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5/31/11

Euro Rises on Optimism Over Greece

Given that the Greek government has been softened up for several weeks by way of numerous threats and apocalyptic predictions emanating from the IMF, the ECB and the EU's council of ministers, it is high time for the "good cop" to show up and promise that more good money will be thrown after bad to keep protecting the country's creditors – even if only in the shape of a rumor.

The official decision on the disbursement of the next tranche of loans by IMF/EFSF to Greece is only expected later this week, and the bigger decision regarding what to do about the fact that the Greek government is unlikely to be able to tap markets by 2012 is expected to be handed down in late June, but obviously something needed to be done to avoid markets getting bent completely out of shape until then.

Note EU-Digest: why are we so worried about what all those robbers on Wall Street think about Greece? They were the ones , under the leadership of Goldman Sachs, which created the problems there. All they want to see is the demise of the EU and the euro and how they can continue to enrich themselves over the backs of the taxpayers.

For more: Euro Rises on Optimism Over Greece - Seeking Alpha

Experts call for better pilot training amid Air France crash results - by Adam Dunning

After the release of preliminary data regarding the ill-fated Air France flight 447, aviation experts have said that lives could be saved with better pilot training. The recently recovered flight data recorders from the Airbus A330 show that the pilots of the jet had the opportunity to recover it from a three-minute plunge into the Atlantic but instead their reactions only exacerbated the issue, French investigators have said.

The new data shows that the two French pilots made several mistakes during the events on the 1st of June 2009. Among them, the jet entered an aerodynamic stall, which is not related to mechanical problems in any way, and instead of pitching the plane’s nose downward to recover, they did the opposite for the entire three minutes of the plunge.

Now experts say such incidents have been repeated in aviation accidents worldwide and are calling for better preparation for pilots. Flight 447 crashed shortly after departing Rio de Janeiro in June of 2009, killing all 228 people on board and is the most recent example of the trend.

Former pilot Jon Cox wrote on behalf of the British Royal Aeronautical Society that if it were a technical problem that all parties would insist the problem is fixed. Meanwhile, he added that he and others have been saying for years that its thorough pilot training that is actually what is needed and can produce prepared pilots that are not confused and startled by problems that arise during a flight.

For more: Experts call for better pilot training amid Air France crash results | Travel News

Ireland: Honohan will place Europe's interests first at rate summit - by Thomas Molloy

Central Bank Governor governor Patrick Honohan of Ireland said yesterday that he won't be thinking about the faltering Irish economy and struggling home owners when he meets in Frankfurt next week for the European Central Bank's monthly rate-setting meeting.Mr Honohan sai

For more: Honohan will place Europe's interests first at rate summit - European, Business - Independent.ie

5/30/11

Zuma in Libya for end game

President Jacob Zuma from South Africa arrived in Tripoli on Monday to try to broker a peace deal with Muammar Gaddafi, just hours after Nato's secretary-general said the Libyan leader's "reign of terror" was coming to an end.

In Rome, eight Libyan army officers including five generals appeared at an Italian government-arranged news conference, saying they were part of a group of up to 120 military officials and soldiers who defected from Gaddafi in recent days.

The defections come two months after that of Libyan foreign minister and former espionage chief Moussa Koussa and the resignation of senior diplomat Ali Abdussalm Treki.

For more: Zuma in Libya for end game: News24: Africa: News

Pakistan: in search of new friends? - by Clare Castillejo

Bin Laden’s killing has not only altered the security context within Pakistan, it is also reshaping the country’s international alliances. On a recent visit to China, Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani praised China as Pakistan’s “best friend” and agreed a range of economic and military deals with Chinese counterparts. These include for China to provide 50 fighter jets, two nuclear reactors and a naval base to Pakistan. Neither Washington nor New Delhi will be happy at such developments.

And what about Europe? Despite the fact that Pakistan’s stability is critical for Europe’s security and that the EU is Pakistan’s most important trading partner, the European Union lacks an effective strategy on Pakistan. The EU should be part of a multilateral response to Pakistan’s crisis. It could counterbalance US and Chinese military aid, supporting a civilian response to the insurgency and offering incentives for reform. However, as Pakistan searches for new friends, Europe remains conspicuously absent.

Note EU-Digest: Pakistan presently is a powder keg and the EU does best to keep its distance. It is also not critical to Europe's security, unless it becomes a rogue state and the control of its nuclear arms becomes questionable. In that case, however, the US will certainly be the first to take  "corrective" action before Europe gets involved.

US economy a 'market risk' - by Sam Fletcher

The health of the US economy is "one of the biggest risks to the oil market," which is likely to remain "biased on the cautious side while awaiting clearer signs" of recovery, said James Zhang at Standard New York Securities Inc., the Standard Bank Group. "The oil market is torn between continuously tightening [supplies] and signs of weakness in the US recovery," Zhang reported. Energy prices waffled in volatile trading during the week ended May 20, with the expiring June contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes finishing at $99.49/bbl in New York. In London, the July IPE contract for North Sea Brent closing at $112.39/bbl.

For more: - Oil & Gas Journal

EU-IMF to conclude Greece audit this week: finance minister

A critical audit of Greek finances to enable the debt-hit eurozone country to access a badly-needed slice of EU-IMF funds will conclude this week, the Greek finance minister said on Monday.

"We are concluding the negotiations and I hope they will be finished ... by Wednesday," Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou told Antenna TV.

The talks with auditors from the EU, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank -- the 'troika' of creditors that bailed out Greece last year -- have dragged into an unprecedented fourth week and Athens' ongoing debt woes are causing friction in European capitals and market concern.

For more: AFP: EU-IMF to conclude Greece audit this week: finance minister

Medical Breakthrough: Hope for blind as camera-to-retina bionic eye approved in Europe

Blind people in Europe will be able to purchase the first bionic eye.

The revolutionary technology has been approved for sale after being approved by European regulators.

The Argus II retinal prosthesis is an implanted device that works by converting video images captured from a miniature camera, fitted in the patient's glasses, into a series of small electrical pulses. These are transmitted wirelessly to an array of electrodes on the retina, the light-sensitive tissue lining the inner surface of the eye. The pulses stimulate the retina's remaining cells.  The device will cost about $100,000, excluding surgical costs.

For more: Hope for blind as camera-to-retina bionic eye approved in Europe | The Australian

Health: EU Reaction Mixed as E. coli Outbreak Spreads - by Gretchen Goetz

The E. coli outbreak in northern Germany that has taken the lives of 10 people -- and captured the attention of health officials around the world -- does not appear to be causing concern everywhere in Europe.

Cucumbers were still a regular part of the fresh vegetable selection on French food stands this weekend, despite an announcement Saturday from the ministries of economy, health and agriculture that 3 cases of E. coli infection are being investigated in France.

These investigations come as cucumbers and other fresh produce have been recalled in Germany and elsewhere in Europe following an epidemic of E. coli illnesses. The European Union has warned that contaminated vegetables-- thought to originate on two farms in Spain and possibly from the Netherlands or Denmark -- may have been sent to other European countries, including the Czech Republic, Denmark, Austria, Luxembourg and Hungary.

Note EU-Digest: wash your vegetables and fruit well and peel your cucumbers.

For more: EU Reaction Mixed as E. coli Outbreak Spreads

Europe needs immigration as population rapidly ages - by RM


The European Union needs substantial, but controlled immigration if it wants to survive. It will also require active labor market policies, reform of its public finances, including changes to its tax base, pensions and healthcare systems. But foremost it needs qualified immigrants to develop a more accelerated economic growth  to overcome the challenges caused by Europe's rapidly aging population.

Economic growth in Europe has been severely affected by a fall in the working-age population since 2010, with the labor work-force estimated to slump by 48 million or 16% by 2050. If no measures are taken to promote controlled immigration, the population aged 65 or more is expected to rise by 58 million or 77% during that time frame, leaving two instead of four workers for every pensioner. 

Contrary to what populist anti-immigration politicians like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands are saying, the reality is that people should be free to move and choose their own destiny.  Governments shouldn't interfere with the right to immigrate any more than is necessary and certainly not to satisfy the "nationalists"  or "populist" demands of unhappy citizens who feel threatened by the potential competition in the job market.

