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6/30/12

Syria peace-plan settled after U.S. drops insistence Assad must go - by John Heilprin and Matthew Lee

An international conference on Saturday accepted a UN-brokered peace plan for Syria, but left open the key question of whether the country’s president could be part of a transitional government.

The U.S. backed away from insisting that the plan explicitly exclude President Bashar al-Assad from any role in a new government, hoping the concession would encourage Russia to put greater pressure on its longtime ally to end the violent crackdown that the opposition says has claimed over 14,000 lives.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted that Mr. al-Assad would still have to go, saying it is now "incumbent on Russia and China to show Assad the writing on the wall."

Read more: Syria peace-plan settled after U.S. drops insistence Assad must go - The Globe and Mail

Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi sworn in as Egypt's president

Islamist Mohammed Morsi has been sworn in before Egypt's highest court as the country's first freely elected president, succeeding Hosni Mubarak who was ousted 16 months ago.

Morsi, the Arab world's first freely elected Islamist president, became Egypt's fifth head of state since the overthrow of the monarchy some 60 years ago.

He took the oath on Saturday before the Supreme constitutional Court in their Nile-side courthouse built to resemble an ancient Egyptian temple. Morsi's inauguration speech at Cairo University was attended by top military generals, politicians and members of Egypt's disbanded parliament.

Calling himself "an employee of the nation and a servant to the people," he vowed to put his energies into "protecting the Egyptian state and reforming it."

Read more: Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi sworn in as Egypt's president - World - CBC News

A club in China to help Chinese entrepreneurs go overseas

Private enterprises account for the majority of jobs created in China, but they are often disadvantaged compared with their state-owned brethren in tapping financing or government support, both at home and overseas.

It is a bigger problem overseas, given the scant knowledge most Chinese entrepreneurs have of operating in alien surroundings. China has a decade-old "going out" policy, but it is primarily oriented toward helping the biggest state-owned firms establish themselves internationally.

With 16 founding members who lend their names to the venture and almost 500 private companies in tow, the AEA organizes investment road shows to potential destinations with the aim of ultimately negotiating joint office space and other services to give members a quick start in setting up overseas.
Feng figures that the global financial crisis has created plenty of office buildings and warehouses eager to give a break to a new group of Chinese tenants. 

The most concrete initiative to date is in Belgium, where property developer Group Bernaerts -- which itself is expanding into China -- has wooed the Chinese arrivals with 300 plane tickets and a year of free rent on an office and warehouse complex still under construction half-way between the port of Antwerp and the European Union capital, Brussels.


A club in China to help entrepreneurs go overseas | Reuters

Doubts Cast on Turkish Account of Jet Incident - by Julian E. Barnes, Adam Entous and Joe Parkinson

U.S. intelligence indicates that a Turkish warplane shot down by Syrian forces was most likely hit by shore-based antiaircraft guns while it was inside Syrian airspace, American officials said, a finding in tune with Syria's account and at odds with Turkey.

The Turkish government, which moved tanks to the Syrian border after the June 22 incident, says the debris fell in Syrian waters, but maintains its fighter was shot down without warning in international airspace. Ankara also has said the jet was hit too far from Syrian territory to have been engaged by an antiaircraft gun.

Damascus has said it shot down the plane with an antiaircraft battery with an effective range of about 1.5 miles.

"We see no indication that it was shot down by a surface-to-air missile" as Turkey says, said a senior defense official. Officials declined to specify the sources of their information. The senior U.S. defense official cautioned that much remains unknown about the incident.

Read more: Doubts Cast on Turkish Account of Jet Incident - WSJ.com

Europe's aristocrats clash in tasty Kiev finale

Football's aristocrats will compete for the continent's crown on Sunday when Spain seek to extend their domination of Europe against a revitalised Italy who threaten to end their reign.

Between them Spain and Italy have produced 25 European champions at club level but this will be the first time their national teams have met for the European Championship.
Few would question their places in the final have been earned.

