Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao rejected “unfair” calls for the yuan to appreciate and European leaders acknowledged that they had failed to shift the nation’s stance on its currency. “Some countries are now calling for yuan appreciation while imposing trade protectionism on China, which is unfair and actually limits China’s development,” Wen said at a briefing in the Chinese city of Nanjing today. In the financial crisis, “a stable yuan is helpful to the development of the Chinese economy and the world’s economic recovery,” he added. European officials indicated yesterday that they failed to convince China to loosen controls on the yuan that shelter Chinese exporters from the U.S. currency’s slide and make euro- region goods relatively less competitive. The euro has surged about 20 percent versus the dollar since Feb. 18, undermining the region’s recovery from the worst slump since World II. The yuan is effectively pegged to the dollar.
Official figures show that consumer prices in the 16 countries that use the euro rose by 0.6 percent in the year to November. That is the first annual rise recorded by Eurostat, the EU's statistics office, since April. A return to positive territory had been anticipated in Monday's release as last year's falls in energy costs dropped out of the comparison. However, the increase is bigger than anticipated -- the consensus was for a 0.4 percent inflation rate.
This past Tuesday the heads of China and the US announced, if not a wedding, then at least an engagement. Behind them lay a nine-page joint statement full of principled pledges yet devoid of specific actions. This is the theoretical engagement that the Chinese had wanted, one that encompassed a long-term, strategic relationship. The engagement is much more important for the Chinese than any single business deal or any convergent short-term tactics. In the document, Beijing did not obtain the "strategic partnership" (almost an alliance) that it seeks with the US, but it did earn "strategic bilateral trust". This may shroud US intentions, since it is now clear that that the US welcomes a strong and prosperous China. For Beijing, the "strategic bilateral trust" is a guarantee that the US will not try to stop China's economic and political growth by internal subversive actions or external containment.
In return for this, China recognizes US geopolitical interests in Asia, since it acknowledges the US as an Asia-Pacific power. This, in turn, means that China could be ready to support or even help American interventions in the region. This could be very important in the future, especially given the ongoing economic and political decline of Japan as a regional power. Note EU-Digest This most important development should signal to the Europeans that the US, by signing this far reaching agreement with China has officially watered down the historic Atlantic Alliance and that the EU must consequently re-evaluate its strategic alliances within the European sphere of influence, by strengthening its relationship with Russia, Turkey and the Middle East.
Reuters- Pledges made so far by governments to cut greenhouse gases are not enough for an effective pact to fight climate change, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Sunday. Speaking to reporters in Nanjing, eastern China, just over a week before the start of U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen on Dec. 7, Barroso said, taken as a whole, the proposed curbs were encouraging. However, he said they fell short of the minimum scientists believed was needed to avoid future temperature rises of 2 degrees Celsius or more above the pre-industrial average, which could lead to dangerous climate disruptions. "What I can tell you is that I certainly ask the Chinese and all our partners for the outer limits of their positions," said Barroso.
Senior European economic leaders have failed in their bid to persuade China to allow its currency to appreciate, dashing hopes of taking pressure off struggling European exports and the soaring euro. Jean-Claude Juncker, prime minister of Luxembourg and chair of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, warned yesterday sun following talks with senior Chinese officials that it was difficult to justify the yuan's depreciation against a basket of currencies, given China's rapid economic growth.
“We think an orderly and gradual appreciation of the [yuan] would be in the best interests of China and of the global economy,” Mr. Juncker told a press conference in the eastern city of Nanjing, after meeting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. However, he acknowledged that he was not “more optimistic than I was before I came here” about the prospects for a change in China's currency policy.
Times Online: US Political Scene - Cool cat Barack Obama must count on his nine lives - by Andrew Sullivan
For the complete report from the Times Online click on this link
If you were to come up with a very short phrase summing up Barack Obama’s core identity, you could do a lot worse than the rat pack-era term “cool cat”. The coolness is now legendary: the poise during every political earthquake in the campaign, the steady willingness not to take the Clinton bait, the refusal even to raise an eyebrow at the Palin circus and that elegant lope as he walks into a state dinner.
The paradox is: in today’s populist, emotional climate, coolness can be eclipsed in the political drama and thereby rendered moot. In many ways Sarah Palin is the extreme counter-example. She plays a short game. She deploys no substantive policy content and no interest whatever in actual government. But she channels pure emotion, identity and rage very effectively in a country where unemployment is soaring. As such, she is a political nightmare, someone whom most Americans would never entrust with actual responsibility, but a cultural phenomenon who thereby wields political power.
Russian President, Dmitry Medvdev, has sent a security proposal to European security agencies, including NATO and the EU. The draft calls for all nations that agree, to the final writing, will follow the principle “indivisible, equal and undiminished security”. The proposal includes these few ideas of joint security. “That parties do not undertake, support or participate in actions that can jeopardize the security of another party to the treaty". The sides also agree not to allow the use of its territory with the purpose of attacking their partners.
The draft suggests that every party to the agreement is entitled to consider any attack on another party in a treaty as attack against itself.“In exercising its right of self-defense under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, it shall be entitled to render the attacked Party, subject to its consent, the necessary assistance, including the military one, until the UN Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security,” the draft says.
Time Magazine: Economic Meltdown - Will Dubai's Financial Problems Spread Around the Globe? - by Andrew Lee Butters
Will Dubai's Financial Problems Spread Around the Globe? - by Andrew Lee Butters
The rulers of the United Arab Emirates city-state of Dubai have for months breezily dismissed concerns about Dubai World, the government's main holding company for investments and real estate developments. "We are not worried," said Dubai's Emir, Sheik Mohammad bin Rashid al-Maktoum, at a press conference two months ago, despite the fact that Dubai has debts that are at least 100% of GDP — and may be closer to 125%. When critics later complained that Dubai had no realistic plans for paying off its debts, al-Maktoum told them to "shut up." But on Thursday, as Dubai's government announced it was seeking a halt to its debt repayments ahead of a $4 billion bill due on Dec 14, spin was at a minimum. So many worried investors tried to join a conference call for bond holders of Nakheel, a property company owned by Dubai World, the lines collapsed.
A Sudanese woman who challenged authorities after being sentenced to 40 lashes for wearing trousers has defied a travel ban to visit France. Lubna Hussein has vowed to continue her fight from outside Sudan to stop women from being prosecuted for what they wear. She defied the ban on international travel by leaving Sudan dressed from head to toe in an Islamic niqab. Dressed in trousers and a jacket, she appeared in a press conference at the French Foreign Ministry on Monday. Welcoming Hussein to Paris, the French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner said she had displayed "the courage to be steadfast in her revolt so that women will not be arrested and flogged.The Paris welcome came as France debates measures to prohibit women from wearing the full Islamic veil, which President Nicholas Sarkozy calls a symbol of female subservience.
While other faiths are also often oppressive, sharia law is especially oppressive. Its interpretations stipulate the execution of Muslims who commit adultery, renounce their faith (apostates) or have same-sex relationships. Sharia methods of execution, such as stoning, are particularly brutal and cruel – witness the stoning to death this week in Somalia of a 20-year-old woman divorcee who was accused of adultery. This is the fourth stoning of an adulterer in Somalia in the last year. We cannot accept the way many Islamic states, including western allies like Saudi Arabia, restrict women's freedom of movement, make women subject to the control of male guardians, deny women access to certain jobs and positions in government and enforce the compulsory veiling of women (the hijab, niqab, jilbab or burqa).
Note EU-Digest: One of the major problems in Sharia Law is the position attributed to women in this context. Women against Fundamentalism who are challenging the rise of fundamentalism in all religions notes: all fundamentalists see women's role as crucial in representing and transmitting the supposedly unchanging morals and traditions of the whole community. Women who fail to conform to so-called "traditional family values" are portrayed as placing the well being and future of the whole society or community at risk. The control of women’s minds and bodies is, therefore, at the heart of fundamentalist agendas everywhere.
Swiss citizens are called to the polls today November 29 to vote on the popular initiative «Against the Construction of Minarets». Launched by the right-wing People’s Party and the small ultra-conservative Federal Democratic Union, the initiative has sparked controversy and a heated debate on Islam in Switzerland, human rights and integration. An online poll by Jungfrauzeitung.ch in the week ending November 22 has shown 43 percent of readers against and 55 percent in favour of a ban. The Federal Council and parliament oppose the initiative, saying that it restricts freedom of religion as anchored in the constitution, goes against the grain of Switzerland’s tradition of tolerance, endangers integration and violates the European Convention on Human Rights. The main Swiss churches and non-governmental organisations such as Amnesty International Switzerland also reject a ban on the construction of minarets.
