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1/31/12

Stock Market: Facebook goes Public and IPO could come with surprise twist

is expected to file as early as Wednesday to sell stock on the open market in what will be the most talked-about initial public offering since Google in 2004, maybe since the go-go 1990s.

Around the nation, regular investors and IPO watchers are anticipating some kind of twist — perhaps a provision for the 800 million users of Facebook, a company that promotes itself as all about personal connections, to get in on the action. "Pandemonium is what I expect in terms of demand for this stock," says Scott Sweet, senior managing partner at IPO Boutique, an advisory firm. "I don't think Wall Street would want to anger Facebook users."

Facebook is expected to raise as much as $10 billion US, which will value the company at $75 billion to $100 billion, making it one of the largest IPOs. A stock usually starts trading three to four months after the filing.

The highly anticipated filing will reveal how much Facebook intends to raise from the stock market, what it plans to do with the money and details on its own financial performance and future growth prospects.

Note EU-Digest: To show gratitude to the Facebook membership for making Facebook what it is today and to turn these members into true loyal stakeholders in the company,  Mark Zuckerberg  should give each Facebook member one share in the company at a value of $1.00 and make the share certificate downloadable. He should also give Facebook members the opportunity to buy preferred stock in the company. Why not?  

For more: Facebook IPO could come with surprise twist - Business - CBC News

US Economy: Why Obama's economic recovery is impressive - by Joe Weisenthal

The 2012 election will revolve around the economy, and somehow Obama will have to make the case that he should be re-elected with GDP growing below historical trend, and unemployment above 8 percent.

James Pethokoukis of the Conservative American Enterprise Institute has been doing a lot of work comparing the Obama recovery to the Reagan recovery, pointing out how much more robust the latter was.

In a new post, he takes aim at the suggestion that comparing the two recoveries is somehow unfair because Obama had to deal with the aftermath of the housing bust, whereas Reagan didn't.

For more: US Economy: Why Obama's economic recovery is impressive | GlobalPost

Beijing seven minutes from destruction when a 2.5 ton satellite crashed to Earth at 300mph - by Allan Hall and Katie Silver

Seven minutes saved huge areas of Beijing from destruction last year when a 2.5 ton satellite hurtled towards earth, it has been revealed.

The Chinese capital was directly in the flight path of Germany's research satellite Rosat when it plunged into the Bay of Bengal last October, two decades after it's launch.

The consequences of chunks of the 2.5 ton satellite falling into the city would have been catastrophic; huge craters, shattered fuel lines, explosions, wrecked buildings and untold human casualties in a metropolis of 20 million people.

For more: Beijing seven minutes from destruction¿ when a 2.5 ton satellite crashed to Earth at 300mph | Mail Online

US Presidential Elections - Florida primary polls: Romney wins over Gingrich after dumping $ 14 million there

The former Massachusetts governor had a solid double-digit lead in eve-of-vote opinion polls in the Sunshine State. The swing state, which could prove pivotal in November's election, is the fourth and largest state so far to hold a nominating contest.

Correspondents say Romney's win today would be unlikely to kill the Gingrich candidacy, but could give the former governor unstoppable momentum.

For more: BBC News - Florida primary: Romney eyes win over Gingrich

France - its all about liberté, égalité, fraternité - France's Armenia genocide law put on hold

France's new law punishing denial of the Armenian genocide was put on hold Tuesday after politicians opposed to the legislation demanded that its constitutionality be examined.

On Tuesday two separate groups of French politicians who oppose the legislation -- from both the Senate and the lower house of parliament -- said they had formally requested the constitutional council to examine the law.

The groups said they each had gathered more than the minimum 60 signatures required to ask the council to test the law's constitutionality.

"This is an atomic bomb for the Elysee (Sarkozy's office) which didn't see it coming," said deputy Lionel Tardy, who said that most of the 65 signatories from the lower house were, like him, from Sarkozy's UMP party.

Note EU-Digest: whatever the arguments are about this proposed and controversial law - the issue mainly relates to, on the one hand, constitutionally established French laws on freedom of speech, and on the other hand, the infringement this law could have on it. Passing this so-called genocide law would certainly put a blemish on what the rest of the world considers one of the highest ideals embodied in the French revolution: liberté, égalité, fraternité. This famous phrase obviously also greatly impacts on the right to freedom of speech. By throwing this undemocratic genocide law off the table France would not only show the World it still respects its hard fought revolutionary and democratic ideals, but in the same breath also teach the two countries in question ( Armenia and Turkey) a lesson or two about the importance of freedom of speech. 
 
For more: AFP: France's Armenia genocide law put on hold

Eurozone unemployment hits Euro-era high of 10.4%

Unemployment in the 17-nation eurozone ended 2011 at 10.4 per cent, a new record high for the single currency since its launch at the start of 1999, official figures showed Tuesday.


Eurostat, the EU's statistics office, said the rate in December was unchanged, as November's was revised upwards from a previous estimate of 10.3 per cent. Unemployment has been steadily rising over the past year — in December 2010, it stood at 9.5 per cent — largely because of Europe's debt crisis. The agency said just under 16.5 million people were unemployed in the eurozone, up 751,000 on the year before.

The highest unemployment rate remains in Spain, where 22.9 per cent of the working population were without work, though Greece is nearing with 19.2 per cent rate. The lowest rate in the eurozone is Austria's 4.1 per cent.


For more: Eurozone unemployment hits Euro-era high - Business - CBC News

While temperatures rise, denialists reach lower

Over the weekend, two amazingly bad articles were published about climate change. Both were loaded with mistakes, misinterpretations, and outright misinformation, and are simply so factually wrong that they almost read like parodies.

Just so we’re clear here. The first was in the Wall Street Journal. The article, called No Need to Panic About Global Warming, is a textbook example of misleading prose. It’s laden to bursting with factual errors, but the one that stood out to me most was this whopper: "Perhaps the most inconvenient fact is the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now."

The WSJ OpEd makes a lot of hay from having 16 scientists sign it, but of those only 4 are actually climate scientists. And that bragging right is crushed to dust when you find out that the WSJ turned down an article about the reality of global warming that was signed by 255 actual climate scientists. In fact, as Media Matters reports, more of the signers of the WSJ OpEd have ties to oil interests than actually publish peer-reviewed climate research.

When I read it, I thought that OpEd was really scraping the bottom of the barrel. But then the Daily Mail chimed in and I discovered that barrel gets a lot deeper.

They printed an article by David Rose called Forget global warming — it’s Cycle 25 we need to worry about (and if NASA scientists are right the Thames will be freezing over again).

By "Cycle 25" he’s referring to the solar activity cycle — which I’ll get to in a moment. But first, the most egregiously awful thing about the Mail article is the angle it takes on new results released by The Met Office, the National Weather Service for the UK. The subheadline for the Mail article is "Met Office releases new figures which show no warming in 15 years", which is a bit odd given that the very first two paragraphs of the Met’s press release say: 2012 is expected to be around 0.48 °C warmer than the long-term (1961-1990) global average of 14.0 °C, with a predicted likely range of between 0.34 °C and 0.62 °C, according to the Met Office annual global temperature forecast.

The middle of this range would place 2012 within the top 10 warmest years in a series which goes back to 1850.

For more: While temperatures rise, denialists reach lower | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine

Investments: Is China really the best place to invest? - by Larry Swedroe

One of my major focuses is demonstrating that so much of the "conventional wisdom" of investing is wrong. One of the more persistent beliefs held by investors is that if you want high returns, you should invest in countries experiencing rapid economic growth.

