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3/31/11

Theocratic democracy - by YUSUF KANLI

In 1980, I was acting with the residue of the mass fear inflicted on the Turkish society with the mass imprisonment of intellectuals possessing somehow books considered “hazardous” by the emergency law commanders of the 1971 “coup by memorandum” period. Possessing a book considered “hazardous,” “dangerous” or simply “communist” just because it was written by a Russian, North Korean, by a citizen of any of the Warsaw Pact countries or simply by someone whose name might be considered to be Russian landed so many intellectuals behind bars in the post 1971 period, where they were subjected to such heinous methods of torture, that in 1980 private libraries were almost emptied and the toilets of houses were turned into Nazi gas chambers. This time to burn books…

How many such “hazardous” books I now have in my study room? One-hundred, 200 or more? I have no idea, but definitely there are many political and non-political books which, if the mentality of criminalizing books or worse banning books not yet published has risen from the grave, I either will have to spend considerable time trying to burn or if I decide I cannot go through such a trauma once again perhaps prefer to spend some time in one of the dungeons of this country which by that time would probably complete its transformation into a secular democratic republic into a theocratic democracy – how that will be achieved or sustained I have no idea.

For more: Theocratic democracy - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review

ECB FOCUS-Europe rates to lead U.S. as global power shifts

After following the Federal Reserve's lead for over a decade, the European Central Bank is poised to launch a series of interest rate hikes before the U.S. central bank for the first time in the ECB's history.


The change from the traditional pattern reflects the ECB's greater preoccupation with inflation pressures, as well as its higher level of discomfort with the emergency bond-buying programmes run by central banks.


But the "decoupling" of ECB and Fed policies is also the result of an historic shift in the global economy: the increased influence that Asia, rather than the United States, is having on the euro zone's economy.

"I think we are in a new world where global interest rate cycles are not initiated by the US Fed," said Jens Sondergaard, senior European economist at Nomura.


For more: ECB FOCUS-Europe rates to lead U.S. as global power shifts | Reuters

Libya conflict: Gaddafi's close ally Mousa Kousa defects: - by Peter Beaumont

It was not so long ago that Mousa Kousa, Libya's foreign minister, was being wheeled out to defend Muammar Gaddafi's regime to foreign journalists at Tripoli's luxurious Rixos hotel. A small and tidy man, aged 64, he would appear – usually tieless in his pale grey suit – and read haltingly from a scripted statement.

His message then echoed word for word, idea for idea, that of all of the other loyalists in Gaddafi's regime. He blamed a coalition of al-Qaida and western colonial interests intent on dividing Libya to steal its oil. He accused the foreign media of being part of that plot.

Challenged on one such occasion by journalists, he angrily stormed out. Now the country's long time foreign intelligence chief, who became its foreign minister in 2009, has become the most senior of Gaddafi's allies to defect, after fleeing through Tunisia.

For more: Libya conflict: Gaddafi's close ally Mousa Kousa defects | World news | The Guardian

3/30/11

Europe's Failing Health - by JAVIER ESPINOZA

Traditional sources of funding health care in Europe have been branded obsolete and unaffordable. The need for innovation has never been stronger and while some countries, such as the Netherlands and Switzerland, are embracing change, others are resisting any significant overhaul. Indeed, the notion of free, state-backed health care is ingrained in the psyche of most Europeans.

Reformers want to reduce the state's role in health-care delivery and introduce a competitive element. Those against change are adamant that a health-care system without state involvement is health care without a heart. Good for the rich, calamitous for the poor. It is an issue heavily clouded by emotion. But many feel that without innovation, crumbling state-backed systems will collapse as they struggle to cope with aging populations, soaring overheads and, more recently, mounting budget deficits.

Note EU-Digest: It is always interesting to read the gloom and doom predictions about Europe (EU) by right-wing conservatives and their "mouth pieces" in the US and Britain. They always picture Europe's social well fare safety net as a bad example of political governance, specially when it comes to reducing budget deficits. Instead, maybe they should be looking at their own sacred conservative cows when cutting budget deficits, like military spending, or regulating the financial, chemical, medical, and pharmaceutical industry. After so many years in power conservatives still have not closed multi-national tax loopholes , reigned in the power of the oil industry, created a fair tax system, a national health care service, or an educational system which produces results. If Europe goes down that conservative road they would not only be crazy, but also be condemned to turning into a society where free choice is regulated only by market forces.

For more: Europe's Failing Health - WSJ.com

Soccer Euro 2012: Netherlands edge thriller over Hungary and remain unbeaten

Dirk Kuyt fired a late double to help Holland maintain their 100% record at the top of Euro 2012 qualifying Group E with a dramatic 5-3 win over Hungary in Amsterdam.

The Dutch had to battle from behind after quick-fire goals from Gergely Rudolph and Zoltan Gera cancelled out Robin van Persie's early opener in the first five minutes of the second half. Wesley Sneijder and Ruud van Nistelrooy restored the home side's advantage and, despite Gera hauling Hungary back level, Kuyt clinched the points with his brace in the 78th and 81st minutes.

The win put the Dutch nine points clear at the top of the group while Sweden replaced Hungary in second place on goal difference after Mikael Lustig and Sebastian Larsson scored in a 2-1 home win over Moldova.

For more: Euro 2012: Netherlands edge thriller - ESPN Soccernet

Libya" Global message: from London Meeting: "Gaddafi must go "

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon would lead an international contact group of regional organisations to coordinate efforts to resolve the Libyan crisis. This emerged out of the London Conference on Libya on Tuesday.

The EU, Arab League, African Union, OIC representatives besides 35 foreign ministers attended the conference and agreed to extend humanitarian assistance to Libya in its escalating civil war. They vowed to maintain pressure on its dictator, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, to quit, but failed to reach a consensus on the extent or nature of the Nato intervention.

The US secretary of state Hillary Clinton sounded an aggressive tone and stressed bombing and missile strikes on Libya's armed forces and their installations will continue until the dictator meets "UN terms" to "make clear to Gaddafi that he must go". 


EU-Digest:  no more lip service, just more airstrikes on Gaddafi tanks and military shelling civilians and  weapons for the rebels

For more: Global message: Gaddafi must go - The Times of India

Genetic Engineering: E.U. Talks Fail on Food Imports From Clone Offspring - by James Kanter

Marathon talks in Bruxelles aimed at regulating imports into Europe of meat and dairy products from animals bred from clones collapsed Tuesday because of disagreements between governments and the European Parliament over how sweeping the rules should be. 

The failure, while bemoaned by European consumer groups, is likely to be welcomed by farmers in the United States, Brazil, and other countries where cloning for food is gaining ground, as well as by food manufacturers, who will get an open-ended reprieve from any new and potentially costly labeling requirements. Negotiators for European governments accused the Parliament of “political grandstanding” in pushing for unworkable rules “that would have required drawing a family tree for each slice of cheese or salami.” The new rules, the negotiators added, risked setting off a trade war similar to the long-running battle between Europe and the United States over genetically modified crops.

But the Parliament’s negotiators, led in part by a left-wing Dutch lawmaker, Kartika Liotard, insisted on tougher rules for imports and said they were sticking to principles, citing surveys that show European public opinion is overwhelmingly against cloning for food. Ms. Liotard said at a news conference Tuesday that the Parliament’s negotiators already had softened their position from a complete ban on imports to accepting a labeling system. She referred to cloning as “pure animal abuse.” 

The collapse of the talks highlights the growing ability of the European Parliament to influence decision-making in areas like trade and privacy, a rise in influence that has fueled tension with Washington over surveillance of bank transactions to track terrorism suspects.

