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1/31/11

Israel seeks to drum up support for Mubarak:

Israel has asked its diplomatsin the West, including the US and Europe, to drum up supportfor President Hosni Mubarak''s tottering regime, as it is in"the interest of the West" to maintain the stability in Egypt,a media report said today.

Amid statements in Western capitals suggesting thatthe US and European Union supported Mubarak''s ouster,Jerusalem seeks to convince its allies that it is in theWest''s interest to maintain the stability of the unpopularEgyptian regime, daily Haaretz reported today.

"Jerusalem seeks to convince its allies that it is inthe West''s interest to maintain the stability of the Egyptianregime. The diplomatic measures came after statements inWestern capitals implying that the United States and EuropeanUnion supported Mubarak''s ouster," the daily said.

For more: Israel seeks to drum up support for Mubarak: report - Oneindia News

The Netherlands - Freedom Of Speech: Wilders bars his Freedom Party candidates from speaking in public

More than 100 Freedom Party (PVV) candidates in the upcoming provincial elections have been barred from speaking in public by party leader Geert Wilders. Only provincial party leaders are allowed to make public statements.
The other political parties in the province of Gelderland have expressed anger at the measure. The provincial leaders of the Labour Party and the Christian democratic CDA on Monday gave voice to their outrage in an article published in provincial newspaper de Gelderlander.
Labour Party leader Co Verdaas said he could not collaborate with a party which will not allow its candidates to speak.“When you hear such a story about Egypt or Saudi Arabia, you simply say: that is not a real democracy. And now this is happening in the Netherlands.” CDA party leader Jan-Jacob van Dijk wonders why voters should trust the PVV when Mr Wilders does not even believe in his own people.
For more: Freedom Party candidates barred from speaking in public | Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Crude, Gasoline, Heating Oil Jump on Egypt Unrest: Oil Products

Crude oil and heating oil advanced to 27-month highs as the unrest in Egypt added to concern that supplies will be disrupted and a winter storm swept across the nation. Gasoline and ethanol advanced.

“This is all Egypt,” said Stephen Schork, president of the Schork Group Inc. in Villanova, Pennsylvania, who said a shutdown of the Suez Canal may disrupt as much as 4 million barrels a day of oil flow.

For more: Crude, Gasoline, Heating Oil Jump on Egypt Unrest: Oil Products - Bloomberg

US Fed Economic Policy Burns Down the Middle East, Who’s Next? - by Chriss W. Street

QE2 is a program by the U.S. Federal Reserve to inject $600 billion of U.S. dollars in the financial system by repurchasing an equivalent amount of U.S. Government bonds. Once the money is paid to the former bondholder, they deposit the cash in banks. Banks take deposit dollars and leverage them by 6 to 10 times creating $3.6 to $6 trillion in credit. Given that the Gross Domestic Product of the U.S. economy is only about $14 trillion annually, it would be impossible to immediately purchase 25-40% of the entire economy.

Consequently, the reality of Quantitative Easing is that the money will be invested in the stock and commodity markets. The theory is that the financial assets rise on the huge inflows of QE cash, investors will feel wealthier and go to the malls and the car dealerships to “shop till they drop”.

The problem with that theory is that QE2 money quickly drove up commodity food prices around the world. This price rise is barely noticeable to Americans who only spend 10% of their personal income on food for three meals a day; but the impact of food inflation is devastating the over half the world that spends approximately 50% of personal income on food for two meals a day. The 15% QE2 induced commodity food price increase has reduced the amount of food poor people can purchase by almost 1/3.

The riots and revolutionary activity burning down Tunisia, Yemen, and Egypt are about gut-level economics. Do you believe Americans would riot and throwing out the government if they were forced to cut back to eating 1 1/3 meals a day? Once riots start people in cities hoard food to survive and becomes dangerous for farmers to transport food. This is exacerbates food shortages and drives prices even higher.

For more: » Fed Policy Burns Down the Middle East, Who’s Next? - Big Government

Turkey: December trade deficit widens 75 pct- more than forecast

Turkey's trade deficit widened 75 percent year-on-year in December to $8.68 billion, the Turkish Statistics Institute said on Friday, exceeding a forecast $8.15 billion deficit in a Reuters poll.

Exports rose 18.1 percent to $11.87 billion and imports surged 36.8 percent to $20.55 billion, the data showed.

The full-year deficit rose 85 percent to $71.56 billion compared with a forecast of $70.9 billion.Timothy Ash, an economist at Royal Bank of Scotland in London, noted export growth running at half that of imports and said the data reaffirmed concerns about the economy overheating.

Note EU-Digest: rising food prices should also be a worry to the present Turkish Government. As 2011 begins, food experts fear that, within months, prices for key staples will climb above the 2008 threshold and stay there, causing extreme hardship for poor people around the world.  “We are at a very high level,” said a worried Abdolreza Abbassian, an economist at the FAO.  “These levels in the previous episode led to problems and riots across the world.”  Food inflation is now running at 15% in Turkey and many other countries around the world. The fire is smoldering not only in the Middle East. Other fires could break out soon if corrective measures are not taken.

Based on the above it must not be excluded that Turkey could also experience popular unrest in the not too distant future.

For more: Balkans.com Business News : Turkey: December trade deficit widens 75 pct- more than forecast

Davos WEF 2011: Nouriel Roubini: G20 has become G-Zero - by Philip Aldrick

Nouriel Roubini, professor of economics at New York University, and Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of the media group WPP, lamented a lack of joined-up global leadership, describing co-ordinated efforts to address trade imbalances, capital flows, water resources, immigration and climate change as “G Zero”.

“There is complete disagreement and disarray. That’s the sense of the G Zero,” Mr Roubini said, explaining the new buzzword at the World Economic Forum’s annual conference in the Swiss resort of Davos.
“There is no agreement on anything. We are in a world where there is no leadership,” he added.
For more: Davos WEF 2011: Nouriel Roubini: G20 has become G-Zero - Telegraph

1/30/11

Egyptian reform leader ElBaradei calls for Mubarak to resign - by HAMZA HENDAWI and MAGGIE MICHAEL

Egypt's most prominent democracy advocate took up a bullhorn Sunday and called for President Hosni Mubarak to resign, speaking to thousands of protesters who defied a curfew for a third night. Fighter jets streaked low overhead and police returned to the capital's streets — high-profile displays of authority over a situation spiraling out of control.

Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei's appearance in Tahrir, or Liberation, Square underscored the jockeying for leadership of the mass protest movement that erupted seemingly out of nowhere in the past week to shake the Arab world's most populous nation.

"You are the owners of this revolution. You are the future," ElBaradei told the crowd after nightfall. "Our essential demand is the departure of the regime and the beginning of a new Egypt in which every Egyptian lives in virtue, freedom and dignity."

For more: Egyptian reform leader calls for Mubarak to resign - Yahoo! News

TURMOIL IN THE MIDDLE EAST: IS SAUDI ARABIA NEXT?


Saudi authorities detained hundreds of demonstrators on Friday in Jeddah who gathered to protest against poor infrastructure after deadly floods swept through Saudi Arabia’s second biggest city, police and witnesses said.

Some Jeddah streets remained submerged on Friday, and electricity was still out in low-lying parts of the city two days after torrential rains caused flooding that killed at least four people and swept away cars.

The protest came after mass messages sent over BlackBerry smart phones called for popular action in response to the flood, an unusual move in the Arab state at a time of spreading anti-government unrest across the Arab world. Protesters gathered for about 15 minutes after Friday prayers on a main Jeddah shopping street and shouted ‘God is Greatest’ before authorities broke up the protest and detained participants, a witness who works in a nearby shop told Reuters.

A mass message sent via BlackBerry Messenger on Thursday urged Jeddah residents to join a demonstration on Saturday over the floods, while another urged all government and private sector employees to hold a general strike next week. But Friday’s protest had been unexpected.

The call for action in the top oil exporter, where public protest is not tolerated, comes as open defiance of authoritarian rulers spreads, with protests in Egypt and Yemen inspired by unrest which toppled Tunisia’s president this month.

