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5/31/12

Clinton rejects Syria military intervention; slams Russian resistance to U.N. action

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday laid out arguments against a military intervention in Syria despite calls for the West to take action after last week’s massacre in the town of Houla.

Speaking to Danish students, Clinton got tough questions on what might motivate the United States and other nations to take military action in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad is battling a 14-month-old anti-government uprising.

Friday’s massacre of more than 100 civilians, many of them children, in Houla has triggered calls for the West to take more robust action in Syria, despite Russian and Chinese opposition.

However, Clinton rehearsed U.S. arguments against armed intervention for now in contrast with Libya, where Western-led air strikes last year helped bring an end to Muammar Qaddafi’s rule.

Read more: Clinton rejects Syria military intervention; slams Russian resistance to U.N. action

European Soccer: EA Sports Predicts that Germany will Win UEFA Euro 2012

Electronic Arts Inc. today declared Germany the winner of UEFA EURO 2012™ through a tournament simulation using the market-leading gameplay engine that drives EA SPORTS™ UEFA EURO 2012 on the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, Xbox 360® videogame and entertainment system and PC.

EA SPORTS™ was able to simulate the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship and test all 16 teams under the same conditions they will face in the weeks ahead. It was determined that Germany will defeat Netherlands 2-1 at Olympic Stadium in Kyiv on July 1 to winThe Henri Delaunay Trophy.

The final itself saw the Germans fall behind 1-0 after Robin van Persie struck home a left-footed rocket from just outside the box in the 24th minute.

Van Persie finished as the tournament’s top goal scorer with five goals. However, the Dutch lead did not last long as Mesut Özil leveled the score 12 minutes later, setting the stage for the golden goal from Mario Gómez, his fourth of the tournament. Gómez went high into the air between two Dutch defenders on a corner kick by Bastian Schweinsteiger to knock home the winner in the 78th minute, delivering Germany its fourth UEFA EURO championship.

Fans around the globe will compare these results to the real-world tournament as it unfolds beginning June 8.

EA SPORTS has predicted that the Germans will win all three group stage matches, and maintain their form throughout the knockout phase, but it took a Miroslav Klose goal in extra time to propel the Germans past Italy 1-0 in the semi-final.

Germany’s path to the Final included a 3-2 victory over Netherlands in the group stage and a 3-1 victory over Poland in the quarter-final.

Read More: Soccer News: EA Sports Predicts that Germany will Win UEFA Euro 2012 on SoccerNationNews Soccer News

US wages and Europe's austerity: the perfect storm - by Robert Reich

What if Europe and the US converged on a set of economic policies that brought out the worst in both – European fiscal austerity combined with a declining share of total income going to workers? Given political realities on both sides of the Atlantic, it is entirely possible.

So far, the US has avoided the kind of budget cuts that have pushed much of Europe into recession. Growth on this side of the pond is expected to be around 2.4 per cent this year. And jobs are recovering, albeit painfully slowly.

But a tough bout of fiscal austerity could be coming in six months. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office warned last week that if the Bush tax cuts expire on schedule at the start of 2013, just as $100bn of budget cuts automatically take effect under the deal to raise the debt ceiling that Democrats and Republicans agreed to last August, the US will fall into recession in the first half of next year.

Read more: US wages and Europe's austerity: the perfect storm - CSMonitor.com

ECB - Draghi: ‘EU must clarify euro vision’ | euronews, economy

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi has urged European leaders to clarify their vision for the euro, saying the ECB cannot fill the policy vacuum.

Draghi told the European Parliament the bloc should act quickly to bring an end to the eurozone debt crisis or risk disaster.

He said: “The next step for our leaders is to clarify what is the vision for a certain number of years from now. I think the sooner this has been specified, the better it is. The next question is how do we substantiate this greater clarity? I think that one first step we could take is.. a banking union.”

In his sharpest criticism yet of eurozone leaders’ handling of the crisis, Draghi urged they spell out detailed plans for the euro and fiscal cooperation, something he believes will require governments to surrender some of their sovereignty to succeed.

Read more: Draghi: ‘EU must clarify euro vision’ | euronews, economy

Europe considers a ‘banking union’ - by David McHugh and Raf Casert

As Europe’s debt crisis intensifies, top officials say the continent urgently needs a central authority with the financial muscle to fix broken banks.

The proposal could give immediate relief to Spain’s increasingly fragile economy, with its borrowing rates rising to unsustainable levels, rattling investors.

The European Commission called Wednesday for a ‘‘banking union’’ that could oversee and, if needed, bail out banks without having to go through national governments. It would have the power to force banks to heal their finances and have access to a pool of money to rescue banks, lifting pressure off individual countries, like Spain, that are already strapped for cash.

Germany resists allowing a central body to spend money — much of which Berlin provides — to rescue banks. But markets nudged Spain, the fourth-largest economy in the eurozone, ever closer to needing financial aid that Europe can scarcely afford to give it. Its 10-year bond yield rose to 6. 64 percent Wednesday, close to the 7 percent that caused Greece, Ireland, and Portugal to need financial assistance in the past.

Read more: Europe considers a ‘banking union’ - Other - The Boston Globe

Ireland votes on Europe's deficit-fighting treaty - by SHAWN POGATCHNIK

 Irish voters were deciding Thursday whether their government can ratify the European Union's fiscal treaty, a deficit-fighting pact designed to bind Ireland and other debt-hit eurozone members to much tighter spending limits. 


The agreement, already signed by the leaders of Ireland and 24 other EU nations, is designed to promote greater confidence in the eurozone by creating new deficit limits for each ratifying nation. Automatic spending cuts would be imposed on those deemed guilty of violating them. Germany, the eurozone heavyweight facing most pressure to keep bailing out its weaker neighbors, is the treaty's key backer but almost all Irish political parties have campaigned for its passage too.

All opinion polls in the past month's campaigning suggest that a majority will vote for the tougher budget discipline, but similar polls were proved wrong when Ireland voted to reject the EU's last two treaties in 2001 and 2008. Ireland is the only nation among the 25 requiring a national vote for ratification, although the treaty does not require Irish approval to proceed elsewhere. Results come Friday.
A "yes" verdict would have no immediate impact on Irish austerity policies, because Ireland already is committed to a severe program of cuts, tax hikes and asset sell-offs as part of its 2010 EU-International Monetary Fund bailout.

A "no" could do most damage to Ireland itself, because its existing loans will run dry by the end of 2013—and the treaty restricts future access to the EU's rescue fund to those nations that accept the new budget rules. But analysts agree it also would send political shock waves across a eurozone already doubtful that it can confine its debt crisis to the three bailed-out countries of Ireland, Greece and Portugal. 


Read more: Ireland votes on Europe's deficit-fighting treaty - San Jose Mercury News

5/30/12

European Space Agency: How ESA and industry will work together in the future

 ESA and industry have built a strong relationship in the 35 years they have worked together. But with changing times, we should review this relationship to see what has worked well and what needs to be improved, so that it continues to grow.

On 10 May, the last of a series of workshops at the various ESA establishments concluded at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy. Part of a ‘consultation with industry’ process, each workshop dealt with a number of important topics regarding the cooperation between ESA, industry and Member States.

Participating in these workshops have been ESA experts, Member State delegates and representatives from Eurospace, ESOA, EARSC, SME4Space, large and medium system integrators, equipment suppliers, operators and SMEs.

Read more: ESA Portal - Focus On - How ESA and industry will work together in the future

Sun-powered plane flight from Madrid to Rabat delayed untill Thursday by strong winds

The Swiss sun-powered aircraft Solar Impulse has been delayed by strong winds during a stop-off on its first planned intercontinental flight, organizers said on Monday.

The plane landed in Madrid early Friday at the end of the first leg of its attempt to reach Morocco without using a drop of fuel.  After technical checks and a pilot change it was hoped Solar Impulse would leave for Rabat on Monday.

“Today was the earliest possible departure date but we are waiting for the best weather window,” project spokeswoman Alexandra Gindroz told AFP.  “We have too much south-east wind.”