Obviously their demands are understandable in times of economic hardship, when it becomes very difficult for politicians to convince people that more competition for scarce jobs will eventually make their lives better. Here again it is clear that weak labour markets are the enemy of liberal immigration policies and  the strength of populist and nationalist nonsensical rhetoric, which might sound good but has never had any record of success.

When immigrants move to affluent countries, that not only increase their own welfare, but also boosts the productive potential of the countries they move to. This eventually is good for everyone. Historically, looking at countries which have had or still have open immigration policies, one will find  that this has been a source of national strength and economic well being .

Its time for the EU to "get on with the program" and not get diverted by the populist/nationalist  myopic viewpoints.

Without functional immigration policies and stronger cooperation between member countries, the EU will eventually self-destruct as a viable political and economic world power and individual countries will once again fall under the influence of the whims of remaining super-powers. The time to act  in unity is now.

EU-Digest

Swiss divided over free movement of people agreement. with EU - by Jean-Michel Berthoud

The free movement accord between Switzerland and the European Union has become a major discussion point in the lead up to this autumn’s federal elections.

While some politicians are calling for it to be thrown out so the country can regain its freedom of manoeuvre, unions are demanding better wage protection and warning there will not be enough staff in some sectors in the years to come.
Since the free movement accord became effective in 2002, the equivalent of more than 286,000 full-time positions have been created in Switzerland.

For more: Swiss divided over free movement of people agreement. - swissinfo

5/29/11

Geert Wilders "frames" his arguments to make them believable - it sounds familiar ...

"Our idea is moving the world, it is forcing humanity to choose for us or against us. It forces the Jews from behind their lackeys. They must fight. We want that fight, for we know that if we do not succeed in winning enough ground for our people, everything we have done will be in vain". That was part of a speech made by Robert Ley in Germany on May 3, 1939.

On October 2, 2010, Geert Wilders, the Dutch anti-Islam/immigrant populists and leader of the Party of Freedom in the Netherlands said in a speech in Berlin: "Today I am here, however, to warn you for looming disunity. Germany’s national identity, its democracy and economic prosperity, is being threatened by the political ideology of Islam. Are we about to repeat the fatal mistake of the Weimar Republic? Are we succumbing to Islam because our commitment to freedom is already dead? No, it will not happen. We are not like Frau Merkel. We do not accept Islamization as inevitable. We have to keep freedom alive."

There is no doubt, the two speeches sound similar. The ghost of fascism and racism has reappeared in Europe through politicians like Geert Wilders and other like-minded politicians who are trying to set the political pace and tone in many European countries. Sometime this year, a verdict is due in the trial of Wilders for making anti-Islamic statements — such as calling the Koran a "fascist book" that should be banned.

At the same time, the Netherlands' center-right coalition government depends for its survival on Wilders' Party for Freedom, which won more than 15% of the vote in the last general election.  The Dutch coalition deal was copied from Denmark, where the Danish People’s Party has backed a minority government since 2001. In Sweden’s recent election the far-right Sweden Democrats won seats for the first time, denying Fredrik Reinfeldt, the prime minister, a center-right majority (he is now running a minority government). These parties, all with their own special characteristics, are distinct from older far-right groups such as France’s National Front and Italy’s Northern League, and have still less to do with thuggish movements in eastern Europe. But a common theme is a dislike of foreigners, especially Muslims.

Wilders' price for participating in the Government included a commitment to a burka ban. In the Netherlands, as elsewhere in Europe, center-right parties have been trying to win back voters who have turned to such anti-foreigner populists by adopting toned-down versions of their rhetoric and policies It is a dangerous approach, which can only backfire.

Last week Geert Wilders, leader of the far-right Freedom Party, which provides the minority government with backbench support, attacked its Government partners plans to extend further financial backing to Greece. The government defeated his parliamentary motion urging it “not to pay another cent”, after Mark Rutte, the prime minister, scrambled for the support of the opposition Labour Party. But Mr Wilders, better known for his attacks on Islam than his concerns about Greek solvency, saw his popularity rocket. Polls suggest most Dutch favor his populist position.

Mr Wilders’ grip on Dutch politics may even become stronger after the Rutte ruling coalition failed to secure a majority in the Senate by just one seat on May 23rd. One can only hope for the Netherlands (which used to be the "Mecca" for tolerance) and the rest of Europe, that the past horrors of fascism and racism do not raise their ugly head again.

EU-Digest

Travel: Turkey in a Time of Change - by Kaylan

About two thirds of the way up the Bosporus on Istanbul’s European shore sits Tarabya, a little hamlet of glassed-in fish restaurants. In front, the coast road doglegs around a mini-inlet, snarling traffic while black SUVs drop off designer-shod belles. Behind, steep slopes host an improvised McSuburbia with a fabled Bosporus view—increasingly of other McSuburbias. Not the stuff of myth, perhaps, but a boon to any broker’s slick brochure. Tarabya was not always thus. Legend has it that, in antiquity, the witch Medea, heartsick after fleeing her homeland with Jason on the Argo, recovered her serenity upon glimpsing Tarabya’s bucolic magic and threw away her potions—hence the town’s name “Therapia” in the original Greek.

One wonders what the villagers thought the money would bring to compensate for the loss of their blessed landscape. The same applies to the developers—on what undisturbed view will they rest their affluent eyes to enjoy their wealth? It’s not a matter merely of concrete sprawl or unchecked suburbanization but of what the writer J. G. Ballard called “the suburbanization of the soul.” There’s still plenty enough of enchantment on offer. One still understands what the ancients felt, why they sensed Apollo on the beach in Side and Aphrodite in Knidos. But from the way things are going, Medea would do well to keep her prescriptions updated.

For more: Travel: Turkey in a Time of Change - Newsweek

Soccer: Park not alone as United disappoints - by Joo Kyung-don

For many footballers, Wembley Stadium in London is a field of dreams, but for Manchester United Korean midfielder Park Ji-sung, the stadium seems to have become a place to avoid.

Park started in the UEFA Champions League final against FC Barcelona at Wembley Stadium on Saturday but suffered the “Wembley jinx” when his Manchester United team was beaten 3-1 by the Spanish giant.

The match was the Korean player’s second start in a Champions League final and even though he played for a full 90 minutes, in the end he wasn’t able to help deliver the result that he and the massed ranks of Red Devils fans were looking for.

For more: Park not alone as United disappoints - INSIDE Korea JoongAng Daily

Libya's representative to the EU has defected, protesting against Muammar Gaddafi's bloody regime

LIBYA'S EU ambassador Hadeiba Hadi has defected along with his staff, the latest in a string of top diplomats to end their support for Muammar Gaddafi's government.

"After more than four months of the blood-letting of our people, my colleagues and myself at the Libyan popular bureau in Brussels find ourselves obliged to announce our decision to no longer represent the regime," he said in a statement.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton welcomed his decision to sever links with the Tripoli regime in protest over the violence.

For more: Libya's representative to the EU has defected, protesting against Muammar Gaddafi's bloody regime | The Australian

The Arab Spring's summersault

Take stock. Egypt’s democratic dream hangs by a thread. Libya’s death throes and Syria’s killing fields are civil war nightmares. Yemen is a chimera, Bahrain has been bludgeoning and Tunisia is a memory. Scorching rays overwhelm the Arab Spring’s refreshing breezes. Which way should we look for the revolution’s resolution?

Are we in an interregnum, a temporary freedom, or an antebellum, a period preceding more bloodshed? The raging undercurrent swirls groping for an identity that responds to a sense of Islamic belonging while respecting other faiths and global concerns. Pluralism necessitates compromises, which riles zealots, branded bigots.

Take a wider view. The G8 Summit in Deauville last week offered Egypt respite if promises to democratize are fulfilled. Others weighed in with billion-dollar boons. The International Monetary Fund said MENA’s non-oil countries need $160 billion injected in the next three years. The region needs to prepare for a fundamental transformation of its economic model.

For more: The Arab Spring's summersault

Obama uses own story to woo Europe, attract voters

US President Barack Obama, during a week traveling through Europe, used his personal story to woo a continent some feel he has neglected, while simultaneously reaching out to important political constituencies back home. From Ireland to Britain to Poland, Obama – the son of a Kenyan father and a Kansas mother – discovered and exploited his European roots, delighting foreign crowds and inking images that could turn up in presidential campaign commercials next year.

