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9/30/09

Reuters: Irish support for Lisbon Treaty up

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Irish support for Lisbon Treaty up

Irish support for the European Union's Lisbon reform treaty rose two points to 48 percent on Friday but the latest opinion poll also showed the opposition gaining some ground, as the number of "don't knows" shrank. The "no" camp was up four points to 33 percent, a week before votes are cast. The Irish Times/TNS mrbi poll saw the undecided category drop by six points to 19 per cent. At a similar stage before last year's referendum 35 percent of voters polled remained undecided, the same number as the eventually victorious "no" camp and five more than the "yes" side.Ireland will vote again on the charter in another referendum on October 2.

Renewable Energy Focus - EU PVSEC: Fraunhofer ISE develops new solar PV technologies with greater efficiency

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EU PVSEC: Fraunhofer ISE develops new solar PV technologies with greater efficiency

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Germany have developed new methods and cell concepts for the manufacture of n-type silicon solar photovoltaic (PV) cells. As a result, higher efficiencies and power production levels are also possible for commercial solar cells.

Times OnLine: A farcical attempt to paint Israel black - by Ron Prosor

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A farcical attempt to paint Israel black - by Ron Prosor

In the history of international organizations it is hard to conceive of an institution less fit for purpose than the absurdly titled UN Human Rights Council. Since its inception in 2006, the UNHRC has included such champions of liberal values as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Cuba. There is no doubting the comic value of such membership. Analogies spring to mind of Jack the Ripper leading a disciplinary inquiry at Scotland Yard, or Dr Harold Shipman chairing a panel discussion on medical care for the elderly. Yet for Israel, on the receiving end of this surreal hypocrisy, it is no laughing matter. The latest example of its hypocrisy is the 575-page Goldstone report into the Gaza conflict at the beginning of this year. Israel, a democracy with an unquestionably free press and meticulously independent judiciary, faces a threat from terrorism unique in its intensity. Yet its obligations to defend its citizens from terror are being scrutinized, delegitimized and condemned by states in which the routine price of dissent is imprisonment without trial, torture or execution.

Note EU-Digest: We might agree or not agree with the above Times article, or even on the way how Israel conducts its foreign policy, but the fact remains that Israel is still and probably will remain the only true Democracy in the Middle East.

Sacramento Business Journal::EU to MP3 users: Turn that sound down!


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EU to MP3 users: Turn that sound down!

The European Commission is making the recommendations for the health of those listening to the devices, though commuters on trains and buses may also be grateful they don’t have to listen to loud music leaking from a fellow traveler’s earphones. Studies have shown that prolonged listening to loud music through earphones can cause problems like tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, and permanent hearing loss. New standards — which will kick in after 24 months of beta testing and consultation with manufacturers, scientists and customers who use the devices — will require iPods and similar devices sold in Europe to have a volume limit. That limit (80 decibels has been proposed, compared with existing maximums of up to 115 decibels) could be overridden by a user, but there would be health warnings accompanying the device about the dangers of doing that.

CBS News: Consumer Revolt - Irate Bank Customers Staging Online Revolt

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Consumer Revolt-Irate Bank Customers Staging Online Revolt

When Bank of America raised her credit card interest rate from 13 percent to a whopping 30 percent, Ann went viral, reports CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy. "I could get a better rate from a loan shark," she said online. So she gave them her terms - lower the rate or she won't pay. "Stick that in your bailout pipe and smoke it," Minch said.

The video was viewed a quarter million times. Thousands responded complaining about their own banks. "Capital One, you can just kiss my a**," said one angry customer on an Internet video. American banks are easy targets. They got billions in bailout funds and are now raising rates and fees on those very same taxpayers.

9/29/09

HuffingtonPost: US Health Care Reform -Growing Momentum for Public Option - "Without Public Option Health Care Reform Is Worthless"

Public Option Essential - More than 60 million Americans have no insurance


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US Health Care Reform - Growing Momentum for Public Option - "Without Public Option Health Care Reform Is Worthless"

In a surprising vote Tuesday, ten Democrats voted to add a public option to the most conservative of the five health insurance reform bills working their way through Congress. That's just two votes short of passage. This robust support for the public option -- in what most observers consider the most conservative committee in the Senate -- signals a sea change in Congressional opinion toward the public option. The odds are now very high that some form of public health insurance option will be included on the final bill when it emerges from a House-Senate Conference Committee later this fall and is ultimately passed by Congress.

Curierul National - Romanian Central Bank Cuts Key Rate By 50 Bps To 8%

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Romanian Central Bank Cuts Key Rate By 50 Bps To 8%

Romania’s central bank Tuesday cut its monetary policy interest rate by 50 basis points to 8% on the year, in line with market expectations, while keeping the minimum reserve requirements unchanged. This was the fifth rate cut this year, from 10.25% in January, in an effort to support the ailing economy. Romania's gross domestic product fell 7.6% on the year in the first half and the most recent forecasts point to a economic contraction of 8%-8.5% for the whole of 2009.

Montreal Gazette: European banks consider repaying government loans

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European banks consider repaying government loans

Confidence in economic recovery is taking root in Europe as big private-sector players continue to repay emergency government loans advanced at the height of last year's financial crisis. BNP Paribas, France's biggest bank, said Tuesday it plans to raise the equivalent of $6.3 billion U.S. by selling new shares to existing stockholders. The bank is offering the shares at a price 30 per cent below Monday's market close - but then its stock has almost doubled since January 1 and the market welcomed the rights offer. "Capital markets are completely reopened and we can reimburse the preferred shares that the bank issued to the Government," said the bank.<

Note EU-Digest: Regardless of what the banking community is saying they need to be regulated.

Jerusalem Post: Israel must decide on Iran by the spring - by Vaakov Katz

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Israel must decide on Iran by the spring - by Vaakov Katz

Mark it on your calender: Spring 2010. If everything taking place right now on the Iranian front continues as expected, it is then that Israel will need to make one of its most difficult decisions ever - to attack Iran or allow it to continue with its nuclear program. By the spring of 2010, Israel will know the results of the dialogue between the world's leading powers and Iran that is scheduled to begin on October 1, as well as whether the world will impose real, tough sanctions.

Warsaw Business Journal - Polish Budget deficit to remain below 55 percent

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Polish Budget deficit to remain below 55 percent

The economic slowdown in Poland looks likely to push public debt even higher next year, but the 2010 budget gap should still fall short of 55 percent of GDP, according to the Deputy Head of the Finance Ministry's debt department Anna Suszyńska. Many analysts are concerned that the 55-percent figure could be reached and surpassed as early as next year. However, the Finance Ministry continues to stand by its prediction, despite the rise in borrowing needs and the central budget deficit, that it will be able to effectively manage rising of debt levels and keep it under 55 percent.

The Polish government is trying to stem the spiraling debt through its privatization program, which has already begun, but the figure also rests with the strength of the złoty, as much of the country's debt is held in foreign currencies.

Businessweek: EU economy confidence survey climbs more slowly - by Aoife White

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EU economy confidence survey climbs more slowly - by Aoife White

A monthly survey of EU and eurozone business and consumer confidence in September rose at the smallest pace since April, the European Commission said Tuesday, showing that European optimism about the economic recovery is still fragile. The European Commission said its economic sentiment indicator climbed to 82.8 in the 16-country eurozone from 80.8 in August. In the 27-country EU, it rose to 82.6 in September from 81 last month. The EU executive warned that the green shoots of a recovery are not pushing through evenly across Europe -- and that both businesses and workers in the EU and eurozone have "leveled off" expectations that employment will rebound.

The Baltic Course: English is the most studied language in EU schools - by Danuta Pavilenene

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English is the most studied language in EU schools - by Danuta Pavilenene

English is the most studied language in schools in the European Union, but over 35% of adults only speak their mother tongue, fresh data released by Eurostat shows.

English is also the most commonly spoken foreign language among adults aged 25 to 64 years, except for Bulgaria, the Baltic States and Poland, where Russian predominates. While English may be the de facto EU lingua franca, in Great Britain, half of the pupils are learning no foreign languages at all, while in Ireland, one in five school children are not taking classes in overseas tongues. Among the pupils who do study foreign languages in these two countries, French is the most common choice. In contrast, all students in upper secondary education in the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Finland study two foreign languages, followed closely by Slovenia and Slovakia (98%) and Estonia (97%).

9/28/09

DutchNews.nl - Netherlands tops European healthcare list

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Netherlands tops European healthcare list

The Netherlands is top of the EHCI European healthcare index for the second year in a row, says news agency ANP. Denmark is second in the ranking, which compares the healthcare systems of 32 European countries. The Dutch system was praised for the lack of bureaucracy, patient choice and the way it is financed.

In the Netherlands it is mandatory for everyone to have at least a basic health insurance package. The government determines basic levels of coverage but the insurance is offered by private health insurance companies. The cost of most treatment is also determined by the government.

