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6/30/11

Libyan rebels hope French weapons will break Misrata stalemate - by Chris Stephen

Libyan rebels in Misrata said on Thursday night that they are in discussions with France to supply weapons and ammunition to fighters in the besieged coastal enclave.

The frontlines have remained in stalemate for more than a month, with the city enduring nightly bombardments from rockets, and rebel fighters saying they lack the heavy weapons to break the ring of government forces around the city.

"We are in discussion with France to supply us with the guns," said rebel military spokesman Ibrahim Betalmal. "We are trying to do our best to get ammunition and guns from France and inshallah [God willing] we are going to get those guns. These are negotiations with France, not with Nato."

French military spokesman Colonel Thierry Burkhard said on Wednesday that France had airlifted weapons to Libyan civilians in a mountain region south of Tripoli. The deliveries of guns, rocket-propelled grenades and munitions took place in early June in the western Nafusa mountains, when Gaddafi's troops had encircled civilians.

For more: Libyan rebels hope French weapons will break Misrata stalemate | World news | The Guardian

Poland’s solidarity message to Europe

Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister, says in a Financial Times interview: “The most important task is to rebuild trust and faith in the idea that Europe makes sense – that the EU is truly a worthwhile invention.” Mr Tusk is right. The Greek debt crisis has not been handled in a way to preserve awareness of common interests. Europe’s threadbare solidarity is also visible in the backlash against the Schengen treaty and enlargement fatigue in the Balkans – both problems that Mr Tusk vows to remedy.
Not that Poland does not stand up for its national interests. Its tenacity in fighting against stricter carbon emissions cuts (Poland is largely coal-powered), or for the EU spending from which it handsomely benefits, is second to none. And Warsaw is unafraid to go its own way: unlike Berlin, it has not let the Fukushima nuclear disaster knock it off a pro-nuclear course.

The EU’s sixth largest country is at long last punching its weight as a regional power. It was the bloc’s only economy to grow throughout the crisis. That Poland has built better relations with Germany and Russia than at any time in history makes the country pivotal for EU policy towards Moscow. But Poland shows that national assertiveness is compatible with European unity.

For more: Poland’s solidarity message to Europe - FT.com

US economy: Estimated cost of post-9/11 wars: 225,000 lives, up to $4 trillion - by Deborah Baum

The cost of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan are estimated at 225,000 lives and up to $4 trillion in U.S. spending, in a new report by scholars with the Eisenhower Research Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies. The group’s “Costs of War” project has released new figures for a range of human and economic costs associated with the U.S. military response to the 9/11 attacks.

Among the group’s main findings:
  • The U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan will cost between $3.2 and $4 trillion, including medical care and disability for current and future war veterans. This figure does not include substantial probable future interest on war-related debt.
  • More than 31,000 people in uniform and military contractors have died, including the Iraqi and Afghan security forces and other military forces allied with the United States.
  • By a very conservative estimate, 137,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan by all parties to these conflicts.
  • The wars have created more than 7.8 million refugees among Iraqis, Afghans, and Pakistanis.
  • Pentagon bills account for half of the budgetary costs incurred and are a fraction of the full economic cost of the wars.
  • Because the war has been financed almost entirely by borrowing, $185 billion in interest has already been paid on war spending, and another $1 trillion could accrue in interest alone through 2020.
  • Federal obligations to care for past and future veterans of these wars will likely total between $600-$950 billion. This number is not included in most analyses of the costs of war and will not peak until mid-century.
The Eisenhower Research Project is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit, scholarly initiative that derives its purpose from President Eisenhower’s 1961 farewell address, in which he warned of the “unwarranted influence” of the military-industrial complex and appealed for an “alert and knowledgeable citizenry” as the only force able to balance the often contrasting demands of security and liberty in the democratic state.
     For more: Estimated cost of post-9/11 wars: 225,000 lives, up to $4 trillion | Brown University News and Events

    Optimism on Greece Pushes Stocks Higher

    Stocks opened higher on Wall Street on Thursday as Greece cleared the way for a debt rescue package.Greek lawmakers passed an austerity bill that would allow international lenders to release more emergency loans. Meanwhile, in Germany, banks and insurance companies joined the government in a plan to roll over holdings of Greek debt. The news added to optimism about averting a widespread European debt crisis, which has sent markets higher since Monday.

    For more: Optimism on Greece Pushes Stocks Higher - NYTimes.com

    Tourism: Florida's economy is more a state of depression than sunshine - by Steven Kurlander

    Florida at the turn of the 21st century was a thriving place with a bright future. There was opportunity and growth everywhere, with widespread home building and construction far and wide. The cost of living was very reasonable: There was no income tax and property taxes and insurance costs were low.

    A boom economy based on construction, tourism and real estate is now in shambles. One in eight Floridians is unemployed and nearly 1 million state residents are now collecting food stamps. Bankruptcy attorneys and debt collectors are extremely busy here.

    The foreclosure crisis has transformed neighborhoods and condo developments into slums; skyrocketing property taxes and insurance eats away at the disposable income of struggling Florida residents (and negates any advantage from a lack of state income tax), and boarded-up strip malls and stores are popping up daily. People and jobs are now leaving Florida. Office Depot just announced that 80 jobs in Boca Raton are being moved offshore to Guatemala, where it is cheaper to do business.

    For more: Florida economy New York: Florida's economy is more a state of depression than sunshine - South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com

    6/29/11

    Egyptian Seeds Linked to E. Coli Outbreak in Europe - by WILLIAM NEUMAN and SCOTT SAYARE

    European investigators fitting together the puzzle pieces of devastating E. coli outbreaks in Germany and France cautiously identified a likely source on Wednesday: contaminated fenugreek seeds from Egypt. Officials also said that the seeds seemed to have entered Europe through a single German importer, which acted as a distributor to other companies. 

    A report by the European Food Safety Authority said that sprouts grown from fenugreek seeds imported from Egypt in 2009 and 2010 “are implicated in both outbreaks.” But it added that “there is still much uncertainty about whether this is truly the common cause of the infections” because tests on the seeds had not yet found any of the deadly E. coli, a rare strain known as O104:H4. Food safety experts say, however, that the bacteria can contaminate one seed in thousands and that it is very difficult to isolate in seed samples. 

    For more: Egyptian Seeds Linked to E. Coli Outbreak in Europe - NYTimes.com

    Some European Insurers Could Face Heavy Losses

    Insurance companies across Europe are sitting on large portfolios of bonds issued by financially shaky governments and banks, raising concerns that some insurers could fall victim to the Continent's financial crisis.

    Before Europe's fiscal crisis erupted last spring, many insurance companies gorged on bonds issued by governments and banks from around the euro zone. It seemed like an easy and low-risk way to generate higher returns for investors and policyholders. Today, though, Greece is teetering on the brink of default, and many investors fear that Ireland, Portugal and even Spain could follow suit. Meanwhile, troubled banks increasingly are imposing losses on bondholders as a way to avoid taxpayer bailouts.

    The result: Some European insurers face the prospect of heavy losses, which could erode their financial strength and trickle down to customers who hold life-insurance policies, according to industry executives, regulators and analysts. And because of the industry's limited disclosures, it is hard to pinpoint individual insurers' vulnerability.

    Analysts say that among the most exposed companies is Dutch-Belgian insurer Ageas NV, which until last year was known as Fortis. Other companies holding large quantities of government bonds from risky euro-zone countries include Germany's Allianz SE, Italy's Assicurazioni Generali SpA and France's Groupama SA.

    For more: Some European Insurers Could Face Heavy Losses - WSJ.com

    Medical News: EUROPACE: CRT of More Benefit to Women than Men - by Todd Neale

    After adjusting for the level of underlying disease, women appear to gain more benefit from cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) than men, a sub-analysis of a randomized trial affirmed.

    Women had significantly better one-year survival and freedom from cardiovascular hospitalization, as well as larger gains in quality of life, Ulrika Birgersdotter-Green, MD, of the University of California San Diego, reported here at EHRA EUROPACE, the meeting of the European Heart Rhythm Association.

    For more: Medical News: EUROPACE: CRT of More Benefit to Women than Men - in Meeting Coverage, EUROPACE from MedPage Today

    IMF warns US of debt ‘shock’ - by James Politi

    The International Monetary Fund has warned of a “severe shock” to global financial markets if the US does not move quickly to increase its borrowing authority, adding pressure on Congress and the White House to clinch a deal on fiscal policy.