Antti Ilmanen, in his book Expected Returns, reports that from 1993 through 2009, China's GDP growth rate averaged more than 10 percent. If ever there was a test that would demonstrate that high rates of economic growth translate into high investment returns, this should have been it. Yet, Ilmanen found that U.S. dollar-based investor would have earned negative returns over the period. The negative return has now been extended to 19 years as the iShares Trust FTSE China 25 Index Fund (FXI) returned just 2.1 percent in 2010, and then lost 17.7 percent in 2011. 
 
If the Chinese example doesn't convince you that the conventional wisdom is wrong, perhaps the cumulative weight of the evidence from the following studies will: One study found that for the period 1900-2000, the real return from stocks and a country's growth rate was negatively correlated (-0.27); another study ranked 83 countries and found that the lowest growth countries outperformed the fastest growing countries by almost 7 percent a year.

Note EU-Digest: "therefore, based on the above - and your investment security: invest in Europe. It will pay off, in addition to giving you, the investor, the security of knowing your capital is invested in a democratic society, which can not suddenly change the rules on foreign investments without due process."


For more: Is China really the best place to invest? - CBS News

IRAN: DRUMS OF WAR BEATING LOUDER: U.S. Mounts Further Military Build-Up in Persian Gulf - by Ben Schreiner

With the drums of war beating ever louder against Iran, the U.S. military has quickly moved to reestablish a war footing in the Persian Gulf. The preparations for a looming military confrontation thus continue apace.
 
According to the Washington Post (1/27), “The Pentagon is rushing to send a large floating base for commando teams to the Middle East.” As the paper reports, the USS Ponce, a 40-year old amphibious transport dock previously set for decommission, will now be converted into a special ops hub, and then likely sent to the Persian Gulf. 

The Pentagon, the Post reports, is seeking to retrofit the USS Ponce on an accelerated timeline. In fact, the military has gone ahead and waived “normal procurement rules because any delay presented a ‘national security risk.’” At the same time, the Wall Street Journal reports (1/28) the Pentagon has notified Congress that it will divert an additional $82 million to refine the Massive Ordinance Penetrator (MOP). (The MOP is a 30,000-pound “bunker-buster” bomb “specifically designed to take out the hardened fortifications built by Iran and North Korea to cloak their nuclear programs.”)

Yet despite the ongoing military preparations, the power elites in both Washington and Tel Aviv remain divided as to whether to go ahead with a strike against Iran. As Jim Lobe noted, this growing debate has actually led to "a number of influential members of the [U.S.] foreign policy establishment - including several prominent liberal interventionists who had supported the Iraq war - to warn against any further escalation either by the US or Israel." 

For more: IRAN: DRUMS OF WAR BEATING LOUDER: U.S. Mounts Further Military Build-Up in Persian Gulf

Another US Opinion About Europe "FAQ: The treaty that could save Europe. Or not." - By Brad Plumer:

"It’s been awhile since we looked at the mess in Europe, but this is a big week. European leaders are meeting in Brussels to adopt a new deficit treaty. And depending on whom you ask, talks over Greek debt restructuring are either progressing nicely — or threatening the continent.

So Europe is still a mess?
It sure seems that way. The European Central Bank has managed to ease the short-term market turmoil through its backdoor bailout scheme. But various euro zone countries are still trying (and failing) to cut their debt loads with growth-suppressing austerity. And there’s still very much the possibility that the Greek debt talks could break down. If Greece ends up leaving the euro zone, which would be terrible for everybody."

For more: FAQ: The treaty that could save Europe. Or not. - The Washington Post

"J'accuse!" - How 'Europe' became a dirty word in the US election

As Florida goes to the polls in its primary election for the Republican presidential candidate, how did Europe-bashing become such an issue? 

"J'accuse!"

There is only one presidential contender fluent in the French tongue. But if Mitt Romney wins the US Republican nomination, he is likely to stick to plain English when he delivers what he hopes will be a killer blow against President Barack Obama in November's general election.

For more: BBC News - How 'Europe' became a dirty word in the US election

How Swedes and Norwegians Broke the Power of the '1 Percent'

While many of us are working to ensure that the Occupy movement will have a lasting impact, it’s worthwhile to consider other countries where masses of people succeeded in nonviolently bringing about a high degree of democracy and economic justice. Sweden and Norway, for example, both experienced a major power shift in the 1930s after prolonged nonviolent struggle. They “fired” the top 1 percent of people who set the direction for society and created the basis for something different.

For more: How Swedes and Norwegians Broke the Power of the '1 Percent' | World | AlterNet

1/30/12

Syrian troops retake control of suburbs outside Damascus - Is Assad ready to pack his bags?

Syrian troops reasserted control Monday of rebellious suburbs outside Damascus, retaking some districts amid stiff resistance as the opposition reported dozens killed in fierce fighting.

Armed rebels were falling back to avoid the government’s onslaught, said opposition activists, as regime tanks and troops pulled into rebel bastions near the capital.

“We’ve entered the stage of street war,” said an opposition activist in the Damascus suburb of Duma, who asked not to be named for security reasons. “Today, one side is gaining control, tomorrow the other side. Today, the regime is in control.” The increase in violence came as diplomats in New York prepared to debate Syria’s future.

On Tuesday, the United Nations is scheduled to consider an Arab League plan, backed by Western nations, that calls for Syrian President Bashar Assad to relinquish power as part of a transition to a unity government and the holding of new elections. The Syrian government has condemned the blueprint as an affront to its sovereignty.

For more: Syrian troops retake control of suburbs outside Damascus - latimes.com

Europe signs up to German-led fiscal pact

Only Britain and the Czech Republic refused to sign a fiscal compact in March that will impose quasi-automatic sanctions on countries that breach European Union budget deficit limits and will enshrine balanced budget rules in national law.

The accord was eagerly greeted by the European Central Bank which has long pressed euro zone governments to put their houses in order.
 

"It is the first step towards a fiscal union. It certainly will strengthen confidence in the euro area," ECB President Mario Draghi said.

For more: Europe signs up to German-led fiscal pact | Reuters

China's view on how Europe can get back to work

Beyond the shadow of a doubt, the reform of labor markets is ultimately the most critical part of the reform process, in the eurozone and across the European Union(EU). Only successful measures in this arena can bring about a lasting, future-oriented turnaround for Europe. The European heads of state have a much-needed opportunity to focus their Jan 30 summit meeting on strategies to reduce unemployment.

While the goal is clear - growth must be stimulated everywhere and unemployment must be brought down - we must resist the temptation to believe that there is any one-size-fits-all solution. Far from it. Each country can, and each country must, develop its own strategy for labor market reform. Each country, not Brussels or anybody else, is thus in charge of its own destiny. That is so for a very simple reason. Labor market conditions, requirements, options and challenges differ from one country to the next, often significantly.

Some countries have a very high share of services in their national economy, and thus depend greatly on domestic demand. Others rely heavily on exports and must prepare themselves from possible slowdowns on that front. Then there are also those who still have to evolve from an over-reliance on agrarian structures. Yet again others must focus especially on reducing dramatic levels of youth unemployment.

