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10/31/10

Dilma Rousseff Elected Brazil's President

A former Marxist guerrilla who was tortured and imprisoned during Brazil's long dictatorship was elected Sunday as the first female president of Latin America's biggest nation, a country in the midst of a rapid economic and political rise.

A statement from the Supreme Electoral Court, which oversees elections, said governing party candidate Dilma Rousseff won the election.

With nearly all ballots counted, Rousseff had 56 percent of the vote compared to just under 44 percent for her centrist rival, Jose Serra, the electoral court said. In a 25-minute victory speech to jubilant supporters in Brasilia, Rousseff said that her first promise was to "honor the women" of Brazil and that she hoped her win would allow "fathers and mothers to look their daughters in the eyes and say, 'Yes, a woman can.'"

Note EU-Digest: Among the 195 nations recognized by the UN, and following the election of  Dilma Rousseff in Brazil (but not counting royalty), there are only 25 elected female heads-of -state amongst the leaders of the world. That is a poor average, but a step in the right direction.

For more: Dilma Rousseff Elected Brazil's President

US November elections: T- Party Climate Change Denial - by Matthew O. Berger

In the run-up to the U.S. elections set to take place Nov. 2, the amount of money being spent and eccentricities on display have reached record levels. This has been particularly obvious in debates over energy and climate change.

The U.S. will vote on candidates for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives as well as on numerous state governorships and other issues next week. With a new court decision allowing unrestricted – and unprecedented – spending by corporations and unions in this year's election, one emerging trend has been the huge amounts of money flowing from corporate interests – both domestic and foreign – to candidates who deny climate change or oppose legislation to combat it.

The stakes are high. The U.S. failed to pass to pass legislation to limit its industrial greenhouse gas emissions prior to the climate conference in Copenhagen last December and most expect strong legislative action to be months or years away.

For more: Climate Change Denial Pervades U.S. Elections - IPS ipsnews.net

Roger Goodell: NFL could potentially have a division of Europe-based teams

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league could potentially create a division of Europe-based teams if efforts to bring the game to the international community are successful.

Goodell, who spoke in London ahead of the game there Sunday between the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers, said no such move is imminent. The league first wants to expand the number of neutral-site games in Europe, possibly as early as next season.

For more: Roger Goodell: NFL could potentially have a division of Europe-based teams - The Huddle: Football News from the NFL - USATODAY.com

10/30/10

Britain: John Lennon to appear on new £5 coin

John Lennon is set to appear on a new commemorative £5 coin. The late Beatle won the Royal Mint's public vote to be immortalised on a limited edition coin, as part of their 'Great Briton' series.

Winning with 92% of the vote, Lennon beat the likes of Jane Austin, John Logie Baird and Walter Raleigh

For more: John Lennon to appear on new £5 coin | News | NME.COM

US Presidncy: Life after the White House: What’s on the former president’s iPad?

Doing the dishes, making coffee for his wife, and reading the Wall Street Journal on his iPad. That's what day-to-day life is like these days for former President George W. Bush, according to his wife, Laura.

In an exclusive interview with Deborah Roberts for Yahoo! News and ABC News at the Women's Conference 2010, former first lady Laura Bush talked about life post-White House and her husband's upcoming book, "Decision Points."

For more: Life after the White House: What’s on the president’s iPad? | The Upshot Yahoo! News

EU gears up to deploy 175 officials to help Greece with immigrants

The European Union's border agency, Frontex, will deploy 175 officials to Greece by the end of November in a bid to stem the growing tide of illegal immigrants crossing the Turkish- Greek border, local media reported Saturday.
Frontex had agreed to send a rapid intervention team earlier this week, after Greece turned to the EU agency for help because of the increasing number of refugees - mainly from Africa and Afghanistan - who are attempting to cross the border to find their way into the EU.

Personnel and equipment from Germany, Romania, Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia and Denmark will be deployed along the border to Turkey, according to the Warsaw-based Frontex.

For more: EU gears up to deploy 175 officials to help Greece with immigrants - Monsters and Critics

Spain’s jobless rate drops for first time in three years

Spain’s unemployment rate fell below 20 percent in the third quarter, its first decline in three years as the service sector created jobs, the national statistics institute said Friday.

The jobless rate dipped to 19.79 percent in the July-September period, down from 20.09 percent in the previous three months, still the highest level in the 16-nation eurozone, it said in a statement.

Spain’s unemployment rate had risen steadily since it dipped to 7.95 percent in the second quarter of 2007, which was its lowest level since the country returned to democracy following the death of dictator Franscisco Franco in 1975. The increase was driven by the collapse of a labour intensive property boom. The high unemployment rate has added to the government’s social welfare bill as dole payments have soared at a time when it is seeking to slash a yawning public deficit that has rattled investors.

For more: Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - Spain’s jobless rate drops for first time in three years

Angela Merkel forces Europe to protect euro from future collapse - by Ian Traynor

The leaders of 26 European countries bowed resentfully today to German determination to rewrite the EU's Lisbon Treaty to shore up the euro. Angela Merkel declared she was happy after a summit meeting of EU leaders in Brussels agreed to establish a stiff new regime aimed at immunising the euro against the threats that brought the currency to the brink of collapse this year.

Under the new system, to be in place by 2013, the Germans insist that highly indebted eurozone countries struggling to repay will be forced to restructure their debt in a process of "managed insolvency" and that their creditors will need to take large "haircuts".

The German chancellor said this was a quantum leap in the way the euro was run. "The inclusion of private institutions is very important to me," Merkel said. "We won't allow only the taxpayers to bear all the costs of a future crisis."

For more: Angela Merkel forces Europe to protect euro from future collapse | Business | The Guardian

US November elections: Thousands descend on D.C. for Colbert-Stewart rally

Hundreds of thousands of people gathered at the National Mall in Washington D.C. under sunny skies Saturday for a rally jointly organized by political comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
Colbert's "March to Keep Fear Alive" and Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity" duelled it out, or joined forces, depending on how you look at it.

After R&B group The Roots and singer John Legend, and the duo from Mythbusters, warmed up the crowd, Stewart and Colbert came out to push their messages of fear and sanity. After Colbert emerged from his "Fear Bunker" in a narrow capsule like a rescued Chilean miner (Colbert briefly ran around the stage waving the Chilean flag, chanting "Chi-chi-chi, le-le-le"), the two brought out guests to get their messages across.


But according to reports, left-leaning groups were to be out in force at the D.C. rallies to recruit new members, and many hope the events will result in new energy for the struggling Democrats ahead of the midterm elections on Nov. 2. n The liberal Huffington Post said it was sending a caravan of 10,000 people in 200 buses to the rally. Oprah Winfrey announced she would cover the travel expenses for one "Daily Show" studio audience -- about 200 people. Satellite rallies were also planned in cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver and Honolulu.

For more: CTV Calgary- Thousands descend on D.C. for Colbert-Stewart rally - CTV News

U.S. Pushing for More European Union Sanctions Against Iran - by Vivienne Walt

Even with the toughest-ever E.U. sanctions now in force, Europe maintains an economic relationship with Iran. Unlike U.S. companies, European firms are free to buy Iranian crude oil and natural gas and to sell refined petroleum products to Iran. And the E.U. this week urged financial institutions to lend their support to that legitimate trade. Europe imports about 1.2 million bbl. of Iranian crude a day — double the amount it imported in 2008, according to the International Energy Agency in Paris. In addition, some E.U. partnerships with Iran could be exempted from the sanctions by E.U. officials if they consider them crucial to Europe's energy needs. One example could be the Iranian gas from the Caspian Sea, which will feed into the huge new Nabucco pipeline across Europe, a project aimed at reducing the continent's dependence on Russian gas.