In other nationwide ballots on Sunday, a committee of centre-left parties and pacifist groups are proposing a ban on the export of weapons and other materials used in warfare. Voters are also being asked to decide on a constitutional amendment to allow the use of fuel tax from domestic flights for aviation safety and the environment rather than road projects.
According to the constitution, the Swiss people are sovereign and therefore the highest political authority. A people’s or popular initiative allows citizens to propose legislation that, if passed, is written into the constitution. A valid initiative requires 100,000 signatures, to be gathered within an eighteen-month period. Parliament can either directly accept the initiative, reject it or put forward its own - usually more moderate - counterproposal. In all cases, a nationwide vote is held. Popular initiatives require a double majority to pass, i.e. an electoral majority as well as the backing from a majority of the cantons.
Organic milk may cost more, but it may also pay off in the end. A recent Dutch study suggests that children are one third less likely to suffer from allergies before age two if they're raised on organic dairy products. In the study, children and breastfeeding moms ate organic milk, cheese and yogurt. The study author said the connection between choosing organic dairy and less incidence of eczema was clear. The risk for other allergies and asthma also decreased.
So why is organic better? It's hard to say for sure at this point, but researchers believe it may, in part, be due to the higher concentrations of conjugated linoleic acids that are found in organic milk. Studies have shown that organic milk has 71 percent more omega-3 fatty acids, too, another important nutrient for growth and development.
For the complete report by Barry Commoner click on this link
Billions of transgenic plants are now being grown with only the most rudimentary knowledge about the resulting changes in their composition. Without detailed, ongoing analyses of the transgenic crops,there is no way of knowing what hazardous consequences may arise. But, given the failure of the Central Dogma, there is no assurance that they will not. The genetically engineered crops now being grown represent a huge uncontrolled experiment; its outcome is inherently unpredictable.
The world's big powers have been stating their objectives and making diplomatic efforts ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December. Representatives of 191 countries have been invited to meet in Copenhagen from Dec. 7 to attempt to reach a global consensus on tackling climate change. So far 67 heads of state have confirmed their attendance at the UN conference. In the run-up to the event, the main players have revealed their stated objectives for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. China, one of the world's biggest polluters, has always refused to impose fixed targets for emissions reduction in order to protect its economic growth. But now China has unveiled its first firm target to curb greenhouse gas emissions, laying out a carbon intensity goal (the amount of carbon dioxide emitted for each unit of economic output) that premier Wen Jiabao will take to the climate talks as his government's central commitment. The United States which has the dubious honor of being the world's other top polluter together with China also comes with its plan. In a break with his predecessor George W. Bush, Barack Obama takes the issue of man-made global warming seriously. But Obama needs to reconcile the expectations of the international community with realities at home. Obama's stated objectives are to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by 17% by 2020, then 30% by 2025 and 42% by 2030 (based on 2005 levels).
The EU is keen to be seen as a standard bearer for the reduction of greenhouse gasses. At the end of October the EU identified that developing nations need help to the tune of 100 billion euros per year to reduce their emissions - but failed to agree on how this aid could be achieved. EU countries have pledged to reduce their emissions by 20% by 2020 (based on 1990 levels), a figure that could climb to 30% depending on the outcome of the Copenhagen summit.
José Manuel Barroso unveiled, on 27 November, the long-awaited distribution of portfolios among members of the new Commission, who will now be able to start preparing for their hearings before the European Parliament, set for 11 to 19 January. The vote of approval will tentatively be held on 26 January. In a packed press room, where many EU civil servants were on hand to learn who would be their new boss, Barroso said he was “confident that I have assigned the right jobs to the right people”. “These are my choices alone,” he added, although in fact he had to juggle with member states’ different requests, the particular strengths of the individual candidates, political balance, the number of women, and other factors. In short, he had to work out a subtle balance. On paper, he seems to have managed quite well, less than three days after receiving the names of the final appointees.
Note EU-Digest: The most eye-catching new position is an EU climate action commissioner. Barroso has nominated to the job Connie Hedegaard, until last week Denmark's climate minister, when she was put in charge of hosting the Dec. 7-18 global UN climate conference in Copenhagen. Neelie Kroes of the Netherlands — the EU's active antitrust chief for the past five years — has been nominated as the EU's digital agenda commissioner, charged with pushing Europeans to go online more, both at home and at work. At the European Commission, the digital economy is seen to hold huge promise but it is felt governments must do more to increase access to digital content. Only 7 percent of Europeans have ever shopped online abroad, according to EU data, and European investments in high-speed broadband and developing new sectors such as online advertising are lagging behind the United State and Japan. Spain's Joaquin Almunia, the outgoing monetary affairs commissioner, will replace Kroes as EU antitrust chief.
EurActiv - The European Parliament held a heated debate yesterday (25 November) on future EU enlargement but also offered congratulations to Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, who is expected to take a different portfolio in the Barroso II team.Olli Rehn, the quiet Finn who once humbly described himself as "only the factory manager" in the gigantic effort of preparing countries for EU membership, summed up his five-year term by saying that five years ago, he had wanted to see a number of things achieved by the end of 2009:
* An EU of 27 member states;
* Croatia's accession process entering the final stages;
* the other Western Balkan countries anchored in the EU through Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAAs);
* Turkey firmly on a European track;
* Kosovo's status settled, and;
* Cyprus reunified.
EUROPA - EU-China Summit to focus on efforts in striving for ambitious deal on climate in Copenhagen
The 12 th EU-China Summit in Nanjing on 30 November 2009 provides an excellent occasion to discuss with China the way towards an ambitious result at climate global conference starting one week later in Copenhagen. The European Union will be represented by the President of the European Council, the Prime Minister of Sweden, Mr Fredrik Reinfeldt and the President of the European Commission, Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso, accompanied by Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner. The Chinese Delegation will be headed by Premier Wen Jiabao. The Summit will also address the financial and economic crisis as well as the bilateral relationship and international issues, like non-proliferation, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Burma/Myanmar.
President Barroso said: "From this EU-China Summit we intend to send a strong message on our shared determination to face and overcome together global challenges. Only a week before the Copenhagen UN conference on Climate Change we will stress the need for an ambitious and global result, which includes structures to finance mitigation. There is a lot we can achieve together also in economic recovery and the reform of international financial structures. Furthermore, this Summit takes place only a day before the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty which will contribute to enhance the profile and influence of the European Union in global affairs".
The European Union is pushing to upgrade its status at the UN to put it on a par with quasi-states such as the Vatican and Palestine. EU officials are discussing a plan to seek a controversial UN General Assembly resolution that would recognise the 27-nation bloc’s new unified foreign policy envisaged in the Lisbon treaty. The resolution, if adopted, would give the EU its own seat and nameplate in UN General Assembly chamber and committees and allow it to take part in debates and co-sponsor resolutions — but not vote.
The Dubai fiasco reveals that the impact of the global financial crisis is not completely over, which started in September 2008 with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, affecting flow of funds to developing markets like Dubai. Valuation of assets like real estate got hit. At the same time, rise in the interest rates because of the liquidity crunch affected viability of many projects. Executive director of Pricewaterhouse Rajan Wadhawan says some more places like Dubai will tumble because of the change in the financing mechanism after the global financial crisis. The Dubai crisis will affect the pace of economic recovery, he adds. However, Datar accepts that in the near term, risk appetite of foreign investors might wane and capital might flow towards safe haven assets like the US treasuries. But, he maintains that, once the dust settles, the medium-term story of capital flows into emerging markets will continue due to their robust fundamentals.
Emerging-market stocks around the world have slumped for two days on concern a debt restructuring by Dubai World, with $59 billion of liabilities, will add to the $1.72 trillion of losses and writedowns from the global credit freeze. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index fell 1.9 percent to 940.30 as of 1:55 p.m. in New York, extending this week’s decline to 2.6 percent. Dubai, which borrowed $80 billion in a four-year construction boom to transform its economy into a tourism and financial hub, suffered the world’s steepest property slump in the recession. Home prices fell 50 percent from their 2008 peak, according to Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank AG.
