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5/31/10

BP’s latest slip-up has U.S. ‘preparing for the worst’ of oil spill - by Shawn McCarthy and Josh Wingrove

Another capping attempt, another failure, and now the Obama administration is preparing the American public for the worst: the possibility that BP’s blown-out well could gush for another two months with near-apocalyptic impact on the Gulf of Mexico’s environment and economy.

BP has scrapped its “top kill” effort to plug the well by injecting heavy drilling mud into it, and was preparing on Sunday to deploy another strategy: a cap that would allow the company to cover the well and siphon the crude into tankers waiting 1,500 metres above the sea floor.

But a senior White House official warned that BP is running out of options to contain the spewing oil, and the end may not come until it can complete the drilling of two relief wells, expected some time in early August.

For more: BP’s latest slip-up has U.S. ‘preparing for the worst’ of oil spill - The Globe and Mail

Euro and sterling recover from Spain downgrade - by Neil Dennis

The dollar weakened on Monday allowing the euro, sterling and most other currencies to claw back some of their losses from Friday’s session when Fitch downgraded Spain’s sovereign rating.

With the absence of trade in London and New York due to public holidays, trading volumes were very thin, making some of the price movements rather volatile.The euro managed to rebound 0.2 per cent to $1.2285 against the dollar and was up 0.5 per cent to Y112.32 versus the yen.

For more: FT.com / Currencies - Euro and sterling recover from Spain downgrade

Turkey withdraws its ambassador to Israel and canceled three joint military drills on Monday


Turkey, which currently holds a rotating seat on the U.N. Security Council, demanded it meet about the killings,.
Three of the ships were Turkish-flagged, including the main passenger ship. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc Arinc said about 400 out of 581 passengers on the main ship, the Mavi Marmara, were Turks
According to the Israeli army on Monday, international activists aboard the flotilla of ships on their way to the Gaza Strip opened fire on IDF soldiers who boarded the ships to prevent them from breaking the Israeli-imposed sea blockade. "The flotilla's participants were not innocent and used violence against the soldiers. They were waiting for the forces' arrival". According to CNN, the organizers also declined a request by Noam Shalit, father of captive Israeli solider Gilad Shalit, to deliver aid, medicine and a letter to his son who was kidnapped by Hamas in June 2007.

Turkey withdrew its ambassador to Israel and canceled three joint military drills


for more: EJP | News | Western Europe | Turkey withdraws its ambassador to Israel over storming of flotilla

EU demands inquiry after Israeli raid on ships, Turkey outraged

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, has called on Israeli authorities to launch a "full inquiry" into the killing of at least 10 people during a night raid on a convoy of aid ships destined for the Gaza Strip.

Ashton "extends her sympathies to the families of the dead and wounded and is demanding a full inquiry into the circumstances of how this event happened," a spokesman said Monday. "She reiterates the European Union's position regarding Gaza - the continued policy of closure is unacceptable and politically counterproductive."

The incident has been met with widespread condemnation from across Europe. In an unusually strongly worded statement, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's office said Israel's response to the ships was disproportionate.

For more: EU demands inquiry after Israeli raid on ships, Turkey outraged | World | Deutsche Welle | 31.05.2010

More than 19 dead as Israel storms Gaza bound flotilla - live ammunition used by both side

More than 19 passengers reportedly died Monday when Israeli forces stormed a boat in their territorial waters carrying pro-Palestinian armed activists bound for Gaza, the Israeli army said, sparking fury from Turkey and Palestinian leaders.

The bloody ending to the high-profile "mission" to deliver supplies to Gaza came on the eve of a meeting in Washington between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Note EU-Digest: regardless of some of the deplorable practices applied by Israel against the Palestinians in the past it is remarkable that in this case Turkey allowed a ship under their flag on a so-called "peace mission" to also be carrying weapons, and a willingness by the organizers of this "mission" to use these weapons in the territorial waters of Israel when ordered to stop. This in addition to putting the lives of Turkish and other nations citizens on board of the ship in danger.  It shows great irresponsibility of the Erdogan government, poor judgment and little diplomatic savvy.


For more: AFP: More than 10 dead as Israel storms Gaza aid boat: army

5/30/10

Eurovision Crowns a German Pop Idol - by William Lee Adams

The Armenian sang about an apricot, the Albanian praised Jesus Christ, and the Ukrainian railed against nuclear Holocaust. But in the end, victory at the 55th annual Eurovision Song Contest went to Lena Meyer-Landrut, a 19-year old German whose song blurred the line between puppy love and psychotic obsession. "This is so absolutely awesome. I feel that this is not real," she said on stage after being handed a crystal microphone-shaped trophy in Oslo's Telenor Arena. "I'm kind of freaking out."

Given the popularity of Eurovision, it's easy to understand why. Drawing more than 120 million viewers annually, the continent-wide singing competition remains the world's most-watched non-sporting event. It boasts a cult following in many parts of Europe, and is broadcast as far afield as Myanmar and New Zealand. It has the power to turn nobodies into musical icons: past winners include ABBA and Celine Dion; other alumni include Julio Iglesias, Olivia Newton-John and Cliff Richard.

Defending Europe: Don't Bet on EU's Demise - by Andrew Moravcsik

In ancient Greece, Cassandra warned of the fall of Troy, and no one listened. Today, after the Greek financial crisis, Cassandras are everywhere, predicting the collapse of the euro, if not the European Union itself. Everyone is listening.

Yet extreme pessimism is premature. History teaches us that it is too soon to count Europe out. Headline-chasing observers have often predicted the Union’s imminent demise. They have generally been proved wrong. In the 1960s, when France’s President Charles de Gaulle vetoed British entry and withdrew from the Common Market, bringing European decision making to a halt for six months, some believed the experiment was finished. In the early 1980s, journalists used the phrases “Euro-sclerosis” and “Euro-pessimism” to describe the mood in Brussels. A few years later, Europe launched the single-market program. Economists uniformly rejected the euro as unworkable. Now it is reality. Just five years ago, in the wake of referendum defeats in France, the Netherlands, and Ireland, the European Constitution seemed moribund. Now it is law.
For more: Defending Europe: Don't Bet on EU's Demise - Newsweek

Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft do not comply with EU privacy directives - by Gaspard Sebag

Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft do not comply with the European Union’s Directive 95/46/EC on the protection of personal data. This is the essence of a letter sent by the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, on 26 May, to the three major search engine operators. WP29 demands that these companies reduce to six months the period during which they store data before they are made anonymous. Furthermore, the working party claims the methods used do not guarantee adequate anonymisation (see box). WP29 also calls for an independent audit of the three internet giants.

Copies of the three letters were also sent to Viviane Reding, the EU’s justice, fundamental rights and citizenship commissioner, and to the US Federal Trade Commission.

This is not the first time Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! have been asked to answer for their data protection policies. In March 2008, WP29 had issued a detailed opinion about search engines with regard to the EU directive on the topic. The advisory body had, already then, recommended a shortened retention period for personal data. Some improvements in terms of data protection had ensued but they were not deemed enough by the WP29, whence the new letter.

For more: 28/05/2010 Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft do not comply with directive

5/29/10

Germany's Lena wins 55th Eurovision song contest

The second ever German winner, Lena Mayer-Landrut, 19, was an unknown amateur when she won Germany's qualifiers for Eurovision -- one of Europe's most watched television programs. After an exciting voting in front of 18,000 people in a fully packed Oslo Telenor Arena and millions of TV viewers all over Europe, it was finally Lena from Germany who received the highest number of points from televoters and juries from the 39 countries participating in this year's edition of Europe's Favourite TV-show! Germany managed to gather 246 points altogether, followed by maNga from Turkey with 170 points and Ovi & Paula Selling from Romania who collected 162 points.


To hear the song click here.

Envronment: Can BP plug the Gulf gusher?

As the nation remained transfixed by a busted oil well spewing millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico, BP said Saturday that its latest bid to plug the worst oil spill in U.S. history still hadn't worked and scientists suggested any progress was incremental at best.