For more: How Europe can get back to work|Comment|chinadaily.com.cn

Dutch ISPs refuse to block The Pirate Bay

In a battle reminiscent of the UPC vs the record industry of 2010 and a foreshadow of what may happen in Ireland once a new statutory instrument amending the Copyright Act 2000 is signed into law, two of the largest ISPs in The Netherlands, KPN and T-Mobile, have said they will not be blocking subscriber access to The Pirate Bay. 

This is despite the Court of the Hague ruling two weeks ago that ISPs Ziggo and rival XS4ALL have to block access to The Pirate Bay after a successful case by Hollywood-supported anti-piracy group BREIN.

According to torrent blog TorrentFreak, both KPN and T-Mobile argue that blocking websites is a threat to the open internet.

For more: SOPA in Europe – Dutch ISPs refuse to block The Pirate Bay - New Media - New Media | siliconrepublic.com - Ireland's Technology News Service

Iran may vote EU oil sales ban - Possible oil price spike to $150 seen

Iran sent conflicting signals in a dispute with the West over its nuclear ambitions on Sunday, vowing to stop oil exports soon to “some” countries but postponing a parliamentary debate on a proposed halt of sales to the European Union.

The Islamic Republic declared itself optimistic about a visit by UN nuclear experts that began on Sunday but also warned the inspectors to be “professional” or see Tehran reducing cooperation with the world body on atomic matters.


For more: Iran may vote EU oil sales ban - Oil price spike to $150 seen

Europe ready to end crises and legislate on deficits

Heads of state and government from the 27 European Union states gather from today from 3:00 pm (1400 GMT) in Brussels, with Belgium on strike against further spending cuts envisaged after yet another credit rating downgrade.

For once, there is no need for "crisis" adjectives -- the rhetoric on Europe has changed much in the two years since the scale of the problems in Athens threw the eurozone into political chaos. "Imminent, very, very soon," was how senior EU sources described on Sunday night the prospect of agreement on the conditions required to underpin a fresh willingness to fix a new international bailout.

At the summit, leaders want to focus on new treaty obligations for minimal deficits -- in theory, ending ever-rising government debt -- plus the legal framework for a rescue fund dubbed a financial "firewall."

EU-Digest

1/29/12

Twitter: please dump this new censorship policy immediately

On January 28th, and until further notice, EU-Digest suspended the publishing of selected reports on Twitter (https://twitter.com/#!/EU_Digest ) in view of Twitter's plans to allow country-specific censorship of tweets that might break local laws.

We believe this new Twitter policy is a complete role reversal for this innovative and young company, which from its start-up has always prided itself to promote uncensored expression, 140 characters at a time.

Twitter's decision to align itself with local censors is depriving cyber dissidents in repressive countries around the world of an indispensable tool for information and organization.

We urge Twitter to dump this undemocratic censorship policy immediately.

The Arab Spring Revisited: How Arab Monarchies Can Survive - by Prof. Dr. Ludger Kuehnhardt

"Revolutions are not processes of social engineering. They unfold as an intrinsically unpredictable flow of events. Structurally, revolutions will go through phases, often through contradictory periods. Hardly any revolution will evolve without turbulances and phases of consolidation. And: Revolutions do not happen without moments of stagnation, surprising advancement and unexpected transformation.

How can one explain the almost paradoxical phenomenon that hereditary monarchies – at least for the time being – seem to be less affected by the protest against personal rule and patrimonial authoritarianism that has resonated across the Arab world? One initial observation is undeniable: Saudi-Arabia is particularly interested in supporting Arab monarchies and it is doing so with an enormous amount of money. In fact, Saudi Arabia may even be interested in preventing too far-reaching democratization in Arab republics. But the vested interests of the Saudi family alone do not explain why Arab monarchies tend to be more resilient to the current wave of protest to be heard all over the Arab world. One has to go beyond the obvious and look for structural explanations. Most evident – and well beyond the Arab world – is the fact that power based on traditional legitimacy continues to play a stabilizing role in the transformation of societies and their political systems.

The hereditary rulers in the Arab world may not have so much time. What is truly new of the events of 2011 is the spirit of the Arab Spring: self-empowerment of Arab societies, bringing back dignity and hope to frustrated and marginalized societies, enabling millions of citizens to act as proud, self-confident and open partners of their neighbors. This might only be the first step in a long, complex and often vexed journey. Currently, the main focus among transatlantic partners is on the future of Arab republics which are torn between the most extreme possible scenarios. Some may think that Arab monarchies will be the last to reform and hence can be neglected right now. There are good reasons to argue for the opposite. Unreformed Arab monarchies could undermine any progress currently made in Arab republics. But reformed, transformed and consolidated Arab monarchies could become reliable agents for change and legitimacy in a renewed Arab world."

For more: The Arab Spring Revisited: How Arab Monarchies Can Survive - Analysis

China, world economy dragon mummy to Europe

The Chinese People’s Republic has opened up to negotiations in the international arena. In official documents they have substituted the term ‘peace rise’ when referring to the country’s model of development with the more harmonious slogan ‘peace development’. 30% of its foreign investment has already been 'China's scramble for Europe' on ecfr.eu" directed to the Mediterranean countries otherwise known as the PIIGS "Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy, countries most troubled by the economic crisis. They actually look forward to doing more business with central and eastern Europe.

All of this growth has led to a growing consumption amidst the young Chinese generation. Take the case of Guo Jingming. In Europe the teenage romance novel author is known for accusations of plagiarism in three of his bestsellers. However in China the 28-year-old’s status remains elevated to that of ‘hero’, perhaps also in light of the some twelve million euros (9.94 million pounds) he has earned since the beginning of his literary career. He represents this kind of ‘Chinese dream’ of ‘living fast and loving hard’ in a life sauce which smacks of Asian sweet-and-sour. ‘Europe is regarded by many Chinese as a continent of intellectuals, which is too conservative and too focused on its own affairs,’ explains the French Courrier International. In a word, Europe is ‘boring’. Meanwhile, European literature and culture has brought our attention to China via the works of the late Polish and Italian journalists Ryszard Kapuściński and Tiziano Terzani, or the director Bernardo Bertolucci’s outstanding film The Last Emperor (1987).

For more: China, world economy dragon mummy to Europe

Human Rights Watch: West should do more to support democracy

Western countries should do more to support democracy and human rights in the Arab world, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today at the release of its 2012 World Report.

The 676-page report was launched for the first time in Cairo, “because it is the capital of the Arab world,” said Kenneth Roth, HRW’s executive director. He was present alongside Heba Morayef, HRW’s Cairo-based Middle East and North Africa (MENA) researcher. The annual review looks at more than 90 countries, but this year’s report focuses on the international community’s reactions to the Arab Spring.

Roth said the report “reaches the sad but unavoidable conclusion that western policy for the Arab world has been one of containment. The West has treated Arab people as if they are to be feared, while promoting democracy elsewhere. In the MENA, they supported an array of autocrats as long as they supported western interests.” These Western interests include limiting the rise of political Islam, protecting Israel, maintaining the flow of oil, and stemming migration to Europe, Roth added.

For more: Human Rights Watch: West should do more to support democracy | Al-Masry Al-Youm: Today's News from Egypt

Europe 'deserves to elect its leaders' - by Joe Coney.

There is an important democratic gap in the EU. At Stronger Europe we believe the president of the European Commission should be directly elected.

The Commission president currently determines the agenda in the Commission and he appoints the 27 commissioners who staff its ministries. The person who fills this role should have the legitimacy which the European electorate conferred on him.

