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7/31/11

US debt deal: a victory for the Tea Party - by Alex Spillius

They would have liked to see greater cuts and a constitutional requirement to balance the budget in the future. They are fundamentalists, so nothing short of total triumph will do.
But make no mistake, they have proved beyond all doubt that the Tea Party calls the shots in the Republican majority in the House of Representatives.


The president was unable to fight back convincingly, and resorted to scare tactics about benefits to the sick and elderly not being paid if the ceiling wasn't raised. He did not sound like a man in control.

The episode has damaged his authority and dimmed his prospects of re-election in 2012. The Tea Party has succeeded in making spending the dominant issue in Washington, even over job creation and the immediate recovery. But the movement played a large part in dragging the country to the brink of disaster, and many voters in the middle ground may not forgive them for that.
For more: US debt deal: a victory for the Tea Party - Telegraph

Lagarde says Europe will deliver in the end - FT.com

Yet despite intense frustration in the US, and elsewhere, at the laboriousness of its decision-making, Ms Lagarde has no fundamental doubts that the eurozone is the right group to be leading the rescues in Greece, Ireland and Portugal. “It is quite typical of Europe to deliver at the end of the day because the European members do deliver but it takes a necessary democratic time, which is not always pleasing to the markets,” she says.
“When you put 17 democracies together under one currency ... it is very much a race between the democratic game and market expectations. Democracy prevails at the end of the day.”

For more: Lagarde says Europe will deliver in the end - FT.com

US debt crisis: talks to avoid default make 'significant progress'

The White House and Republican leaders in Congress have made significant progress towards a deal to raise the US debt ceiling and avert a potentially catastrophic default, according to officials familiar with the talks.

Under a plan negotiated late on Saturday night, the ceiling would be raised in two steps by about $2.4tn (£1.5tn) and spending would be cut by a slightly larger amount, the officials said. The first stage – to raise the ceiling by about $1tn – would take place immediately and the second later in the year.
Congress would be required to vote on a balanced budget amendment to the constitution, but none of the debt limit rise would be contingent on its approval.

For more: US debt crisis: talks to avoid default make 'significant progress' | World news | guardian.co.uk

Religious Minorities: US plans Middle East religious rights envoy

The US House of Representatives has voted to establish a US envoy to protect the rights of religious minorities in the Middle East and South Asia, amid rising concern over Egypt, Iraq and Pakistan.

While a marathon debate continued Friday on how to avoid US debt default, the House voted 402 to 20 to require President Barack Obama to set up the envoy post. The Senate must follow suit, but senators from both parties have voiced support. The envoy will be tasked with pressing minority rights in a broad region covering the Arab world, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. But the bill asks the envoy to prioritize Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Lawmakers voiced concern for the safety of Egypt's Coptic Christians during the transition following the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak. At least two dozen people died in religion-related violence in Egypt in March and May.

For more: AFP: US plans Middle East religious rights envoy

NATO destroys Libyan state TV

The associated press reports that NATO warplanes bombed three Libyan state TV satellite transmitters in Tripoli overnight, targeting a key propaganda tool that the military alliance said Saturday is used by Moammar Gadhafi's government to incite violence and threaten civilians.

There was no comment from Libyan officials on what had been hit, but state TV was still on the air in Tripoli on Saturday.

NATO said the airstrikes aimed to degrade Gadhafi's "use of satellite television as a means to intimidate the Libyan people and incite acts of violence against them."

EU-Digest

Religion: Americans want religious presidents, but are vague on details says poll - by Nicole Neroulias

A majority of Americans (56 percent) say it’s important for a candidate to have strong beliefs, even if those beliefs differ from their own, according to the poll conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service.

Yet the religious groups most firmly behind this point — white evangelicals (73 percent) and ethnic minority Christians (74 percent) — often falter when asked about politicians’ religions. For instance, just 44 percent of white evangelicals know that Romney is a Mormon. At the same time, more than 8 in 10 evangelicals say Mormon religious beliefs greatly differ from their own

For more: Poll: Americans want religious presidents, but are vague on details - KansasCity.com

Europe must face reality of "America, the Exhausted Empire" - by Clemens Wergin

America’s power and worldwide influence depend largely on its military capacity to protect sea routes, support its allies and maintain regional balances. To accomplish this role over the past decade, America has reduced social services and expanded military capabilities to a far greater extent than has Europe. The old continent, on the other hand, built an over-the-top wealth-redistribution system while cutting back on military outlays, trusting that U.S. security policy would pull everyone else’s chestnuts out of the fire as it did in the Balkans.

Both sides of the Atlantic must now find a new balance. In view of a crumbling American infrastructure and an enormous accumulation of debt, Americans no longer understand why they must pay 75 percent of NATO’s costs and supply the majority of troops to foreign lands when Europe has a larger population.

The Libyan mission emphatically emphasized that imbalance once again. The European nations with the most ambitious foreign policies, i.e. France and Great Britain, have already reached the limit of their capabilities and are running out of ammunition after just a few months against a far weaker enemy. The current Europe is only able to fight its own battles on a limited scale — and that will have to change.

In the heyday of trans-Atlantic wrangling over the Iraq war, France’s President Chirac and Germany’s Chancellor Schröder wanted a multipolar world with a less powerful United States. As the old saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for.” A world in which American oversight influence is on the decline will be a far less friendly place. And it will be a place where Europe will have to either pay a steeper price to protect its interests or risk a precipitous decline and relegation to insignificance. 

For more: Watching America : » America, the Exhausted Empire

7/30/11

Trichet Communes With Charlemagne Before Exorcising Lehman Ghost - by Jana Randow, Jeff Black and Christian Vits

In his final four months in office, Trichet, 68, is battling politicians he sees as too ready to ignore the lessons of history and contemplate a Greek default, threatening the euro project he helped create in three decades at the pinnacle of global finance. With Greece’s fate still in play, Trichet may need to show similar resolve to August 2007 when he opened liquidity taps after the collapse of three BNP Paribas SA funds.

“In the same spirit he showed at the start of the crisis in 2007, Trichet’s the only one talking about big initiatives,” Jim O’Neill, chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, said in an interview. “Others are happy to try and keep it together, whereas Trichet wants a more durable, longer-lasting union. It will come but I wouldn’t assume the path isn’t messy.”

For more: Trichet Communes With Charlemagne Before Exorcising Lehman Ghost - Bloomberg

The cost of Europe’s unity "is worth it" - by Ilana Bet-El

The leaders of the euro zone bought a very expensive summer holiday at their summit last week: a second bailout for Greece, to the tune of $155 billion. That was the easy part, courtesy of the European taxpayer. With gritted teeth they also made a small step toward establishing a proper fiscal mechanism for the monetary union, by empowering the European Financial and Stability Fund to act preemptively when crises build. In other words, they finally made a proper political move.

For more: The cost of Europe’s unity - The Boston Globe

Why Is the Ft. Hood Shooter a "Muslim Terrorist," But the Norwegian Murderer Not a "Christian Terrorist"? - Bill Maher:

On last night's episode of Real Time, Bill Maher talked about how violent religious extremists were in the news this week. There was Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo, who was arrested on Wednesday for his 2009 attack on Ft. Hood, and then of course Anders Breivik, the Norwegian man who killed dozens of people in his home country earlier this month. As Maher noted, "I'm sure the media would have no trouble calling the guy at Ft. Hood a Muslim terrorist, but they refuse to call Anders Breivik a Christian terrorist. But that's what he was. He is a Christian terrorist. He wanted to start a Christian onslaught against the Muslims. And it reminds me that this is not a problem with the Muslim religion -- it's a problem with religion. And Christianity is perfectly capable of coming out of its dormant phase and once again becoming the violent, blood-lusty religion it was under the Crusades."

For more: Hot News & Views | AlterNet

7/29/11

Turkey's military chiefs 'quit'

General Isik Kosaner, the head of the Turkish armed forces, has quit along with the heads of the ground, naval and air forces.The country's state-run Anatolia news agency said the military chiefs wanted to retire because of tensions with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the recently re-elected prime minister.

Anatolia reported Kosaner as resigning "as he saw it as necessary". This is the first time so many top commanders in Turkey have stepped down at once.

In the first official reaction, Binali Yildirim, the transportation minister, said "the state would continue to function".