BP PLC chief operating officer Doug Suttles told reporters Saturday in Port Fourchon that the effort known as a "top kill" has not stopped the flow of oil, and that he doesn't know if the risky maneuver will succeed. He said the company was already preparing its next option to cap the well.

Philip W. Johnson, an engineering professor at the University of Alabama, said the camera appeared to show mostly drilling mud leaking from the well Friday morning, and two of the leaks appeared a little smaller than in the past, suggesting the top kill "may have had a slight but not dramatic effect." But Bob Bea, a professor of engineering at University of California at Berkeley who has studied offshore drilling for 55 years, said late Friday that what he saw didn't look promising.

For the complete report: A nation mesmerized: Can BP plug the Gulf gusher? - NewsTimes

Poll: Turkish opposition party ahead of ruling AK


Turkey's main opposition has taken the lead from the ruling AK Party for the first time in eight years, an opinion poll showed on Saturday, as its new leader draws fresh support before an election due in 2011.
According to a survey by pollster Sonar, the secularist Republican People's Party (CHP) would take 32.48% of the vote if an election were held now, ahead of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party on 31.09%, and the nationalist MHP party on 18.59%.


EU candidate Turkey has been rocked by in-fighting between the AK Party and the secular establishment, chronic unemployment and a budget deficit last year of 5.5% of GDP. 

For more: Poll: Turkish opposition party ahead of ruling AK - Israel News, Ynetnews

United States and Germany remain divided over financial regulation issues - by Howard Schneider

Top U.S. and German officials on Thursday acknowledged differences over key financial regulation issues, and they said a "broad agreement" on basic concepts may not produce uniform rules in all the world's capital markets.

After what German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble described as "very intense discussions," Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner ended a two-day European trip meant to smooth out differences in how the major economies are approaching financial regulation in the wake of the recent crisis. It is not clear how much progress he made.

For more: United States and Germany remain divided over financial regulation issues

5/28/10

US economy: US consumer finally getting smarter - spending flat despite rising income

US consumer spending was surprisingly flat despite rising income in April as Americans remain cautious amid high unemployment, government data showed Friday. Consumer spending barely rose after six consecutive monthly gains while personal income climbed 0.4 percent for the second consecutive month in April, the Commerce Department said.

Spending rose by less than 0.1 percent. Most economists had expected consumer spending to rise 0.3 percent in April from a revised 0.6 percent March and incomes to gain 0.4 percent from an identical rise the prior month.

Americans however increased their savings. The Commerce department said the US savings rate rose 3.6 percent compared with 3.1 percent rise in March. Consumer spending is a key cog for US growth.

For more - AFP: US consumer spending flat despite rising income

Eurozone 'economic government' will affect Britain too - by John Palmer

The breathtaking financial firepower mobilized by the EU to protect the euro, including the radically new measures announced by the European Central Bank, should give the financial sharks pause for reflection. Anyone gambling on Greece and then maybe Portugal and Spain being forced out of the euro area may in the short run risk getting badly burned.

This should buy the European Union breathing space to confront even greater challenges in the months ahead. The next urgent step must be a series of detailed agreements on an EU-wide system of financial regulation with real teeth. In spite of City objections, even the conservative leaders of Germany and France are determined to break with the Anglo-Saxon system of financial self-regulation, which they rightly hold responsible for the financial catastrophe which plunged the world into crisis two years ago .

Whoever emerges as heading the new British government should understand that the rest of the EU wants to put the financial playboys back in their box. Whoever seeks to become chancellor of the exchequer should be drafting a warning to City traders of exotic, but toxic, financial products that the game is up.

For more: Eurozone 'economic government' will affect Britain too | John Palmer | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

U.S. dollar likely to fall vs euro next week

The dollar is expected to fall against the euro in the coming week with investors betting that most of the bad news on European fiscal woes is already priced in with the single currency's 7 percent decline in May.

Investors are willing to bet that at least for now, the euro has touched solid support. This was so particularly after China's Central Bank this week discounted a Financial Times report that Beijing was concerned about its euro zone bond holdings.

For more: U.S. dollar likely to fall vs euro next week | Reuters

Medvedev to Host First Summit in Russia With New EU Troika

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will host his first summit with the European Union’s new leadership as the 27-nation bloc seeks to develop a unified foreign policy.

Medvedev will meet EU President Herman Van Rompuy and foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don on May 31. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso will also attend the two-day summit.

Russia has failed to reach a framework agreement with the EU for more than two years as relations were strained over trade disputes, political squabbles and the five-day Georgian war in 2008.

For more: Medvedev to Host First Summit in Russia With New EU Troika - BusinessWeek

EU to send equipment to help US clean up Gulf oil spill

The European Commission said on May 28 that it would send equipment to help the US clean up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, having received a request for assistance from the US coast guard a day earlier.

"We stand shoulder to shoulder with our American friends as they work to deal with this environmental disaster," EU's commissioner for international co-operation, humanitarian aid and crisis response Kristalina Georgieva said in a statement. "We have already developed an excellent cooperation on emergency response and this positive reaction from Europe to the call for equipment for the Gulf of Mexico is an international solidarity in dealing with ecological disasters," she said.

European Commission's monitoring and information centre (MIC) put together the consolidated offer within hours, using equipment available from Spain, the Netherlands and the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). All costs associated with the transport, handling and replacement of the arms and related equipment will be covered by a US contracted company.

For more: EU to send equipment to help US clean up Gulf oil spill - Foreign - The Sofia Echo

EUobserver / Zapatero squeaks austerity package through parliament

The Spanish parliament has passed a package of government-backed austerity measures by the narrowest of margins - just one vote - with the political fallout potentially leading to early elections.

A minority Socialist government headed by Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero managed to squeak the result through a dubious legislature on Thursday (27 May), thanks in part to the abstention of the Catalan Convergència i Unió party (CiU).

Spanish finance minister Elena Salgado defended the plans in front of MPs, saying the measures were "painful but unavoidable". They include a five percent cut in civil servant pay from next month, a pension freeze and reductions in public investment spending.

For more: EUobserver / Zapatero squeaks austerity package through parliament

5/27/10

European Stocks Gain as China Says Euro Reports Are Groundless

European stocks rose after China’s foreign exchange regulator said reports that it was reviewing its euro holdings are “groundless.” Asian shares and U.S. index futures surged. China’s official Xinhua News Agency said the nation’s $300 billion sovereign wealth fund will maintain its investments in the euro region, citing China Investment Corp. President Gao Xiqing.

Former Bundesbank President Helmut Schlesinger said the euro’s slide hasn’t left it at an unnaturally low level and the breakup of Europe’s 16-nation currency union is out of the question.

“The euro isn’t in danger,” Schlesinger, who ran the German central bank from 1991 to 1993, said in a May 25 phone interview from his home in suburban Frankfurt. While the pace of the currency’s decline “did give cause for concern,” its level “is by no means catastrophically low,” he said.

For more: European Stocks Gain as China Says Euro Reports Are Groundless - BusinessWeek

5/26/10

US Corporate Media - the big six - ganging up against EU and regulation

The U.S. media landscape is presently dominated by massive Wall Street traded corporations that, through a history of mergers and acquisitions, have concentrated their control over what people see, hear and read, not only in the US, but also around the world. In many cases, these giant companies are vertically integrated, controlling everything from initial production to final distribution. Recently they have turned their wrath against Europe which has been actively trying to get the world to put stricter controls on free-wheeling Wall Street speculators, the banks and the financial community in general.

Following the EMU's actions against speculators and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s surprise assault on naked financial speculators the EU has been under constant attack by this US controlled financial media empire in particular CNBC. One observer noted CNBC mentioned the possible collapse of the euro and even the EU more than 1600 times during a recent 12 hour broadcast period.

Some other recent "killer" headlines: CNN Money.com: Will Germany's crackdown on speculators throw gasoline on the euro bonfire? and European Sovereign CDS Widen : the Wall Street Journal.

This is not a question anymore of freedom of speech but rather a corporate controlled media indoctrinating not informing the masses.