For more: IS SAUDI ARABIA NEXT? « The Burning Platform

US Economy - Crises in the Middle East Mushrooming : Stocks on Wall Street expected to nose-dive on Monday

Stocks suffered their biggest one-day loss in nearly six months on Friday as anti-government rioting in Egypt prompted investors to flee to less risky assets to ride out the turmoil.Increased instability in the Middle East drove up the CBOE, the stock market's fear gauge, as investors scrambled for protective positions.
As turbulence continued to rock Egypt on Sunday, next-door-neighbor and ally Israel was watching and preparing for possible strategic, diplomatic and even economic repercussions.

As the markets try to play themselves out, the continued unrest in Egypt will have huge implications on world commodity prices, which will in turn impact heavily on the UK and US. Egypt is seen as a keystone in the region despite being a relatively small producer of oil in comparison with its peers in the Middle East. Due to the supply chain in which oil is transported through the Suez Canal, if the unrest has an impact on this key gateway point connecting to the Middle East, then the costs of transporting the oil will rise substantially and hence the cost of oil will rise.

De-stabilisation in the region and civil unrest spreading is also cause for great concern on Wall Street as the supply and demand effect will cause oil prices to rise, especially if spread to countries like Saudi Arabia. Last week saw a spike in prices with the price ending at $89.38 per barrel. If the situation continues towards the government being toppled without the transition being initiated by President Hosni Mubarak, then extremists may fill the void being left, in which case the danger becomes very real.

Although the US  economy grew slower than forecast in the fourth quarter, consumer spending was strong, heralding a better performance in 2011. Yet fears that riots in Egypt could spread weighed heavily on U.S. equities. The Standard & Poor's 500 ended down by 23 points.

EU-Digest

Thousands of highly-qualified Spanish jobseekers hoping to migrate to northern Europe

Architects, engineers and other specialist technically-qualified young people from Spain have been clogging up websites offering jobs in Germany with applications ever since chancellor Angela Merkel announced that the country was seeking unemployed Spaniards.

With Spain's unemployment rate at 20.33 per cent – rising to 40 per cent among the under-35s – Merkel is now actively seeking highly-qualified jobseekers from Spain to mop up the deficit in professionals in Germany's employment market.

She intended to make this public at the Spanish-German summit meeting in Madrid on February 3, but already, thousands of job seekers from Spain are making plans to migrate north.

Note EU-Digest: this is another good reason for having the EU and  the ability for European workers to move freely along the member state to fill open positions.

For more: Thousands of highly-qualified Spanish jobseekers hoping to migrate to northern Europe

Chinese Banks on the Prowl in Europe - by DAVID ENRICH, JASON DEAN and LAURA STEVENS

Chinese financial institutions are pushing into Europe, opening bank branches, scouting for deal opportunities and even attending German banking classes, in the latest illustration of China's growing global economic clout.
China Development Bank, a giant government-owned lender, is one of four final parties eyeing a big stake in troubled German bank WestLB AG, according to people familiar with the matter.

Another huge bank, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd., this month is opening branches in Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Milan and Madrid. Last week, it agreed to buy as much as 80% of a U.S. banking company.

For more: Chinese Banks on the Prowl in Europe - WSJ.com

Egyptian Revolution : A political Tsunami or a sign of changing realities? - a special EU-Digest report

It all started in a relatively unknown Tunisian town of Hammamet and is now threatening to change political structures of possibly the whole Arab World in the years to come. Political demonstrations are flaring up throughout the Arab world. Anger over authoritarian governments, rising prices and high unemployment has erupted in Yemen, Morocco, Algeria and even Saudi Arabia.

Yes, even Saudi Arabia, one of the economically strongest Arab nations, is a candidate for popular unrest. Saudi Arabia is going through a difficult path of its history and the only things that unite its people apart from religion is its enormous oil money. Democracy was virtually a ‘word’ unknown for many Saudi’s Peoples movements are very rare there till recently, but now, even there, we see manifestations happening. The call for action in this major oil exporter, where public protest is not tolerated, therefore comes as an open defiance of the authoritarian rulers there.

A popular unrest, however, like that what happened in Tunisia or is happening in Egypt now and threatening to start in Yemen, Jordan and elsewhere in the Arab world, is unlikely to happen in Saudi Arabia, as the Kingdom is enjoying complete support from energy greedy countries that include the US, the EU, China and India. And as long as Saudi will provides them with oil and without too many complications, the Saudi Kingdom will get the support it needs to fend off any protests from within.

Its different in Egypt. As President Hosni Mubarak fights for survival in the face of rapidly growing protests on the streets of a country he has ruled with an iron hand, diplomats and analysts across the region are bracing for a period of growing instability that presents fresh challenges to a host of players.

"An unexpected turn of events is probably an understatement. Egypt is now witnessing a major political tsunami with consequences for its surrounding region," warns an Arab diplomat from a Middle Eastern country who served in Cairo until last August. Speaking to CBS News on condition of anonymity, the diplomat warned of "a variety of dangers" following a regime change in Egypt. Going forward, he listed the emerging possibilities, ranging from "a significant rise of Islamic militants in Egypt who will take a harder line towards the U.S. and Israel," to "Egypt becoming a symbol of change for others to follow."

While President Mubarak for now appears to be defying the odds, Egypt is becoming increasingly locked in a state of growing paralysis, making a regime change, the longer Mubarak postpones to leave, an ever increasing risk to turn the situation into a bloodbath

The underlying problem in all this is also that historically the West, led by the US and to a certain extend also by  some of the members states of the EU, is speaking out one side of their mouth when it preaches "democracy", and on the other side, when it concerns their "political and security objectives". Even going as far as propping up totalitarian Governments to achieve the latter.  This hypocritical policy, unfortunately, is not only applied to the Middle East, but everywhere else in the world. That party basically is over.

The world is rapidly changing, and like it or not, the West will have to come to terms with this new reality and adjust their long-term strategy accordingly. Today, not one nation on earth has the sole power anymore to set or regulate the state of events in the world. More and more we will see that regional and even global consensus will be required in any potential conflict, be it economic, social or political, to solve problems.  

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Britain - Alternative energy - Filming an electric car’s epic journey

Award-winning director Claudio Von Planta describes his five-month, 26,000km journey from Alaska to Argentina, filming a team of engineering students determined to test their electric super car to its limits.

Note EU-Digest: BBC World News is broadcasting a new series Racing Green starting 1 January 2011. The eight part documentary follows a team of five young engineers from Imperial College London, as they attempt the 26,000 KM journey along the Pan-American Highway, in the electric car they designed and built. Project Manager Alex Schey initiated the Racing Green Endurance project in 2005. The objective was to design a good looking battery electric car with the largest range in the world, and to test it by driving it along the world’s longest road.


Their trip began in Chena Hot Springs, North Alaska in July 2010. From there the car and the team travelled to Vancouver, down to San Francisco, across Texas, to Mexico and finally down through South America, finishing in Argentina. During the 70 days of driving the team faced a number of challenges including being stopped 46 times by, the car catching fire, crashing the car, and tropical rainstorms.


Series producer Claudio von Planta, whose credits include Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman's Long Way Round and Long Way Down, began following the team in November 2009 to produce the documentary, which will be aired on BBC World News on Saturdays at 7.30 and 20.30 GMT and Sundays at 13.30 and 17.30 GMT from 1 January 2011.

For more: BBC World Service - World Agenda - Filming an electric car’s epic journey

Drugs: Netherlands freezes ties after Iran hangs Dutch woman

The Netherlands has frozen contacts with Iran after Tehran hanged an Iranian-Dutch woman for drug smuggling, having initially arrested her for taking part in anti-government protests.

Zahra Bahrami's execution Saturday brings the total number of people hanged in Iran so far this year to 66 -- on average more than two a day -- according to an AFP tally based on media reports. "A drug trafficker named Zahra Bahrami, daughter of Ali, was hanged early on Saturday morning after she was convicted of selling and possessing drugs," the Tehran prosecutor's office said.

Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal "was profoundly shocked by the news, he called it an act committed by a barbarous regime," foreign ministry spokesman Bengt van Loosdrecht told AFP

Note EU-Digest: Even though capital punishment must be condemned as such, it is also to be understood that the possession, trafficking and sale of illegal drugs is a crime in most countries of the world and in some, like Iran, China, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia punishable by death.