    In its annual report on US economic policy, the IMF cited “unfavourable fiscal outcomes” as one of the key dangers to the country’s economic outlook.

    In its report, the IMF said striking the right balance on fiscal policy represented the main challenge facing US economic officials. The fund said fiscal consolidation needed to proceed and losing fiscal credibility could be very damaging, and is recommending that deficit reduction should begin next year – with the overall effort to include both spending cuts and tax increases through the elimination of special incentives and deductions.

    For more: IMF warns US of debt ‘shock’ - FT.com

    Smartphones Tap Into Your Conversations With Spyware; Wiretap - by Sid Kirchheimer

    Your smartphone may be sharing your secrets. Using "spyware" that sells on the Internet for as little as $15, other people can hijack your phone. This allows them to hear your calls; see your text messages, e-mails, photographs and files; and track your location through constant GPS updates.

    Your phone can even be turned into a surreptitious microphone. "When the phone is off — in a pocket, purse or on a table — it can remotely be turned on so conversations around the phone can be heard," says Tim Wilcox, owner of International Investigators Inc., an Indianapolis security firm.

    The world now has about 370 million smartphones, according to ABI Research, an Oyster Bay, N.Y., firm that studies wireless communications. They include BlackBerrys, Androids, iPhones and others that easily accept apps and have ample processing power. Security experts say millions of them may already be infected with spyware; the risk for basic "dumb" cellphones is far less.
    Mobile phone spyware is illegal in the United States but is sold by websites operating overseas. With at least 600 variations of the app out there, all it takes is a credit card to make an instant wiretapper. Often that person is a suspicious spouse, an overly protective parent or a jealous coworker. "But it's certainly possible for scammers to use it for identity theft," says Wilcox.

    For more: Scam Alert: Smartphones Tap Into Your Conversations With Spyware; Wiretap - AARP Bulletin

    6/28/11

    Trichet Urges New Vision of Europe

    European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet urged policy makers to revitalize the vision of an integrated Europe.

    “These days, ‘Europe’ and the benefits it brings have come to be taken for granted,” Trichet said in a speech in Brussels last night, according to a text provided by the ECB. “Thanks to the success of European integration, the threat of war has become a memory of the past for many Europeans, in particular the younger generation. This makes it all the more urgent to develop a renewed vision of the kind of Europe we want and indeed need -- a vision that is easily understood and shared among European Union citizens.”

    For more: Trichet Urges New Vision of Europe - Bloomberg

    Netherlands parliament rules against ritual animal slaughter

    The Netherlands' parliament has passed a bill banning any slaughter of livestock without stunning, removing an exemption that has long allowed orthodox Dutch Jews and Muslims to butcher animals according to their centuries-old dietary rules.

    However, the bill must still pass the senate and the government says it may be unenforceable in its current form.

    The threat of a ban led to outcry from Jewish and Muslim groups who say it infringes their right to freedom of religion. They argue ritual slaughter – done by swiftly cutting animals' throats with a razor-sharp knife – is no worse than stunning.

    For more: Netherlands parliament rules against ritual animal slaughter | World news | The Guardian

    France: Lagarde wins 5-year term as head of IMF

    French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde was selected Tuesday as the next managing director of the International Monetary Fund for a five-year term starting in early July, the IMF announced. Lagarde was selected by consensus rather than by a formal vote. Lagarde, 55, was chairman of the law firm Baker & McKenzie before joining the French government in 2005.

    For more: Lagarde wins 5-year term as head of IMF - MarketWatch

    David Cameron hails EU 'unity' on Gaddafi

    In a Commons statement on 27 June 2011 on a recent meeting of the European Council in Brussels, Mr Cameron said Russia and China had "accepted the importance" of the Transitional National Council, Libya's official opposition movement.

    Mr Cameron told MPs: "The Council agreed a declaration confirming its full support for UN Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973, and the efforts our brave servicemen and women are undertaking to implement them."

    He added: "The wider world is turning against Gaddafi too, recognising that the Transitional National Council are the only credible diplomatic body which can represent the people of Libya right now."

    For more: BBC - Democracy Live - David Cameron hails EU 'unity' on Gaddafi

    Danske Bank Outlook Cut to ‘Negative’ at Fitch on Danish Economy

    Danske Bank A/S, Denmark’s biggest lender, had its outlook lowered at Fitch Ratings, which cited weakness in the Irish and Danish economies.

    Fitch cut the outlook on Danske’s long-term issuer default rating to “negative” from “stable” while keeping the Copenhagen- based bank at “A+," it said today in a statement.

    “The negative outlook reflects some uncertainty in the development of the Danish and Irish economies,” Andrew Shenton, an associate director at Fitch in London, said in the statement. “The ratings are likely to be downgraded if Fitch anticipates the bank’s earnings capacity to materially suffer from continued asset quality erosion, particularly in Denmark and the Republic of Ireland.”

    Denmark’s economy slipped into recession in the first quarter, joining bailout-reliant Portugal as the only other European nation to suffer more than a quarter of contraction. The decline was led by a drop in consumer spending as the property market stagnates and the government plans budget cuts.

    For more: Danske Bank Outlook Cut to ‘Negative’ at Fitch on Danish Economy - Bloomberg

    6/27/11

    Greek Stock Market, the Moments Before Drowning

    The Dow Jones Greek Index is a good barometer of investor behavior. When a person is perilously close to drowning, they will grab on to anything. There are a few seconds of desperate panic. The same holds true for investors. They will grab on to any story no matter how ridiculous it may be. The former nation of Greece is in the news almost every hour. They have debt obligations that they cannot repay and the ECB is going to throw them another $100 billion in bailout money to keep their debt off the default report. To be accurate, the ECB is going to give the $100 billion to the German, French, and American banks that hold the credit default swaps tied to the Greek debt in question. They just needed to figure out how to steal it from the Greeks.

    Stock investors don’t care about sovereignty. They rarely think about anything but making a buck. They rarely actually think! The chart below is the Dow Jones Greek Index. Why do I bring it up. Yes, it is down some 80% from its highs of a few years ago but I think it is a good example of a drowning market. Let us remember that Greece has a GDP of about $300 billion (US) and their economy is shrinking by better than a 4% annual clip. The government has already cut wages and benefits as the government controls more than 50% of the overall economy. The new austerity rules will increase the tax rate on the population by 1% to 5%. The threshold of income that begins taxation will drop from $12k per year to $8k per year. Even the poorest people will feel the oppression of higher taxes. Business owners will be accessed and extra $300 euro penalty for being stupid enough to own a business and hire workers. Like Americans to the American government, the Greek citizens are now enemies of the state.

    For more: Greek Stock Market, the Moments Before Drowning :: The Market Oracle :: Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting Free Website

    Germany Welcomes French Bank Proposals on Greek Aid Role

    The German government welcomed proposals from French banks and insurers on voluntary participation in a second Greek aid package.

    “The German government welcomes it when proposals come from the private sector, including those on private-creditor participation that are now coming out of France,” German Finance Ministry spokesman Martin Kreienbaum told reporters in Berlin today.

    French banks and insurers proposed rolling over 70 percent of their holdings of Greek debt, President Nicolas Sarkozy said, adding that he hopes other countries will join the proposal.

    For more: Germany Welcomes French Bank Proposals on Greek Aid Role - Bloomberg

    Turkey: time for reassessment - by Morten Messerschmidt and Robert Ellis

    The remarkable thing about the Turkish election result is not that Prime Minister Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won but the unanimity in the international press that it would not be good for Turkish democracy if they gained 330 seats or more in the Turkish parliament. In the event, half the votes only resulted in 326 seats, falling short of the 330 seats needed to change the constitution with a referendum and the 367 seats which would have made it possible for the government to change the constitution alone.

    The other common denominator was the fear that an overwhelming victory would reinforce what the Financial Times called the AKP’s “unsettling authoritarian tendencies”. This was demonstrated when The Economist recommended that Turks voted for the opposition CHP (Republican People’s Party) to put a brake on Erdoğan’s autocratic style of government.

    The reaction was not long coming. Erdoğan blasted The Economist for being part of “a global gang” which took its orders from Israel, and for good measure blasted the CHP’s leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for also being “a project of international gangs”. The Wall Street Journal in turn accused Erdoğan of “reviving the crackpot anti-Semitic media theories of former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad”.

    According to Burak Bekdil, a Turkish columnist, Turkey behaves like a nouveau riche businessman. “With a newly-gained self-confidence and the deep layers of an inferiority complex that stems from a past full of poverty and disgrace, he insults, provokes, agitates and tests the limits of his powers.”