Newsday: Germany moves right; big economic shift unlikely

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Germany moves right; big economic shift unlikely

Angela Merkel won a mandate to govern Europe's biggest economy with a new, pro-business coalition partner — but burdensome government debt from the financial crisis may put limits on proposals to cut taxes. Voters ended the conservative Merkel's unwieldy right-left "grand coalition" in Sunday's election and gave her a comfortable center-right majority — thanks to a strong performance by the business-oriented Free Democrats.Merkel now has a partner that fought for hefty income tax cuts in a bid to spur economic growth and would like to loosen laws protecting workers from dismissal. The Free Democrats also share her opposition to a national minimum wage and her desire to extend the life of some of Germany's nuclear power plants. The change was well received by German business.n the campaign, Merkel advocated only modest middle-income tax relief, a proposal well short of the overhaul the Free Democrats want — with big cuts to both top and bottom income tax rates. Germans' skepticism toward capitalism has grown over recent years, and "this makes a general shift in economic policy quite unlikely.

Bloomberg: US economy - Unemployment Confronts Obama Rhetoric With Chronic Joblessness - Rich Miller

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US economy - Unemployment Confronts Obama Rhetoric With Chronic Joblessness - Rich Miller

Economists since the mid-1990s have reckoned that full employment was equivalent to about a 5 percent unemployment rate, taking into account the time required to switch jobs. Now Nobel Prize winner Edmund Phelps and Pacific Investment Management Co. Chief Executive Officer Mohamed El-Erian say the fallout from the deepest recession in more than five decades is driving the so-called natural rate higher, perhaps to 7 percent. “We are in the midst of a large and protracted increase in both actual unemployment and its natural rate,” said El-Erian, 51, whose Newport, California-based company manages the world’s largest bond fund. Even with the economy growing, “it will take at least a couple of years” for joblessness to fall to 7 percent from 9.7 percent now. That may keep the federal budget deficit near a record $1.6 trillion into next year and might prevent the Federal Reserve from raising interest rates in 2010, said Bruce Kasman, chief economist at New York-based JPMorgan Chase & Co., the second- largest U.S. bank. Economists since the mid-1990s have reckoned that full employment was equivalent to about a 5 percent unemployment rate, taking into account the time required to switch jobs. Now Nobel Prize winner Edmund Phelps and Pacific Investment Management Co. Chief Executive Officer Mohamed El-Erian say the fallout from the deepest recession in more than five decades is driving the so-called natural rate higher, perhaps to 7 percent.

“We are in the midst of a large and protracted increase in both actual unemployment and its natural rate,” said El-Erian, 51, whose Newport, California-based company manages the world’s largest bond fund. Even with the economy growing, “it will take at least a couple of years” for joblessness to fall to 7 percent from 9.7 percent now. That may keep the federal budget deficit near a record $1.6 trillion into next year and might prevent the Federal Reserve from raising interest rates in 2010, said Bruce Kasman, chief economist at New York-based JPMorgan Chase & Co., the second- largest U.S. bank.

Guardian.co.uk: Polanski's arrest has shocked France - by Agnès Poirier

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Polanski's arrest has shocked France - by Agnès Poirier

Roman Polanski, who hasn't set foot in Britain since 1978 for fear of extradition, was arrested yesterday in Zurich by the Swiss police for an assault he pleaded guilty to in 1977. The irony is that such an event, the kind he has dreaded for 32 years, should take place in a country where he owns a chalet and spends many weeks every year. The blow came unexpectedly; the news was a shock to many. A shock, not because the man is innocent (the case is summarised here) but because since last year, thanks to a remarkable American documentary by investigative film-maker Marina Zenovich called Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, we now know that Roman Polanski was treated unfairly by the judge Laurence Rittenband and that he was the victim of gross misconduct from the Los Angeles court. Even the victim's lawyer implies at the end of the documentary that he would have done the same that Polanski did – jump bail and take the first plane to Paris to avoid a lengthier prison sentence. One detail of importance: by the time he fled the US, he had already served a short time in prison.

It is precisely in the light of the new evidence revealed by this documentary that Roman Polanski's lawyers asked the US justice department a few months ago for the case to be closed.

Alternet: Americans Pay More to Die Earlier -- by Brad Reed

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Americans Pay More to Die Earlier -- by Brad Reed

There are times when it's comforting to imagine that at some point in US history Satan hired Dr. Frankenstein to help him stitch together their health care system.You can picture the Dark Lord standing over the good doctor in his underground lab barking orders for creating the most insane and irrational health care system in the industrialized world. "It must cost more per person than any other health care system, and it must leave tens of millions uninsured!" Satan cackled. "It must rely on private markets that give most people no choice in who covers them! It must produce hundreds of thousands of bankruptcies every year! And, and, and! It must produce a system where some patients get excessive and wasteful care, while others have to shuttle off to emergency rooms just to receive primary care treatment!

Market Watch: U.S. economy weakened in August, Chicago Fed says - by Rex Nutting

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U.S. economy weakened in August, Chicago Fed says - by Rex Nutting

The U.S. economy took a small step backwards in August on its road to recovery, according to a national index released Monday by the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank. The Chicago Fed's National Activity Index dropped back to negative 0.90 in August from an upwardly revised negative 0.54 in July. Only one of the four broad categories of indicators made a positive contribution in August. The production and income component was positive for the second straight month. Employment, consumption and housing, and sales made negative contributions

9/27/09

Chicago Tribune: Traveling to Montenegro: The small country is meaty beneath the surface - by Rick Steves

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Traveling to Montenegro: The small country is meaty beneath the surface - by Rick Steves

There's a buzz among travelers that humble little Montenegro is becoming a new Mediterranean hot spot. Once part of Yugoslavia and then part of Serbia-Montenegro, this tiny mountainous nation on the Adriatic achieved independence only recently, in 2006. Most tourists stick to Montenegro's scenic and increasingly glitzy Bay of Kotor. It's certainly worth a visit, but for a "back door" experience, head deep into the rugged interior of Montenegro.

SunSentinel: Honduras - Anger at Honduras' elite rises -- by Mark Stevenson

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Honduras - Anger at Honduras' elite rises -- by Mark Stevenson

Supporters of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya are increasingly turning their anger toward the country's wealthy business elite, a small but powerful cadre thought to back the interim government that removed him at gunpoint three months ago. Graffiti demanding "Turks out!" — apparently a reference to the country's large number of business people of Middle Eastern descent — is common in the capital, and on Saturday pro-Zelaya marchers lashed out at the elite. Meanwhile, reports emerged that the business community's firm support of interim President Roberto Micheletti might be faltering somewhat amid intense international economic and diplomatic pressure.

Note EU-Digest: The large Middle East business community in Honduras are mainly from Lebanese, not Turkish descent.

Opinion: Welcome to the New Germany - by Claus Christian Malzahn

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Welcome to the New Germany - by Claus Christian Malzahn

Chancellor Angela Merkel has probably saved her chancellorship -- but the price that her conservatives will have to pay for it is high. The election result for the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), is lower than in 2005. Nevertheless, she can form a coalition government with the business-friendly Free Democratic Party because support for the FDP has increased in a way that until recently pollsters would scarcely have thought possible. However, the interior architecture of the new Merkel-led alliance will be fundamentally different from "black-yellow" coalitions -- the name is inspired by the parties' official colors -- of the past. In the governments of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, it was always clear who was calling the shots, because the Christian Democrats had four or five times as many seats as their liberal junior partner. That has now changed -- perhaps forever.

In the new constellation, Merkel will hardly be able to keep the promise that she made shortly before the election, namely that in a CDU/CSU-FDP coalition she would soften any demands by the pro-free market FDP that were too radical. Given the fat majority that the Christian Democrats and the FDP have in Germany's upper legislative chamber, the Bundesrat, it looks like Merkel will be able to have a smooth ride in terms of governing -- but whether the weakened Christian Democrats will be able to set the course seems doubtful. FDP leader Guido Westerwelle will be taking the initiative in the future government. The big question is whether he can do something with the support that the voters have given him.

Christianity : what is fashionable these days ?

Pastor Tullian Tchividjian - Getting back to basics


EU-Digest

Christianity : what is fashionable these days?

“Christianity is radically uncool,” says south Florida's 2000 member Coral Ridge Presbyterian church senior pastor Tullian Tchividjian. “Indeed, if what’s fashionable in society is what interests you, then true Christianity won’t. It’s that simple.” Tchividjian says that today many Christians feel that in order to reach the world, they must become just like the world. Many evangelical leaders believe that Christianity needs to fit into the broader culture to make it more relevant and palatable. But in his critically acclaimed book, Unfashionable, the 36-year-old grandson of Billy Graham goes against popular notions and commonly held beliefs, arguing for just the opposite. Unfashionable was inspired by what Tchividjian’s calls "his own experience" in his early twenties, as he awakened one Sunday morning with an aching head and empty heart after years of running away from faith.

The Independent: G20 summit doomed to a legacy of economic disappointment - by Hamish McRae

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G20 summit doomed to a legacy of economic disappointment - by Hamish McRae

If the April G20 meeting was perceived as a success.The Pittsburgh one may be seen more as a failure. That might seem a bit rough, for the meeting is only just beginning. But the reason has nothing to do with the meeting itself. It has more to do with the state of the economic cycle and the nature of government and central bank intervention. And the conclusion is that the next six months is likely to be a rougher period than the past six.