For more: U.S. Pushing for More European Union Sanctions Against Iran - TIME

10/29/10

Terrorism; Obama Says Explosives Were U.S. Bound

Two packages containing explosive devices originating in Yemen and bound for two places of Jewish worship in Chicago set off a global terror alert on Friday. One package was found at a FedEx facility in Dubai, and another was found early Friday morning at an airport in Britain, sparking a day of dramatic precautionary activity in the United States.

Speaking at the White House Friday afternoon, President Obama called the packages a “credible terrorist threat against our country,” and confirmed that they “did apparently contain” explosives. Earlier reports had said that the device found in Britain did not.

The wide-scale alert spread to the United States on Friday morning, when officials isolated two cargo planes at airports in Newark and Philadelphia and searched them for packages originating in Yemen, and New York police searched a delivery truck in Brooklyn. None of the shipments reaching the United States from Yemen were found to contain explosives.

Two Air Force F-15 warplanes escorted a civilian passenger plane from the United Arab Emirates into Kennedy Airport in New York. Cable news networks trained cameras on the skies over New York as the passenger jet, Emirates Flight 201, arrived and landed safely. An American military spokesman said that two Canadian CF-18 combat aircraft were diverted from a training mission to trail the flight across Canadian air space, and when it passed into American air space, two Air Force F-15 warplanes took over escort duties.

For more: Obama Says Explosives Were U.S. Bound - NYTimes.com

Turkey accuses Dutch PM of discrimination

In an interview with the newspaper De Volkskrant, Turkish minister Faruk Çelik criticises Prime Minister Rutte for remarks he made during the parliamentary debate on the government policy statement earlier this week. During the debate, the conservative liberal leader said he was not concerned by the Dutch-Swedish    <Mark Rutte>

nationality of Deputy Health Minister Marlies Veldhuijzen van Santen-Hyllner but did have a problem with the Turkish-Dutch and Moroccan-Dutch nationalities of two deputy ministers in the previous government.

The prime minister argued they are different cases. He claimed Turkey and Morocco "influence their citizens", which could lead to conflicting loyalties, whereas Sweden, a member of the European Union, does not.
The controversy has erupted due to objections to the deputy minister's dual nationality by PVV leader Geert Wilders.

Three years ago, the anti-Islam MP called for a no-confidence motion against two Labour deputies holding a Moroccan and a Turkish passport as well as a Dutch one. On that occasion, though the VVD parliamentary party did not back the no-confidence vote, Mr Rutte, then an MP, supported Mr Wilders' concerns. The current minority coalition, comprising the liberal VVD and the Christian Democrats, has a parliamentary majority thanks to a support agreement with the PVV.

For more: Turkey accuses Dutch PM of discrimination | Radio Netherlands Worldwide

EU Backs German Call for Debt Mechanism, Spars on Restructuring - by James G. Neuger and Jonathan Stearns

European Union leaders endorsed German calls for a rewrite of EU treaties to create a permanent debt-crisis mechanism, while sparring over whether to force bondholders to help pay the bill for rescuing financially distressed states.

As the biggest contributor to this year’s hastily arranged 860 billion euros ($1.2 trillion) in loans and pledges to stem the debt crisis, Germany won backing to set up a permanent system by 2013. Deficit-strapped Spain warned that provisions to reschedule or cancel some debts would expose its markets to renewed selling pressure.

“We won’t allow only the taxpayers to bear all the costs of a future crisis,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a press conference in Brussels today after a summit of EU leaders. There is “a justified desire to see that it’s not just taxpayers who are on the hook, but also private investors.”

EU Backs German Call for Debt Mechanism, Spars on Restructuring - BusinessWeek

OIL Industry: BP and Halliburton knew of Gulf oil well cement flaws

BP and Halliburton were aware of flaws in the cement used to seal the doomed well in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the lead investigator for the presidential commission on the oil spill.

In a letter to the commission, the investigator, Fred Bartlit, said the cement mixture used on the well did not meet industry standards, and failed three out of four laboratory tests before the Deepwater Horizon explosion on 20 April.

Halliburton, which was hired by BP to cement the well, learned of those failures in February, and informed BP on 8 March. But both firms chose to go ahead with the nitrogen foam cement mixture, which was supposed to secure the bottom of the well.

For More: BP and Halliburton knew of Gulf oil well cement flaws | Environment | guardian.co.uk

10/28/10

A new economics for the EU - by Adrian Pabst

Instead of focusing on austerity, what the EU needs is an investment strategy that fosters growth and employment. First, EU leaders should modify the composition of the €140bn union budget, away from wasteful expenditure towards productive activities. The common agriculture policy – accounting for over 40% of total resources – should not subsidise agricultural prices, which fuels excess production and hurts developing countries. Rather, it should support investment in smallholding farms and farming cooperatives.

Other examples include the channelling of regional and structural funds as well as education and R&D expenditure into projects with revenue streams in excess of funding costs.Second, the 27 member-states could expand the remit and funds of the European Investment Bank by underwriting increased lending. This could be used for infrastructure and other investment projects that yield a higher monetary return than the borrowing costs.

For more: A new economics for the EU | Adrian Pabst | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

It's worth the fight against oil interests - by Thomas L.Friedman

Two Texas oil companies with two refineries each in California are financing a campaign to roll back California's landmark laws to slow global warming and promote clean-energy innovation, because it would require the refiners to install new emission-control tools.

At a time when President Barack Obama and Congress have failed to pass a clean-energy bill, California's laws are the best thing we have going to stimulate clean-tech in America. We don't want them gutted. C'mon in. This is a fight worth having.


"If the people of California see through the misrepresentations of the oil industry, it throws climate denialism off the tracks and opens the door for a return to a science-based approach to the climate. It would be a triumph for the National Academy of Sciences over the National Academy of Fraud."

For more: Thomas L. Friedman: It's worth the fight against oil interests - Sacramento Opinion - Sacramento Editorial | Sacramento Bee

US November elections: Scandalous: Campaign spending for midterm election may reach $4 billion

Spending in this year’s US midterm election will “obliterate” prior records, approaching $4 billion, according to a new analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

The group, which has tracked money and politics at the federal level for 27 years, said Wednesday that total spending — by parties, candidates and independent groups — will be about $1 billion more than the previous record, which was set during the 2006 midterm. The 2008 presidential election, which cost $5.3 billion, likely will remain the most expensive in history. But Sheila Krumholz, who heads the center, said the estimated cost of this year’s election was “astounding,” given that presidential campaigns add considerably to spending totals.

By Wednesday, House and Senate candidates had raised a combined $1.7 billion — and spent $1.4 billion — while fundraising by parties and spending by outside groups brought the total amount raised to $3.2 billion.

For more: Study: Campaign spending for midterm election may reach $4 billion » National News » The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Italy: Automotive Industry-Driverless vehicle travels 13 000 km from Italy to Shanghai

A driverless van funded by the EU has successfully completed a 13,000 km test drive from Italy to China.
The non-polluting vehicle, powered by green energy, reached Shanghai after a three-month journey.

The experiment, led by Prof. Alberto Broggi of Parma University, is part of a pioneering research project on autonomous driving, made possible mainly thanks to significant funding by the European Research Council (ERC).