The departure is not likely to be before Thursday, when the forecast is for calmer weather, she said
.
Read more: Sun-powered plane trip to Morocco delayed by strong winds

European Commission says Hungary faces “serious challenges” amid mixed progress in reaching fiscal targets

In its 2012 report on Hungary’s convergence plan released on Wednesday, the European Commission said the country continued to face “serious challenges”, and progress towards meeting the 2011 Council recommendations had been “mixed”. “Hungary continues to face serious challenges in the short to medium term,” the report said.


It noted the European Council’s Jan. 2012 decision to pursue the Excessive Deficit Procedure issue new recommendations, which included bolstering the Fiscal Council.
“The Fiscal Council’s remit has been broadened but it still does not include crucial tasks,” the report said.

The report also said the government faced a “pressing challenge” to stick to its budget targets, adding that “wider reforms also remain necessary to promote the conditions for sustainable, investment-led growth”.

Read more: European Commission says Hungary faces “serious challenges” amid mixed progress in reaching fiscal targets - Realdeal.hu

France says Syria air strikes a possibility

French leader Francois Hollande has said military action in Syria is possible if the UN agrees, as EU countries expelled ambassadors.

He spoke on national TV on Tuesday (29 May) following UN confirmation that Syrian artillery and militia killed 108 people, including 49 children, in the village of Houla, in western Syria, on Friday.
"I heard Bernard Henry-Levy talk about a military intervention, which is not excluded provided it is carried out under the auspices of international law, namely via a [UN] Security Council resolution,"

Hollande said, referring to a French intellectual who also advocated air strikes on Libya last year.
Hollande's foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, in an interview with the Le Monde newspaper the same day indicated that air strikes are the only option.

Read more: EUobserver.com / Foreign Affairs / France says Syria air strikes a possibility

How to lift Europe out of its unemployment crisis

The European economy is in the doldrums. The countries on the periphery are already threatened by sky-high youth unemployment, stricken banking systems and economic stagnation – all before a possible breakup of the euro that would make matters still worse. Even countries at the centre are being affected by loss of confidence and fear of the future. What we need from European leaders and policymakers now is initiative – not just to stabilise the euro, but to use the opportunity to recast the whole framework of economic policy so that it permits member states to put their public balance sheets behind their banking systems, reframe innovation and investment policy and redesign their social contracts so they offer crucial security – but also more flexibility. This is a moment to act.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the current crisis is the way it is killing faith in the notion of European integration – the idea that Europeans acting in concert can make their economies and societies stronger rather than weaker seems to have lost its force. Political leaders in both France and Germany genuflect to the idea of "more Europe" – but with no agreement about what more Europe could mean. There is well-meaning intent, but no intellectual content that goes beyond national agendas – in Germany the well-known commitment to budgetary discipline and in France, under its new leadership, to government-inspired "growth". What is needed is a common analysis driven by practical realities and intellectual energy, some joint giving of ground and then decisive action in the name of Europe.

First, Germany must begin to recognise that asking all eurozone countries to commit to incredible economic policies, especially in the wake of a financial crisis and overhang of enormous private debt, is simply incredible. Financial markets do not believe that Greece can stay in the euro if the price is mass unemployment and privation, even if to a degree the Greeks are the architects of their own ruin. Nor do they believe that Spain can solve its banking crisis with no support from the rest of Europe, even if again Spain is in part the architect of its own folly. Credibility is not served by incredible policies.

Read more: How to lift Europe out of its unemployment crisis | Will Hutton | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

5/29/12

Solar plane takes its first transcontinental flight

Solar Aircraft
An experimental solar-powered airplane took off from Switzerland on its first transcontinental flight Thursday, aiming to reach North Africa this week.

Pilot Andre Borschberg planned to take the jumbo jet-size Solar Impulse plane on its first leg to Madrid, Spain, by Friday. His colleague Bertrand Piccard will take the helm of the aircraft for the second stretch of its 2,500-kilometer (1,554-mile) journey to the Moroccan capital Rabat.

Fog on the runaway at its home base in Payerne, Switzerland, delayed the take off by two hours, demonstrating how susceptible the prototype single-seater aircraft is to adverse weather.

“We can’t fly into clouds because it was not designed for that,” Borschberg said as he piloted the lumbering plane with its 63-meter (207-foot) wingspan toward the eastern French city of Lyon at a cruising speed of just 70 kilometers an hour (43.5 mph).

After landing in Madrid in the early hours of Friday, Borschberg will face other challenges, including having to overfly the Pyrenees mountains that separate France and Spain.

Read more: Solar plane takes its first transcontinental flight - AVIATION - FRANCE 24

Soccer: Ukraine, Poland outraged at football racism allegations

Ukraine and Poland have angrily rejected allegations made in a BBC documentary that far-right gangs were rife in Ukrainian and Polish football.

"To accuse Ukraine of being fascist and racist - and to do it in the tone in which it is being done by the British media, some British footballers and individual British politicians - is simply disgraceful," said Oleg Voloshyn, spokesman at the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry.

He went even further by saying that "you can criticize Ukrainian society for a lot of things ... but, in the practice of racism, European Union member countries are a long way ahead of Ukraine."

Read more: Ukraine, Poland outraged at football racism allegations | News | DW.DE | 29.05.2012

The Egyptian Election and the Arab Spring

The Egyptian presidential election was held last week. No candidate received 50 percent of the vote, so a runoff will be held between the two leading candidates, Mohammed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq. Morsi represented the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and received 25.3 percent of the vote, while Shafiq, a former Egyptian air force commander and the last prime minister to serve in Hosni Mubarak's administration, received 24.9 percent. There were, of course, charges of irregularities, but in general the results made sense. The Islamist faction had done extremely well in the parliamentary election, and fear of an Islamist president caused the substantial Coptic community, among others, to support the candidate of the old regime, which had provided them at least some security.

Read More: the Egyptian Election and the Arab Spring | Stratfor

France, Germany, Britain expel Syrian envoys

France, Germany and Britain moved Tuesday to expel Syria's diplomatic envoys in protest at the weekend massacre in the town of Houla, as other EU nations considered following suit.

Diplomatic sources said several EU nations were weighing a joint expulsion of Syria's ambassadors in response to the massacre in the central town, in which at least 108 people, including 49 children, were killed.

"That idea is on the table," said an EU diplomat ahead of talks Tuesday and Wednesday between ambassadors from the 27-nation bloc.

In Paris, President Francois Hollande told journalists that France's decision to expel Ambassador Lamia Shakkur, which would be formally communicated to her on Tuesday or Wednesday, was "not a unilateral decision by France, but a decision agreed upon with (our) partners."


Read more: France, Germany, Britain expel Syrian envoys | Bangkok Post: news

Spain calls on Europe for a show of force “to dissipate any doubts about the Euro”

“Europe has to dissipate any doubts about the Euro,” the premier told a hastily called news conference in Madrid. It “must affirm that the Euro is an irreversible project and act in consequence.”

Spain is trying to shore up its banks and help cash-strapped regions while its own borrowing costs compared with Germany’s are the highest since the creation of the Euro.

As Spain’s narrowing market access depends on domestic lenders financed by the European Central Bank, the government is considering using public-debt securities rather than cash to fund the 19 billion-Euro bailout of BFA-Bankia.

Read more: Spain calls on Europe for a show of force “to dissipate any doubts about the Euro” — MercoPress

Survey Shows Germans Admired by Europe for Honesty and Hard Work

Europeans view Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel more favorably than any other European Union country and leader, but most believe EU economic integration has hurt their country's economy, a Pew Research Center poll published Tuesday shows.

"Germany is the most admired country in the EU and its chancellor the most respected leader," a report releasing the poll's figures said. Germans "stand alone," as they view their recent economic experiences more positively than others and are more favorable to Europe.

"But contrary to their popular portrayal, the Germans do not differ markedly from other Europeans on policy issues. On many counts it is the Greeks who are the most isolated in Europe," the report said.
Germany was the only country in which most people -- 59 percent -- think their country has been helped by European integration. The most negative were the Greeks, with 70 percent saying EU integration had hurt them, followed by the French with 63 percent. Overall the rating was 34 percent.