Read more: Europe's aristocrats clash in tasty Kiev finale - Chicago Tribune

6/29/12

European Soccer Championship: Italy celebrates a magical night against Germany

It was Italy's night against the Germans, on and off the field.

Premier Mario Monti and striker Mario Balotelli gave a much-needed boost to a country suffering for months under harsh austerity measures and embarrassed by a match-fixing scandal in its national sport in which dozens have been arrested.

Then came Thursday. At an EU summit in Brussels, Monti, an economist by trade, led the charge against German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had been resisting ways of easing strains on indebted governments in southern Europe.

To the east in Warsaw, the talented soccer player with a discipline problem led Italy's national team to a 2-1 victory over Germany, propelling them into the finals of the European soccer championships. Balotelli's two goals were so breathtaking to watch — unstoppable, intimidating and elegant — that fans and critics alike were united in awe.

"They may be the bosses of Europe, but in soccer we command," headlined Italy's leading Corriere della Sera.

Read more: Italy celebrates a magical night against Germany - SFGate

Europe summit surprises with bold moves - by Don Melvin

When it comes to confronting the crisis threatening the euro’s very existence, nothing ever seems to come easy for European Union leaders—even a mutually sought agreement. That was demonstrated Friday at the E.U. summit in Brussels, where it took all-night haggling to approve growth stimulus measures that Italy and Spain had blocked until they obtained a softening of rules on bailouts that they’re likely to eventually seek. Only in the madness of the euro crisis can taking yourself hostage become an effective bargaining tool.

Yet, despite what were described as tense and grinding negotiations, decisions announced early Friday morning appear to represent important steps towards the survival of the embattled euro zone—and in both the short- and long-term context of the crisis. “(We took) a very ambitious decision that shows once again the commitment of the member states,” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters. “The irreversibility of the euro… will be recognized by all.”


At least once they wake up in the afternoon. Before the sleep-deprived leaders of the 17-member euro group broke their huddle at around 5 a.m. Friday, they adopted three significant concrete measures to confront the major factors in the crisis. The first involves allowing E.U. bailout funds to be paid directly to swamped euro-zone banks, rather than funneled through national governments. The old structure—designed to hold governments accountable for E.U. taxpayer rescue money—had the consequence of increasing the already crushing debt loads recipients were struggling to simultaneously finance and reduce. The change had been a demand Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called vital in light of Spain’s pending $125 billion bank bailout request.

Note EU-Digest: we can only hope there will be better controls over the banks than before, otherwise this measure will be like putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank.

Read more: Europe summit surprises with bold moves - seattlepi.com

E.U. Summit: Up All Night, But Consensus Finally Reached

When it comes to confronting the crisis threatening the euro’s very existence, nothing ever seems to come easy for European Union leaders—even a mutually sought agreement. That was demonstrated Friday at the E.U. summit in Brussels, where it took all-night haggling to approve growth stimulus measures that Italy and Spain had blocked until they obtained a softening of rules on bailouts that they’re likely to eventually seek. Only in the madness of the euro crisis can taking yourself hostage become an effective bargaining tool.

Yet, despite what were described as tense and grinding negotiations, decisions announced early Friday morning appear to represent important steps towards the survival of the embattled euro zone—and in both the short- and long-term context of the crisis. “(We took) a very ambitious decision that shows once again the commitment of the member states,” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters. “The irreversibility of the euro… will be recognized by all.”


At least once they wake up in the afternoon. Before the sleep-deprived leaders of the 17-member euro group broke their huddle at around 5 a.m. Friday, they adopted three significant concrete measures to confront the major factors in the crisis. The first involves allowing E.U. bailout funds to be paid directly to swamped euro-zone banks, rather than funneled through national governments. The old structure—designed to hold governments accountable for E.U. taxpayer rescue money—had the consequence of increasing the already crushing debt loads recipients were struggling to simultaneously finance and reduce. The change had been a demand Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called vital in light of Spain’s pending $125 billion bank bailout request.