For more: Turkey's military chiefs 'quit' - Europe - Al Jazeera English

A U.S. Default Could Benefit Euro Markets, But Don’t Bet on It - by Geoffrey T. Smith

There are some scenarios under which you could argue that a U.S. default would have some benefits for European markets.

For example, a good part of the trillions invested in U.S. Treasurys is there simply because of their supposedly risk-free nature: surely some of it would migrate to the remaining AAA credits in Europe if the U.S. were to be downgraded?

Also, would a default by the U.S., or even a downgrade, not lead people to revise their opinion that the U.S.’s debt is safer than euro-zone debt because it has a better-functioning political system, with a clearer system of fiscal rights and obligations?

For more: A U.S. Default Could Benefit Euro Markets, But Don’t Bet on It - The Source - WSJ

US Debt Crises: President Obama Calls on the American People to Make their Voices Heard - by Nikki Sutton

This morning, President Obama spoke on the status of the debt ceiling negotiations from the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House. The President urged Republicans and Democrats in Congress to find a bipartisan solution to avoid default that he can sign by Tuesday. Though we are almost out of time, the President made it clear that there are multiple ways to resolve this problem.

For the complete speech click here: : President Obama Calls on the American People to Make their Voices Heard | The White House

US Politics: Tea-Party shows its teeth - Unable To Cement Enough Votes, Boehner Postpones Vote On His Budget Bill

In the end, the Republican Majority leader Boehner was unable gather the 217 votes he needed — especially from the Tea-Party-backed freshmen — to get his budget bill through the House, which casts serious doubts on Boehner's ability to lead the chamber. Now, the door opens for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to try to advance his own plan, which he can present as the only solution still viable and passable before the Aug. 2 deadline set by the Treasury.

On the House floor, Democrats attacked the Boehner plan saying it "kicked the can down the road," and that it was a solution that disproportionately affected the working class and poor. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said the plan did not provide the longer-term stability that Reid's competing plan in the Senate provides.

For more: Unable To Cement Enough Votes, Boehner Postpones Vote On His Budget Bill : The Two-Way : NPR

Which Is in Worse Shape, U.S. or Europe? - by Simon Johnson

The United States and Europe seem to be competing hard this summer for the title of “biggest economic problem.” Based on the latest news coverage, Europe might seem to be experiencing something of a resurgence, as last week the euro zone agreed on a deal involving mutual support and limiting the fallout from Greece’s debt problems.

For more: Simon Johnson: Which Is in Worse Shape, U.S. or Europe? - NYTimes.com

7/28/11

Debt and politics in America and Europe: Turning Japanese

A govrnments credibility is founded on its commitment to honour its debts. As a result of the dramas of the past few weeks, that crucial commodity is eroding in the West. The struggles in Europe to keep Greece in the euro zone and the brinkmanship in America over the debt ceiling have presented investors with an unattractive choice: should you buy the currency that may default, or the one that could disintegrate?

In the early days of the economic crisis the West’s leaders did a reasonable job of clearing up a mess that was only partly of their making. Now the politicians have become the problem. In both America and Europe, they are exhibiting the sort of behaviour that could turn a downturn into stagnation. The West’s leaders are not willing to make tough choices; and everybody—the markets, the leaders of the emerging world, the banks, even the voters—knows it. It is a mark of how low expectations have sunk that the euro zone’s half-rescue of Greece on July 21st was greeted with relief. As The Economist went to press, it still was not clear on what terms America’s debt limit would be raised, and for how long. Even if the current crises abate or are averted, the real danger persists: that the West’s political system cannot take the difficult decisions needed to recover from a crisis and prosper in the years ahead.
 
The world has seen this before. Two decades ago, Japan’s economic bubble popped; since then its leaders have procrastinated and postured. The years of political paralysis have done Japan more harm than the economic excesses of the 1980s. Its economy has barely grown and its regional influence has withered. As a proportion of GDP, its gross public debt is the highest in the world, twice America’s and nearly twice Italy’s. If something similar were to happen to its fellow democracies in Europe and America, the consequences would be far larger. No wonder China’s autocrats, flush with cash and an (only partly deserved) reputation for getting things done, feel as if the future is on their side.

For more: Debt and politics in America and Europe: Turning Japanese | The Economist

The Netherlands: - Insurers not worried about cost of rise in hospital births

Health insurance companies are not concerned about the increasing popularity of hospital births because they cost about the same as a home birth, the Volkskrant reports on Thursday.

'If a woman gives birth in an out-patients clinic, under the supervision of a midwife, it does not cost much more than a home birth,' a spokesman for the health insurance company association said.

For more: DutchNews.nl - Insurers not worried about cost of rise in hospital births

US visa ban on Russian officials poses questions for EU

The US has quietly imposed a visa ban on Russian officials believed to have played a part in the murder of lawyer Sergey Magnitsky, posing questions about EU handling of the affair.

A state department memo confirms that most or all of the 60 officials implicated in the Magnitsky conspiracy have been red-flagged in the Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS), a namecheck database used to give or decline visas.

The non-public memo, dated 22 July, says: "[US secretary of state Hilary] Clinton has applied existing laws and authorities to implement the visa limitations on multiple individuals associated with the wrongful death of Sergey Magnitsky." It adds: "Individuals included on the list ... are already flagged in the visa adjudication (known as CLASS) system used by visa officers."

Heidi Hautala, Finland's minister for international development and until recently the European Parliament's top deputy on human rights, told this website that EU capitals should follow Washington's lead.


"It's a very smart solution because it targets the real perpetrators and not the whole country," she said. "The time has come for new [EU] targeted sanctions on the American model - it could also be a low-key solution, put in place by one of the Schengen countries."

Under the rules of the EU's passport-free Schengen zone - which covers 22 EU countries plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland - if any one Schengen state red-flags a name all 25 must refuse that person a visa.


For more: EUobserver / US visa ban on Russian officials poses questions for EU

Outer Space Research: New uses for Space Station

For more than a decade, the International Space Station has been a busy orbiting research lab. But it could soon take on a new role as a testbed for ambitious missions deeper into space.

Future ventures could include Mars missions, lunar habitats or travelling to an asteroid – all needing new technologies and techniques that could be tested on the Station. Following yesterday's meeting of the orbital outpost's Multilateral Coordination Board, member agencies expect to begin identifying specific technology initiatives based on sample exploration missions.

For more: ESA Portal - New uses for Space Station

Soccer: Netherlands to keep producing top players

Dutch specialists believed that the Netherlands will keep producing top soccer players in the foreseeable future, based on the country's efficient youth training system.

Just one year ago the Netherlands advanced to the FIFA World Cup final in South Africa. Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie are the names of the current stars of the national team. They are the successors of stars from the past football legends like Johan Cruijff, Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Dennis Bergkamp.



For more: Netherlands to keep producing top players - People's Daily Online

7/27/11

Lessons cited as Germany declares end to E coli outbreak - by Lisa Schnirring

Germany's infectious disease institute has declared that the Escherichia coli O104:H4 outbreak is over, now that the incubation period for the most recently confirmed case with links to the sprout seed–related event has passed.

The Robert Koch Institute, the county's federal disease control agency, released a statement in German yesterday saying that the 3-week incubation period had passed since the latest illness onset date—July 4—for a patient with an epidemiologic link to the outbreak, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said today in its outbreak update. The agency said German officials are considering cases with onsets later than Jul 4 as having no epidemiologic links to the outbreak or no lab confirmation. 

Because of reporting delays, additional cases are still slowly trickling into the ECDC. Health officials are also still sorting out confirmed and probable cases. So far the ECDC has received reports of 3,910 infections, including 782 with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious kidney complication. So far 46 deaths have been reported. 

For more: CIDRAP >> Lessons cited as Germany declares end to <i>E coli</i> outbreak

Author dives into France's dark past for Sarah's Key - by G. ALLEN JOHNSON

She's not really among France's ruling elite, but de Rosnay is certainly among the cultural elite after her novel Sarah's Key became a breakout hit, first in France and then internationally, and transformed an obscure author into a literary star. It has been adapted into a film starring Kristin Scott Thomas that opens Friday.

But "let them eat cake" is not her style. De Rosnay, 49, struggled for years to become a successful writer, forcing herself to write at the kitchen table in pre-dawn hours as she raised two children. Her big break came just over four years ago when Héloïse d'Ormesson, who ran a small publishing house, saw potential in Sarah's Key, which had been piling up rejection slips from bigger publishers for two years. Even after her success, de Rosnay had to prove that she was French in order to keep her citizenship (she was born in France, but her parents were not).