Read more: Survey Shows Germans Admired by Europe for Honesty and Hard Work - SPIEGEL ONLINE

Internet: New website to let you send email to your future self

A website has launched a new service, which lets users send 'time capsule' emails to their future self. Futureme.org works like a simple web mail service, but lets the users specify the date when the message will arrive, it could be a warning, advice, or simply a 'Hello!' from the past.

"FutureMe.org is based on the principle that memories are less accurate than e-mails," the Daily Mail quoted the site as saying.

The site says, "Send your future self some words of inspiration. Or maybe give 'em swift kick in the pants. Or just share some thoughts on where you'll or what you'll be up to in a year, three years...more? And then we'll do some time travel magic and deliver the letter to you."

For more:New website to let you send email to your future self - Hindustan Times

5/28/12

Attempts to revive language spoken in Jesus' time

Two villages in the Holy Land's tiny Christian community are teaching Aramaic in an ambitious effort to revive the language that Jesus spoke, centuries after it all but disappeared from the Middle East.

The new focus on the region's dominant language 2,000 years ago comes with a little help from modern technology: an Aramaic-speaking television channel from Sweden, of all places, where a vibrant immigrant community has kept the ancient tongue alive.

In the Palestinian village of Beit Jala, an older generation of Aramaic speakers is trying to share the language with their grandchildren. Beit Jala lies next to Bethlehem, where the New Testament says Jesus was born.

And in the Arab-Israeli village of Jish, nestled in the Galilean hills where Jesus lived and preached, elementary school children are now being instructed in Aramaic. The children belong mostly to the Maronite Christian community. Maronites still chant their liturgy in Aramaic but few understand the prayers.

Read more: Attempts to revive language spoken in Jesus' time - CBS News

Spain can count on aid from abroad: Polish cenbanker

Spain could count on a firewall of international funding if its troubled banks need further recapitalization, but the depth of its problems pale next to those of Greece, Poland's central bank governor said on Monday.

Investors are growing increasingly concerned Spain could be forced to seek an international bailout the euro zone can barely afford even though Spain's prime minister has said there will not be any European rescue for Spanish banks.

Polish central bank chief Marek Belka, a former European director at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) who gave a speech in Peru on the difficulties facing the euro, said international funding would be available if Spain needs it.

Read More: Spain can count on aid from abroad: Polish cenbanker - chicagotribune.com

Italy: Vatican denies Cardinal's involvement in 'Vatileaks' scandal

The Vatican Monday denied reports by Italian media that a cardinal is suspected of playing a major role in the widening "Vatileaks" scandal, Reuters reported.

Pope Benedict XVI's butler Paolo Gabriele was arrested last week after leaked documents were found in his home, sparking rumors and speculations about cardinals' involvement in the papers' release, Agence France Presse reported.

Several Italian media outlets quoted anonymous sources on Monday who said Gabriele was just one of around 20 whistleblowers who had been leaking information from the Holy See, according to the AFP.

Read more: Vatican denies Cardinal's involvement in 'Vatileaks' scandal | GlobalPost

France Summons Friends of Syria to Meeting

French President Francois Hollande and British Premier David Cameron called on Monday the so-called group of friends of Syria to a meeting in Paris on a yet-to-be-set date.

During a phone conversation, Hollande joined his European partners in demanding more pressure to be put on the government of President Bashar Al Assad.

A communiqué from the Elysee Palace blames the Al Assad government for the recent acts of violence in Hula, while Damascus puts the blame on terrorist armed groups supported from abroad.

The text adds that the Syrian issue will be discussed during a visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to France on June 1st.

For more: Prensa Latina News Agency - France Summons Friends of Syria to Meeting

The Millennium Project European Nodes Combine Forces with the European Regional Foresight College

The Millennium Project Nodes in Europe have joined forces with the European Regional Foresight College for improving futures research thinking and practice across Europe and globally. The Millennium Project Nodes are groups of institutions, individuals, and networks that connect local and global perspectives for improving thinking about the future and making better decisions today.

For more: The Millennium Project European Nodes Combine Forces with the European Regional Foresight College

Europe Stock Futures, Euro Climb on Greece Optimism; Oil Rallies

European equity futures and Asian stocks rallied and the euro strengthened for the first time in five days after opinion polls of Greek voters eased concern that the country will exit the euro zone. Oil and copper rose.

Euro Stoxx 50 Index futures gained 1 percent at 7:01 a.m. in London, while those for the Standard & Poor's 500 Index futures added 0.9 percent. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index advanced 0.6 percent, rebounding from a five-month low. The euro climbed 0.7 percent to $1.2602 while the Dollar Index, which tracks the currency against six U.S. trading partners, fell 0.6 percent, and was poised for the biggest drop in six weeks.

"There will be no exit by Greece," said Binay Chandgothia, a Hong Kong-based portfolio manager at Principal Global Investors, which manages $250 billion globally. "If they take structurally positive steps, things will be all right in the long run," he said in a Bloomberg Television interview.

Read more: Europe Stock Futures, Euro Climb on Greece Optimism; Oil Rallies

5/27/12

Soccer: Germany, Netherlands suffer Euro 2012 setbacks

Germany slumped to a shock 5-3 defeat in Switzerland while the Dutch were booed off in Amsterdam after surrendering a one-goal lead to lose 2-1 against Bulgaria.

Defending European and world champions Spain, however, showed off their impressive strength in depth when a second-string side defeated Serbia 2-0.

England, meanwhile, gave Roy Hodgson a winning start as new national coach with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Norway in Oslo.

Read more: Germany, Netherlands suffer Euro 2012 setbacks | DAWN.COM

Markets responding well to France’s new leader - by Neil Unmack

France is enjoying a good crisis. The country’s funding costs are at record lows. But this may not last if new president François Hollande’s policies disappoint markets.

The election of France’s first socialist president in over two decades could have given markets an excuse to pounce. The opposite has happened. As the Greek situation has worsened, French 10-year yields have fallen to their lowest levels since the euro crisis began. Ten-year spreads over Bunds fell roughly 30 basis points this past week, to 110 basis points. Compare that to the peak of the crisis in November last year, when rising contagion drove spreads to a record 180 basis points, suggesting that France could at some point be hit by the contagion wave.

Markets so far have seen the best side of Mr. Hollande. He used the recent euro zone summit to verbally promote a badly needed growth agenda for the single currency, and he has avoided escalating tensions with Germany. In reality he has few concrete results to show for his efforts, but at the very least he has broadened the policy debate.

Read more: Markets responding well to France’s new leader - The Globe and Mail

Can Eurovision save Europe? - by Barry Neild

As Greece pushes the euro zone towards a possible Armageddon that could tear apart the European Union, at least one experiment in uniting the old continent is still going strong: The Eurovision Song Contest.

Millions of music fans will this Saturday tune into the finals of a talent show that can appear jaw-droppingly strange to the uninitiated, but is for many countries one of the most important cultural — and sometimes political — events of the year.

Though it shows no signs of fatigue in its 56th year, this eclectic mix of national pride, pan-European bonding and barnstorming kitsch isn’t immune to the euro crisis, not least because victory carries the bittersweet reward of hosting next year’s hugely expensive final.

No stranger to controversy thanks to a voting system that some say recognizes cross-border bickering rather than musical talent, the contest has this year generated new disputes courtesy of host country Azerbaijan’s questionable record on human rights.

And while outsiders may disregard it as inconsequential, Eurovision’s global cultural impact shouldn’t be underestimated. In previous years it has helped launch Swedish pop group ABBA, Canadian singer Celine Dion and, of course, Finnish horror rock act Lordi.

Read more: Can Eurovision save Europe? | Alaska Dispatch

5/26/12

Sweden wins the Eurovision 2012 Song contest (UPDATE) - Trend

Sweden wins the Eurovision 2012 Song contest with 372 points.