For more: AFP: Netherlands freezes ties after Iran hangs Dutch woman

1/29/11

Saudi Arabian Stocks Tumble Most in Eight Months as Egyptians Defy Curfew - by Mourad Haroutunian

Saudi Arabian shares retreated the most since May on concern political unrest could spread in the Middle East after Egyptian protesters clashed with police and the North African country’s president refused to resign.


The Tadawul All Share Index tumbled 6.4 percent, the most since May 25, to 6,267.22 at the 3:30 p.m. close in Riyadh. All but one of the 146 shares fell. Saudi Basic Industries Corp., the world’s largest petrochemical maker, slumped 7.5 percent. Savola Azizia United Co., a food producer with subsidiaries in Egypt, dropped 10 percent, the maximum fluctuation allowed in a single trading session.

“There is a lot of worry looming among investors that we’re going to see a domino effect across the region,” said Amro Halwani, a trader at Shuaa Capital PSC in Riyadh. “That is pushing investors away from equities and straight into cash. It is panic selling across the board.”

Stocks worldwide plunged the most since November, with the MSCI World Index declining 1.4 percent yesterday, and crude oil posted the biggest jump since 2009 after protesters posed the biggest challenge to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule. Egyptian stocks on Jan. 27 tumbled the most in more than two years, with the EGX30 Index plunging 11 percent. The Egyptian bourse and banks will be closed tomorrow due to the unrest in the country, Egypt’s state TV said today.

For more: Saudi Arabian Stocks Tumble Most in Eight Months as Egyptians Defy Curfew - Bloomberg

Britain: Cameron defends austerity, urges Europe to follow - by Frank Jordans and Matt Moore

British Prime Minister David Cameron is urging other governments to follow his country's efforts to cut costs and reduce debts, calling sovereign debt an obstacle to trade and growth.

Cameron, whose Conservative-led coalition government has imposed a series of tax hikes and budget caps to reduce the country's debt, said that building up debts and keeping barriers to money and trade flows has made European countries their own worst enemies.

He is also calling for more deregulation across the continent to help bolster recovery.

Note EU-Digest: Looking at what happened during the past years as a result of deregulation shows Mr. Cameron has not totally got it.


For more: Cameron defends austerity, urges Europe to follow - BusinessWeek

EU Calls For End To Violence And Bloodshed In Egypt

European Union President Herman Van Rompuy called Saturday for an end to violence and bloodshed in Egypt, where demonstrations against the government have left more than 30 dead since Tuesday.

For more: EU Calls For End To Violence And Bloodshed In Egypt

Israel: Netanyahu orders silence on anti-gov't protests in Egypt

Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu has ordered silence in neighboring Egypt because security officials said they worry the violence could threaten ties and spread to the Palestinian Authority.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the two officials said Netanyahu had told all government spokesmen not to comment on the situation in Egypt.

Egypt is basically the only nation the Middle East  which has friendly relations with Israel.

For more: Netanyahu orders silence on anti-gov't protests in Egypt

1/28/11

Egyptian uprising: ElBaradei trapped inside a mosque as protesters clash with police after prayers - by SARAH EL DEEB and MAGGIE MICHAEL

Thousands of Egyptian anti-government protesters clashed Friday with police in Cairo, who fired rubber bullets into the crowds and used tear gas and water cannons to disperse them. It was a major escalation in what was already the biggest challenge to President Hosni Mubarak's 30 year-rule.

Police also used water cannons against Egypt's pro-democracy leader ElBaradei and his supporters as they joined the latest wave of protests after noon prayers. Police also used batons to beat some of ElBaradei's supporters, who surrounded him to protect him.

A soaking wet ElBaradei was trapped inside a mosque nearly an hour after him and his supporters were water cannoned. Hundreds of riot police laid siege to the mosque, firing tear gas in the streets surrounding it so no one could leave. The tear gas canisters set several cars ablaze outside the mosque. Several people fainted and suffered

For more: Egypt protesters clash with police after prayers - Yahoo! News

EU-US Climate action: President Bresso in Washington to move forward CoR cooperation with US mayors

Mercedes Bresso, President of the Committee of the Regions, will take her message of greater trans-Atlantic cooperation on climate action right to the very top today, Friday, when she joins a delegation of US mayors in a meeting with US President Barack Obama. President Bresso is in Washington at the invitation of the US Conference of Mayors (USCM), at whose Winter Plenary Session yesterday she presented a series of concrete measures aimed at helping mayors on both sides of the Atlantic to tackle the issue of global warming, based on the model of the EU Covenant of Mayors.

For more: Committee of the Regions

Mission Impossible ? Dutch MPs endorse Afghan police training mission with "iron clad" controls

Thanks to the negotiating skills of the Dutch Greens party leader Jolanda Sap ( see picture insert), lawmakers in the Netherlands early Friday morning endorsed a "watered down" cabinet decision to send police trainers to Afghanistan, six months after Dutch troops withdrew from the conflict-torn nation.

In a heated debate that continued into the early morning hours, a slim majority of MPs voted for the minority government's proposal to send 545 men and women to Afghanistan until 2014.

The rightist governing coalition of the liberal VVD party and the Christian Democrats, which have a joint 52 seats of 150 in parliament, had to make several major concessions to win over opposition parties. Notably, it swayed the liberal greens, GroenLinks with 10 seats, by agreeing to seek a written guarantee from Kabul that police trained by the Dutch would not be used in any military action."We need to be sure that if we train people as police members, they are indeed deployed as police members," Prime Minister Mark Rutte told the MPs in a debate broadcast live on national television. "We want a letter from the government (in Kabul). If it transpires that people are not keeping to the agreement, there will be a system of sanctions," he said, adding that if this also failed, "I will propose to end the mission."
   
The parliamentary agreement on Afghanistan certainly was a success for the new Dutch Prime-Minister Mark Rutte and a set-back for the right-wing nationalist PVV party of Mr. Geert Wilders, Rutte's coalition "support" party, which  voted against the mission and obviously had hoped to show its grip over the minority government, if the motion had not passed.  During the debate Jolande Sap, the new leader of the Greens showed exceptional negotiating skills by putting the minority government of Mark Rutte with its back against the wall and extracting major changes and concessions from the Government related to this controversial mission. The Netherlands lost 24 soldiers killed in its previous deployment in Afghanistan. It was one of the first NATO countries to send its troops to the dangerous south.

For more go to: EU-Digest

1/27/11

US Economy - Government Debt Might Reduce U.S. Triple AAA Credit Rating, Warn S&P, Moody’s Credit Rating Agencies | Staho.com

On Thursday two major credit rating agencies, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service, warned that the U.S. might lose its triple AAA credit rating if its government debt Keeps growing.
The two separate statements, made within hours of each other, were seized as further evidence that the U.S. must reduce spending and debt to avoid disaster.

On the other hand, many economists say the reckoning, if there will be one, is still years or even decades away. The bond market was not affected by Thursday’s news. However, while some experts who want to see the deficit reduced argue now is not the time to cut federal spending given the weak economy and high unemployment, others fear the mounting government debt.

In a quarterly report on the nation’s credit risk, Moody’s Investors Service said the probability of revising is outlook on its triple AAA rating for the United States – from stable to negative – within the next couple of years is increasing. This would not actually reduce the credit rating, but even a small revision would likely rattle financial markets and might even limit America’s ability to borrow the money necessary for financing its deficit. Moody’s has been rating U.S. government debt since 1917, and has always rated it triple AAA.

For more: Government Debt Might Reduce U.S. Triple AAA Credit Rating, Warn S&P, Moody’s Credit Rating Agencies | Staho.com

Blow-by-blow chronicle of the Wall Street recklessness that led to the financial crisis

The booze was flowing. Nobody wanted to leave. And the police didn’t bother to shut it down. While the bash is often great in the moment, the morning after usually isn’t pretty.

Such are the findings of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, the Congressional panel that issued The causes of the Wall Street disaster that triggered the worst economic rout since the Great Depression. In the 576-page report released on Thursday, there’s not a hero to be found.