You might recognize de Rosnay's tenacity in Julia, the journalist at the heart of Sarah's Key, played by Thomas in the film. Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner and featuring a breakout performance by 10-year-old Mélusine Mayance, it is about a young Jewish girl in 1942 caught up in the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup and sent to a Nazi extermination camp, and a journalist who, 60 years later, tries to find out what happened to her.
For more: Author dives into France's dark past for Sarah's Key | Life | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle

Sales season in Europe - Jonas Parello-Plesner

The summer sales are on in Europe and buyers are desperately needed. Portugal is crying out for investors in its debt, now ‘junk' in the markets' eyes, while Greece is about to begin a fire-sale of assets.
No chequebook is bigger than China's. And while other investors have been steering clear of troubled eurozone states, China has been on a shopping spree.

So are the Chinese now eyeing up the Acropolis? Could an influx of Chinese investment yet avert meltdown in Europe? And when the financial dust has settled, will the EU discover that it has sold off its chances of a serious political partnership with Beijing? 

Europe's crisis is becoming China's opportunity, and while this might be good news for indebted countries, it heralds the beginning of a fundamentally different financial – and potentially political – relationship between China and Europe.

For more: Sales season in Europe | European Voice

Norway Killings Shift Debate on Islam in Europe - by NICHOLAS KULISH

Less than a week after the mass killings in Norway, evidence of a shift in the debate over Islam and the radical right in Europe already appeared to be taking hold on a traumatized Continent.

Members of far-right parties in Sweden and Italy were condemned from within their own ranks for blaming the attack on multiculturalism, as expressions of outrage over the deaths crossed the political spectrum. A member of France’s far-right National Front was suspended for praising the attacker.

Lurking in the background is the calculation on all sides that such tragedies can drive shifts in public opinion. The violent actions of a terrorist or homicidal individual can hardly be blamed on nonviolent political parties. But politicians have begun to question inflammatory rhetoric in the debate over immigrants, which has helped fuel the rise of right-leaning politicians across Europe in recent years.

“The biggest challenge is the opportunism of the center and I think this will change now,” said Joschka Fischer, Germany’s former foreign minister and a leading European voice on the left, pointing to the Danish government’s cooperation with the far-right Danish People’s Party, which has pushed through a partial reinstitution of border controls.

Security services across Europe have been re-evaluating their security plans and examining how prepared they would be in the event of a similar plot. In the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg on Wednesday, 140 police officers raided 21 homes as part of an investigation against a right-wing extremist group. The police said the action was not connected to the events in Oslo, but pressure to keep watch over extremists is now constant theme.

For more: Norway Killings Shift Debate on Islam in Europe - NYTimes.com

7/25/11

One third of Dutch corporate turnover is due to foreign firms

n 2008, one third of turnover generated by companies in the Netherlands was due to foreign firms, even though just one in 100 companies had a foreign owner, the national statistics office CBS said on Monday.

For more: DutchNews.nl - One third of Dutch corporate turnover is due to foreign firms

French investigators to release report into 2009 Air France crash on Friday

French investigators will release new findings from the flight recorders of an Air France jet that crashed in the Atlantic in 2009 and was recovered after nearly two years of search efforts. The French air accident investigation agency, the BEA, said it will release Friday a report on the crash

For more: French investigators to release report into 2009 Air France crash - The Washington Post

Norway and the politics of hate

Societies have been changing fast. There is mounting frustration that officials at both European and national level seem not to listen to the views of the voters.

With globalisation, national identity seems to have become more important. The nation state stubbornly remains the focus of most people's identity. And so nationalist parties have made gains in many parts of Europe. There are frequent expressions of concern about the growing influence of these parties. Others say that they provide a useful channel for the feelings of frustration and alienation.

Some of Europe's leaders, from Angela Merkel to David Cameron, have questioned multiculturalism. The danger, of course, is that such statements can encourage extremism. Others say that in Europe the debate needs to be had, openly and transparently about immigration and multiculturalism

For more: BBC News - Norway and the politics of hate

The Netherlands - Geert Wilders: Norway nightmare for security services

Dangerous lunatic or savvy terrorist? Anders Behring Breivik planned his actions meticulously. In a manifesto of more than 1,400 pages the Norwegian bomber and gunman described the reasons for his attacks. The Netherlands plays a prominent role.

The manifesto, written under the pseudonym Andrew Berwick, is one long accusation aimed at political parties and the media for failing to do anything to prevent the Islamisation of Europe. He sets out a complete scenario for a revolution in three phases to bring down what he calls the ‘Marxist multiculturalists’ in Europe.

Breivik praises Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Geert Wilders and the late Pim Fortuyn, three Dutch politicians known for their criticism of Islam. However, he believes that the Netherlands too will fall prey to the ‘demographic warfare’ of Islam as he terms it. He predicts that the Netherlands will be 55 percent Muslim in the year 2070. The Norwegian terrorist says he would like to meet Geert Wilders and Radovan Karadzic. He expresses sympathy for the Serbian’s war crimes, since he was supposedly attempting to stop Islamisation in Bosnia. Geert Wilders has responded by calling Breivik “a violent psychopath”.

Note EU-Digest: "Even though Dutch politician Mr. Wilders called Breivik of Norway "a violent psychopath" he did not condemn the statements made by Breivik about immigration and Islam, which he also publicly advocates, and that can indirectly lead to other like-minded psychopathic right-wingers as Brevik in Europe to commit such hideous crimes."

Norway nightmare for security services | Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Europe on alert after Norway Right-Wing attacks - by Andrew Ward and Robin Wigglesworth and Quentin Peel

Police around Europe are on increased alert against far-right extremism as the Norwegian charged over terror attacks" man accused of killing 93 people in Norway’s bomb and shooting attack prepares to face charges in an Oslo court on Monday.

Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old Norwegian, has admitted bombing government buildings in central Oslo on Friday before shooting dead scores of young people at a Labour party summer camp on Utøya, an island outside the capital. Under Norwegian law, he faces a maximum of 21 years in prison if found guilty of what Jens Stoltenberg, prime minister, called Norway’s “national tragedy”.

Across Europe, police authorities increased scrutiny of Killer personifies rise of new far-right">potential far-right threats while Muslim groups in the UK raised security levels amid fear of anti-Islamic activity. Europol, the European police agency based in The Hague, said it was setting up a task force to help investigate non-Islamist threats in Scandinavian countries.

 For more: Europe on alert after Norway attacks - FT.com

7/24/11

Norway attacks: Norway's tragedy must shake Europe into acting on extremism and right-wing extremists - by Aslak Sira Myhre

The terror of Norway has not come from Islamic extremists. Nor has it come from the far left, even though both these groups have been accused time after time of being the inner threat to our "way of living". Up to and including the terrifying hours in the afternoon of 22 July, the little terror my country has experienced has come from the far right.

For decades, political violence in this country has been almost the sole preserve of neo-Nazis and other racist groups. During the 1970s they bombed leftwing bookstores and a May Day demonstration. In the 80s two neo-Nazis were executed because they were suspected of betraying the group. In the past two decades, two non-white Norwegian boys have been killed in racist attacks. No foreign group has killed or hurt people on Norwegian territory since the second world war, except for the Israeli security force Mossad, which targeted and killed an innocent man by mistake on Lillehammer in 1973.

But even with this history, when this devastating terror hit us, we instantly suspected the Islamic world. It was the jihadis. It had to be. It was immediately denounced as an attack on Norway, on our way of life. In the streets of Oslo, young women wearing hijabs and Arab-looking men were harassed as soon as the news broke.

Small wonder. For at least 10 years we have been told that terror comes from the east. That an Arab is suspicious, that all Muslims are tainted. We regularly see people of colour being examined in private rooms in airport security; we have endless debates on the limits of "our" tolerance. As the Islamic world has become the Other, we have begun to think of that what differentiates "us" from "them" is the ability to slaughter civilians in cold blood.

Note EU-Digest: Hopefully this will awaken Europeans to the fact that the hate spewed out by many of the right-wing politicians in Europe against immigrants and more tolerant and multi-cultural  political parties is the wrong way to go and will eventually create situations as that what happened in Norway this week..