Click on this link for more information about media firms Ownership (Chart): The Big Six | Free Press

Suriname: Bouterse is not welcome in the Netherlands and past is not forgotten, despite election victory says Verhagen on behalf Dutch Government

The Netherlands will respect the result of the Suriname general election but cannot forget the past of winning alliance leader Desi Bouterse, Dutch foreign affairs minister Maxime Verhagen said on Wednesday.
According to preliminary results, a coalition led by former military leader and convicted trafficker Bouterse emerged as the winner of the Tuesday vote with 23 of the 51 seats in parliament.

Bouterse was sentenced to jail for drugs smuggling in the Netherlands but avoided jail because Suriname, a former Dutch colony, does not extradite its own citizens. He is currently on trial for his role in killing 15 political opponents in 1982.

Verhagen said:  "Bouterse is not welcome in the Netherlands". 


For more: DutchNews.nl - Bouterse's past is not forgotten, despite election victory:Verhagen

Wall Street: How Low can Stocks Go? - by Simon Maierhofer

It’s said that selling ice to an Eskimo is no easy task. It’s also said that if things look too good to be true, … they probably are too good to be true.

For stocks, this was the case just four short weeks ago. Up until the April 26 top, the Dow Jones (DJI: ^DJI), S&P (SNP: ^GSPC) and Nasdaq (Nasdaq: ^IXIC) had rallied some 75%. During much of the last leg up, none of the indexes declined more than 1%. Wall Street had forgotten that the stock market can move in two directions.

In denial, Wall Street was looking for scapegoats. Greece’s debt problems were the obvious cause, even though we’ve known about them since the beginning of the year. Up until April, stocks were actually rallying every time a new bailout package was allegedly approved. There were also rumors about a clumsy, fat-fingered trader who accidentally sold a billion instead of a million shares.

Note EU-Digest: "and now the gambling game at the Wall Street Casino can start all over again - buy low, sell high, it basically has nothing to do with real business."

For more: How Low can Stocks Go? - ETF Guide

Euro zone heads for 1.2% growth

The OECD raised its growth forecast for the euro zone economy today to 1.2% this year but urged it to tackle financial weaknesses which could slow recovery and threaten monetary union.

The grouping of 30 developed nations forecast gross domestic product across the 16-nation bloc would rise by 1.2% in 2010 - raising its last estimate of 0.9% growth made in November. It forecast growth of 1.8% for 2011.

'A gradual euro zone recovery is under way driven by economic policy stimulus, a rebound in world trade and improving financial conditions, although there has recently been significant financial market volatility,' it said.


For more: RTÉ Business: Euro zone heads for 1.2% growth - OECD

No Double Dip In EMU; Weaker Euro Good News

There is no risk of a double-dip recession in the Eurozone, as the fiscal consolidation that financial markets are demanding will not have a significant impact on activity in the short to medium term, the chief economist of the OECD said in an interview published Wednesday.

Ahead of the publication of the OECD's spring Economic Outlook today at 8:45 GMT, Pier Carlo Padoan told the French daily Le Figaro that the "the weaker euro is good news for the economy in the near term. It will favor exports outside the Eurozone."

"The single currency was overvalued for too long," he added. The economist also called for an "adjustment" of other currencies, in particular the yuan. "A gradual revaluation of the Chinese currency, which would bring a redistribution of global demand, would be very beneficial for growth," he said.

For more: OECD Economist: No Double Dip In EMU; Weaker Euro Good News | iMarketNews.com

EU proposes 'preventive' bank levy

To prevent taxpayers from footing the bill for bailing out collapsing banks, the European Commission will propose today (26 May) that banks set up "preventive" funds, primarily financed from their liabilities and possibly their profits.

The Commission's proposal is based on the so-called 'polluter pays' principle. It is designed to establish "a system which ensures that the financial sector will pay the cost of banking crises in the future," according to the EU commissioner responsible for financial services, Michel Barnier. "It is not acceptable that taxpayers should continue to bear the heavy cost of rescuing the banking sector," reads a statement from the commissioner to be delivered today. To address this possibility, banks will be forced to put extra money aside as a sort of levy to finance resolution funds.

The proposals must still be approved by member states, possibly at the next summit of EU leaders, set to take place in Brussels in mid-June.

Note EU-Digest: this was long overdue and is a good move.


For more: EU proposes 'preventive' bank levy | EurActiv

Suriname: Desi Bouterse wins election as young voters ignore his criminal record

The so-called "Mega Political Union" of Desi Bouterse (64)  won Suriname's ( former Dutch Colony) national election yesterday capturing  24 seats and coming just 2 seats short of an absolute majority, while the ruling government New Front party of President Ronald Venetiaan dropped to 14 seats. It is still possible Bouterse might get the absolute majority in case of potential recounts.

Bouterse's party mainly won as a result of the youth vote, which apparently had no qualms about Mr. Bouterse's checkered past and his criminal record.

Bouterse  and 11 others are standing trial on charges that they executed 15 prominent political opponents in 1982. The trial is scheduled to resume in June. Bouterse has denied any involvement, but he accepted political responsibility in a 2007 public apology. He was previously convicted in a Dutch court in 1999 of trafficking cocaine from Suriname to the Netherlands, but he avoided an 11-year prison sentence because both countries prohibit extradition of each others' citizens. Bouterse seized control of Suriname in a 1980 coup, five years after it gained independence from the Netherlands. He stepped down under international pressure in 1987 and briefly seized power again in 1990.

"If you take a look at Bouterse's history and track record, I cannot understand that people pin their hopes on Bouterse for a better future," said Regi Kensenhuys, 42, of Osembo, who voted for the outgoing government.  Bouterse is popular among the young and the poor for promising more jobs and affordable housing. "Bouterse will stop multinationals from carrying our gold and other natural resources away ," said Kevin Pique, 22, who said he voted for Bouterse's coalition.

Bouterse could become president if his coalition builds enough of an advantage in parliament. The president is chosen by a two-thirds vote by lawmakers. Since no coalition is expected to win such a large majority outright, negotiations will likely be required to settle on a new leader. Outgoing President Ronald Venetiaan, 74, of the New Front  said he is not seeking another term in the top job.

It is, however, not expected Mr. Bouterse will  run for President, but the danger exists that he will use his political power and  influence to stop the court case presently going on against him and the 21 other accomplices, and that he could also change the amnesty laws by putting the Suriname judiciary system under pressure. Political insiders believe that if this happens the only way it can be stopped is by a united effort of democratic forces in and outside the country, using all available means available within the limits of the law, to 'remove the danger' that Suriname slips back into the chaos, which used to be the order of the day when Mr. Bouterse was running the country in the past..

Observers with the Organization of American States said voting Tuesday was peaceful and reported no irregularities.

EU-Digest

5/25/10

Watch Live Feed Of The Ongoing BP Oil Spill

Want to see what more than 1 million gallons of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico looks like? Now you can. WKRG, a local TV station in Mobile/Pensacola, Florida, is live streaming the environmental disaster on Ustream (ustream)

For more: VIDEO: Watch Live Feed Of The Ongoing BP Oil Spill | News One

The Economic Impact Of The Gulf Oil Spill

While it is generally assumed BP is responsible for all costs associated with the cleanup, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked Monday whether the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 limits the amount of liability assessed to a company at $75 million, that is, beyond the initial cleanup cost. At the time, Mr. Gibbs wasn't clear on the specific provisions of the bill.

Later in the day, Kenneth Baer, Communications Director for the Office of Management and Budget, issued the following statement: "Let's be clear: BP is responsible for -- and will be held accountable for -- the very significant clean-up and recovery costs. If BP is found to be grossly negligent or to have engaged in willful misconduct or conduct in violation of federal regulations, then there is no cap under the Oil Pollution Act for damages. "You can be sure'' Baer wrote, "that BP will be held accountable to the full extent of the law.''

NOTE EU-Digest: The oil slick is now estimated at about 3,800 square kilometers.
Unfortunately the consumers numbed by empty environmental slogans of the Oil Industry can't care less. At stations selling BP gas across the world, there is no apparent sign of a consumer backlash at the pump, like the boycott triggered by the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska 21 years ago. Click here to see pictures taken from outer space of the BP Oil spill in the Gulf.
 