For more: timesofmalta.com - Driverless vehicle travels 13 000 km from Italy to Shanghai

10/27/10

Netherlands: Remove queen from government, says Wilders

Queen Beatrix should no longer be officially part of the government, PVV leader Geert Wilders said during the debate on the new government on Tuesday.

Wilders, whose party has agreed to back the minority government in a number of policy areas, says he will introduce draft legislation in an effort to get the queen officially removed as head of state.

According to the Dutch constitution, the monarch is officially head of the government, but in practice, it is the prime minister (minister-president in Dutch) who leads. ‘We support the royal family. We are not republicans. But having the queen in the government is a bridge too far,’ Wilders said.

Note EU-Digest: Does this mean Wilders for President ??

For more: DutchNews.nl - Remove queen from government, says Wilders

The Netherlands; Geert Wilders Exposed By BBC Hard Talk As "Simplistic Populist Fascist"

In a recent BBC Hard Talk interview Geert Wilder's fascist ideology & arguments were torn to bits by  BBC Hard Talk Anchor Stephen Sackur, who forced Wilders to sidetrack answers to 'real' questions.

In this interview Wilders ends up engaging in rhetorical polemic & Stephen Sackur finds it hard to control himself from smirking off at Wilders' shocking views.

One observer who watched the BBC Hard Talk show with Wilders commented: "Hitler also had a funny hair style and always used fake statistics... xenophobic lies...racial and religious baiting... to protect the "Aryan Culture".  Wilders just substitutes "Islam" for "Jewish" as the enemy to scapegoat, all in the name of protecting the FATHERLAND ( Netherlands) ."

"Wilders might not be wearing a swastika but that doesn't mean he's not a fascist. Unfortunately like Hitler his simplistic hate filled rhetoric has found a great deal of admiration with a large segment of the Dutch voters who are willing to believe in Fairy Tails. The question is,  how long will this charade go on before even those "misinformed" Wilders supporters wake up to reality? "

Click here for part 1 of the BBC Hard Talk interview , here for part 2and here for part 3  

 EU-Digest

Euro group head hits at Franco-German deal safeguarding the euro

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said not much is possible in Europe without Franco-German agreement. She was defending a deal struck between Paris and Berlin on European budgetary rules, which has been criticized by the head of the euro group of countries.

'It is true that a Franco-German agreement is not everything in Europe. But without a Franco-German agreement, not much is possible,' Merkel said in a speech to the German parliament ahead of a crunch EU summit on Thursday.

She also reiterated her demand that the EU treaties should be changed to incorporate the proposed alterations. 'We need a new, robust framework. It must be legally watertight and this will happen only with a change of the treaties,' Merkel said. At a meeting in the French town of Deauville last Monday, Merkel and French president Nicolas Sarkozy agreed to toughen penalties for countries which breach EU budget rules, allowing for their voting rights to be temporarily removed in extreme cases.

Note EU-Digest: Regardless of the opposition to the ideas of France and Germany in safeguarding the EURO , this is basically the only solution to avoid repeats of the disastrous economic developments experienced with Greece and other financially shaky EU member states. Those countries which are not in agreement to participate in developing common economic safeguards to protect the viability of the common currency, should either get out of the EU or change course.

For more: Euro group head hits at Franco-German deal - RTÉ News

Germany: Audi A2 electric car sets a journey record with one charge

An Audi A2 electric car reached Berlin on Tuesday after running about 600 km from Munich with one charge, setting a new journey record for electric car.

German Economic Minister Rainer Bruederle welcomed this car at the courtyard of the Economy Ministry, praising it a "world record." Bruederle said the car is a "technological leap forward," as electric cars are usually to be recharged after running 60 or 70 km.

The electric vehicle was developed by electric car firm Lekker Energie and energy storage company DBM Energy on a basis of Audi A2.
The driver drove the car at a recommended speed of 130 km per hour and the car shared many characters with a normal car, like power steering, airbags, air-conditioning and heated seats, said by the company representative. The car has super light lithium metal-polymer batteries, which are not just lighter than conventional solutions but are more energy efficient and powerful than ordinary batteries.

In May, the German government launched its National Electric Mobility Platform (NEMP) to support the development of electric car, aiming to realize one million electric cars on German road by 2020.

For more: Audi A2 electric car sets a journey record with one charge - People's Daily Online

Aircraft Industry: Airbus Military looks to India for A400M Grizzly airlifter

European aerospace major EADS is on the verge of bringing into markets its new A400M Grizzly to compete in Indian military proposals for inducting giant airlifters to boost its strategic reach.

Didier Vernet, Head of A400M Market Development, Airbus Military, said the European consortium is looking to increase sales of the multi-national four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft outside Europe, particularly to "the lucrative Indian defense market".

He said Airbus Military is looking beyond the continent for new business as it inches ahead to ink a final agreement among the launch nations -- France, Germany, Spain, the UK, Turkey, Belgium, and Luxembourg. Currently 180 aircraft are ordered by the seven launch nations, with an additional four from Malaysia.

For more: Airbus Military looks to India for A400M Grizzly airlifter

10/26/10

France slams Commissioner's 'unacceptable' criticisms

France accused European Commission Vice President Viviane Reding on Tuesday of hounding it with "unacceptable" criticisms of French and German proposals to toughen EU budget rules.
France's minister for Europe Pierre Lellouche reacted angrily to comments by Reding who called the plans "irresponsible" in a newspaper interview.

Reding told the German daily Die Welt in Wednesday's edition: "It seems completely irresponsible to put illusions about new treaties on the table." Lellouche said: "The terms this European Commissioner uses to denigrate the France-German proposals are unacceptable and of the same tenor as the insulting language, which I will not forget, used against France during the controversy that she herself fuelled over the Roma."

Note EU-Digest: Criticism and freedom of speech in a Democratic society is healthy Mr. Sarkozy. It should also be noted that Mrs Viviane Redding is not a puppet of France but Vice president of the European Commission and in this capacity represents 27 countries.


For more: France slams Commissioner's 'unacceptable' criticisms — EU business news - EUbusiness.com

Germany warns of China grip on rare earths market

Germany is calling for better international regulation of the market for rare earths, exotic metals mostly produced by China, stressing that they are essential for the success of key industries.

Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle warned Tuesday at a conference organized by the Federation of German Industry, or BDI, that the market for the metals had become "critical," after China imposed export restrictions on the metals. Rare earths are 17 different minerals necessary in the production of high-tech devices including cell phones, missiles and solar energy panels.

The German warnings are the latest in a growing tussle between China — which produces 97 percent of the world's rare earths supply — and the world's leading economies. Over the past 10 months, China has decreased exports of rare earths by 40 percent.

For more: Germany warns of China grip on rare earths market | Deseret News

Germany Insists on Changes to Euro Treaty as EU Leaders Prepare to Meet - by Tony Czuczka

Germany stuck to its call for rewriting European Union treaties to increase penalties for euro-area deficit violators, saying investors must foot part of the bill for any future debt crisis.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking assent by all 27 EU governments and will take her case to this week’s summit of EU leaders in Brussels, said a German government official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity because the negotiations will take place behind closed doors. The aim is to put investors in sovereign bonds, not taxpayers, first in line to accept a loss if a euro-area government defaults or restructures its debt, the official said in Berlin. The amendment may require just two lines, the official said, declining to elaborate on what the language might look like.


Treaty changes are “of enormous importance” to safeguard the euro and avoid an extension of the European Financial Stability Facility, the 750 billion-euro ($1 trillion) financial backstop set up in May, when it expires in 2013, Merkel said Oct. 20. As the EU seeks to gird against a repeat of this year’s debt crisis, Germany also wants overhauled euro rules to threaten persistent deficit violators with a suspension of their EU voting rights, the official said.