“My name is Barack Obama – of the Moneygall Obamas – and I’ve come home to find the apostrophe that we lost along the way,” Obama, joking about the “Irish” spelling of his name, told a crowd of some 25,000 in Dublin, hours after visiting the town where his great-great-great grandfather once lived.

The crowd loved it, and references to his roots continued at his next stop in London. “I bring warm greetings from tens of millions of Americans who claim British ancestry, including me, through my mother’s family,” he told Queen Elizabeth II.

In Warsaw he talked about his hometown of Chicago and adopted one of its more prominent ethnic groups as his own. “If you live in Chicago and you haven’t become a little bit Polish, then something’s wrong with you,” he said at a press conference with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

The result? The United States’ first African-American president connected himself personally to three of the four European countries he visited, burnishing his credentials on the continent after an emphasis on Asia in the first years of his administration sparked concern that US focus had shifted dramatically eastward.

For more: Obama uses own story to woo Europe, attract voters | World | DAWN.COM

5/28/11

Soccer: Barcelona Beats Man United 3–1 in Final

Lionel Messi scored one goal and created another Saturday, leading Barcelona to a 3–1 victory over Manchester United and a third Champions League title in six years.

Barcelona dominated play at Wembley with trademark one-touch passing, but the Spanish champions needed the Argentine striker to conjure a 54th-minute solo strike from the edge of the penalty area to take the lead for the second time.

After a shaky opening, Barcelona simply outclassed the English champions. Xavi, standing in as captain for injured defender Carles Puyol, orchestrated play from in front of Sergio Busquets, while Andres Iniesta and Messi tormented United with the pinpoint accuracy of their passing.

 
For more: Barcelona Beats Man United 3–1 in Final - TIME

Nato strikes Gaddafi control centre in Tripoli

Nato today struck a command and control centre where Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi sometimes lives. It is not know whether he was present at the time.
An alliance spokesman said the Bab al-Aziziyah compound in Tripoli was hit in the early hours.

For more: Nato strikes Gaddafi control centre in Tripoli | Irish Examiner

Obama, in Poland, vows to back Israel - by Scott Wilson

Within hours of arriving yesterday in this once occupied capital, President Obama encountered the enduring emotion surrounding the state of Israel, founded as a sanctuary from the virulent anti-Semitism that wiped out much of this nation’s Jewish population during World War II.

As his first stop in a two-day visit, Obama visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, then traveled to the Ghetto Heroes Memorial, where he laid a wreath at the base of the stark bronze relief commemorating the tens of thousands of Jews killed in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising of 1943.

For more: Obama, in Poland, vows to back Israel - The Boston Globe

5/27/11

Insurance Industry: EU sets up European platform for action on diet, physical activity and health

To tackle obesity, the European Commission set up a EU platform for action on diet, physical activity and health. Since March 2005, the platform has been bringing together industry, consumer groups and health experts to find ways to combat obesity. The emphasis is on self-regulation and voluntary commitments from the food and drink industry. In the World Health Organisation (WHO) European ministerial conference on counteracting obesity in November 2006, health ministers signed a European Charter pledging to place obesity high up on the European public health and political agendas and to halt the rise in obesity by 2015.

Campaigners argue that voluntary agreements are useless and Europe must formally recognise obesity as a chronic disease and help sufferers to find ways of living with the condition.

Many medical professionals accept that to kick-start obesity treatment, the patient has to be removed from the temptations of daily life by going to a hospital, clinic, spa or weight-loss centre. Unless obesity is dealt with now, Europe will see people dying ten to twenty years before their parents.  Unfortunately The various EU countries, some in dire economic straits, have no money and little intent to do anything more than offer advice.

To overcome this problem it will require the creation of formal healthcare insurance policies to address what is now a EU-wide epidemic. At present only Portugal recognizes obesity as a chronic disease which  is covered by insurance.

Russia ready to mediate to help Gaddafi leave

Reuters reports Russia believes Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has lost his legitimacy and Moscow is prepared to mediate to facilitate his departure from power, state-run RIA news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying on Friday.

Source: Russia ready to mediate to help Gaddafi leave-RIA | Reuters

Eastern Europe can guide, but not lead, Arab Spring countries

When Germans from both sides of the Berlin Wall stood atop it on that memorable night in November 1989, excitement reverberated throughout Europe, from the Baltic to the Mediterranean.

Two decades later, on the far side of that southern body of water, history appears to be repeating itself. People have found a collective voice, and in the cases of Tunisia and Egypt, have already used it to get rid of rulers who had far outstayed their welcomes. There were plenty of dictators in Eastern Europe as well, and they, like their Arab contemporaries, found themselves forced out by the very people they sought to dominate.

These similarities are undeniable, and much has been made of them in the past months. But are the bones of the circumstances alike enough for Middle Eastern countries en-route to democracy to be able to learn from the experiences of their northern neighbors?

Read complete report: Eastern Europe can guide, but not lead, Arab Spring countries | World | Deutsche Welle | 27.05.2011

5/26/11

ECB’s Paramo Says ‘Vienna’ Plan for Greece May Be Positive - by Emma Ross-Thomas

European Central Bank Executive Board member Jose Manuel Gonzalez-Paramo said a Vienna Initiative- style debt-rollover program for Greece could be “positive,” even as it would only be part of the solution for the indebted nation.

“In general a Vienna Initiative is an interesting initiative, in that it is voluntary, and it means a vote of confidence in what the Greek authorities are doing,” Gonzalez- Paramo told reporters in Barcelona today.
The Vienna Initiative program developed in 2009 for eastern Europe was floated by Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn this month as an option for Greece. Such a plan would aim to persuade creditors to buy new bonds from the Greek government when existing ones mature.

“It’s a positive initiative in that it implies the interest of the private sector in the refinancing of the Greek economy,” Gonzalez-Paramo said. “It can only be part of the solution,” he said, as Greece must fulfill the conditions of its 110 billion-euro ($155 billion) bailout program.

The initiative was a key plank in the IMF-sponsored rescues of Hungary, Romania, Latvia and Serbia in 2009. Under the plan, banks including UniCredit SpA (UCG), Raiffeisen Bank International AG, and Societe Generale SA, then the biggest lenders in eastern Europe, publicly pledged to keep their units in those countries afloat by rolling over funding and providing fresh capital if needed.

For more: ECB’s Paramo Says ‘Vienna’ Plan for Greece May Be Positive - Bloomberg

Serbia: Mladic arrest opens new chapter for the Balkans

It is a good day for justice and the beginning of a new chapter in the story of the Balkans. Sixteen years after the end of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ratko Mladic, one of the key figures involved in the wartime atrocities against Bosnian Muslims and Croats has finally been caught. It took a long time, but for the relatives of the victims of the Srebrenica massacre, these 16 years are a mere blink of an eye.

The trauma of Srebrenica, where more than 8,000 men were murdered, runs deep. General Ratko Mladic is accused of these crimes and the three-and-a-half year long siege of Sarajevo. With his capture and the legal process to determine his guilt that will now begin, victims' relatives can finally feel satisfaction.

What are the reasons why the alleged war criminal was captured after so many years in hiding? Unofficially, it has long been common knowledge that the Serbian authorities knew of his whereabouts. The word from Sarajevo is that the government in Belgrade decided to take him into custody because the pressure from Brussels was growing ever stronger. Indeed, cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia is an important condition for Serbia's EU accession.

Opinion: Mladic arrest opens new chapter for the Balkans | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 26.05.2011

Turkey: 7 injured in bomb blast during rush hour in Istanbul, no claim of responsibility yet

A bomb exploded at a bus stop during rush hour in Istanbul on Thursday, injuring seven people.
Several ambulances rushed to the scene on a multi-lane thoroughfare in a busy commercial section of the city.

Television footage showed medics moving a woman with a neck brace on a stretcher into a hospital.
Kurdish terrorist are fighting for autonomy in southeastern Turkey and have carried out bomb attacks in Istanbul in the past. Their jailed leader has warned of more violence if their demands for negotiations are not met after elections on June 12.

Turkey also has a history of attacks by Islamic and leftist extremists.

For more: Turkey: 7 injured in bomb blast during rush hour in Istanbul, no claim of responsibility - The Washington Post

Obama Says Europe Plays Vital Role On World Stage

President Obama told Britain's Parliament Wednesday that Europe has an "indispensible" role to play — promoting freedom and prosperity around the world. That role is on display in Libya, where NATO has taken the lead in battling the forces of Moammar Gadhafi. Both the president and British Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to keep up the pressure on Gadhafi to step aside. But Obama stopped short of committing additional U.S. military forces.