For more: Norway attacks: Norway's tragedy must shake Europe into acting on extremism | Aslak Sira Myhre | Comment is free | The Guardian

7/23/11

Murdoch back in U.S. to battle other challenges -

One of the biggest fears among investors is that more bombshells about the U.K. phone hacking scandal will drop in the U.S. and detonate such widespread outrage that advertisers will stop buying TV spots on News Corp.-owned stations. There are worries, too, that moviegoers will boycott theaters showing 20th Century Fox films.

For more: Murdoch back in U.S. to battle other challenges - CBS News

European debt crisis jargon buster - by John Grace

Confused by haircuts, rollovers and bonds? The jargon buster should help you get to grips with the Greek crisis

For more: European debt crisis jargon buster | John Crace | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Norway suspect deems killings atrocious but needed

A suspected right-wing fanatic accused of killing at least 92 people deemed his acts "atrocious" yet "necessary" as Norway mourned victims of the nation's worst attacks since World War Two.

Police were hunting on Sunday to see if a possible second gunman took part in the shooting massacre and bomb attack on Friday that traumatised a normally peaceful Nordic country.

In his first comment via a lawyer since he was arrested, 32-year-old Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik expressed willingness to explain himself in court at a hearing likely to be held on Monday about extending protective custody.

For more: Norway suspect deems killings atrocious but needed - Reuters -

Germany's Role in Euro Zone GDP

For the complete interview click here: Germany's Role in Euro Zone GDP - Seeking Alpha

Euro Rallies Versus Dollar as European Summit Eases Region's Debt Turmoil

The euro rose for the first time in three weeks against the dollar and touched a two-week high after European leaders agreed to a new bailout for Greece and expanded the role of the region’s rescue fund.

For more: Euro Rallies Versus Dollar as European Summit Eases Region's Debt Turmoil - Bloomberg

7/22/11

Libya: Is Gaddafi Mocking the International Community?

While the international community battles over road maps, peace talks and cease fire plans, saying they are in touch with the Libyan government, one leader, Muammar Gaddafi seems blissfully unaware that he supposedly is on the brink of accepting a deal that will force him to step down from power.

Ridiculing all the parties involved either on a military or diplomatic level, the Libyan dictator has ruled out any negotiations with rebels over the future of the North African country.

Despite U.S. Secretary of state Hillary Clinton attending a meeting in Turkey last week, to discuss the future of Libya with officials from 32 countries, Gaddafi on Thursday, proved that he still rules and has no intention of leaving.

Note EU-Digest: At this point the UN/NATO/EU exercise to oust Libyan dictator Gaddafi has become a total comedy and one can only wonder with great concern how this will end.


For more: Libya: Is Gaddafi Mocking the International Community? - International Business Times

Egypt: Against Geopolitical And Engineering Odds, Plans Emerge To Build A Red Sea Bridge

Post-revolution Egypt is reportedly about to embark on an audacious joint construction project with Saudi Arabia: A bridge over the Red Sea that would link the two country's roads and railways. The bridge is slotted to take the form of a series of suspension spans and causeways on the lines of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Although the bridge is not expected to interfere with shipping, nearby Israel and Jordan are livid that construction could potentially hurt their geopolitical position--and the Egyptian public is worried the crossing is a sign of increased Saudi influence.

The proposed 20-mile bridge would be built over the Red Sea at the Straits of Tiran, a series of narrow sea passages between Egypt and Saudi Arabia located near some of the world's best scuba diving. However, the Straits of Tiran are also a highly strategic waterway--both Jordan's lone seaport of Aqaba and Israel's only Red Sea port, Eilat, send all their cargo through the straits. United Nations peacekeepers actively patrol the Straits of Tiran to guarantee freedom of navigation.

Building a successful road/rail bridge between Egypt and Saudi Arabia would have massive economic and geopolitical implications. Saudi Arabia would be able to export oil via rail to African markets--and African ports--by land. Shipping patterns would change massively as a significant portion of Red Sea maritime traffic would disappear. Israel would have to deal with the likelihood of an unfriendly Egypt being able to easily block Red Sea shipping traffic passing through the bridge in the future. Jordan would be pushed firmly into the Saudi economic camp due to a drop in seaport traffic, while Saudi Arabia would gain a massive amount of influence over unstable post-revolution Egypt. For the first time since Israel's declaration of independence in 1948, the Arab states of Africa and Asia would be linked by road and rail. Due to the poor state of relations between Israel and most of the Arab world, rail traffic has not been able to pass through Israel from one Arab state to another and automobile traffic has been severely circumscribed. Meanwhile, the talk in Egyptian newspapers is of Saudi Arabia trying to lead the Egyptian “counterrevolution.”

For more: Against Geopolitical And Engineering Odds, Plans Emerge To Build A Red Sea Bridge | Fast Company

US Economy - Debt talks: Democrats erupt over Obama surrender to Republicans - by Lisa Mascaro and Christi Parsons

As President Obama pushed hard for a grand deal to reduce the federal deficit, he ignited a furor among congressional Democrats on Thursday by appearing to retreat from his insistence that spending cuts and revenue increases be included in the same package.

The White House briefed Democratic leaders on a possible $3-trillion deficit-reduction deal, the latest in a rapid-fire series of proposals aimed at winning congressional approval for an increase in the nation's $14.3-trillion borrowing limit before Aug. 2. That's when the government is expected to run short of funds and risk defaulting on its debt.

An early version of the plan would lock in cuts in spending and social programs, as Republicans want, but appeared to defer decisions on increasing tax revenues until 2012. Under the proposal, Congress would take up comprehensive tax reform next year. But Democrats want enforceable measures to ensure that Republicans follow through on increasing revenue.

For more: Debt talks: Democrats erupt over latest plan on debt ceiling - latimes.com

Fiat, Chrysler CEO moving quickly toward merger, globalization - by Bryce G. Hoffman

Fiat SpA and Chrysler Group LLC will move one step closer toward their planned merger next week, when Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of both companies, is expected to announce major management changes.

Both companies are scheduled to report their second-quarter earnings on July 26. Marchionne plans to use the occasion to name global leaders for 25 key functions, including areas such as manufacturing, engineering, purchasing and quality, according to a source close to the situation.

The executives will be responsible for those functions at both Fiat and Chrysler worldwide. Today, these positions are mirrored at both companies.

Italy's Fiat began running bankrupt Chrysler in 2009, as part of a deal brokered by the Obama administration. When the Auburn Hills automaker emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Marchionne moved to increase Fiat's stake in the company. Fiat now owns 46 percent of Chrysler — a controlling stake in the company.

That will increase to 51 percent later this year, and Marchionne has signaled his intent to raise Fiat's stake even higher than that.

7/21/11

Aircraft Industry: American Airlines buys Airbus, stings Boeing -by Aubrey Cohen

American Airlines placed what it called the largest aircraft order in history Wednesday: 460 existing model and re-engined small airliners from Airbus and Boeing, which previously had been leaning toward replacing its 737, rather than outfitting it with new, more efficient engines.

American now flies all Boeing jets, making the order a hit for the U.S. airplane maker, particularly given that the airline opted for more Airbus aircraft.

"(N)o single manufacturer could provide the number and variety of aircraft we need to fulfill our vision for the future," American Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Gerard Arpey said during a news conference with Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Jim Albaugh and Airbus CEO Tom Enders Wednesday.

For more: American Airlines buys Airbus, stings Boeing - seattlepi.com

Most E.U. insurers pass Solvency II stress test

The vast majority of European insurers and reinsurers remained financially “robust” in a test of their ability to withstand various economic shocks, but up to 10% failed to meet their minimum capital requirement under Solvency II, the European insurance regulator said.

For more: Most E.U. insurers pass Solvency II stress test | Business Insurance

Europe agrees sweeping new action on debt crisis


An emergency summit of leaders of the 17-nation currency area pledged on Thursday to conduct a second bailout of Greece with an extra 109 billion euros ($157 billion) of government money, plus a contribution by private sector bondholders estimated to total as much as 50 billion euros by mid-2014.

The leaders also made detailed provisions for limiting the damage if, as seems likely, credit rating agencies declare Greece to be in temporary default -- the first such event in the 12-year history of the euro.