For more: The Economic Impact Of The Gulf Oil Spill

5/24/10

EU Parliament: - plenary session says proposal bank and airplane passenger data transfer from EU to US not acceptable in its present form

Any new agreement on providing bank data to the United States - for example via the SWIFT system - must avoid "bulk data" transfers until they can be processed within the EU, warned MEPs on Wednesday. As for Passenger Name Records, Parliament opted to postpone its vote on the existing agreements with the United States and Australia and called for those accords be renegotiated on the basis of new criteria.

On the issue of bank data transfers, Parliament argues in a resolution adopted by show of hands, that bulk data transfers infringe EU legislation. It urges the Council and Commission to "address this issue properly in the negotiations". In addition, the new agreement should include "strict implementation and supervision safeguards, monitored by an appropriate EU-appointed authority" on the day-to-day extraction of and use by the US authorities of all such data. The maximum storage period must not exceed five years and the data may not be disclosed to third countries.

n the medium term, an EU judicial authority should oversee the extraction of data in the EU. Meanwhile, select EU personnel should take part in the oversight of the extraction process in the USA. Reciprocity would require the Americans to allow EU authorities to obtain and use data stored in servers in the US.

For more: Brussels plenary session - 5-6 May, 2010

Google Finds itself in "Hot Water" as Spain And France Join Inquiry Into Google Wi-Fi Data Collection

Google has found itself facing additional controversy in Europe, as Spain, France and the Czech Republic all announced investigations into the inadvertent collection of data by the search engine giant’s Street View cars.
That follows news that Germany and Italy will launch their own inquiries into Google and the Street View service, which uses vehicles equipped with cameras to capture an eye-level view of local terrain worldwide.
In the course of that driving around and image taking, the Street View cars managed to obtain 600GB of “payload data” from unsecured Wi-Fi networks. The data could consist of anything from e-mails and passwords to more personal information.

Viviane Reding, justice commissioner for the European Union in Brussels, wrote in a statement sent to eWEEK on 18 May that it “is not acceptable that a company operating in the EU does not respect EU rules.” Reding also suggested that the processing of personal data by Google Street View apparently falls under the umbrella of the EU’s Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC and is therefore subject to its provisions.

European regulators have a history of taking particularly aggressive action against large technology companies—including Microsoft and Oracle—seen as overstepping their bounds with regard to privacy and antitrust. Microsoft recently introduced a “Web browser choice screen” to European Windows users, after the European Commission, the EU’s antitrust regulatory body, expressed concerns about the potentially anti-competitive aspects of bundling Internet Explorer with the operating system. The danger for those companies, of course, is that such investigations and actions have the potential to not only lead to millions of dollars in fines and losses, but also disrupt their strategy in various market segments.

For more go to : E-Week

Outer Space: Space Station nearly completed: Atlantis shuttle to be retired heads home after smooth mission

The six-member crew of Atlantis launched nine days ago and joined the six space station residents a week ago. It undocked from the station Sunday after completing all of the mission's tasks, including the installation of a Russian module and six large new batteries on the station. With just two shuttle flights remaining, the station is nearly complete. Piers Sellers, who last flew to the station in 2006, says the station was about one-third the size at that time. 

“It was very different,” he said. “This place is now a palace. It's huge. We're seeing the station in pretty much its final form, and it's fantastic.” During their limited time off during their stay, the shuttle crew members have joined the station crew in staring out of the orbiting laboratory's cupola, a large, seven-paned window that looks back on Earth. They've enjoyed many highs, seeing hometowns, oceans and islands. But there has been a big downer, too, explained Soichi Noguchi, a station astronaut.

“The oil spill, we're watching above every day,” he said. “It's kind of sad to see. These days the stain has spread to the south. We're hoping for a quick recovery.”

For more: Likely to retire, Atlantis heads home after smooth mission | National | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle

Russian Government Forecasts 4% GDP Growth, Slashes Loan Estimate

The economy could grow by about 4 percent annually in the next two years, even as the country tries to keep inflation low, the government press service said Sunday in a statement distributed to news agencies. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is scheduled to meet with his ministers to discuss macroeconomic and social issues on Monday, Interfax and RIA-Novosti reported, citing the press service.

The government’s “base scenario” for economic development foresees annual economic expansion of 3.5 percent to 4.2 percent in 2011 and 2012, the agencies reported. Industrial production should grow by 3.3 percent to 4.2 percent a year by 2013. The announcement came after a Central Bank official said Friday that the regulator had slashed its forecast for loan growth this year and other economic data cast doubt on the durability of Russia's economic recovery.

Central Bank board member Mikhail Sukhov told Reuters that the bank had slashed its forecast for growth by around 10 percentage points, though he added that corporate loans grew by 0.9 percent in April from March — the first increase since November 2009.

For more: Russian Government Forecasts 4% GDP Growth, Slashes Loan Estimate | Business | The Moscow Times

After The Spill: Big Oil plots its comeback - Isn't it time to regulate them more severely?

Christopher Helman — Despite the death threats, BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward says he's sleeping well these days. He looks it: fresh, almost relaxed in his makeshift corner office at BP's emergency response center in Houston. He insists the company has been "extraordinarily successful" in its response to the spill, which so far has dumped more than 100,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico since Apr. 20, threatening tourism and fishing from Florida to Texas. By mid-May 13,000 workers and 500 vessels were trying to contain the giant leak. Leaning back in his chair, Hayward compares the operation to D-day. He quotes Winston Churchill: "When in hell, keep going." Hayward gropes for an upside. "Deepwater drilling will be transformed by this event," he says. "If we can win the hearts and minds of the communities that are impacted, then we have the potential to enhance our reputation rather than have it damaged."

Delusional? Experts agree the industry will change in the wake of the disaster. "Regulations have not kept up with technological change," says Beverly Sauer, professor at Georgetown's McDonough School of Business. She sees it swinging back. For 20 years the oil industry has pushed farther offshore, drilling 14,000 wells in water depths of more than 700 feet, into ever trickier reservoirs, with higher pressures and temperatures (and very few serious accidents). Something bad was bound to happen.

Yet, despite the environmental damage this spill continues to cause, offshore drilling will not go away--just as Exxon's Valdez disaster hardly stopped the shipping of oil by sea. The deep water (2,000 feet or more) gives up 1 million barrels per day from the Gulf of Mexico, 20 per cent of U.S. oil output. By 2015 it could rise to 30 per cent, reports IHS-CERA.

For more: After The Spill: Big Oil plots its comeback - CTV News

Chinese Official: China, U.S. Agree on Cautious, Prudent Withdrawal of Stimulus: European Economy key to China's prosperity

Chinese and United States officials agreed here Monday they should be cautious and prudent about the timing to withdraw economic stimulus measures from their respective economies.
Zhang Xiaoqiang, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), told a news briefing on the second China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue of the agreement. Zhang said the foundation of the world economic recovery is "not yet solid," adding that the sovereign debt crisis in several eurozone nations is adding to uncertainty.

Europe's economy is a large portion of the world economy and the European Community is China's biggest trading partner. China, therefore, will "keep a close eye on the crisis" and in particular its "negative effect on the economic recovery in Europe," said Zhang.

Zhang said given that the scale of the debt crisis and number of countries involved "are still limited," China should continue its economic policies stated in the government work report early this year.

For more: Chinese Official: China, U.S. Agree on Cautious, Prudent Withdrawal of Stimulus

5/23/10

Astronomer Copernicus reburied as hero in Poland - by Vanessa Gera

Nicolaus Copernicus, the 16th-century astronomer whose findings were condemned by the Roman Catholic Church as heretical, was reburied by Polish priests as a hero on Saturday, nearly 500 years after he was laid to rest in an unmarked grave.

His burial in a tomb in the cathedral where he once served as a church canon and doctor indicates how far the church has come in making peace with the scientist whose revolutionary theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun helped usher in the modern scientific age.