Lorine Zineb Noka Talhaoui, better known by her stage name Loreen, is a Swedish pop singer and music producer. She represents Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest 2012 in Baku, Azerbaijan with her entry "Euphoria". Russia's Buranovskie Babushki with song "Party for Everybody" took the second place with 259 points.

Serbia's Zeljko Joksimovic with song "Nije Ljubav Stvar" settled for third place with 214 points.

Read more: Sweden wins the Eurovision 2012 Song contest (UPDATE) - Trend

5/25/12

The Netherlands: Repair Cafes in the Netherlands is the New Way to Curb Consumerism

How awesome is the idea of a repair cafe? Very simply, it is a place you take your old, broken-down items, buy a cup of coffee and get your things fixed so that you can continue using them.

The Repair Cafe which debuted  in Amsterdam two years ago does just that. According to the New York Times, “the Repair Cafe Foundation has raised about $525,000 through a grant from the Dutch government, support from foundations and small donations, all of which pay for staffing, marketing and even a Repair Cafe bus”.


Repair Cafes started as a way to curb consumerism. Martine Postma, a former journalist came up with the concept after the birth of her second child, which made her think about environmental issues differently.

Martine says: "In Europe, we throw out so many things. It’s a shame, because the things we throw away are usually not that broken. There are more and more people in the world, and we can’t keep handling things the way we do. I had the feeling I wanted to do something, not just write about it. But I was troubled by the question: “How do you try to do this as a normal person in your daily life?”

Inspired by a design exhibit about design and recycling, she decided on the idea Repair Cafes to help people fix things. For most people, possessions have a sentimental value and they don’t want to part with them. Some others would rather fix a broken item than buy a new one. Although the Netherlands only puts less than 3 percent of its municipal waste into landfill, according to Joop Astma,  the state secretary for infrastructure and the environment, there is still room for improvement. With Repair Cafes, people get together to share repair tips and foster an environment that supports sustainability.


For more: Repair Cafes in the Netherlands is the New Way to Curb Consumerism

Israel steps up security ties with China - by Josef Federman and Christopher Bodeen

After a prolonged chill, security ties between Israel and China are warming up.

With Israel offering much-needed technical expertise and China representing a huge new market and influential voice in the international debate over Iran's nuclear program, the two nations have stepped up military cooperation as they patch up a rift caused by a pair of failed arms deals scuttled by the U.S.
The improved ties have been highlighted by this week's visit to Beijing by Israel's military chief and a training mission to Israel by the Chinese paramilitary force that, among other things, polices the restive Tibetan and Muslim Uighur regions. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to travel to China in the coming weeks.

For more: Israel steps up security ties with China - Boston.com

Turkey: Celebrating Cin Ali: The stick figure who taught Turkey to read

Cin Ali
If you mess up in Turkey, a common way to laugh it off is to invoke Cin Ali, the squiggly stick figure in a cap whose benign adventures in picture books helped a generation of Turks learn to read.

Cin Ali is a stubborn presence in popular culture. A television satire, Leyla and Mecnun, featured a skit in December in which the characters turned into Cin Ali-style cartoons. A Facebook page in his name lists 78,000 "likes."

"In hard times, I feel that he'll revive and come to my side. Like he'll come out from my childhood," writes Asli Gul on the social networking site. "He is the only guy who never tells lies," posts Kadir Oz.

Last year, Cin Ali became a pawn in allegations of result-fixing in the annual university entrance exam, a scandal that the political opposition used to hammer the government. Ali Demir, head of the examination institution, was the target of student protesters, some of whom held up signs saying: "Resign, Cin Ali."

Read more: Celebrating Cin Ali: The stick figure who taught Turkey to read - CSMonitor.com

Soccer: Euro 2012: Group B with Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Denmark should set 1st round alight - by Raf Casert

Quite simply, a tougher group has not been assembled in the opening round of a tournament since FIFA started its world rankings two decades ago. Not in Europe, and not around the world.

With Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark, four of the world's top 10 teams have been clustered together by the luck of the draw. And with the Germans, the Dutch and the Portuguese, it has three teams from the top five, making Denmark a rank outsider to advance despite its No. 10 ranking.

"We're all aware how difficult our group is," said Portugal coach Paul Bento, who will rely on Cristiano Ronaldo to guide the team through the opening round. "We're aiming to reach the quarterfinals. That's our first goal."

For more: Euro 2012: Group B with Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Denmark should set 1st round alight | The Republic

Europe's odd couple sets off on right foot

At a closely-watched European Union summit into the wee hours Thursday, his first since a May 6 election, Hollande stole the thunder from the continent's most powerful leader.
In Berlin, news weekly Der Spiegel dubbed it "the first EU summit in years not dominated by Merkel" and said "Hollande steals the show."

After five years of "Merkozy" -- coined after the tie-up between Merkel and conservative Nicolas Sarkozy -- the EU's 27 members are anxiously watching whether the bloc's Franco-German motor morphs into a like-minded "Frangela," if not "Merkollande", or simply flies apart.

In crisis-hit Europe, Merkel is the high-priestess of austerity, Hollande the just-elected prophet of growth. The former leads the continent's powerhouse nation and paymaster, the latter the EU's second biggest economy, though one storing up a sea of trouble.

At the summit, Hollande urged peers to sign off on a new, if vague, growth pact next month, saying too much austerity is driving Europe into profound recession.

He also dared a long-taboo suggestion that countries sharing the euro borrow jointly in future to spread risk more evenly. By issuing so-called "eurobonds," countries would all borrow at median rates, lowering costs for the most indebted of the 17 euro nations, but raising the bills in Berlin.

For more: Europe's odd couple sets off on right foot - Latest news around the world and developments close to home - MSN Philippines News

5/24/12

With smuggling choked, Syrian rebels feel shortage of heavy weapons - by Elizabeth Kennedy

Mohammad Nizar says he and his fellow rebels have the will, the fervor and the money to bring down Syrian President Bashar Assad. What they lack, he says, is the firepower.

“If I make a phone call, I’ll have maybe 2,000 Stingers,” Nizar said, then acknowledged he could not get the shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles because the government is choking off all the main smuggling routes into Syria.

Small arms purchased on the black market are being smuggled in, but for all the international community’s talk of helping the rebels to bring down Assad, no government is known to be arming them.

Read more: THE DAILY STAR :: News :: Middle East :: With smuggling choked, Syrian rebels feel shortage of heavy weapons

The 4 policymakers who could decide the 2012 election - by Ezra Klein

 "For every one-percentage-point decline in euro-area growth, history suggests growth in the rest of the world will take a 0.7% hit, 'with the U.S. seeing a somewhat smaller decline than other parts of the world.'"

That's David Wessel summarizing some research from JPMorgan. The main channel of contagion is financial. Exports to Europe are 1.2 percent of GDP. That's not nothing, but it's not that much. The bigger problem is that "European banks have lent more than $6 trillion to the rest of the world, twice as much as U.S. banks." Indeed, "European loans to the U.S. amount to about 10% of U.S. GDP."

I used to say that Germany's Angela Merkel and the European Central Bank's Mario Draghi were going to decide who America's next president was. If they saved the euro zone, it would be Barack Obama. If they let it fail, it would be Mitt Romney. Then Europe stabilized and I stopped saying it.

For more: Wonkbook: The 4 policymakers who could decide the 2012 election - The Washington Post

Europe awaits decision by volatile Greek voters - thestar.com

European leaders tied their next steps on the financial crisis to the outcome of a bitterly contested election in Greece that may determine whether the 17- nation euro currency splinters.

A six-hour summit ended early Thursday with an exhortation to Greek voters to elect a pro-austerity government on June 17 that makes the budget cuts needed to keep the financially ravaged country in the euro.

Euro-area finance ministers and leaders don’t meet again until after the Greek election, potentially facing a question deemed unthinkable when the euro was set up: how to broker an exit without shattering the broader European financial system.

Read more: Europe awaits decision by volatile Greek voters - thestar.com

5/23/12

Australia # 1 on the “Better Life Index”, ahead of Norway and the USA

Australia is the World’s happiest nation based on income, jobs, housing and health, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said.