For more: Germany Insists on Changes to Euro Treaty as EU Leaders Prepare to Meet - Bloomberg

Frenchman named head of EU's new diplomatic corps

The European Union handed the management of its vast new global diplomatic corps to a Frenchman on Monday as foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton named France's US ambassador her deputy.

Pierre Vimont, who was appointed to the Washington post by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in August 2007, takes the plum day-to-day management job of secretary-general of the European External Action Service.

The EEAS was a key innovation under the EU's Lisbon Treaty, which came into force less than a year ago, aiming to give the bloc's half a billion population a higher profile on the world stage.

For more: France24 - Frenchman named head of EU's new diplomatic corps

Greece most corrupt country in the EU, watchdog says - by Valentina Pop

Greece is perceived as EU's most corrupt state, falling behind usual suspects Bulgaria and Romania and scoring the same as China, an annual corruption index published by Transparency International shows. The index is composed of 13 different expert and business surveys conducted between January 2009 and September 2010.


Almost a year after Prime Minister George Papandreou had declared war on corruption and maladministration, the country's has slipped even further down the ranking in Transparency International's annual Corruption Perception Index.


The EU's newest member states Romania and Bulgaria, who last year shared the same position with Greece, have now distanced themselves to places 69 and 73, respectively.

For more: EUobserver / Greece most corrupt country in the EU, watchdog says

US November elections: The latest updates and polls in the final days -

The midterm elections of 2010 are now only nine days away. The campaigns are literally in their final and most important lap. Momentum has become a key buzz word once more, as both Republicans and Democrats claim they are gaining on the other. The get-out-the-vote efforts are also kicking into high gear now, as the parties mobilize their machines to contact every possible voter for their side. Here are the latest updates on the overall election picture in these last two weeks.

The election has already begun in many states where early voting is taking place. Early voting allows voters to go to a designated polling place before election day without any additional paperwork or forms, such as would be needed with an absentee ballot. In 2008 nearly 30% of the votes were cast early. The results of early voting in 2010 have thus far been encouraging for Democrats. Contrary to the narrative of a Republican tidal wave of voters, Republicans are generally performing just barely above expectations, while Democrats continue to come to the polls in large numbers. Democratic turnout has been strong in many urban areas, and Democrats have far out-voted Republicans in the states of West Virginia, Iowa, and North Carolina.

Midterms 2010: The latest updates and polls in the final days - National Political Buzz | Examiner.com

The Netherlands: Supreme Court President: "Wilders Damages Authority of Law"

The President of the Supreme Court, Geert Corstens, considers that Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders is undermining jurisprudence in the Netherlands.

Critical statements on jurisprudence such as Wilders has made during the proceedings against him have an "undermining" effect on jurisprudence, particularly as the leader of the PVV is also still a parliamentarian, according to Corstens. MPs should contribute to the stability of the constitutional state, said the president on television programme Buitenhof.

For more: Dutch news - Supreme Court President: "Wilders Damages Authority of Law"

The Netherlands: As Wilders continues his "hi-profile mumbo-jumbo" : pro-Israel message causing wide-spread concern, even among Jews

Geert Wilders, the rock star of European politics, is riding the crest of a populist tsunami. As the pro-Israel founder of Holland’s Party of Freedom lets loose recently in Berlin, shouting that Islam is a threat to Germany’s identity, democracy and prosperity, his audience of 500 reacts with an evangelical zeal, offering big-time applause and standing ovations.

“Stand by the side of those who are threatened by Islam, like the State of Israel and its Jewish citizens,” he exhorts the crowd. This isn't a Jewish event, but part of Wilders presentation, and Eli Cohen, who is making this statement is a former Israeli Knesset member of the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu Party.

Populist doomsayers like Wilders predict a Muslim take-over of Europe, but experts says a gradual demographic shift is more likely. A 2005 study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showed that about 5 percent of the EU population is Muslim, with the percentage growing because of higher birthrates among migrants and low birthrates among “native Europeans.”

Reports show that most “foreigners” contribute to society, and only a tiny minority of Muslims in Europe is thought to identify with banned extremist movements, like the German al-Qaida cell that spawned the 9-11 terrorists. Yet some "native Europeans" persist in labeling, observers say. "Youth of Turkish origin who were born here and have studied here feel they are being typecast," said Cicek Bacik, a board member of the Turkish Association of Berlin-Brandenburg. "They sometimes have the feeling that they will always be considered foreign, that they will never be at home.”

For more: Not wild about Wilders? Populists’ anti-Islam message has European Jewish leaders worried | JTA - Jewish & Israel News

10/25/10

The Netherlands: Labour party demands apology from new Dutch PM

In what looks like a coordinated press offensive, Dutch Labour leader Job Cohen has accused Prime Minister Mark Rutte of being inconsistent about government ministers with dual nationality. Labour has been in opposition since the swearing in of a new right-wing cabinet earlier this month.

Mr Cohen is demanding an apology for a remark made by the current Prime Minister in 2007, when he was a member of the opposition. At the time, free-market liberal Mark Rutte said that Labour Deputy Minister Nebahat Albayrak, who is of Turkish descent, should give up her Turkish passport in favour of her Dutch one. But three years on, Mr Rutte himself appointed a deputy Health minister with dual Dutch and Swedish nationality, saying he "saw no problem" in doing so.

Labour leader Cohen told national dailies de Volkskrant and AD today, Monday that as early as 2007, Mr Rutte appeared to have been in thrall to Geert Wilders' Freedom Party. The Freedom party got 15 percent of the votes in the general election on 9 June 2010 on a nationalist, anti-Islam platform. Mr Wilders' 24 MPs currently hold a key position, voting with Mr Rutte's minority right-wing government without being part of it.

Labour party demands apology from Dutch PM | Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Will the U.S. Lose Europe to Russia? - by JOHN VINOCUR

The United States used to call wayward members of NATO back to the reservation with a whistle or a shout. It decided what was deviation from doctrine, and that decision was pretty much law.

When the Obama administration stamped its foot this time, no one snapped to attention.

Rather, Germany and France, meeting with Russia in Deauville, northern France, last week, signaled that they planned to make such three-cornered get-togethers on international foreign policy and security matters routine, and even extend them to inviting other “partners” — pointing, according to diplomats from two countries, to Turkey becoming a future participant.

For more: Will the U.S. Lose Europe to Russia? - NYTimes.com

10/24/10

The US and Religion: 5 Kinds of Christians |

"A growing element of the Christian population is disappointed with or frustrated by the local church," says D. Michael Lindsay, assistant professor of sociology at Rice University and former consultant with the Gallup Institute. In part, this trend can be attributed to factors within local church bodies themselves, such as lack of strong leadership or teaching.

Given that 60 percent of all Christians worship in churches with fewer than 300 people, most Christians are in congregations that continually struggle with resource issues. Previous generations were accustomed to that, and today's worshipers have higher expectations.

"These days, people can get good teaching, wonderful music, and excellent writing, whether through iPods, TV, or online," says Wilkerson. "They learn to shop around and pick and choose. Then they expect the same high quality in their local church. A generation ago, the average person learned to accept his home pastor and was faithful to his local church. But now, people's appetites for excellence have been heightened."