The package pleased financial markets because it suggested that for the first time since the Greek debt crisis erupted early last year, the euro zone was taking a comprehensive, long-term approach to the problem, rather than simply lending Greece more money to avoid disaster in the near term.
For more: Europe agrees sweeping new action on debt crisis | Reuters: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Turkey's PM Warns Against Cyprus EU Presidency

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, warned on Wednesday that his country's relations with the European Union "will be completely frozen" if Cyprus assumes the bloc's presidency before a deal reunifying the ethnically split island is reached. The threat is part of what is seen as a tough new approach to both the EU and Cyprus by the prime minister.

Erdogan took the opportunity to toughen his stance while on a two-day visit to the Turkish area of Northern Cyprus to mark he 37th anniversary of Turkey's invasion of the island.

Despite repeated UN efforts, Cyprus remains firmly divided since Turkey's 1974 invasion in response to a Greek inspired coup. Addressing the ceremony Erdogan warned time is running out for reunification efforts.

Note EU-Digest: Mr. Erdogan should be looking at the big picture and not focus on the short term. At least that is what Mustafa Kemal Atatürk would have done.That is what made  Atatürk a winner over the long haul and a shining example of what it takes to be a leader.

For more: Turkey's PM Warns Against Cyprus EU Presidency | Europe | English

USA Politics: Republicans - The Party of Fiscal Irresponsibility - by Janine Balekdjian

A complete reversal of all known ideas of logic and common sense is the only explanation for the sort of shenanigans going on in Congress right now. From an outside perspective, watching the debt limit negotiations is like watching a car slowly drive towards the edge of the cliff at 25 miles per hour. Everyone can see the cliff is there, and while the people in the car can't agree which way to go, it seems obvious that they'll choose something before the car goes over.

For more: Janine Balekdjian: The Party of Fiscal Irresponsibility

Euro Zone Leaders Clinch Rescue Plan for Greece

After weeks of uncertainty that revived fears about the foundations of the euro, European leaders on Thursday clinched a new rescue plan for Greece that could push the country into default on some of its debt for a short period but would give Europe’s bailout fund sweeping new powers to shore up struggling economies.

At a press conference late Thursday, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany confirmed the aid package of 109 billion euros ($157 billion) for Greece. European officials also said that financial institutions that own Greek bonds would contribute 50 billion euros through 2014 through a combination of debt extensions and the purchase of discounted Greek bonds on the secondary market.

The outlines of the plan worked out by leaders of the 17 euro zone nations seemed particularly bold, dealing with the economic problems of bailed-out Ireland and Portugal as well as Greece, and calling for nothing short of a “European Marshall Plan” to get Greece itself on a road to recovery. The underlying economies of those countries — and others — remain remarkably frail, however.

For more: Euro Zone Leaders Clinch Rescue Plan for Greece - NYTimes.com

Internet: 20-Plus Suspected Anonymous Hackers Arrested in U.S., UK, Netherlands

Law enforcement agencies in the U.S., UK and the Netherlands have arrested 20 suspected members of the hacker collective Anonymous. The U.S. FBI were responsible for the majority of the arrests, detaining 16 suspected hackers.

In Europe one 16-year-old by was detained in London, while four individuals were arrested in the Netherlands.
Of the 16 arrested by the FBI, 14 are suspected of taking part in Anonymous' original attack on Paypal last December. The attack was one of the first high-profile hacks enacted by the group and was done to protest the company's decision to cut payments to Wikileaks.

Note EU-Digest: a British labor politician asked when he heard about the arrest: "why isn't the police also putting out an arrest warrant for Rupert Murdoch, whose hacking activities were far more serious?" .

For more: 20-Plus Suspected Anonymous Hackers Arrested in U.S., UK, Netherlands - International Business Times

7/20/11

Britain -The Rupert Murdoch Scandal : David Cameron spoke to Rupert Murdoch's executives about BSkyB bid ; by Patrick Wintour

Should Cameron Resign? David Cameron insists conversations were 'appropriate' and comes close to apologising over decisioDavid Cameron's hopes of putting a lid on the phone-hacking scandal were foundering on Wednesday after he was forced to concede he had talked to Rupert Murdoch's executives about their bid to take control of BSkyB.

It is the first time he has made the admission, but he insisted the conversations had been "appropriate" because he did not convey any of those discussions to the politician in sole charge of handling the bid, the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt. Cameron also came close to an apology over his decision to appoint Andy Coulson as No 10's director of communications, admitting with hindsight he should not have offered him the job.

Making an exhaustive 139-minute emergency statement to MPs, he edged towards the much-demanded apology about Coulson: "Of course I regret, and I am extremely sorry, about the furore it has caused. With 20/20 hindsight, and all that has followed, I would not have offered him the job, and I expect he would not have taken it."

For more: David Cameron spoke to Rupert Murdoch's executives about BSkyB bid | Politics | The Guardian

Merkel, Sarkozy Find Joint Position on Greece for EU Summit - by Rainer Buergin and Helene Fouquet

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed on a joint position to solve Greece’s debt crisis on the eve of a summit convened to stamp out contagion in European bond markets.

Details will be released today when euro region leaders meet in Brussels, the governments said in a statement after seven hours of talks in Merkel’s Chancellery in Berlin. The discussions also included European Central Bank President Jean- Claude Trichet and European Union President Herman van Rompuy, who participated by telephone.

Leaders are due to gather at 1 p.m. in the Belgian capital after meetings of national government officials earlier in the day. Deutsche Bank AG Chief Executive Officer Josef Ackermann and a group of senior European bankers will join government officials at the summit, Germany’s Bild-Zeitung newspaper reported, without saying where it got the information.

For more: Merkel, Sarkozy Find Joint Position on Greece for EU Summit - Businessweek

Merkel, Sarkozy Find Joint Position on Greece for EU Summit - Businessweek

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed on a joint position to solve Greece’s debt crisis on the eve of a summit convened to stamp out contagion in European bond markets.

Details will be released today when euro region leaders meet in Brussels, the governments said in a statement after seven hours of talks in Merkel’s Chancellery in Berlin. The discussions also included European Central Bank President Jean- Claude Trichet and European Union President Herman van Rompuy, who participated by telephone.

Leaders are due to gather at 1 p.m. in the Belgian capital after meetings of national government officials earlier in the day. Deutsche Bank AG Chief Executive Officer Josef Ackermann and a group of senior European bankers will join government officials at the summit, Germany’s Bild-Zeitung newspaper reported, without saying where it got the information.


For more: Merkel, Sarkozy Find Joint Position on Greece for EU Summit - Businessweek

EU Says Banks Must Boost Capital or Be Fined - by Marlene Y Satter

The head of financial services for the European Union (EU) said Wednesday that banks failing to abide by new and stronger rules regarding liquidity and capital will be subject to fines of as much as 10% of turnover.

Reuters reported that draft laws that would implement the Basel III accords were revealed by Michel Barnier, internal market commissioner for the EU. The laws will compel banks, by 2013, to hold higher levels of capital reserves of better quality than current regulations.

Among the new measures in the draft laws are a requirement for minimum core equity capital equal to 7% of a bank's riskier assets. There are also tougher sanctions in the event of failure to comply, as well as a dilution of the impact of credit ratings and corporate governance improvements. That last includes whistle-blowing programs as well as requirements for more female members to be considered for board positions.

For more: EU Says Banks Must Boost Capital or Be Fined

Cycling: Tour de France celebrates 100 years in the Alps with highest-ever finish

Over the past 100 years, the craggy mountain range has hosted epic Tour de France duels, dashed dreams, and forged champions.

To mark a century of riding through the Alps, Tour de France organizers have set this year’s deciding stages among some of its most iconic and grueling peaks.

The peloton begins the first of three consecutive high mountain stages today, with Thursday and Friday – the final two climbing days in this year's Tour – expected to be the most decisive.

For more: Tour de France celebrates 100 years in the Alps with highest-ever finish - CSMonitor.com

Europe: Bond markets: Villains or saviours?

Chancellor Merkel is lowering expectations. The agenda has not yet been set. But the story of the past 18 months in Europe is that events have been driven not by politicians but markets. The markets drive and the politicians react.

When the 17 leaders of the countries that use the euro leave the Belgian capital they will all be watching and waiting for market reaction.