Australia led Norway and the USA, the Paris-based group’s Better Life Index showed, when each of 11 categories surveyed in 36 nations arre given equal weight.

Life expectancy at birth in Australia is almost 82 anni, 2 years higher than the OECD average, the survey showed. More than 72% of people aged 15 to 64 in Australia have a paid job, above the OECD average of 66%.

Read more: Australia # 1 on the “Better Life Index”, ahead of Norway and the USA | Live Trading News

France, Germany at odds at EU summit

French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were at odds over the issue of eurobonds at a European Union summit on Wednesday, as concern rose over a possible Greek euro exit.

"Among the proposals I will put on the table will be eurobonds," Hollande said after meeting Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

He said it was unfair for Spain or Italy to pay close to six per cent interest on their 10-year bonds while Germany's yield on two-year debt issuances reached a low of 0.07 per cent on Wednesday.

Read more: France, Germany at odds at EU summit

European Soccer: Bayern beat Netherlands 3-2 in friendly

Arjen Robben has been booed by many of his home Bayern Munich fans during an appearance for the Netherlands in a friendly three days after he missed a penalty in the Champions League final against Chelsea.

Bayern won 3-2 on Tuesday in a match that was part of the settlement to a long dispute between the club and the Dutch football federation after Robben returned injured from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and could not play for months. Bayern demanded and won compensation from the Dutch.

Robben came on for the Netherlands with 15 minutes remaining. While a large section of the crowd booed the winger every time he touched the ball, others chanted his name.

Read more: Bayern beat Netherlands 3-2 in friendly - The West Australian

EU leaders search for way to keep a lid on euro crisis

The hotly-contested issue of eurobonds is likely to top the agenda at a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Wednesday, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel maintaining her objection to them. 
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development did a good job explaining what's at stake at the European Union summit with Tuesday's report that said a eurozone recession is the single biggest threat to the global economy.

It will be no trifling task, then, for the 27 EU leaders gathering today, Wednesday, in Brussels to come up with ways to keep the debt crisis the bloc is facing from spiralling out of control, all while attempting to create jobs and boost the economy.

Following a European drive of austerity that was led by France and Germany over the past several months, Europe may now look toward policies that promote growth - a transition that will not likely be smooth.

One item of contention among the EU leaders is the idea of eurobonds, which would be jointly issued and could protect debt-laden countries like Spain or Italy by shielding them from high borrowing rates.

Read more: EU leaders search for way to keep a lid on euro crisis | News | DW.DE | 23.05.2012

5/22/12

USA Presidential Poll: Obama, Romney Deadlocked; Economy Remains Top Concern - by Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij

A Washington Post/ABC News poll released Tuesday gives reasons to support both outcomes, depending on which metrics are examined.

The president's disapproval rating on his handling of the economy, which was ranked as the most important issue by a majority of respondents, stands at 55 percent.

When people were also asked to compare their current financial situation with when Mr. Obama took office, 30 percent responded they were worse off, while 16 percent said they were better off. Fifty-three percent described their status as about the same.

For more: Poll: Obama, Romney Deadlocked; Economy Remains Top Concern | PBS NewsHour

France-U.S. flight diverted after passenger claimed ‘surgically implanted device’

A French woman forced a transatlantic flight from Paris to North Carolina to be diverted to Maine on Tuesday by claiming that she had a “surgically implanted device,” U.S. lawmakers said.

The U.S. Airways jet with 179 passengers and crew on board landed safely in Bangor, Maine, where the woman was ejected and taken into custody by the FBI before the Boeing 767 continued its journey to Charlotte, North Carolina.

The passenger “handed a note to a flight attendant that said she had a surgically implanted device inside her,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King said in a statement.
 

Read more: France-U.S. flight diverted after passenger claimed ‘surgically implanted device’

Germany to Borrow for Free at Two-Year Sale Amid Crisis - by Anchalee Worrachate and Emma Charlton

Germany will borrow for free at a sale of two-year government notes tomorrow, betting it can lure buyers seeking a haven from the European debt crisis.

Germany, the only country in the euro area with a stable outlook on its AAA rating, will sell as much as 5 billion euros ($6.4 billion) of two-year notes carrying a zero-percent coupon, a record low, Bundesbank data showed today. That’s down from a coupon of 0.25 percent at the previous sale of similar-maturity notes on April 18.

For more: Germany to Borrow for Free at Two-Year Sale Amid Crisis - Bloomberg

Forget Greece, US should focus on own worries - by Irwin Stelzer

There comes a tide in the affairs of men . . . and the one sweeping from Greece, across Europe and into the US is washing away support for austerity.

Barack Obama is delighted at this support for his refusal to cut spending in the face of mounting deficits, and the Republicans are feeling beleaguered at what they see as the disinterment of the works of John Maynard Keynes.

Forget Greece, US should focus on own worries | The Australian

Why Europe's Austerity Regime Won't Change - by Rick Newman

The economists and politicians who argue that Europe (and the United States) need more emphasis on growth and less on punishing cutbacks are probably right. But that doesn't mean anything is going to change.


The recent election of socialist Francois Hollande as France's new president has generated speculation that a kinder, gentler reform program will emerge to bounce Europe out of its economic doldrums. Hollande campaigned for office by vowing to renegotiate a recent pact that set tight budget rules for all eurozone countries, and he'll soon meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to insist on a new deal that does more to stimulate spending and create jobs.

The other pressure point is Greece, where newly powerful leftist politicians have rejected some of the stiff tax hikes and sharp spending cuts other European nations insist upon as a condition of providing Greece bailout money. There's an increasingly real threat that Greece, its citizens reeling from pension cuts, tax hikes, and other austerity measures, could leave the eurozone over the matter, creating a messy default scenario that unnerves financial markets.

For more: Why Europe's Austerity Regime Won't Change - Rick Newman (usnews.com)

France's Hollande sets conditions on Afghan financing | Reuters

French President Francois Hollande said on Monday France had been asked to contribute a little less than $200 million for long-term funding to Afghanistan, but he signaled there would be no commitments until Paris knew how the money would be managed.

The U.S. administration is unwilling to foot the entire annual bill to maintain Afghan forces after 2014, which is estimated at $4.1 billion, and has been seeking pledges from allies of $1.3 billion, despite austerity measures brought on by Europe's financial crisis.

"We will study the request for funding," Hollande said. "But we have put a condition to it which is to know whether these contributions will be efficiently managed." Germany already has committed $190 million and Britain $110 million


For more: France's Hollande sets conditions on Afghan financing | Reuters

5/21/12

Italy earthquake: Monti prepares for state of emergency

Italians have begun assessing the damage to one of their most historic regions, a day after seven people were killed in a 6.0 magnitude earthquake.

Cultural sites have been left in ruins, almost 5,000 people have fled their homes and the mayor of one northern town has appealed for urgent help.

The government has said it expects to declare a state of emergency.

For more: BBC News - Italy earthquake: Monti prepares for state of emergency

Europe Faces Difficult Search for Growth

On paper at least, European leaders agree: They need stronger growth measures to help their economies expand out of their 2½-year-old government debt crisis. Figuring out exactly what those new steps might be will be the hard part.

Persistent political divisions — neatly bridged by a Group of Eight summit statement that advocates a mix of austerity and growth promotion — and lack of money stand in the way of a comprehensive European growth strategy. Analysts said markets were likely to look past the verbal deal, with news about Greece’s struggle to stay in the eurozone and an informal European Union summit Thursday in Brussels more likely to set the tone.

At Saturday’s G-8 summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel — under urging from U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande — signed onto a statement that called for mixing painful cutbacks with growth-promoting measures to deal with a crisis that threatens the global economy.

Read more: Europe Faces Difficult Search for Growth | Business | TIME.com

France says 'oui' to euro bonds, but Germany says 'nein'

A German official made clear on Monday that Berlin continues to oppose the idea of jointly-issued bonds for the 17-nation eurozone, which France's new president had suggested could be used to create much-needed economic growth and ease the region's financial crisis.