For more: Obama Says Europe Plays Vital Role On World Stage : NPR

5/25/11

The G8 : Uprisings, economy top issues as world leaders prepare for G8 meetings in France

More than 50 years after the beaches of Normandy were stormed in the name of global security, they're being invaded for a similar cause this week.

But this time, the actual fighting is taking place far away. The leaders of the G8 are just using the scenic French coast as a place to talk about it.

On Thursday and Friday the leaders of Britain, the United States, Germany, Russia, Italy, Japan, Canada and France are convening for their annual discussion of world affairs. As host of this year's G8 and G20 summits, France has branded the meetings with the theme of "new world, new ideas."

The former half is certainly true.


For more: The Canadian Press: Uprisings, economy top issues as world leaders prepare for G8 meetings in France

EU- Germany's Job Boom

While the U.S. and the U.K. brace for spending cuts and austerity, Germany is in the midst of an economic boom.

Germany has emerged from the financial crisis faster and in far better shape than the rest of Europe. The German growth rate almost doubled in the first quarter of 2011; corporate profits have soared, and industrial production is expected to keep growing — at least for the rest of this year.

But as manufacturers add extra shifts, there's a new shortage of skilled workers — and that's led to renewed calls to ease restrictions on immigration.

EU-Digest

Wanted: Foreign Workers For Germany's Job Boom

While the U.S. and the U.K. brace for spending cuts and austerity, Germany is in the midst of an economic boom.

Germany has emerged from the financial crisis faster and in far better shape than the rest of Europe. The German growth rate almost doubled in the first quarter of 2011; corporate profits have soared, and industrial production is expected to keep growing — at least for the rest of this year.

But as manufacturers add extra shifts, there's a new shortage of skilled workers — and that's led to renewed calls to ease restrictions on immigration.

For more: Wanted: Foreign Workers For Germany's Job Boom : NPR

Europe: Hope for holiday-makers as Iceland volcano 'stops erupting' and skies over the UK clear - by Ray Massey

Frustrated travellers in England were given hope today as experts said the Icelandic volcano had stopped erupting and ash cloud had cleared from UK airspace.

For more: Hope for holiday-makers as Iceland volcano 'stops erupting' and skies over the UK clear | Mail Online

The Netherlands: Discussions around the "Third Capital Requirements CRD III EU Directive"

Recently the European Commission requested Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain to notify measures within two months to implement important rules concerning the capital adequacy and the remuneration policies of financial institutions, as laid down in the Third Capital Requirements Directive or CRD III (2010/76/EU).


The aim of the Directive is to ensure the financial soundness of banks and investment firms and to address excessive and imprudent risk-taking in the banking sector promoted by improperly designed remuneration practices which led to the failure of individual institutions and problems to the society as a whole.


The deadline for implementing the rules in question was 1 January 2011. The Commission has also requested Belgium, Luxembourg, Slovakia and Sweden to implement those parts of the Directive that they have so far failed to, according to an announcement.


Today in the Netherlands there was a parliamentary round-table panel discussion  on the issue, including all the major Dutch financial/insurance  institutions. They discussed not only the EU CRD III directive, but also remuneration standards for board members and top management which becomes very muddled when looking at multi-national financial institutions. operating outside EU borders. In the discussions it became apparent that the financial sector is still greatly  influenced by short term thinking and shareholders interest.  

Listening to these public discussions it became apparent that most of the financial/insurance sector representatives on the panel, except for  two banks,  which have a different corporate structure,  had major problems in  recognizing  that  the present culture of the financial industry has to change.  Public pressure on the political establishment, as a result of the financial crises revealed that the tax payers wanted action,  without delay,  to change the financial sectors focus and  its culture back from being a short term profit/shareholders oriented sector,  to a socially focused  public service structure   

Unfortunately it seems that if there are no international agreements which can be linked with  the EU CRD III directive, it will be difficult to control the malpractises of  multi-national financial organizations which are not regulated.


EU-Digest

5/24/11

MKs respond to Netanyahu's speech - by Gil Hofman

Within moments of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu exiting the House Chamber after his speech to a joint session of the United States congress, Israeli MKs from all sides of the political spectrum were weighing in with their reactions.

"Netanyahu didn't say anything new," said Kadima MK Shaul Mofaz. "He has no plan; he is leading us to a conflict with the world in September and if the people of Israel have a choice between conflict and elections, I'm confident that they will choose elections."

NOTE EU-Digest: Regardless of what one may think about Nethanyahu's speech in the US Congress today, the fact remains that Israel basically is the only real Democracy in the Middle East and must not be forced by its Western allies to capitulate to those who want its destruction or to those who do not want to recognize them as a state. 

 

For more: MKs respond to Netanyahu's speech... JPost - Diplomacy & Politics

Soccer - Champions League Final: Manchester United ready for Barcelona in final, says Sir Alex Ferguson

Manchester United are ready for Barcelona in the Champions League final, says manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Photograph: Carl Recine/Action Images
Sir Alex Ferguson does not believe Barcelona's status as favourites ahead of this weekend's Champions League final offers them any advantage, insisting his players "will be ready" regardless.

Manchester United find themselves in the rare position of being underdogs for Saturday's Wembley showpiece, even though they have just claimed a record 19th title. However, with memories of the one-sided encounter in Rome two years ago when the Catalans eased to victory, it is Barça who are still expected to win.

For more: Manchester United ready for Barcelona in final, says Sir Alex Ferguson | Football | guardian.co.uk

Saudi Arabia - Guardian System : Female Saudi doctor appeals to top court for right to choose a husband

Samia is a Saudi surgeon who, as she says, is "supposed to be a grandma by now." But she's not even married yet. As with many women in Saudi Arabia, choosing a husband was not solely up to her according to Saudi Guardian law. Her father and brothers demanded that she marry a cousin, and, she says, beat her when she refused. For the past five years, she has lived in a shelter for battered women. "I'm a surgeon. I'm responsible for people's lives," says Samia, now in her 40s. "I want to be responsible for my own life."

The guardianship system, which stems from tribal traditions and is deeply entrenched in Saudi Arabia's culture and legal system, requires women to get their guardians' permission to marry. Although many men respect their female relatives' wishes, others do not, despite warnings from Muslim leaders.
Samia's situation, described in multiple interviews both in person and via phone and e-mail, is not unusual in Saudi Arabia. It illustrates how this country's guardianship system gives men almost complete control over female relatives, as well as how little recourse women have to escape abusive guardians. She has taken her case to two courts, which both ruled against her, and she and her lawyer now seek a hearing in the country's Supreme Court.

Under Islam, a woman has the right to choose her partner, provided she is morally upright. "Forcing a woman to marry someone she does not want and preventing her from wedding [the man] whom she chooses ... is not permissible," Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Asheikh, the kingdom's top religious authority, has said.

For more: Female Saudi doctor appeals to top court for right to choose a husband - CSMonitor.com

Iceland strikes again with volcanic ash cloud: More Than 200 Flights Cancelled Due To Ash Cloud - WSJ.com

Europe's air-traffic management agency Tuesday said more than 200 schedule flights had been cancelled due to the clouds of volcanic ash drifting toward the continent from Iceland amid fears the disruption could spread.
Weather forecasters at the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center in London Tuesday repeated warnings that there was a risk that some ash clouds may reach parts of northern Europe in the next 48 hours. Iceland and Scotland already are affected.

A part of Danish airspace was closed from early Tuesday, said Danish airspace surveillance unit Naviair. "At the moment only a small offshore area over the North Sea is affected by the airspace closure, and only up to a height of six kilometers," Naviair spokeswoman Camilla Hegnsborg told Dow Jones Newswires.
Ash- WSJ.com

EU sanctions on Syria’s al-Assad

The European Union has imposed sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other senior officials, raising pressure on his government to end weeks of violence against pro-democracy demonstrators. The move was agreed by EU foreign ministers at a meeting in Brussels.

The bloc’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, said: “It is extremely important that, first of all, Syria refrain from the violence. The government needs to understand that the people are asking by peaceful protest for the kind of reforms that the government has said that they are interested in, and they now need to engage properly and try and do that.”