It is not possible for most governments to provide a further fiscal stimulus. The deficits are too big. Here in Britain we will see fiscal policy tightening next year, whoever is in power. Next year will also see monetary policy tightening, with the exceptional measures to boost money supply coming to an end and by the end of the year interest rates starting to rise. Indeed the central banks yesterday indicated that they would start to scale back their emergency liquidity programmes. In a co-ordinated announcement the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of England and the Swiss National Bank set out various measures designed to show that things were getting back to normal.

As the various other schemes to boost the world economy come to an end – the cash for old cars, the cut here in VAT and the various fiscal boosts worldwide – the drive for growth will have to come from the private sector, and in particular from consumption. There are a number of reasons to suspect that consumers throughout the developed world will be pretty cautious for some months yet. You can already catch a little of that caution, particularly here in the UK, but also in the US and Europe. By early next year people may be quite angry, and quite fearful, of what has been happening. We would be less than human if we did not blame the policy-makers for the economic woes.

LATimes: Arts - Michelle Obama tells international audience why the arts matter - by Mike Boehm

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Arts - Michelle Obama tells international audience why the arts matter - by Mike Boehm

Michelle Obama hosted a concert at the Pittsburgh Creative & Performing Arts School for its students and the spouses of international leaders meeting at the G-20 economic summit.She gave an 11-minute address about the arts as a prelude to performances by guests Sara Bareilles, Yo-Yo Ma and Trisha Yearwood. Here are excerpts from her speech, from a transcript issued by the White House: “We believe strongly that the arts aren't somehow an 'extra’ part of our national life, but instead we feel that the arts are at the heart of our national life. It is through our music, our literature, our art, drama and dance that we tell the story of our past and we express our hopes for the future. Our artists challenge our assumptions in ways that many cannot and do not. They expand our understandings, and push us to view our world in new and very unexpected ways…..

9/26/09

Time Magazine: Iran's Quiet Coup - by Bobby Gosh

Iran's Shahab Ballistic rocket


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Iran's Quiet Coup - by Bobby Gosh

When Iran's parliament confirmed 18 of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's 21 candidates for his Cabinet in early September, only those who sift the tea leaves of Iranian politics noticed the confirmation of Haidar Moslehi, a member of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), as Minister of Intelligence and Security. For decades, the ministry represented a check on the IRGC's rise toward becoming Iran's most powerful institution: domestic intelligence was out of the guards' reach. With Moslehi's appointment, there is nobody left to guard the guards.

The guards' ascendance, likened by some to a bloodless military coup, has been one of the most striking aspects of Iran's recent development. It has come largely at the expense of the Islamic clergy; while Iran remains a theocratic state, the men in turbans now perhaps wield less temporal power — especially over the economy — than those in uniform.

Xinhua: Netherlands calls Iranian nuclear issue major challenge to world peace

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Netherlands calls Iranian nuclear issue major challenge to world peace

The Netherlands on Saturday called upon Iran to comply with relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions and to contribute to the Mideast peace process and stability in the region. Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende made the call during Saturday's session of the General Assembly general debate. "The Iranian nuclear issue represents a major challenge to international peace and security, to regional stability and to the non-proliferation regime," the prime minister said. "The recent revelation of a nuclear facility which was long kept secret is additional reason for great concern."

Note EU-Digest: Instead of trying to defer the public attention to Iran, the Balkenende Dutch Government better concern themselves with economic issues pertaining to the Dutch economy and European economy.

G-20: No Concrete Result - 'MORE BLA -BLA- BLA'

EU-Digest

G-20: No Concrete Result - 'MORE BLA -BLA- BLA'

At the conclusion of the two-day summit, leaders of the G-20 nations, comprised of the largest developed and emerging countries, issued a 23-page statement that promised, among other things, to fix problems in the financial system that contributed to the economic crisis. They stated they would discourage excessive risk-taking and reduce the chance of future financial meltdowns, the leaders endorsed practices to limit bonuses and to tie executive compensation to long-term performance. European leaders had pressed for pay caps, but the idea was resisted by the United States and Britain and was never on the negotiating table, officials said.

Bottom line: once again there was lots of talk, many promises, but no real results to report. No caps on bonuses, or specific regulatory agreements were announced. Climate Change Advocate Groups which had hoped that under the chairmanship of US President Barack Obama the Group of 20 summit might agree to set aside 150 billion dollars to pay for this work and convince emerging economies to sign the deal were also disappointed. The final summit statement agreed on by the leaders, however, was extremely vague on this issue and the specifics, with only a promise they would study the matter more carefully. Pressure groups were outraged, singling out Obama and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel for particular scorn. "This is a crisis of leadership. The rich-country G20 leaders -- especially Merkel and Obama -- set themselves a deadline for a climate finance proposal, and then slept right through it," said Ben Wikler of Avaaz.

Mr. Sarkozy who had promised to go back home to France if there were no pay caps imposed on bankers bonuses, did not leave, even though the EU proposal for bonus caps was shot down by the US and Britain. Apparently, Mr. Sarkozy was pacified with the limelight given to him by being allowed to appear on stage with Mr. Obama and Mr. Brown on the unrelated G20 issue of Iran's nuclear proliferation problems. Mr Sarkozy and fellow political leaders remained in Pittsburgh for the full two days of the conference, which can only be described as another Bla-Bla-Bla meeting, paid for by the taxpayer. A sad state of affairs, as the worlds financial community continues happily on its unregulated path.

9/25/09

The Guardian: Iran: Spinning out of control

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Iran: Spinning out of control

The stakes are rising. A stolen election has ruptured Iranian society, creating the most profound political crisis since the regime was founded. Barack Obama's extended hand is starting to tire and he badly needs success. Meanwhile, the whirring centrifuges spin Iran ever closer to the threshold of being able to manufacture a nuclear bomb. Next week the five permanent members of the UN security council plus Germany and the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, will sit down with Iran's nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, for the first time in a year. They have said they expect a serious response to their demands to halt Tehran's nuclear program, but have yet to receive a commitment that the topic is even on the agenda.The risks of all this are clear.

If Iran refuses to discuss its nuclear program, to answer the International Atomic Energy Agency's mounting questions, and defies a security council demand to suspend all sensitive nuclear activities, the US will revert to a more traditional posture which contemplates the use of force. No one will be happy, except Israel and Dick Cheney perhaps, that Mr Obama's liberal dreams of changing the way superpowers behave will have been shattered by a regime that enjoys even less legitimacy at home than it does abroad.

Note EU-Digest: Use of force is not necessary and would be a stupid move. What could be done effectively to topple the regime is a total embargo on all trade with Iran. The regime already is under lots of pressure at home by opposition parties and a total embargo would certainly topple the present leadership. The opposition parties in Iran must also be encouraged to continue going into the streets and challenge the regime.

Spiegel OnLine: Barroso Wins Second Term: A Victory for the EU's Political Chameleon - by Hans-Jürgen Schlamp

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Barroso Wins Second Term: A Victory for the EU's Political Chameleon - by Hans-Jürgen Schlamp

The European Parliament voted Wednesday to give Jose Manuel Barroso a second five-year term as president of the European Commission. But Brussels is getting a weak boss. The unpopular Portuguese politician has become the butt of jokes, with even allies like Angela Merkel poking fun at him. Jose Manuel Barroso beams and shakes hands, celebrating his victory. A total of 382 members of the European Parliament have finally given him what he has been wanting for so long: a second five-year term at the head of the powerful European Commission in Brussels. der Barroso to be the wrong choice. But despite his frozen smile, traces of frustration and irritation can be seen in his face, even in his moment of triumph. It is not the 219 MEPS who voted against him in Wednesday's vote or the 117 abstentions that are responsible for his mood. Rather, it is the insults and injuries which he has had to put up with in recent months -- and not just from political opponents but also from within his own camp. Most of the participants in the election actually consider Barroso to be the wrong choice.

NYT: German Election Race Narrows Amid Security Threat

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German Election Race Narrows Amid Security Threat.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's hopes of forming a new center-right government suffered a blow on Friday, two days before Germany's federal election, as a new opinion poll showed her just short of her goal.The Forsa poll showed 26 percent of voters were still undecided, suggesting Germany could be in for another cliffhanger election. Merkel's conservatives saw a similar poll lead nearly vanish on election day four years ago when Steinmeier's mentor, then-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, mounted a furious comeback in the final days before the vote.

Guardian: G20 - World's leaders can give Pittsburgh a truly global vision by address four key issues - by Kofi Annan, Amartya Sen, M. Camdessus

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G20 - World's leaders can give Pittsburgh a truly global vision by address four key issues - by Kofi Annan, Amartya Sen, M. Camdessus

First, leaders need to follow through with the commitments they have made to a Global Plan for Recovery and Reform. A second area of action: ensuring that developing countries, including the least developed ones, have a greater say in global financial institutions; and strengthening regional bodies. A third achievement would be: agreement on a timetable for tackling the variety of biased trade rules, bloated subsidy regimes, intellectual property rules and other forms of market distortion that heavily disadvantage the developing world. Lastly, the G20 could also help drive momentum on climate change. Its members account for the vast majority of global greenhouse gas emissions; an agreement among them at Pittsburgh would go a long way towards ensuring that December's international climate change conference in Copenhagen does not end in hot air.