    Turkish columnist Semih Idiz recently mooted the notion that Ankara’s relations with Europe should be based more on economic self-interest than integration, and called for the establishment of a new “modus vivendi” and a new narrative between Turkey and Europe.

    Now that a number of European and Turkish politicians are no longer labouring under the illusion of Turkish EU membership, this might be an opportune moment to reassessthe situation.

    Is Syrian unrest an invitation for al-Qaida? - by ARIEH O’SULLIVAN

    With mass protests in Syria showing no signs of abating despite a crackdown that led to 1,400 deaths and 12,000 refugees, President Bashar Assad may be losing his grip on the country, paving the way for al-Qaida or other Islamic groups to emerge as an important force, analysts say.

    “The more liberal elements will lose as time goes on. The more hard-nosed Islamists will gain ground. They will get more and more militant. We could be at risk of a replay of the Iraqi situation,” Salameh Nematt, a Jordanian and founder of Pillar Seven, a regional communications consultancy, told The Media Line.



    For more: Is Syrian unrest an invitation for al-Qaid... JPost - Middle East

    George Soros talks down euro again. But why now? - by Paul R. La Monica

    Legendary financier George Soros is at it again, talking over the weekend about a potential euro collapse. But don't bust out your old Greek drachmas, Portuguese escudos, Italian lira or Spanish pesetas just yet.

    Soros spoke at a conference in Vienna on Sunday. According to several reports, he said Europe was "on the verge of economic collapse" and that the likelihood of countries leaving the euro currency "is probably inevitable."

    But some market experts think Soros is, at best, a bit premature with this gloomy prediction.
    "Soros has obviously gained a lot of credibility on calling currencies that he thought would decline, devalue or go away," said Rob Stein, senior portfolio manager with Astor Asset Management in Chicago. "But I don't think the euro is going away. I don't see how that would benefit Greece, Portugal or others."Stein said that Greece leaving the euro would be like a teenager who runs away from home thinking that they can support themselves -- and comes sheepishly back once they realize that a roof over their head and three square meals a day is worth putting up with their parents.

    "Greece would become a Third World country very quickly if it left the euro," Stein claimed.

    For more: George Soros talks down euro again. But why now? - The Buzz - Jun. 27, 2011

    How the Brain Benefits With Aging

    We all worry about getting old. We all worry about getting sick. But we really worry about losing our minds. Will we forget to tie our shoes or zip our flies? Will we fumble our words and fall into our soup? Are our brains on an inevitable slide?  The quick answer is no.


    Yes, the brain at middle age has lost a step. Our problems are not imaginary, and our worries are not unreasonable. But neuroscientists have found that the middle-aged brain actually has surprising talents. It’s developed powerful systems that can cut through the intricacies of complex problems to find concrete answers.

    It more calmly manages emotions and information and is cheerier than in younger years. Indeed, one new series of fascinating studies suggests that the way our brains age may give us a broader perspective on the world, a capacity to see patterns, connect the dots, even be more creative.

    “From what we know now,” says Laura Carstensen, PhD, director of the Stanford Center on Longevity at Stanford University, “I’d have to say that the middle-aged brain is downright formidable.”

    For more: How the Brain Benefits With Aging | Reader's Digest Version

    6/26/11

    The Netherlands: Wilders, Israel and the Jews - by Manfred Gerstenfeld

    Last week, Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Freedom Party, was cleared by an Amsterdam Court of all charges of insulting Muslims and inciting hatred and discrimination against them. The trial of the "only internationally known Dutch politician" drew major media attention in many countries. The verdict is generally being hailed as a triumph for almost unbridled free speech.

    Concerning Israel, the Jews and what may be said about them in The Netherlands, this judgment could invite very problematic consequences - says the Jewish Newspaper Ynetnews. The charges included a long list of statements by Wilders, one of which was: “The Koran is the Mein Kampf of a religion which aims to eliminate others and which calls the others - the non-Muslims - unreligious dogs.” On another occasion he had said: “The core of the problem is that fascist Islam, the sick ideology of Allah and Mohammed, as written down in the Islamic Mein Kampf, the Koran.”

    Regarding Muslims, Wilders had said inter alia: “Close the borders. No more Muslims should be let into the country, many Muslims should leave the Netherlands and criminal Muslims should lose their Dutch nationality.”

    Note EU-Digest: Freedom of expression is one of the best guarantees to keep Democracy on track. Even if it is used and abused by political populist opportunists like Geert Wilders, it all still is power to the cause. Fortunately it also provides others the freedom to express their uncensored observations about Mr. Wilders. Like the fact that Mr Wilders marriage to a Jewish diplomat and his years spent in Israel could be another cause for his many racially and culturally abusive remarks about Muslims. 

    Even though Israel is still the only true democracy in the Middle East, they do happen to have pretty controversial methods in dealing with their fellow neighbor countries.

    For more: Wilders, Israel and the Jews - Israel Opinion, Ynetnews

    Eurozone relief as China pledges debt bailout - by Andrew Cave

    China's plan to continue to invest in the continent's volatile sovereign debt market comes as efforts continue to prevent Greece's financial crisis making it the first nation to be forced out of the euro. "China is a long-term investor in Europe's sovereign debt market," Mr Wen said at a press conference with the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban.

    "In recent years we have increased by quite a big margin our holdings of government bonds. We will consistently continue to support Europe and the euro." He added: "China is ready to work with Europe to share opportunities,cope with challenges and achieve common development and to make unremitting efforts for stable development of the world economy and an in-depth development of China-Europe ties."

    For more: Eurozone relief as China pledges debt bailout - Telegraph

    France: Sarkozy lashes at U.S., defends Libya campaign

    French President Nicolas Sarkozy derided the low U.S. profile in the international campaign in Libya, saying Friday that France and Britain are carrying most of the burden and will stay until Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi leaves.

    While other European leaders pushed Friday for some kind of political solution in Libya, the French leader strongly defended the NATO-led military operation -- and NATO itself. He refuted comments by U.S. Defense Minister Robert Gates that the alliance's future could be in doubt because of European reluctance to exercise military might.

    "I wouldn't say that the bulk of the work in Libya is being done by our American friends," Sarkozy told reporters in Brussels at a European Union summit. "The French and English and their allies are doing the work."

    Seven NATO members are now participating in air strikes: Britain, France, Belgium, Canada, Norway, Denmark and Italy. But, as Gates said, most of NATO's 28 members, including Germany, have refused to join the strike mission in Libya.


    For more: Sarkozy lashes at U.S., defends Libya campaign - Libya - Salon.com

    China to EU - by Haydn Shaughnessy

    China premier Wen Jiabao’s trip to Europe – he spent a part of today visiting Stratford Upon Avon in England and told an audience that western leaders need to understand more about China’s literary greats – is low key in comparison with that of President Obama a month back but the message is: there’s business to be done.

    Equally significantly the China leader arrived in the UK not to crowd adulation but to a car factory – landing at the country’s second city Birmingham where Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation owns the old UK state car company Rover. China’s push towards ultra low cost cars (sub-$2,000) will wreak havoc on western auto markets but this present danger to large US and Europe auto makers is unlikely to figure in the public agenda of Wen’s visit to Birmingham.

    For more: Obama to Europe: Do You Think I’m Sexy? China to EU – We Will Save the Euro - Haydn Shaughnessy - Re:thinking Innovation - Forbes

    6/25/11

    Germany Says Banks Will Recognize Own Interest in Greece Aid

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government said banks and insurers will recognize their "very high interest" in sharing the burden of a Greek financial package and an agreement will be reached in the next nine days.

    Negotiations with private banks and insurers to participate in a financial package by rolling over debt to prevent Greece from defaulting will wrap up by July 3, Finance Ministry spokesman Martin Kotthaus told reporters today in Berlin. French President Nicolas Sarkozy indicated talks are going smoothly.

    "We are very convinced that the financial market -- that is all private participants on Greece's outstanding debt, banks and insurers and others -- has a very high, fundamental self- interest to participate in the stability of Greece and the euro zone," Kotthaus said. Signals from European banks indicate they are willing to shoulder part of the burden voluntarily, he said.

    For more: Germany Says Banks Will Recognize Own Interest in Greece Aid

    US Oil Reserves: Before Oil Reserves Move, a Secret U.S. Delegation to Saudi Arabia - by Carol E. Lee

    President Barack Obama sent a delegation of high-ranking advisers in secret to Saudi Arabia to pave the way for Thursday's surprise release of oil from strategic reserves, administration officials said.