There is an oft-quoted story of a remark made by one of Bill Clinton's advisers, James Carville, also known as the Ragin' Cajun. He said that if there was reincarnation, he once "wanted to come back as the president or the Pope or a .400 baseball hitter. But now I want to come back as the bond market. You can intimidate everybody."

For more: BBC News - Bond markets: Villains or saviours?

7/19/11

Murdoch's had his way with U.S. politicians also

Australian-born billionaire Rupert Murdoch has manipulated not just the news but the news landscape of the United States for decades. He has done so by pressuring the Federal Communications Commission and Congress to alter the laws of the land and regulatory standards in order to give his media conglomerate an unfair advantage in "competition" with more locally focused, more engaged and more responsible media.

Now, with Murdoch’s News Corp. empire in crisis—collapsing bit by bit under the weight of a steady stream of allegations about illegal phone hacking and influence peddling in Britain—there is an odd disconnect occurring in much of the major media of the United States. While there is some acknowledgement that Murdoch has interests in the United States (including not just his Fox News channel but the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post), the suggestion is that Murdoch was more manipulative, more influential, more controlling in Britain than here.

But that’s a fantasy. Just as Murdoch has had far too much control over politics and politicians in Britain during periods of conservative dominance—be it under an actual Tory such as former Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major and current Prime Minister David Cameron or under a faux Tory such as former Prime Minister Tony Blair—he has had far too much control in the States. And that control, while ideological to some extent, is focused mainly on improving the bottom line for his media properties by securing for them unfair legal and regulatory advantages.

For more: Murdoch's had his way with U.S. politicians also - CBS News

Rupert Murdoch's Dangerous Right Wing Media Empire

Within five months after Rupert Murdoch took over the Wall Street Journal he fired the editor and installed his close friend Robert Thomson, following his assignment where he had also Foxified The Times of London. The new publisher was Leslie Hinton, former boss of the division that published Murdoch’s British newspapers, including The News of the World, who resigned last Friday for his alleged cover-ups. The changes are now very apparent in the Wall Street Journal: shorter articles, less depth, an increased emphasis on politics and at times even unsophisticated coverage of business.

Along with this rapid transformation of the prestigious Wall Street Journal into a mediocre publication also came changes that were far more devious. The political articles grew more and more slanted toward the Republican party line. The Wall Street Journal at times even took to using the word “Democrat” as an adjective instead of a noun, a usage favored by the right wing.

Unfortunately for the people who oppose Murdoch and want to see him jailed, he also has a large number of "fans" around the world, including well known media personalities, like Piers Morgan, the former editor for Rupert Murdoch's now-defunct News of the World. Piers Morgan dedicated a segment of his new CNN show last night to defending Rupert Murdoch. In this show he included former New York Post reporter Vicky Ward, who is a personal friend of Murdoch's.

Despite all his pretended faith in the free-market, Murdoch’s success has always owed much to his uncanny ability to align himself with governments that were able to dole out lucrative broadcasting and cable monopolies. Not just in China but in the West as well, Murdoch has been an expert practitioner of crony capitalism.

Rupert Murdoch is also a typical right-wing populist who knows that the road of success for plutocrats is to wear the mask of plebian outrage, pretending to be the voice of the very people they are economically exploiting.

Greece aid hopes ease Europe debt anxiety

Investor anxiety over Europe’s sovereign-debt drama eased somewhat Tuesday as a potential crack emerged in the European Central Bank’s opposition to any form of default by Greece. The comments appeared to contrast with the hard line taken by Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank. He reiterated in a weekend interview that any form of default would result in the central bank refusing to accept Greek government bonds as collateral for loans, forcing national governments to come up with a plan to keep Greek banks from collapsing due to a lack of funding.

For more: Greece aid hopes ease Europe debt anxiety - MarketWatch

Syria faces tougher sanctions from EU

Diplomatic pressure mounts on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after Qatar, previously a major supporter, shut its embassy in Damascus and the European Union said it was considering tougher sanctions.

Britain's foreign minister William Hague says more pressure is needed to stop the government's crackdown on pro-democracy activists: "The situation remains very serious and if anything is deteriorating. Certainly there will be a time for further sanctions and we need to be discussing now what those would be."

The EU has already imposed travel bans and asset freezes on 34 Syrian individuals and entities, but Hague said after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels "work now needs to start so we can add to that if necessary over the coming days and weeks."

For more: Syria faces tougher sanctions from EU - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

7/18/11

ECB’s strength under microscope in euro zone debt crisis - by Martin Mittelstaed

As Europe’s sovereign debt crisis intensifies, financial markets are worried about the continent’s banks. But the strain is also falling in an unexpected direction – on the European Central Bank.

Like its privately owned counterparts, the euro zone’s core financial institution carries large amounts of debt on its balance sheet from Greece and other risky borrowers. It wouldn’t need much of a “haircut” – bond market jargon for a drop in the value of these debts – to seriously diminish the ECB’s capital.

Last month, Open Europe, a think tank based in London, issued an analysis suggesting that a Greek default could erase most, if not all, of the ECB’s capital. “We think that the ECB’s balance sheet is now incredibly exposed and that it’s very weak,” says Mats Persson, director of Open Europe.

Note EU-Digest: as usual the critique on the EU, EURO and the ECB once again comes from Anglo-Saxon circles.

For more: ECB’s strength under microscope in euro zone debt crisis - The Globe and Mail

Britain: The questions hanging over Murdoch, USA - by Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan

The contagion affecting News Corp has spread rapidly in the US. The FBI is investigating potential criminal hacking of the voicemails of victims of the 9/11 attacks. Lawmakers and grassroots groups are also calling for an investigation into whether the bribing of police was a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. As News Corp is a US corporation, registered in the business-friendly state of Delaware,even bribery abroad could lead to felony charges in the US.

One likely consequence would be what Corporate Crime Reporter's Russell Mokhiber calls "a wishy-washy non-prosecution settlement" wherein News Corp would admit to the crime without being convicted, and pay a financial settlement. Mokhiber noted that, in a 2008 FCPA case against Siemens for widespread bribery, Siemens paid $800m but avoided a criminal conviction that would have jeopardised its standing as a US defense contractor.

Meanwhile Murdoch runs his media empire in the US as an unvarnished political operation. Fox News Channel, run by career Republican operative Roger Ailes, is home to the most consistently vitriolic critics of Barack Obama. Leaked memos and emails from Fox vice-president of News, John Moody, and Washington managing editor Bill Sammon allegedly offer evidence of top-down directives to control the message throughout the news day, from linking Obama to Marxism and socialism, to denigrating a public option in the US healthcare debate, to promoting scepticism about climate change.

For more: The questions hanging over Murdoch, USA | Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan | Comment is free | The Guardian

Financial Sector: 8 banks flunk European stress test; 16 more barely pass

Eight of 90 European banks flunked stress tests projecting how they would fare in another recession, and 16 more barely passed — but the results proved controversial.

As it presented the results Friday, the European Banking Authority said the failing banks should quickly take steps to thicken their financial cushions by a total of 2.5 billion euros ($3.5 billion). The banks that barely passed would also have to boost their finances in coming months.

But while markets appeared sanguine about the results — the euro barely moved — experts warned that the tests were likely not rigorous enough because they did not simulate a debt default, which many expect is inevitable in Greece.

For more: 8 banks flunk European stress test; 16 more barely pass - USATODAY.com

US political Scene: Poll: 71% shun Republican party handling of debt crisis

Americans are unimpressed with their political leaders' handling of the debt ceiling crisis, with a new CBS News poll showing a majority disapprove of all the involved parties' conduct, but Republicans in Congress fare the worst, with just 21 percent backing their resistance to raising taxes.


President Obama earned the most generous approval ratings for his handling of the weeks-old negotiations, but still more people said they disapproved (48 percent) than approved (43 percent) of what he has done and said.

For more: Poll: 71% shun GOP handling of debt crisis - Political Hotsheet - CBS News

Robin Hood Day, August 6, 2011 - People Power

Robin Hood Day, August 6, 2011 is the day when you can make a statement that you, not corporations or governments are in charge of your destiny.

On that day, try not to use your computer; T.V. ; your phone; car;  or to go shopping for things you don't really need;  in fact, try and lay-off whatever else that has become a wasteful, time consuming and expensive habit to you.  Instead, use that time to be with your loved ones, or to do whatever you have always been wanting to do for yourself.