Gearless Wind Turbines getting a Big Boost


EU-Digest

Gearless Wind Turbines getting a Big Boost

Conventional wind turbines have an Achilles heel in the form of their clunky and expensive gearboxes. Gearboxes act as the middleman to convert the slow rotations of wind turbine blades into the faster rotations needed for generators to create electricity. The downside of such gears comes from their high-maintenance requirements due to constant stress from wind turbulence.But that could all change soon. By contrast, the turbine design of more advanced turbines connects the rotor shaft directly to the generator. The slower rotational speed gets offset by the presence of magnets that spin around at a larger diameter -- and hence higher speed -- to produce more current in the generator coil. Such direct-drive generators currently cost more than gearbox turbines at installation, and represent a 15 to 20 percent heavier load. But the future payoff may come from eliminating the repair costs and downtime associated with gearboxes -- a very important consideration for offshore turbines beyond easy reach.

For more information on direct drive wind turbines click on this link

USA Today: G20: Obama: Iran's secret nuke facility 'inconsistent with a peaceful program'


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G20 - Obama: Iran's secret nuke facility 'inconsistent with a peaceful program

President Obama opened G-20 summit day with a bang this morning, condemning Iran for hiding the existence of a secret nuclear facility and demanding that it be opened to international inspections. "The size and configuration of this facility is inconsistent with a peaceful (nuclear) program," Obama said, and further raises concerns that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon. "Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow, endangering the global nonproliferation regime," Obama said. "denying its own people access to the opportunity they deserve, and threatening the stability and security of the region and the world."

Obama made the announcement along with Great Britain Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Note EU-Digest: Even though Iran's nuclear adventures are a most serious issue, it is important that the leaders present at the G20 remember that the principal reason they came to Pittsburgh is to work on remedies to correct the serious economic flaws which still exist in the world financial system.

9/24/09

Afghanistan: Worried White House seeks to avoid another Vietnam - by Tim Reed

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Afghanistan: Worried White House seeks to avoid another Vietnam - by Tim Reed

>The memory of the Vietnam War is holding an increasingly powerful sway over President Obama and his White House team as they explore ways to avoid the surge of troops into Afghanistan urgently being demanded by the US military. Mr Obama and his foreign policy circle have begun openly to use language born of the Vietnam disaster, such as “mission creep” and “quagmire”. It is a clear sign that the President harbours doubts about a deeper military commitment in Afghanistan. Vice-President Biden is leading calls for a change of plan, with a scaling back of troops in Afghanistan and a narrow focus instead on destroying al-Qaeda with increased aerial drone attacks in Pakistan. He has been warning for months against getting into a political and military “quagmire” in Afghanistan.

Bloomberg: G20 - Pittsburgh Protesters March as G-20 Leaders Gather - by Brian K. Sullivan

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G20 - Pittsburgh Protesters March as G-20 Leaders Gather- by Brian K. Sullivan

Pittsburgh police threw tear gas and blasted high-pitched sounds to disperse hundreds of protesters marching toward downtown in a demonstration aimed at today’s meeting of the Group of 20 nations. “Here comes the cavalry,” one of a smaller group of protesters and performance artists said shortly before 2 p.m., as Arsenal Park filled with demonstrators wearing black masks and carrying banners reading, “Eat the rich.” After shouts of encouragement, they began marching in defiance of police warnings that the assembly was unlawful. Police tossed smoke and gas canisters and set off whistles to try to break up the march, while protesters overturned trash bins and broke the window in a police car.

Stores and offices were boarded up and highways and mass transit lines were shut today as President Barack Obama and the leaders of 18 other industrialized or developing countries, along with the European Union, convened in the western Pennsylvania city.

Businessweek: EU Proposes Stronger Financial Oversight - by Andrew Willis

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EU Proposes Stronger Financial Oversight - by Andrew Willis

The European Commission came forward with a package of legal proposals for strengthened regulation of the financial sector on Wednesday (23 September), as the EU seeks to prevent a repeat of the last year's meltdown. The bundle of draft regulations is a direct result of political decisions taken by EU leaders meeting in Brussels in June and a meeting of finance ministers earlier the same month. "In Brussels' time, this rapid progress is equivalent to the speed of light," said internal market commissioner Charlie McCreevy, referring to the frequently torturous speed of legislation coming out of the EU institutions.

EUobserver: Germany nears final ratification of Lisbon Treaty - by Honor Mahony

Berlin Parliament - photo Adaja Morren


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Germany nears final ratification of Lisbon Treaty - by Honor Mahony

Germany's president Horst Koehler on Wednesday (23 September) signed newly-drafted national laws enabling the country to adopt the EU's Lisbon Treaty, making final ratification of the document at the end of the week a formality. The laws will be published in Germany's official law register on Thursday and Mr Koehler is expected to sign the ratification document on Friday.Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the step as a great success, reports Spiegel Online. "I put a great deal of effort into this Lisbon Treaty and it is a good end to the German presidency of the EU that we held some time ago'" she said referring to the efforts Berlin made to revive the institutional negotiations in the EU after a planned EU constitution was rejected by France and the Netherlands in 2005.

AFP: Tories warn they could still torpedo EU treaty

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Tories warn they could still torpedo EU treaty

The Conservative Party warned Wednesday they would hold a referendum on the EU's Lisbon Treaty if they take office next year and the eurosceptic Czech president has not yet ratified it. Conservative leader David Cameron, widely tipped to oust Prime Minister Gordon Brown in ballots due by next July, has written to Vaclav Klaus to clarify his position, which in theory could torpedo the troubled treaty. The fate of the European Union treaty, aimed at streamlining decision-making in the expanded 27-nation bloc, is in the balance ahead of an Irish referendum on October 2, which EU leaders hope will overturn a 'no' vote last year.<

Note EU-Digest: Minority viewpoints on the Lisbon Treaty Agreement like those of the British Conservative party or Mr. Vaclav Klaus must obviously be listened to, but they can not be allowed to derail the majority viewpoint of the EU partner nations.

WSJ: Europe, U.S. Spar On Cure for Banks - by Damian Paletta

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Europe, U.S. Spar On Cure for Banks - by Damian Paletta

U.S. and European leaders, who have committed to using the financial crisis to strengthen the global banking system, are increasingly at loggerheads over how much capital the world's largest financial institutions should keep on hand in case of unexpected losses. The outcome of the dispute could determine how competitive banks are in the future -- and how resilient in times of crisis.

Leaders from the Group of 20 industrial and developing nations, who will discuss the issue this week in Pittsburgh, all agree that banks should hold more capital as a cushion against future losses. But fault lines are quickly emerging about the details, with the Europeans complaining that the U.S.'s proposals will put their banks at a disadvantage.

9/23/09

NYT: U.S.-Europe Tension Rises as PG&E Splits From U.S. Chamber - by Joel Kirkland

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U.S.-Europe Tension Rises as PG&E Splits From U.S. Chamber - by Joel Kirkland

Tensions between business groups in the United States and Europe on the direction of global climate negotiations came to a boil yesterday, just as a major California utility quit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,complaining of the group's "extreme position on climate change."

At a U.S. Chamber-sponsored forum in Washington, European business leaders reinforced concern expressed by European diplomats about slow progress in the U.S. government's efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions prior to the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen this December.

Latimes.com: Europe's aviation agency issues safety warning for instrument on Airbus A330, A340 jets

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Europe's aviation agency issues safety warning for instrument on Airbus A330, A340 jets

The European Aviation Safety Agency has issued a safety warning for an instrument to measure air speed that is used on Airbus A330 and A340 jets. The directive in effect from Wednesday says malfunctions have been reported in the instruments, known as pitot probes. The Cologne-based agency says the problem may originate with manufacturer Goodrich and could cause an in-flight air leak that would cause incorrect pressure and airspeed readings. Goodrich is based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

BBC NEWS : Honduras urged by EU to avoid violence

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Honduras urged by EU to avoid violenceHonduras urged by EU to avoid violence

The European Union has added its voice to appeals for calm in Honduras after the dramatic return of ousted president Manuel Zelaya raised fears of violence. An EU statement called on Mr Zelaya and the interim government to negotiate an end to the three-month crisis. Thousands of people defied a curfew to demonstrate their support for Mr Zelaya outside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa where he has taken refuge. Interim leader Roberto Micheletti insisted Mr Zelaya should face trial. The daring return of Mr Zelaya took officials by surprise, with Mr Micheletti at first denying the deposed leader was in the country. A round-the-clock curfew until Tuesday evening was imposed.Note EU-Digest: The situation is very tense in Honduras and there are reports that there also is unrest within the military ranks.