    Mr. Obama and his top economic and national security advisers began discussing how to cope with the economic impact of higher oil prices in late January, as U.S. gasoline prices began rising above $3 a gallon for the first time since 2008. White House officials became more concerned after civil unrest in Libya disrupted oil shipments from the North African nation in late February.

    Libya was exporting about 1.5 million barrels a day of light sweet crude, mostly to Europe. The disruption of Libyan oil heightened concerns on both sides of the Atlantic, because it cut deeply into the thin margin by which supply exceeds demand in the world oil market.

    Note EU-Digest: unfortunately the Wests unsatisfiable thirst for oil and their incapacity to get alternative energy resources up to speed is forcing them to sell their soul to the devil. Eventually they will pay the price for their shortsightedness. and greed.

    For more: Before Oil Reserves Move, a Secret U.S. Delegation to Saudi Arabia - WSJ.com

    Hillary Clinton backs Saudi Arabia women's right-to-drive campaign

    Hillary Clinton has lent her support to women in Saudi Arabia protesting against the ban on female drivers, her first public comments on an issue complicating relations between Washington and Riyadh.
    A day after the US state department said it was handling the issue through "quiet diplomacy" and not public pronouncements, Clinton praised the protesters, but stressed they were acting on their own behalf, not at the behest of outsiders such as herself.

    "What these women are doing is brave and what they are seeking is right, but the effort belongs to them," said Clinton. "I am moved by it and I support them, but I want to underscore the fact that this is not coming from outside of their country. This is the women themselves, seeking to be recognized."

    For more: Hillary Clinton backs Saudi Arabia women's right-to-drive campaign | World news | The Guardian

    Lilly, Boehringer diabetes drug endorsed in Europe

    Drugmakers Eli Lilly and Co. and Boehringer Ingelheim said Friday a European committee has endorsed their type 2 diabetes treatment, linagliptin, a key step toward possible European Union approval.

    Lilly, based in Indianapolis, and Boehringer Ingelheim, headquartered in Germany, said the European Medicines Agency's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use recommended approval of 5-milligram tablets of the drug. The European Commission, which approves medicines for the European Union, usually makes a decision on these recommendations in two or three months.

    For more: Lilly, Boehringer diabetes drug endorsed in Europe - BusinessWeek

    Denmark takes one step backwards on European integration

    When Denmark joined the European Union’s visa-free open travel zone ten years ago, the right wing Populist Danish People’s Party bought a decommissioned border guardhouse, vowing that one day it would be in use again. Unfortunately last week for the rest of the EU it became a reality for the People’s Party after the Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen had agreed to restore 24-hour customs control in exchange for their support on a difficult budget package to salvage their crumbling economy.

    The deal was not only a bad one for Denmark but it also set off an outcry in the European Union as tiny Denmark became the first member to seriously challenge the union’s major achievement: the free movement of goods and services across borders. As for Denmark, which in the past also did not accept the euro currency, they can expect to feel more economic pain, with traders and tourists now starting to avoid Denmark like the plague.

    EU-Digest

    6/24/11

    German Ifo Business Confidence Unexpectedly Improved in June

    German business confidence unexpectedly improved in June, suggesting Europe's largest economy is weathering the region's worsening sovereign debt crisis and slowing global growth.

    The Ifo institute in Munich said its business climate index, based on a survey of 7,000 executives, increased to 114.5 from 114.2 in May. Economists forecast a drop to 113.4, the median of 39 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey showed.

    German companies have boosted output and hiring, pushing the jobless rate to the lowest in two decades. The Bundesbank on June 10 raised its economic growth forecast for this year, calling the recovery "broad based." Still, the economy may struggle to maintain its growth momentum as the region's governments seek to avert a Greek debt restructuring.

    The Secretive Ruling Sect in Syria – by Leonard P. Liggio

    When the Crusaders arrived at Antioch and Jerusalem in 1099, they not only had traversed the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) with its Greek liturgy and theology, but encountered the about twenty other Christian rites and traditions in the other three Patriarchates of Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria (in addition to Rome and Constantinople).

    The Ottoman Caliphs viewed Alawis as infidels and agents of the Shiite Persians, and thus were denied recognition as a millet, an official religious self-governing body under the Ottomans. The French Republic took control of Syria and Lebanon as Mandates of the League of Nations and created a Troupes Speciales du Levant. The Alawi minority took advantage to join the military in large numbers.

    When Syria gained independence in 1946 Alawi officers also joined the secular Baath (Arab Renaissance) Party founded by the Christian Michel Aflaq aiming to unity among all Arabs regardless of sects. Alawis, Christians, and Druzes joined the Baath party to escape Sunni domination. Sunnis represent 70% of Syrian population, Alawis 12%, while Christians and Druzes the remainder. Viewing Nasser’s Arab Socialism as Sunni hegemony, the Baath Party seized power in Syria in 1963 making Hafez al-Assad air force commander.

    For more: Alawis – The Secretive Ruling Sect in Syria – Atlas Network

    Turkey: The Sound of Turkey Clapping - by Claire Berlinski

    Overall, owing to the peculiarities of the Turkish electoral system, the AKP actually lost seats in the 550-seat Grand National Assembly, with its numbers declining from 341 to 326. For those hoping to see some limits imposed upon the prime minister’s power, the results were decent, but not great. In a gesture either lacking sensitivity to historic resonance or perfectly attuned to it, Prime Minister Erdoğan delivered a victory speech from the balcony of his headquarters in Ankara. His tone was magnanimous. “No one should doubt,” he said, “that we will protect the dignity, faith, and lifestyles of those who did not vote for us.” Shortly afterward, he offered to drop most of his libel suits against private individuals, politicians, and journalists who had insulted him (except the suits against those who were really beyond the pale).

    Geographically, the AKP’s electoral hold reached the Aegean. The party gained considerable ground even in the West, the country’s contested territory. Conventional wisdom holds that the economy was, again, the major factor in the AKP’s success. This is likely true, at least up to a point, but one shouldn’t discount the competence of the AKP’s electoral machine in winning votes. The AKP has indeed presided over a long period of economic growth, but Turkey hasn’t become as wealthy as outside media tends to assume. It is still a poor country. Most people here have difficult lives. AKP politicians are good at talking to poor people and making them feel as if they care. The opposition hasn’t mastered this yet.

    Probably, the AKP is now Turkey’s permanent ruling party. Students of politics call it a “dominant party system,” one in which one party consistently obtains twice as much of the electoral pie as the runner-up. That seems to describe Turkey. From my distant perspective in the Baltics, I was struck by the rest of the world’s indifference. Few knew these elections were taking place; few cared. It’s widely believed in Turkey that foreign powers are eternally meddling in Turkish politics. Meddling? They’re oblivious.

    For more: The Sound of Turkey Clapping by Claire Berlinski - City Journal

    6/23/11

    Airbus soars over Boeing, saleswise, at air show

    Airbus is trouncing Boeing in the race to be the world's biggest plane maker, claiming over $72 billion dollars worth of orders and commitments at the Paris Air Show, where the popularity of its new fuel-efficient jets twice broke records for the largest order ever.

    For moreL Airbus soars over Boeing, saleswise, at air show - TODAY News - TODAY.com

    Oil prices plunge as U.S., Europe tap strategic reserves - by Kevin Hall

    Oil prices dropped sharply Thursday on news that the United States and Europe will sell 60 million barrels of oil from their strategic reserves over the next 30 days, a move experts called an important policy shift that should help restrain volatile energy prices.

    For more: Oil prices plunge As U.S., Europe tap strategic reserves - KansasCity.com

    Opinion: Save the Euro!

    SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

    "Save the Euro!

    By Christian Reiermann

    The euro zone needs a new approach to fighting the Greek debt crisis.

    There are plenty of ideas going around for how best to save the euro. But most importantly, politicians must finally tell their voters the truth: We must help the Greeks and it will be expensive -- for everybody involved.
    Info

    After over a year of futile attempts to rescue the euro , it would be difficult for even the most ardent supporters of the common currency to avoid coming to the same conclusion: The euro zone is anything but an optimal currency area."

    6/22/11

    Syria: We Will Forget That Europe Is On The Map = by Sarah Rappaport

    Syria's foreign minister Wallid Moallem struck out Wednesday against his country's foreign critics, according to the AP.

