbon dioxide savings from avoiding emissions; integrating low-carbon telecom technologies into municipal climate strategies; and creating a support platform for other partnerships that foster the transition to a low carbon economy.

5/18/09

Reuters: Thousands of Turks march in anti-government protest - by Mert Ozkan

EU-Digest

Reuters - Thousands of Turks march in anti-government protest- by Mert Ozkan

About 20,000 people waving red-and-white Turkish flags and carrying banners reading "Secular Turkey will stay secular" walked from the central square of Tandogan to the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkish Republic. They called on Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to resign for what they say are violations of the country's secular principles.The Ankara march was organized by the secularist Ataturk Thought Association, which has been implicated in the Ergenekon investigation. The indictment in the Ergenekon case says a series of protests organized by the association in 2007 were part of an illegal attempt to topple the government.

Millions of people staged rallies in 2007 to protest the government's choice of Islamist Abdullah Gul as president. Erdogan then called early elections after the secularist military also expressed reservations about Gul's candidacy. The AK Party went on to win the July 2007 election by the biggest margin in four decades, and the new parliament elected Gul president the following month. The next general election in Turkey is slated for 2011.

FT.com : Eurofighter relief as Brown approves order - Germany also orders more - by Jeremy Lemer

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Eurofighter relief as Brown approves order - Germany also orders more - by Jeremy Lemer

Gordon Brown, UK prime minister, gave long-awaited approval for an order of Eurofighter Typhoon jets on Thursday – but warned industry that he expected a much lower price tag. The decision came as a relief to Germany, Italy and Spain – Britain’s programme partners – which feared Mr Brown would abandon or delay the multibillion-euro third production run.

The consortium responsible for building the Eurofighter Typhoon combat jet on Thursday welcomed Britain's decision to take part in the next round of production and pegged the four-nation deal at around 8 billion euros. After weeks of pressure from European allies, Britain gave tentative approval earlier on Thursday to the next tranche of production and said it hoped to be able to order the planes later this year following further negotiations. "The agreement that the UK have confirmed today sends a clear signal of customer commitment," Enzo Casolini, chief executive of Eurofighter GmbH, said in a statement. The consortium -- grouping BAE Systems, Finmeccanica of Italy and EADS for Germany and Spain -- said the overall value of the contract under negotiation would be "in the region of 8 billion euros."

BERNAMA - First A320 Assembled In China Passes Maiden Flight

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First A320 Assembled In China Passes Maiden Flight

First A320 Assembled In China Passes Maiden Flight

he first A320 aircraft assembled outside Europe in the Airbus Final Assembly Line China (FALC) successfully completed its first flight today. The aircraft took off from Tianjin International Airport at 10:42 am and landed at 14:56. The four-hour and fourteen minutes test flight was jointly captained by Harry Nelson, Vice President Production Flight Tests and by Experimental Test Pilot Philippe Pellerin. The other crew members were Senior Vice President Flight & Integration Tests Fernando Alonso and Zidan Ren, the first Chinese Flight Test Engineer trained by Airbus as well as Cabin Engineer Eric Garcia. "The flight was a complete success thanks to excellent teamwork," Fernando Alonso, Senior Vice President Flight & Integration Tests, Airbus said.