There are some who disagree with the need for change, pointing to the fact that the Commission is approved by the democratically European Parliament.

An elected Commission president would be responsible for the actions and policies of the commissioners he appoints. His election would grant him the mandate to do this, a mandate that is lacking in European politics.  Currently the technocratic functioning of the major European institutions may have some advantages: flexibility, rapidity of decision-making and quality of analysis, but we have also seen its limits of it.

Decisions made in the early hours, at summits detached from the reality of Europe, by a handful of European politicians, some elected, but significantly some not, have failed repeatedly.

For more: Europe 'deserves to elect its leaders' | New Europe

USA - 99 versus the 1% movement: More than 100 Occupy activists arrested in Oakland after clashing with police

Occupy activists tossed pipes, bottles, burning flares and other objects Saturday at Oakland police, who responded by using tear gas and smoke grenades and arresting more than 100 demonstrators, city and police officials said.

Oakland has been a flash point of the Occupy movement since October when police used tear gas to break up demonstrators who refused to leave downtown. One demonstrator, a Marine veteran of the war in Iraq, suffered a skull fracture after being hit with a police projectile, according to a veteran's group. Police said they acted after the crowd threw paint and other objects at officers.

On Saturday, police made mass arrests following an afternoon clash with protesters near the Kaiser Convention Center and then later outside a downtown YMCA, according to a police statement.

Go to: More than 100 Occupy activists arrested in Oakland after clashing with police - CNN.com

1/28/12

Car industry: Chrysler, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne to add 1,600 jobs in Illinois - by Brent Snavely

Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne is planning to announce plans to add 1,600 jobs at the automaker's assembly plant in Illinois next week, according two people familiar with the plans.

Earlier this week, Chrysler confirmed that it plans to hire 400 to 500 part time and temporary workers at the plant. The additional 1,100 workers would be for a third crew at the plant to support production of the Dodge Dart, a new compact car, as well as Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot.

The new Dodge Dart to be available in 2013 is expected to be the first credible small car for any Chrysler brand in years. It also is the first to combine Fiat and Chrysler technology and is built on a widened and lengthened version of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.


For more: Chrysler, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne to add 1,600 jobs in Illinois | Detroit Free Press | freep.com

To be free,Twitter must not be free - by Faisal J. Abbas

What makes social media an interesting field to study and follow is that you simply can’t predict what will happen next; it’s a world where things change every moment, where a simple ‘tweet’ could reach millions with a press of a button and a Facebook page could help bring down governments.

Of course, there were always the ‘acceptable’ measures which very of us ever complained about, such as the removal of graphic or obscene content (e.g., pornography or France and Germany banning Nazi content ─ an example used by Twitter to justify their policy). Every now and then, there would be a particular page or tweet removed but this just didn’t occur enough to become an issue. This was all true until the recent Twitter announcement that tweets can now be censored on a country-by-country basis, allowing posts that may be deemed problematic in one country to still appear in another.

As soon as the news broke, many ‘tweeps’ expressed their severe disappointment with the decision and have accused the site of censorship. The hashtags #twittercensorship and #twitterblackout were quickly formed by users who are planning to protest by not tweeting on Jan. 28 in a stand against what they see as a threat to freedom of expression and information.

Now, what will be the outcome of such a boycott movement and whether or not it will be successful in reversing Twitter’s decision is something which only time will be able to tell.

What is certain is that users would have had much more impact if they were paying for the service, as only then would Twitter be forced to listen to their demands; at the end of the day, no business would ever risk upsetting its customers.

Note EU-Digest: Mr. Abbas is right on target. Corporations moral is based on money. Threaten their income flow and you can start negotiating with them.

For more: To be free, Twitter must not be free

Turkey Loses Ground Again in World Press Freedom Index

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) announced the 2011-2012 World Press Freedom Index on 25 January.

While Turkey was on 138th position out of a total of 179 surveyed countries last year, the country fell back a further ten places to rank no. 148 this year. The RSF report claims that Turkey is "back to old habits".

"Turkey continued its descent, this time falling 10 places to 148th. Despite the diversity and energy of its media, 2011 saw a dramatic escalation in the judicial harassment of journalists. Under the pretext of combating terrorism, dozens were jailed before being tried, above all in the investigations into the Ergenekon conspiracy and the KCK, an alleged political offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party. The unprecedented extension of the range of arrests, the massive phone taps and the contempt shown for the confidentiality of journalists' sources have helped to reintroduce a climate of intimidation in the media", the report summarized.

For more:Turkey Loses Ground again in World Press Freedom Index - Bianet

Responsible tourism: Don't turn a blind eye to censorship when choosing your vacation location

Reporters Without Borders is repeating its awareness campaign in central Paris to draw residents’ attention to the lack of freedom of information in Thailand, Vietnam and Mexico by creating a simulated beach in the city’s main shopping area. On the first day of the January sales, activists from the press freedom organization wearing swimming costumes braved the Paris winter to raise public awareness.

“We are carrying on with this campaign, launched last October, to make sure tourists are aware of the issues before they head for the sunshine,” the organization said. “We are not calling for a boycott of these destinations but we want travelers to see what is behind the scenes. We have chosen three countries that are a paradise for vacationers and a hell for journalists: Mexico, Vietnam and Thailand.

“The palm trees, beaches and temples often conceal harsh treatment of journalists and bloggers. We advocate responsible tourism. It is your choice where you take your vacation but it is our duty to tell you where you are venturing.”

2011 : 66 Journalists killed: Check out how the country you want to visit rates  click here.


Twitter Applies "selected" Censorship And Commits Social Suicide

Twitter corporation, a favorite tool for dissidents and activists around the world,  suddenly found itself the target of global outrage yesterday. This after it had unveiled plans to allow country-specific censorship of tweets that might break local laws. Some activist believe it could be the result of Prince Alwaleed bin Talalof Saudi Arabia's recent $300 million dollar stock purchase in Twitter

To explain their decision Twitter issued the following press release.

"One year ago, we posted "The Tweets Must Flow," in which we said,
The open exchange of information can have a positive global impact … almost every country in the world agrees that freedom of expression is a human right. Many countries also agree that freedom of expression carries with it responsibilities and has limits.”

As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression. Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there. Others are similar but, for historical or cultural reasons, restrict certain types of content, such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content.

Until now, the only way we could take account of those countries’ limits was to remove content globally. Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world. We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why.

We haven’t yet used this ability, but if and when we are required to withhold a Tweet in a specific country, we will attempt to let the user know, and we will clearly mark when the content has been withheld. As part of that transparency, we’ve expanded our partnership with Chilling Effects to share this new page, http://chillingeffects.org/twitter, which makes it easier to find notices related to Twitter.

There’s more information in our Help pages, both on our Policy and about Your Account Settings.

One of our core values as a company is to defend and respect each user’s voice. We try to keep content up wherever and whenever we can, and we will be transparent with users when we can't. The Tweets must continue to flow."


"This is very bad news," tweeted Egyptian activist Mahmoud Salem, who operates under the name Sandmonkey. Later, he wrote, "Is it safe to say that (hash)Twitter is selling us out?"  In China, where activists have embraced Twitter even though it's blocked inside the country, artist and activist Ai Weiwei tweeted in response to the news: "If Twitter censors, I'll stop tweeting."  One often-relayed tweet bore the headline of a Forbes magazine technology blog item: "Twitter Commits Social Suicide.