At the weekend's Group of Eight summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined French President Francois Hollande and U.S. President Barack Obama in signing on to a statement that called for adding growth-promoting measures to painful cutbacks to fight the eurozone crisis.

How exactly to do that has become a topic of heated debate among European leaders, who will meet Wednesday in Brussels to try to find common ground. Hollande has pushed for issuing debt backed by financially strong countries like Germany to finance growth in weaker countries like Greece or Portugal.

For more: France says 'oui' to euro bonds, but Germany says 'nein' - CSMonitor.com

5/20/12

Spain's PM defends solvency of Spanish banks, downplays upward revision of 2011 budget deficit

Spain's prime minister has defended the solvency of Spanish banks and downplayed his French counterpart's suggestion that they could benefit from a recapitalization using European funds.

Speaking to journalists on his arrival in Chicago for Sunday's NATO summit, Mariano Rajoy said comments made by Francois Hollande were not based on accurate figures. Rajoy says "Hollande does not know the state of Spanish banks."

Spain on Friday revised its 2011 budgest deficit to 8.9 per cent. Rajoy said this shows the government's willingness to be transparent with public accounts.

Spain's deficit is higher than the euro zone's economic threshold of 3 per cent. The previous, Socialist government, has put the 2011 deficit at 6 per cent.

Read more: Spain's PM defends solvency of Spanish banks, downplays upward revision of 2011 budget deficit | CanadianBusiness.com

The U.S. productivity farce - by Pedro da Costa

Economists don’t agree on much but they do tend to converge on one idea – productivity improvements are the key to long-term prosperity. Except that who benefits from productivity increases matters as much as the efficiency gains themselves, according to two reports from the liberal Economic Policy Institute in Washington.

The first finds that rising income inequality in the United States means that the benefits of better productivity are accruing mainly to the very wealthy. The EPI offers this startling nugget of data as basic food for thought: U.S. productivity grew 80.4 percent from 1973 to 2011, while average hourly compensation rose just 39.2 percent in the same period, and median compensation, which excludes outliers, gained a paltry 10.7 percent.

Read more The U.S. productivity farce | MacroScope

Pentagon says China building aircraft carriers

China may have started work on it first domestically built aircraft carrier and is likely to produce a number of carriers over the next decade as part of an aggressive effort to modernize its military, the Pentagon said Friday.

In its annual report to Congress appraising China's military strength, the Pentagon also cited concern about China's targeting of U.S. and other foreign computer networks as a means of collecting strategic intelligence. It based this conclusion on unspecified "authoritative writings" and China's "persistent cyber intrusions."

More broadly, the report described an ambitious Chinese military program aimed at transforming the People's Liberation Army into a modern force, fueled by years of double-digit increases in defense spending. Its main goals include preserving Communist Party rule and preparing for possible hostilities in the Taiwan Strait, the report said.

Read more: PressTV - Pentagon says China building aircraft carriers

Airbus - Wing cracks: Airbus expects to solve A380 problem by year's end - not considered safety hazzard

Airbus expects to have a permanent solution for tiny cracks in the wings of its A380 superjumbo jets by the end of the year and repairs completed by the end of 2013, a spokesman says.

The company is currently carrying out temporary repairs to the micro cracks found in the wings of some 17 of the aircraft last year.

At the same time the company is looking to come up with a permanent solution to the problem, which has been traced to a small number of faulty brackets among the thousands that hold the wing's skin to the structure.

Airbus has insisted that the cracks do not pose a safety risk, and envisages that the repairs can be made in 2013 when the aircraft undergo regular servicing.


Read more: Wing cracks: Airbus expects to solve A380 problem by year's end

Syria: Bomb strikes near UN officials

A roadside bomb exploded in a restive suburb of the Syrian capital as senior UN officials toured the area, the latest incident in which the unarmed observer mission has nearly been caught up in the country's bloodshed.

No casualties were reported in the blast, which detonated about 150 metres away from visiting UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous and Major General Robert Mood, the chief of UN observers in Syria. Journalists accompanying the team also were nearby. The explosion blew off the front of a parked vehicle.

A UN observer team with more than 250 members now on the ground has failed to quell the bloodshed in Syria, although it says it has had a "calming effect" in certain areas. Meanwhile, on several occasions, the team has come close to being caught in an attack, although there is no conclusive proof that it has been targeted.

Read more: Syria: Bomb strikes near UN officials - World - NZ Herald News

Alternative Energy: Why Solar Cookers Should Spread Like Satellites in Morocco - by Tafline Laylin

Women in rural Morocco are often responsible for the grueling task of trekking miles to collect fuel for cooking, which requires not only energy but also time that might have been used developing or applying other skills. Lacking access to natural gas, these villagers have had no choice but to burn biomass to produce the family’s meals –  a situation that also has grave environmental consequences. But a new initiative brought to our attention by Hicham Semlali has already profoundly improved the quality of life for residents of Ouffi Ait – a small, sunny village southeast of Marrakech.

The Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECI) introduced 150 new solar-cookers, which allow women to spend time on cottage industries and give the surrounding forests a much-needed break.

Working with the Foreign Association XXI and ADMR from Morocco, AECI targeted women as protagonists of a cleaner, more equitable future in their Morocco Solar Cookers for Rural Families project.

Aimed at overcoming poverty and exclusion, the initiative promotes using technology and renewable energy to strengthen the social and economic fabric of rural society and contribute to the successful management of natural capital and environmental preservation.

Read more: Why Solar Cookers Should Spread Like Satellites in Morocco | Green Prophet

Italy earthquake kills at least six

A powerful earthquake shook Italy's industrial and densely populated northeast early Sunday, killing at least six people, felling homes and factories and reducing historic buildings to rubble.

Emergency services said dozens had been injured in the magnitude 6.0 quake, which struck in the middle of the night, sending thousands of people running into the streets in towns and cities across the Emilia Romagna region.

Emergency workers were sifting through the rubble of collapsed buildings for victims, hours after the quake and several aftershocks struck at 0200 GMT.

Read more: Italy earthquake kills at least six

Greek poll shows pro-bailout conservatives leading

If elections were held now, New Democracy would win 26.1 percent of the vote compared with SYRIZA's 23.7 percent, according to the MARC/Alpha survey conducted on May 15-17.

Based on this result, New Democracy would win 123 seats, the pollsters said. Combined with the 41 seats projected to be won by the Socialist PASOK, Greece's two major pro-bailout parties would command a 14-seat majority in the country's 300-strong parliament.

Polls last week had showed the anti-bailout SYRIZA placing first in the election, causing alarm across the EU. European leaders have said that unless the next Greek government is committed to the bailout, Greece would face certain bankruptcy and ejection from the euro.


Read more: Greek poll shows pro-bailout conservatives leading | Reuters

Capitalism and the Bible

For those of you who want to ask the question about what the Bible says about today's capitalism you might, for starters, just want to have a look at: Proverbs 22, verse 7 : "The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender"; verse 16; "He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want"; verse 22 and 23: "Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate, for the LORD will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them"; verse 27: "If thou hast nothing to pay, why should he take away thy bed from under thee?"

EU-Digest 

FACEBOOK: The Final Nails In The Dot-Com Coffin: Facebook And Apple - by Stanley Barton

The beauty of being a long-term, value investor is that you get vindication every 20 years or so. Unfortunately, that is small compensation for all those luncheons with colleagues bragging about their stock picks doubling, when the best thing you have to celebrate is a ten-cent dividend bump. There are also uncomfortable situations, such as stepping into the batter's box at the company softball game, as hecklers taunt you with nicknames like "Dead Money."

For better or worse, my value-oriented investment style generally prevents me from participating in "bubbles." Early in that phase, frothy stocks are disqualified by my value screens, so all I can do is watch them inflate, rise and pop. This article describes how I believe the market action of Apple (AAPL) and Facebook (FB) signals that the "Dot-com Bubble" can rest in peace.

The anticipation leading up to the Facebook IPO, combined with lofty valuations of some tech-related stocks, has created whispers of a tech bubble rebirth. With the tech-heavy NASDAQ Composite Index eclipsing the 3000 mark for the first time in a decade after the Dot-com Bubble burst, it may be worth considering if a new generation of action-addicted investors are ready for Dot-com2. The concerns of a bubble probably contributed to the NASDAQ drop of more than 8% in the first half of May.