Spiritual growth, then, may be occurring for many of today's Christians in non-traditional ways. Instead of attending church on Sunday mornings, many opt for personal, individual ways to stretch themselves spiritually.
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For more: 5 Kinds of Christians | LeadershipJournal.net

Slovenia elects its 1st black mayor

Slovenia elected its first black mayor on Sunday, an immigrant from Africa known as the "Obama of Piran," the town where he lives. In fact, Peter Bossman, a Ghana-born physician, could be the first black mayor elected anywhere in his region of Europe.

Bossman, who settled in this tiny Alpine nation in the 1970s to study medicine in what was then known as Yugoslavia, won a runoff election in the coastal town of Piran with 51.4 percent of votes, defeating Dr. Tomaz Gantar, the outgoing mayor. The 54-year-old Bossman is a member of Slovenia's governing Social Democrats. He runs a private practice and was previously a member of the Piran City Council.

Vlado Miheljak, a local political analyst, said the vote in Piran was a test about whether Slovenia was "mature enough to elect a nonwhite political representative."

For more: Slovenia elects its 1st black mayor - World - TheState.com

France; Sarkozy gambles on China in G20 forex drive - by Paul Taylor

Sarkozy has put reforming the international monetary system at the top of his agenda at a time when all the world's major economies are tempted to let their currencies depreciate in an attempt to rekindle export-led economic growth. The United States accuses China of keeping its currency, the yuan, artificially low, hurting U.S. jobs and competitiveness.

If Sarkozy can persuade Beijing to engage in foreign exchange policy coordination in a G20 setting, he would pocket a political success that could boost his expected 2012 re-election bid and upstage his most dangerous potential challenger, IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Some G20 diplomats say the fact that the president went public with the idea suggests he already has an indication of Chinese acceptance, which might be announced when President Hu Jintao visits Paris in November.

 
For more: Analysis: Sarkozy gambles on China in G20 forex drive | Reuters

US November elections: Republicans are measuring drapes rather than connecting with the people

As the time before Election Day ticks down, U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn is increasingly a lone wolf.
The Columbia Democrat's stubborn prediction that his party will maintain control of the U.S. House of Representatives contradicts projections by most respected political analysts, all of whom say Republicans will regain the majority they lost four years ago with 219 to 228 of the chamber's 435 seats.

Clyburn, though, backed away from his Sept. 30 prediction that Democrats will lose only 21 seats in the Nov. 2 elections, emerging with a reduced 234-201 majority.

Clyburn: Majority won't go to GOP - Local - TheSunNews.com

Like France, will US soon move to boost retirement age? - by Mark Trumbull

The issue that's provoking angry protests in France – proposals to raise the official retirement age – could come to the United States, too, and sooner than many Americans may expect.

In France, the furor involves government plans to boost the minimum age for retirement benefits from 60 to 62, and the age for full benefits from 65 to 67.

The move would essentially put France in sync with America's current eligibility rules for Social Security. And it has been met with a storm of protest. By some estimates, 3 million French citizens have participated in sometimes-violent demonstrations and strikes over a measure the parliament could approve this week.

For more: Like France, will US soon move to boost retirement age? - CSMonitor.com

The Netherlands: Dutch Culture Wars

Geert Wilders, the Netherlands’ notorious right-wing extremist who is currently standing trial in an Amsterdam court accused of inciting racial hatred, is also is the subject of a best-selling new book by the Dutch academic Meindert Fennema, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”

As Fennema puts it, the Netherlands will very soon have two foreign ministers: an official one, sitting in the cabinet and following the establishment line of Euro-Atlantic moderation; and an unofficial one, Wilders, who says that there can be no moderate Islam and that any belief to the contrary will likely imperil Western civilization.

But Wilders is not solely a Dutch phenomenon. His words chime with a wider set of concerns that pervade contemporary European politics: the problem of integrating Europe’s large minority of Muslim citizens, the fears of workers who see their wages undercut by inflows of cheap labor, and concern that Western values are giving way to self-loathing and ethical relativism.


In attempting to silence Wilders, first politically and now through the courts, the Dutch liberal elite has evaded the thorny question of how to respond to these concerns. Fennema portrays Wilders as really no more than a republican with a bee in his bonnet about Islam. He thinks liberal leftists are terrified of him because, in the name of multiculturalism, they have repudiated their own sense of national identity.


In Fennema’s analysis, the answer to the Wilders riddle lies in the collapse of the corporatist bargain. The old business establishment no longer holds the reins of a de-industrialized neoliberal economy. Power now lies in services and in finance rather than in old-fashioned manufacturing.

Those now in control of the economy, a younger generation of newly rich entrepreneurs and financiers, no longer respect the social pact of past decades and chafe at the values so cherished by the 1968 New Left As in other countries, from France to the United States, the political legacy of the ’68-ers is under attack.


For more: Dutch Culture Wars - NYTimes.com

10/23/10

Italy-Britain-Germany: Google admits Street View cars collected e-mails, passwords

After analyzing the unencrypted WiFi payload data captured by its Street View cars, Google now admits that the system captured entire e-mails, URLs and even user passwords. The admission came in the form of a blog post by Alan Eustace, senior vice president of engineering and research at Google


For more: Google admits Street View cars collected e-mails, passwords | ZDNet

US November elections: Republican Party reinvents itself as the T-Party

A Gallup Poll indicates shows there is significant overlap between Americans who identify themselves as supporters of the Tea Party movement and those who identify as conservative Republicans. Their similar ideological makeup and views suggest that the Tea Party movement is more a rebranding of core Republicanism than a new or distinct entity on the American political scene. Conservative Republicans outnumber moderate/liberal Republicans in the general population by about a 2-to-1 margin; among Tea Party supporters, the ratio is well more than 3 to 1. More generally, almost 8 out of 10 Tea Party supporters are Republicans, compared with 44% of all national adults.

About 80% of Tea Party supporters say they will vote for the Republican candidate in their district, slightly lower than the projected 95% Republican vote among conservative Republicans. This suggests that the potential impact of the Tea Party on Republican chances of winning in congressional and senatorial races this fall -- even if supporters turn out in record numbers -- may be slightly less than would be expected.

For more: Tea Party Supporters Overlap Republican Base

US November elections: Obama: "Republicans hope voters have 'amnesia'"

President Obama opened his four-day campaign trip last night with a familiar theme: He says he's trying to clean up the economic mess created by Republicans, who hope voters will forget how it happened.
"The basis of their campaign is amnesia," Obama said a rally in Portland for Oregon gubernatorial candidate John Kitzhaber. "They figure you're going to forget, because you're angry about the situation."

For more: Obama: Republicans hope voters have 'amnesia' - The Oval: Tracking the Obama presidency

US November elections: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and shady election money | PRI.ORG

Over the past few weeks, a political spotlight has been on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It began when President Obama made a comment that the organization was being funded by foreign money to produce attack advertisements that benefited Republicans. It turned out, however, that the claim was only half true and lacked evidence. Prominent radio show host Glenn Beck then defended the Chamber, saying that it was almost entirely made up of businesses that employed under 100 people. This, however, turned out to be completely false.

So what, exactly, is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce? And how is it different from the Chamber of Commerce that many people are familiar with in their own small towns?

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a political advocacy and lobbying organization for the American business community, Michael Crowley, senior correspondent and deputy bureau chief for Time Magazine, explained to PRI's Here and Now. The Chambers of Commerce that most people know in small towns are typically apolitical and are best known for sponsoring parades.

Note EU-Digest:  More than 90% of the US Chamber of Commerce collected funding goes to the Republican Party.