AJC/EU-Digest: The Afghanistan problem gets more difficult - by Jay Bookman

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The Afghanistan problem gets more difficult - by Jay Book

From the beginning eight years ago, the United States has failed to commit the resources and attention needed in Afghanistan. Barack Obama campaigned on correcting that problem and moved last spring to do so as president. Now he is once again being asked by military commanders to boost the number of U.S. troops committed to the effort.

So, in assessing the request for more troops, the most important question President Obama must ask of his commanders and advisers is this: How can the United States and its international allies succeed without a credible, legitimate Afghan government as a partner? How can we rally Afghan support for a government that does not deserve and doesn’t really even try to earn that support? The counter-insurgency approach drafted by Gen. David Petraeus and now being implemented in Afghanistan suggests that without a host government with some degree of credibility and legitimacy, such a war cannot be won. In the unclassified version of his assessment, McChrystal acknowledges that the Afghan war is a war of ideas and perception, and “The key to changing perceptions lies in changing underlying truths.”

Note EU-Digest: A less costly alternative in lives and materials would be to pull out of Afghanistan all together and rely heavily on aerial surveillance and unmanned attack drones to smoke out the Taliban and some special forces (stationed near the Afghan border)for mop up operations. Unfortunately unmanned attack drones could also mean more innocent local casualties, but at the same time these casualties would also create a threat to Taliban credibility and authority within the local Afghan communities. The sad fact today remains that a ground war with or without an unreliable Afghan government as a partner can never be won, whatever the military is saying. Just ask the Russians.

Huffington Post: Right Wing America Versus the Moderates: The Damage that Time has Done - by Joe Ferraro

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Over the last couple of months a really smart guy, James Rucker, put a web site together to bring the Forces of the Civil to bear on one, Glenn Beck. The man got tired of the racist rants being put forth by Glenn Beck and did something about it. ColorOfChange.Org asked web surfers to lend their names to a list after reading a call to arms about Glenn Beck. Travel the link and lend your name too, if you like. As a result of this movement a number of big ticket sponsors have left the Beck echo chamber and the main stream media has double clutched.

Unfortunately Time Magazine has done a complete cover package with Glenn Beck sticking his tongue out at the rest of us. Time has, in the name of The Almighty Dollar, undone what Mr. Rucker has set to do by giving Glenn Beck this forum. This is the beginning of a rehab job for Beck. Time Magazine is trying once again to make it okay for people to sponsor this “person”. Yes, the cover of Time, as they like to tell all of us who will listen, is for really important people or subjects. This gives Beck credence where he should be reviled. (I guess this is where I can say Time has had Hitler, not only on the cover a number of times, but as Man-of-the-Year 1938.) Beck is controversial and confrontational for the same reasons as Jerry Springer and Nancy Grace, to make a buck.

Note EU-Digest: Instead of crying about injustice from the right the left needs to apply the same tactics. Has anyone forgotten that in most western democracies we have freedom of speech. The right is using it to perfection while the left needs a refresher course. Moaning about it won't work.






9/22/09

Telegraph/EU-Digest: Nicolas Sarkozy may walk from G20 summit over failure to curb bank bonuses - "Show time or reality" ? - A.Michaels and H.Samuel


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Nicolas Sarkozy may walk from G20 summit over failure to curb bank bonuses - "Show time or reality" ? by A.Michaels and H.Samuel

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mrs Lagarde said bonuses were top of Mr Sarkozy’s list of issues to tackle at the summit in Pittsburgh.“I hope that we will save [Mr Sarkozy] the trouble of having to walk out,” she said. The finance minister also cautioned: “I would find it absolutely outrageous and extraordinary if leaders of other countries did not understand the necessity to change the system and not go back to business as usual.”

Note EU-Digest: The question remains, if Mr. Sarkozy, who obviously is trying to impress his audience at home that he is a though negotiator, will have what it takes to carry out the threat his finance minister has announced. Most people do not believe so.

Chicago Tribune: Open Source Software: Free software can pay off in savings and performance - by Gregory Karp

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Open Source Software: Free software can pay off in savings and performance - by Gregory Karp

If there's one price everyone can get behind, it's free. While you sometimes get what you pay for, that's not always true with computer software. Some free programs are very high quality and even superior to paid software. Consumer Reports found free programs that "were on par with the best pay suites they tested." Review site Cnet.com calls the free suite Open Office "a credible rival to MS Office." You can save and read files in the common Microsoft formats, such as .doc. The interface is similar to older versions of MS Office. Besides writing and spreadsheet programs, it offers counterparts to Microsoft PowerPoint and the Access database program. Download it at openoffice.org. Savings: euro 75 to euro 300, depending on MS Office version.

Boston Globe: "No more troops to Afghanistan" - by HDS Greenway

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"No more troops to Afghanistan" - by HDS Greenway

With General Stanley A. McChrystal’s report calling for additional troops now public, President Obama will soon have his King Henry moment; whether or not to send more troops into the ever-worsening war in Afghanistan. Much depends on his definition of the mission. Is it to defeat the Taliban in battle as Henry defeated the flower of French chivalry? There will be no famous victories in the irregular warfare that has so marked Afghanistan over the centuries. Is it to create a viable, democratic, centralized state on a Western model? When he came to power, Obama seemed to realize that the mission of his predecessor, George W. Bush, was too ambitious and that he should settle for simply making Afghanistan inhospitable to Al Qaeda. In the meantime, however, “mission creep’’ - the tendency of any mission to expand and grow if it is not carefully pruned - has been the order of the day. Obama runs the risk of turning Afghanistan into a full-fledged dependency of the United States.

Recently, when asked if he risked the fate of Lyndon Johnson whose presidency was consumed by a war started by his predecessors, but which he chose to reinforce, Obama replied: “You have to learn lessons from history. On the other hand, each historical moment is different. You never step into the same river twice. And so Afghanistan is not Vietnam.’’

CSMonitor: Why Europe welcomes US missile defense shield decision

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Why Europe welcomes US missile defense shield decision

With President Barack Obama facing Republican charges that backing off a missile shield in eastern Europe is appeasing Russia and abandoning Poland, European officials are strongly applauding the American decision. German and French diplomats see the White House move as changing a US policy imposed unilaterally on Europe – and allowing greater running room with Moscow on issues from Iran to North Korea, Afghanistan, nuclear proliferation, and with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. But Alexander Rahr of the German Council of Foreign Relations, a Russian expert, says the original US missile shield plan was ill-conceived. He says that in eastern Europe and Russia the decision to shelve it is raising a new question: "Is Obama doing this out of American strength, or out of American weakness?" He adds, "I know that sounds pretty 19th century. But that's the question."

9/21/09

Gizmodo: New Airbus A30x Planes Look Straight Out Of Coruscant Skies - by Jesus Diaz

A replacement for the Airbus 380 already on the drawing board


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New Airbus A30x Planes Look Straight Out Of Coruscant Skies - by Jesus Diaz

While Boeing is struggling to get the Dreamliner into the skies, Airbus is already planning their A30X next generation aircraft, which include really cool stuff like forward swept wings, u-tails and lower-placement engines. Their five-decker A380 replacement is even crazier.These won’t come for another 15 years, but they represent a significant change in philosophy from current models, including that Sonic Cruiser model that looks—in technical terms—absofrikkinlutely damn cool.

EU Observer: EU's most powerful women take aim at male elite - by Honor Mahony

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EU's most powerful women take aim at male elite - by Honor Mahony

EU's most powerful women take aim at male elite - by Honor Mahony Some of the most powerful women in the EU are discussing how to bring gender equality to European politics, an arena that continues to be overwhelmingly dominated by men. A who's who of women politicians in Brussels met on Wednesday (16 September) to see how they can better promote women in the EU capital, where women's names routinely fail to be mentioned for the top jobs.Danuta Huebner, the head of the parliament's regional development committee and a former EU commissioner, also stressed the importance of women supporting one another. "We should do more about networking - that's where we're extremely weak. If we start some networking of women in European institutions, this could have some impact. If you are alone, you just behave as those around you," said the Polish politician.

SeattlePI: Obama 'skeptical' about more troops-by Josh Gerstein

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Obama 'skeptical' about more troops-by Josh Gerstein

President Barack Obama is warning U.S. commanders that he's "skeptical" about whether more troops will make a difference in Afghanistan, saying he'll approve an upcoming request only if the forces fit into a strategy to beat back al-Qaida and protect the United States. "Until I'm satisfied that we've got the right strategy I'm not gonna be sending some young man or woman over there — beyond what we already have," Obama said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I'm not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan or saving face or, in some way – you know, sending a message that America is here for the duration."

U.S. generals are preparing to seek as many as tens of thousands additional troops for the increasingly unpopular conflict, but in several of his five Sunday talk show interviews, Obama made clear that he's far from convinced about the need for a massive infusion of troops and won't be rushed on the decision.