Note EU-Digest: Regardless of the fact that a majority of the European population does not want genetically modified food, large numbers of lobbyists from the food industry swarming all over Bruxelles are trying to change parliamentarians minds in favor of this unhealthy food, with all the methods available to them and money certainly is no object to get their point across. Europe does not want genetically modified food on their dinner tables and are counting on its political representatives to stop this onslaught by the international industrial food industry.


For more: E.U. Talks Fail on Food Imports From Clone Offspring - NYTimes.com

3/29/11

Greece’s Souda Military Base is a Key Player in Libya | Greece.GreekReporter.com Latest News from Greece

Greece’s military base at Souda is developing into a key player for the coalitions forces bombarding defense positions in Libya, in order to apply what diplomats call a No Fly Zone. A source at The Greek Defense Ministry told portal onalert that 60 to 100 fighter aircrafts are expected to use the bases of Souda (Crete), Andravida (Patras) and Aktio (Preveza). Most probably the air force bases at Araxos (Peloponnese), Kasteli (Crete) and Tanagra (Boeotia) will be also used to absorb the huge amount of fighter jets.

Last night 6 F-16 and one C-130 form Norway landed at Souda. The eight F-16 from Belgium, currently stationed at Araxos, have requested a Souda deployment.

For more: Greece’s Souda Military Base is a Key Player in Libya | Greece.GreekReporter.com Latest News from Greece

Libya: US paves way to arm Libyan rebels by Nicholas Watt

London conference on Libya opens as rebels grow impatient for more help Link to this video
Hillary Clinton has paved the way for the United States to arm the Libyan rebels by declaring that the recent UN security council resolution relaxed an arms embargo on the country.

As Libya's opposition leaders called for the international community to arm them, the secretary of state indicated that the US was considering whether to meet their demands when she talked of a "work in progress".

For more: US paves way to arm Libyan rebels | World news | guardian.co.uk

Alternative Energy: U.S. falls behind China, Germany in clean energy - by Wendy Koch

The United States slipped one spot to third place in clean-energy investment last year despite President Obama's push to promote non-p0lluting sources of power, says a report Tuesday.

Until 2008, the U.S. had held the top spot, but it has since been eclipsed by China, which ranks no. 1, and Germany, which has taken over the no. 2 spot, according to the report "Who's Winning the Clean Energy Race" by the Pew Charitable Trusts, an independent, nonprofit group.

For more: Report: U.S. falls behind China, Germany in clean energy - Green House - USATODAY.com

Netherlands Rejects Bonus Tax on Bailed-Out Banks, Insurers

The Netherlands rejected a proposed 100 percent tax on bonuses given to employees of ING Groep NV (INGA), Aegon NV (AGN) and other bailed-out banks and insurers.

The request is “disproportionate, legally flawed and undesirable,” State Secretary for Finance Frans Weekers said in an interview with Dutch broadcaster RTLZ today. “I do understand the reasoning behind it and together with Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager we will see how we can act in accordance with its essence.”

Dutch lawmakers last week submitted a non-binding motion to apply a one-time tax on all bonuses paid since 2008 after ING proposed paying Chief Executive Officer Jan Hommen a 1.25 million-euro ($1.76 million) bonus. ING, which received 10 billion euros of aid in 2008, scrapped proposed executive bonuses amid criticism from lawmakers and government officials.

For more: go to Bloomberg

Deutsche Bank Presents "The REAL Story" Behind The Decline Of American Manufacturing - by Gregory White

Manufacturing, as a percentage of employment, may be on a decline, but that doesn't mean the sector is performing poorly or necessarily contributing less to the U.S. economy, according to a new report from Deutsche Bank.

Their report, titled "The decline of US manufacturing: Fact or fiction," focuses on how there has been a steady decline in the percentage of U.S. workers in manufacturing positions as a percent of the total workforce, but not much change in the amount of people working in manufacturing overall.

One big reason for this is that the industry is now more efficient then it was in the past, in that it can "do more with less." So while, in some ways, manufacturing is in decline, in many it is not.

3/28/11

Turkish Bid to Track Erdogan Picture Denied by U.S., Taraf Says

The U.S. Justice Department rejected a Turkish prosecutor’s request for help tracking an e- mail address linked to images of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s head superimposed on a pig, Taraf newspaper said.

The request by the state prosecutor in Trabzon would force the U.S. to act contrary to its constitutional obligation to protect free speech, Taraf cited the U.S. response as saying.

The Turkish prosecutor was trying to find the creator of the images, which were posted at a local university and connected to an address on Google Inc.’s gmail service, Taraf said.

For more: Turkish Bid to Track Erdogan Picture Denied by U.S., Taraf Says - Bloomberg: "

Libyan reformer now face of rebellion - by Farah Stockman

Mahmoud Jibril, a reform-minded former Libyan official and the face of the rebel movement to the West, has played a key role in persuading the United States and its allies to offer a lifeline to Libya’s rebellion.

Those who have met him — including Senator Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France — have emerged from their meetings more confident that Libya’s fledgling opposition is steered by democratic and Western-leaning visionaries, not Islamic extremists.

Jibril, who went by the name Mahmoud Gebril ElWarfally when he lived in the United States, is in many ways an unlikely leader of rebellion. Born in 1952, Jibril attended college in Cairo and earned his PhD in 1985 from the University of Pittsburgh under the late Richard Cottam, a former US intelligence official in Iran who became a renowned political scientist specializing on the Middle East, aid Alberta Sbragia, a political science professor at the time. Sbragia recalled that Jibril stood out as a bright student.

But Jibril is best known in Libya for his work with the regime. Around 2005, just as relations between Khadafy and the West were thawing, Saif Khadafy recruited him to help restructure Libya’s economy, with technical support from the Boston-based Monitor group, which sent dozens of consultants to Tripoli.

When the opposition rebels appointed Jibril, “there were a lot of people saying, ‘You are bringing a person from the regime,’ ’’ said Mazin Ramadan, a Seattle-based Libyan technology entrepreneur who is helping the opposition. “But he didn’t come in to kill people. He came to help Libya.’’

For more: Libyan reformer now face of rebellion - The Boston Globe

Libya: Obama speech signals a new direction for American foreign policy

Tonight's speech by President Obama was historic in the sense that it brilliantly defined a new direction in US foreign policy which is more humane, multilateral, and far less cowboyish than the world has come to know from his predecessor.

In other words, a stark departure from the Bush administration's more unilateralist methods. There are no "coalitions of the willing" here, no dismissive references to "Old Europe," no "you are with us or you are with the terrorists." Instead, the Obama White House has shown exquisite deference to the very international institutions and foreign governments that the Bush administration either steamrolled or ignored.

In the 27-minute speech, Obama made two parallel cases: first, that doing nothing would have run counter to U.S. ideals and national interests; and second, that to have acted alone or expanded the military mission to topple Gadhafi would have been too costly and repeated the mistakes of the Iraq War.

Obama said that America had a moral imperative in preventing Gadhafi from inflicting "a massacre" on his own people. He said there also was a strategic U.S. interest in blocking the Libyan leader. Otherwise the fragile democracy movements in Tunisia, Egypt and across the Arab world would be endangered, as tyrants would draw the lesson that "violence is the best strategy to cling to power."

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will be among foreign ministers from 35 countries attending a meeting in London tomorrow which will include the Libyan opposition leader Mahmoud Jebril, based in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi to discuss the future of Libya after Gaddafi departs from the scene.

Click here for the complete speech of President Obama

EU-Digest

Turkey Steps Up to Mediate in Libya Crisis - "but Erdogan's motives look suspicious? "

Senior Turkish diplomat Selim Yenel said a political solution is crucial for Libya. "Turkey is now talking to both sides, and we believe one of the few countries that can to talk to both sides. In the end it's the only way out, otherwise more and more military actions will push people into a corner and you have to show a way out. And we believe a diplomatic solution is a way out. "

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has had good relations with the Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, and until recently had strongly opposed military intervention and, in particular, NATO's involvement. But, Erdogan has since changed his stance now supporting NATO and calling for Gadhafi to stand down.