The report, which comes on the heels of countless books and Congressional hearings, seems to offers few headline revelations. Still, the narrative in those pages will give pause to even the most jaded observer — including hard-to-forget e-mails, conversations and documents that collectively detail how the credit crisis happened.

For more: Everyone Was to Blame, Crisis Commission Finds - NYTimes.com

Egypt Blocks BlackBerry Internet Services

Things are falling apart in Egypt. Reports on the Internet suggest that either officials, wireless services providers, or both have blocked BlackBerry Internet Services [BIS] in the country. Just yesterday and the day before, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and even Google were blocked. Luckily, Egyptians reportedly regained access to Google, YouTube, and Facebook. However, Twitter and BIS are still blocked.

Unfortunately, details are still pretty scarce.

All of the aforementioned services have been blocked in light of the recent public manifestations in Egypt to protest government and police corruption.

For more: Egypt Blocks BlackBerry Internet Services

Dutch plans for EU spring a leak

On 14 January the Dutch government announced that Pieter de Gooijer would be the Netherlands' next permanent representative to the EU. 

The following week de Gooijer's name surfaced in a set of US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks. A US diplomat suggested that de Gooijer, who is currently director-general of political affairs in the Dutch foreign ministry, was involved in trying to sway Wouter Bos, the finance minister at the time, to back the idea of prolonging the Dutch military mission in Afghanistan. 

According to the leaked diplomatic cables, dated 3 September 2009, de Gooijer “encouraged” Ivo Daalder, the US ambassador to NATO, to ask Timothy Geithner, the US treasury secretary, to tell Bos that the Netherlands would not have a seat at G20 discussions if it did not extend its military mission in Afghanistan.

Uri Rosenthal, the Dutch foreign minister, has denied the accuracy of the cable, but questions have been asked in the Dutch parliament as to whether de Gooijer should be trusted to represent the Netherlands in Brussels. 

For more: Dutch plans for EU spring a leak | European Voice

1/26/11

Uzbekistan: Why does the EU give credibility to such dictators as Islam Karimov? by Simon Tisdall

"Europeans recoiled in horror at the mass killing of hundreds of unarmed protesters in Andijan, Uzbekistan, on the orders of the authoritarian government of President Islam Karimov in May 2005. The European Union imposed sanctions, including a visa ban and an arms embargo, and demanded an independent inquiry. But six years is a long time in politics. Memories fade, attention shifts elsewhere.

All the same, the feting in Brussels this week of the defiantly unrepentant Karimov, a serial rights abuser, represented a disturbing EU volte-face and an undeserved success for the Uzbek dictator. The sanctions, which never had much effect, were quietly dropped in 2009. An independent inquiry was never held. Nobody was held to account for the murders. Instead, hard-nosed EU and Nato interest in maintaining supply routes to Afghanistan, and in Uzbek energy reserves, now takes precedence.

José Manuel Barroso, the commission president, defended his meeting with Karimov, saying he had pressed his visitor hard on human rights and political prisoners during talks that focused primarily on security and energy.

The Karimov embarrassment, while grave, is a familiar one for Brussels. Similar contradictions in EU policy, and those of its members, have recently become apparent in the cases of Belarus, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, China and Hungary.

The problem is clear. The EU must decide whether it is first and foremost a champion of universal values and human rights, which Barroso claims stand "at the heart" of its foreign policy – or if its collective strategic security, political, economic and commercial interests are paramount and will primarily dictate its foreign policy actions. Either the EU believes in its founding principles, and takes strong political and legal action to uphold them, or it does not. It cannot have it both ways."

For more: Why does the EU give credibility to such dictators as Islam Karimov? | Simon Tisdall | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Google to hire more than 1,000 staff in Europe - by Kathleen Hall

Google's CEO Eric Schmidt said the company will hire more than 1,000 staff in Europe this year. The new recruits would be roughly split between technology and sales staff, he said at the Digital Life Design conference in Germany.

The move will increase Google's existing staff of 5,000 by 20% in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In total the company plans to hire 6,200 new staff this year, boosting its global workforce by one-quarter.
The announcement comes as Google recently posted fourth-quarter profits of $2.54bn.

For more: Google to hire more than 1,000 staff in Europe - 1/26/2011 - Computer Weekly

Analysis: U.S. stuck between support and concern in the Middle East - Elise Labott

Two weeks ago in Qatar, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Arab leaders that if they failed to address the desperation, poverty and lack of political freedoms in their countries and build a better future for their people, their regimes would sink into the sand.

Now, across the region, Arab populations are beginning to voice social and economic frustrations and assert their democratic rights. It puts the United States in the unenviable position of wanting and needing to support those yearnings at the same time the regimes they have long relied on for security in the region are the targets.
The United States was completely caught off guard and absent from the scene in Tunisia. Washington remained silent as the events unfolded, only to speak out after President Ben Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali had fled the country.

In a carefully crafted statement, Clinton urged the caretaker government to respect the rights of the people assembling in the streets and to heed their call for political, social and economic reform.

Egyptians, emboldened by the success of their Tunisian brothers, followed on the streets of Cairo Tuesday to protest the corruption and failed economic policies of President Hosni Mubarak. While the chances of an overnight "revolution," is far less likely in Egypt than in Tunisia, the consequences for the United States would be far more dire should that happen in Egypt.

For more: Analysis: U.S. stuck between support and concern in the Middle East - CNN.com

A crackdown in Egypt, and Tunisia too - by Dan Murphy,

In the early morning today, truncheon-wielding police and plain-clothes thugs waded into the crowd of thousands in Tahrir Square in Cairo behind an enormous volley of tear gas and violently dispersed them.

Today, there is a heavy riot police presence on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt's second city, the Interior Ministry issued a statement declaring protests illegal (a bit of overkill since it was already illegal to hold a gathering of more than 5 people in Egypt without official permission), and activists were reporting the arrests of journalists and riot police surrounding the Press Syndicate in Cairo (where an effort was made to resume Tuesday's protests).

On Tuesday, Egypt's largest protests in a decade -- with large crowds gathering in at least 7 cities to demand the resignation of long-time President Hosni Mubarak -- rattled the regime. So far today, activists report that Twitter service remains blocked in Egypt and in the early afternoon in Egypt, were claiming that Facebook access has also been blocked. That would seem a natural countermove for the Egyptian regime, since much of the online organizing has migrated there, but I haven't confirmed those reports yet.


Egyptian activists are now calling online for another major push against Mubarak and his government on Friday, following afternoon prayers. Between now and then the government will do everything it can to clamp down on organizers and make large protests like Tuesday's impossible.

Meanwhile in Tunisia, the protesters whose spontaneous uprising drove strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from power and into exile earlier this month are finding that securing their gains is a challenge. The protesters' position is that change in Tunisia is purely cosmetic so long as members of Ben Ali's ruling clique remain in power. Most of the senior posts in the interim government, including the prime minister and president, are filled with Ben Ali's erstwhile allies. Al Jazeera reports from Tunis that riot police used tear gas to disperse a crowd of rock throwing protesters and there were "numerous injuries" today.


Note EU-Digest: The United States expressed confidence in Egypt's government on Tuesday and urged calm amid the largest public protests in years. It was an awkward endorsement of an authoritarian regime that is a key Arab ally for Washington. "Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people," Clinton said. 
 

The office of EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton on Wednesday called on "Egyptian authorities to respect and to protect the right of Egyptian citizen to manifest their political aspirations." Her spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic says Egyptian authorities should "take note of their legitimate wish for political action to deal with the problems that are affecting their daily lives."

For more: A crackdown in Egypt, and Tunisia too - CSMonitor.com

President Gül warns of rising racism, discrimination in Europe

In an address delivered yesterday in Strasbourg during the winter session of PACE, the largest and most important European watchdog overseeing human rights, rule of law and democracy on the continent, Turkish President Abdullah Gül warned about the growing pessimism in Europe that he said was reshaping the continent's political life on the back of increasing manifestations of intolerance and discrimination in many European societies.