Time Magazine: Afghanistan: Looking For the Way Ahead - by Simon Robinson

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Afghanistan: Looking For the Way Ahead - by Simon Robinson

In an election campaign that has been interminably dull, even by German standards, the Sept. 4 missile strike on two oil tankers hijacked by Taliban insurgents in northern Afghanistan was always going to grab attention. The U.S. strike, called in by a German commander worried about the security of his troops, allegedly killed some 90 people, including dozens of civilians. It also reminded German voters that the distinction between supporting a combat mission — which is what they like to think their soldiers are doing — and tackling bad guys directly can blur pretty quickly in the Hindu Kush. The polite posturing of Germany's election campaign captures the mood in most European capitals at the moment. Both Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democrats and the center-left Social Democrats of Frank-Walter Steinmeier remain committed to Berlin's 4,000-strong troop deployment in Afghanistan as part of the multinational force there.

NYT- Enthusiasm Builds for Financial Tax Idea - by Paul Taylor

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Enthusiasm Builds for Financial Tax Idea - by Paul Taylor

No longer just a hopeless cause for anti-capitalist activists, the idea of a global tax on financial transactions is gaining ground in Europe. European Union leaders could not agree to put it on the agenda this week of the Group of 20 summit meeting in Pittsburgh on changing the financial system, but the leaders of France, Germany and the European Commission endorsed the concept. More strikingly, the head of the British Financial Services Authority, which regulates the world’s second biggest banking center after New York, said last month that such a levy could help shrink a swollen financial sector.

9/20/09

Pittsburgh Post Gazette: Muslims celebrate end of Ramadan fasting

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Muslims celebrate end of Ramadan fasting

The Islamic holy month of Eid has ended today. During Ramadan, Muslims fast during daylight hours, so this is the first big, daytime meal in a month.

Note EU-Digest: To all our Muslim readers we wish a happy Eid.

Shanghai Daily: Loss of confidence in US dollar could be as dangerous as this crisis

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Loss of confidence in US dollar could be as dangerous as this crisis

As the global economy appears headed toward recovery, concerns are growing that the United States' addiction to massive fiscal stimulus as an economic panacea could eventually lead to an even bigger crisis - a loss of confidence in the US dollar. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul A. Samuelson raised the specter of a "truly global financial panic" if countries funding the US deficit, particularly China, decide their investments in US Treasury securities are no longer safe.

Warren Buffett warned in The New York Times that side-effects of the current fiscal intervention could be as dangerous as the financial crisis recently averted - in the form of inflation eroding the dollar's purchasing power.

USA Today: Cinema - 'The Informant!' uses satire to punctuate a serious topic - by Claudia Puig

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'Cinema - The Informant!' uses satire to punctuate a serious topic - by Claudia Puig

People magazine may just strip Matt Damon of his "sexiest man alive" title once they catch sight of the actor in the offbeat film The Informant!.
Portly — Damon packed on 30 pounds for the role — and sporting a ridiculous mustache, dorky wire-framed glasses and an unmoving helmet of hair, he's almost unrecognizable in the role of Mark Whitacre, a corporate whistle-blower who is not what he seems. Damon is superb as a demonically smart guy who comes across as rather dim. The Informant! is an odd, satirical comedy that director Steven Soderbergh has infused with a jaunty tone, in contrast to the serious subject matter. Its story of corporate malfeasance and corruption as well as individual greed couldn't be more timely, given the antics of bailed-out Wall Street companies and powerhouse banks. The dark comedy is based on the real-life much-publicized story of the highest-ranking corporate whistle-blower in American history.

Guardian: Milk 'strikes' and shortages hit Europe as UK dairy industry reels from crisis - by Jamie Doward

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Milk 'strikes' and shortages hit Europe as UK dairy industry reels from crisis- by Jamie Doward

Yet for all the despondency in the dairy sector, almost all involved agree that it would be quite wrong to pen its obituary now. Dairy UK, the trade body that represents milk processors and distributors, said it was "cautiously optimistic" about prospects. Even Edwards expresses hope. "If you've been in this business for this long, then you've got to be an optimist," he said. They believe a phased liberalisation of EU milk production – due to come into full force in 2015 – should help the UK's dairy farmers. Germany, for example, is allowed under the EU quota system to produce some 25bn litres of milk a year – twice what the UK is currently producing. When this system is finally dismantled, the argument runs, the gloves will come off and Britain's redoubtable dairy farmers can take on their foreign counterparts on a level playing field for the first time.

"The UK is one of the most competitive and efficient milk producers in the EU," said Helen Eustace, an economist with DairyCo. All the available data suggests that global demand for milk can only increase, she believes. "That's why competitive British dairy farmers should be confident that average prices will, in the medium – and long – term, return profits."

US Politics - GOP's ( Conservative) 'leverage' is tantamount to extortion - by George Skelton

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GOP's ( Conservative) 'leverage' is tantamount to extortion - by George Skelton

Presently in the US Congress Senate Republicans are abusing the two-thirds vote requirement for passage of many bills to try to get Democrats to cave in on unrelated demands.The two-thirds rule is not used merely to protect taxpayers from politicians trying to reach deeper into their pockets. It's used by special interests -- mainly big business -- to game the system; a tool handy for legislative leverage, or extortion. If you don't give us what we want, we'll withhold the votes needed for the two-thirds. It's about buying and selling. Last Friday, at the all-night windup of this year's regular legislative session, Democrats weren't in a buying mood. This is what happened, according to Democrats, and Republicans aren't exactly denying it: The Senate GOP blocked more than 20 bills requiring a two-thirds vote because Democrats wouldn't cave on three unrelated demands.

One demand was the elimination of a program, called ReadyReturn, that allows low-income earners to have the state do their tax returns free. Intuit wants these people to buy its software product, TurboTax. Since 2005, the company has donated to the political coffers of three-fourths of the Senate, The Times reported Tuesday. Another GOP insistence was that a big corporate tax break enacted as part of the February budget deal be tweaked to help more businesses, especially Chevron.

Chicago Tribune: 9 US hurdles to climate treaty -- by Jim Tankersley

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9 US hurdles to climate treaty -- by Jim Tankersley

After months of almost single-minded focus on health care, President Barack Obama is about to shift the spotlight to global warming this week, first with a speech to the United Nations in New York on Tuesday, then later in the week at the G-20 economic conference in Pittsburgh. The renewed emphasis on climate change and reducing carbon dioxide emissions comes at a crucial time: Negotiators are entering the home stretch in the drive to unveil a comprehensive new international agreement to curb rising temperatures at a December conference in Copenhagen.

With divisions remaining among the major industrialized nations, as well as with developing industrial powers and poorer nations, there is concern that negotiations could be bogging down. Obama administration officials, while acknowledging the seriousness of the challenges, continue to hold out hope for a deal.

9/19/09

Bloomberg: U.S., NATO, Russia Missile Shield Backed by Rasmussen - by James G. Neuger

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U.S., NATO, Russia Missile Shield Backed by Rasmussen - by James G. Neuger

NATO and the U.S. will consider linking up their planned missile-defense shields with a Russian system as part of a “new beginning” in East-West relations, alliance Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said. In an initiative to flank President Barack Obama’s policy of “resetting” ties with the Kremlin, Rasmussen renewed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s efforts to bind Russia into a system to guard against missile attacks from Iran. “We should explore the potential for linking the U.S., NATO and Russian missile-defense systems at an appropriate time,” Rasmussen said in a speech in Brussels today.

NPR: What Happened To The Push To Reform Wall Street? : by Kevin Whitelaw

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What Happened To The Push To Reform Wall Street? - by Kevin Whitelaw

Michael Bernstein, an expert in political and economic history who is currently serving as provost at Tulane University, says Obama's position is very different from that of President Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression, when FDR harnessed popular anger against bankers to pass key financial reform laws as part of the New Deal.Both then and now, it was largely up to the president to rally public sentiment, Bernstein says. "But I don't see Obama out there on the road, saying, 'You have to help me here go after the moneybags.' That's the kind of card Roosevelt played."

Heather Booth who runs Americans for Financial Reform, an advocacy group with nearly 200 institutional members, including AARP and the AFL-CIO has organized a push for widespread financial reforms. She expects a growing grass-roots call for change. She says - "We think people have been operating out of not just frustration, but fear. If that fear turns to hope for a real solution, and also, as fear changes to anger towards those who created this, we think there will be mobilization for change."

"If political leaders wanted to make it an issue, they could succeed in mobilizing people, but they're not," says Robert Shapiro, a political scientist and expert on public opinion at Columbia University. "For the people to mobilize themselves, it would take either another big drop in the stock market, or if not that, something worse."

Still, even if Americans aren't clamoring for a regulatory overhaul, the rest of the world is, says Fred Block, a professor who specializes in economic and political sociology at the University of California, Davis. "The Europeans, the Chinese and the Japanese are putting on continuous pressure," Block says. "If this were simply a matter of internal American politics, one would have to be more pessimistic. But the rest of the world has suffered from what the US allowed to happen in the financial market."

Note EU-Digest: So far nothing substantial has been done by our politicians to really correct what has gone wrong in the financial markets except help those who caused the problems. Politicians are the ones to blame for failing to do the job we "hired" them to do - watching over the well being of the citizens who elected them. Instead they turned a blind eye to the real needs of their constituents and a financial community gone out of control. The question which now must be answered without delay - can we trust our politicians with the power we gave them or should we get rid of them and the corrupt system they created? The answer should be quite simple.