Note EU-Digest: So could Dubai actually go down? It's certainly possible. In the past, Abu Dhabi, Dubai's oil-rich neighbouring emirate, has regularly given Dubai loans to keep things ticking over. There's a strong feeling Abu Dhabi might come to the rescue again, but there are no guarantees. It should be pointed out that Dubai's $80 billion debt isn't massive by global standards. But the collapse of an entire nation like it was the case with Iceland, would again raise questions as to whether the Global Financial Crises is really is over.
SpiegelOnLine: No Red Carpet for Dutch Populist: Turkey Frets About Geert Wilders' Planned Visit - by Bram Vermeulen
The Turkish government fears a scheduled visit by Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, saying it could dent Turkish relations with the Netherlands and Europe. The Turkish government says it fears a scheduled visit by Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, saying it could dent Turkish relations with the Netherlands and Europe. But many secular and religious Turks say they would welcome a debate with the polemic politician.
"Normally, the army belongs in the barracks. But I will make an exception for Turkey." Wilders wrote. "The Turkish army is the greatest defender of Kemal Ataturk's legacy, the man who compared Islam with a rotting corpse. Without the corrective influence of the army, Turkey would already be a second Iran." This position is incomprehensible and indefensible, said Mustafa Akyol, a columnist and deputy editor of the Turkish Daily News and a practicing Muslim. "Wilders forgets that Ataturk in his time (the 1920 and 30s) turned Turkey's face to the West, but that the West wasn't a very pleasant place at the time. Many of the European fascist and nationalist ideologies of the time, like that of authoritarian one-party states, were thus imported to Turkey and the secular Turks have held onto them until now.''
Note EU-Digest: Mr. Wilders, a one dimensional politician, who usually is completely off the track when it comes to conventional political activities and historical research, certainly read up well about Turkish history and Ataturk's legendary vision about Islam and the dangers of Islam or any religion as a State imposed religion.
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade still owns the city's biggest stage - even after going off Broadway. Parade newbies like the Pillsbury Doughboy and Sailor Mickey today joined old-timers such as Kermit the Frog for the New York holiday spectacle that steered clear of Broadway for the first time in its 83-year history. The new 2.65-mile route took clowns, floats and bands from Central Park West to Seventh Avenue and into five sharp turns before winding into its Herald Square destination before thousands of tourists and balloon-loving New Yorkers.
China pledged today to increase its efforts to limit "greenhouse" gases, and said that Premier Wen Jiabao would attend the Copenhagen climate summit next month. The announcements came a day after President Obama said he would join the conference and unveiled a provisional target to reduce carbon emissions in the United States.The combination of moves creates a glimmer of optimism that the Dec. 7-18 climate talks will bring nations closer to meaningful agreements on emission cuts -- if not next month, then sometime in the near future.
Note EU-Digest: Like with the US,the question is not what a country pledges, but what they sign for.
Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren said Mr Obama's presence next month would raise expectations. The US earlier announced that President Obama would pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions in several stages, beginning with a 17% cut by 2020. However, BBC North America editor Mark Mardell says many environmentalists regard the US targets as disappointing. US officials said Washington would pledge a 17% cut in emissions from 2005 levels by 2020, 30% by 2025, 42% by 2030 and 83% by 2050.
Note EU-Digest:the question is not so much about pledges, but on signing agreements.
Most economists agree the nation's deep recession is over, but that isn't bringing much cheer to retailers. For the second consecutive holiday season, they're bracing for declining sales. "We're expecting (holiday) sales to be down 1 percent this year, which, believe it or not, represents a stabilizing of the (retail) industry," said Scott Krugman, a spokesman for the National Retail Federation, the trade group for major retail chains. Many retailers suffered through a year-over-year drop in sales of at least 3 percent last holiday season, so this year isn't expected to be as bad. That's a sign of how bad the U.S. economy has been: Less bad now passes as good news for retailers.
Swiss Yves Rossy ditched in the sea yesterday in a failed bid to fly from Africa to Europe using a jet-powered wing attached to his back, live television images showed. The 50-year-old former fighter pilot was seen in the water waving to rescuers before a helicopter approached and plucked him to safety. He had planned to fly 38km across the Strait of Gibraltar from Tangier in Morocco to Atlanterra in southern Spain, at a speed of 220km after leaping from a plane. After a 13-minute flight, Rossy was to cut his engines, open his parachute and land in Spain in what organisers said would have been the first crossing between Africa and Europe using a jet-powered wing.
What is it about Woody Allen that gets women accepting his film roles? Recently, he snagged Freida Pinto; now he’s somehow managed to get France’s first lady to appear in his movie! Following the circulation of rumors that pointed to the collaboration, former supermodel Carla Bruni-Sarkozy has finally openly agreed to act for Allen, despite not having a clue who she will portray nor having much expertise on a set. “I do everything a little bit blindly. If I don’t, I won’t do anything. I’m not at all an actress. Maybe I’ll be absolutely terrible,” Carla admitted.
Dutch MPs say they will cancel a trip to Turkey if the country insists on a boycott of Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders. A spokesman for Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu described the anti-Islam MP as a fascist and a racist who was not welcome in Turkey. He said there were no organizations in Turkey willing to meet Mr Wilders, and his presence in the delegation would harm relations between the two countries. Leader of the Dutch delegation, Labour Party MP Harm Evert Waalkens, says that if Turkey boycotts Mr Wilders, the Dutch MPs will call off the visit altogether. He says he will be taking the matter up with Turkish counterparts on Wednesday.
Dutch MPs also backed Mr Wilders when he was refused entry to the United Kingdom in February. Even his most vehement opponents on the left consistently support his right to travel and free speech – although though they criticise him for holding double standards on free speech himself. Mr Wilders has compared the Qur’an to Hitler’s Mein Kampf and called for it to be banned.
Neelie Kroes, Europe's respected "Corporate Watchdog" reappointed by the Netherlands as their EU commissioner
The three countries that had not yet done so announced, on 24 November, their choice of commissioners for the next EU executive. Malta appointed its Social Policy Minister, John Dalli; Denmark its Climate and Energy Minister, Connie Hedegaard; and the Netherlands its current Competition Commissioner, Neelie Kroes. The Commission chief, Portugal's José Manuel Barroso, now holds all the cards he needs to start handing out portfolios, a process that is in fact already well under way. The task is not easy because of the need to try to satisfy all the different member states. Barroso admitted, on 24 November in Strasbourg, that "there is still pressure but I will assume full responsibility".
Note EU-Digest: for the first time in the history of Dutch politics was a politician from a different political party rather than the ruling political coalition appointed as a Dutch EU Commissioner candidate. Mrs. Kroes is widely respected throughout Europe for the integrity and fair play she showed in dealing with very complicated matters related to corporate irregularities.
The European Commission Thursday barred Italian electricity subsidies for aluminum producer Alcoa Inc. (AA) and ordered the Italian government to recover aid already given to the company. Italy has given Alcoa preferential electricity rates for its smelters in Sardinia and Veneto between 2006 and 2010. The commission, the European Union's regulatory arm, said this aid was given solely to reduce Alcoa's operating costs and had no other justification. Under EU rules, state aid for companies is usually prohibited, unless a company is helping boost employment in an impoverished region. "Price subsidies that result in artificially low energy prices for selected companies waste taxpayers' money and distort competition," the commission's chief antitrust official, Neelie Kroes, said in a statement.
Two more pieces of Europe, and of Italy in particular, are getting ready to join the ISS (International Space Station). Twelve years of design, development and hard work came to fruition with the formal handover of Node 3 from ESA to NASA on 20 November. The ceremony took place in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA. The handover completed the final major element of the barter agreement between ESA and NASA signed in Turin (Italy) on 8 October 1997 under which ESA provided Nodes 2 and 3 plus additional equipment and knowhow in return for transportation of the European Columbus Laboratory to the ISS by Space Shuttle.
Britain urged Turkey on Monday to honour a pledge to the European Union to open its ports and airports to neighbouring Cyprus, saying it would be an important step in Ankara's talks to join the bloc. Turkey has no diplomatic relations with Cyprus, an EU member since 2004, but is under pressure to make good a promise to open its ports to its southern neighbour under a deal which enabled it to start accession talks in 2005. "I urge the Turkish government to honour the commitments that it has already made. We would like to see the ports opened, we'd like to see them making that commitment again and seeing action rather than just words," said British Minister for Europe Chris Bryant. Turkish compliance with its commitments will be discussed by EU heads of state at a summit in mid-December.