For more: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and shady election money | PRI.ORG

G20: Sarkozy to lay out G20, G8 priorities today

President Nicolas Sarkozy is on Saturday to lay out his priorities for when France takes over as head of the G20 group of rich and emerging economies in November and the Group of Eight in January. The president will put his ideas to a summit of French speaking nations to be attended by 40 heads of state or government in the Swiss lakeside town of Montreux on Saturday, a presidential aide told AFP on Friday. The president has three priorities, including reforming the international monetary system in the wake of the global financial crisis and overhauling the global raw materials market to fight against price volatility. His other priority is to improve world governance by reforming the International Monetary Fund and enlarging the United Nations Security Council, notably to include Africa.

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - Sarkozy to lay out G20, G8 priorities today

France; A Pyrrhic Victory in France

Nicolas Sarkozy may well win his pension battle against the unions, but the French president will have little cause to celebrate. After weeks of strikes, fuel blockades, and street protests, the Senate finally passed his austerity bill late last week, another major legislative step toward raising the retirement age from 60 to 62 and the age at which workers can retire on full pension from 65 to 67. He needs to reassure financial markets that heavily indebted France is serious about reform.

For more: A Pyrrhic Victory in France - Newsweek

Automobile Industry, France - The electric vehicle, a global strategym

Renault aims to become the first full-line manufacturer to market zero-emission vehicles accessible to the greatest number, by 2011. Electric cars emit no CO2 in use. The Renault-Nissan Alliance is developing a complete range of 100% electric powertrains with power ratings of between 15kW (20hp) and 100kW (140hp).

For more Renault.com - The electric vehicle, a global strategy

10/22/10

The Netherlands; ‘Dutch Sandwich’ saves Google billions in taxes - by Jesse Drucker

The heart of Google's international operations is a silvery glass office building in central Dublin, a block from the city's Grand Canal. In 2009 the office, which houses roughly 2,000 Google employees, was credited with 88 percent of the search juggernaut's $12.5 billion in sales outside the U.S. Most of the profits, however, went to the tax haven of Bermuda.

Irish law makes it difficult for Google to send the money directly to Bermuda without incurring a large tax hit, so the payment makes a brief detour through the Netherlands, since Ireland doesn't tax certain payments to companies in other European Union states. Once the money is in the Netherlands, Google can take advantage of generous Dutch tax laws. Its subsidiary there, Google Netherlands Holdings, is just a shell (it has no employees) and passes on about 99.8 percent of what it collects to Bermuda. (The subsidiary managed in Bermuda is technically an Irish company, hence the "Double Irish" nickname.)

So far all of these arrangements are legal. In 2006 the IRS approved Google's transfer pricing arrangements, which began in 2003, according to Google's SEC disclosures. Transfer pricing arrangements are popular with technology and pharmaceutical companies in particular because they rely on intellectual property, which is easily transportable across borders. Facebook is preparing a structure similar to Google's that will send earnings from Ireland to the Cayman Islands, according to company filings and a person familiar with the arrangement. Microsoft and Forest Laboratories, maker of the blockbuster antidepressant Lexapro, have used a similar Irish-Bermuda transfer pricing arrangement. Facebook, Forest, and Microsoft declined to comment.

Even if the tax avoidance structures are legal, not everyone considers them ethical. Google is "flying a banner of doing no evil, and then they're perpetrating evil under our noses," says Abraham J. Briloff, a professor emeritus of accounting at Baruch College who has examined Google's tax disclosures. "Who is it that paid for the underlying concept on which they built these billions of dollars of revenues? It was paid for by the United States citizenry," Briloff says, referring to the fact that Google's initial technology was based in part on research done at Stanford University and funded by the National Science Foundation.

Note EU-Digest: these tax evading practices by multi-national corporations are not only unfair but ethically unacceptable. Given that at the same time severe austerity programs have been instituted in Europe and the US following the financial crises, hurting the pocket-books of mainly ordinary citizens around the world. The EU-Parliament and EU-member-state Governments, in particular Ireland and the Netherlands, which have sanctioned these tax evading practices, must either put an end to them or modify these loop-hole "taxes".

For more: ‘Dutch Sandwich’ saves Google billions in taxes - Business - Bloomberg Businessweek - msnbc.com

USA: Insurance Industry; Mental health clinics targeted in Medicare fraud crackdown - by Jay Weaver

Even by Miami-Dade's reputation for Medicare fraud, the indictment was a shocker: American Therapeutic's patients could not feed themselves or control their own bodily waste. Many lacked the mental capacity to respond to counseling; instead they simply stared at walls or watched TV.


Federal prosecutors charged Miami-based American Therapeutic Corp., the nation's largest chain of mental health clinics and four top executives with scheming to fleece $200 million from the taxpayer-funded healthcare program.

``Some of the patients were not even cognizant of where they were or what was going on around them,'' said Lanny A. Breuer, assistant attorney general of Justice's criminal division.

USA: Nov. elections: Multi-National Inc's Aid U.S. Chamber of Commerce (influencing elections) - by Eric Lipton, Mike McIntire, and Don Van Natta

Prudential Financial sent in a $2 million donation last year as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce kicked off a national advertising campaign to weaken the historic rewrite of the nation’s financial regulations.
Dow Chemical delivered $1.7 million to the chamber last year as the group took a leading role in aggressively fighting proposed rules that would impose tighter security requirements on chemical facilities.

And Goldman Sachs, Chevron Texaco, and Aegon, a multinational insurance company based in the Netherlands, donated more than $8 million in recent years to a chamber foundation that has been critical of growing federal regulation and spending. These large donations — none of which were publicly disclosed by the chamber, a tax-exempt group that keeps its donors secret, as it is allowed by law — offer a glimpse of the chamber’s money-raising efforts, which it has ramped up recently in an orchestrated campaign to become one of the most well-financed critics of the Obama administration and an influential player in this fall’s Congressional elections.

The chamber’s increasingly aggressive role — including record spending in the midterm elections that supports Republicans more than 90 percent of the time — has made it a target of critics, including a few local chamber affiliates who fear it has become too partisan and hard-nosed in its fund-raising.
The chamber is spending big in political races from California to New Hampshire, including nearly $1.5 million on television advertisements in New Hampshire attacking Representative Paul W. Hodes, a Democrat running for the United States Senate, accusing him of riding Nancy Pelosi’s “liberal express” down the road to financial ruin.

For more: Top Corporations Aid U.S. Chamber of Commerce Campaign - NYTimes.com

10/21/10

China: Where others fear to tread

For anyone seeking proof of the extent of China’s reach into Africa, this year’s graduation ceremony for executive MBA students at the partly state-run China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai would have been a good place to start. Alongside the predominantly Asian faces delightedly collecting their degrees were 30 Ghanaians and 12 Nigerians—the inaugural cohort on CEIBS’s Africa program.
 
The program, which kicked off in Accra, the capital of Ghana, in early 2009, is one of the first offered by a renowned international school in sub-Saharan Africa. Alongside the executives from both local and international companies were a smattering of governmental types, including a Ghanaian MP and a high court judge. Virtually all had met the program’s $30,000 cost from their own pockets.

Although it currently only offers the part-time executive MBA in Ghana, which is taught mainly by Shanghai-based professors and uses rented premises, China’s largest business school has grand ambitions for Africa. It hopes to open a campus in Accra and to launch a full-time MBA. Pedro Nueno, CEIBS's president and the Africa program’s pioneer, calls Africa “the last big opportunity on the planet” for business schools.