9/18/09

EurActiv.com - OECD expects 25 million unemployed by 2010

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OECD expects 25 million unemployed by 2010

The economic downturn is likely to cost as many as 25 million people their jobs by the end of 2010 as the unemployment rate nears a record 10% in the OECD group of countries, according to a report released on Wednesday (16 September).The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said 15 million jobs were lost between the end of 2007 and July 2009 and 10 million more could go by the end of next year despite signs the economy is picking up.pAccording to official figures in the UK, one of Europe's youngest populations, youth unemployment has hit an all time low since 1997 with one in five young people now jobless.

Renewable Energy World: Scandinavia's Largest Offshore Wind Park Planned

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Scandinavia's Largest Offshore Wind Park Planned

Wind development company wpd has applied for a construction permit for what will be Scandinavia's largest offshore wind park, the 1.5 GW Finngrunden project. The project's scope will include 300 wind turbines of 5 MW capacity, a combined power of 1500 MW. The wind park is to be located in a large area about 40 kilometers from the mainland, east of Gävle. Annual production is expected to be around 5.5 TWh. If permission is granted the construction phase of the wind park is expected to start in the year. 2014.

“In 11 years, Sweden's energy consumption will consist of 49% renewable energy and makes it difficult to meet this goal without offshore wind power,” added wpd CEO, Charlotte Bergqvist.

Times Online: Italy's Silvio Berlusconi ‘could resign’ if immunity law struck down - Richard Owen

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Italy's Silvio Berlusconi ‘could resign’ if immunity law struck down - Richard Owen

Lawyers for Silvio Berlusconi admitted yesterday that he could resign if a law giving him immunity from prosecution is struck down next month. If the Constitutional Court, which begins its deliberations on October 6, overturns the law “there would be damage to the functions of an elected official, which could not be carried out”, Glauco Nori, a state lawyer for the Prime Minister’s office, said. The move could cause “irreparable damage” and lead to the Prime Minister’s resignation.

The law, which Mr Berlusconi pushed through Parliament last year after coming to power for the third time, gives immunity to him, as Prime Minister, and three other holders of high office: the President — a post to which he aspires — and the Speakers of both houses of parliament.

The Canadian Press: Russian premier Putin says US dollar issuance 'uncontrolled', calls for diversified reserves - Sergei Venyavsky

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Russian premier Putin says US dollar issuance 'uncontrolled', calls for diversified reserves - Sergei Venyavsky

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday said other currencies besides the dollar should be used as global reserves to reduce the risks posed by swelling U.S. debt. Putin, who spoke at an international investment forum in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, chided the United States for "an uncontrolled issue of dollars" and said the American currency's dominance had been "one of the triggers" of the global crisis. Putin renewed Russia's call on the U.S. administration and global community to give the green light to alternative reserve currencies: "If there are several reserve currencies, this will not harm the U.S. economy in any way."Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday said other currencies besides the dollar should be used as global reserves to reduce the risks posed by swelling U.S. debt.

Putin, who spoke at an international investment forum in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, chided the United States for "an uncontrolled issue of dollars" and said the American currency's dominance had been "one of the triggers" of the global crisis. Putin renewed Russia's call on the U.S. administration and global community to give the green light to alternative reserve currencies: "If there are several reserve currencies, this will not harm the U.S. economy in any way."

thelondondailynews.com: EU Citizens Privacy Rights in Danger: EU politicians lobby against American terrorist finance program

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EU Citizens Privacy Rights in Danger: EU politicians lobby against American terrorist finance program

The European Commission came under fire from MEP's during a plenary session of the Parliament over concerns from "millions of Europeans" that the “Terrorist Finance Tracking Program” that has been tracking and intercepting bank transactions from European based SWIFT is an invasion of European citizens privacy and an abuse of human rights.

London MEP Claude Moraes who addressed the Parliament said:"We in this house must ensure that delicate balance of protecting the fundamental rights of European citizen’s freedoms and the importance of the continued fight against terrorism". Another MEP expressed her concerns that the European Commission had debated the issue behind closed doors and said: "Why is the American government trying to get information on us in Europe? The issue is about transparency and this entire debate should be made public, the citizens of Europe demand this transparency".

At present the European Union has in place an interim agreement under negotiation between the EU and the United States on data transfers via the SWIFT network. MEP's have attacked the European Council for not encompassing the concerns of European citizens in the agreement. Note EU-Digest: EU citizens are being urged to contact their political representatives to demand more clarity on this important issue of Citizens Privacy Rights.

Computerworld: Skype European founders file US suit against eBay

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Skype European founders file US suit against eBay

With a similar legal battle playing out in the U.K., a company owned by Skype's founders has filed suit against Skype in the U.S. Joltid, the company owned by Skype founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, filed a copyright infringement suit in California against Skype, eBay, Silver Lake Partners and others. The dispute concerns an agreement that eBay made when it bought Skype in 2005. The acquisition did not include Skype's peer-to-peer networking technology, which is owned by Joltid and was licensed to Skype. Earlier this year Joltid terminated the license agreement. Joltid and Skype have since argued over the validity of the termination in courts in England. Further arguments are scheduled there in the middle of next year.

NY Times: Obama Ends a 'Special Relationship' (with Eastern Europe) - by Judy Dempsey

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Obama Ends a 'Special Relationship'(with Eastern Europe - by Judy Dempsey

With Barack Obama in the White House, the deployment of the missile shield in Eastern Europe is no longer a given, as defense experts question its costs, its effectiveness and even its location. As a result, the certainties of the Bush era have given way to a sense of betrayal — but maybe also realism — on the part of the East Europeans. Throughout the Bush administration, the East Europeans had supported the U.S. war on terrorism. They had broken ranks with many other European Union countries in supporting the invasion of Iraq by sending troops. They had turned a blind eye to renditions and interrogation centers (though there were also West European countries that did that).Note EU-Digest: This is a pragmatic and intelligent move by the Obama Administration. As we have often commented in EU-Digest, the Bush Administration did the EU a disservice in having a special relationship with the Eastern European members of the EU, because it created instability within the Union, specifically as it related to the EU ties with Russia.

FoxNews: Florida Investigation Finds No Credible Threat to Teen Christian Convert

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Florida authorities' investigation into a teenager's claims that her life is in danger for converting from Islam to Christianity found no credible threats to 17-year-old Rifqa Bary, according to a newly unsealed report. The high school student is in foster care in Orlando after fleeing to Florida from her home in Ohio because, she said, she feared being killed by her family for switching religions.

Rifqa ran away from her parents' house in suburban Columbus in July after her parents, Sri Lankan immigrants Mohamed and Aysha Bary, learned she had been baptized a Christian without telling them.She has said she is afraid of becoming the victim of an "honor killing" if she stays with her father and mother. Her parents have said they have no intention of harming their daughter. The girl fled to the home of the Rev. Blake Lorenz, pastor of the Orlando-based Global Revolution Church — whom she befriended on Facebook. Her father says he believes Rifqa has been brainwashed by fundamentalist Christians.

9/17/09

NYT: Italy Looks at Afghan Pullout After Deadly Blast - by Abdul Washeed

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Italy Looks at Afghan Pullout After Deadly Blast - by Abdul Washeed

A powerful suicide bomb that killed six Italian soldiers here on Thursday prompted Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy to declare that his nation had begun planning to “bring our young men home as soon as possible.”In Brussels, Mr. Berlusconi, a close American ally but in some political trouble at home, was careful to say that Italy would not unilaterally withdraw its 3,100 troops from Afghanistan, though he said he wanted the withdrawal to happen “as quickly as possible.” But it seemed the strongest expression yet from a European leader of the rising doubts about the Afghanistan mission among America’s allies.

Sideways,com:: Europe and US clash on climate change

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Europe and US clash on climate changeEurope and US clash on climate change

he European Union has apparently clashed with the Obama administration in the US over plans to tackle carbon emissions ahead of the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (COP15). According to the Guardian, the two regions disagree on how carbon reduction targets would be counted and there are fears that a rift could interrupt what is being billed as the last chance to prevent a two degrees celsius rise in global temperatures.

Times Online: President Karzai claims victory as EU demands inquiry into vote fraud - by Jerome Starkey

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President Karzai claims victory as EU demands inquiry into vote fraud - by Jerome Starkey

The first full count of votes in Afghanistan’s increasingly bitter election gave President Karzai the outright majority required to secure him another term as fresh allegations were made that the poll was widely rigged. Only “a miracle” could now stop Mr Karzai from winning, Waheed Omar, a presidential spokesman, said after the Independent Election Commission revealed the preliminary results with 100 per cent of the ballots counted yesterday. This made it almost impossible that any investigation would change the outcome, he added.

The Government also accused European Union officials of unwarranted interference after they claimed that a third of Mr Karzai’s vote may be fraudulent.