    He targeted the EU, which recently imposed sanctions on Syria and President Assad for violence against protestors. Moallem said Syria was freezing its membership in the Euromed alliance, and that: Sanctions target the livelihood of Syrian people, and that amounts to an act of war. We will forget that Europe is on the map and we will look east, south and toward every hand that is extended to us. The world is not just made up of Europe."

    Worlds Largest Bond Fund and Euro-Sceptic Pimco warns Greece will default

    The Anglo Saxon financial Euro-sceptic band of alarmist voices are getting louder and louder. They reported that Pimco, the world's biggest bond fund, shrugged off last night's vote of confidence in the Greek government, warning that it expects Greece and other European economies to default on their debts to resolve their problems.

    How serious can one take this statement from Pimco? Business Insider noted recently : "Bill Gross (aka the bond king) is starting to get a little desperate.  Several months ago we asked, Did PIMCO call a bottom in Treasuries? Since then USTs have gone up — and yields have fallen substantially.

    This made the bond king look bad — especially when it came out that PIMCO had a net short position (later clarified to be via swaps). Either way, though, Gross has been pounding the table for how lousy Treasuries are. As USTs went up, seemingly mocking the king, he pounded the table even harder. This week, he really started stretching it."

    Pimco and its duo Bill Gross and Mohamed El-Erian who have been pushing their, what they call “new normal” nonsense now for the past 3 years and should be taken with a grain of salt.

    EU-Digest

    6/21/11

    Greece wins confidence vote

    The Greek government has won a vote of confidence, overcoming the first hurdle in winning a new financing package from the European Union (EU) to avoid bankruptcy.

    The announcement came as protesters gathered outside parliament shouting slogans against austerity measures as Greece battles to avoid defaulting on huge loans next month.
    More than half the deputies in the 300-strong parliament backed the socialist government of prime minister George Papandreou, who reshuffled his cabinet last week to stiffen resolve behind a painful new austerity program.

    For more: Greece wins confidence vote - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

    ESA reentry vehicle on track for flight in 2013

    ESA and Thales Alenia Space Italia announced an agreement today at the Paris Air & Space Show to begin building the IXV Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle for its mission into space in 2013.

    Europe’s ambition for a spacecraft to return autonomously from low orbit is a cornerstone for a wide range of space applications, including space transportation, exploration and robotic servicing of space infrastructure.

    For more: ESA Portal - ESA reentry vehicle on track for flight in 2013

    6/20/11

    Greece: Confidence vote reminds Europe that threat of default is far from over

    Greece faces a day of political drama as the government faces a confidence vote in parliament tonight against a backdrop of a looming EU ultimatum of more austerity measures in return for the loans the country needs to avoid a disastrous default.

    Eurozone finance ministers have given Greece's beleaguered ruling Socialists a fortnight to pass new far-reaching austerity measures or lose out on a €12bn instalment of last year's bailout, and a new €110bn rescue package.

    The tougher-than-expected stance from the EU further raised the political temperature in Athens, where tens of thousands of protesters are expected to surround parliament ahead of tonight's vote.

    For more: Confidence vote reminds Europe that threat of default is far from over - Europe, World - The Independent

    EU favors handing Libya rebels frozen Qaddafi assets

    Europe's foreign ministers Monday urged the use of frozen funds to finance Libya's opposition, which has complained of a cash shortfall after failing to receive aid pledged by international donors.

    In a statement on Libya, the 27 European Union ministers said the bloc "acknowledges the urgent financial needs of the [opposition] Transitional National Council.”

    They also welcomed specific cash contributions by Italy and France, which is releasing frozen funds to the rebels.

    France deeply concerned over Israeli settlements

    France is deeply concerned about Israel’s authorization for the expansion of 2,000 settlement homes built on occupied Palestinian land in east Jerusalem, the Foreign Ministry said Monday.

    “Our position is constant: Settlement building is illegal in the eyes of international law, in the West Bank as well as in East Jerusalem,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero.

    Jerusalem’s municipal council Sunday approved the expansion of 2,000 homes in the settlement district of Ramat Shlomo, allowing each home to add a room. The Ramat Shlomo neighborhood lies in an area of Arab East Jerusalem, which Israel captured during the 1967 war and later annexed in a move not recognized by the international community.

    Chink of light for Ireland amid gloom over solution for Greece

    Its cold, damp, cloudy and dark on the Kirchberg plateau, which overlooks the tiny city of Luxembourg. It’s here that finance ministers gathered yesterday for crunch talks on Greece and foreign ministers discussed Syria and Libya.

    There are not a lot of beaming smiles to be seen on occasions like this. But Minister for Finance Michael Noonan could not conceal his delight yesterday as his counterparts lifted preferred creditor status from the permanent euro-zone bailout fund should Ireland, Portugal or Greece need aid.

    In theory at least, this should make it easier for Ireland to regain access to private debt markets next year. It should also improve the Government’s prospects of avoiding aid from the European Stability Mechanism fund, which comes into operation in mid-2013. Noonan believes the theory. “This is very good news for Ireland,” he said.

    For more: Chink of light for Ireland amid gloom over solution for Greece - The Irish Times - Tue, Jun 21, 2011

    Turkey: Syria Revolt Drives Wedge Between Erdogan Arab Allure, Friends

    Syrian refugees in Turkey are driving a wedge between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's popular standing among the region's people and his friendships with leaders targeted by revolts.

    Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has pursued a so-called Zero Problems foreign policy with regional neighbors. That policy may conflict with his ambition to make Turkey the most influential nation in the region and a voice for Muslims against oppression.

    "Turkey is getting caught in the classic dilemma of trying to maintain relationships with existing regimes while sending signals to the opposition saying, 'We are with you'," said Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington. "You cannot improve relationships with everybody."

    International Monetary Fund Slashes Growth Forecast of US, Cautions of Crisis

    On Friday the forecast of the economic growth of the US was slashed by the IMF as it cautioned Washington and other debt-ridden European countries that unless immediate steps were taken by them for reduction in budget deficits, they would be considered as “playing with fire”. Since its earlier report in April, larger menaces to growth had surfaced, said the IMF, in its regular review of global economic panoramas, alluding to debt crisis in the euro zone and indications of sweltering in budding market economies.

    The global lender headquartered at Washington, forecast that U.S. GDP (gross domestic product) would grow a moderate 2.5% this year and 2.7% next year. The forecast it made 2 months back spoke of 2.8% and 2.9% growth expectations respectively. The Fund said in an unhurried tone that the retarded growth of the past few months should be “short-term” considering the overall global
    economy.

    Drawing attention to 4 countries, Vinals said that the United States, Japan, Ireland and Greece would have to restore their public finances to a bearable condition with relation to debt levels.  Greece, an indebted country, is on the verge of non-payment as the officials in the euro zone have disagreed to plan another aid package for it. 

    For more: International Monetary Fund Slashes Growth Forecast of US, Cautions of Crisis

    6/19/11

    Spain: Madrid 'Euro-pact' protesters take to streets - by Sarah Rainsford

    Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Madrid and other Spanish cities in a mass march against austerity measures, social spending cuts and unemployment.Youth activists dubbed "the indignant" recently started a three-week sit-in in Madrid to pressure the government.

    The rallying slogan of protesters is A Europe for its Citizens. They fear that the Euro-pact, which is intended to improve eurozone competitiveness, will mean more cuts.


    Note EU-Digest: the voters in Europe should not be surprised to get austerity measures when they vote for conservative leaning parties.


    For more: BBC News - Spain: Madrid 'Euro-pact' protesters take to streets

    What U.S. Economic Recovery?

    While the Administration is taking a sort of "move along, nothing to see here" approach, Republicans are trying to pin every economic problem on Obama in the run-up to the 2012 election. Let's be clear: the slow growth the U.S. is experiencing is not an Obama-specific problem. Many of the ingredients in it were already baked into the economy and were simply laid bare by the financial crisis. According to research by Rogoff and economist Carmen Reinhart, it takes four years after a financial crisis just to get back to the same per capita GDP level you started with, and there's no doubt things would have been dramatically worse had the Administration not taken all the action it did in the wake of the crisis.

    There may be $2 trillion sitting on the balance sheets of American corporations globally, but firms show no signs of wanting to spend it in order to hire workers at home, however much Washington might hope they will. Meanwhile, the average American is feeling poorer by the week. "If one looks at unemployment and housing, it's clear that for all practical purposes, we have yet to fully get out of recession," says Harvard economist Ken Rogoff, summing up what everyone who doesn't live inside the Beltway Bubble is thinking.