Read more: The Final Nails In The Dot-Com Coffin: Facebook And Apple - Seeking Alpha

Soccer: First the World Cup final, now the Champions League showpiece – Arjen Robben proves that he is a big-game choker - by Stefan Coerts

Very few will disagree with the notion that Arjen Robben has been one of the world's best attackers over the past half-decade. The Dutchman has won league titles with PSV, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, while lifting several more trophies at club level.

Additionally, the former Groningen star has been capped 54 times by the Netherlands, and at the age of 28 has already featured at two European Championships and two World Cups.

However, the fleet-footed winger has not enjoyed much luck on the biggest stage. Robben has lost the last four finals he has played in: Inter proved too strong for Bayern in the 2010 Champions League final, Spain beat Netherlands at the 2010 World Cup, Borussia Dortmund defeated FCB in this year's DFB Pokal final, and Chelsea emerged victorious in this season's final of European club football's elite tournament.

The Oranje international has, unfortunately, played a key role in a number of these big-game failures, and the outcome could often have been very different had Robben been more decisive at the critical moments. This has led to the ex-Real Madrid star being labelled by some as a big-game choker.
 

For more: First the World Cup final, now the Champions League showpiece – Arjen Robben proves that he is a big-game choker - Goal.com

G8 leaders urge Europe to focus on growth

The Group of Eight nations are advocating growth rather than austerity in Europe after spending two days of meetings at Camp David aimed at containing an escalating fiscal crisis overseas.

US President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and leaders of the world's other top economies agreed that while Europe should still toil to reduce deficits, it must above all else promote widespread growth and job creation.

"All of us are absolutely committed to making sure that both growth and stability and fiscal consolidation are part of a overall package that all of us have to pursue in order to achieve the kind of prosperity for our citizens that we're looking for," Obama said at a news conference at the end of the summit.

For more: G8 leaders urge Europe to focus on growth - News1130

5/19/12

Middle East: Syria blast: Foreign plot blamed

 A car bomb killed nine people at a Syrian military post in the eastern city of Deir al-Zor on Saturday, an attack the government said was the latest proof that an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad was a foreign plot.

The official SANA news agency said the blast had been the work of a suicide bomber, and had also wounded about 100 people, including guards, at what it called military installations.

International pressure and a UN-backed peace plan has failed to quell Syria's turmoil. French President Francois Hollande said on Saturday the peace plan still had international backing, but Washington sounded a more aggressive note saying Assad had to leave power.

For more: Syria blast: Foreign plot blamed | News24

France's unwed first lady makes Camp David summit debut

A demure and elegant Valerie Trierweiler took her first steps on the world stage as France's new -- unwed -- first lady Saturday, joining Michelle Obama and G8 summit wives on a White House tour.

Trierweiler, the partner of new French President Francois Hollande, wore a black, knee length wrap dress, with black heels and carried a handbag, as she and other leaders' wives viewed the East Room of the White House.

The first ladies then tucked into an intimate lunch of Maryland Rockfish with local asparagus, grapefruit, Virginia berries, and vegetables from the White House Garden, followed by tangerine sorbet with Virginia strawberries.

For more: France's unwed first lady makes summit debut - FRANCE 24

Amid Camp David's lush splendor, U.S. Marines enforce tight security

 It's one of the most storied political retreats in the world, a lushly verdant paradise nestled in the northern reaches of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

It's also guarded so heavily by U.S. Marines that those living near the rustic presidential compound have complained of soldiers leaping out at them from the pristine woods if they dare wander too close or look suspicious.

"I love living nearby because it's so beautiful, but it's a shame people living here will never, ever see Camp David, and also that security can be so over the top," a waitress at the Eisenhower Hotel in nearby Gettysburg, Pa., said Saturday.

For more: Amid Camp David's lush splendour, U.S. Marines enforce tight security - Winnipeg Free Press

Chelsea Beat Bayern Munich 4-3 on Penalties, Win the UEFA Champions League

Roman Abramovich’s $2.86 billion ambition has been fulfilled. Chelsea have won the Champions League. They walked the most tenuous of tightropes, but they  beat Bayern Munich 4-3 on penalties after drawing 1-1 in regulation. This was perhaps the worst and the ugliest team of the Abramovich era, but, ultimately, it was the most successful.

Bayern dominated the match statistically. They did not hold as much possession as expected, just 56 percent, but they outshot Chelsea 43-9. Bayern had 20 corner kicks to Chelsea’s one. Chelsea scored on that one. It was just that sort of night.

The real loser here may be Tottenham. The fourth place finisher in the EPL will not take the final Champions League place (Chelsea get one automatically). With financial fair play going into effect next season, the lost funds could cripple their ability to compete at that level in future years (and help Chelsea).

Chelsea Beat Bayern Munich 4-3 on Penalties, Win the UEFA Champions League | The Big Lead

5/18/12

The Netherlands: Election Stunt by Dutch Right Wing Parliamentarian Wilders who takes Dutch state to court to head off EU emergency fund

Geert Wilders is taking legal action against the Dutch state in an effort to stop the Netherlands supporting the European financial emergency fund.

Bram Moszkowicz, the lawyer who represented Wilders when he was charged with inciting racial hatred, will head the legal team, the parliamentarian told the Telegraaf this week.

Wilders claims by supporting the fund, the Netherlands is handing over power to Brussels. This, he says, is something the caretaker government cannot do without giving voters their say first.

The Netherlands goes to the polls to elect a new parliament in September, but the emergency fund has to be ratified before this. The fund, which will have at least €500bn at its disposal to start with, is due to launch in July.  Prime minister Mark Rutte has already signed the agreement but parliament needs to give its approval as well.

Wilders told the paper his decision to go to court is unique in parliamentary history, but denied it was an election stunt. 'I am defending the interests of the Netherlands,' he told the paper. He earlier failed to get enough support in parliament to call a halt to the ratification process.

"Geert Wilders who dumped his support for the Rutte Government at the last minute before a final budget agreement was to be announced and now is trying to benefit from the Euro crises is considered more and more as an opportunist without any real government plan. He has also been losing ground in the polls". 

Read more: nDutchNews.nl - Wilders takes Dutch state to court to head off EU emergency fund

G8 summit: French €57bn financial tax plan rejected by UK - by Patrick Wintour and Ewen MacAskill

Barack Obama and François HollandeBarack Obama was caught between two competing European visions of how to solve the financial crisis at the G8 summit when David Cameron rejected outright a French proposal to raise €57bn (£46bn) through a tax on financial transactions.

The eurozone crisis is set to dominate four days of intense diplomacy which began in Washington Friday morning and continued through a meeting of G8 leaders at the presidential retreat Camp David on Friday evening. Discussions will continue there on Saturday and onto a Nato meeting in Chicago.

In talks at the White House, only hours before the Camp David summit, Obama met the new French president François Hollande for a one-to-one conversation in which he explored the possibility of a new approach to the eurozone crisis based on a pro-growth, stimulus strategy. Obama has been pressing for such a strategy for the last three years and has a potential ally in Hollande.

Read more: G8 summit: French €57bn financial tax plan rejected by UK | World news | The Guardian

5/17/12

European Space exploration: - Ariane 5’s second launch of 2012

Early this morning, a European heavy lift Ariane 5 launcher lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on its mission to place two telecommunications satellites, JCSAT-13 and Vinasat-2, into their planned transfer orbits.

Liftoff of flight VA206, the 62nd Ariane 5 mission, came at 22:13 GMT (00:13 CEST; 19:13 French Guiana). The target injection orbit had a perigee altitude of 249.9 km, an apogee altitude at injection of 35 911 km and an inclination of 2°.

The satellites were accurately injected into their transfer orbits about 26 minutes and 36 minutes after liftoff, respectively.