For more: tehran times : Where others fear to tread

Britain: A Lesson From Britain's Massive Cutbacks: Poor Could Be Hurt Most

Britain's poor and powerful clashed Thursday over who will lose out most under austerity measures that will slash benefits, jobs and government services to reduce the country's crippling debts.

Treasury chief George Osborne has announced 81 billion pounds (euro90 billion) in spending cuts through 2015 that will cost as many as half a million public sector jobs and trim welfare payments to families and the disabled.  Government departments will, on average, have their budgets cut by about 19 percent, forcing them to lay off staff and limit the scope of their work. It means Britain will have fewer Police,
PM: David Cameron
pay less to those without jobs and send fewer criminals to prison. Embassies will be shuttered, as will courts and military bases.

Britons will lose billions in benefit payments, retire later, and pay more for day-to-day items like train tickets.

Note EU-Digest: The poor could be hurt: Isn't that always the case when conservative parties try to remedy any economy in trouble ?

For more: A Lesson From Britain's Massive Cutbacks: Poor Could Be Hurt Most

We need new rules for a multipolar Europe - by Ivan Krastev and Mark Leonard

The security summit this week between Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel and Dmitry Medvedev was always likely to be a non-event. France wanted something spectacular, Germany something reasonable, Russia something it could trade. So, the chances of a meeting of minds were slim. But the gathering at Deauville in northern France could turn out to be a non-event with consequences. When historians look back, this may be seen as the moment when leaders faced up to the fact that they are living in a multipolar Europe."
For more:  FT.com / Comment / Opinion

The Netherlands: "Free range eggs" voted most misleading advertised food term

The term 'free range egg' has been voted the most misleading food term of the year by visitors to the website of animal rights group Wakker Dier.

According to the official Dutch definition, free-range eggs are produced by chickens who share a square metre of barn with eight others and never go outside. By contrast, free-range chicken, pork and beef comes from animals which have access to outdoor pens.

The foundation told Dutch Nos tv it believes free range eggs are so much more popular than organic and vrije uitloop (free run) eggs in the Netherlands because people believe the hens can go outdoors.

For more: DutchNews.nl - Free range eggs voted most misleading advertised food term

France: Violent French Protests Don't Tell Whole Truth - by Elizabeth Palmer

The TV pictures of violent French protests against pension reform don't lie exactly - but they do distort the truth.

Most of the workers opposed to the reforms didn't throw rocks, block fuel depots or overturn vehicles. They marched peacefully, chanting the old slogans of the French Left - a movement which, with most of its members well into middle-age, has grown less radical and a lot more comfortable. In fact, the labor organizers of the Paris march on Tuesday were so anxious to avoid a confrontation that they made a deal with the authorities. At the first sign of violence, all the legitimate union members would disperse - leaving the police to arrest the troublemakers.

Of course, there have been pockets of violent protest - but the balaclava-wearing car-burners in the suburb of Nanterre aren't fighting pension reforms. Their anger has several strands: they don't like President Nicholas Sarkozy; they hate his government's center-right wing policies; and they're legitimately frustrated by high unemployment. Some are just bored.

For more: Violent French Protests Don't Tell Whole Truth - World Watch - CBS News

Automotive Industry: Germany - Nicolaus Otto inventor of the first practical four-stroke combustion engine

One of the most important landmarks in engine design comes from Nicolaus Otto who in 1876 invented an effective gas motor engine. Nicolaus Otto built the first practical four-stroke internal combustion engine called the "Otto Cycle Engine," and when he completed his engine, he built it into a motorcycle.
 
Nicolaus Otto was born on June 14, 1832 in Holzhausen, Germany. Otto's first occupation was as a traveling salesman selling tea, coffee, and sugar. He soon developed an interest in the new technologies of the day and began experimenting with building four-stroke engines (inspired by Lenoir's two-stroke gas-driven internal combustion engine). After meeting Eugen Langen, a technician and owner of a sugar factory, Otto quit his job, and in 1864, the duo started the world's first engine manufacturing company N.A. Otto & Cie (now DEUTZ AG, Köln). In 1867, the pair were awarded a Gold Medal at the Paris World Exhibition for their atmospheric gas engine built a year earlier.
 
For more: Nicolaus Otto

Switzerland: Crash Course in "new physics"

CERN’s chief scientific officer, Jos Engelen, is from the Netherlands. He serves under the director general, who is from France, and alongside the chief financial officer, who is from Germany. I went to speak to Engelen in his office; behind his desk a chart indicated when the various parts of the collider are supposed to be completed. It was a crazy quilt of multicolored blocks, with lines radiating in all directions. Engelen greeted me with a half-ironic cheerfulness that struck me as very Dutch. Among his responsibilities is dealing with the frequent calls and letters CERN receives about the possibility that the Large Hadron Collider will destroy the world. When I asked about this, Engelen picked up a Bic pen and placed it in front of me.

“In quantum mechanics, there is a probability that this pen will fall through the table,” he said. “All of a sudden, it will be on the floor. Because it can behave as a wave, it can go through; we call that the ‘tunnel effect.’ If you calculate the probability that this happens, it is not identical to zero. It is a very small probability. But it never happens. I’ve never seen it happen. You have never seen it happen. But to the general public you make a casual remark, ‘It is not identical to zero, it is very small,’ and . . . ” He shrugged.

Worries about the end of the planet have shadowed nearly every high-energy experiment. Such concerns were given a boost by Scientific American—presumably inadvertently—in 1999. That summer, the magazine ran a letter to the editor about Brookhaven’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, then nearing completion. The letter suggested that the Brookhaven collider might produce a “mini black hole” that would be drawn toward the center of the earth, thus “devouring the entire planet within minutes.” Frank Wilczek, a physicist who would later win a Nobel Prize, wrote a response for the magazine. Wilczek dismissed the idea of mini black holes devouring the earth, but went on to raise a new possibility: the collider could produce strangelets, a form of matter that some think might exist at the center of neutron stars. In that case, he observed, “one might be concerned about an ‘ice-9’-type transition,” wherein all surrounding matter could be converted into strangelets and the world as we know it would vanish.

For more: Annals of Science: Crash Course : The New Yorker

USA: November elections: In Ohio, deluge of negative ads is wearing voters down - by Matea Gold

The accusations rain down on Cathy Wyatt throughout the day as she brews espresso drinks at Carpe Diem, a cozy downtown coffee shop inundated by sharp-toned political ads blaring from a television above the counter.

"You just have to tune them out, because if you believed any of them, every single person should be in jail," Wyatt said with a weary chuckle. "There'd be nobody left to vote for."

But ignoring political advertising is a tough feat in Ohio's 16th Congressional District, which has seen one of the year's biggest influxes of third-party campaign spending in House races as Republicans try to wrest the seat from Rep. John Boccieri, a freshman Democrat.

For more: In Ohio, deluge of negative ads is wearing voters down - Los Angeles Times

Request absentee ballots for U.S. citizens


 For more details click on: Request absentee ballots for U.S. citizens | votefromabroad.org

10/20/10

Switzerland's Freysinger: The fight in Europe against fear itself

Europe is running adrift: Not because of fanatics who occupy the land, but because of cowards who let them do it.

For excerpts from a speech by Oskar Freysinger, the leader of the Swiss People’s Party, in which he appeals for a "sort of Enlightenment" for Islam. Twice denied a private venue in Brussels, he eventually gave his talk in the Flemish Parliament, on Oct. 9, click on the link below.