Though such inconsistencies may cast suspicions on Turkey's objectivity, diplomatic correspondent Semih Idiz said Turkey is in a unique position to mediate.

Note EU-Digest: Even though Mr. Erdogan has changed his mind on the issue a few times, one can only hope he accepts the fact that Gaddafi must go. It must also be clear to him that if France had not acted immediately, pro-Gaddafi forces would have taken Benghazi and Gaddafi would have prevailed.The fact that Mr. Erdogan was critical about this French initiative which saved the day for the freedom fighters makes the mediation efforts of Mr. Erdogan look somewhat suspicious.

For more: Turkey Steps Up to Mediate in Libya Crisis | Middle East | English

Euro Reverses Losses With Trichet Hawkishness In Focus

The euro rose Monday, reversing earlier losses as the anti-inflationary bias of European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet fed expectations of higher euro zone interest rates, relegating concerns about European debt to the backburner.

Last week, the European Union summit adjourned without a resolution to the 17-nation currency bloc's sovereign debt woes. Coming as it did on the heels of Portugal's government being toppled by the failure of austerity measures, the euro came under selling pressure.

Europe's political environment has become increasingly inhospitable to broad-based reform. The developments prompted some analysts to question whether the mounting uncertainty would keep the ECB from raising borrowing costs to quell price pressures. At the same time, Federal Reserve officials have made increasingly hawkish noises that encouraged dollar buying.

But early Monday, Trichet reiterated his stance on raising rates, which lifted the euro out of its doldrums. In a market that remains fixated on higher-yields--the euro's primary source of strength--traders immediately bought back the single currency after sending it sharply lower.

For more: Euro Reverses Losses With Trichet Hawkishness In Focus - WSJ.com

Italy to propose joint plan with Germany and Turkey on Libya

Italy will propose that it and Germany back a joint plan on Libya that involves a ceasefire, a humanitarian corridor through Turkey and exile for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said.

Frattini said in an interview published on Sunday by La Repubblica newspaper that Rome would try to get Berlin to agree to the plan and present it at a London meeting to set up a high-level steering group on Libya. "We have a plan and we will see if it can be translated into an Italian-German proposal, perhaps in a joint document that can be presented on Tuesday," he said.

He said it included a ceasefire monitored by the United Nations and a "permanent humanitarian corridor" to let aid in, which he said Turkey was already making efforts to achieve.

EU-Digest

3/27/11

Syria - Violent protests spread in Syria

Violent anti-government protests were reported in two Syrian towns on Saturday as security forces struggled to contain the uprising in the Ba’athist state long considered one of the Arab region’s most repressive regimes.

(Photo insert Bashar al-Assad)

As funerals took place of protesters killed on Friday, Ammar Qurabi, an exile in Egypt who heads Syria’s National Organization for Human Rights, said the Ba’ath party office in the coastal city of Latakia was set on fire after being attacked by dozens of people. He told Reuters that security forces killed two protesters in the

For more: FT.com / Middle East & North Africa - Violent protests spread in Syria

France: Sarkozy's party takes drubbing in test elections

Conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy's party took a drubbing in Sunday's local elections, seen as a test ahead of next year's presidential vote, and the far-right National Front left its first footprint in France's smallest administrative districts.

The opposition Socialist Party was the big winner in the second round of balloting in the nation's cantons, with nearly 36 percent of the vote, according to the Interior Ministry, while Sarkozy's UMP party took 20 percent. The National Front had 11.7 percent — and won in at least two cantons, a first. It was competing in only 403 of the races for 1,566 seats.

The turnout was less than 46 percent — the lowest ever in a vote in cantons, said Interior Minister Claude Gueant. Results were not final.

For more: The Associated Press: Sarkozy's party takes drubbing in test elections

Germany: Merkel government hit by poll loss

Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition suffered bruising losses in two state legislative elections in Germany Sunday, losing control of the main prize, Baden-Wuerttemberg state, projections showed.

In that large and rich south-western state, Merkel's Christian Democrats ended a 58-year winning streak, gaining only 39 per cent of the ballots, a 5-percentage-point loss of vote share.

The Green Party was expected to nominate its first state premier in German history. The environmentalists were expected to win about 24 per cent, enough to rule Baden-Wuerttemberg in a coalition with the Social Democrats, who won 23 per cent.

For more: Merkel government hit by poll loss in Germany - Monsters and Critics

France's floating frontline against Libya's Gaddafi

Dressed in a khaki uniform and protective helmet, a French pilot emerges from the Rafale fighter jet that just landed on the deck of the Charles de Gaulle carrier, back from another mission over Libya.

A dozen mechanics scramble to assess the plane: the fuel specialists wear red, the maintenance crew green and the on-deck traffic controllers wear yellow, barking orders that have earned them the French nickname "yellow dogs".


A Hawkeye radar plane is next to land, soon to be replaced by another on the night flight. French forces said on Saturday that they had destroyed seven Libyan aircraft -- five planes and two helicopters -- in the western town of Misrata, where pro-Gaddafi units have mounted an assault to try to oust rebels.

For more: France's floating frontline against Libya's Gaddafi | Top News | Reuters

Libya: Rebels take Ras Lanuf, Brega , Uqayla, Bin Jawad

Libyan rebels have recaptured four more towns and are moving quickly towards Muammar Gaddafi's heartland of Sirte.They seized the eastern coastal towns of Ras Lanuf, Brega, Uqayla and Bin Jawad after pro-Gaddafi forces withdrew, under pressure from allied air strikes. 

The rebels had recaptured the port of Ajdabiya on Saturday. US, French, British and other allied aircraft started attacking Libyan government troops eight days ago.

The military coalition was assembled after the UN Security Council authorised action to protect civilians. Nato members met in Brussels on Sunday evening and agreed to take over command of military operations in Libya from the US-led coalition, diplomats said.


For more: BBC News - Libya: Rebels take Ras Lanuf, Brega , Uqayla, Bin Jawad

North Africa is Europe's problem – not Obama's

Committees are sometimes the fairest way to decide policy; rarely, if ever, are they the most efficient. As a system for conducting wars,  their shortcomings are obvious.

Public concern about the risks of intervention in Libya are hardly allayed by the impression that no one appears to be taking ultimate political charge of the mission.

The   diplomatic impetus for action came from France and Britain. The US was,
after some delay, recruited as a key advocate. Most of the military
assets being used in the operation come from members of the Nato
alliance. The Arab League is providing diplomatic support and some
hardware in the form of Qatari and UAE jets.



For more: North Africa is Europe's problem – not Obama's | Observer editorial | Comment is free | The Observer

Ireland: Hatred, disgust, anger -- Europe's feelings for us - by DANIEL McCONNELL

"OF course, Ireland has few friends in Europe  at present. You have bust banks, a broke economy and McCreevy was a   c*** when he was here," one senior diplomat exclaimed when asked of the true feeling towards our country.  "Ireland has lost much of the goodwill that once existed towards it and people here have run out of patience," said another.

Deep  within the cavernous Justice Lipse Building, directly across the road
from the iconic Berlaymont Commission Building, journalists from all
over the world and officials from member states awaited word from the
leaders who had been locked in session for over five hours.

3/26/11

Canadian general to lead enforcement of Libya's no-fly zone and an Italian admiral the Navy forces- by Paul Koring

As NATO takes over, a Canadian air force general will command most of the Libyan air war but not the nastiest bits – bombing ground targets and attacking Moammar Gadhafi’s tanks – reflecting an ongoing split in the alliance.