Copernicus, who lived from 1473 to 1543, died as a little-known astronomer working in a remote part of northern Poland, far from Europe's centers of learning. He had spent years laboring in his free time developing his theory, which was later condemned as heretical by the church because it removed Earth and humanity from their central position in the universe. His revolutionary model was based on complex mathematical calculations and his naked-eye observations of the heavens because the telescope had not yet been invented.

For more: The Associated Press: Astronomer Copernicus reburied as hero in Poland

Soccer (World Cup): Dutch want elusive title

Trainer Bert van Marwijk took over the Netherlands following Euro 2008, when the Oranje breezed through the group stage only to be eliminated in the first knockout round in their second straight major tournament.

Van Marwijk guided the team through World Cup qualifying with eight wins in as many matches, but in a group with current European lightweights Iceland, Macedonia, Norway and Scotland, the new coach really didn't get a feel for exactly how good of a team he inherited. Neither did the rest of the world, which could be good for the Netherlands this summer.

The Dutch were second in the World Cup in 1974 and 1978, losing to the hosts both years. The Netherlands lost to West Germany 2-1 in 1974 and Argentina in added extra time 3-1 in 1978. Holland's lone major title is Euro 1988, when it beat host West Germany in the semifinals and the Soviet Union in the final. Van Marwijk enters the 2010 World Cup with only one truly acceptable result, and that's lifting the trophy on July 11 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

For more: The Sports Network - International Soccer (World Cup)

Turkish secularists elect new leader

Turkey's main opposition party elected a new leader backing political and economic reform on Saturday in a bid to win back disenchanted voters who have deserted to the Islamist-leaning AK Party over the last decade.

 The new chairman, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, a 62-year former civil servant, said his priority would be combating unemployment and graft. He is expected to focus on restoring the party's left-wing credentials and winning back poor voters from AK.




The Republican People's Party (CHP), which represents secularist forces including the military and senior judges, was thrown into disarray when veteran party leader Deniz Baykal resigned following a sex tape scandal.Baykal fell out of favor with middle-class voters by firmly resisting the AK Party's European Union-inspired reform steps to pare back the powerful army's influence in politics, reform the judiciary and liberalize the economy. He kept a tight grip on the party that led to a number of former loyalists resigning.

"(The AK Party rulers) rob you and build villas with pools for themselves and grow richer while claiming they are helping the poor," he told CHP supporters who chanted "Prime Minister Kemal" and "Revolutionary Kemal.


For more: Turkish secularists elect new leader | Reuters

US Economy: Next Stop: Double-Dip Recession? - by Matt Koppenheffer

Though the National Bureau of Economic Research -- the folks that call the official beginning and end of economic cycles -- has yet to declare the recession ended, the U.S. economy has definitely shifted trajectory since its 2007-to-2009 plunge. Even if we set economic indicators aside, the stock market has definitely registered its vote in favor of a recovering economy.

But like Die Hard's John McClane, the global economy just can't seem to avoid trouble. And nasty trouble at that. As a result, many market-watchers continue to see the potential for the U.S. to slip back into recession in the coming quarters.

Big banks like Citigroup (NYSE: C) and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) appear to be moving in the right direction, but they're also still being fed ridiculously cheap capital thanks to the rock-bottom federal funds interest rate. It also seems questionable at best whether the U.S. housing market is really on the mend. Indicators have shown movement in the right direction, but the market has also been significantly goosed by handouts from Uncle Sam.

And while it may not be useful to try and compare the U.S. economy to that of Greece, it's tough to ignore the fact that the cancer in that country's economy -- a hefty debt load and big budget deficits -- can also be found right here in the U.S. of A.

For more: Next Stop: Double-Dip Recession?

5/22/10

The financial crisis lays bare the weakness of the Anglo-Saxon model - by Nouriel Roubini

The latest data on third-quarter 2008 gross domestic product growth (at an annual rate) around the world are even worse than the first estimate for the U.S. (-3.8%). The figures were -6.0% for the euro zone, -8% for Germany, -12% for Japan, -16% for Singapore and -20% for Korea. The global economy is now literally in free fall as the contraction of consumption, capital spending, residential investment, production, employment, exports and imports is accelerating rather than decelerating.

To avoid this L-shaped near-depression, a strong, aggressive, coherent and credible combination of monetary easing (traditional and unorthodox), fiscal stimulus, proper cleanup of the financial system and reduction of the debt burden of insolvent private agents (households and nonfinancial companies) is necessary in the U.S. and other economies.

In many countries, the banks may be too big to fail but also too big to save, as the fiscal/financial resources of the sovereign may not be large enough to rescue such large insolvencies in the financial system.

For more: Laissez-Faire Capitalism Has Failed - Forbes.com

Etihad Airways bags Skytrax’s ‘World’s Best First Class’ Award

Etihad Airways has won three awards for its First Class at the Skytrax World Airline Awards, according to the results of the latest Skytrax survey on 200 airlines across the world.

The public poll, which included almost 18 million global air travellers from more than 100 countries, named the Abu Dhabi-based airline as having the ‘World’s Best First Class’, ‘Best First Class Airline Seat’ and ‘Best First Class Onboard Catering’. Skytrax awards are among the most prestigious in the aviation industry.

The annual Skytrax survey takes into account all aspects of the air travel experience as well as the quality of customer service delivered by each airline’s staff.

“We are exceptionally proud to have won these three awards for our new and innovative First Class product and service which is now recognised as the world’s best by the ultimate judges — air travellers,” said Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways’ Chief Commercial Officer.

For more: Etihad Airways bags Skytrax’s ‘World’s Best First Class’ Award

Jews for Jesus founder Moishe Rosen dead at 78

In a press release, Jews for Jesus says Rosen was raised in an Orthodox Jewish family, but converted to Christianity at the age of 21 when he became convinced that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah.

In 1973, he founded the organization whose mission statement is “to make the Messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to our Jewish people worldwide.” Those evangelistic efforts have been denounced by Jewish groups and by some churches as well.

In a posthumous letter on the Jews for Jesus website, Rosen says: ""If you are reading this, it means that I have gone on to my reward. As I write this, I can only think of what the Scriptures say and that is, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither have they entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9) Well, I have a big curiosity and by now, I know.

For more: Jews for Jesus founder Moishe Rosen dead at 78 | Sola Dei Gloria

OIL SPILL USA: Leaked report: Government fears Deepwater Horizon well could become unchecked gusher | al.com

A confidential government report on the unfolding spill disaster in the Gulf makes clear the Coast Guard now fears the well could become an unchecked gusher shooting millions of gallons of oil per day into the Gulf.

"The following is not public," reads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Emergency Response document dated April 28. "Two additional release points were found today in the tangled riser. If the riser pipe deteriorates further, the flow could become unchecked resulting in a release volume an order of magnitude higher than previously thought."

Asked Friday to comment on the document, NOAA spokesman Scott Smullen said that the additional leaks described were reported to the public late Wednesday night. Regarding the possibility of the spill becoming an order of magnitude larger, Smullen said, "I'm letting the document you have speak for itself."

In scientific circles, an order of magnitude means something is 10 times larger. In this case, an order of magnitude higher would mean the volume of oil coming from the well could be 10 times higher than the 5,000 barrels a day coming out now. That would mean 50,000 barrels a day, or 2.1 million gallons a day. It appears the new leaks mentioned in the Wednesday release are the leaks reported to the public late Wednesday night.

Note EU-Digest: the total lack of results in getting this spill in the Gulf quickly under control, either on a national or international level, shows Public and Private organizations are unprepared and have no contingency plans in solving disasters of this scale. It is high time the Oil Industry becomes more seriously regulated.

For more: Leaked report: Government fears Deepwater Horizon well could become unchecked gusher | al.com

Euro Gains Most Since September as Traders Exit Bets on Decline

The euro rose the most in eight months against the dollar amid speculation traders who bet on its decline amid Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis had to buy back the currency as it strengthened to a one-week high.

Europe’s common currency fell on May 19 to its weakest level in four years a day after Germany banned naked short sales, adding to concern that the region’s leadership may not be able to contain the crisis. The yen gained against all of its 16 major counterparts as the MSCI World Index of shares traded near the lowest since August and the Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index of 19 raw materials fell for a fourth straight week. The greenback fell versus the yen ahead of a report next week that may show U.S. durable goods orders rose in April.