Twitter users have called on fellow Twitterers to silence their tweets  today as a way of expressing their opposition to Twitter's plan. They are using the hashtag #TwitterBlackout to organize the boycott, and tweets tagged with the hashtag are rolling in at a clip of about 12 per minute. The tweets span a range of languages, including English, German, Spanish and Arabic.

Occupy Ireland rather than abroad is local tourism plea - by Genevieve Carbery

A plea to Irish people planning holidays this year to ‘Occupy Ireland’’ rather than holiday abroad is being made in an effort to boost the Irish tourism industry.

It is estimated the Irish will spend 50 million bed nights abroad in 2012 while leaving 16 million vacant bed nights at home.

If one in three people were to swap their trip in the sun for one at home it could create 40,000 jobs, said Mike Webster chief executive of Irish booking site GoIreland.com.

Irish people are expected to spend more on trips abroad this year than total income for the Irish tourism industry from both domestic and foreign visitors, he said yesterday.

For more: Occupy Ireland rather than abroad is tourism plea - The Irish Times - Sat, Jan 28, 2012

1/27/12

French bridge to Brazil: The Caribbean should not be stranded

The world is about to see Europe linked to South America in a way that has never happened before. A bridge will link French Guiana, the last European outpost in the Americas, with Brazil, the largest country in South America and now the sixth largest economy in the world.

There are other physical links to Brazil, but none from Europe. Once the bridge between French Guiana and Brazil is opened, so too will open the opportunity for greater trade and investment between the European Union (EU) and Brazil since, for all administrative purposes, French Guiana is as much a part of France as Paris.

Sarkozy's interest in the relationship between French Guiana and Brazil will go beyond the physical link between the two neighbours to the economic opportunities it can provide for France and, by extension, the EU. Brazil has a population of about 200 million and its economy grew by 7.5 per cent in 2010, and was forecast to grow another 3.5 per cent in 2011. It is rich in natural resources and is open to European investment.

On the other side, Brazil has a vibrant manufacturing sector and, remarkably, it sells more to China than it imports. For Brazil, the link to French Guiana could lead to a direct land-crossing to the Atlantic Ocean for parts of its huge territory from which overland transportation to its own Atlantic coast is expensive.

This possibility will be additional to a border crossing established in 2009 between Brazil and Guyana when a bridge was built over the Takutu River that barely divides the two countries at Brazil's northern point. However, while the bridge accommodates regular traffic between Brazil's northern area — Roraima — and Guyana, there is not an all-weather road from the bridge to Guyana's coast. Until the all-weather road is constructed, Brazil still cannot use Guyana effectively for transporting exports from its northern region.

French bridge to Brazil: The Caribbean should not be stranded - Columns - JamaicaObserver.com

Netherlands hopes to enforce Burka ban next year

Netherlands hopes to introduce a ban on the wearing of the full Islamic veil early next year, the interior ministry said Friday.

"We hope that the ban on wearing face-restrictive clothing will come into force at the start of 2013," spokeswoman Vera Hoogendoorn told AFP. "Everything depends on the speed with which the law is passed in the upper and lower chambers of parliament," she said.

Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Maxime Verhagen said Friday the proposal would be put to vote at the bicameral parliament after being cleared by the State Council, the highest administrative court.

For more: Netherlands hopes to enforce Islamic veil ban next year < Dutch news | Expatica The Netherlands

US Politics: Gingrich says he is not running to represent Goldman Sachs - by Julie Bykowiczchs

Newt Gingrich took aim at Wall Street and by extension Republican presidential opponent Mitt Romney yesterday as the former U.S. House speaker said he isn’t running for president to “represent Goldman Sachs.”

Yet the investment firm Gingrich derided and the banking industry as a whole stand to gain from his proposals to eliminate the capital gains tax and repeal two financial-sector measures, four analysts said in separate phone interviews.

Gingrich’s tax package, which also calls for a reduction of the personal income and corporate tax rates, would be beneficial to many on Wall Street, including those at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., an investment banking firm based in New York, the analysts said.

For more: Gingrich takes a swing at Goldman Sachs - The Washington Post

Euro Makes It Five Straight Gains Over Dollar - by Luciana Magalhaes

The euro rose to a six-week high Friday as investors became more optimistic that Greece and its private-sector creditors would reach an agreement.

Reports on the progress of the talks, including a comment on Friday by Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos that Greece was one step away from concluding a deal on a €100 billion ($132 billion) debt write-down, helped build positive expectations. A deal has appeared close for much of the last week, but disagreements over coupon payments have stood in the way of an agreement.

The euro traded above $1.32 for the first time since Dec. 13, and stood at $1.3219 late Friday, up from $1.3109 on Thursday. That was its highest 5 p.m. rate since Dec. 9
.
The currency's rise was briefly weakened after Fitch Ratings downgraded Italy, Spain, Belgium, Cyprus and Slovenia's sovereign debt ratings. But Fitch reaffirmed its rating on Ireland, and left France and Germany, the euro zone's biggest members, untouched.

For more: Euro Makes It Five Straight Gains Over Dollar - WSJ.com

Germany Optimistic Greek Debt Deal Will Be Struck Soon - by Andrea Thomas

The German government is optimistic that a deal in the Greek debt talks will be struck soon, officials said Friday.

"I assume that the necessary negotiations between private-sector creditors and Greece will come to an end," German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters. "We are confident that an agreement will be found within the scope of what has been set in December."

Finance ministry spokeswoman Marianne Kothe said Germany is "optimistic, as Mr. Seibert has said, that negotiations will be finalized soon."

Greek debt swap negotiations with representatives for private-sector creditors over a EUR100 billion debt write-down were continuing Friday. A person close to the talks said Friday that negotiations have edged toward an agreement, with bond holders apparently willing to accept lower yields on their future holdings of Greek debt.

For more: Germany Optimistic Greek Debt Deal Will Be Struck Soon - WSJ.com

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE FUTURE - by RM

Technology is getting more and more amazing, and also easier to apply to everything we do these days, isn't it ? Take Google's Earth Eye in the Sky for instance. No place to hide from it  .

As to those who see dangers in the advancement of technology and the possible infringement on their personal freedom, maybe they should remember what Winston Churchill said, as he puffed on his Cuban cigars, and sipped his French Cognac: “A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. 

Experience, learn, teach others about  the great opportunities technology and particularly the role Internet plays in this. Never allow anyone to try and curb this "8th wonder of the world"  or similar innovations which will follow. They can only advance mankind.

Among some of the many marvels available to you through the Internet today . 1) Google Earth streams the world over wired and wireless networks enabling users to virtually go anywhere on the planet and see places in photographic detail. This is not like any map you have ever seen. Google Earth can be downloaded for "free" at: http://earth.google.com 

2) For those of us who want to take an extended peep into the future: The Millennium Project  and their  "The 2011 State of the Future". Paperback with CD 100-page print and an attached CD containing about 8,500 + pages of research behind the print edition and The Millennium Project's 15 years of cumulative research and methods provides an interesting journey into the future. For more information go to: http://www.millennium-project.org/

3) For daily updated factual news about and related to Europe, including "streaming TV news reports" from alternative news resources such as LinkTV, Euronews, France 24,  Aljazeera, PBS and RN, go to: EU-Digest - at http://www.eu-digest.com. You can also subscribe to EU-Digest for free.