(photo insert Eurofighter)

Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard will initially run only the no-fly zone over Libya. An Italian admiral will command the multinational naval blockade offshore. The punishing and controversial bombing runs and air-to-ground strafing will remain under U.S.  command until NATO establishes rules of engagement acceptable to reluctant alliance nations such as Germany and Turkey.

Canadian general to lead enforcement of Libya's no-fly zone - The Globe and Mail

European Stocks Post Largest Weekly Gain in 6 Months as Japan Angst Eases - Bly Giles Broom

European stocks rose the most in six months this week, as investors speculated that Japan will prevent further radiation leaks from its stricken nuclear plant and the U.S. economy grew at a faster-than-forecast pace.

Deutsche Telekom AG soared 12 percent as AT&T Inc. agreed to buy T-Mobile USA Inc. Cie. de Saint-Gobain, Europe’s biggest provider of building materials, neared its highest price since June 2008. Rio Tinto Plc (RIO) gained 5.7 percent after copper rose and it secured a tax concession from the Australian government.

For more: European Stocks Post Largest Weekly Gain in 6 Months as Japan Angst Eases - Bloomberg

EU adopts comprehensive package to shore up euro

European Union (EU) leaders endorsed a long-awaited comprehensive package of measures to shore up the euro Thursday, as a political crisis in Portugal renewed fears about the year-long debt crisis.

"We took important decisions this evening and even this night ... We decided a comprehensive package of economic measures" to deal with the debt crisis, EU President Herman Van Rompuy told reporters early Friday.

The package consists of an expansion of the EU's bailout fund, the establishment of a permanent rescue mechanism in the eurozone, a new round of stress tests in the banking sector and a new reform plan, called the Pact for the Euro, to improve economic competitiveness and convergence of eurozone economies.

For more: EU adopts comprehensive package to shore up euro

3/25/11

Europe's Libya Intervention: A Special Report

Distinct interests sparked the European involvement in Libya. The United Kingdom and France have issued vociferous calls for intervention in Libya for the past month, ultimately managing to convince the rest of Europe - with some notable exceptions - to join in military action, the Arab League to offer its initial support, and global powers China and Russia to abstain from voting at the U.N. Security Council.

For more: Bulawayo24 NEWS | Europe's Libya Intervention: A Special Report

SYRIA: Protesters try to topple statue of late President Hafez Assad

In an extraordinary show of defiance, crowds of protesters tried Friday to topple a statue of Syria's late President Hafez Assad, whose family has ruled the country with an iron fist for four decades.

Footage posted on YouTube apparently shows protesters in the southern town of Dara, epicenter of more than a week of unrest, hacking at the statue. Gunfire erupts and the crowds scatter.

The most widespread protests in decades erupted across multiple cities and towns Friday, prompting a brutal crackdown in which dozens of people were killed, witnesses said.

For more: SYRIA: Protesters try to topple statue of late President Hafez Assad [Video] | Babylon & Beyond | Los Angeles Times

Soccer EURO Cup: Hungary 0 vs Netherlands 4

Van Marwijk said that his team looked like FC Barcelona. “I think only few teams are capable of this play. We really humiliated Hungary, despite this being their crucial home match.” Rafael van der Vaart agreed with the coach. “We really outplayed them, they did not know what to do and ended up playing rough.”

Rafael van der Vaart scored the opener in the eighth minute after a Wesley Sneijder assist and in the 45th minute the Dutch Barcelona-player Ibrahim Afellay doubled the score. Despite the absence of the injured captain Mark van Bommel the Netherlands dominated on the midfield with Sneijder, Van der Vaart and Afellay playing a spectacular passing game.

Hungary’s only weapon, PSV’s left winger Balázs Dzsudzsák was taken care of by Ajax’ right back Gregory van der Wiel, who also gave the assist for Afellay’s goal and in the second half assisted on Robin van Persie’s 4-0 (63’). The Arsenal striker could have scored 3-0 as well, but he left the honor to Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt in the 54th minute.

For more: Hungary vs Netherlands Report :: Live Soccer TV

Libya - "a coalition of chickens?": France plays hawk, Germany demurs. Libya has exposed Europe's fault lines - by Timothy Garton Ash

So Europeans are from Mars and Americans are from Venus. Those "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" – the French – have led the military charge into Libya. The hamburger-munching crusader eagles have dithered in the rear.

Except that such crude stereotypes are as misleading today as they were at the time of the Iraq war. Now as then, Americans are divided – and Europeans even more so. France and Britain have led the campaign for a no-fly zone and for "all necessary measures" to protect civilians in Libya. Germany has demonstratively dissociated itself from them. The Obama administration initially showed almost German levels of reluctance to get involved with any form of military intervention, but shifted its position in response to Gaddafi's brutal campaign to restore his own power, the remarkable pro-intervention stance of the Arab League, and pressures from many Americans.   Among the American voices pressing for action was Robert Kagan, the neocon who popularised the original bon mot: "Americans are from Mars, Europeans are from Venus."

So far as France is concerned, we need have no illusions about the personal motives of Nicolas Sarkozy. He surely hopes that cutting a dash on the international scene will boost his ratings and give him a better chance of being re-elected next year. Decisive action in defence of Arab human rights is supposed to cover up his administration's appalling record in cosying up to Arab leaders who trampled on those rights, including Hosni Mubarak, until recently Sarkozy's co-chair of the Union for the Mediterranean, Tunisia's Zine El Abidine ben-Ali and, yes, Muammar Gaddafi.

EU-Digest: Whatever the differences within the coalition, one thing should be crystal clear to what now looks more and more like a "coalition of chickens ", that regardless of what they say or do, history will judge this coalition as to how it dealt with this despotic madman in Libya. So for the sake of the people of Libya, not withstanding the billions most of the coalition member countries have invested into sustaining this Gaddafi's  fiefdom in the past,  its high time to show some backbone and conclude the assignment properly.

For more: France plays hawk, Germany demurs. Libya has exposed Europe's fault lines | Timothy Garton Ash | Comment is free | The Guardian

EU: Portugal Able To Finance Itself In Market - PM Socrates

Portugal's outgoing Prime Minister Jose Socrates said Friday the country continues to be able to finance itself in the markets, and reaffirmed it will meet all its budget goals independently on who will form the next government.

"Portugal doesn't need any outside help. What we need is confidence from the European Union, which admittedly has weakened since Wednesday," Socrates told reporters after an EU summit in Brussels closed Friday.

For more: Portugal Able To Finance Itself In Market - PM Socrates

Britain: Government Coalition faces Lib Dem revolt on euro 11.39 North Sea oil tax

Osborne is facing a Liberal Democrat rebellion over his euro 11.39 billion (£10b) tax raid on North Sea oil revenues, as industry leaders condemned the measure, claiming it would cost investment and jobs in Scotland.

A backlash against the windfall tax saw splits open up in the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition, while the oil companies lined up to attack the proposal, seen as the key announcement in the Chancellor's Budget this week.

Malcolm Bruce, the Lib Dem MP for Gordon, vowed to speak to Treasury ministers about the tax, adding: "I am certainly not going to support this measure".Osborne is facing a Liberal Democrat rebellion over his £10 billion tax raid on North Sea oil revenues, as industry leaders condemned the measure, claiming it would cost investment and jobs in Scotland.

For more: Coalition faces Lib Dem revolt on £10bn oil tax - Scotsman.com

'Arab spring' drives wedge between U.S., Saudi Arabia - by Warren P. Strobel

'The United States and Saudi Arabia — whose conflicted relationship has survived oil shocks, the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the U.S. invasion of Iraq — are drifting apart faster than at any time in recent history, according to diplomats, analysts and former U.S. officials.

The breach, punctuated by a series of tense diplomatic incidents in the past two weeks, could have profound implications for the U.S. role in the Middle East, even as President Barack Obama juggles major Arab upheavals from Libya to Yemen.