“Let us not forget that popular support for explicit anti-Semitism was only 5 percent in the late 1920s. With the snowball effect, this poisonous minority paved the way for the Holocaust in the late 1930s. History does repeat itself if we do not draw lessons from our past mistakes,” he said to deputies from the 47 nations represented in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

“Over the past few years, our member states have been affected by weakening social ties. Radicalization and increasing gaps between different religious, ethnic and cultural communities started to harm the social fabric of our nations,” President Gül remarked, adding: “We must retain confidence in the ability of our democratic institutions to promote human rights, tolerance, dialogue and social cohesion. We need to develop a democratic framework for living together.”

For more: President Gül warns of rising racism, discrimination in Europe

1/25/11

Mission Impossible: Dutch Afghanistan mission expected to face roadblock in Parliament

Political insiders say it is just about certain. The new Mark Rutte Government will have to swallow its first major defeat in the Dutch parliament. No majority vote for a new Dutch mission to Afghanistan.

The Government can however overrule a no vote and still dispatch the mission, but it would not be considered wise to do so, given that also a large majority of the Dutch population is against the mission.

EU-Digest

Egypt protests: Eyewitness accounts

Thousands of people took part in rare anti-government protests in Egypt after an internet campaign inspired by the uprising in Tunisia. In Cairo, where the biggest rallies were held, police used tear gas and water cannons in an attempt to disperse the crowds. At least three people have been killed, reports say.

Some people say that they won't stop until Mubarak is gone. The noise from the street is increasing not decreasing even though it is 2230 (2030 GMT). There are more people now than during the day.

The atmosphere is very tense, it feels like a revolution. I see people who are determined, people who have nothing to lose, people who want a better future. This protest is different. Previous protests would last about an hour, this seems to be much larger, much longer.


For more: BBC News - Egypt protests: Eyewitness accounts

Middle East: After Tunisia: Obama's Impossible Dilemma in Egypt - by Shadi Hamid

The Middle East just got more complicated for the Obama administration. The January 14 popular revolt in Tunisia, the first ever to topple an Arab dictator, has called into question a basic premise of U.S. policy in the Middle East - that repressive regimes, however distasteful, are at least stable. They can also be counted on to support key American interests, which is part of why the U.S. provides them with substantial assistance. Tunisia was considered one of the least likely to fall, but it fell. Across the region, opposition groups, hoping to repeat Tunisia's successes, are emboldened and increasingly active. For the first time, they know what change looks like. More importantly, they now believe it can happen in their own countries. But in the growing battle between Arab autocrats and popular oppositions, the U.S. is finding itself torn between the reliable allies it needs and the democratic reformers it wants.

Nowhere is the U.S. dilemma more urgent than in Egypt. Predictions that a Tunisia-like uprising will soon topple Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak are premature - the Egyptian regime, with its well-paid military, is likely to be more unified and more ruthless than its Tunisian counterparts were.

Could the U.S. find itself on the wrong side of history?

For more: After Tunisia: Obama's Impossible Dilemma in Egypt - Shadi Hamid - International - The Atlantic

Egyptians, Inspired by Tunisia, Use Facebook to Set Up Protest March Today

On Facebook, more than 85,000 people have pledged to attend a nationwide antigovernment protest planned for today Jan. 25, in Egypt.

The Middle East is walking into an anxious week after a busy weekend, one that saw authoritarian regimes from Algeria to Yemen experience the ripple effect of the fall of Tunisia's President, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.
Large antigovernment demonstrations broke out in Jordan, Yemen and Algeria, while more men —
particularly in Egypt and Algeria — have joined the ranks of self-immolators inspired by Mohammed Bouazizi, the Tunisian whose suicide sparked that country's revolution. "What is very important about what happened in Tunisia, regardless of whether it spreads, is that it certainly raised a lot of hope among Egyptians and among other Arab people in different countries," explains Hassan Nafaa, a political-science professor at Cairo University and a vocal critic of the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.

Beyond the wave of protests, that hope has found a voice in independent newspapers across the region and in new, audacious political demands made by opposition groups. In Jordan and Yemen, analysts say, verbal attacks by opposition groups show an unprecedented confidence and ferocity, including calls by Jordanian opposition members to have an elected Prime Minister and turn King Abdullah of Jordan's nominally constitutional monarchy into a real one.


For more: Egyptians, Inspired by Tunisia, Use Facebook to Set Up Protest March - TIME

Italy's top bishop slams Berlusconi for scandal

Italy's top bishop issued scathing criticism of Premier Silvio Berlusconi for his role in a sex scandal Monday, insisting that public officials must control themselves and warning of the damage to the country and its reputation.


Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the Italian bishops' conference, said Italians were fed up with the scandal and its domination of the political scene, and said the matter should be resolved quickly.

"It's easy to foresee that within the collective soul, this could leave profound marks, if not true wounds," Bagnasco warned at a meeting of the bishops' decision-making body.

For more: Italy's top bishop slams Berlusconi for scandal - World news - Europe - msnbc.com

Moscow Airport Bombing: Medvedev says security at bombed airport poor

Following the suicide bombing at Russia's largest airport, which killed 35 people, President Dmitry Medvedev called Tuesday for full security checks to be conducted at all transport hubs and for government officials to be held accountable for security lapses.

Medvedev said management of Domodedovo Airport must share responsibility for security failures that contributed to the blast Monday, which also injured 180 people. He described security at the airport as "simply a state of anarchy."

Airport management objected, saying the inspection of people coming into the arrivals area, where the bombing took place, is the responsibility of transport police.

For more: Medvedev says security at bombed airport poor - Yahoo! News

Turkey: Right wing conspiracy - are Democracy and Freedom of Speech still under siege ?: "İpekçi killed again with release of murderer Ağca" - by YASEMİN SİM ESMEN

"One cold day in 1979, daily Milliyet editor in chief Abdi İpekçi was shot to death in Istanbul while returning home from work. His murderer, Mehmet Ali Ağca, was released Monday after 10 years in prison for this crime, prompting Tuesday’s banner headline story in his former paper, “Abdi İpekçi was killed once again.”

Journalists in Turkey agree that the release of Ağca has caused a deep wound in the public conscience due to the imbalance in magnitude between the crime and the penalty.

Daily Milliyet, a sister newspaper of the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review, deviated from its standard format Tuesday to print on its front page a Dec. 4, 1975, editorial by İpekçi in which the former editor in chief had warned that there was “a horrible game” being played. Although it has never been proven, many believe that İpekçi was murdered due to his journalistic investigations. Although Ağca himself denies any connection to the far-right political group the Grey Wolves, it is an open secret in Turkey that he acted at their behest.

Although how Ağca fled the country remains unclear, he traveled to Italy and attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II on May 13, 1981. Although he was sentenced to life imprisonment in Italy, Ağca was pardoned by President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi in June 2000 at the pope’s request. He was then extradited to Turkey, where he was imprisoned for the 1979 murder of İpekçi and two bank raids carried out in the 1970s.

When Ağca was released  "for good behavior"  on January 18, 2010 a group aof supporters waited Ağca’s release in front of the prison in the traditional celebratory manner with drum and clarion, drawing further criticism. “His release in this fashion and the greeting he received wounded everyone’s conscience for both press freedom and for all the other unsolved murders,” said Ferai Tınç, a daily Hürriyet columnist and the International Press Institute, IPI’s, Turkish national committee chairwoman."

Note EU-Digest: the above report from the Hürriyet was written one year ago after Ağca’s release from prison on January 18, 2010.


According to Wikipedia, Ağca was born in the Hekimhan district, Malatya Province in Turkey. As a youth, he became a petty criminal and a member of street gangs in his home town. He became a smuggler between Turkey and Bulgaria. He claims to have received two months of training in weaponry and terrorist tactics in Syria as a member of the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine paid for by the Communist Bulgarian government. After training he went to work for the far-right Turkish Grey Wolves, who were at the time destabilizing Turkey, which led to a Turkish military coup in 1980 . It has been claimed the Grey Wolves were also being used by the CIA. 

Kendal Nezan of the Kurdish Institute of Paris says they were infiltrated and manipulated by "Gladio" a "stay-behind" NATO structure.