Obviously, some people  still have to go to work, use their cars, phones and computers, but those should at least try to pick up on these suggestions when they get off work.

Even if you can eliminate only one of the above listed items you will have made a major step in the right direction.

Get the control over your own destiny back again.  Best of all, it will make you feel good about yourself.

Please pass it on

EU-Digest

Jazz Switzerland; Deep Purple clinches Montreux Jazz Festival

"The best way to describe Deep Purple’s performance at last night’s closing of the 45th Montreux Jazz Festival, is to tell you that I left with a renewed vow to collect and listen to all the old Purple, Sabbath, and Rainbow albums I can beg, borrow or steal.

While their cover of Hush may have put the band on the charts initially, their work on songs like Child in Time makes me think I didn’t waste enough of my youth.

The concert wasn’t the loudest I’ve heard this year – the Guiness Book of World Records once listed DP as “the loudest pop band ever” - but the classic extreme funk sound of Purple was in fine form last night and a credit to every hard rock band playing into their would be retirement years (front man Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover were both born in 1945)."

For more: WHEELS ENTHUSIAST » Deep Purple clinches Montreux Jazz Festival

7/17/11

Israel: Not Befitting a Democracy

Israel’s reputation as a vibrant democracy has been seriously tarnished by a new law intended to stifle outspoken critics of its occupation of the West Bank.

The law, approved in a 47-to-38 vote by Parliament, effectively bans any public call for a boycott — economic, cultural or academic — against Israel or its West Bank settlements, making such action a punishable offense.

It would enable Israeli citizens to bring civil suits against people and organizations instigating such boycotts, and subject violators to monetary penalties. Companies and organizations supporting a boycott could be barred from bidding on government contracts. Nonprofit groups could lose tax benefits.


For more: Not Befitting a Democracy - NYTimes.com

Soccer Women's World Championship: Bronze for Sweden.

Sweden beat France yesterday with 2-1 and secured bronze in the Women´s World Cup in Germany. The great hero in the Swedish team was Marie Hammarström who made Sweden´s second goal eight minutes before the final whistle. She scored when Sweden was pushed back by the French team.

For more: Bronze for Sweden in Women´s World Cup - Stockholm News

Germany: Womans World Cup Soccer: Japan beats USA 5-3 after penalty shootout and great comeback play

Japan defeated the United States 5-3 after a 3-1 penalty shootout in the final of Sunday's FIFA Women's World Cup in Frankfurt, Germany.

The teams played to a draw 2-2 after 120 minutes of regulation time and extra time. It was a fantastic, fair and exiting game, which saw Japan holding their own and coming back from nearly certain defeat twice, through perseverance and beautiful play.

EU-Digest

Aircraft Industry: New aircraft engines promise environmental benefits - by John Dean

Aircraft engine manufacturer CFM International has announced the 1,001th innovation in its new LEAP engine, which is being hailed as a major breakthrough in environmental benefits. The company, a joint venture between General Electric and Safran, said the 1,001th innovation was a blade for a fan that is so lightweight that it reduces the weight of the aircraft by 1,000 pounds.

Made of woven carbon fibres, rather than all-metal, the fan will, according to the company contribute half of the 15 per cent fuel efficiency improvement which the LEAP engine will bring about.
Also unveiling new innovations in aero engine design are Airbus and Rolls-Royce, who have just announced that they will jointly develop the A350-1000 aircraft with more powerful Trent XWB engines, offering more payload and a larger range. The most powerful engine ever developed for an Airbus plane, it is due to enter service in 2017.

Fabrice Bregier, Airbus' Chief Operating Officer, said that the engine would produce 25 per cent less fuel use than its nearest competitor and cuts in CO2 emissions.

For more: New aircraft engines promise environmental benefits | Business | The Earth Times

Libya stalemate begins to show signs of breaking

The stalemate in Libya has in the past week appeared to begin giving way to the advancing rebels, as the opposition was buoyed by the news their regime was recognized by a number of major powers.

On the battle front, after months of NATO-led bombings and seesaw battles, the rebels fighting Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's government forces reached towns only dozens of kilometers from the capital Tripoli.

And on the political front, the opposition National Transitional Council (NTC) was recognized as "the legitimate governing authority in Libya" by more than 30 countries in Istanbul on Friday.

Libya stalemate begins to show signs of breaking

EU Parliament President meets Syrian Opposition

On Wednesday last week; the President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek held talks in Brussels with Haitham al-Maleh, a prominent human rights defender and a leading figure of the Syrian opposition, Global Arab Network reported according to a press statement.

“I am very glad to have met Haitham al-Maleh in person, here in Brussels,” Buzek said following the meeting. “The calls that I and the European Parliament have issued to demand his immediate release from Syrian prison have been answered. He was allowed to leave Syria, but his country is still in chains. The Syrian regime is still killing people every day.”

The EP President said they had talked about the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people, their courage and determination, and about the prospects for change. “There is no doubt that a dialogue at the tip of a gun is not a true dialogue. With tens of hundreds of innocent civilians dead, with continued repressions and military force directed against ordinary people, the Syrian regime has lost all legitimacy.”

For more: EU Parliament President met Syrian Opposition | English | NEWS | DayPress

The Power of Religion To Influence Corporate Responsibility

The recent experience of the near calamitous meltdown of the financial system was a clear indication of what can happen when unbridled greed and inadequate regulation are given free rein. The controversies swirling around News Corp are another ugly example of what happens when an ethical values system isn't in place in the boardroom and powerful, intimidating personalities are given permission to create a culture that prizes "scooping" their competitors over serving the public good.

The question is: what can these debacles teach us about the role of ethics and morality in the marketplace and, perhaps more importantly, are we ready to learn?

As the director of the Faith Consistent Investment ministry of my congregation, I have been engaged in shareholder advocacy and corporate social responsibility since the early 70s. Recognizing the enormous influence global corporations have to impact the "common good", my colleagues and I press CEOs and management to scrutinize their business practices on a myriad of issues from policies on lending and executive compensation, to water use in drought-prone areas and to human rights abuses in the supply chain wherever they source products or services. In the early 90's I began to notice that corporate management referred quite often to the unique culture of their particular company and the values and practices that flowed from that culture. It became clear to me that there was a concerted effort on the part of responsible management to codify these values within the context of an identity statement that was part of the organizational DNA that would govern both its internal and external behavior.

For more: Rev. Seamus P. Finn, OMI: The Power of Religion To Influence Corporate Responsibilit

U.S. Women's Soccer and the Problem of American Exceptionalism - by Rabbi Joshua Hess:

"As I write this article a few hours after the U.S. Women's Soccer team beat France in the World Cup semifinals, I know that if they lose in the finals, the American excitement toward soccer will wane once again. To be perfectly honest, soccer in our country will continue to be considered a boring, low-scoring game that rarely generates interest or excitement among American sports fans.

But, for now, U.S. Soccer -- nay, U.S. Women's Soccer -- is the talk of the town. Some have argued that it's the talk of the town by default, because all the other sports are involved in contentious labor disputes; and baseball, well, September is still far away. Others contend that they have become the darlings of our country because of their flair for the dramatic and the thrill of their quarterfinal victory over Brazil. While these factors have contributed to the sudden popularity of soccer in the U.S., I believe that there is a far more significant reason why the country is captivated by these women, and it serves as an important reminder to us about our priorities and goals in life.

We Americans have this obsessive need to be the best at whatever we do. We are the most powerful country in the world, and we never miss an opportunity to remind others of our superiority. Our culture and politics are based on "American Exceptionalism," which means that we believe that we are better than everyone else. Therefore, if there is an activity or program that we aren't the best at, we tend to quickly rationalize and explain that our deficiency should not be confused with our inadequacy. "Who needs soccer," we say to the rest of the world. It's not that important to us. We play football, a real man's sport."

For more: Rabbi Joshua Hess: U.S. Women's Soccer and the Problem of American Exceptionalism

Harry Potter, Jesus, and Me - by Andrew Peterson

That day I met John Granger, bought his book The Hidden Key to Harry Potter, and was even more hooked than I was before. He pointed out so many interesting themes, archetypes, alchemical nuances, and even direct quotes from Rowling herself about the Christian content in the books that I became more frustrated and mystified than ever by the outcry from Christians against the books. As weird as it sounds, I felt bad for Rowling. She was working hard, telling a great story, lighting up my imagination like few authors ever have (I'll let you guess which), and she was being demonized by the church I love-the church of which she was supposedly a part.