The Saudi monarchy, which itself has been loathe to introduce democratic reforms, watched with deepening alarm as the White House backed Arab opposition movements and helped nudge from power former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, another long-time U.S. ally, according to U.S. and Arab officials.


Arab spring' drives wedge between U.S., Saudi Arabia - Politics Wires - MiamiHerald.com

3/24/11

Banking Industry: Dutch Lawmakers Want Bonuses at ABN Amro, ING, Aegon Taxed = by Jurjen van de Pol

Dutch lawmakers asked Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager to tax bonuses at banks and insurers that received state aid, saying he didn’t do enough to curb bonuses in the financial industry. “Parliament requests that the government apply a onetime tax on all financial bonuses paid since 2008 at ABN Amro, ASR Verzekeringen, ING, SNS Reaal and Aegon at a rate of 100 percent,”

Freedom Party lawmaker Roland van Vliet wrote in a non-binding motion approved by a majority in the lower house of parliament in the Hague today

For more: Dutch Lawmakers Want Bonuses at ABN Amro, ING, Aegon Taxed - Businessweek

Portugal's government collapses: The next domino

This week’s defeat of the minority Socialist government led by José Sócrates in a parliamentary vote on austerity measures—the fourth package in 12 months—triggered his prompt resignation as prime minister. But it also created a political vacuum in which nobody may have enough authority to negotiate any bail-out.

Few doubt that Portugal is close to the moment when it has no alternative but to seek help from the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), the euro zone’s bail-out fund. But economists say the crisis increases the chances that Portugal will need European Union funds within days. The finance minister, Fernando Teixera dos Santos, said that a failure to pass the austerity measures would create “additional difficulties…which I doubt we will be able to bear on our own.”

Announcing his resignation, Mr Sócrates predicted that an IMF/EU bail-out would result in even harsher measures than those that he had tried to push through parliament.

For more: Comments on Portugal's government collapses: The next domino | The Economist

Libya: French fighter plane destroys first Libyan aircraft

The first Libya aircraft to be destroyed after it breached the no-fly zone was shot down by a French fighter as coalition attacks on Col Muammar Gaddafi's forces intensified on Thursday.

The Libyan combat plane was destroyed as it came in to land. French surveillance aircraft had spotted it flying near the city of Misurata in violation of the UN Security Council resolution. A French Rafale fighter fired a guided air-to-ground missile, possibly the highly accurate AASM, on the jet as it landed at a nearby airbase

For more: Libya: French fighter plane destroys first Libyan aircraft - Telegraph

Libya Conflict May Spur Sales of Battle-Proven Eurofighter Jet

Dogfights over Libya may spur sales of Eurofighter GmbH’s euro 70 million ($106 million) Typhoon warplane as the enforcement of a no-fly zone against Muammar Qaddafi, and gives the jet a chance to prove its battle credentials.

For more: Libya Conflict May Spur Sales of Battle-Proven Eurofighter Jet - Businessweek

Banking Industry: Bar to be raised for EU bank stress test - by Patrick Jenkins and Brooke Masters

European banking regulators are preparing to introduce a “near fail” category into the new stress test process as part of a mechanism to force recapitalisations on weaker banks.

The European bank stress tests of a year ago saw all but seven of the 91 banks in the exercise pass a 6 per cent tier one capital threshold, a measure of financial strength

3/23/11

European Debt Crisis - The Battle for Europe’s Economic Soul

A list of measures EU heads of state will likely sign off on later this week could very well entrench Germany’s strength at the heart of Europe and the weakness of those on the periphery.

The plan involves writing limits on public debt and deficits into national law, more flexible labor markets and a review of wage indexation.

Add to this a battle over corporate tax rates and the new rules could spark further problems down the road, rather than prevent another crisis says CNBC

For more: European Debt Crisis - The Battle for Europe’s Economic Soul - CNBC

Libya: US Republican Speaker of the House Boehner who has achieved nothing since he became speaker should be the last to critique Obama over Libya

The House speaker, John A. Boehner, on Wednesday pressed President Obama to clarify what the administration hoped to achieve through military intervention in Libya, as top Senate Democrats defended the president’s handling of the crisis.

Mr. Boehner who had earlier struck a more neutral tone, saying America had a “moral obligation” to help opponents of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi while urging the White House to define its intent. But on Wednesday in his letter to the President he supposedly illustrated mounting Congressional wariness over the use of force without fuller participation by the House and Senate as well as uncertainty over how long American military units would lead the military action.

With Congress out of town, three Senate allies of Mr. Obama came to his defense, predicting the president would win bipartisan backing for the country’s role in Libya if it came to a vote when Congress returns from a one-week break next week. In a conference call with reporters, Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who leads the Armed Services Committee, also said he expected United States military forces to hand off responsibility for enforcing the no-fly zone in a matter of days, not weeks.

Given the urgency of stopping the Gaddafi onslaught from entering Benghazi most political observers and European allies have applauded Mr. Obama for rising to the occasion by throwing his support behind the UN resolution based on humanitarian and moral grounds rather than staying out of the conflict for economic reasons.

EU-Digest

Libya: "Vive La France": Sarkozy Puts France in Front of Fight for Libya - by STEVEN ERLANGER

President Nicolas Sarkozy may be down in the opinion polls, but he has put France boldly in the forefront of an allied effort to prevent the decimation of the opposition to Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddaf.


Ten days ago, Mr. Sarkozy met with representatives of the Libyan opposition and recognized it as the country’s legitimate government. And while the United Nations Security Council has authorized the use of force to protect civilians by “all necessary measures,” the logic of the military operation would seem to be the ouster of Colonel Qaddafi.

Some officials of NATO countries resented having to rush to Paris on Saturday for an elegant lunch meeting and a show of hands giving symbolic backing to the military strikes while Qaddafi forces were nearing Benghazi, while others complained that initial French air sorties were not coordinated with allies.

But by Saturday night, none of that seemed to matter very much amid an acknowledgement that French action had been instrumental in protecting Benghazi.

Sarkozy Puts France in Front of Fight for Libya - NYTimes.com

Libya rebels coordinating with West on air assault - by David Zucchino and Paul Richter

Leaders of the opposition national council in rebel-controlled eastern Libya say they are making regular, secure contacts with allied military representatives in Europe to help commanders identify targets for the U.S.-led air assault.

Leaders of the opposition national council in rebel-controlled eastern Libya say they are making regular, secure contacts with allied military representatives in Europe to help commanders identify targets for the U.S.-led air assault.

Rebel Council spokesmen have said the rebels are receiving light weapons, ammunition, supplies and communications equipment from other nations but have declined to name the donors.
 
For more: Libya rebels coordinating with West on air assault - latimes.com

Turkish navy to help enforce Libya embargo

Turkey has offered four frigates, a submarine and a support ship to help NATO enforce a UN arms embargo on Libya, the military alliance has said.

Brigadier Pierre St Amand, a NATO military officer, said the alliance had so far received offers of 16 ships from a number of countries to implement the mission.

He said the ships included: a command-and-control ship from Italy; 10 frigates, including four from Turkey and one each from Britain, Spain, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada and the US; submarines from Spain, Italy and Turkey; and auxiliary ships from Italy and Turkey.

For more: Turkish navy to help enforce Libya embargo - Europe - Al Jazeera English

LIBYA: Airstrikes force Gadhafi to fall back from key western city; NATO ships patrol Libyan coast and Interim Government formed

International air-strikes forced Moammar Gadhafi’s tanks to roll back from the western city of Misrata on Wednesday, a local doctor said, giving respite to civilians who have endured more than a week of attacks and a punishing blockade. In the east, civilians fleeing another strategic city described relentless shelling and dire conditions.