During his stay in prison Ağca became a Christian. Some people believe he did this for PR purposes to put the Turkish Government under pressure as to the negative publicity the Government would get from abroad  if he was treated harshly. 


The French Agence France Presse" reported that Turkish authorities still haven't explained exactly which legal resources Ağca had access to, and former Turkish minister of Justice Hikmet Sami Türk, in government at the time of Ağca's extradition claimed, that from a legal viewpoint, Ağca liberation was a "serious mistake" at best, and that he should have not been freed at the earliest before 2012.

One year after Ağca release the mystery around him still remains.

For more: Turkish press: İpekçi killed again with release of murderer - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review

1/24/11

Davos World Economic Forum: Life in Europe's "squeezed middle",

When the world's business and political elite gathers this week for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, you'll hear a lot of talk about how best to solve the world's economic problems. What you'll almost certainly hear less of is how these solutions might affect -- are affecting -- regular people. In Europe, as in the United States, the global financial crisis has hit tens of millions of people over the past three years: workers have been laid off or had to accept reduced hours or lower wages, houses have been lost, students face paying more to go to university. Even as Europe has begun to grow again, parts are still struggling to deal with the impact of the crisis. Some people and families may have begun to see improvements following months of worry and belt-tightening, but that doesn't mean they will start spending freely again. The instinct to watch budgets, to save more, to avoid overextending, will linger. You may not hear it at Davos, but the plans and hopes of a generation have been scaled back over the past few years, household by household. Even if good times return, that will affect the continent for years to come.

For more: SPECIAL REPORT - Life in Europe's "squeezed middle", IBN Live News

IMF praises Poland

“Poland’s very strong economic policies in the decade prior to the global crisis contributed to very strong economic fundamentals. At the outset of the global crisis, Poland had limited macroeconomic imbalances: credit and domestic demand growth had remained relatively moderate, inflation was contained, current account and fiscal deficits had been restrained, and as a result public and external debt were at comfortable levels.
This performance owed much to a track record of sound policies. Poland’s commitment to the EU Stability and Growth Pact helped to lower the fiscal deficit and limit government debt. Comprehensive pension reforms helped to address the long-term challenges of an aging population. A determined anti-inflationary focus—in the context of an effective inflation targeting regime and a floating exchange rate policy—built confidence in monetary institutions and anchored inflation expectations. Finally, a strong financial supervisory framework fostered a well-capitalized banking system” wrote the International Monetary Fund in a decision granting it a new two-year arrangement (flexible credit line) in the amount of approx. USD 30 million.

For more: Polish Market Online .:. Polish Market Online .:. IMF praises Poland

Health: Why is Denmark the cancer capital of the world? by Nick Collins

Denmark has been named as the world's cancer capital, with some 326 people in every 100,000 developing the disease each year. One reason why Danish people seem to be particularly susceptible to cancer is that its record of diagnosing the disease is so good, meaning that more cases are picked up by the country's doctors than in most other parts of the world.But there are also lifestyle factors which could be having an influence on the figures reported by the World Cancer Research Fund from the World Health Organization.

A larger than average proportion of Danish women are smokers, while the country also has high levels of alcohol consumption, both of which have been shown to increase the risk of developing cancer.

The figures show that high-income countries tend to have higher rates of cancer than less developed parts of the world, with 13 European countries, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand among the top 20 states for overall cancer rates.

For more: Why is Denmark the cancer capital of the world? - Telegraph

Golf: Europe claim one-two in world rankings

Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer - an eight-shot winner in Abu Dhabi today - now top the World Golf Rankings, the first time two Europeans have been there since Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer in July 1993. Tiger Woods falls out of the top two for the first time since October 2004.

Holywood-man Rory McIlroy has also shot up the rankings from 12th to seventh, joining Portrush's Graeme McDowell in the top ten. Kaymer, 26, relegated Woods to world number three when he successfully defended his Abu Dhabi title and captured the event for a third time in four years.


For more: RTÉ Sport: Europe claim one-two in world rankings

1/23/11

Netherlands: Afghanistan or Education? Dutch Professors join students protesting against Government cuts

One third of all Dutch University professors in the Netherlands joined 20.000 students last Friday in the Hague, protesting against government cuts in the area of education, while at the same time the Dutch Government approved a new military mission to Afghanistan.

Reports from Wikileaks reveal that the US had been putting pressure on the former Dutch coalition Minister of Finance, Wouter Bos of the Labor Party, to vote in favor of a continuation of the Dutch Afghanistan mission. The Labor party leader, however, did not sway under the US pressure, and the Government collapsed, when Wouter Bos pulled his party out of the Balkenende Dutch Government coalition.

Once again the Netherlands, at the request of the US are being asked to participate in Afghanistan. But so far it has not been "easy going" for the new conservative Dutch PM, Mark Rutte, in getting the motion through parliament. Even Mr. Wilders party PVV, one of  Rutte's coalition Government supporting parties, said they would vote against the mission. Mark Rutte is now seeking support from other non-Government parties to get his motion passed in parliament.

To "sweeten the deal" Mr.Rutte calls the new Dutch involvement in Afghanistan a "trainings mission", even though this "trainings mission"  is enforced by air-force and military units. As to Dutch public opinion, continued Afghanistan involvement has little support. In a recent poll approximately 70% of the population said they do not want a new mission to Afghanistan.

The question remains, should the Netherlands be spending taxpayers money on overseas military missions or on education at home?

EU-Digest

Yemen Arrests Anti-Government Activist | Middle East | English

Yemeni police have arrested a woman activist for leading anti-government protests in the capital, sparking a new wave of protests from hundreds of students demanding her release.

Police arrested Tawakul Karman early Sunday in Sana'a while she was on her way home with her husband. Officials say the protests she led were not staged within the boundaries of the law.

Demonstrations started outside Sana'a University Sunday as word spread of her arrest. Reports and witnesses say riot police beat up and took the camera of at least one television cameraman filming the protest. At least one other cameraman was briefly detained.

For more: VOA | Yemen Arrests Anti-Government Activist | Middle East | English

Israel inquiry finds Gaza aid flotilla raid 'was legal' - UN says it was "unacceptable level of brutality"

An Israeli inquiry has found the country's navy acted legally in a deadly raid on a flotilla of aid ships trying to reach Gaza last May. The raid, in which nine Turkish activists were killed, attracted widespread international condemnation.

A separate UN inquiry last year said the navy had shown an "unacceptable level of brutality". But Israel's inquiry found the actions of its navy "to be legal pursuant to the rules of international law".

For more: BBC News - Israel inquiry finds Gaza aid flotilla raid 'was legal'

France's foreign minister welcomed with eggs and slogans

When the foreign minister of France entered into Gaza strip from Israel, she was greeted with dozens of eggs and angry slogans. It was the Palestinian supporters who were confronting her over a comment.

It is said that the comment has been falsely connected to her where it was said that an Israeli soldier has been held captive in Palestine since 2006. Minister Michele Alliot-Marie met with the parents of the kidnapped soldiers in Jerusalem. That is the time when the statement was made by the father of the soldier which was wrongly attributed to her.

Meanwhile, the protesters were found at the Erez crossing point and are said to be from a group which is affiliated to Hamas. They tried to intercept the movement of her motorcar as it entered Gaza. It was only when the Hamas police interfered that the motorcar could move ahead to a UN building.

For more: France's foreign minister welcomed with eggs and slogans | French Tribune

Almost 1 Million Nintendo 3DS Units for Europe - by Tynan Muddle

Nintendo plan to capture the European market with their upcoming release of the Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo’s new 3D gaming handheld console.

According to website MCV, Nintendo have established 900,000 units for Europe. These reports come from whom their naming “a number of well connected parties”. If true, the number is quite substantial and mimic those of the Nintendo DS launch.

For more: Almost 1 Million Nintendo 3DS Units for Europe | Aussie-Gamer.com

1/22/11

EU to ban China, India carbon credits trade

Europe is to ban a highly lucrative trade in polluting rights obtained by European-based companies under a UN scheme to favour environmentally-friendly industrial investment in the likes of China or India.

The Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism, an international tool in the fight to tame global warming, gives firms from industrialised countries incentives to invest in greenhouse gas reduction projects in developing countries, traditionally huge polluters.