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US Presidential Primaries: While Republicans Fight Over the Florida Prize, Obama Looking Better And Better To Voters

The state of Florida - even without its reputation for hanging chads - loves its emerging role as the most important step in the quest for the Republican nomination and the shining hope for President Obama.

"Let those Republicans fight it out here, calling each other names," said Ann Zucker, president of the Weston Democratic Club, near Ft. Lauderdale. "After listening to Romney, Gingrich and Santorum call each other every possible name in these debates, any sane voter would turn to re-electing our Democratic leader Barack Obama."

Today's headlines in Florida newspapers told the same story. "RIVALS TRADE FIRE IN S. FLORIDA" was the banner in the Miami Herald this morning. "Contenders Slug It Out" was the lead story in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.

Polls also showed President Obama with growing leads among Florida voters with respect to handling the office of the presidency, handling the economy, and in positive views for employment opportunities.

Ron Levitt: While Republicans Fight Over the Florida Prize, Obama Looking Better And Better To Voters

Europe warns US on political financing

(AP) A top European anti-corruption body wants the U.S. to increase transparency of political funding through outside groups that donate millions to support candidates, warning that they could be used to skirt long-established disclosure rules.

The Council of Europe's Group of States against Corruption — known as Greco and which counts the U.S. as a member — warns "soft money" political financing vehicles appear to be increasing in America.

Donors may give to the non-profits — which don't have to disclose their donors and can be feeders of funds into super PACs, independent groups that can raise unlimited amounts of money. The report did not mention super PACs by name, but it did focus on the 501(c) organizations.

The report made three recommendations to U.S. authorities, and Greco said it "invites" the U.S. to respond to those recommendations by the end of June 2013.

One recommended that U.S. authorities continue their push toward electronic filing of public disclosure of financial reports in Senate elections. Another urged a study of the effects of tie votes — or "deadlocks" — at the six-member Federal Election Commission.

One Creco official said that authors were concerned about the potential fallout from super PACs, which were born out of a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that stripped away prior restrictions on some election spending.

Greco is the anti-corruption unit of the 47-country Council of Europe, which is based in the eastern city of Strasbourg and aims to promote human rights and democratic principles.

EU-Digest

1/26/12

Finances: Tips on how to become a Millionaire

Millionaires know how to pay themselves first. If you are an employee, the first thing you should do is to pay yourself first whenever you received your paycheck. Set aside enough savings first before you spend the rest. Use the equation INCOME minus SAVINGS equals EXPENSES.

A good way to know how much you should save is by using the universal rule called Pareto’s Principle of 80/20. In business, you must put most of your efforts on the 20% that bring in 80% of the income. In saving, 80% of your savings come from 20% of your frugal living. In other words, you should live within 80% of your income and set aside at least 20% of your salary every payday.

Millionaires live below their means. Most millionaires are not fond of showing their wealth by living a lavish lifestyle. We are oftentimes compelled by media to live extravagant because that’s how media portrays how millionaire lives – large houses, luxurious cars, expensive jewelries, the latest equipment, etc.

However, a lot of millionaires are simple. They wear simple clothes, live in a simple house, drives simple car and yet you will know they are already a millionaire by examining their bank accounts, their stock portfolio and other investments.

Millionaires know how to budget. One way to live below your means is to budget your income. You should assign every euro for each of your expenses every month after taking out your savings from your income.

The first thing to be financially literate is for you to know that the value of money depreciates over time because of inflation. And that is why you need to invest. Set goals.

You should be aware that time is of the essence in becoming a millionaire. It’s not a quick-reach step on top of a ladder but it involves a lot of time. It’s not an overnight success but with some common sense anyone can become a millionaire.

EU-Digest

Internet: Netherlands in Top 3 Biggest Domain Name Countries

The.nl-domain on the Internet has grown to be the third biggest country domain in the world. China has been overtaken by the Netherlands.

Last year, the number of domain names that ended up on .nl grew to nearly 5 million. This is 607,000 more than in 2010, says Hostnet, which registers domain names and carries out research on the registrations every year.

Hostnet says the number of Dutch domain names never before increased so quickly in a year. Only Germany (.de) and the UK (.co.uk) have even more registrations. China had hitherto come third, but this spot has now been captured by the Netherlands.

For more: Dutch news - Netherlands in Top 3 Biggest Domain Name Countries

EU Warns Germans, Dutch To Comply With EU Procurement Law

The European Commission has sent the German and Dutch governments a letter warning them to take action to comply with an EU defense procurement law within two months or face potential fines.

In a statement issued Jan. 26, the commission says it is “concerned that [Germany and the Netherlands] have failed to fulfill their commitments under the Directive (2009/81/EC) regarding procurement of arms, munitions and war material (and related works and services) for defense purposes, and also the procurement of sensitive supplies, works and services for security purposes.

“While the majority of the member states have either fully implemented the Directive or are finalizing the adoption of transposing measures, in these two member states — Germany and The Netherlands — all of the Directive’s provisions still have to be implemented and the transposition process is very slow,” the commission states.  The deadline for implementing the rules in question was Aug. 20, 2011.

For more: EU Warns Germans, Dutch To Comply With EU Procurement Law | Gannett Government Media | defensenews.com

Italian yields fall sharply in €5 billion auction; Monti govt survives confidence vote

Italy easily raised €5 billion ($6.47 billion) in a pair of bond auctions on Thursday that saw a sharp drop in borrowing rates, a sign that investor confidence in the country is improving.The sale was the first test of market sentiment in the country’s handling of its debt since ratings agency Standard & Poor’s cut Italy’s credit rating by two notches on Jan. 13.

Italy paid an interest rate of 3.763 percent on €4.5 billion in two-year bonds, compared with 4.85 percent in a comparable auction in December. The borrowing cost for a new bond expiring in September 2014 was 3.2 percent.

UniCredit analysts said the sale was “positive” and an encouraging sign for upcoming auctions.

For more: Italian yields fall sharply in €5 billion auction; Monti govt survives confidence vote - The Washington Post

France: Sarkozy confession to press sets rumour mill spinning

According to reports on Tuesday by AFP news agency, Le Monde and Liberation newspapers, and other media organisations, Sarkozy told a small gathering of reporters that “for the first time in my life I am faced with the possibility that my career is coming to an end.

The exchange, which occurred during the president’s visit to French Guyana on Sunday, immediately became a subject of intense speculation in France. Were Sarkozy’s words a from-the-heart confession or a calculated move to garner sympathy?

Left-wing daily Liberation said that at least on two occasions Sarkozy warned that the conversation was off the record, insisting at one point that if his words were printed the same kind of exchange “would never happen again”.

During the three-hour-long talk, Sarkozy reserved some disparaging words for his own ruling UMP party, saying he would prefer a religious cloister to active participation in party life if he lost the election, the reports said. Sarkozy has not made his candidacy for the April 22 poll official, but his leaked conversation also helped confirm his intention to run for a second term. “The [2012] campaign will be very different from 2007,” Sarkozy reportedly warned.


For more: Sarkozy confession to press sets rumour mill spinning - FRENCH POLITICS - FRANCE 24

Only a unified Europe can remain powerful, says German Chancellor Angela Merkel -

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has insisted that Europe will remain an economic power only if it deepens the integration that has caused it so many problems. Without that, she warned the global elite gathered in a Swiss ski resort, Europe will remain little more than a pleasant vacation destination.

The tone of Merkel's keynote address on Wednesday was not dramatically different from her measured norm, but it was positive enough to feed an emerging feeling among European power brokers that Germany _ and hence Europe _ is finally becoming convinced that it needs to do whatever it takes to save the euro from collapse.