The international coalition continued airstrikes and patrols early Wednesday, but the report that Misrata was targeted could not immediately be confirmed. U.S. Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear, the on-scene commander, said Tuesday the coalition was “considering all options” in response to intelligence showing troops were targeting civilians in the city, 125 miles (200 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli.

A doctor in Misrata said the tanks fled after the airstrikes began around midnight, giving a much-needed reprieve to the city, which is inaccessible to human rights monitors or journalists. He said the airstrikes struck the aviation academy and a vacant lot outside the central hospital, which was under maintenance.

In the meantime Libya's pro-democracy fighters have formed an "interim government" even as forces backing the country's leader, Muammar Gaddafi, press ahead with attacks against them.

Once Gaddafi is removed from power they  want to establish a secular democracy in Libya that would respect oil contracts awarded under Muammar Gaddafi, members of the council said.

Heading up the new government as an interim prime minister is Mahmoud Jibril, who had been working as a representative to foreign powers.

He is best known on the international stage for meeting Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, which led to France diplomatically recognizing the rebels' transitional council as the sole representative of the Libyan people.

Ali Zeidan, one of 31 members of the Libyan National Council, told reporters the rebels could overcome Gaddafi's forces in ten days if the coalition of Western powers continued its U.N.-mandated strikes.

For up to the minute reports on the situation in Libya also watch live video reports from Al Jazeera TV in English via EU-Digest or directly on your computer..

EU-Digest

Libya: Dutch Soldiers to Join Military Mission in Libya

The Dutch government has decided to send 200 troops to join the military actions against Libya, local media reported on Tuesday.

The country will also dispatch six F-16 jet fighters and one mine-hunter ship, according to reports of the Dutch state news agency.

Defense Minister Hans Hillen told reporters the Dutch contribution was for three months, after which NATO and the Netherlands would decide whether and how to continue the mission. The jet fighters and ship will start operations within a few days.

For more: Dutch Soldiers to Join Military Mission in Libya

3/22/11

Libya : Amid the West's air-strikes, cracks appearing in regime and new voices are heard in Libyn capital

Nearly all the tribal leaders meeting at central Tripoli's Algeria Square inside an ornate hall with a large portrait of a much younger Kadafi peering from one end, avoided parroting the government's hard line on the rebellion. Instead, they announced plans to march across the country to reunite Libya's divided east and west.

Asked how they would resolve the fundamental divide between those who want Kadafi and those who don't, Iyad replied that the country could address those differences once the bloodshed subsided.

Among opposition supporters in Tripoli, there was optimism that the airstrikes would continue and help the rebels topple Kadafi. Many are watching to see whether protests, which have subsided in recent weeks, will break out on Friday after weekly prayers.

For more: Libya Moammar Kadafi: Amid West's airstrikes, new voices are heard in Libya capital - latimes.com

Libya: Gaddafi’s son allegedly ‘killed in kamikaze attack by Libyan pilot on barracks

Colonel Gaddafi suffered a massive personal setback today when one of his sons was allegedly killed in a suicide air mission on his barracks.

Khamis, 27, who runs the feared Khamis Brigade that has been prominent in its role of attacking rebel-held areas, is said to have died on Saturday night.

A Libyan air force pilot apparently crashed his jet into the Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli in a kamikaze attack, Algerian TV reported following an unsubstantiated claim by an anti-Gaddafi media organization.

For more: Gaddafi’s son ‘killed in kamikaze pilot attack on barracks’ – Patriot Update

Middle East Revolution: Today Libya, tomorrow Syria? - by Gwynne Dyer:

Last Friday (March 18) saw the first nationwide protests against the Baath regime in Syria. If these protests develop into a full-scale revolt, the regime’s response may dwarf that of Colonel Gadhafi in Libya.

The last time Syrians rebelled, in the city of Hama in 1982, President Hafez al-Assad sent in the army to smash the insurrection. Hama’s centre was destroyed by artillery fire, and at least 17,000 people were killed.

The current Syrian ruler, Bashar al-Assad, is allegedly a gentler person than his father Hafez, but the Baath Party still rules Syria, and it is just as ruthless as ever. So what happens if the Syrian revolution gets underway, and the Baath Party starts slaughtering people again? Do the same forces now intervening in Libya get sent to Syria as well?

For more: Gwynne Dyer: Today Libya, tomorrow Syria? | Vancouver, Canada | Straight.com

Libya: Gaddafi may find that all roads lead to Rome — by Henri J.Barkey

Col. Moammar Gadhafi and his family must be busily looking for a new abode, just like his neighbors Zine el-Abidine ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak had to do recently. Where can the colonel go? Over the years he has cultivated, funded, entertained and lavished presents and prizes on many world leaders. Someone will surely spare him a place to pitch the tent he always travels with.

Gadhafi may not be a terribly ex-acting person, but he does have some minimum requirements: a relatively cheap piece of land for his tent, access to water, electricity and free Wi-Fi. With the international community and his own people searching for his stashed funds, he cannot afford ex-pensive locations. And his benefactor must be trustworthy and unlikely to rescind his refuge by sending him packing back to Libya where the “cockroaches,” as he has called his opposition, can put him on trial.

So what are his options? Zimbabwe immediately comes to mind. The weather is perfect. President Robert Mugabe can be relied on to snub and stand up to the international commu-nity. But Mugabe is old and is un-popular at home. In fact, inspired by events in the Middle East, Zimbabwe-ans are also beginning to clamor for rights.

Note EU-Digest : Obviously another good place for Gaddafi to settle down would be at the prison of the International Court of Justice in the Hague?

For more: Gadhafi may find that all roads lead to Rome — Maine Opinion — Bangor Daily News

Yemen: Growing pressure from Europe for Yemeni leader to step down

France and Italy called Monday on Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign, with French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe saying he believed his departure was 'unavoidable.'

International outrage mounted after some 52 people died and hundreds were injured on Friday, as security forces attacked protesters calling for Saleh's ouster in the capital Sana'a.

'We say to Yemen, where the situation is worsening, we believe today that the departure of President Saleh is unavoidable,' Juppe said after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels. His Italian counterpart, Franco Frattini, said the EU needed to take the same line it had taken with Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi after he was accused of shooting his own people - he was told then to 'relinquish power immediately.'

For more: Growing pressure from Europe for Yemeni leader to step down - Monsters and Critics

Yemen president warns of civil war if he steps down - by Tom Finn

Yemen president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has accused defecting generals of trying to stage a coup against him, saying the country would descend into a bloody civil war if he were forced to step down.

"Those trying to wrest power through coups should know that this is impossible," Saleh said in a defiant speech on television on Tuesday. "The fatherland will be made unstable, there will be war, a bloody civil war. They should carefully reflect on this."

Saleh, who has been president of Yemen for 32 years, is under mounting pressure to step down following seven weeks of anti-government protests and defections among the ruling elite.

For more: Yemeni president warns of civil war if he steps down | World news | The Guardian

Libya : U.S. jet crashes in Libya after technical problems; crew members safe - by David S. Cloud

Two Air Force aviators were rescued after they bailed out of a U.S. fighter jet late Monday before it crashed in northeast Libya, apparently due to a mechanical malfunction, the U.S. military said.

Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III said both crew members were in U.S. hands.

A U.S. military official said one of the crew members was found by a U.S. search and rescue team and the other was found by Libyan rebels and was safe

Libya crash: U.S. jet crashes in Libya; crew members safe - latimes.com

The Netherlands: Not only windmills but also Dutch vineyards with quality wines

Holland is a country mainly known for its wind-mills, tulips and wooden shoes.  At least that's what most people think of when they speak about this beautiful country in Europe. No one would expect that there also is some serious grape cultivation  going on in the country, even though the weather conditions are sometimes very poor..

However, here comes the big surprise. Holland  has some very passionate wine growers which have proven to the skeptic's that it is possible to grow grapes and produce excellent wine in this part of Europe.