Reuters- German business morale rose in November to levels not seen since the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers last year, boosting hopes that a recovery in Europe's largest economy can gain momentum.The Ifo economic think tank's business climate index, based on a monthly poll of some 7,000 firms, rose to 93.9 from 92.0 in October, exceeding a consensus forecast for a 92.5 reading and bringing the survey to its highest level since August 2008. It was the eighth consecutive rise in the index and pushed the euro higher against the dollar and Bund futures lower.
"Dying to Live in Europe
What Happens to Immigrants Who Don't Make It?
Not one single government in Europe registers how many immigrants die attempting to get across its borders. Nor do they try to find out who they were. But they have stories, if you know where to look.
There were 18 people on board the Zodiac: 17 Afghans and one Turk who didn't know the way. In the last stretch of the 90-minute boat trip from the Turkish coast town Kucukkuyu to the Greek island Lesbos, the autumn wind threw them on the cliffs. Ten Afghans survived. The others, including a couple and their three children, ended up in the graves for the unknown refugees at Mytilini cemetery. They are buried at a distance from the flower-draped tombstones of the local Greek people, on the far end of the graveyard, close to the trash. "
Global warming cannot be reversed unless the United States and China commit to meaningful cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions, the EU said Tuesday. With two weeks to go before a global climate conference, the EU urged Washington and Beijing to come to the Copenhagen event with meaningful bids to slash carbon dioxide emissions."Without a bid from the USA and China, only half of the emissions are covered" by a global deal, Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren, whose country holds the EU presidency, told the European Parliament. "An agreement in Copenhagen must cover all the emissions of the world," he added. "An agreement is totally dependent on sufficient bids from the USA and China." At least 65 world leaders will attend the Copenhagen climate summit in December as representatives of 191 nations seek agreement on a new global treaty on limiting emissions of greenhouse gases. U.S. officials said this week the Obama administration will soon announce its targets. Washington has resisted doing so without the backing of Congress, which is not expected to pass climate legislation until next year at the earliest.
Note EU-Digest: The EU seems to be taking a defeatist stand - the solution to this "game playing" and "delay tactics" by China and the US in reference to a new global treaty limiting emissions of greenhouse gases can be quite simple - the EU in coalition with all the "Willing Global Pollution Buster Countries" should sign an agreement in Copenhagen. Those not willing to sign the Copenhagen treaty should be given the opportunity to sign any time they please, with the specification that unless they sign the agreement, their export products will be given an additional "green tax" by Copenhagen signatory importing countries to combat the unfair market advantages the pollution produced products have.
New York Times - “Stop the boat! Stop the boat now!” the captain of the Greek Coast Guard patrol vessel yelled over the bullhorn, turning a spotlight on the flimsy dinghy as it chugged toward this island in the Aegean Sea. As the dinghy sputtered to a halt, a crowd of frightened faces squinted up into the light. Squeezed onto the 6-meter, or 20-foot, vessel were 30 Afghan migrants — men, women, children including babies — and their smugglers: two Turkish boys. The interception occurred one Saturday night earlier this month. But the migrants, the smugglers and the coast guard officers are protagonists in a daily drama played out in this seven-kilometer-wide strait separating the island of Lesbos from the Turkish coast, one of the narrowest sea crossings between the two countries and a favored route for smuggling. Hampering European Union efforts to curb a relentless influx of desperate people seeking to enter the bloc through this slender channel are age-old tensions between the E.U. member Greece and the E.U.-hopeful Turkey and the ever inventive tactics of opportunists profiting from the situation.
Most of the human traffickers are Turks, age 16 and 17. “We’ve seen one kid three times,” a patrol boat captain said, noting that minors, who cannot be prosecuted under Greek law, were sent back to Turkey, but often tried to return to Greece a few weeks later. The captain asked not to be identified by name for security reasons.
The presidency in the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) will be passed to Kazakhstan. EurAsEC Secretary General, Tair Mansurov, informed after the meeting with the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, on Monday, the agency Kazakhstan Today reports citing the president's press service. According to the press service, T. Mansurov informed N. Nazarbayev on the work of EurAsEC, preparation for the forthcoming summit of this organization in Minsk, and told about the work on formation of the Customs Union. T. Mansurov informed that the meeting participants on November, 27th in the capital of Belarus at the summit of EurAsEC Interstate Council will discuss the questions of further development of the organization. The Presidents of three countries - Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus will sign the Customs Code.
First there was Medicare for all 300 million of us. But that was a non-starter because private insurers and Big Pharma wouldn’t hear of it, and Republicans and “centrists” thought it was too much like what they have up in Canada — which, by the way, cost Canadians only 10 percent of their GDP and covers every Canadian. (Our current system of private for-profit insurers costs 16 percent of GDP and leaves out 45 million people.) So the compromise was to give all Americans the option of buying into a “Medicare-like plan” that competed with private insurers. Who could be against freedom of choice? Fully 70 percent of Americans polled supported the idea. Open to all Americans, such a plan would have the scale and authority to negotiate low prices with drug companies and other providers, and force private insurers to provide better service at lower costs. But private insurers and Big Pharma wouldn’t hear of it, and Republicans and “centrists” thought it would end up too much like what they have up in Canada.So the compromise was to give the public option only to Americans who wouldn’t be covered either by their employers or by Medicaid. And give them coverage pegged to Medicare rates. But private insurers and … you know the rest. So the compromise that ended up in the House bill is to have a mere public option, open only to the 6 million Americans not otherwise covered. The Congressional Budget Office warns this shrunken public option will have no real bargaining leverage and would attract mainly people who need lots of medical care to begin with. So it will actually cost more than it saves. But even the House’s shrunken and costly little public option is too much private insurers, Big Pharma, Republicans, and “centrists” in the Senate. So Harry Reid has proposed an even tinier public option, which states can decide not to offer their citizens. According to the CBO, it would attract no more than 4 million Americans. Yet Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson mumble darkly that they may not even vote to allow debate on the floor of the Senate about the bill if it contains this paltry public option. And Republicans predict a “holy war.” But what more can possibly be compromised? Take away the word “public?” Make it available to only twelve people?
Note EU-Digest: As Mr. Reich concluded in his report: "private, for-profit health insurance system, designed to fatten the profits of private health insurers and Big Pharma, is about to be turned over to … the US private, for-profit health care system. Except that now private health insurers and Big Pharma will be getting some 30 million additional customers, paid for by the taxpayer". Looking at it from this side of the Atlantic it seems very much like a major corporate scam.
Bloomberg - (Will the Dollar crash?) Dollar Slump Persisting as Top Analysts See No Bottom - by Bo Nielsen
Standard Chartered Plc, Aletti Gestielle SGR, HSBC Holdings Plc and Scotia Capital Inc. say the dollar will depreciate as much as 6.4 percent versus the euro. About $12 trillion of fiscal and monetary stimulus, the world’s lowest borrowing costs and a record $4 trillion of government bond sales between 2009 and 2010 will weigh on the currency, they said. So will the nation’s 10.2 percent unemployment rate and signs that the economic recovery may falter, they said.
Business Insider: KLM Flies A 747 Engine The Buiness Insider: KLM Flies A 747 On Biokerosene - by Graham Winfrey
Air France's KLM Royal Dutch Airlines became the first airline to fly a passenger plane using biokerosene Monday. One of four engines on a 747 flight above the Netherlands ran on a mixture of sustainable biofuel and traditional kerosene.
With the Airbus 380 Air France is trying to bring back the party to the skies. There are six bars on the plane, which encourages passengers to mingle (in their own class, of course). In the front of the upper deck, in the business section, there's even an art gallery of sorts: flat-screen TVs displaying digital previews of the New York and Paris cultural scenes, a somewhat lavish use of space. The A380s standard coach seat is as good as it's going to get in the claustrophobic calamity that is air travel. The chair is 19-in. (48 cm) wide, affording about 5% more room than on other jets on this route. There's a 8.4 in. (21 cm) video screen with about 3,000 hours of programming, (about as long an overnight flight can feel).
German officials denied Monday that they were trying to outbid other European nations in offering money to General Motors Co. to save local jobs.