For more: EU sanctions on Syria’s al-Assad | euronews, world news

French government says China backs Lagarde for IMF

Reuters reports that French Finance minister Lagarde has emerged as the leading candidate to replace Strauss-Kahn, who quit last week to fight sexual assault charges in New York, although Mexico is pushing the claims of its central bank chief and many emerging nations have said it is time for Europe's 60-year grip on the job to be loosened.

China would support Finance Minister Christine Lagarde as the next IMF chief, the French government said on Tuesday, backing which would put her firmly in pole position to succeed Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

For more: French government says China backs Lagarde for IMF | Reuters

Goldman Sachs must be banned from the Eurozone - "The People vs. Goldman Sachs - by Matt Tabi"

"They weren't murderers or anything; they had merely stolen more money than most people can rationally conceive of, from their own customers, in a few blinks of an eye. But then they went one step further. They came to Washington, took an oath before Congress, and lied about it.

Thanks to an extraordinary investigative effort by a Senate subcommittee that unilaterally decided to take up the burden the criminal justice system has repeatedly refused to shoulder, we now know exactly what Goldman Sachs executives like Lloyd Blankfein and Daniel Sparks lied about. We know exactly how they and other top Goldman executives, including David Viniar and Thomas Montag, defrauded their clients.

Goldman Sachs, as the Levin report makes clear, remains an ascendant company precisely because it used its canny perception of an upcoming disaster (one which it helped create, incidentally) as an opportunity to enrich itself, not only at the expense of clients but ultimately, through the bailouts and the collateral damage of the wrecked economy, at the expense of society. The bank seemed to count on the unwillingness or inability of federal regulators to stop them — and when called to Washington last year to explain their behavior, Goldman executives brazenly misled Congress, apparently confident that their perjury would carry no serious consequences. Thus, while much of the Levin report describes past history, the Goldman section describes an ongoing? crime — a powerful, well-connected firm, with the ear of the president and the Treasury, that appears to have conquered the entire regulatory structure and stands now on the precipice of officially getting away with one of the biggest financial crimes in history.

America has been waiting for a case to bring against Wall Street. Here it is, and the evidence has been gift-wrapped and left at the doorstep of federal prosecutors, evidence that doesn't leave much doubt: Goldman Sachs should stand trial.

Note EU-Digest::   Unfortunately the US Federal Reserve and the political establishment there have not been very effective to curb what the US Senate report by Senator Carl Levin shows to be criminal activities by Goldman Sachs. They have shown not  to have the political will to determine that Goldman Sachs has not been acting in accordance with its banking license and worst of all it seems that effective banking regulations are still not in the making or  forthcoming.
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For more than a year now many European financial experts have been urging their Governments, the EU Commission, and the EU parliament that Goldman Sachs needs to be blacklisted from working with eurozone governments as soon as possible; as was the case with Salomon Brothers 20 years ago. They also say that given the information acquired from the Greek economic disaster, Goldman Sachs was shown to have been advising the Greek Government on how to put deceptive levels of   value on their reserves to induce investors into buying Government bonds at inflated prices. They recommend that Goldman Sachs should be banned from eurozone government securities markets altogether. Unfortunately, also in Europe, apart from Germany, there still has not been any major response against Goldman Sachs excessive influence on the eurozone's economic environment. It is believed that one of the reason for this reluctance to act has come from Great Britain's London financial community who have put up roadblocks against effective European unified action against Goldman Sachs. 

It seems quite clear that if no action is taken by EU governments against international financial corganizations like Goldman Sachs and no real effective regulations are put into effect covering every aspect of the financial community, the next economic crises will make the past one look like child's play.  Click here to watch the report on the above issue by Senator Carl Levin on C-SPAN

For more also see: The People vs. Goldman Sachs | Rolling Stone Politics

5/23/11

Spain's ruling Socialists suffer big election loss

Spain's ruling Socialist party has suffered a bruising defeat to conservatives in the municipal leg of elections and looked headed to suffer big losses in regional government races as well.

Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba congratulated the conservative opposition Popular Party for its "win by an ample margin" in the local elections held nationwide.

The ministry website said that with 91 percent of the votes counted in the nationwide municipal vote, the Popular Party had almost a 10 percentage point margin of victory.

For more: Spain's ruling Socialists suffer big election loss - BusinessWeek

Global power shift

Throughout history a pattern has been established in which major shifts in economic power are followed by, or go hand-in-hand with, shifts in military power and/or dominance. Developments following in the wake of the sex-scandal that has engulfed the International Monetary Fund managing director underline that the world is presently again experiencing such a ground-shift.

European leaders have dropped strong hints that they would not tolerate a new head of the IMF from outside the continent as the scandal around Dominique Strauss-Kahn sparked speculation about his potential successor – speculation that include South Africa’s previous minister of finance, Trevor Manuel.

For many decades the tradition has been that a European runs the IMF and an American deputises to him and gets the top job at the World Bank. Among the 24 directors of the IMF count nine from Europe, while the American member’s vote counts four times and the vote of the Brazilian director, who represents nine countries, carries only a 2.4% weight.

This dispensation however, is part of an economic order that is no longer a reflection of the realities of the global economy. For one, not only does the United States battle with a missive debt burden, but the majority of that debt is held by China, who analysts expect to flex its muscles to get a candidate from one of the emerging economies appointed to the IMF position.

For more: Global power shift

Slowing China Weighs on US and European Growth as Well

Manufacturers in Europe and China tapped the brakes this month and price pressures eased, as tighter policy measures to control inflation began to bite, data released Monday indicated.

Preliminary purchasing managers’ surveys pointed to marginally slower economic growth in the euro zone and in China in the second quarter. Growth in the common currency bloc’s dominant service sector also slowed more sharply than expected.

But policymakers will take some cheer from the fact that prices did not rise so steeply in May.

For more: Slowing China Weighs on European Growth as Well - NYTimes.com

5/22/11

Boeing 787 Woes Won’t Be Repeated on Airbus A350, Umeco Says

Airbus SAS’s A350 jet should prove less problematic to build than the Boeing Co. (BA) 787 because of advances in producing the composite plastics from which it will be made, said Umeco Plc (UMC), which is working on both models.

Advances in carbon-fiber technology mean that parts can be molded using a curing process that supplies the required heat without the need for high-pressure ovens known as autoclaves, Umeco Chief Executive Officer Andrew Moss said in an interview. “If you can avoid the high pressure it’s much easier and cheaper,” said Moss, whose company produces composites and the tooling needed to make parts from the plastic for Boeing, Airbus and major suppliers such GKN Plc (GKN) and Senior Plc. (SNR)

Boeing has postponed 787 deliveries seven times, resulting in a three-year delay, after grappling with new materials and production systems required for the world’s first composite airliner and handing work to outside companies to cut costs. The first Dreamliner is now due for handover to All Nippon Airways by September, with the rival A350 slated for delivery in 2013.

Airbus aims to begin assembling the first A350 by the year’s end after completing curing of the plane’s largest fuselage panel in March. Sections are being built in factories across France, Germany the U.K. and Spain for final assembly at the company’s headquarters in Toulouse, France.

For more: Boeing 787 Woes Won’t Be Repeated on Airbus A350, Umeco Says - Bloomberg

Welcome, Mr. and Mrs. Obama on your European Tour

US President Barack Obama leaves Sunday on a major European tour mixing pomp, personal history and great power diplomacy shaped by the historic uprisings raging through the Arab world.

Obama is seeking support for his plan to spur democracy after revolts in Tunisia and Egypt and may face pressure from Europe for a more robust US role in Libya as the Atlantic alliance is updated in an era of new challenges.

The president will journey to ancestral home turf in the tiny village of Moneygall in Ireland, bask in the splendor of a state visit with the Queen of Britain, meet world leaders at the Group of Eight summit in France and visit Poland.

Despite suggestions Obama prefers Asia to Europe, the president has repeatedly trekked across the Atlantic, and aides say he is firmly committed to the world's most successful continental alliance

For more news about Europe: EU-Digest

5/21/11

The Netherlands Geert Wilders’ a populist, or just taking politics to a higher level of absurdity

Those watching Geert Wilders performance in this past weeks parliamentary debate which also included questions about the EU Greek bailout, saw the opportunist in him in just about every word he uttered..