Read more: ESA Portal - Ariane 5’s second launch of 2012

Germany and France agree: Merkel and Hollande want Greece to stay in euro - by Valentina Pop

France's newly elected president and the German Chancellor on Tuesday (15 May) both said they want Greece to remain in the eurozone, even as coalition talks collapsed over the EU-sponsored bail-out and the country is set to hold new elections in June.

"We want Greece to stay in the euro," Germany's Angela Merkel said in Berlin alongside Francois Hollande. She added that their governments were ready "to study the possibility of additional growth measures in Greece."

Hollande centred his election campaign around the argument that German-driven austerity alone is not the solution for Europe. He vowed to attach a "growth pact" to the Berlin-inspired fiscal treaty enshrining budgetary discipline in national law.

Read more: EUobserver.com / Economic Affairs / Merkel and Hollande want Greece to stay in euro

Stylish Airbus A380-Themed Restaurant Takes Flight in China

If you are among those who get airsick and hate the whole thought of taking to the skies but still want that jumbo jet experience, there is a restaurant in China that could answer all your prayers!

This special little place - Special Enjoyment (the Chinese name translates more literally as Special Class) - in the Chongqing district, is actually themed around the interiors of the Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger airliner.

Guests are ushered to seats similar to those on the plane and your friendly waitresses not only look like stewardess but are actually trained to talk and act like them. In addition, the windows, the adjustable seats, the carpets and even the cabin (room, we mean) lighting have been inspired by those found onboard the A380. We do hope, however, the menu is a little better than the usual airplane fare and guests can user metal cutlery instead of those unwieldy plastic ones!

The restaurant is reportedly 600 sq m in size and includes six private rooms. It can serve up to 110 customers at a time, according to local media reports and has, for now, 18 employees including nine flight attendants (sorry, we mean waitresses!) who were trained to apply their make-up, look and act like stewardess in mid-air, according to the manager of the restaurant, who was quoted in French China Online.

Read more: Stylish Airbus A380-Themed Restaurant Takes Flight in China [PHOTOS]

Is Israel on the war path? Iran attack decision nears, Israeli elite locks down - by Michael Stott

Is Israel getting ready to strike Iran?
A private door opens from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office in central Jerusalem directly into a long, modestly furnished, half-panelled room decorated with modern paintings by Israeli artists and a copy of Israel's 1948 declaration of independence.

It contains little more than a long wooden table, brown leather chairs and a single old-fashioned white projector screen.

This inner sanctum at the end of a corridor between Netanyahu's private room and the office of his top military adviser, is where one of the decade's most momentous military decisions could soon be taken: to launch an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear program.

Time for that decision is fast running out and the mood in Jerusalem is hardening.

Read more: THE DAILY STAR :: News :: Middle East :: Iran attack decision nears, Israeli elite locks down

Trade War ? US commerce department brings heavy tariffs against Chinese solar panels - by Suzanne Goldenberg

The Obama administration imposed heavy tariffs on Chinese solar panels on Thursday, after finding that China is flooding the market with government subsidised products.

The preliminary decision, that China had dumped solar products on the US for less than the cost of manufacture, will result in tariffs of between 31% and 250% on Chinese imports.
It was seen on Thursday as a mixed blessing.

US solar panel makers, who brought the original complaint, are expected to benefit. But the tariffs, by forcing up prices, are expected to slow the adoption of solar power more generally.
There were also fears the move could lead to a broader US-Chinese trade war.

Read more: US commerce department brings heavy tariffs against Chinese solar panels | World news | guardian.co.uk

France: Good start for President Hollande - Ministers' Pay Cut On Agenda As New French Cabinet Meets

A pay cut for ministers in France will be on the agenda when the country's new cabinet meets for the first time today - even though it is a public holiday. Francois Hollande, who was sworn in as president on Tuesday, unveiled who would be filling the government's key posts - including Jean-Marc Ayrault as prime minister.

Mr Ayrault, a former German language teacher, has vowed to work quickly to get the country "back on its feet". That promise includes acting promptly on a campaign pledge made by Mr Hollande - a pay cut of 30% for his ministers.

"What's essential, and that's why the cabinet will meet as soon as Thursday, is to get quickly to work to allow France to get back on its feet in a just way," Mr Ayrault said.

"This is about setting an example... I will also propose a code of conduct.  Everyone must sign this commitment on conflicts of interest, holding more than one office and not carrying out any other activities."

Mr Hollande's new government includes mainly moderate Socialists and long-standing allies - but also meets a promise to appoint an equal number of men and women to the cabinet. While most of the senior jobs went to men, half of the 34 posts are now held by women - a first for France.

Read more: France: Ministers' Pay Cut On Agenda As New French Cabinet Meets | World News | Sky News

Turkey accuses Israel of air incursion near Cyprus

Turkey's military says its warplanes chased an Israeli aircraft from airspace off territorially disputed Cyprus, where Turkey is seeking seabed deposits of oil and gas. The incident is said to have happened on Monday. 

Israeli officials did not comment immediately on Turkey's claim that an Israeli plane was chased from Cypriot airspace by Turkish fighters on Monday.

Turkey's disclosure, made on Thursday, puts the spotlight back on offshore reserves in the eastern Mediterranean and a souring of Israeli-Turkish relations since 2010.

Read more: Turkey accuses Israel of air incursion near Cyprus | News | DW.DE | 17.05.2012

‘Sexy’ Europe Growth Compact Inevitable; Greece to Stay - by Shai Ahmed

A growth compact to sit alongside the existing fiscal treaty is a certainty for the euro zone as it battles the flames of discontent fanned by the harsh austerity measures implemented in struggling economies, one expert told CNBC Thursday.

“It seems inevitable that we’ll get some sort of growth compact, the question is what that will entail but everybody means different things by it. It’s hugely important to be promoting investment and very important to crack down on tax avoidance and tax evasion collectively,” Sony Kapoor, managing director at international think tank Re-Define told CNBC’s "Squawk Box Europe."

"Slowly it has become sexy to talk about a growth compact and now it seems inevitable we are going to get some sort of a growth compact," he added.

Greece has long been criticized for being its own worst enemy in terms of endorsing a culture of relatively early retirement, a bloated public sector and, crucially, a more relaxed approach to tax collection.

Read more: ‘Sexy’ Europe Growth Compact Inevitable; Greece to Stay: Pro - Business News - CNBC

5/16/12

Fed says several members could support additional efforts to boost economy if needed - by Martin Crutsinger

The US Federal Reserve policymakers are open to further efforts to stimulate the U.S. economy if growth falters or threats escalate.

Minutes of the central bank's April 24-25 meeting released Wednesday stated that "several members" thought additional Fed support could be needed if the recovery lost momentum or if the risks to the economy became great enough.

The minutes did not spell out what circumstances would trigger further Fed efforts to lower interest rates to boost the economy. But they did note some threats to the U.S. economy. One is Europe's debt crisis. Another is the risk that spending cuts and tax increases that could take effect at year's end if Congress can't reach a budget agreement could slow growth more than expected.

The comments stood in contrast to the previous minutes, which said that only "a couple" of members expressed support for further bond purchases. Since the financial crisis, the Fed has pursued two rounds of bond purchases to try to push down long-term interest rates, with a goal of encouraging borrowing and spending.

Read more: Fed says several members could support additional efforts to boost economy if needed - Winnipeg Free Press

Bank of England downgrades U.K. growth forecast - CBS News

The Bank of England has trimmed its growth forecast for the U.K. economy and warned that inflation will remain above target for another year - assuming the country isn't knocked off course by turmoil in the eurozone.

In its quarterly Inflation Report released Wednesday, the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee reduced its growth forecast for this year from 1 percent just three months ago to 0.8 percent. It also abandoned a longstanding hope that consumer price inflation, now 3.5 percent, will fall back to the official 2 percent target by the end of the year.

Bank Governor Mervyn King says he now expects inflation to return to target in the second half of next year, and insisted the economy is broadly on course to recover despite sliding back into recession between October and March. The Bank still expects annual growth of 2.7 percent next year, compared to 3 percent in the February report.

Read more: Bank of England downgrades U.K. growth forecast - CBS News