"The message is that we are ready for more commitment. We are no longer making excuses," Merkel said. If Europe doesn't integrate further, she said, "we will remain an interesting holiday destination for a long time, but we won't be able to produce prosperity for the people in Europe anymore."


For more: Only a unified Europe can remain powerful, says German Chancellor Angela Merkel - The Times of India

1/25/12

Facebook is worth €15.3 Billion to the European Economy - by Tim Worstall

The UK economy might be down in the dumps, but there is a ray of sunshine from an unlikely source: Mark Zuckerberg‘s Facebook has supposedly helped to contribute £2.2bn to the country’s GDP in 2011. Facebook added that – with a lot of help from the rise of mobile applications – it has “supported” 232,000 jobs in recent years across the European Union.

It further claimed, courtesy of numbers crunched by a Deloitte research team on behalf of the the social network, that Zuck’s outfit had contributed €15.3bn, or £12.7bn, to the EU’s economy.

For more: Facebook is worth €15.3 Billion to the European Economy - Forbes

Shed light on cruelty in Cuba - by Frank Calzon

Another Cuban, Wilmar Villar, just died in a hunger strike protesting the abuses of the Castro's regime. His wife was not permitted to see his body.

Yoani Sanchez, the internationally recognized Cuban blogger who is not allowed to travel abroad, reported his death on the Internet.

Cuban exiles had called on governments and human rights organizations for help. We do not know if Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who has access to Raul Castro, interceded on behalf of Villar, who is the father of two girls, or if the Cardinal, who participated on the arrangement to release Cuban political prisoners and banish most of them and their families abroad, alerted the Holy See about Villar's impending death.

Havana can no longer murder in secrecy. It fears the Internet and the Cubans who are willing to die for human rights. But the regime enjoys international impunity for its crimes.

For more: Shed light on cruelty in Cuba - South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com

George Soros predicts riots, police state and class war for America

Billionaire investor George Soros has a new prediction for America. While it might be as dire as it gets for the financial wiz, this bet concerns more than just the value of the buck. According to Soros, there's about to be an all-out class war.

Soros, 81, previously bet against the British pound in the early 90s and made $1 billion off its collapse. In the years since, he’s remained active in investing, but also in advocacy. He’s helped keep Wikipedia afloat thanks to impressive contributions and through donations to the Tides Center, has indirectly funded Adbusters, the Canadian anti-capitalist magazine that put Occupy Wall Street on the map. Speaking to Newsweek recently, Soros neglected to acknowledge his past successes, but instead offered a word of warning: a period of “evil” is coming to the western world.

Soros goes on to compare the current state of the western world with what the Soviet Union was facing as communism crumbled. Although he would think that history would have taught the globe a thing or two about noticing trends, Soros says that, despite past events providing a perfect example of what is to come, the end of an empire seems imminent.

For more: George Soros predicts riots, police state and class war for America — RT

Solar storm lights up skies in northern Europe with intense display of northern lights

A storm from the broiling sun turned the chilly northernmost skies of Earth into an ever-changing and awe-provoking art show of northern lights on Tuesday. Even experienced stargazers were stunned by the intensity of the aurora borealis that swept across the night sky in northern Scandinavia after the biggest solar flare in six years.

It was part of the strongest solar storm in years, but the sun is likely to get even more active in the next few months and years, said physicist Doug Biesecker at the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado.

“To me this was a wake up call. The sun is reminding us that solar max is approaching,” Biesecker said. “A lot worse is in store for us. We hope that you guys are paying attention. I would say we passed with flying colors.”

For more: Solar storm lights up skies in northern Europe with intense display of northern lights - The Washington Post

'Space hurricane' sweeping over our planet

A wave of charged particles from an intense solar storm is raising alerts about airline flights and satellite operations — and raising the prospect of stunning auroral displays. 

The storm began when a powerful solar flare erupted on the sun Monday, blasting a stream of charged particles toward our planet. This electromagnetic burst — called a coronal mass ejection, or CME — started hitting Earth somewhere around 10 a.m. ET Tuesday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center.

Bill Murtagh, the center's program coordinator, said that the outburst was forcing airlines to change routes for some of their scheduled flights. "Most of the major airlines flying polar [routes], or even some non-polar, high-altitude routes, have taken action to mitigate the effect of this storm," he told msnbc.com.

At NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center, Onsager said the level of solar radiation should gradually subside — unless the sun unleashes another big coronal mass ejection. "The expectation is that it will weaken and that it will decay over the next couple of days," he told msnbc.com.

The University of New Hampshire's Spence said "the chance for re-intensification is still possible because this active spot on the sun that created the initial havoc could go off again."

'For more: Space hurricane' sweeping over our planet - TODAY Tech - TODAY.com

1/24/12

USA: Upbeat State of the Union 2012 - Barack Obama

In his third State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama made a strong pitch for economic fairness in America, outlining a plan that painted a stark contrast between his vision for the nation's future and those of many Republicans -- from those sitting before him to the Republican candidates for president.

Speaking before a joint session of the bitterly divided Congress, Mr. Obama described America as he hopes to see it become: "Think about the America within our reach: A country that leads the world in educating its people. An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs. A future where we're in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren't so tied to unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded," he said. "We can do this," Mr. Obama said. "I know we can, because we've done it before."

President Barack Obama, having watched his Republican adversaries pound him for weeks, got his turn Tuesday, using his State of the Union speech to land the first major counterpunch of the still-forming 2012 election.Obama didn't mention Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich in his third State of the Union address. But the GOP contenders were never far from mind. Obama demanded economic fairness for Americans on the same day that Romney revealed paying a relatively modest 14 percent in taxes on his $21 million in 2010 income.

"You can call this class warfare all you want," Obama said, chiding Republicans. "But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.

EU-Digest

Banking Industry: Dutch ING Miami Marathon To Generate Sizable Economic Impact for community


As the Dutch ING Miami Marathon and Half-Marathon® continues to grow, with race entries approaching 25,000 in 2012, the economic impact that the race has on the South Florida economy continues to surge along with it.

The event, set for Sunday, January 29, is expected to generate more than $45 million for the local economy this year in the form of hotel bookings, restaurant spending, transportation, shopping and entertainment.

That milestone would exceed the $41.4 million that the event generated in 2011 according to a report prepared by the Sport Industry Research Center at Temple University. That total was 24% higher than in 2010, or an additional $8.04 million dollars in economic activity.

Event organizers also estimate that the 2012 economic impact will mean that the event is approaching a cumulative $200 million in economic impact as it celebrates its 10th edition, making it one of the top beneficiaries of the local community over the past decade.

For more: ING Miami Marathon To Generate Sizable Economic Impact

Copenhagen's Green Sheen: It's Not Just About The Bikes - by Justin Gerdes

Whenever I mention to Americans that I have worked in Copenhagen, I’m invariably asked (after an alarmingly large number confuse the Danes with the Dutch) about the bikes. For good reason.

Yes, the Danes just like the Dutch love their bikes, as I came to love mine – even when peddling to work on dark, frigid, wet January mornings. Statistics only hint at the scale of the phenomenon (in 2010, 35% of all trips to work or school in Copenhagen were made by bike; for Copenhagen residents, the figure is 50%).