“There’s been a massive short covering,” said Andrew Busch, a global currency strategist at Bank of Montreal in Chicago. “The euro was already stabilizing this week when Germany came in and changed the rules of the game in the middle of the day by banning short sales and created additional uncertainty. The much stronger euro at the end of the week shows you how short people were. A tremendous amount of risk has been taken off the table.”

For more: Euro Gains Most Since September as Traders Exit Bets on Decline - BusinessWeek

5/21/10

Suriname: Youth vote critical in upcoming Suriname election

The South-American country Suriname will elect a new parliament next Tuesday. The youth vote is hotly contested in this young nation. Sharon Wijnaldum (23) checked out a video clip featuring popular local rap artist Laco on her Blackberry. The rapper gazed into her eyes from behind the minute screen, as a sexy singer crooned along to the lyrics in the background: 'Moro internet, moro produktie, moro doro!' Surinamese for, 'more internet, more production, more is to come!' 

These words are not the lyrics to Laco's latest hit. They are the NPS's (Surinamese National Party) electoral slogan, accompanied by a thumping beat. A remarkable choice for the party of the 73-year-old incumbent president, Ronald Venetiaan, which suffers under a somewhat dreary reputation.
In the last election, Wijnaldum, a student at the Surinamese teacher's college, voted for the NDP (National Democratic Party), the party of former junta leader Desi Bouterse. The Laco video clip took her by surprise. "I had never expected this from the NPS," she said. "They always seemed so boring. I don't know anybody who votes for them, or at least no one who will admit to it, but this is pretty cool."

Note EU-Digest: Polls show that the so called  'Mega Front' of former Suriname dictator Desi Bouterse will be the likely winner of the election on May 25. Bouterse's name is closely bound with the military regime that controlled Suriname from 1980 until the beginning of the 1990s Mr. Bouterse is presently wanted by Interpol on charges related to his involvement in Cocaine distribution and also on trial in Suriname for the murder of political foes on December 8, 1982 known today in Suriname as the "December Murders" when 15 prominent opponents of the military regime were shot dead.Suriname used to be a colony of the Netherlands before it became independent in 1975.

For the complete report: nrc.nl - International - Youth vote critical in upcoming Suriname election

Cameron Travels to Meet Sarkozy and Merkel - by Allen Cowell

Britain’s new prime minister, David Cameron, traveled to Paris on Thursday to meet with President Nicolas Sarkozy before going to Germany to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday. Mr. Cameron, leader of a party known for its aversion to closer European integration, planned to devote his first overseas trip since coming to power last week to smoothing ties with Continental Europe.

For more: World Briefing - Europe - France - Cameron Travels to Meet Sarkozy and Merkel - NYTimes.com

Europe set to hit debt-ridden nations in the pocket

Crisis-hit European finance ministers took their first steps on Friday towards punishing countries that don't honour the rules on keeping national debts and deficits down, including cash penalties.
However, on the same day that the German parliament approved its share of a near trillion-dollar (750-billion-euro) eurozone rescue package, running to about 150 billion euros, ministers showed no appetite for a bid by Berlin to force heavily-indebted partners into bankruptcy.
The first meeting of a new 'task force' convened by EU president Herman Van Rompuy also left the difficult question of possible treaty changes required to craft a tough new regime of 'economic governance' across the 27-nation European Union on the back burner.

For the complete report: AFP: Europe set to hit debt-ridden nations in the pocket

Sweden first and Finland second most competitive EU economy

“Sweden remained the most competitive economy in the European Union, followed by Finland and Denmark, according to the World Economic Forum study.

Those three Nordic nations ranked above the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany in the analysis, which is based on indicators such as economic and productivity growth, research and development spending, and unemployment.

The Nordic countries ‘are the strongest European performers in the area of innovation, attributable to their companies’ aggressiveness in adopting new technologies and their level of spending on R&D,’ according to the study. It also cited ‘the high degree of collaboration between universities and the private-sector in research’ in these nations...”

For more: Finland second most competitive EU economy

Financial Regulation: US Senate passes biggest, regulatory changes since the Great Depression

On Thursday, the US Senate plucked up its courage and passed its version of the controversial financial reform package. It is bold, brave and risky, but then again, tough times demand tough solutions.
This bill must now be reconciled with the House of Representatives’ version that has already been passed. But the margin of passage in the Senate – a 59 to 39 split that included some Republicans – is probably sufficient to ensure passage in the Senate of any joint-reconciled version.

This Senate vote means Congress is now poised to pass a broad expansion of government oversight of the increasingly complex (and increasingly murky) banking industry and financial markets. The legislation is designed to put measures in place to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial meltdown. In addition, it simultaneously reshapes the varied roles of numerous federal agencies, and vastly empowers the Federal Reserve Bank, in an attempt to predict and contain future debacles – especially since the current regimen didn’t see that most recent crisis coming, until it hit.

Note EU-Digest: Another step in the right direction and a plus for President Obama

For more: The Daily Maverick :: US Senate passes biggest, baddest regulatory changes since the Great Depression

5/20/10

British coalition gov't, London mayor on collision course over banking reforms

 London's mayor looks set for collision course with the country's newly-elected coalition government, following disagreements on major policy items, according to London government website on Wednesday.
Mayor Boris Johnson, who is a former schoolfriend of the new Prime Minister David Cameron and also a leading member of Cameron' s Conservative party, put himself on collision course with Cameron 's new coalition government on Monday when he spoke out strongly against its policy on banks and banking.
London is Europe's financial capital, and is one of the world's leading financial cities. The finance sector accounts for 9 percent of Britain's gross domestic product.  The coalition government said it will hold an inquiry into the future of banking in the country, to report next year.

For more: British coalition gov't, London mayor on collision course over banking reforms

Germany's Merkel calls for tougher finance regulation

Hosting an international conference, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed for much stricter regulation of international markets which she said must be the "benchmark" within Europe and that all governments must act together in showing greater budget discipline.

The meeting comes ahead of next month's G20 summit in Canada. Germany wants tougher regulation of financial markets and strict penalties for EU nations running high debts.Germany is calling for a global tax on financial transactions to help cover the cost of the crisis.At the conference in Berlin, Mrs Merkel called on all countries at the G20 summit to take action together - even if they had not suffered problems in their own economy.

"If we are to have a global order and global governance we need to have an understanding for each other," she said.

For more: BBC News - Germany's Merkel calls for tougher finance regulation

Have the Immoral Actions of Central Bankers Precipitated the Decline of the West?

"There is accumulating evidence that the Washington - Wall Street moral hazard experiment has gone disastrously wrong, and that just like any other accidental discharge of a deadly virus, the moral hazard virus is now loose and swiftly propagating throughout society. By so blatantly colluding with Wall Street, Washington has lost all moral authority, and the people now have only one place to turn: themselves. 
 
An ethic of, "If they can do it, so can I," is spreading, as people realize that fabric of American society has been shredded and replaced by a free-for-all mentality whereby everyone must fend for oneself in order to survive. If this is so, it is a serious game changer for America. Evidence of the spread of moral hazard is noticeable everywhere. Despite government reports that the economy contracted only 1% last quarter and is now stabilizing, 13% of all home mortgages were either delinquent or in foreclosure in the second quarter, 2009, an all-time record. Credit card write-offs hover near 10%, also a record. Automobile, home equity and personal loan defaults are at or near record levels. Fiscal year 2009 federal personal tax receipts have declined 22% and corporate receipts have plunged by 57%, even though the economy has supposedly declined by only a fraction of that amount."

We have written that the current situation is analogous to the days of the Gutenberg press: Finally, people could read the Bible and see priestly untruth. Today, of course, the West's establishment religion is monetary. Think about it. Are we so wrong? The mainstream media prints the every utterance of the central banking class with breathless reverence. The miens of these bankers are often ascetic; they are portrayed as good family men, patriotic and responsible. They are priests with a vocabulary all their own - as incomprehensible, nearly, as Latin. Their expensive, bespoke, business suits are a uniform akin to investments. The gorgeous conference rooms in which they convene may be regarded as grave vestibules. Utterances, revealed in "minutes," have the resonance of commandments from on high. Regulators, media mavens and politicians are acolytes, expressing hosannas as they wish."