In return, these investments generate rights to emit gases which are said to trade at 78 times the cost of destroying by-product gases, but the European Union will remove them from its Emissions Trading System registries as of May 1, 2013, the European Commission said Friday.

For more: AFP: EU to ban China, India carbon credits trade

Netherlands: Some 20.000 Dutch students protest Government education funding cuts while Afghanistan training ( Military) mission is approved

Dutch university students threw eggs and bottles at police as they took to the streets of The Hague in their thousands on Friday to protest against cuts in the education budget, police said.

"Riot and mounted police had to take action to restore order," police spokesman Wim Hoonhout told AFP, saying dozens of students who loitered in groups after an organised picket, had clashed with police. "They threw eggs, bottles and firecrackers," he said, adding there were no injuries in the unrest that lasted for about two hours.

Some demonstrators had also dropped a smoke bomb. Twenty-five arrests were made for vandalism, public violence and maltreatment of bystanders, said a police statement. The students were voicing their anger with government budget cuts.

What is most amazing is that the Netherlands Government of Mark Rutte on the one hand wants to cut the educational budget by euro 370 million and on the other hand is willing to finance a so called  military supported "training mission" to Afghanistan at euro 468 million a year. The Association of Universities of the Netherlands has said it expected the budget cuts to cost the jobs of 2,500 university professors and lecturers next year. 

EU-Digest

Human rights court deals blow to EU asylum system

EU's asylum system known as the "Dublin regulation" was dealt a blow on Friday (21 January), as the European Court of Human Rights ruled that an Afghan translator should not have been sent back from Belgium to Greece, where he faced degrading and inhuman treatment.

The Strasbourg-based judges found that both the Greek and the Belgian governments violated the European Convention on Human Rights when applying the EU law on asylum seekers and were given fines to the tune of some €6,000 and €30,000, respectively.

The case was brought forward by an Afghan translator who first arrived in Greece in 2008 and later applied for asylum in Belgium. Under the "Dublin regulation", member states are allowed to send back refugees to the first EU country where they arrived.

For more: EUobserver / Human rights court deals blow to EU asylum system

Europe makes cross-border 'health tourism' easier

European travellers short of prescription drugs, or on waiting-lists for surgery at home, will be reimbursed for care anywhere in the EU by late 2013, under a law approved by parliament Wednesday.

The ground-breaking European parliament law, adopted after years of talks, sets out patients' rights to medical care in any of the 27 member states, while spelling out rules for reimbursement and requirements for prior authorization. "This is a big day for European health, a great victory for patients' rights," said Health Commissioner John Dalli.

The law, which after formal approval by the EU's 27 leaders at a summit gives members 30 months to transcribe it into national legislation, will enable patients to be reimbursed at home for care received in any other of the 27 Nations EU.

For more: AFP: Europe makes cross-border 'health tourism' easier

1/21/11

Outer-Space: Why a massive meteorite strike could be the best thing to happen to us

Meteorites killed the dinosaurs and have nearly wiped out humanity in multiple Hollywood blockbusters, but have these deadly space rocks actually gotten a bad rap? One geologist argues we should actually be thankful for all meteorites have done for us.

Ted Nield, the author of the new book Incoming!: or, Why We Should Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Meteorite, explains in an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian why meteorites have been benefited Earth throughout its long history.

He points out that, while meteorites can cause an extinction event every few hundred million years, the odds of being killed by a meteorite are beyond remote - in all of human history, the only claimed meteorite fatality was a dog in Egypt in 1911, and he says that was almost certainly just a story. And, on any sort of timescale we should be worried about, Earth's chances of being hit by a meteorite are next to zero.

For more: Why a massive meteorite strike could be the best thing to happen to us

Ireland has only itself to blame for the costly bailout says Barroso - by Sarah Collins

The EU's top official has hit back at accusations that the EU-IMF bailout will cripple the Irish economy, saying it was Ireland's "fiscally and financially irresponsible" behaviour that caused the downfall in the first place.

In an uncharacteristic outburst European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso lashed out at MEP Joe Higgins yesterday after he accused the EU of "making vassals" of Irish taxpayers.

"The problems of Ireland were created by irresponsible financial behaviour of financial institutions and a lack of supervision in the Irish market," Mr Barroso hit back in an angry exchange. "Europe is now part of the solution. It was not Europe that created this fiscally irresponsible situation and this financially irresponsible behaviour."

For more: Ireland has only itself to blame for the costly bailout says Barroso - Irish, Business - Independent.ie

Windpower: Britain is the world leader in wind power

Figures released today by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) confirm that the United Kingdom is the world leader in the wind power sector with 1,342 megawatts (MW) installed.

In Europe, Britain’s lead is followed by Denmark (854 MW), Holland (249 MW), Belgium (195 MW) and Sweden (164 MW). Germany, Ireland, Finland and Norway have a combined 145 MW between them. The UK’s strong performance, with wind power making up around 45 per cent of the total capacity installed (2,946 MW) will make happy reading for wind power advocates.

For more: Britain is the world leader in wind power | Left Foot Forward

In Britain foreigners take 2 out of 3 new jobs: 200k vacancies filled by those born overseas - by Steve Doughty

Just a third of all jobs created last year went to British-born workers, official figures indicate.

They show that only 100,000 of the 297,000 workers who began new posts between July and September 2010 were native Britons.

Of the rest, 90,000 were born in Poland and other Eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004, and the remainder were born elsewhere in the world.

Note EU-Digest: If the majority of people chosen to fill vacant jobs in a country are foreign born citizens it shows they are either better qualified than local born citizens, or that the hiring system is flawed. Obviously the latter is very unlikely in a Democratic society like Britain. So maybe the British should look at their own educational system for answers? Anti-immigration rhetoric or policies only means shooting yourself in the foot.


For more: Foreigners take 2 out of 3 new jobs: 200k vacancies filled by those born overseas | Mail Online

Turkey's growing economy tells half the story

Beating government targets and market forecasts, the economy grew more rapidly than expected in 2010, the Turkish Statistical Institute announced at the beginning of the year.

At the same time, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government, which is seeking re-election in July, outlined ambitious targets for 2011.

Turkey has the largest national economy in Central and Eastern Europe, according to the IMF. Its economy grew 5.5% in the third quarter of 2010. The IMF expected Turkey to grow 6.3% for the year.


For more: Turkey's growing economy tells half the story (SETimes.com)

House Republicans Propose $2.5 Trillion In Spending Cuts Over 10 Years : It's All Politics

House Republicans unveiled on Thursday a list of spending cuts they said would save $2.5 trillion over 10 years.


Most of the savings, $2.29 trillion, would come from holding spending at 2006 levels on the part of the federal budget that isn't entitlement or defense spending, according to the document released by the Republican Policy Study Committee chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH).

The so-called discretionary part of the budget represents just 16 percent of federal spending. Many experts have said it's impossible for the nation to cut its way to fiscal health by addressing just that part of the budget.

For more: House GOP Proposes $2.5 Trillion In Spending Cuts Over 10 Years : It's All Politics : NPR

1/20/11

Google Challenges Spanish Privacy Orders

Google today appealed five orders from Spain's data privacy agency to remove links from its search engine, in a legal battle that could determine the search giant's responsibility for the content behind its results.

"We are disappointed by the actions of the Spanish privacy regulator," said Peter Barron, a Google spokesman, in a statement. "Requiring intermediaries like search engines to censor material published by others would have a profound chilling effect on free expression without protecting people."

If upheld, the rulings would effectively classify Google as a content publisher, and the company would be legally responsible for the material linked to by its search results.

For more: Google Challenges Spanish Privacy Orders - Mobiledia

China to replace U.S. as top economic power says GE CEO - by Chrystia Freeland

For Jeff Immelt, the CEO of General Electric (GE.N), the 130 year-old American industrial behemoth, the financial crisis marked the end of the age of America's economic dominance.

"I came to GE in 1982," Mr. Immelt told me this week in Washington. "For the first 25 years, until the bubble crashed in 2007, the American consumer was the definitive driver of the global economy."