Listening to the sarcastic and often illogical arguments coming out of Mr. Wilders his mouth one could only wonder what happened to the Dutch population when they voted in such large numbers for him during the last election. As the saying goes "you get what you vote for" and the Dutch  vertainly got themselves a problem.

Fortunately. there still are some level headed people around in the Netherlands, not scared to oppose Wilders. One of them Nout Wellink, President of the Netherlands Central Bank called Mr Wilders “a false prophet on economic matters” during a talkshow on national TV yesterday evening. This was in reference to when Wilders lashed out in Parliament against bailing out the debt-stricken Greece and said in an interview in the conservative De Telegraaf daily that Greece should quit the euro zone and return to the drachma. He noted that it was totally senseless to help Greece out again.

The past two day of debates in the Dutch Parliament are known as “Accountability Days”. On the third Wednesday of May each year, the government defends its financial policy. Mr Wilders is using the focus on the Netherlands finances to rally support for his anti-Greece crusade.

During the debates Dutch PM Mr Rutte on Thursday accused Wilders, his political partner in Government, of “playing with fire, playing with savings and pensions,” and for engaging in “fact-free politics” driven solely by polling results.

Wilders PVV has a "sweetheart" deal with the Rutte Government in which his party supports the government but has no ministers, and is allowed to disagree with government policy in any area not specifically covered in the coalition agreement.The arrangement allows Mr Wilders to stay in the government while profiting from opposition to its policies.

So  far Geert Wilders has brought to the Dutch political environment  a new level of absurdity and worst of all he seems to be getting away with it.

 Some political insiders are now suggesting that it might be to the benefit of the popular Rutte to drop Geert Wilders from the Government and form a new more reliable Government to include his own VVD, the Christian Democrats, the Labor party and the Democratic D-66.

EU-Digest

Tennis : Germany beat Argentina 2-1 to win World Team Cup for record 5th time

Germany overcame defending champions Argentina 2-1 to win the World Team Cup for a record fifth time Saturday.

Florian Mayer put Germany ahead by beating Juan Monaco 7-6 (4), 6-0, but Juan Ignacio Chela pulled Argentina level when he beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 7-6 (4).

Kohlschreiber then returned to partner Philipp Petzschner while Chela teamed with Maximo Gonzalez in the doubles, which Germany won 6-3, 7-6 (5).

For more: The Canadian Press: Germany beat Argentina 2-1 to win World Team Cup for record 5th time

Is the US Still a Democracy ? Corporate Influence Increases in Politics and Secret Donors Multiply in U.S. Election Spending

Bloomberg.com correspondents J. Crewdson, A. Fitzgerald, and J. Salant reported: "that in the weeks before last November’s US congressional election, television viewers in South Carolina were treated to an animated caricature of Representative John Spratt high- kicking in a chorus line with President Barack Obama and then- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi."

“It’s the worst economy in decades,” the ad intoned, “and the folks in Washington are living it up, spending our tax dollars like there’s no tomorrow.” That ad and a second one mocking Spratt appeared at least 723 times between Sept. 25 and Election Day and were paid for by a group called the Commission on Hope, Growth and Opportunity, according to ad trackers at Campaign Media Analysis Group, a unit of WPP Plc. Spratt, a 14-term Democrat, saw a seven-point lead in an early poll vanish and lost the election.

Commission on Hope and four other Republican-leaning groups spent at least $4.05 million attacking candidates in the run-up to the November voting, according to Campaign Media estimates and TV station records obtained by Bloomberg News. None of that spending can be found searching the public database of the Federal Election Commission, and FEC spokeswoman Mary Brandenberger said the commission has no record of it.

US Federal law requires FEC disclosure of money spent on ads mentioning or depicting a candidate in the 60 days before a general election. The five groups whose spending wasn’t reported either declined to comment, were unreachable, or said they deemed the spending not reportable under the law. Federal law requires FEC disclosure of money spent on ads mentioning or depicting a candidate in the 60 days before a general election. The five groups whose spending wasn’t reported either declined to comment, were unreachable, or said they deemed the spending not reportable under the law.

The organizations face little scrutiny from the FEC, where split votes between Republican and Democratic commissioners have stymied enforcement in case after case for almost three years.

As a result, voters may find themselves choosing the next U.S. president knowing less about those trying to shape their views of the candidates than they have since secret money helped finance the Watergate burglary and re-elect President Richard Nixon in 1972. Watergate led to his resignation and ushered in the law that created the FEC. Investigators found more than $20 million had been given behind the scenes to Nixon’s campaign."

Several political analysts now believe that the strategically planned and well orchestrated political moves by the US conservative corporate establishment  to increase their grip on the US political process has eroded the democratic pillars on which the nation was founded. 

Italy's second world war dictator Benito Mussolini described this development as fascism when he said::  “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power”
   
EU-Digest

5/20/11

EU leaders set to nominate Lagarde for IMF post - by RUADHÁN Mac CORMAIC and ARTHUR BEESLEY

French Finance Minister minister Christine Lagarde has emerged as the clear favourite to take the helm of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with European leaders expected to agree on her nomination in the coming days.

President Nicolas Sarkozy is understood to be pressing for Ms Lagarde to succeed her compatriot Dominique Strauss-Kahn after he resigned this week to fight charges of sexual assault and attempted rape in New York. Mr Sarkozy spoke to British prime minister David Cameron yesterday and with German chancellor Angela Merkel earlier this week.

European leaders are resisting pressure to give the job to an emerging economic power and the expectation in European circles is that they will coalesce around a single candidate before a G8 summit in Deauville, France, on Thursday and Friday. Ms Lagarde received a public endorsement yesterday from Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, while the president of the euro group, Jean-Claude Juncker, who played a vital role in Mr Strauss-Kahn’s nomination in 2007, said she would be the “ideal candidate”.

For more: EU leaders set to nominate Lagarde for IMF post - The Irish Times - Sat, May 21, 2011

Delta and Air France to cut Europe flights

Delta Air Lines, Air France-KLM and Alitalia will sharply reduce flights across the Atlantic starting this fall, after airlines added too much flying on those routes just as fuel prices shot up.

The change will leave travelers between the U.S. and Europe with fewer choices. Delta began adding more trans-Atlantic flying toward the end of 2010. In November it announced new flights from Boston and Miami to London, as well as additional flights from New York to Paris and Seattle to Amsterdam, among others.
Delta and its partners said they will cut flying capacity by seven percent to nine percent starting this fall.

The reduction means that the amount of flying they do will drop about 15 percentage points compared to the growth they had planned previously, Delta President Ed Bastian said on Thursday.

For more: The Associated Press: Delta and Air France to cut Europe flights

IMF head: Europe to make 'common choice' soon

Germany's finance minister says Europe will decide soon on a common candidate as its choice to lead the IMF.

"We need a common European candidate and we are looking for the one who is best qualified and has the best chance," said Wolfgang Schaeuble.

A division has opened between the developed and developing world over who should replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who has resigned.

For more: BBC News - IMF head: Europe to make 'common choice' soon

5/19/11

Strauss-Kahn to be released on bail P BY Barney Jopson and Johanna Kasse

Mr Strauss-Kahn, who resigned as managing director of the International Monetary Fund early on Thursday, will be kept under 24-hour armed guard at a New York residence while he awaits trial. He was expected to be released within 24 hours after a $1m bond is posted and processed. Mr Strauss-Khan was joined in the New York City court by his wife Anne Sinclair and daughter Camille.

FOR MORE: FT.com / Global Economy - Strauss-Kahn to be released on bail

Berlusconi better behave whenever he goes to US as Europe debates on IMF chief Strauss-Khan Vary

The Wall Street Journal reports that varied responses across Europe this week to the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn highlight deeply rooted differences in how countries view the case and how they have dealt with sexual transgressions by their leaders over the years.

In Italy, where for years Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has regularly made sexual innuendoes and jokes, the premier's recent trial on charges of paying an underage girl for sex—charges he denies—has prompted women's groups to protest what they call the male establishment's demeaning attitude toward women. Comparisons between Mr. Strauss-Kahn's case and Mr. Berlusconi's trial abound, with editorialists widely commending the U.S. justice system's thus-far swift handling of the case. "Public opinion has become less tolerant of such behavior," said Italian sociologist Domenico De Masi.