    The Republicans have pulled off a major (some would say cynical) miracle by convincing the majority of Americans that the way to jump-start the economy is to slash taxes on the wealthy and on cash-hoarding corporations while cutting benefits for millions of Americans. It's fun-house math that can't work; we'll need both tax increases and sensible entitlement cuts to get back on track. Yet surveys show 50% of Americans think that not raising the debt ceiling is a good idea — that you can somehow starve your way to economic growth.

    For more: What U.S. Economic Recovery? Five Destructive Myths - TIME

    De-linking Europe’s Security from America’s

    When a corpse is in a state of putrefaction, the only logical and healthful thing to do is to get rid of it – bury it or burn it – and not just keep holding mourning services around it. And NATO happens to be one such corpse.

    Last week, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates told a European think tank during his swan song in that continent – before Leon Panetta assumes that misnamed post (Minister or Secretary of War would be a far more appropriate title), that future leadership in America may not consider this NATO-US relationship a worthy investment. And it was during this 11-day trek overseas that he pointed out his displeasure in what he considers weaknesses and failures within the alliance.

    But Gates, and his martial staff at the Pentagon, have it all wrong. One could argue that the US is not part of NATO the way the European members, Turkey and Canada are; it is the other 27 member nations, big and small, that are de facto part of the imperial army, like it or not. America always calls the wars to be had; and, when that happens, NATO, docilely, waits for its military orders from the Pentagon, rewritten in Brussels as part of the political show. However, in the latter years, that docility has become more of a passive resistance, often blamed on cuts in Defense spending, even when unpopularity of American wars of choice was the true villain. Gates’ concern about Europe’s lack of appetite for Defense has it all wrong once again: it’s not lack of appetite for Defense but lack of appetite for war, made-in-America unnecessary wars.

    Both Europe and the US would be served well if NATO came to an end. Let the Europeans, if they see a need for military association, create their own Defence corps. And let America stand on its unilateral warmongering and grave mistakes. The change will do both good, Europe and the US. Maybe then a way can be found, under the auspices of a more neutral Europe, for a permanent peace in Palestine and elsewhere.

    For more: .:Middle East Online:.De-linking Europe’s Security from America’s

    6/18/11

    US Economy: Wall Street is not too big to fail, insists regulator

    Bailouts are no longer an option for Wall Street, a top Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) official told Congress yesterday. Mr Michael Krimminger, the FDIC's general counsel, said in testimony before a House Financial Services Committee panel that regulators now have "the tools to end too big to fail".

    His position is a sharp turnaround from 2008, when Washington enacted a US$700-billion (S$860-billion) bailout for banks, the car industry and the giant insurer AIG at the height of the financial crisis. Policy makers argued that they had no choice but to rescue the firms because they were so large and interconnected that their collapse would have caused the nation's economic downfall.

    "Such a presumption reduced market discipline and encouraged excessive risk-taking by firms," Prof Michael Barr, a former assistant Treasury Department secretary who is now a law professor, told the subcommittee.

    After the financial crisis, Prof Barr was a leading architect of the Dodd-Frank Act, which aimed to rein in derivatives trading, mortgage securities and other risky Wall Street businesses.

    For more: TODAYonline | Business | Wall Street is not too big to fail, insists regulator

    EU turning a blind eye to Saudi Arabia

    Europe must condemn repression in Saudi Arabia rather than seeing the Kingdom as a dependably "stable" political partner, writes Kate Allen of Amnesty International

    Throughout the last six months of unprecedented turbulence in the Middle East the elephant in the room has been Saudi Arabia. What have the ultra-conservative Saudi royal family and the country's influential clerics had to say about the demands for democracy and human rights being heard in neighbouring nations all around them?

    The answer is, as little as possible. Instead, the authorities have stamped down on the smallest efforts to push for change in their own country. There have been arrests of those behind attempts to found a new political party - the Islamic Umma Party - arrests of individual clerics who have called for political reforms, arrests of Shi'a protestors in the Eastern Province, arrests of human rights activists and arrests of female Women2Drive campaigners - in their high-profile effort to challenge the ban on women driving in the Kingdom.

    For more: EU turning a blind eye to Saudi Arabia - Public Service Europe

    6/17/11

    Turkey on the move - by Ibrahim Khan

    In 2002, an economic collapse in Turkey led to elections and the removal of an unpopular government supported by an irresponsible military. The Turkish people brought the conservative Justice and Development (AK) Party into power. Despite several setbacks, chief among them threatening declarations from the military and the arrest and jailing of their leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the AK Party focused on transforming Turkey into a stable and progressive regional powerhouse.

    On June 12, in Turkey’s general elections, the AK Party was elected to a third consecutive term as the single party in government, after it received 49.91 per cent of the vote. The party continues to remain popular and that is primarily due to its ability to turn Turkey’s fortunes around. Prior to 2002, for years the country had double-digit inflation. You bought a cup of tea for two million liras. Now, inflation is below that of the United Kingdom. In 2010, the Turkish economy grew at 8.9 per cent. This year, the growth figure is supposed to top that.

    Political and social advancement has followed economic progress. The civilian-military tension exists to some extent, but the military now maintains its constitutional role while allowing the democratically elected government to govern. The situation did not reach this stage by blatant disregard and disrespect of the military, but rather after recognition of the uniquely influential roles of both the military and civilian leadership. Politicking motivated by self-interest is no longer an issue. With a single party government, decision-making is far easier. Tourism is flourishing — Turkey is showcasing itself to the world on a daily basis.

    The real winner in Israel's Gaza blockade: Hamas

    A new report from a U.N. aid agency specifically blames Israeli actions for economic turmoil in Gaza. The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) paints a grim picture in its report titled "Labor Market Briefing, Gaza Strip" (PDF).

    From the time Israeli sanctions began in 2006 up until the second half of 2010 (when the statistics for the report were compiled), real wages fell in Gaza by 35.4 percent. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, stood at 45.2 percent. as of last summer, one of the worst marks in the world.

    "It is hard to understand the logic of a man-made policy which deliberately impoverishes so many and condemns hundreds of thousands of potentially productive people to a life of destitution," Chris Gunness, an UNRWA spokesperson, said in a statement.

    "These are disturbing trends and the refugees, who make up two-thirds of Gaza's 1.5 million population, were the worst hit," Gunness said.

    For more: The real winner in Israel's Gaza blockade: Hamas - Israel - Salon.com

    Netherlands first European Country to make Net Neutrality Legal

    The Netherlands is on its way to become the first European country to pass a legislation on Net neutrality. Responding to an ever-increasing practice by telecommunications companies of charging their customers for services like Skype and other applications, the Netherlands is set to enact net neutrality laws forcing carriers to guarantee access to all web content and equally.
    The legislation is expected to be approved of by the Dutch government next Tuesday, following a vote.

    Net neutrality is a principle which advocates no restrictions by Internet service providers or governments on consumers' access to networks that participate in and on the Internet. Specifically, network neutrality would prevent restrictions on content, sites, platforms, the kinds of equipment that may be attached, or the modes of communication.

    Net neutrality advocates have been calling for a law that would ensure that people get access to all Web content equally without additional surcharges, while many Internet service providers (ISPs) prefer a two-tier model.

    The two-tiered approach has various forms in different parts of the world. In the industrialized world, where there is now frequently limited telecommunications competition as a result of cartel forming (AT&T and T-Mobile in the US) or Government intervention (most Middle East countries), these countries have begun blocking internet telephony services like Skype, Fring and other applications or charge extra fees for using these and other applications. Obviously the telecommunications industry wants to further monetize and monopolize the surge in online activity. They are saying that over the top players like Facebook and Youtube have done well in providing their services on the mobile networks, without investing in their own ISP infrastructure, even though mobile and internet providers (ISP's) are already charging customers extensive fees just to connect to the Internet.

    Unfortunately even as the legislation was moving through the pipeline and gaining momentum with lawmakers, telecommunications providers were making attempts to bypass the proposed new rules. KPN, a Dutch telecommunications company, competing with Facebook, Twitter, and Instant Messaging, moved forward with a plan to charge its customers extra for using VoIP, streaming video, and sending instant messages. KPN admitted it was using deep packet inspection to monitor all Internet activity, and then classify it by application so as to make the charge-for-service scheme work. Vodaphone has admitted to using deep packet inspection as well.

    European Commissioner Neelie Kroes (from the Netherlands) has spearheaded the European movement against Internet providers who want to charge more for using particular applications or services which compete with their offerings. More EU countries are expected to follow suit.