Today (2011) there are roughly 200 vineyard  in Holland (of which 150 are commercially run), where 202.5 hectare (500.6 acres) is planted with wine producing grapes. Many of the vineyards that were started have come about as a result of passionate and pioneering spirited people, which is typically Dutch. .

Together these wineries have produced 1.353.400 bottles of wonderful Dutch wine. An increase in this production up to 210 hectares according to 160 commercial winery´s in the year 2012  can be expected. To find out for yourself pay a visit to any of these many wonderful wineries and be astonished about the quality of the wine and craftsmanship of the Dutch wine growers. Those who have tasted Dutch wines all say there certainly  are some marvelous local wines to be found in Holland.

On September 10, 1999 the Dutch vinicultaralist-guild was officialy founded. For more information about the Craft-Guild you can contact the secretary at: info@wijngaardeniersgilde.nl.

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EU Broadens Libyan Sanctions - by LAURENCE NORMAN

The European Union agreed upon a significant extension of its sanctions on Libya on Monday even while member states continued to express differences over military action in the North African country.
The EU also announced it was slapping an asset freeze on former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and 18 other officials of his regime.

Following a meeting of EU foreign ministers, the 27-nation bloc agreed to extend the asset freeze and travel ban on Libya to 11 extra people and nine more entities in Libya.Following a meeting of EU foreign ministers, the 27-nation bloc agreed to extend the asset freeze and travel ban on Libya to 11 extra people and nine more entities in Libya. The EU also announced it was imposing an asset freeze on "all funds and economic resources owned or controlled by persons identified as responsible for the misappropriation of Egyptian state funds."

Speaking at a press conference after the meeting, the EU's High Representative for foreign affairs, Catherine Ashton, said the EU stands behind the implementation of last week's United Nations Security Council resolution on Libya.

For more: EU Broadens Libyan Sanctions - WSJ.com

The Netherlands: Dutch woman, 63, gives birth

A 63-year-old Dutch woman gave birth to a daughter on Monday, becoming the oldest-ever new mother in the Netherlands, the hospital and news reports said.

"Baby Meagan was born at the Medical Centre Leeuwarden at 9:48 am (0848 GMT) on March 21," said a statement on the website of the hospital in the northern Dutch province of Friesland.

"Meagan is the daughter of Tineke Geessink, a 63-year-old woman from Harlingen."

3/21/11

America's Saudi air war - training Saudi Airforce pilots in Idaho

On the morning of September 11, 2001, a Saudi pilot trained to fly in the US slammed a Boeing 757 jetliner into the Pentagon, killing more than 180 people.

Less than a decade later, with the Middle East in a state of upheaval and following the recent arrest of a Saudi college student on bomb charges, the Pentagon is planning to bring dozens of Saudis to the US to train them to fly - and to kill. Since 2007 alone, more than 1,000 Royal Saudi Air Force personnel have attended USAF training programs, including pilot, navigator, logistics, maintenance and explosive ordnance disposal training, as well as professional military education courses."

The air force failed to answer repeated requests for further information about Saudi air combat training and the use of armaments by Saudi pilots flying in the US.

When the subject of security concerns were brought up to US Senator Risch, he stayed mum, a spokesman telling me that he "is deferring any comment until a formal announcement is made about the training mission".
But when the same question was posed to US Senator Crapo, he pointed out that the "US air force has been training members of the Saudi Royal Air Force on US soil for over 25 years" and that Saudi Arabia "screens each individual prior to assignment in the US".

For more America's Saudi air war - Features - Al Jazeera English

Libya: Tripoli gunfire and explosions for third night

The BBC's Allan Little in Tripoli says the sky above the capital lit up with anti-aircraft fire again on Monday night, repeatedly in short bursts which lasted several minutes on each occasion.

Our correspondent heard one loud explosion nearby and several distant rumbles much further afield. The AFP news agency reported that a blast was heard near Col Gaddafi's sprawling Bab al-Aziziya compound.

Libyan state television reported that the capital was "currently under crusader enemy aerial bombardment" and that several sites had been attacked.

For more: BBC News - Libya: Tripoli gunfire and explosions for third night

Europe agrees financing for future bailout fund

Germany's finance minister says 17 states that use the euro have agreed on the financing of the eurozone's future bailout fund and slightly lowered the contributions for poorer states.

Wolfgang Schaeuble said Monday the eurozone members will give the European Stability Mechanism a capital base of euro80 billion and provide euro620 billion in callable capital, which has to be made available if a bailed out country looks unable to repay its loans.

That will give the ESM — which will come into force in mid-2013 — an effective lending capacity of euro500 billion.

For more: The Associated Press: Europe agrees financing for future bailout fund

Libya: Gaddafi forces in panic mode - leader not seen

Coalition jets patrolled the no-fly zone over Libya on Monday but launched no new strikes after scattering and isolating Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi's forces after a weekend of punishing air attacks, military officials said.

British submarines fired two missiles at Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s compound in downtown Tripoli Sunday evening, a senior coalition official confirmed to Fox News, as part this weekend's attacks aimed at protecting the Libyan people.

The British Ministry of Defense confirmed that Gaddafi was not the target, but that the compound was hit because of its military significance. A Pentagon official had previously said Sunday that the coalition “will not be going after Gaddafi” The 4-story compound in downtown Tripoli was home to Gaddafi and was demolished by the attacks, though it hadn’t been confirmed when the strike occurred, Fox News’ Steve Harrigan reported.


Bahrain: Saudi deployment in Bahrain risks sectarian conflict - by DAVID ROSENBERG

The Saudi Arabian decision to deploy security forces in embattled Bahrain threatens to escalate a domestic political dispute in the island state into a sectarian confrontation with Iran, whose reverberations may be felt as far afield as Iraq and Lebanon, analysts said.

Saudi Arabia, together with security personnel from the United Arab Emirates operating under a mandate from the Gulf Cooperation Council, has placed 2,000 soldiers and police in Bahrain. At the cost of four lives, scores of injured and the imposition of martial law, calm has been restored. A week after the March 14 deployment, businesses, the stock market and schools were re-opening.


But analysts said the Saudi move – the first ever by one Arab state intervening militarily in another since the onset of the so-called Jasmine Revolution three months ago – has crossed a red line for Iran and may prompt it to intervene as a counterweight.

A tiny country with no oil of its own, Bahrain nevertheless holds a strategic place in the Gulf. It is home to the US Fifth Fleet and is adjacent to Saudi Arabia’s biggest oil fields. Its Sunni Islamic monarchy is close to the Saudi ruling house as well as the US, but some 70% of its population shares the Shi'ite faith of Iran, Riyadh’s rival for regional supremacy.


For more: Saudi deployment in Bahrain risks sectarian conflict

Syria: Anti-government protests spread in Syria

 After a weekend of demonstrations in Syria demanding democracy, unrest looks to be spreading.
Residents said security forces blocked entrances to the southern city of Deraa, as mourners marched at the funeral of the latest protester to be killed.

For days, Deraa has been the focus of calls for more freedom in one of the Arab world’s most authoritarian states. At least five civilians are reported dead in a crackdown as anti-government anger rages.

For more: Anti-government protests spread in Syria | euronews, world news

Gaddafi has disappeared - is he dead ? Libyan rebels re-launch offensive while coalition aircraft continue air-strikes

Gaddafi has not been seen or heard from since Sunday and some observers on the ground in Libya are saying he has either gone to a special bunker in the desert or has he been killed in last night missile strike on his compound. In an exclusive interview with ABC News on Sunday, Saif Gadhafi, son of Col. Gadhafi, expressed surprise at the Western coalition attack launched against Libya, and said that his father has no plans to step down from power.

There are also rumors circulating that some units of the military have crossed over to the rebels and that a curfew will go into effect tonight in Tripoli.