In countries to the north, there has been more criticism of what many see as America's excessively media-friendly and trigger-happy judicial process. U.S. use of the death penalty is a topic followed closely in countries such as Germany and France, where capital punishment is illegal and often described as barbaric.

EU-Digest










For more: In Europe, Strauss-Kahn Views Vary - WSJ.com

Australians Simulate Airbus 380 Near Disaster - by Christine Negroni

Last fall, shortly before Qantas Flight 32 gave a hairy, scary ride to 446 people on the Airbus A380,  I was invited to tour the Airbus Training Center in Miami, Florida, given a detailed tutorial on the Airbus design and safety philosophy and just for fun -- allowed to pilot the A340 simulator.

These high-tech simulators can be programmed to fly any flight when the data has been captured, so we flew USAirways Flight 1549, better known now as the miracle on the Hudson" This was, at the time, the most famous example in aviation of turning chicken s**t into chicken salad.

This shows how important the design was to the successful water landing of the A320 after geese disabled both of the airliner's engines. But the point is that the opportunity to analyze and re-analyze the flight through simulators is beneficial, hindsight being 20/20 and all that.

 For more:Huffington Post

Is the Netherlands too soft on corruption?

Don't even think about approaching Dutch companies with a bribe. Corporate corruption just doesn't fit in with Dutch culture. At least, that's what the Dutch like to think.

While US courts have handed down billions of dollars' worth of fines to companies found guilty of corruption and bribery over recent years, similar investigations in the Netherlands rarely get off the ground. But is that because Dutch firms don't do it, or because Dutch justice authorities don't deal with it?

That it does actually happen was demonstrated this week in Poland. Prosecuting authorities there say a German office of the Dutch multinational Philips systematically bribed Polish hospital managers. They are alleged to have purchased Philips equipment in exchange for the money. The Philips branch is said to have set up a special fund to finance the bribes. Philips is not the only Dutch company to have been accused of bribery in recent years. Shell, for instance, was under fire for a long time for making payments to officials in Nigeria.

The Anglo-Dutch multinational got itself out of trouble by agreeing to a settlement with US justice authorities.
Chemical conglomerate AkzoNobel was fined around 4.25 million euros by the US for paying bribes to members of the Iranian government. Less well-known Dutch companies have also been at the receiving end of US fines for bribery.

For more: Is the Netherlands too soft on corruption? | Radio Netherlands Worldwide

IMF's Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigns, debate on successor heats up

Dominique Strauss-Kahn has resigned as head of the International Monetary Fund, saying he needs to devote all his energy to fight charges that he sexually assaulted a hotel maid.

"I deny with the greatest possible firmness all of the allegations that have been made against me," Strauss-Kahn said in a resignation letter released by the IMF and dated May 18.

In a poll released in France on Wednesday, 57 percent of respondents thought the Socialist politician was definitely or probably the victim of a plot.

EU-Digest



5/18/11

Soccer: Spain still No. 1 in FIFA rankings - by John F. Molinaro

World champion Spain retained its No. 1 spot in the FIFA monthly world rankings released Wednesday by soccer's international governing body.

The Spaniards held onto the top spot ahead of the Netherlands, Brazil, Germany and Argentina.

For more: Spain still No. 1 in FIFA rankings

Potential candidates to succeed Strauss-Kahn as head of the IMF

A list of potential candidates to succeed DSK at the Washington-based institution if he does step down or is dismissed has surfaces although the post has traditionally gone to a European. Furthermore German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday that she preferred another European at the helm of the IMF, which has become heavily involved in bailouts of struggling euro zone countries Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

The list includes Kemal Dervis from Turkey, the leading candidate for the IMF post if it goes to a non-European, Dervis is credited with bringing Turkey back from the brink after a disastrous 2001 financial crisis, by pushing through tough reforms and helping secure a multibillion dollar IMF bailout.

Turkey's status as a large emerging market within the European continent could ease widespread concerns by developing nations who feel shut out of the IMF selection process because of Europe's claim to the top job.

For more: Potential candidates to succeed Strauss-Kahn as head of the IMF — MercoPress

Europe moves to protect claim to IMF top job - by DAVID McHUGH and GEIR MOULSON

Europe is moving quickly to protect its traditional claim to the top job at the IMF ahead of the expected departure of current chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, resisting a push from developing countries to appoint someone from another region.

Strauss-Kahn remains jailed in New York after his arrest for allegedly sexually assaulting a hotel maid, and his departure is expected to be only a matter of time.

Germany and other European countries are pre-emptively insisting a European should head the fund, the custom since World War II, given that the eurozone debt crisis is the fund's central issue. But many developing nations note that because of their increasing wealth and role in the global economy, they should have a chance to name the successor.

For more: Europe moves to protect claim to IMF top job - seattlepi.com

5/17/11

EU endorses euro 78 bn bailout of Portugal

EU finance ministers endorsed a 78 billion euro ($110 billion) financial rescue package for debt-stricken Portugal, making it the third eurozone nation to receive a bail-out since the introduction of the common currency 10 years ago.

The assistance, which is envisaged to be provided over the next three years, will come in equal parts from the European Financial Stability Facility - a temporary financial safety net for eurozone nations - the European Commission's European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism and the International Monetary Fund. They will contribute euro 26 billion each in loans and credit guarantees.

The finance ministers shared the European Commission's view that emergency aid for Portugal was necessary to "safeguard financial stability in the euro area and in the EU as a whole", they said in a statement on the opening day of their two-day meeting in Brussels.

For more: EU endorses $110 bn bailout of Portugal - Rediff.com Business

Airbus: No Major Malfunctions in Air France Crash - by ANDY PASZTOR And DANIEL MICHAELS

European plane maker Airbus, issuing the strongest signal yet that pilot errors may have led to the 2009 crash of an Air France jetliner, said data recorders recently pulled from the wreckage haven't revealed any obvious or major aircraft malfunctions before the jet's fatal dive.

In a bulletin sent to airlines Monday, Airbus said a preliminary readout of information about the Airbus A330 that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean two years ago hasn't prompted any "immediate recommendation" regarding the safety of the global A330 fleet.


The statement suggests that industry and government experts—led by France's air-crash investigation bureau— at this point are focusing more on human error and cockpit procedures than problems with specific airplane components or onboard computer systems.

For more: Airbus: No Major Malfunctions in Air France Crash - WSJ.com

US treatment of IMF chief outrageous say Europeans

The arrest of Strauss-Kahn amid massive publicity introduced many French and Europeans to that classic of U.S. criminal arraignments, the perp walk. They are also seeing an adversarial justice system in operation, rather different from the one back home. Not to mention typical American puritanism and prudishness (imagine being upset at a little sexual adventurism) on full display.

The term perp walk is an American slang term which refers to the police practice of intentionally parading an arrested suspect (or "perp", short for "perpetrator") through a public place so that the media may observe and record the event. The suspect is typically handcuffed or otherwise restrained. They are also seeing an adversarial justice system in operation, rather different from the one back home. Not to mention typical American puritanism and prudishness (imagine being upset at a little sexual adventurism) on full display.

Europeans are also outraged — outraged — by a New York judge’s refusal to grant bail to the former IMF head. Her action has frayed Franco-U.S. relations (again) and had the unlikely effect of casting the accused as a victim.

EU-Digest

IMF boss's alleged victim 'is Senegalese'

Reports reaching Senegal from New York say the woman whom the International Monetary Fund (IMF) boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn is alleged to have attempted to rape is a Senegalese national.
According to the New York-based correspondent of the Sud FM radio in Dakar, the woman is a native of Senegal who migrated to the US and has been living in New York.
The correspondent told the radio that the 32-year-old woman, whose name is being withheld, has been working for the Sofitel Hotel in New York for nearly three years.
For more: Africa Review - IMF boss's alleged victim 'is Senegalese'

5/16/11

IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn 'feared political enemy would pay woman to allege rape' - by Peter Allen

Dominique Strauss-Kahn feared that one of his political opponents would pay a woman more than $1million to say he raped her, it emerged today.The extraordinary revelation emerged in Paris as the International Monetary Fund head remained in a New York police cell accused of launching a sex attack on a hotel maid.

Liberation, the left-wing daily newspaper, published details on off-the-record comments made by Strauss-Kahn as recently as April 28th. 