    EU-Digest

    Netherlands Insurance Industry Intermediary Agent Sector (NIIIAS) concerned about discriminatory approach Government towards the sector

    In a recent press release Koster Insurances BV in Alphen a/d Rijn commented on Dutch Government requirements, whereby Intermediary Agent Insurance Companies by law have to adhere to the requirements of the Authority of Financial Markets ( AFM) and are also required to become a member of the Complaints Institute Financial Intermediaries ( KiFiD).

    This means in the case of the KiFiD that the Insurance Intermediary Agent Company has to provide information to the KiFiD on the quality, reliability, and integrity of the company and its employees, in addition to complete corporate disclosure, including information on the relationship with insurance companies and commission details.

    The question which arises with NIIIAS companies like Koster Insurances BV is: "are these same rules also applied by the Government to the established cartel of insurance companies, banks, their subsidiaries and employees?"

    Merkel and Sarkozy set for Greece deal: German official

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy today ( Friday) to discuss the details of a new Greek aid package. They are due to hold a joint news conference at 1145 a.m. (5:45 a.m. EDT).

    "I believe the meeting today will yield a solution," Hoyer told German public TV station ZDF. "I am sure that they will come to a compromise."

    EU-Digest

    6/16/11

    European Aircraft Industry: Airbus unveils 2050 concept cabin

    Airbus has unveiled a series of stunning images of what air transport could look like for passengers in 2050. The aircraft features "intelligent" cabin walls which would become transparent and also could control the air temperature of the cabin. They would also change according to light conditions.

    "The aircraft's bionic structure mimics the efficiency of bird bone which is optimized to provide strength where needed," said Airbus.

    Charles Champion, Airbus executive vice-president engineering: "Our research shows that passengers of 2050 will expect a seamless travel experience while also caring for the environment." Different class cabins are eliminated and replaced with different zones for relaxation or work. Passengers would even be able to play holographic games while on board.

    For more: PICTURES & VIDEO: Airbus unveils 2050 concept cabin

    Netherlands: Dutch will only agree to further funding for Greece if private investors participate in Greek bailout

    The Netherlands will only approve further support payments to Greece if private creditors accept substantial extensions on the maturity of Greek debt, Mr. J.K. de Jager, the finance minister, announced in a letter to parliament. European Union aid to Greece must be approved by all 27 member states, meaning that should the Dutch refuse payment it would trigger the end of the support payments and potentially a Greek default.

    The government has relied on the opposition Labor and left-liberal D66 parties to push previous aid payments through parliament. But in recent weeks Labor has become increasingly critical of the bail-out strategy.

    Parliament’s finance committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday to respond to Mr De Jager’s report.

    Some economists believe a default by Greece would not only be the best solution for Greece and the EU, but also serve as an example to the other EU-member states, which have received EU bailouts, to take austerity measures very serious. It would certainly not cause the EU to fall apart as some people say, but rather strengthen the monetary and political union by getting rid of those member states ( bad apples), which are not taking the rules and regulations of EU membership they agreed to seriously. As to present hysterical reactions by the financial community and Wall Street to avoid the above scenario, these are quite normal, they are purely based on self interest, and not to forget, their insatiable greed.

    EU-Digest

    Greece: Leading Socialist quits ahead of reshuffle

     A prominent Socialist lawmaker has resigned his seat in parliament after the failure of power-sharing talks designed to get broader support for austerity measures.

    Former public order minister Giorgos Floridis announced his resignation Thursday, hours before Prime Minister George Papandreou announces a cabinet reshuffle.

    Surprise coalition talks between the government and rival conservatives collapsed Wednesday.

    For more: Greece: Leading Socialist quits ahead of reshuffle - Forbes.com

    6/15/11

    Greek PM George Papandreou to form new unity government

    Greek PM George Papandreou is to form a new government as he tries to win support for austerity measures demanded by the EU and IMF. He will seek to have the government ratified in a vote of confidence in parliament on Thursday, he said. 

    Mr Papandreou has faced the threat of a revolt in his socialist Pasok party over the controversial package. Greek police clashed with anti-austerity protesters near parliament, and unions held a general strike.

    "I will continue on the same course," said Mr Papandreou in a TV address on Wednesday evening. "This is the road of duty, together with Pasok's parliamentary group, its members, and the Greek people."

    For more: BBC News - Greek PM George Papandreou to form new government

    Greece deadlock and weak US data chill global markets

    Global stock markets stumbled on Wednesday as European officials failed to break an impasse in talks over a second bailout for Greece, and in the wake of worse-than-expected US economic data.

    For more: Greece deadlock and weak US data chill global markets - Citywire

    OIL Industry: US Taxpayers Subsidize Big Oil, World’s Most Profitable Industry - Rinaldo Brutoco and Madeleine Austin

    The US Senate couldn’t muster the votes to end $2 billion a year in taxpayer subsidies for the five biggest US oil companies. The House had already voted to block efforts to repeal tax breaks for Big Oil, in sharp contrast to its vote to strip tax credits for small business health insurance.

    The Congressional votes create a strong contrast between the US and other countries, including Germany, China, the Scandinavian countries, and most recently, Japan, who are leading the way to a new planetary fuel system that will replace oil and nuclear energy with renewable energy. In response to its nuclear disaster, Japan has renounced its plans to build new nuclear plants and announced it will redo its energy system “from scratch.” Germany is using the Fukushima disaster as an opportunity to curtail nuclear power and boost its strong clean technology export sector. Other countries have curtailed or suspended their nuclear plans. But the United States, once a leader in science and technology that beat other countries to the moon, remains controlled by money politics, Big Oil, and climate deniers.

    The oil industry is the most profitable industry in the world. US oil companies earn about $3 billion in profits every week, yet get $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies every year. In the first quarter of 2011, Big Oil’s profits were up 38% from the first quarter of 2010.

    For more: Taxpayers Subsidize Big Oil, World’s Most Profitable Industry - Bulatlat

    EU: Italy now chief route for illegal migration to Europe

    Unrest in North Africa this year has caused the main flow of flow of illegal immigrants seeking to enter the European Union to switch from Greece to Italy's islands, the EU's border protection agency Frontex said Tuesday.

    Frontex said a total of about 33,000 migrants were detected trying to enter the 27-nation bloc in the first three months of the year, more than double the figure for the same period of 2010. Over two-thirds of this number - 22,600 people - were found at Italy's borders, mainly in the area around the tiny southern island of Lampedusa, said Frontex deputy director Gil Arias Fernandez.

    Greece, whose frontier with Turkey was previously the main entry for people seeking to cross into the EU, saw 7,200 illegal entries in the same time period compared with 13,100 in January-March 2010 after border patrols were strengthened, according to Frontex. More than 41,000 migrants have reached Lampedusa since the start of the year, including over 1,600 last weekend.

    For more: EU: Italy now chief route for illegal migration to Europe - Adnkronos Security

    Chinese Police Restore Order With Massive Force to Restive Town

    The deployment of thousands of riot police armed with tear gas and shotguns appeared to have restored order to this southern Chinese town after days of severe rioting, but both migrant workers and a government think tank warned unrest could flare again if leaders fail to address migrants' concerns. Violent protests in urban areas over the last three weeks have challenged the Communist Party's ability to control society without resorting to brute force.

    The massive show of force appeared to have quelled the rioting, which began in the Xintang district on Friday night after security guards pushed to the ground a pregnant migrant street vendor from the western province of Sichuan as they tried to move her food stall off the street.

    Official statistics show that anti-government protests have been on the rise in China over the past five years, but the simultaneous unrest in several Chinese cities over the last three weeks is unusual, analysts say.

    The timing of the disturbances is troubling for the Chinese government, too, as it is in the midst of a sustained crackdown on dissent after online calls for a Mideast-style uprising in China.

    The Communist Party is also trying to project an image of stability in the lead-up to the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party on July 1, and a once-a-decade leadership change next year.

    For more: Chinese Police Restore Order to Restive Town - WSJ.com

    European Union considering economic sanctions against Syria.

    According to a senior EU diplomats, the European Union is now considering economic sanctions against Syria after their efforts to do so through the UN failed as a result of Chinese and Russian opposition.

    This past Tuesday, the EU members France, Great Britain, Germany and Portugal started pushing a Security Council resolution to censure the Syrian government for forcefully suppressing unrest.

    Permanent Security Council members Russia and China, which obviously fear to set a precedent if they go along with sanctions that might eventually affect their own countries human rights violations, warned of a veto. They said the Syrian crisis must be sorted out without outside interference in Syria.