WSJ: US education: House Passes Sweeping Student-Loan-Market Overhaul

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US education: House Passes Sweeping Student-Loan-Market Overhaul

The House of Representatives approved legislation Thursday that would effectively end private-lender involvement in the student-loan market, establishing the federal government as the sole provider of college loans. The bill introduces sweeping changes to the U.S. higher-education system and serves as the third central plank of President Barack Obama's domestic agenda. Similar to the continuing efforts at overhauling health care, the changes to the federal government's higher-education policies would have a serious effect on the bottom line for private-sector players currently serving the marketplace.

Smart Brief: Backlash begins as Dutch retailer refuses to sell PSP Go

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Backlash begins as Dutch retailer refuses to sell PSP Go

Nedgame, the largest video-game retailer in the Netherlands, has said it will not sell the PSP Go when it launches next month. The retailer cited price and the device's smaller screen size as its reasons for shunning the product. However, PSP Go's games are download-only, giving retailers another reason to avoid it. Several Spanish retailers also are said to be planning similar moves.

Washington Post: Obama Statement on European Missile Defense |

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Obama Statement on European Missile Defense

The previous administration's plans will be changed, moving away from the installation of a missile-defense shield in the Czech Republic and Poland in the near future. A second phase to begin in 2015 could result in missiles being placed on land in Eastern Europe.Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the decision to abandon the Bush administration's plans came about because of a change in the U.S. perception of the threat posed by Iran.

EurActiv.com - EU summit to clamp down on bankers' bonuses

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EU summit to clamp down on bankers' bonuses

EU leaders will urge the G20 to set binding rules on bankers' bonuses, linking the amount of cash paid to long-term performance, reveals a draft common paper to be adopted today (17 September) during an extraordinary summit in Brussels ahead of next week’s international meeting in Pittsburgh.To dissuade reckless risk-taking in the banking sector, EU leaders are poised to adopt a strong stance on bankers' bonuses, actually threatening sanctions in each of the G20 countries, said the draft document.But US opposition to Europe's push for caps on bonuses would make it the toughest subject to reach agreement on, said Jouyet, who this week attended a meeting of the Financial Stability Board (FSB), comprising G20 central bankers and regulators.

Michigan Messenger:: US Economy - Mayor Bernero tells CNN that recession ‘ain’t over for a lot of our people’

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US Economy - Mayor Bernero tells CNN that recession ‘ain’t over for a lot of our people’

Mayor Virgil Bernero was on CNN Wednesday morning responding to statements from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that the recession that has crippled our economy, tossed millions of Americans out of jobs and made the housing crisis worse, is over. Bernero told CNN’s John Roberts that while Bernanke might being seeing hopeful signs in the economy, it is not translating to Michigan. “Look, there’s a long way to go,” Bernero said. “But I would say it is premature at this point to say the recession is over. It ain’t over for a lot of our people. It’s not over for working people. It may be over for Wall Street but I will tell ya there is still a major disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street.”

Note EU-Digest

The disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street has never been greater. It is also risky and unrealistic to make assessments of the US future economic health and overall market performance based upon stocks in which Uncle Sam holds anywhere from a 40-80% equity stake. Trading these stocks is pure gambling, not investing, and every honest economic analyst will agree with that evaluation. While the industrial segment of the US economy appears to be stabilizing as a result of savings made by reducing the payrolls by millions of people, the consumer, which controls 70% of the US economy, remains severely stressed. Delinquencies and defaults continue to run at a record pace across almost every form of debt, including mortgages, and credit cards. Also looming in the background as another danger is the commercial real estate market, which is ready to collapse at any moment.

Digital Journal: Spanish court: You can't be fired for calling boss 'son of a bitch' - by Chris Dade

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Spanish court: You can't be fired for calling boss 'son of a bitch' - by Chris Dade

It has emerged this week that back in February a court in Spain ruled calling your boss a "son of a bitch" should not result in you losing your job.The judge clarified her opinion that dismissal was a "disproportionate punishment" by saying: "The social degradation of language has caused the expressions used by the plaintiff to become commonly used in certain settings, especially in arguments." She also ruled that the employer should either reinstate its former employee or pay him compensation of €6,483). It has not been revealed which option the employer chose.

9/16/09

NYT: Norway Keeps Leftists in Power - by Walter Gibbs

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Norway Keeps Leftists in Power - by Walter Gibbs

Norwegian voters have returned their Labor-dominated government to office, narrowly endorsing Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s pursuit of expanded public services and rejecting angry demands by some of his opponents to crack down harshly on immigration. The biggest party on the conservative side remained Progress, led by the country’s most strident politician, Siv Jensen. Her outspoken opposition to immigration and foreign development aid — which she called “aid for corrupt dictators in Africa” — was coupled with a populist call to slash taxes and spend more of Norway’s oil revenue on government operations. That helped her party win about 23 percent of the vote, giving it 41 seats. But opinion polls as recently as a week ago had suggested an even stronger showing. Harald Stanghelle, the political editor of the newspaper Aftenposten, said the apparent drop in support for the party had to do with maintaining the balance of power.

“Many voters want Progress to be there as a protest party, but they don’t want to see them in office,” Mr. Stanghelle said.

AFP: Germany paves way to offshore wind farms

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Euro-Zone Inflation Falls 0.2% in August - by Lawrence Newman

The German government this Wednesday agreed a plan to set aside special zones off its northern coast for a host of wind farms that could provide energy for more than eight million homes. The zones, between 12 and 200 kilometres (seven and 124 miles) offshore, could house 22 wind farms in the North Sea, with a further three farms planned for the Baltic, off the country's northeastern coast. "By 2020, we want to raise the percentage of renewable energy in our electricity supply to 30 percent on a step-by-step basis. Wind parks should play a significant role in this," said Wolfgang Tiefensee, transport minister.

> "From our planned farms in the North Sea alone, we could provide 6.8 million additional homes with electricity," he added.

WSJ: Euro-Zone Inflation Falls 0.2% in August - by Lawrence Newman

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Euro-Zone Inflation Falls 0.2% in August - by Lawrence Newman

Consumer prices in the 16 countries that use the euro fell 0.2% in August from a year-earlier, the European Union's statistics arm Eurostat reported Wednesday. August's price fall -- unrevised from the preliminary estimate -- represents a less sharp decline than the 0.7% drop on the year in July but is the third straight month of annual deflation. Economists had expected a 0.2% decline in August. Consumer prices rose 0.3% in August from a month earlier, also in line with the preliminary estimate and economist forecasts. The monthly increase was the strongest since April.

The European Central Bank expects prices to rise again on an annual basis within a few months, due largely to the fact that the extraordinarily high level of energy prices in the period before the 2008 financial crisis will no longer be included in the statistical base.

Businessweek: Watchdog alarmed by Turkish media fine - Erdogan's government trying to muzzle unfavorable press.

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Watchdog alarmed by Turkish media fine - Erdogan's government trying to muzzle unfavorable press

An international watchdog says the Turkish government's decision to impose an "unprecedented" penalty on the country's largest media group is alarming.Turkey's Finance Ministry imposed a $2.5 billion (euro1.7 billion) tax fine on Dogan Yayin, a conglomerate of newspapers and TV stations. The fine for allegedly unpaid taxes sparked accusations that the government is trying to muzzle a media group that has been critical of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government.

Korea Times: FSB Warns of Renewed Banking Strains

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FSB Warns of Renewed Banking Strains

The Financial Stability Board (FSB) assessed that it has made substantial progress in achieving the mandates given by G20 leaders last November and this April at a plenary meeting Tuesday. The panel said that it would submit two reports to the G20 summit slated for Sept. 24 and 25 in Pittsburgh on progress made in the aftermath of the unprecedented financial crisis. ``Good progress has been made on the policy development needed to implement the package of reforms set out previous Financial Stability Forum (FSF) reports, the G20's Washington Action Plan of November 2008 and the London summit statement of April 2009,'' the FSB said in a statement. The Financial Stability Board (FSB) assessed that it has made substantial progress in achieving the mandates given by G20 leaders last November and this April at a plenary meeting Tuesday. The panel said that it would submit two reports to the G20 summit slated for Sept. 24 and 25 in Pittsburgh on progress made in the aftermath of the unprecedented financial crisis.

9/15/09

Bloomberg.com: . Ford Returns to U.S. Minivan Market by Adapting Car From Europe - by Keith Naughton

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Ford Returns to U.S. Minivan Market by Adapting Car From Europe - by Keith Naughton

Ford Motor Co. will start selling a new small U.S. minivan in late 2011, five years after exiting the market for those vehicles, by adapting a model from Europe. The Grand C-Max, based on the Focus compact car, will seat seven and have minivan-style sliding rear doors, said Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s product development chief. Dearborn, Michigan- based Ford unveiled the auto today at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

Ford is targeting baby boomers’ offspring, known as Millennials or Generation Y, as they enter the child-rearing years, Kuzak said. The wedge-shaped design is a departure from the Windstar and Freestar minivans that were outsold more than 4-to-1 in 2006, their last year, by Chrysler Group LLC’s Dodge Caravan.