And so it begins. You have seen the essential immorality of the system. You have felt it deep in the gut, just the way they did once they began to read Bibles (courtesy of the Gutenberg press) 500 years ago and began realizing that the Roman Catholic Church was profoundly immoral - that its entire ethic (you can buy your way into heaven) was built on a kind of lie. Just as society is today. It's not just the culture of the West, or its promotions, or even its social organization that is finished. You CANNOT, as a society, witness a couple of guys pull a trillion out of their back pockets without feeling, well ... snookered. And after feeling snookered, something else begins to percolate. "Hey," you say, "wait a minute. I sit here with my debts and my job and my house in foreclosure and this guy - THIS GUY - throws around trillions? Wait a minute. WHEN DO I GET MINE!"

After all, the Reformation, ultimately, was a moral reaction. Human beings, among other things, live within various ethical environments. When these are shown to be false, there is trouble brewing. We've written this over and over, that the old financial order, based on central banking, is basically finished.

For more: Have the Immoral Actions of Central Bankers Precipitated the Decline of the West?

5/19/10

Euro rebounds as Germany slaps a ban on naked short-selling

The euro rallied to stand at $1.24.1 this evening.
Germany's securities market regulator overnight slapped a ban on naked short-selling in the shares of 10 financial institutions and euro zone government bonds, a move it hoped would put an end to severe fluctuations.

Naked short-selling occurs when investors sell securities they do not own and have not even borrowed, hoping to be able to buy them back later at a lower price, thereby earning a profit. In regular short-selling, the trader borrows the security before selling it.

For more: RTÉ Business: Euro rebounds after hitting four-year low

Aircraft Industry: Airbus Sees A380 Re-orders In 2010

Airbus expects current A380 customers to bolster their order backlog for the aircraft type this year after the aircraft maker upped its order intake target for 2010 from 10 aircraft to 20 or more.
“I expect repeat orders from existing customers,” says Airbus CEO Tom Enders, while not ruling out new customers coming on board. Enders spoke on the sidelines of the first A380 delivery to Lufthansa. Lufthansa is the only new airline to start using the aircraft this year; Korean Air, the next customer, is to follow in May 2010.
A380 order discussions have picked up markedly, says an Airbus official. Delivery slots are limited in the immediate future, however. One or two delivery slots may be available in 2013, although Airbus says 2014 is really the first year meaningful numbers could be delivered that aren’t already committed to customers.

For more: Airbus Sees A380 Re-orders In 2010 | AVIATION WEEK

'New Culture of Stability': Germany Forges Ahead on Reforming the Euro

Berlin means business. In addition to pushing for increased regulation of hedge funds and of the financial markets, Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has drafted a list of proposals to revamp the European common currency. From suspending voting rights to national bankruptcy proceedings, the plan is far-reaching.

The offensive now seems to have started in earnest. On Tuesday, European Union finance ministers announced efforts to both rein in hedge funds operating in Europe and to introduce a tax on financial transactions. Overnight, the German financial services regulator BaFin slapped a ban on certain types of short selling.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has also been working with her finance minister and economics minister on far-reaching changes to the treaty underpinning Europe's common currency, the euro. According to a draft paper respected German business daily Handelsblatt reported it had obtained on Wednesday, Merkel's government would like to see increased monitoring of member states' annual budget proposals, the introduction of stiff sanctions for those in violation of euro-zone debt rules and the suspension of voting rights in the European Council. Furthermore, Germany wants to establish bankruptcy proceedings for insolvent euro-zone countries.

For more: 'New Culture of Stability': Germany Forges Ahead on Reforming the Euro - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

ECB Nowotny:No Inflation Danger In EMU For Foreseeable Future | iMarketNews.com

ECB Governing Council member Ewald Nowotny said Monday that he sees no inflation danger in the Eurozone for the foreseeable future, and added that the real problem is weak economic growth.

Speaking at a conference in Berlin, the Austrian central bank governor said he was astonished that there was, especially in Germany, "so much hysteria" about inflation risks.

"[Inflation] is really not the problem we have," Nowotny said. "We have a problem of too-slow growth, unfortunately, but we do not have in the foreseeable future a problem of inflation."

For more: ECB Nowotny:No Inflation Danger In EMU For Foreseeable Future | iMarketNews.com

EU: by putting their financial act together ahead of Britain and US EMU is getting ahead of the curve

The Eurozone recovery continues at a modest pace, driven largely by trade with the more dynamic emerging market economies, which is expected to be boosted by the substantial recent decline of the euro's exchange rate, according to the European Central Bank's quarterly forecast survey published Thursday. In addition, a weaker euro should allow the EMU economies to export more to the dynamic emerging markets.

The ECB forecasters' survey showed that unemployment expectations were revised down 0.2 percentage point for 2010 and 2011 to 10.3%. The long-term forecast for 2014 shows unemployment easing to 8.5%, down slightly from the previous forecast of 8.6%.

ECB Forecasters Survey: EMU Recovery Continuing But Modest | iMarketNews.com

Kurdish Iraq: An Emerging Success - by Max Boot

Iraq has improved immeasurably since the dark days of 2006 when hundreds were being killed every day by al Qaeda bombs and Sadrist death squads in Baghdad. But terrorist bombs continue to go off intermittently, and lingering instability and ineptitude still block economic development. Indeed, the political situation has recently taken a turn for the worse, with Iraq’s political parties at a stalemate in their quest to form a new government more than two months after parliamentary elections were held.

Driving down Baghdad’s dingy streets, as I did recently as part of a delegation from the Council on Foreign Relations, one is sometimes tempted to despair. What chance is there, the visitor may reasonably wonder, that the capital of this oil-rich country will ever be truly peaceful, not to mention as luxurious as Doha, Dubai, or other boom towns to the south on the Persian Gulf?

A short trip north to the Kurdish region, where 4.5 million of Iraq’s 30 million people live, offers a different, more hopeful perspective. Known as the Kurdish Regional Government, or KRG, this area feels as safe as it gets in the Middle East. Terrorist attacks aren’t a concern. Americans can wander around without body armor or bodyguards-even if they’re in uniform. Don’t try it in Baghdad. That’s a tribute to the effectiveness of the Kurdish intelligence service, the Asayesh, and to their peshmerga troops (“those who face death”). It also has something to do with Kurdish attitudes toward the United States. There is none of the lingering resentment that is still prevalent in the rest of Iraq; Kurds are among the most pro-American people on the planet. They regularly and profusely thank American visitors for liberating them from Saddam Hussein’s murderous regime-not something one often hears from Iraqi Arabs.

There are also many sights in Erbil that you don’t see in the rest of Iraq. They include a spanking new airport that puts dinosaurs like New York’s Kennedy Airport to shame, and new shopping malls, banks, stores, homes, and hotels that would not be out of place in Europe. Erbil, the capital of the KRG, seems a world away from the rest of Iraq even though it is located only 50 miles from Mosul, the most violent city in the entire country and the only one where Al Qaeda in Iraq remains a major threat. Almost all of the development has occurred in the last few years, filling once-empty fields with modern buildings.

For more: Kurdish Iraq: An Emerging Success - CBS News

5/18/10

EU Lawmakers Ok Rules For Hedge Funds,Private Equity - by Mathew Dalton

Lawmakers at the European Parliament Monday night approved new rules for hedge funds and private-equity firms, rejecting complaints that the legislation could unduly restrict European investors from using offshore funds.

The legislation passed 33-11 at the parliament's key Economic and Monetary Affairs committee. European Union finance ministers at the European Council are expected to approve their version of the legislation Tuesday night, kicking off what will likely be months of talks between the council, the parliament and the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, over a final version that will become law.

The parliament's legislation will require funds to register with European authorities. Fund managers that use borrowed money, or leverage, will have to file plans with the authorities setting limits on how much leverage they can use, and a new EU regulator would have the power to cap leverage at funds that pose "systemic" risks.