GM's European executives are meeting with ministers from Germany, Britain, Belgium, Spain and Poland as well as European Union commissioners in Brussels to discuss how the company plans to cut capacity by 20 to 25 percent -- and likely shed thousands of jobs. Germany's deputy economy minister Jochen Homann said Germany "will not participate in a subsidy race" as other countries hint that they are willing to help the company pay the costs of restructuring the Adam Opel GmbH and Vauxhall units.
Losing to Belgium is always painful for the Dutch, whether in football or in politics. On Thursday night a Dutch TV news anchor gave voice to the hurt national pride when he said: "Why Van Rompuy and not Balkenende? How could this happen?" The Brussels correspondent offered that the EU leaders preferred someone "with a blank slate" to someone with "experience". Herman Van Rompuy had only been prime minister of Belgium for less than a year, whereas Balkenende is leading his fourth government in a row. The TV audience was reassured: our compatriot had simply been overqualified. The reality is that the Belgians once again demonstrated that they know how to play the European game down to their fingertips. First of all the Belgian media strategy was brilliant. Belgian editorials emphasised Van Rompuy's qualities as a statesman and pointed out Balkenende's shortcomings. The latter is in charge of an increasingly eurosceptic country, which voted against the European constitution, and he his leadership at home has been weak, it was said.
ec Pulse: BoE minutes reveal three-way split vote on APF and Trichet to begin exiting stimulus program
The main event this week in Europe was from the United Kingdom as their central bank released their minutes showing that the vote on the quantitative easing methods were split three ways, where one of the members wanted to leave it steady at 175 billion pounds, the other wanted to expand it to 215 billion pounds and the rest of the nine members of the MPC were extending it to 200 billion pounds. Regarding interest rates, it was unanimous.
There was a lot wrong with how the European Union selected its new leaders, and the two individuals chosen as the faces and voices of Europe may have their defects. But there was not nearly as much wrong with either process or individuals as that very British convergence of Eurosceptics and Euro-idealists would have us believe. The EU, still a work in progress, is at a particular point in its evolution. The Lisbon Treaty is finally coming into force, after a rocky few years that included a rejected constitution, a repeat Irish referendum and a hold-out Czech President. The new President and High Representative provide a belated answer to the question supposedly posed by Henry Kissinger. Europe now has two phone numbers, which is a considerable improvement on 27.
Bloomberg: Saab Dealers Running Out of Cars as Plant Cuts Output - Niklas Magnusson and Ola Kinnander
Saab Automobile AB dealers in the U.S. are running out of new cars after the Swedish carmaker cut production to conserve cash and prepare for its first new model in seven years. “We have about 10 Saabs left, and they won’t last long,” said Ivan Goodwin, sales manager at Jim Ellis Saab in Atlanta. “It’s going to be a big problem, but there is nothing we can do about it.”
Saab, which General Motors Co. is selling to an investor group led by Swedish sports-car maker Koenigsegg Automotive AB, has slowed assembly to retool its Swedish factory to build the new 9-5 sedan starting next year, spokesman Eric Geers said. The company said last week it will eliminate more than a third of its U.S. dealers. Those that have received notice that they will remain open say they may be limited by a lack of inventory.
The historic link between Spain and its Jews has been a study of contrasts. Renowned as both the historic birthplace of Sephardic culture, Spain was also the site of dark moments in Jewish history. The American Sephardi Federation/Sephardic House(ASF/SH)) will examine this historic link between Spain and the Jewish people in a Symposium entitled "The Jews of Spain: Past and Present" which will take place December 5 - 7, 2009 at the Center for Jewish History in New York City.
Senior Spanish Government officials will be coming to New York to join eminent scholars from the United States, Canada and Israel in addressing both the triumphs and travails of the Sephardic Jewish legacy in Spain. ASF is organizing this international initiative with the invaluable assistance of the Consulate General of Spain in New York.
Spain regained first place from Brazil in FIFA's monthly world rankings Friday. The European champions regained the top spot they lost to the South Americans in July after friendly wins over fellow World Cup qualifier Argentina and Austria. Brazil beat England 1-0 and Oman 2-0 in the past week but was still overtaken because older ranking points lost value and its wins came against lower-ranked opposition. The Netherlands and Italy stayed third and fourth, while the biggest mover in the top 10 was Portugal, which rose five places to fifth by twice beating Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0 to qualify for next year's World Cup.
Russia expects a continuation of its strategic partnership with the European Union following yesterday's election of the bloc's first president, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday. "We look forward to cooperation with the new EU leadership," Lavrov said. "I am sure that Herman Van Rompuy will continue pursuing a line toward developing strategic partnership with Russia." Russia and the EU held a summit earlier this week, highlighting their cooperation on climate change, energy supplies and trade. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called the talks "one of the best meetings we have had." Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev was also positive over the outcomes of the meeting. The parties strove to repair ties, strained among other issues by last year's Georgia war, but the summit produced no breakthrough in signing a new comprehensive partnership pact to replace a treaty that expired in 2007.
nvoking the memory of Edward M. Kennedy, Democrats united Saturday night to push historic health care legislation past a key Senate hurdle over the opposition of Republicans eager to inflict a punishing defeat on President Barack Obama. There was not a vote to spare. The 60-39 vote cleared the way for a bruising, full-scale debate beginning after Thanksgiving on the legislation, which is designed to extend coverage to roughly 31 million who lack it, crack down on insurance company practices that deny or dilute benefits and curtail the growth of spending on medical care nationally.
Van Rompuy wants the EU to run on CO2 - by Christopher Booker
It would be wrong to underestimate Herman Van Rompuy, the first permament president of the European Council. This Belgian economist is a clever and ruthless political operator. Once, to win a political battle, he changed the locks to prevent his opponents entering a crucial meeting. (For details of his character, see the Brussels Journal blog by one of his former colleagues, Paul Belien.) And the reason why he was very much the preferred candidate of the European Commission is that the one thing for which President Van Rompuy can be relied on is a determination to use all his crafty skills to further the power of our new government in Brussels.
Under French law, Beaujolais Nouveau cannot officially be released until the third Thursday of November. Hence, the global glass-clinking that breaks out at countless restaurants and special events on this same day, from Cannes to Cape Town to Chicago.
For the complete report from Avstop click on this link
Friday morning, at 11:39 am, Air France's Airbus A380 departed from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, operating flight AF 380, made the first transatlantic flight between Europe. The aircraft, registration F-GHJA, landed at New York-Kennedy airport at 1:07 PM. Among the 538 passengers were the 380 winning bidders for seats on the inaugural Paris-New York - Paris flights. This auction raised proceeds of 300,000 euros which will finance five different humanitarian projects by charities chosen by the Air France Foundation. The proceeds of this auction of seats on the two inaugural Paris-New York-Paris flights finally reached 300,000 euros, more than expected. The amount will thus finance 5 humanitarian projects for children in need instead of the three initially planned. The benefits of the auction for the inaugural Paris-New York-Paris flights will go to several projects in aid of humanitarian associations for children in need all over the world.
Greece's new center-left government pledged to pull the economy out of "intensive care," but conceded Friday that public debt would continue to surge, reaching a massive 120 percent of annual national output next year. The Socialist party's draft 2010 state budget aims to trim government spending and cut the deficit to 9.1 percent of gross domestic product -- amid fierce pressure from the European Union to improve public finances. While still three times the EU deficit ceiling of three percent of GDP, the target is significantly lower than the 12.7 percent figure forecast for 2009. The draft budget foresees the economy starting to expand again towards the end of 2010 -- when it will shrink by 0.3 percent -- after a 1.2 percent contraction this year.
In the EU it's all a question of balance of power and the use of technocrats over politicians to manage the taxpayers money properly and honestly. Mr. Van Rompuy and Lady Ashton might be considered dull in the sense that they don't have the charisma of President Obama, but when it comes to experience, management skills and intelligence they are well qualified and stack up favorably against all the present "world" leaders.
One should also not try to compare the EU with any other political federal system in the world. There is no comparison. The EU is an ongoing democratic experiment of 27 nations with half a billion people and is probably the most daring human political endeavor ever attempted. Regardless of all the mistakes that have and are being made, the EU's economic, scientific, cultural, social, and political achievements far outweigh its failures. Maybe one of it's most important achievements so far has been that this Union of European Nations has ended the past ravaging wars between countries on the European continent which hampered any real form of progress for its people.