Discussing his plans to challenge Nicolas Sarkozy as Socialist candidate for the presidency in 2012, he said he imagined ‘a woman who had been raped in a car park and who was offered between €500,000 and €1,000,000 to make up such a story. Because he was the clear favorite to beat Mr Sarkozy, Strauss-Kahn feared he would be subjected to a smear campaign by the President and his Interior Minister, Glaude Gueant. Such theories were bolstered by the fact that the first person to break the news of Strauss-Kahn’s arrest was an activist in Mr Sarkozy’s UMP party – who apparently knew about the scandal before it happened.

Jonathan Pinet, a politics student, tweeted the news just before the New York Police Department made it public, although he said that he simply had a ‘friend’ working at the Sofitel where the attack was said to have happened.

Note EU-Digest: what is also remarkable is Mr. Kahn's treatment as a hardened criminal by the New York Police Department. Obviously there should be no preferential treatment in any judicial system, but in this case it looks very much like reverse discrimination.

For more: IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn 'feared political enemy would pay woman to allege rape' | Mail Online

George Soros Moves to Institute a New Global Currency - by Arlen Williams

The Institute for New Economic thinking (INET) Bretton Woods summit, summoned by George Soros and those who alternatively hide behind, or gather around him, has now happened.

But before trying to analyze whatever we may discover of what occurred there, it is critical to discern how it fits an overall picture. For context, one must also see what the IMF and World Bank “communitarian” elitists are up to.

We find that before the Bretton Woods affair, focusing upon “new solutions,” there was a similar IMF meeting, called “New Ideas for a New World.” It was centered upon “Post-Crisis Policy Making” and occurred March 7-14. That gave some of them a lot of time to communicate and plan in quiet (the traditional word for that is conspire) when they were not attending official sessions, or making videos.

For more: » George Soros Moves to Institute a New Global Currency - Big Government

Insurance Industry USA: Private health insurance industry has failed patients

All of the well-publicized political health care programs have one thing in common: They all seek to steer larger portions of Medicare and Medicaid through private insurance corporations. They differ only in their degrees of rationing, with President Obama's plan restricting rationing for profit and Rep. Paul Ryan's mandate allowing the most rationing by the health insurance industry.

What Republicans and Democrats fail to disclose is that for more than 40 years the middle man of American health care - the private insurance industry - has failed in almost every capitalistic, economic and medical measure to deliver for the American patient.

Unlike auto insurance, private medical insurance has failed to accept and spread risk, thereby preventing the delivery of quality, affordable health care .

For more Private health insurance industry has failed patients

Police seek evidence of sex attack from IMF chief

The head of the International Monetary Fund was examined for evidence that could incriminate him in the alleged sexual assault of a hotel maid, charges that stunned the global financial world and upended French presidential politics.

Strauss-Kahn was taken into custody on Saturday and spent more than 24 hours inside a Harlem precinct, where police say the maid identified him from a lineup, then headed to a hospital for a "forensic examination" requested by prosecutors to obtain more evidence in the case, defense lawyer William Taylor said. He was taken to a Manhattan court early today.

Another defense attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said the IMF managing director "intends to vigorously defends these charges and he denies any wrongdoing."

For more: Police seek evidence of sex attack from IMF chief | Detroit Free Press | freep.com

Germany wants another European to head IMF if Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigns -

Germany would like another European to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn if the current head of the IMF were to resign, Germany's government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Monday.

"Europe doesn't have a right to the director's chair, that's obvious. But in the current situation when the IMF is especially needed to fight the crisis in some euro states, the German government sees good reasons why there should be a good European candidate" to take over from Strauss-Kahn, Seibert told a press conference.

Should Strauss-Kahn be forced to resign "Germany would make this clear to its international partners," he added. 


For more: Germany wants another European to head IMF if Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigns - The Economic Times

5/15/11

Greek debt crisis to test cohesion of EU

An undercurrent of anger and mistrust will permeate tonight's critical meeting of euro zone ministers in Brussels as they grapple with a spiraling Greek debt crisis and try to seal a €78 billion ($104 billion) bailout for Portugal. As if the euro's problems were not enough, seething resentments will add a new political dimension to the talks.

The inclement mood was set 10 days earlier. On May 6, Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg's Prime Minister and chairman of the euro group of single currency members, called a secret meeting of the European Union's most powerful countries at the Chateau de Senningen on the outskirts of the tiny Duchy state.

Gathered at the 18th century former paper mill were finance ministers from Germany, France, Italy and Spain - the euro's G20 members, Jean-Claude Trichet, the president of the European Central Bank, and Olli Rehn, the EU commissioner for monetary affairs.

Note EU-Digest: Once again the Anglo EU-Euro Sceptics are crying Woolf through the media outlets controlled by Mr. Rupert Murdoch. The fact is that even Greece which they are painting black and trying to slam in the ground has shown to be doing better in recent economic forecasts than Great Britain.


IMF chief arrested in alleged sex assault - by Zachary A. Goldfarb and Edward Cody

The head of the International Monetary Fund was charged early Sunday in connection with the alleged sexual assault of a housekeeper at a Manhattan hotel Saturday, a New York police spokesman said.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, 62, who had been removed from a Paris-bound flight in New York minutes before takeoff Saturday, was questioned by the New York Police Department’s special victims office and arrested at 2:15 a.m. Sunday on charges of criminal sex act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment, a spokesman said.

The allegations create immediate uncertainty for the Washington-based IMF, which has been playing an important role in stabilizing the global economy amid the financial crisis. The arrest also promises to stir up politics in France, where Strauss-Kahn is widely thought to be considering challenging French President Nicolas Sarkozy in next year’s election. Polls have indicated that he would have a good chance of defeating Sarkozy.

For more: IMF chief arrested in alleged sex assault - The Washington Post

5/14/11

Azerbaijan takes the top spot at the Eurovision Song Contest 2011 in Dusseldorf

Some 125 million people worldwide tuned in to see duo Ell and Nikki from Azerbaijan crowned Eurovision winners at this year's festival in Dusseldorf with 221 points. Their romantic ballad "Running Scared" beat runner-up Italy represented by Raphael Gualazzi with his slow-burn jazz number "Madness of Love" while Sweden came in third with 20-year-old Saade, from Helsingborg in southern Sweden and his club hit "Popular".

It was a breathtaking first class dazzling live show from the Düsseldorf Arena with 25 performers from the 25 finalist countries. Twenty of these had qualified from the two Semi-Finals on Tuesday and Thursday, while host nation Germany and the rest of the so-called 'Big Five' - France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom - were automatically set for the final. After all 43 countries had voted, it was Ell/Nikki from Azerbaijan who were the lucky winner with their song Running Scared.

Azerbaijan has only competed in the Eurovision song festival since 2008. This was the country's first win. Its highest previous placing came in 2009 when AySel and Arash reached the top three.

EU-Digest

Britain's rocky Eurovision relationship is rekindled by unlikely boyband battle - by Vicky Frost

It is loved and derided in equal measure – a festival of terrible fashion, Euro power-ballads, unlikely rap numbers and ill-advised dance routines. But Britain's rocky relationship with Eurovision could be rekindled this year by a boyband well past their sell-by date and a certain pair of Irish twins with gravity-defying hair.

The bookies certainly think so – Blue and Jedward are among the top five favourites to win – and there are strong hopes that, after a disappointing 2010 competition, the unlikely entries will bring a turnaround in fortunes.

Last year the UK's entry narrowly avoided "nul points" to finish at the very bottom of the leaderboard, and ratings for the BBC's coverage of the show fell in the face of competition from Britain's Got Talent, so there is much resting on the shoulders – and hair – of this year's contestants.

For more: Britain's rocky Eurovision relationship is rekindled by unlikely boyband battle | Television & radio | The Guardian

Eurovision Song Contest: Tonight: it's all or nothing! - Düsseldorf 2011 - also watch it on your computer!

Only some hours left till the Final of the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest and all of the artists are getting more and more anxious! Right now, the third and last dress rehearsal is ongoing - it's the last chance for the delegations to get rid of the problems that might have been visible!

In all the 43 countries participating, the audience will be able to televote. Usually, millions of votes are being cast, and the taste usually differs between North and South Europe and between the West and the East! However, eventually, they will all have to agree on one winner! Who will it be?

Watch it live tonight- also on your computer - starting at 9.00 pm CET in Europe or 3.00 pm EST in the US at http://www.eurovision.tv/esctv/main?program=24953

EU-Digest