But Mr. Immelt said the future will be different. For the next 25 years, he said, the American consumer "is not going to be the engine of global growth. It is going to be the billion people joining the middle class in Asia, it is going to be what the resource-rich countries do with their newfound wealth of high oil prices. That's the game."


For more: Column: China to replace U.S. as top economic power says GE CEO | Reuters

EU Parliament approves medical coverage in all member states

The European Parliament has voted to approve a package of measures designed to enable Europeans to get treatment in another EU Member State if they face an undue delay at home.
EU-Digest


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

 

1/19/11

Britain: Ed Miliband attacks 'arrogant' David Cameron over NHS reforms

British PM David Cameron today defended the radical shakeup of the NHS as he was accused of breaking promises and of being "arrogant" by pressing ahead with reforms despite warnings from unions and health experts over the plans.

The prime minister said the government was reforming the NHS "so that we have got the best in Europe" as he was challenged by both Labour and a member of the coalition benches over planned health service reforms at prime minister's questions today.

The total number of adults under 25 who are out of work hit 951,000 in the three months to November, just 1,000 short of its record high. There was a particularly sharp rise in the number of 16- and 17-year-olds classed as unemployed, rather than in employment or education, up to 204,000 from 177,000 in the previous quarter. The statistics will fuel fears that Britain's young people could become a "lost generation" who cannot find work despite the recession ending a year ago.


For more: Ed Miliband attacks 'arrogant' David Cameron over NHS reforms | Politics | guardian.co.uk

Wilders writes anti-Islam book for American market

PVV leader Geert Wilders is writing a book about how to combat Islam, aimed mainly at the American market, he told the Telegraaf  newspaper in an interview on Friday.


‘We can do a lot in the Netherlands but we want to send out a strong international signal to the Arabic world that a party with a lot to say is fighting back,’ Wilders told the paper.

Wilders said he has many international ambitions and hopes to get his International Freedom Alliance up and running. He also expects the PVV to win between 10 and 15 seats in the 75-seat senate.

For more: DutchNews.nl - Wilders writes anti-Islam book for American market

USA Alabama Gov: Only Christians Are My Brothers

Speaking on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the very church where Dr. King once pastored, new Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley gave a speech in which he said that those who have not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior are not his “brothers.”

Bentley spoke at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery just minutes after taking the oath of office on Monday. The new governor, who has been a deacon at First Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, first said that though he ran as a Republican, once he took office he “became the governor of all the people.”

“I am color blind,” Bentley said, according toThe Birmingham News. But Bentley then said that only those who are Christians and “saved” like he is are his brothers and sisters.

For more: Alabama Gov: Only Christians Are My Brothers | FrumForum

Spain confident ahead of banks stress test

Finance Minister Elena Salgado said on Wednesday that Spain's debt-laden financial system is more sound than before, expressing confidence ahead of a new round of European bank stress tests.

European Union financial chiefs, prompted by Ireland's banking catastrophe, promised Tuesday they would soon launch new, more stringent tests across the bloc to check bank liquidity levels.
Spain's banks, weighed down by loans that turned sour after the collapse of a housing bubble, are a particular concern.

For more: Spain confident ahead of banks stress test

Spain confident ahead of banks stress test

Finance Minister Elena Salgado said on Wednesday that Spain's debt-laden financial system is more sound than before, expressing confidence ahead of a new round of European bank stress tests.

European Union financial chiefs, prompted by Ireland's banking catastrophe, promised Tuesday they would soon launch new, more stringent tests across the bloc to check bank liquidity levels.

Spain's banks, weighed down by loans that turned sour after the collapse of a housing bubble, are a particular concern.

For more: Spain confident ahead of banks stress test

Baby Doc's arrest: what took them so long?

It is something of a mystery just why former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier was moved to make a surprise return this week to the homeland he fled in abject disgrace for refuge in France a quarter of a century ago.

Among theories advanced by observers is that he was induced to come by the country's currently embattled president, Rene Preval, as a diversion from Preval's own problems in the hope that it would aid his chances of clinging to power after last November's inconclusive and by all accounts illegitimate election. Another is that it was engineered by French and U.S. authorities for the purpose of undermining Preval. Least plausible is Duvalier's own assertion in a radio interview shortly after his arrival that he was there to be helpful in the reconstruction of the country, ravaged by natural disaster, disease and mis-governance.

For more: Baby Doc's arrest: what took them so long?

Euro Strenght Or Dollar Weakness?

In the US, the mortgage applications, the housing starts and the building permits will be published. We expect these data to be only of intra-day importance. Looking at the price action over the previous days, the pressure on the euro is obviously easing. On the other side of the equation, one can not but draw the conclusion that the dollar is not in best shape either. This is also visible in the trade weighted dollar index. In this respect, we also keep an eye on the visit of the Chinese President to the US. At least for now, most comments from Chinese policy makers were supportive to the euro rather than to the dollar. Of course, it is a thin line to walk for Chinese policy makers as they try to prevent more pronounced rise of the yuan against the dollar too.

For more: Euro Strenght Or Dollar Weakness? | ForexNewsNow.com | Realtime Forex Trading News

EU watchdog backs parallel stress tests

Europe’s top regulator has thrown his support behind dual-track stress tests on banks to check the adequacy of both their underlying capital and liquidity in crisis situations.Michel Barnier, European commissioner for the internal market that includes financial services, backed a proposal from the new European Banking Authority, which is spearheading the latest test, for separate but parallel evaluations of liquidity and capital.

The new European Banking Authority, where key decisions are made by a 27-strong board of national bank supervisors, signalled last week that it planned “a separate thematic review of liquidity funding risks across the EU banking sector”. But it also suggested that this would be an internal review only – with results used to “inform supervisory authorities about areas of vulnerability”, rather than a public exercise.

For more: FT.com / Brussels - EU watchdog backs parallel stress tests

1/18/11

Wikileaks: US pressured Netherlands Labour leader Wouter Bos over Afghanistan

Labour MPs in the Netherlands have reacted with shock to claims that senior Dutch civil servants urged US officials to pressure former Labour party leader Wouter Bos to support a continued Dutch military mission in Afghanistan.

"Mark Rutte who heads up the new Dutch Government has recently proposed the Netherlands return to Afghanistan. This time with with what he calls a "training mission" but "souped up" with air-force and military support. units".(EU-Digest) 

The claims flow from US diplomatic cables leaked by the Wikileaks website. Labour's refusal to back a longer stay in Afghanistan eventually led to the government's collapse.

In one cable, officials write that Bos must be made aware the Netherlands' invitation to take part in an important G20 summit is thanks to the country's efforts in Afghanistan. Dutch Labour MPs now want a parliamentary debate on the issue. 'If this is true, we have a big problem,' Labour MP Ronald Plasterk told the Volkskrant. 'Imagine a US civil servant making plans with the Dutch government against president Obama? It's impossible to imagine such a thing.'

For more: DutchNews.nl - Wikileaks: US pressured Labour leader over Afghanistan

Swiss lawmakers call for expulsions amid probe into possible US embassy surveillance program - by John Heilprin

Angry Swiss lawmakers called Monday for the ouster of U.S. diplomats suspected of illegally spying on people around their diplomatic missions, in a standoff over the use of counter-terrorism measures.

The Swiss government said it has demanded a stop to any surveillance and is investigating the scale of what it calls an unauthorized spying program by the U.S. mission to the United Nations in Geneva and the U.S. embassy in Bern.

The probe follows outrage in Iceland, Norway and Sweden over reports that U.S. diplomats were monitoring some of their countries' citizens — including allegedly taking pictures of street demonstrations and of people deemed security risks, sparking a wave of anti-American sentiment.

For more: The Canadian Press: Swiss lawmakers call for expulsions amid probe into possible US embassy surveillance program

Germany Outlines 10-Point Feed Safety Plan

In response to Germany’s recent dioxin food safety scandal, German Agriculture and Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner last week unveiled a new 10-point action plan to implement tougher animal feed regulations.

"We will significantly increase safety standards and sharpen obligations to notify authorities and the duty to inspect," she said. “Consumers expect this and we are going to do it."

For more: Germany Outlines 10-Point Feed Safety Plan