As Mr. Van Rompuy and Lady Ashton take on their new tasks we all hope they will make sure that the future development of the EU always remains in the hands of its citizens, even more so than it does today. In this context it is also important they guard against foreign influences or pressures, be it economic, social, cultural or political, getting a foothold on the European continent. Bonne chance Cathy and Herman !
Before US President Barack Obama left China on Wednesday, he gave a brief exclusive interview to “Southern Weekend,” one of the bolder voices on the Chinese press scene. But when the paper arrived in subscribers’ mailboxes in Beijing on Thursday, it was missing the front and back pages. That meant that the interview, printed on the inside front page of copies freely available on newsstands, was missing too. Since Mr. Obama had made a point earlier in the week – at a meeting with students in Shanghai – of attacking censorship, “it would be ironic if his own interview was being censored,” US Embassy press secretary Susan Stevenson pointed out. It would also add fuel to the fire of criticism from some quarters that the Chinese authorities had done their best to keep Obama from public view during his three-day trip, wary of his populist appeal and of what he might say.
Europeans woke up Friday to news they had their first full time European Union president - a man most of them had never heard of. Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy is a low-key politician with a reputation for conciliation. The choice of Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy as European Union president has drawn mixed reaction. The Obama administration saluted his appointment, saying it would make the European Union a stronger partner. But others are deeply disappointed that European leaders failed to choose a more forceful and high profile personality to represent the regional bloc on the world stage. The same sentiment was expressed about the EU's new foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, the British trade commissioner to the European Union, who is little known outside her country.As EU chief, Mr. Van Rompuy said he would remain discrete. When asked Thursday night about whether he supported Turkey's accession to the European Union, he did not answer. Mr. Van Rompuy is said to be against Turkish membership. He instead talked about working together.
Reagan was inspirational, but to claim he defeated Communism is a disservice to the millions of Eastern Europeans who struggled against great odds for their freedom. These movements were largely led by democratic socialists who mobilized workers, church people, intellectuals, and others to face down the tanks with their bare hands. Yet here in the United States, we are told that it was a result of President Reagan's militarism and the supposed inherent superiority of capitalism. It is this false narrative that has played such a major role in shifting discourse to the right in subsequent decades and has been used to discredit those struggling for a more just and egalitarian economic system and a more sane and less imperialistic foreign policy.
EU - together - substance over glamour: Herman Van Rompuy - First European President and Catherine Ashton - First EU Foreign Chief
Herman Van Rompuy and Catherine Ashton - together - substance over glamour
Herman Van Rompuy - First European President
The leaders of the 27 member states European Union elected their first full time President and Foreign Policy Chief, in a Vatican style election process last night. The choice was definitely substance over glamour and a break with EU politicians like Blair, Balkenende and others, who had supported the US Bush administrations' military campaigns around the world. Based on these premises, a broad experience and strong leadership qualities, Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy was chosen as EU's first full-time president. Born in October 1947 in Brussels, Van Rompuy was educated at the Jesuit Sint-Jan Berchmans College in central Brussels, then studied philosophy and economics at the Catholic University of Leuven. Before entering politics, Van Rompuy worked at the Belgian central bank from 1972 to 1975. He served as deputy prime minister and minister of budget from 1993 to 1999. He won high reputation for his work on dramatically driving down the country's pubic debt. After his party's defeat in the 1999 Belgian general election, he became a member of the Chamber of Representatives. In 2004, he was designated Minister of State. As a senior member of the Christian Democratic and Flemish (CD&V, previously called CVP), Van Rompuy was elected as the president of the Chamber of Representatives in July 2007. In December 2008, he was appointed prime minister of Belgium, succeeding Yves Leterme. Since taking office last year, the prime minister has showed great skills in resolving conflicts and brought political stability to the linguistically divided country.
Catherine Ashton - First EU Foreign Chief
During the same special EU summit, EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton from Britain was chosen as EU Foreign Policy Chief. Ashton was born on March 20, 1956 in Upholland in Lancashire, from where she takes her title, Baroness Ashton of Upholland. From 1983-89 she was Director of Business in the Community, and established the Employers' Forum on Disability, Opportunity Now, and the Windsor Fellowship. She chaired the Health Authority in Hertfordshire from 1998 to 2001, and became a Vice President of the National Council for One Parent Families. In 1999, she became a life peer. She was made Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Education and Skills in 2001, and then Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Department for Constitutional Affairs and subsequently Ministry of Justice with responsibilities for human rights, freedom of information and equalities. She became a Privy Councilor in May 2006. She was appointed Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council in Gordon Brown's first Cabinet in June 2007. As well as Leader of the Lords, she took responsibility in the House of Lords for equalities issues. In October, 2008, she was nominated to replace Peter Mandelson as the Britain's European Commissioner in Brussels, and was approved by the European Parliament.
Airbus has upstaged Boeing in this edition of the Dubai Air Show by securing commitments and firm orders worth $5.3 billion for 33 aircraft. Although many industry analysts attribute this to Airbus's wider product offerings, many give credit to one man — John Leahy, the chief operating officer. "Boeing changed the world in the 20th century, but Airbus aircraft are new and designed for the 21st century. The past belonged to Boeing, the future belongs to Airbus," said a top Airbus salesman. "We are currently offering better aircraft, with better fuel economy and lower noise. Both A380s and A350s are changing the global aviation industry. These are game-changing aircraft that are taking the global aviation industry to the next level."
Leahy, 59, ironically, is an American selling a European product. He joined Airbus North America in January 1985, becoming head of sales soon after.
The leaders of Europe's main political tribes conferred in Brussels this afternoon in an attempt to hammer out a last-minute consensus on who should be the top two people running the EU's new Lisbon regime, ahead of a crucial Brussels summit. While Christian democratic government leaders, including the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and France's president, Nicolas Sarkozy, gathered in Brussels, Gordon Brown found himself isolated at a session of the seven centre-left leaders ahead of this evening's summit. The center-left leaders, grouped in the Party of European Socialists (PES), hope to secure the new post of European foreign minister, with Italian Massimo D'Alema and Spain's Miguel Angel Moratinos as their front-runners.Germany's ambassador to Belgium, Reinhard Bettzuege, broke ranks with the policy of silence on the presidency by stating Berlin's support for Van Rompuy. "Chancellor Merkel and her government are behind Van Rompuy for this job," he told a Belgian newspaper, De Morgen.
Note EU-Digest: regardless of the negatives brought up against Van Rompuy, he could turn out to be the "glue" who pastes together the loose ends of the Lisbon Treaty.
This may be remembered as the moment when Barack Obama said: “No, we can't.” With just 22 days to go before the climate-change summit in Copenhagen, the US president, at a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders, signaled that it would be unrealistic to expect a legally binding treaty to emerge from the talks. Copenhagen would be a “staging-post” on the way to a global deal, not the place to nail down the details, he said. But this cold shower from Singapore does not mean that Copenhagen is a lost cause, or that the European Union has nothing to fight for. <
Scientists and green campaigners are right, though, to be worried. Lurking in the background is the chilling precedent of the Doha round of world trade talks. After failure at Cancún in 2003, negotiators are still going round and round. The stakes on climate change are far higher: the climate will not wait for negotiators to fine-tune the legal niceties, or for the US Senate to pass a cap-and-trade bill.
Note EU-Digest: Europe can "force"" these talks in the good direction by coupling the level of results of the Copenhagen climate change talks to favorable or unfavorable bi-lateral trade agreements with the EU.
A private forecast of economic activity over the next six months edged up less than expected in October, signaling slow growth next year. The Conference Board says its index of leading economic indicators rose 0.3 percent last month. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters had expected a gain of 0.5 percent. The index climbed 1 percent in September. The Conference Board forecasts economic activity by measuring claims for jobless benefits, stock prices, consumer expectations, building permits for private homes, the money supply and other data. On the jobs front, the number of newly laid-off workers seeking unemployment insurance was unchanged last week, while those continuing to claim benefits declined.
Five years after Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim extremist in Amsterdam, where half the population is of immigrant origin, the city is grappling with social integration. Mohammed Bouyeri who shot, stabbed and cut the throat of virulent Islam critic Van Gogh on November 2, 2004, had been a resident of Slotervaart. Though of Moroccan origin, he was born and bred in the Netherlands. Bouyeri was jailed for life for the murder that stoked ethnic tensions in the Netherlands and raised fears of homegrown terrorism.