For more: Switzerland's Freysinger: The fight in Europe against fear itself

USA: November elections: U.S. political ads stoke fear of foreigners - by Mateo Gold

Democrats and Republicans pounding each other on the airwaves in the run-up to the Nov. 2 midterm elections have found one common enemy: foreigners.

In political commercials around the USA, candidates are sounding a nativist tone, castigating their opponents as supporters of foreign corporations, illegal immigrants and workers abroad.
A spot by MoveOn.org aims to tar Republican candidates for having the backing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — part of a broader Democratic broadside against the organization for the funding it gets from outside the U.S.

"Where has the chamber been getting some of their money lately? From foreign corporations in countries like China, Russia and India," warns the narrator as ominous music plays over a map of the Eastern nations. "Exactly who is Mark Kirk working for? Because it sure isn't Illinois."

In Louisiana, an ad for Sen. David Vitter a Republican, features what appear to be Mexican immigrants sneaking through a hole in a chain-link fence — only to be greeted by a group of people with balloons and a banner reading "Charlie Melancon welcomes you to the USA," a reference to his Democratic opponent.

For more: U.S. political ads stoke fear of foreigners - Los Angeles Times

Over a million expected to continue protesting in France

More than a million people are expected to rally in France for another day Wednesday to protest planned pension reforms. The government is working to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62 and make other changes to the pension system.

About 1.1 million people have demonstrated across the country, French media quoted police as saying. Unions put the figure at 3.5 million nationwide as the rolling strike goes on for more than a week now.

The Senate is moving ahead with a vote on pension reform amid the protests, which have crippled transportation, and affected schools and fuel supplies.

For more: Over a million expected to continue protesting in France

EU finance ministers rein in hedge funds

European finance ministers reached a breakthrough agreement on regulating the hedge funds industry on Tuesday.

"The big change is that at European level there was no regulation and no supervision, and now there will be one," the EU's market regulation commissioner, Michel Barnier, said in Luxembourg. The EU is seeking greater transparency from hedge funds. Some argue that hedge funds contributed to the 2008 financial crash due to destabilizing moves on the markets.

The new regulations would require each hedge fund to obtain a "passport" in order to have access to the European market. This license would be issued by the European Securities and Markets Agency (ESMA), a new EU watchdog based in Paris, which is to start work next year.

For more: EU finance ministers rein in hedge funds | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 19.10.2010

10/19/10

USA: The November Elections - Corporate Influence, Polarization, Public Confusion - a European Perspective


Starting today, and until some time after the US November elections, EU-Digest editor, presently on site in the US, will be highlighting news items about these elections for our readers. The upcoming US elections are seen by many as likely deciding the fate of the United States for the foreseeable future. Based on what is at stake, the outcome of these elections will also be consequential for US relations with Europe and the rest of the world.


One of the most amazing facts about Barack Obama’s improbable run to the Presidency was the role of young people in energizing his campaign and persuading their skeptical elders that Obama was the best candidate in the field. It inspired a wave of youthful idealism that one had not seen since the 60’s in the US..This passion carried through the primaries and the general election, moving a mountain once thought unbridgeable in American politics and led to the election of US's first Black president. So if the Democrats want to do well and hold control in the US Congress or Senate they will need the support of these young people again, but the enthusiasm does not seem to be there at the moment, and time is running out.

Has the Obama Administration so far been successful ? Based on the state of the US economy when President Obama took over from the 8 year Bush Administration, the answer in all fairness should be yes.  To put it more bluntly, the Obama Administration, in its first two years, probably helped avoiding a Depression. They created a health care plan which began to extend coverage to the nation’s more than 45 million uninsured people. What Obama was not able to do within this relatively short time was to start with the modernization of the US infra-structure, and to begin making an investments in wind and solar energy, necessary to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and retard Global Warming.

These are precisely the programs the US economy needs to compete with other advanced nations and for it to maintain its standard of living without putting intolerable pressure on the world’s resources.

But obviously the Conservatives are not happy and a lot of people are listening to them.  Fact is that based on what Republican candidates and their T-Party surrogates have been saying, it now seems that the result of a win by them and their possible control of the US Congress in 2010, could mean that the US would be looking at a future whereby it would get: *No major investments in infrastructure repairs, *No national commitment to developing alternative energy resources or providing incentives to car buyers, homeowners and businesses to become more energy efficient, *No construction of a high speed rail system comparable to those that exist in Europe and Asia , *An end to unemployment benefits for people experiencing long term joblessness, *No expansion of rights for gay workers and families, *Continued excessive military spending and expansion abroad, *Continued deregulation with obvious catastrophic economic  results, * Watered down controls on the  financial and corporate sector , and * Social security cutbacks.

On the surface, therefore, the choices in November for the American voter seem simple and clear, but that does not seem to be the case in this election.

Even though a recent  POLITICO poll  shows the Democrats were seen as the party of ideas: 31 percent of the public think they’ve offered better ideas for how to govern this year, whereas only 22 percent of Americans say the same about the Republicans, and the Tea Party slides in third with only 16 percent support, 34 percent of Americans think the Democrats have been the most negative party during this election cycle, vs. 23 percent who say Republicans and 15 percent who name the Tea Party.This seems somewhat strange, as Democrats manage to appear both more negative, and more idea-oriented, than their conservative opponents. For some reason the more positive image of the Democrats does not appear to have rubbed off on the US voters. Is it because the Republicans and their T-Parry cohorts are spending untold millions on mostly-negative ads, that a majority of the voters are still under the impression that Obama and his party are making political hay instead of helping them. Is this a failure of the Democratic "spin-doctors" or just a question of large sums of money flowing into the Republican campaign effort from corporate and even unknown local and foreign sources, giving them the upper-hand in the media, TV and air-waves?

Only time will tell, but one thing seems certain to us outsiders looking in, the American voter is confused, adrift and not in touch with the reality that positive change usually has to come at first with hardship.

As an opener for these daily "Election USA" reports in EU-Digest we feature Clarence Page's editorial 'Tea Party working anti-elitist theme'

EU-Digest 

For permission to quote or publish EU-Digest reports : editor@eu-digest.com 



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US elections: Tea party elitism: Education is not the mark of an elitist - by Clarence Page

In her continuing effort to distance herself from her own beliefs, Delaware's Christine O'Donnell is trying her best to convince the world that she's a genuine, regular person. If she can fake that, as an old saying goes, she's got it made.

In her first television ad as the state's Republican Senate nominee, the youthful 41-year-old famously announced, "I am not a witch." I'm glad so that she cleared that up. This may be the first time since the 1692 Salem witch trials that an American candidate has felt compelled to make that disclaimer.

Having set a low bar of achievement for herself, her more recent television ad slides even farther down the socioeconomic ladder of one-downsmanship. "I didn't go to Yale," she proudly declares, "… I am you." That probably doesn't help her with voters who went to Yale, but they're probably voting for her opponent anyway, who happens to be one of them.

For more: Tea party elitism: Education is not the mark of an elitist - South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com

10/18/10

Strife Complicates ECB Succession

Jean-Claude Trichet gave a sharp twist to the fast-developing narrative on his succession over the weekend, publicly putting down the man most widely tipped to follow him as European Central Bank president.

Mr. Trichet's remarks were his first response to a call by German central bank head Axel Weber for an immediate end to the ECB's buying of euro-zone government bonds, a policy he said isn't only risky but ineffective. Mr. Weber's speech, delivered in New York, came only days after Mr. Trichet had told a press conference that the program would continue as long as necessary.

For more: Strife Complicates ECB Succession - WSJ.com