Most controversially, the legislation would effectively black-list some nations: European investors would be forbidden from sending their money to funds based in countries that lack adequate financial regulation.

EU-Digest: finally - Bravo !

For more: 2nd UPDATE:EU Lawmakers Ok Rules For Hedge Funds,Private Equity - WSJ.com

5/17/10

Brain-controlled exoskeletons advance with MindWalker - by Emmet Cole

A team of European experts is working on a mind-controlled robotic exoskeleton that could enable people currently confined to wheelchairs to walk again and also help astronauts rehabilitate to Earth gravity after prolonged periods in the weightlessness of space. f perfected, MindWalker will enable people with spinal chord injuries to achieve mobility by sidestepping their spinal chord as a communications pathway to their lower limbs. And, instead of having to rely on wheelchairs or walking frames to get around, they will be supported by an exoskeleton specially designed for everyday use.

Meanwhile, astronauts returning from prolonged space trips -- trips that can cause severe bone deterioration and muscle loss -- could use the system on their return to Earth to speed up their readjustment to Earth gravity.

For more: Brain-controlled exoskeletons advance with MindWalker

And Now, An Actual Bull Case For The Euro

So, why might the euro stabilize and possibly rally?
chart

Mike O'Rourke at BTIG lays out some potentially bullish facts -- most notable is the fact that the anti-euro trade is getting ridiculously crowded.
This all sets up for a showdown this week. It is highly likely that policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic will want to drill home the point that they were serious about the package announced a week ago. If the ECB can continue to sustain the improvements in sovereign yields, the next battle ground will likely be the Euro currency. If stability is established there, it will also have a calming effect on other markets. Speculative short futures on the Euro have risen to record levels and are close to double the previous peak registered in 2008 (see chart 1). In addition, Euro speculator longs as a percentage of positions are essentially at all time lows and hedger longs are as a percentage of positions are at all time highs.

Greece mulls taking action against US banks

Greece is considering taking legal action against US investment banks that might have contributed to the country's debt crisis, Prime Minister George Papandreou said.

In the days leading up to the May 10 announcement of a loan package worth almost US$1 trillion to halt the spread of Greece's fiscal woes, European Union regulators were examining whether speculators manipulated the prices of bonds and equities and contributed to the crisis.

The Committee of European Securities Regulators said on May 7 that it was investigating 'exceptional volatility' in the markets and would work with other regulators, including the US Securities and Exchange Commission, as part of a coordinated clampdown.

For more: Greece mulls taking action against US banks - May 17, 2010

US Economy: Sen. Jeff Merkley: It's Time to End Risky Gambling on Wall Street

When historians look back at the financial crisis of 2008 and the Great Recession that followed, they will fix their blame, in part, on the invention of complicated financial products that hid massive risks and spread them throughout the economy. They will record how Wall Street chased short-term gains at the expense of functioning markets, long-term economic stability and the well-being of the financial institutions themselves.

For more: Sen. Jeff Merkley: It's Time to End Risky Gambling on Wall Street

Trichet supports tougher economic surveillance in EU

ECB Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet has backed tougher economic surveillance as finance ministers prepare to debate demands from the European Commission to open their budgets in Brussels before they do so in parliament.

Amid renewed pressure on the euro, the ministers gather this evening for key meetings on the sovereign debt crisis in the single currency area.

As Greece prepares to draw down some €8.5 billion in emergency EU aid to repay a debt due on Wednesday, confrontation also looms over British resistance to new rules to regulate hedge funds.

With newly installed British chancellor George Osborne preparing to attend his first EU meeting since taking office last week, informed sources said yesterday that Spain’s presidency of the EU intended to proceed with plans for a vote on the new regulations.

For more: Trichet supports tougher economic surveillance in EU - The Irish Times - Mon, May 17, 2010

U.S, U.K. show true colors by supporting hedge funds and opposing new EU Hedge Fund Rules Set for Vote in EU Parliament

A European Parliament committee may approve a proposal tonight to force hedge funds outside the EU to agree to transparency standards in exchange for a so-called passport to market to investors in the 27-nation bloc.

EU finance ministers are scheduled to vote tomorrow in Brussels on a version of the rules that would require funds to register separately in each country. Both proposals have been opposed by the United States and the United Kingdom. Spain, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said last week it would push ahead with the legislation without U.K. support. Spain, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said last week it would push ahead with the legislation without U.K. support.

Hedge funds and private equity firms are under the scrutiny of lawmakers worldwide, who say they are partly to blame for the financial crisis. Then U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned in March that the EU rules may threaten the UK’s pre- eminence in the financial services industry.
“France and Germany have decided to use majority voting in the council to outvote the U.K.,” said Simon Gleeson, a regulatory lawyer at Clifford Chance LLP in London. “You generally don’t outvote member states on areas they have a particular interest in. If the finance ministers do decide to go ahead with it, then there’s not a thing the U.K. can do.”
Note EU-Digest: Its high time something gets done to shed some light on the practices of these financial con-artists. Regardless of the US and British arguments against the proposed EU rules, there is no need whatsoever to protect the Hedge Funds from public scrutiny. What is also alarming is that during the past months the Anglo Saxon financial community, their Media Network and the "Wall Street Casino Operators" have systematically undermined the integrity of the EMU and the its common currency the euro.

For more: Hedge Fund Rules Opposed by U.S, U.K. Are Set for Votes in EU - BusinessWeek

5/16/10

US Economy - Abandoning Treasurys for safer bets overseas

"US treasury bonds are not as safe a bet as the once were," said Michael Hasenstab, who manages the Templeton Global Bond Fund /quotes/comstock/10r!tpinx (TPINX 13.39, -0.08, -0.59%) . Countries that didn't have the massive amounts of leverage and indebtedness before the recession "are coming out of this a lot quicker and without the overhang and inhibitors the U.S. is experiencing."

Hasenstab and other bond investors have begun to question whether the U.S. Treasury bond market can still be called the safest investment in the world, as attention to Washington's growing deficit spending has come into sharper focus with the debt problems that are engulfing Greece, Portugal and Spain.

From Australia to Brazil, an emerging crop of nations that are in comparatively better fiscal shape are increasingly seen as a surer return on the investment.US


For more: Abandoning Treasurys for safer bets overseas - MarketWatch

Charlemagne: Financial fortress Europe

The rules of the euro zone—supposedly based on a Germanic vision of budgetary discipline and an independent European Central Bank (ECB)—are clearly in flux. The ECB started buying government bonds on the financial markets on May 10th: precisely the step urged on it by EU politicians and big banks. Allies of the ECB’s boss, Jean-Claude Trichet, insist he was reacting to market pressures, not assaults on his independence. But the episode caused angst in Germany, and beyond.
EU leaders agreed to a €60 billion facility controlled by the European Commission, funded by borrowing against the EU’s central budget, and so ultimately guaranteed by all 27 members of the EU. The legal basis was a bit of the Lisbon treaty that empowers the commission to send emergency money to countries hit by natural disasters or other “exceptional” crises. But leaders resisted a second, much more ambitious move by the commission: to use the same treaty clause to create a stabilisation fund of unlimited size that it would also control, this time borrowing against loan guarantees from national governments.
Instead, at the insistence of Germany and allies like the Netherlands and Finland, the largest part of the euro-zone defence system, a war chest of up to €440 billion, will be run as a “special purpose vehicle” controlled by national governments. It will not be controlled by the commission, and will issue money only under tough conditions set by the IMF.
For more: Charlemagne: Financial fortress Europe | The Economist

Clegg's in my 'inner circle' now, says Cameron, as he calls coalition a 'progressive alliance'

David Cameron proclaimed himself to be a 'Liberal Conservative' at the helm of a 'progressive alliance' today as he defended his coalition with the Lib Dems.

The Prime Minister borrowed the description Labour had touted as they tried to secure a deal with Nick Clegg's party before it collapsed, forcing him to side with the Tories.

He also insisted that the arrangement was not simply a marriage of convenience between the Conservatives and Lib Dems.