During his trial, Bouyeri said that "the law compels me to chop off the head of anyone who insults Allah and the prophet". "Muslims are afraid of losing their identity, and Dutch society is afraid of them," said the mayor of Amsterdam who encouraged the building of a western-style mosque in his neighbourhood where sermons are in Dutch and men and women pray together.
Note EU-Digest: Jean Tillie, a professor at the University of Amsterdam who specializes in migration and ethnic studies says his work shows that people are driven to embrace radicalism when they feel socially isolated. He says Language in the Netherlands underlines the nature of the problem. In Dutch, the word autochtoon means a native (usually white) Dutch person, whereas an allochtoon is a first- or second-generation immigrant. The terms are used by everyone, from academics to people in the street, mainstream politicians to those on the far right. What they often signify is: us and them. In America there is a similar situation, where the so called "Green Card" immigrants receive to work and stay in the USA before becoming a citizen identifies them as Alien. Today the Amsterdam municipality is encouraging teachers, youth workers and others to signal concerns about the 2 per cent of young Muslims seen as at risk to radicalization, the city has sought contact with mosques and religious organizations and tried to foster "social networks".
The heated Dutch debate about ethnic minorities and their integration could leave the impression that immigration in the Netherlands has been a complete failure. But a government report released this week says some progress has been made in the past ten years.Several statistics in the annual report point to improved integration of young Turks and Moroccans in the job market and education. The number of Turkish- and Moroccan-Dutch youngsters going on to higher education has doubled over the past ten years to 40 percent. During the same period the number of Turkish and Moroccan Dutch in the job market went up 10 percent to 55 percent. The number of unemployed has almost halved from more than 20 percent to 11 percent.
Home ownership too is up among Turkish and Moroccans Dutch: 14 percent of Moroccans now own their own home, and 26 percent of Turkish. Among native Dutch home ownership is 60 percent.
On the downside, youngsters from a non-Western background are still twice as likely to be unemployed as native Dutch. Youngsters from the Antilles and Morocco are still overrepresented in the crime statistics.
The oldest US Mosque dedicated Feb.1934 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Getting corporate America to recognise the purchasing power of Muslims, rather than running scared because of stereotypes, was difficult but not impossible, said Michael Hastings-Black, the co-founder of the Desedo Advertising Agency, which specializes in minority markets. Addressing more than 200 delegates at the American Muslim Consumer Conference recently, he recounted a tale illustrating the high passions generated by a television advert last year by Dunkin’ Donuts, which did not even specifically address Muslims.
The American Muslim Consumer Conference, held at a conference hall at Rutgers University in New Jersey, was billed as the first of its kind by its volunteer organizers, a group of US Muslim professionals. Their aim was to educate non-Muslim businesses about the demand for Islamic products and encourage Muslims to exert their market power.
Note EU-Digest: There are between 6 and 7 million Muslims in America today. Muslims outnumber some Christian denominations and are equal to the number of Jews. America now has about 1,209 mosques, most of which were constructed very recently. Thirty percent of these mosques were built in the 1990s, and 32% were built in the 1980s. Other statistics show that in 1994, the total number of mosques in America was 962; in 2000, there was a 25% increase in this number. Islam is said to be the US's fastest-growing religion, fueled by immigration, high birth rates and widespread conversion. One expert estimates that 25,000 people a year become Muslims in the US.
The dinner hour approaches when the EU must decide who will be its face on the world stage. It's a big credibility moment but with the clock ticking away there is, at the moment, only confusion, rumor and disagreement. In the meantime the British are still fighting for Tony Blair. Gordon Brown is likely to argue that the most important part of the Lisbon Treaty was the plan to give Europe a much stronger position on the world stage. Europe, in his view, needs a politician with an international name and, without doubt, Tony Blair is the best known. Poland seeks EU jobs transparency. Poland says rivals for the new top jobs of EU president and foreign affairs chief should "present their visions" to EU leaders.
Bloomberg.com: Main Street Tells Wall Street, ‘Get a Real Job’ ( "we want these swine's prosecuted") - by Susan Antilla
Wall Street, meet Eric W. Haugaard, a civil engineer who designs water and sewer-line systems for the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Haugaard says he had tears in his eyes as he watched Barack Obama’s acceptance speech, hopeful that politics would get more constructive and the economic crisis would get fixed. Today, he is disgusted when he thinks about “what Wall Street has done to average, honest, tax-paying, no-loopholes citizens,” and says it makes him ill when he considers that Congress is letting taxpayer-assisted financial outfits get rich “without producing anything of real value to our society.” Haugaard, one of dozens of readers who e-mailed me in response to a Nov. 3 column titled “Wall Street Cries ‘Feed Me’ or World Will End,” is despondent that, even after the economic horror of the past year, people in finance are unrepentant. “I want these swine prosecuted,” wrote Robert Carlini of Richmond, Michigan, an auto-industry executive who says he is a “staunch conservative.”
“If the Obama administration really wanted to create policy and push agendas helpful to consumers, it would not have a Treasury Department populated by Goldmanites and other Wall Street alums,” wrote Melissa Huelsman, a lawyer in Seattle.Terry Bailey of Auburn, Nebraska, an office assistant at a local college, says the financial industry is out of touch with the public and weighed down with an inflated view of its value.
Fewer people fly to Europe during the fall and winter months, prompting airlines to offer good deals to stimulate sales. British Airways has launched a seat sale to London and select other destinations in Europe, Africa, India, Middle East and Asia if you book by midnight Eastern time tomorrow, Nov. 19. Economy round-trip airfares to London begin at $386 from Toronto, $365 from Montreal, $596 from Calgary and $620 from Vancouver. Well-priced packages with three nights hotel in London are also offered. Sale fares are also available to a variety of other destinations: Paris, Madrid, Milan, Rome, Istanbul, Tel Aviv, Dubai, Cairo, Johannesburg, Nairobi, Mauritius, the Maldives, Hong Kong, Entebbe, Delhi and Mumbai. The sale is valid for flights through March 28, excluding Dec. 21 to 23. Taxes, fees and surcharges are not included – which would add almost $400 on a Toronto-London return flight in late November. There is also a weekend (Thursday to Sunday) surcharge of $30 each way.
The hedge fund industry has incurred a backlash by lobbying aggressively against proposed European Union rules and now faces possible pay curbs that were not envisaged in the original legislation. Attacks by some London-based hedge funds and British politicians have had the effect of softening European Commission proposals to regulate alternative investment companies. But the lobbyists have misjudged the tide of public opinion. They have goaded the E.U.’s presidency, now held by Sweden, into adding new rules that would defer fund managers’ bonuses and ban “golden handcuff” payments to retain star performers.
“There is a danger that this lobbying is backfiring against the industry,” said Karel Lannoo, chief executive of the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels and an expert on financial regulation. He supports the aims of the directive.
HarvardBusiness.org: The Digital Economy's Coming Subprime Crisis (And What You Can Learn From It) - Umair Haque
Are crises predictable? That's what most economists are thinking about these days. The great Hyman Minsky spent a lifetime building a model of macroeconomic crisis, striving to do exactly that. Our subject? Why media just might be the new Wall Street. Wall Street's subprime crisis was built on toxic financial instruments. The mediascape's subprime crisis is being built on toxic communications. Social gaming — Facebook's Farmville, for example — is the hot growth area for VCs, advertisers, and publishers alike. But last week, TechCrunch blew the lid off it: much revenue in this nascent market is derived from scams masquerading as "ads." To me, there are striking echoes of CDOs — a hot new growth market for Wall Street, later revealed to be a house of cards. Financial capital was misallocated on a historic scale by toxic financial instruments. So venture capital is being misallocated on a tremendous scale by toxic media. Investors are rushing into markets that look appealing today, like minigames. But let's face it: minigames aren't going to be durably, wold-changingly profitable (sans dubious tactics). The world has bigger problems, and there's significantly higher returns to be generated by taking on those problems.
The great challenge of the 21st century isn't churning out more toxic junk - it's learning to make stuff that's not toxic junk. Whether strip-malls, SUVs, or FarmVille.
China's anti-monopoly law came into effect a little more than a year ago. Since then, many observers in the West have been primarily concerned with how the Chinese government will use the law to scrutinize global mergers and acquisition activity. But Peter Yuen, a Hong Kong partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, has been tracking a number of cases in which individual Chinese lawyers, many of them active in consumer rights issues, have used an article of the new law to bring private actions against large Chinese companies, including China Mobile, Baidu and China Netcom. Yuen thinks the proliferation of such cases may eventually require the Supreme People's Court to issue an interpretation of the anti-monopoly law. Though China does not have a common law system, Supreme Court interpretations are essentially binding on lower Chinese courts.