Researchers found that for every kilometer traveled by bike instead of by car taxpayers saved euro 6.0 cents ($ 7.8 cents) in avoided air pollution, accidents, congestion, noise and wear and tear on infrastructure. Cyclists in Copenhagen cover an estimated 1.2 million kilometers each day – saving the city a little over Euro 26. 16 million ($34 million) each year.

With so many residents commuting by bike, Copenhagen reaps additional benefits. The report authors cite one study which found that cycling for a half-hour daily increases mean life expectancy by 1-2 years. Not only can motorists who switch to a bicycle expect to live longer, they’ll be saving themselves (and other taxpayers) mone

For more: Copenhagen's Green Sheen: It's Not Just About The Bikes - Forbes

Honduras Is Test of New US Policy on Gay Rights Around the World - by Tim Johnson

From U.N. chambers to the halls of the State Department, global pressure on countries to protect the rights of gay people and transgender people is rising.

For Josue Hernandez, the new emphasis can't come fast enough.

The 33-year-old Honduran gay activist bears the scar of the bullet that grazed his skull in an attack a few years ago. He's moved the office of his advocacy group four times. Still, he feels hunted in what is arguably the most homophobic nation in the Americas. "We are in a deplorable state," Hernandez said of gays in Honduras. "When we walk the streets, people shout insults at us and throw rocks. Parents move their children away." From U.N. chambers to the halls of the State Department, global pressure on countries to protect the rights of gay people and transgender people is rising.

Laws criminalizing homosexuality have led the U.S. and British governments to threaten economic assistance to Malawi, Ghana and Uganda in Africa. "It does translate into dollars and cents," Bromley, chairman of the Council for Global Equality, a Washington-based advocacy group, said, referring to the economic assistance, but "conditionality really is not the main tool in the tool kit." 

He said a greater emphasis on providing training and funding to gay rights groups operating in difficult environments, such as Russia, has the potential for lasting impact, while U.S. diplomats bring up gay rights as part of broader human rights discussions.

Note EU-Digest: the other area which needs urgent attention when it comes to Gay Rights is the Middle East . Homosexuals of the Arab world stay out of sight because they are condemned by religious leaders, oppressive regimes and their own relatives. 

Notorious for its adherence to Wahhabism, a puritanical strain of Islam, and as the birthplace of most of the 9/11 hijackers, Saudi Arabia is the only Arab country that claims sharia, or Islamic law, as its sole legal code. The list of prohibitions is long: It’s haram—forbidden—to smoke, drink, go to discos, or mix with an unrelated person of the opposite gender. The rules are enforced by the mutawwa'in, religious authorities employed by the government’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. 

This legal and public condemnation notwithstanding, the kingdom leaves considerable space for homosexual behavior. As long as gays and lesbians maintain a public front of obeisance to Wahhabist norms, they are left to do what they want in private. In an an interview by a Western Newspaper a Syrian who moved to Riyadh in 2000, even calls the Saudi capital a “gay heaven.” 

Nevertheless homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia and is punished by flogging, jail or death.

Motocross, nightclubs revive closed churches in Netherlands

As more Dutch turn their backs on organized religion, vacant churches are avoiding the wrecking ball by hosting new congregations devoted to alternative pursuits, including gambling, nightclubbing and even motocross, Radio Netherlands reports.

As a result of what the national broadcaster calls "increasing secularization," an estimated 2,000 of the 13,000 "religious buildings" in the country are expected to become available for alternative use in the next few years.

The 16th-century Convent Church in Eindhoven now houses a casino, and other churches have become dance schools, party palaces, a supermarket -- and a motocross course.

For more: Motocross, nightclubs revive closed churches in Netherlands

Musical History: last week Jan. 16, marked the 20th anniversary of Clapton's airing of “MTV Unplugged"

Last week (Jan. 16, to be exact) marked the 20th anniversary of Clapton's foray into the acoustic world. "Unplugged," the 1992 album from the show, fared extremely well. It featured acoustic versions of many of his previous hits, including a re-worked "Layla", "My Father's Eyes" and "Tears in Heaven." It won countless awards, including six Grammys, and went certified Diamond (yes, diamond- selling upwards of 10x platinum). It was an epic show, an epic record, and in the midst of its 20th anniversary, Clapton's deeply emotional and near-flawless recording needs to be celebrated.

For more: 20 years since the airing of “MTV Unplugged: Eric Clapton” - phillyBurbs.com : Girl With Headphones

1/23/12

Iran slams EU oil embargo, warns could hit U.S.

The Islamic Republic, which denies trying to build a nuclear bomb, scoffed at efforts to choke its oil exports, as Asia lines up to buy what Europe scorns.

Some Iranians also renewed threats to stop Arab oil from leaving the Gulf and warned they might strike U.S. targets worldwide if Washington used force to break any Iranian blockade of a strategically vital shipping route.

Yet in three decades of confrontation between Tehran and the West, bellicose rhetoric and the undependable armory of sanctions have become so familiar that the benchmark Brent crude oil price edged only 0.8 percent higher, and some of that was due to unrelated currency factors.


In a letter to the New York Times Mr. Rens Lee writes: " the problem is the prevailing international consensus whereby Israel can possess a nuclear arsenal, while Iran is not allowed to, is indeed a double standard and an obstacle to Middle East peace efforts. Economic sanctions or military action won’t derail Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which date from the time of the shah and reflect the country’s bad geopolitical neighborhood".


For more: Iran slams EU oil embargo, warns could hit U.S. | Reuters

France passes general genocide law, faces Turkish reprisals

Lawmakers in the French upper house (Senate) voted 127 to 86 in favor of the draft law outlawing genocide denial after almost six hours of debate. The lower house had backed it in December, prompting Ankara to cancel all economic, political and military meetings with Paris and recall its ambassador for consultations.

The bill had been made more general so that it outlawed the denial of any genocide, partly in the hope of appeasing the Turks. It now goes to President Nicolas Sarkozy to be ratified.

"This day will be written in gold not only in the history of friendship between the Armenian and French peoples, but also in the annals of the history of the protection of human rights," said Armenia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Edward Nalbandian.

Note EU-Digest: Armenian Foreign Affairs Minister Edward Nalbandian should "simmer down" with his compliments to France, since this new law does not single out Armenia. It is also clear that the wording of this French law will turn it into a political can of worms. Being that this new French genocide law is quite general in its wording and can be interpreted in favor of any nation or race on earth which feels it has suffered genocide applied to them by a foreign power. Algerians could possibly apply it to France, Indonesia against the Netherlands, India and Kenya against Britain or American native Americans against the US Government. If Turkey reacts too aggressively and personally to this new general genocide French law, their reaction could possibly also backfire politically for them. For as the saying goes: "if the shoe fits wear it"

 
For more: France passes general genocide law, faces Turkish reprisals | Reuters

German Chancellor Merkel says European debt crisis must lead to closer political union

German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted Monday that Europe’s debt crisis has shown that the bloc’s leaders must now press for a genuine political union.

The debt crisis has exposed the structural flaws of Europe’s monetary union and forced leaders into taking unprecedented steps toward a fiscal and a political union, she said. “In my opinion it is the great task of the coming years to move forward on the path of a political union,” Merkel said in Berlin.
Initiatives like the 17-nation eurozone’s new permanent bailout fund, the €500 billion ($650 billion)

European Stability Mechanism, would have been inconceivable three years ago, she added.

For more: German Chancellor Merkel says European debt crisis must lead to closer political union - The Washington Post