Today Coalition forces launched fresh attacks against Moammar Gadhafi's assets in Libya today, as the symbol of the longtime dictator's resistance -- a three-story building in his personal compound -- turned into rubble after being hit by two cruise missiles late last night.

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates said the United States would cede command of the military operation to allied countries as soon as possible. “We expect in a matter of days to be able to turn over the primary responsibility to others,” said Gates, who spoke to reporters on his military aircraft shortly after he departed Washington for Russia. “We will continue to support the coalition, we will be a member of the coalition, we will have a military role in the coalition, but we will not have the preeminent role.”

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Corporate Greed Out Of Control: Why AT&T’s takeover deal of T-Mobile is bad for customers and free market capitalism

..move to take over T-Mobile USA is disastrous news for customers. It will let AT&T shut down a competitor, jack up prices, and save on customer service.

The whole essence of the free market system lies in consumer choice and competition. That’s why companies can charge what they like, and offer the products and services they like. But ultimately, if the consumer is unhappy, they can take their business elsewhere. That at least is how old fashioned capitalism used to work. Today, specially in the utilities, energy, medical and transportation sectors the choices for the consumer are continuously being reduced as a result of mergers.

What’s going to happen to some of these great T-Mobile features after AT&T takes it over? If one listens to what AT&T chairman Randall Stephenson said this weekend "that AT&T “will look hard at whether to continue some of T-Mobile's services one can only wonder what that means?

History has proven now without doubt that these merger deals are always bad for the consumer. If you happen to think wireless and telephone companies are arrogant today, just wait till they’ve cut their cozy wireless communication club down to just three with the possibility of even more “merger misery” in that industry.

Remember the Sprint and Nextel or the FedEx and Kinko’s merger? Or look what happens if you want to book a flight on an airline these days, following the mergers in that industry. Sky high costs, little or no service, additional charges for food, baggage, seating, fuel, taxes, and just about everything else. Also, to make matters worse, one will find that in today's corporate worlds we find that most CEO's don't care. Why should they? They just have their mind on just three things: Stock options, stock options, and stock options.

You as a consumer in the US and the EU can take action if you care about freedom of choice and competition. Write to your local parliamentarian, or US congressman. Write to your representative in the European parliament or US Senator. Write to the European Ombudsman, US Federal Communications Commission or the U.S. Department of Justice. They are ones which must approve deals like the one between T-Mobile and AT&T or others.

EU-Digest

Turkey pirouettes as Libya assaulted - by FULYA ÖZERKAN

Turkey is quietly trying to shift its position on outside intervention in Libya, which it previously opposed, suggesting that it approves of a NATO plan that includes both military and political measures.

Turkey pirouettes as Libya assaulted - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review

Europe, not US, pushed for military force in Libya

America unleashed the heavier firepower, but Europe — to the surprise of some — was the driving force behind the assault on Libya's Moammar Gaddafi.

France, perhaps hoping to purge memories of a dictator-coddling past, fired the first strikes Saturday. Britain, still stinging from its release of the Libyan agent behind the Lockerbie plane bombing, cajoled other nations into joining.

All 27 countries of the European Union insisted nine days ago that Gaddafi "must relinquish power immediately" — unexpected, from a bloc often accused of being too slow and too soft. President Barack Obama, initially reticent, joined in the call and seemed happy to let Europe take the lead publicly.
The contrast with 2003 — when France led global opposition to the war on Iraq — shows how much has changed since then, and also how different things can be when the problem is on Europe's doorstep.

For more: The Associated Press: Europe, not US, pushed for military force in Libya

Gaddafi - ruthless, resistant to reform and intolerant of dissent

Born in 1942 near Sirte, Libya, Gaddafi has been the despotic leader of Libya since 1969 and despite Gaddafi's recent international rehabilitation, the Libyan leader remains resistant to reform and is ruthless and intolerant of dissent.

His ultimate goal—preservation of power—remains unchanged. His earlier decision to abandon his weapons of mass destruction program was certainly not a moral change in his character but rather a calculated attempt to launder this image in order to earn him an exemption from European and U.S. efforts to democratize the Middle East.

Gaddafi speeches and actions reflect his ruthlessness. He has warned anyone who tried to organize politically in Libya that they would face repression. As he often says, “I could at any moment send them to the People’s Court … and the People’s Court will issue a sentence of death based on "the law", because execution is the fate of anyone who forms a political party,”  Consequently there have been many public hangings and mutilations of political opponents. Dissidents living abroad have also been targeted by his under cover death squads.

There are no judicial checks and balances in the Libya of Gaddafi. The judiciary is ill-defined, allowing regime elites to use multiple security forces to harass ordinary Libyan citizens. Revolutionary committees run prisons with little or no documentation of the inmate population or of such basic data as crime and sentence. Revolutionary committees dispense justice, targeting, in particular, participants of the Basic Peoples’ Congresses who voice opposition to the state’s agenda. Dissent is illegal under Law 75 of 1973, which denies Libyans freedom of expression.

Gaddafi has used his "rapprochement" with western Europe and the United States to portray himself as anti-Islamist, but the reality is more complex. While Islamist groups have targeted Gaddafi, his consistent flirtation with Islamism suggests that he may not be adverse to a tactical alignment, perhaps by seeking to brand his own form of Islamism.

Gaddafi  may have  pledged to abandon terrorism, but his assurances have proven completely unreliable . In reality his actions and political statements suggest unrestrained megalomania.  Given Gaddafi's stranglehold on the Libyan society, reform will not be possible without an internal revolution supported by Democratic  forces outside the country.

3/20/11

Turkey: While PM Erdogan holds back on condemning Gaddafi Opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu supports Libyan intervention

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition party in Turkey has expressed support for the international air operation in Libya while calling on the unrest-hit North African country to move toward a more democratic regime.

“No administration should exert pressure on its own people and shoot them. If the United Nations has passed such a resolution, then this [operation] has gained international legitimacy,” Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, told reporters Sunday. 

EU-Digest

Libya: Explosions heard around Gaddafi palace

Reports coming out of Tripoli this evening speak of missiles hitting a Libyan anti-missile defense station close to the Gaddafi presidential compound and that plumes of fire and smoke were seen rising out of several buildings in the area. This afternoon Danish jet fighters joined the European coalition.

U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen told CNN the forces of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi have shown little ability to counter coalition firepower. When asked if Gaddafi was considered to be a target Admiral Mullen said Gaddafi was not a target, but if he happened to be in a building which was a target it could be a problem for him.

EU-Digest

Who are in the EU led Alliance for Democracy in Libya?

The new alliance includes 10 EU members (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the UK), Canada, Norway and the US, as well as Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  The involvement of Italy comes despite Rome's earlier objections to military intervention against its former ally.

The participation of Germany also indicates that the division inside the EU is not as significant as on the Iraq war in 2003. Germany last week abstained from the UN vote and said it would not contribute military resources but strategic logistical expertise.

Libya's closest EU neighbour, Malta, which lies just 350km from the Libyan coast, has said it will play no part in the military effort except in handling humanitarian requirements.

EU-Digest

Viewpoint:: How Libya Became a French and British War - by Michael Elliott

As the military action against Libya to give teeth to U.N. Security Resolution 1973 began, one question kept nagging away: Why, precisely, were the governments of Britain and France in the lead? Why were their armed forces taking part in the military action, and why had their diplomats done the grunt work in the negotiations that led to the adoption of Resolution 1973?

That leaves two factors that might go some way to explain the Franco-British policy. First, I suspect that there is a genuine belief in both governments that while the U.S. is still the world's balance wheel, the indispensable nation, it cannot do everything and should not be asked to — that the world is a more secure place if other democracies help the U.S. carry the diplomatic and military load of ensuring global stability.