    Turkey Calls For Halt In Syria Violence

    Turkey's prime minister has called on the Syrian regime to halt the violence as President Bashar al-Assad's military forces counter deadly unrest.

    The developments came as Syrian troops are reported continuing their crackdown on opponents of Assad's regime, with forces moving through villages near the northeastern town of Jisr al-Shugur.

    Turkey's Anatolian news agency said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan telephoned Assad and urged him to end the violence and draw up a timetable of reform. Turkey says more than 8,500 refugees from the Syrian violence have so far entered Turkey.

    Note EU-Digest: the UN should also take immediate action to condemn and apply sanctions against the Syrian Government.

    For more: Turkey Calls For Halt In Syria Violence - Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty © 2011

    Greece: disagreement on further bailout

    An emergency session of euro finance chiefs in Brussels yesterday failed to break a deadlock on how to enroll investors in a second bailout without triggering a default, casting doubt on funds due from the International Monetary Fund next month.

    In Athens, protesters gathered outside Parliament as lawmakers began to debate budget cuts and asset sales that are conditions of the aid. Ports, banks, hospitals and state-run companies were paralyzed by strikes today while a Papandreou ally said he won’t support the austerity measures and another bolted his Socialist Party.

    EU-Digest

    AEGON repurchases all of their EUR 3 billion core capital securities from the Dutch State

    AEGON fulfilled its key objective of repurchasing all of the EUR 3 billion core capital securities issued to the Dutch State at the height of the financial crisis in 2008. The Dutch Central Bank (DNB) has given its consent to AEGON's repurchase of EUR 750 million of core capital.
    The total amount AEGON has paid to the Dutch State amounts to EUR 4.1 billion. Of this amount, EUR 3 billion covered the original issue of core capital securities, while an additional EUR 1.1 billion was paid in premium and interest. With the repayment completed, the company now says it will focus on carrying out its strategy to deliver sustainable earnings growth with an improved risk-return profile.

    EU-Digest

    6/14/11

    Assad’s grip slips in Syria as humanitarian crisis grows

    The situation in Syria remains dire after Syrian troops took control of the northern town of Jisr al-Shughour, the scene of mass protests against President Bashar al Assad, this weekend, after what the state media described as “heavy fighting” and a massacre of Syrian troops by “armed gangs”. The action has prompted a “humanitarian crisis”, US officials are claiming – more than 5,000 refugees are spilling over the Syrian-Turkish border.

    Assad’s grip slips in Syria as humanitarian crisis grows | The Periscope Post

    6/13/11

    Airline Industry: Airlines collect $5.7 Billion in "ripoff" Fees

    US airlines collected nearly $5.7 billion in baggage and reservation change fees last year according to a statement released by the U.S. Department of Transportation on Monday. Your overpacking and procrastination may be keeping the aviation industry in their air.

    The Wall Street Journal was quick to point out
    that according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistic U.S. airlines earned $958 million last year, meaning their 2010 profit could be construed as entirely fee-based.

    Delta alone collected $952 million in baggage fees last year, far more than any other U.S. airline, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That's also nearly double the baggage fees Delta collected in 2009. Atlanta-based Delta has increased its baggage fees over time and currently charges $25 for the first checked bag and $35 for the second checked bag on domestic flights.

    The BTS statement said that airlines collected $3.4 billion in baggage fees in 2010 and $2.3 billion in reservation change fees. Baggage fees were up nearly a quarter from $2.7 billion in 2009.

    For more: $5.7 Billion in Airline Fees Keeping Industry Afloat - AOL Travel News

    Berlusconi woes mount as Italians say ‘no’ to nuclear

    Analysts say early indications point to a heavy defeat for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in referendums on nuclear power, water privatisation and trial immunity for government ministers.

    The opposition initiated the polls which propose to overturn legislation passed by the government. The turnout of around 57 per cent is more than the 50 per cent required to validate the result.

    One voter said “as far as nuclear power is concerned, I voted yes to the cancellation, because we can use alternative forms of energy.”

    For more: Berlusconi woes mount as Italians say ‘no’ to nuclear | euronews, world news

    Riots in China: Migrant workers riot in China - by Barbara Demick

    Migrant workers from China's Sichuan province erupted in violent protests over the manhandling of a pregnant vendor, exposing the fragility of social order. China censored film footage of the protests, which follow unrelated rioting in other parts of the country. Chinese authorities struggled to restore order Monday after migrant workers overturned police cars, smashed windows and set fires near the southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou over the manhandling of a pregnant vendor.

    It began as a run-of-the mill altercation that erupted Friday night when city authorities tried to clear away migrants from Sichuan province who were hawking produce in front of a supermarket in Zengcheng, in the outskirts of Guangzhou. But the ferocity of the rioting over the weekend exposed the fragility of social order.

    The Chinese government has reason for concern. Last week, migrants from Sichuan battled police and overturned cars in Chaozhou, about 210 miles east of Guangzhou, after a worker demanding two months of back wages was attacked by the boss of a ceramics factory where he had worked. In Lichuan, Hubei province, people have been rioting over the death in prison of an anti-corruption crusader.

    A sociologist at Beijing's Tsinghua University reported earlier this year that China has experienced 180,000 "mass incidents" in 2010, double the number from 2006. "There are a lot of resentments built up among ordinary people who are frustrated trying to get by on a daily basis with prices going up and the difficulty of young people in finding decent jobs," said Geoffrey Crothall, an analyst with the Hong Kong-based China Labor Bulletin. "Any little spark can set things off."

    For more: China riot: Migrant workers riot in China - latimes.com

    US economy: Larry Summers Tells Us How to Fix the Economy He Helped Mess Up

    Larry Summers, now the burden of Harvard University, is back on the op ed pages to explain what’s wrong with the economy and how to fix it.

    It’s all in the technocratic language of macro economics — Brad DeLong approves and will likely retranslate later — but here, I think, is the gist: It seems the financial and housing collapse crushed demand, and it has to be rebuilt with jobs and economic growth over a very long period. And until you do that, you can’t expect deficits to come down, so it’s way premature to pivot to reducing the deficit. Instead we need more stimulus to increase demand, restore jobs and boost the economy.

    And this is a great time to invest in infrastucture, education, and so on, because we have lots of people who can do that work who need jobs, we need the infrastructure, and interest rates on borrowing are near historic lows. Oh, and we need to restore confidence. Most of that could have been written by Paul Krugman, the guy the Administration ignored for three years, or by DeLong and many critics of the Adminstration’s far too tepid economic policies.


    In fact, it has been written by them. So is this Larry’s mea culpa? Larry Summers is the guy who, when presented in early 2009 with a set of calculations and projections from Christine Romer that showed we needed a stimulus about twice the size the one Summers ultimately proposed to the President, said we should limit fiscal stimulus policy to a mere “insurance policy” against the possibilitiy of another Great Depression. That would be enough to produce a self-sustaining recovery, he told President Obama.


    For more: Larry Summers Tells Us How to Fix the Economy He Helped Mess Up | MyFDL

    Turkish PM pledges to build consensus - by Sebnem Arsu

    The conservative party of the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, won a clear victory in parliamentary elections, with a strong showing that critics worry might be used to further consolidate its power and circumscribe civil liberties as well as its political opposition.

    However, Mr Erdogan, who said his party would be ''humble'', promised to seek consensus in writing a new constitution and said that his victory on Sunday would invigorate pro-democracy movements in the Middle East.

    ''We'll go to the opposition and we'll seek consultation and consensus to draft a constitution that will satisfy all sections of the population,'' Mr Erdogan said in a victory speech in Ankara.

    Note EU-Digest: it is difficult to see how a new Constitution, which is expected to turn Mr. Erdogan into a President for life, would invigorate pro-democracy movements in the Middle East. If he really wants to show he is in favor of Democracy and freedom of expression his government should release the more than 66 locked-up journalists and provide open access to the internet for everyone.

    6/12/11

    Turkey's ruling party wins in landslide, but short of two-thirds majority

    Turkey’s ruling Islamist-rooted party clinched a record landslide in Sunday’s parliamentary polls but was short of the two-thirds majority it needs to amend the constitution, near-complete results showed.

    With 99 percent of the votes counted, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) was leading with 50 percent of the vote for a third straight win, according to results on television channels.

    It was the party’s highest electoral score since it came to power in 2002 but appeared to fall just short of the 367-seat majority in the 550-member parliament it was seeking to unilaterally amend the constitution, the legacy of a 1980 military coup.