If individual private antitrust cases are permitted in China, Yuen figures the next step will be for lawyers to target major multinationals operating in China.
With that level of U.S. debt in its hands, China holds most of the cards. If China started dumping that debt, the value of the U.S. dollar would fall dramatically. China knows it's in the stronger position, as evidenced by its recent decision to ignore the IMF as it continues its stimulus programs. So no matter who was sitting at the table representing the U.S., they wouldn't have much ability to move the Chinese. China flexed its muscles almost as soon as President Obama arrived. Obama held a town hall meeting for more than 400 Chinese university students, which was supposed to have been televised. But at the last minute, China pulled the plug and the event was not carried on state television. Further, to make the statement that it's not interested in discussing human rights, China rounded up dissidents before Obama's arrival. Clearly, China is sending the signal that human rights will not be one of the issues to be negotiated.
For the Chinese, the biggest issue on the table will be the U.S. deficit and their biggest question will be how President Obama plans to get it under control. China has a big stick it can wield if it doesn't like the answers. If China stops buying U.S. debt, most of President Obama's plans -- such as health care reform -- would have to be shelved until the U.S. finds another lender.
Note EU-Digest: The EU should look at this visit by Obama to China as a "case history" and not make the same mistakes as the US in dealing with China.
In the 1970s and ’80s, working for Airbus, Mr. Ziegler and his colleagues perfected a revolutionary system known as “fly-by-wire control,” marrying electrical circuits and digital computers to make almost perfect flying machines. “Within the limits of physics and structural science,” Mr. Langewiesche writes, “Ziegler and his colleagues identified the wrinkles of conventional handling and mostly ironed them out.” The airplanes that resulted — including the Airbus A320 — are not only easy to fly and filled with redundancies that make mechanical backup systems unnecessary, but they will also not let pilots make certain mistakes. The airplane “will intervene to keep people alive,” Mr. Langewiesche writes.
Because these rare interventions cannot be overridden, they are not popular with all pilots. The fly-by-wire system wasn’t designed to protect passengers from people like Sully, Mr. Langewiesche writes, but from “people at the low end of the scale, who occasionally will be at the controls of any airplane that is widely sold and flown.
At a time when rising poverty, widespread unemployment and other effects of the recession have been well documented, the report released Monday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides the government's first detailed portrait of the toll that the faltering economy has taken on Americans' access to food. Among Americans of all ages, more than 16 percent -- or 49 million people -- sometimes ran short of nutritious food, compared with about 12 percent the year before. The deterioration in access to food during 2008 among both children and adults far eclipses that of any other single year in the report's history. Around the Washington area, the data show, the extent of food shortages varies significantly. In the past three years, an average of 12.4 percent of households in the District had at least some problems getting enough food, slightly worse than the national average. In Maryland, the average was 9.6 percent, and in Virginia it was 8.6 percent.
n a briefing for reporters, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, "These numbers are a wake-up call . . . for us to get very serious about food security and hunger, about nutrition and food safety in this country." Vilsack attributed the marked worsening in Americans' access to food primarily to the rise in unemployment, which now exceeds 10 percent, and in people who are underemployed. He acknowledged that "there could be additional increases" in the 2009 figures, due out a year from now, although he said it is not yet clear how much the problem might be eased by the measures the administration and Congress have taken this year to stimulate the economy.
Long stuck at a red light in India, French automaker Renault has fresh plans to conquer the country's explosively growing car market with a revitalized local partnership deal and a low-cost vehicle. Renault and its Japanese partner Nissan are set to join in 2012 the crowd of manufacturers producing low-cost cars for India in a bid to challenge head-on the Tata Nano, the world's cheapest automobile. "I don?t want Renault and Nissan to be makers of very pretty cars people dream about but can't afford," Carlos Ghosn, who runs the Franco-Japanese car-making alliance Renault Nissan, said in New Delhi last week.
Germany will push for a quick and binding deal on greenhouse gas emission reductions to fight climate change, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday. "We will make very clear that we still advocate for very ambitious goals for Copenhagen," Merkel said in a televised press conference ahead of the coalition government's two-day closed-door meeting. "We must do everything in our power to quickly achieve a binding agreement. Even if we don't succeed with this in Copenhagen, this must not be postponed indefinitely." Her comments come ahead of next month's U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen and after heads of government from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum Sunday abandoned specific goals on battling climate change and accepted the U.N. talks won't agree on binding targets for cutting greenhouse gases.
The Euro Zone may be crawling out of recession, but it's still almost impossible in parts of the Continent to find a job. Though in Q3, gross domestic product for the 16 countries using the Euro grew by 0.4% from the second quarter, according to Eurostat, many residents continue to be unable to secure work. Those in countries like Latvia, Spain and Ireland, which once enjoyed construction booms, are now experiencing widespread job losses.
The countries with the best employment opportunities are: The Netherlands (4.8% unemployment), Switzerland ( 4.2%), Norway ( 3.2%).
For the complete list click on this link.
Irish Times: Ireland: Should misuse of power debar EU hopeful? - The Irish Times - Tue, Nov 17, 2009
Maire Geoghegan-Quinn is in many respects a worthy candidate for the job of EU commissioner. She is capable, intelligent and articulate. She showed courage, compassion and leadership in decriminalizing male homosexuality in 1993. She was a pioneer for women in Irish politics.
After decades of outperforming the continental economies, Britain seems set to become the "sick man of Europe", languishing at the bottom of the European growth league table. Official figures released by Eurostat yesterday revealed that the eurozone economies, comprising 16 of the EU's 27 member states, are now officially out of recession, having grown by 0.4 per cent in the third quarter. The growth rate for the EU as a whole, dragged down by the UK and some east European states, was 0.2 per cent. Both are the first positive news on growth since spring last year, though they are somewhat below market expectations.
Washington Post/Associated Press:US Consumers: Shoppers, small businesses planning to spend less - by Tari Arbel
A third of U.S. adults said they would spend less this year than they did in 2008 on gifts, while 49 percent would spend about the same amount, according to a Consumer Reports poll on holiday shopping. Meanwhile, almost two-thirds of respondents said they were planning to "cut back" on total holiday expenses, which include travel plans, presents and holiday decorations. More Americans are also "regifting," or passing on a gift they got to someone else - 36 percent of adults this year say they've done so, compared with 31 percent last year and 24 percent in 2007. The survey polled 1,000 U.S. adults from Oct. 15-18.
It its worth noting, though, that Americans who plan to spend less doesn't always do so. The survey found that of those Americans who made a budget for last year's holiday gift buying, 44 percent spent more than they had intended. The poll also said 6 percent of adults still carry holiday debt from last year, unchanged from last year. If extrapolated to the broader population of the country, that implies 13.5 million consumers are still carrying debt from last year's holidays.
Canon, the Japanese maker of cameras, copy machines and other electronics, will make a tender offer worth €730 million for Océ, the biggest European printer maker, the two companies said Monday. At €8.6 per outstanding Océ share -- 70 percent higher than their price at the close on Friday -- the all-cash offer values the Dutch company at nearly $1.1 billion. “Today’s announcement is not about the sale of a midsize industry player,” said Rokus van Iperen, chief executive of Océ, calling the new company a “global combination” that would give Océ better access to markets and hand Canon technology it needs. Toshizo Tanaka, chief financial officer of Canon, said at a news conference in Amsterdam on Monday that Europe had been the company's top market since 2004.
The combined Canon-Océ will be up against competition from Fuji and Ricoh to dominate the European, U.S. and Asian markets. Canon’s acquisition comes just a year after Ricoh bought Ikon Office Solutions, based in Pennsylvania, for $1.62 billion.
Reuters - Officials from countries who have ordered the delayed A400M military transporter from European plane maker Airbus will meet in Berlin on Thursday to discuss the matter, the German Defence Ministry said. "On Thursday, the state secretaries from the countries involved in the deal will meet in Berlin," Defence Ministry spokesman Christian Dienst told a regular government news conference on Monday when asked about the deal. "Before a decision is made, anything you read at the moment is rumour, speculation or agenda-setting on the part of others."