For me: Harry Potter, Jesus, and Me | Movies & TV | Christianity Today

Alcoa’s Alumina Refinery in Spain Substitutes Fuel Oil with Natural Gas

Alcoa, a manufacturer of primary and fabricated aluminum, is enhancing the environmental performance and energy efficacy of its alumina refinery located in San Ciprian, Spain, by shifting to natural gas from fuel oil. The company has set up liquefied natural gas storage tanks at the alumina complex.

Alcoa’s shift to natural gas is the outcome of the combined efforts by the company and the Regional Minister of Economics and Industry. The shift from fuel oil to natural gas will be completed once the Marina pipeline starts its scheduled operation in 2013. The usage of natural gas is expected to reduce CO emissions by up to 20,000 tons per year.

LNG storage will deliver around 8% of the total fuel consumed at the refinery, which currently uses 300,000 tons of fuel oil annually. Alcoa Spain encourages environmental performance, energy efficacy and sustainable development. In 2008, it became the first company to ink a deal with the Galician Regional Government and the Ministry of Environment to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Jose Ramon Camino, who serves as Vice President of Alcoa Europe, stated that the company expects considerable environmental advantages with the shift to natural gas.

For more: Alcoa’s Alumina Refinery in Spain Substitutes Fuel Oil with Natural Gas

7/16/11

US Economy: Pentagon's budget spending amounts to more than all other federal agencies combined:

The Tea Party Republican majority passed a $17 billion increase to the defense budget while slashing funding for everything else. At $649 billion, the Pentagon's budget amounts to more government spending than all other federal agencies combined. This price tag also accounts for over 50 percent of all unrestricted spending in the federal budget. In fact, this level of spending approaches 45 percent of global defense spending, almost as much as every other country on the planet combined!

Tea Party Republicans talk endlessly about deficit reduction, cutting government spending, shrinking government, and cutting investments benefiting middle and low-income families, but defense spending continues to grow.

Tea Party Republicans claim defense spending increases are essential for national security. But Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen doesn't agree. He believes the Pentagon has not been forced to cut unnecessary or ineffective spending. Earlier this year, Chairman Mullen said, "…with the increasing defense budget, which is almost double, it hasn't forced us to make the hard trades. It hasn't forced us to prioritize. It hasn't forced us to do the analysis. And it hasn't forced us to limit ourselves…"

The latest debate on defense spending should be a wake up call for America. Without support for reduction in defense spending, it will be almost impossible to put the country back on a sustainable fiscal course.

Euro Fighter Typhoon outdid Rafale in Libya, claims four-nation consortium

With just a fortnight left for the opening of commercial bids for the Indian military's biggest ever tender, four European nations — the U.K., Germany, Spain and Italy — bidding jointly for 126 fighter planes promised an open door technology transfer and emphasised the superiority of their Eurofighter Typhoon over its sole competitor, the French Rafale, during ongoing operations in Libya 

“The technology transfer is very attractive,” said senior officers of the four-nation consortium while senior Royal Air Force officers, sidestepping the morality issue of bombing a sovereign country, claimed that the Typhoon has outperformed the Rafale in Libya. 

Asked whether the source code — a bone of contention with the Americans who were knocked out of the competition earlier this year along with the Russians and the Swedish — would also be transferred, they said, “everything is on the table.'' 

For more: The Hindu : News / National : Typhoon outdid Rafale in Libya, claims four-nation consortium

Anglo-Saxon conservative forces take aim at EU and EMU

The conservative US non-profit organization "e21: Economic Policies for the 21st Century", which is teamed up with the "Manhattan Institute for Policy Research",  "the Shadow Open Market Committee" and the "ObamaCare Watch" is on the war path against Europe. On Friday it put out another bundle of negative news reports on Europe's economy from US news sources and the British eurosceptic Financial Times.

Among the members of its board of Directors are: William Kristol editor of the Washington-based political magazine, The Weekly Standard. Widely recognized as one of the nation's leading political analysts and commentators, Mr. Kristol regularly appears on Fox News Sunday and on the Fox News Channel. Before starting The Weekly Standard in 1995, Mr. Kristol led the Project for the Republican Future, where he helped shape the strategy that produced the 1994 Republican congressional victory. Prior to that, Mr. Kristol served as chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle during the Bush administration and to Secretary of Education William Bennett under President Reagan.

Peter Wehner is the present Managing Director of the Washington DC office of e21 .  Mr. Wehner was the former Deputy Assistant of President Bush and served as Director of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives. He is  is a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.  Mr. Wehner also served in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush Administrations prior to joining the Bush White House. Prior to joining the Bush Jr. Administration, Wehner was executive director for policy for Empower America, a conservative public-policy organization.

EU-Digest

Greek PM says time for Europe to wake up

Papandreou said that several of the options that he had suggested and were rejected a year and a half ago, such as buying back debt, issuing common euro zone bonds and keeping credit rating agencies in check, were now on Europe's negotiating table.

"In an ultraconservative Europe, I would even say phobic, the truth is it took time for these t houghts to mature with our partners and for them to be convinced that these proposals are not an alibi in order to avoid our own responsibilities," Papandreou said in the interview.

Greece's total outstanding debt is around 370 billion euros ($523 billion). Most economists regard the debt burden, at around 160 percent of gross domestic product, to be unsustainable as it stifles growth, with the economy seen contracting by nearly 4 percent this year after a 4.5 percent slump last year.


For more: Greek PM says time for Europe to wake up: Paper - The Economic Times

Free Speech: Iran says it can block ‘Internet in a suitcase’ program aimed at dissidents

Iran’s intelligence minister (showing the true colors of his countries regime of repression of free speech and human rights) said Friday that his country has found a way to block the so-called “Internet in a suitcase,” a program reportedly developed by the U.S. to bring online access to dissidents around the world.

The minister, Heidar Moslehi, told Muslim worshippers that Iran was aware of the program from the start. “We prepared a solution for it,” he said in a speech broadcast live on state radio. He did not elaborate.

For more: Iran says it can block ‘Internet in a suitcase’ program aimed at dissidents - The Washington Post

Italy Parliament Approves Bill To Balance Budget By 2014

Italy's lower house of Parliament on Friday approved a EUR40 billion deficit-reduction package proposed by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government, giving the final stamp of approval to measures aimed at dispelling recent market fears over the credit-worthiness of Europe's third-largest economy.

The government's bill won 314 votes from the 630-member chamber, not quite an absolute majority but enough to muster passage given absences and abstentions. The vote came a day after the Senate passed the austerity budget plan.

The government's measures include public spending cuts--including a wage freeze--and revenue-boosting measures--including higher taxes on banks--designed to allow Italy to balance its budget in 2014, as required by the European Union. The budget deficit was 4.6% of the country's gross domestic product in 2010.

For more: UPDATE: Italy Parliament Approves Bill To Balance Budget By 2014 - WSJ.com

7/15/11

Tourism: Finding a clean beach in Europe and other destinations - Blue Flag Program

The Blue Flag is a voluntary eco-label awarded to over 3650 beaches and marinas in 44 countries across Europe, South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada and the Caribbean.

The Blue Flag Programme is owned and run by the non-government, non-profit organisation the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE).

The Blue Flag works towards sustainable development of beaches and marinas through strict criteria dealing with Water Quality, Environmental Education and Information, Environmental Management, and Safety and Other Services.

For more: Blue Flag Programme

Uprising in Belarus: Internet Generation Takes on Europe's Last Dictator

The end of Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko's era appears to be approaching, as thousands take to the streets in Minsk to protest against the country's economic crisis. The Internet-savvy demonstrators are finding ever-more-creative ways to voice dissent, but Lukashenko is responding with violence.

Uprising in Belarus: Internet Generation Takes on Europe's Last Dictator - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Quality of Life: 51% Say Children Today Have Worse Quality Of Life Than Those A Generation Ago

Half of Americans nationwide now believe that today’s children are worse off than those of the previous generation.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 30% of American Adults believe the quality of life for children today is better than it was a generation ago. Fifty-one percent (51%) say children’s quality of life is worse today, while 12% believe the two generations are about the same.

For more: 51% Say Children Today Have Worse Quality Of Life Than Those A Generation Ago - Rasmussen Reports™