Read more: E.U. Summit: Up All Night, But Consensus Finally Reached | World | TIME.com

US Supreme Court issues historic ruling ensuring millions of Americans will get affordable health care

The Supreme Court issued a historic ruling: They upheld the Affordable Care Act and ensured that millions of American families will have access to health care and protection from the worst abuses of the insurance industry. Lots of people have questions about the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court's decision, and their health care coverage. For additional useful information -- including President Obama's remarks after the announcement click here .

EU-Digest

6/28/12

Israel convinces Russia to cancel Syrian S-300 deal

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Thursday that Israel played a major role in influencing Russia to cancel its planned sale of a crucial missile system to Syria.

The deal to sell the advanced S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Damascus was canceled close to Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Israel on Monday, according to a report published Wednesday in the Russian daily, Vedomisti.

"Putin listened perfectly to what we said," Barak told Army radio, adding that the 100-million-U.S. dollar deal's suspension was the outcome of talks between Russian and Israeli officials.

Read more: Israel convinces Russia to cancel Syrian S-300 deal |Middle East |chinadaily.com.cn

Divided EU leaders meeting for 'big leap' summit

A stormy two-day summit kicks off on Thursday (28 June), with EU leaders still at odds over ceding core national powers to Brussels in return for debt-pooling, as well as creating a "banking union" with central supervision and deposit guarantees.

The weather in Brussels is forecast to match the mood of the EU event, which starts at 3pm local time: a stuffy summer's day ending with "violent" thunderstorms.

The less contentious items are piled up in the afternoon: a "growth and jobs" plan of €130 billion, mostly consisting of unused EU money, and a discussion with the head of the European Parliament on the bloc's next budget for 2014-2020.

Read more: EUobserver.com / Institutional Affairs / Divided EU leaders meeting for 'big leap' summit

6/27/12

Roubini Says ‘Perfect Storm’ May Threaten Global Economy - by Shamim Adam

A “perfect storm” of fiscal woe in the U.S., a slowdown in China, European debt restructuring and stagnation in Japan may converge on the global economy, New York University professor Nouriel Roubini said.

There’s a one-in-three chance the factors will combine to stunt growth from 2013, Roubini said in a June 11 interview in Singapore. Other possible outcomes are “anemic but OK” global growth or an “optimistic” scenario in which the expansion improves.

Roubini said two days ago that in the U.S., a failure to address the budget deficit risks a bond market “revolt.” President Barack Obama’s administration has been negotiating with Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, over cutting the federal government’s long-term shortfall and raising the debt ceiling. “We’re still running over a trillion-dollar budget deficit this year, next year and most likely in 2013,” Roubini said in a speech in Singapore on June 11. “The risk is at some point, the bond market vigilantes are going to wake up in the U.S., like they did in Europe, pushing interest rates higher and crowding out the recovery.”

Read more: Roubini Says ‘Perfect Storm’ May Threaten Global Economy - Bloomberg

Safety: France's crackdown on drink-driving hit by controversy

A new French law that comes into force on Sunday July 1 demands all motorists in France, including tourists, to carry a breathalyser kit in their vehicle. Opponents of the ruling say it is more about lining pockets than saving lives.

A road safety group was accused on Friday of trying to profit from a new French law that forces drivers to carry a breathalyser kit in the car at all times.

Days before the new law comes into force on Sunday, it has emerged that the chief of the road safety group that persuaded Nicolas Sarkozy’s government to adopt the ruling is also a senior executive with the leading manufacturer of the blow-in-the-bag test kits.

Read more: France's crackdown on drink-driving hit by controversy - FRANCE - FRANCE 24

Merkel says eurobonds 'economically wrong'

Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday brushed aside the latest push to pool European debt, arguing that it would be "economically wrong and counterproductive" to make such a move before governments have shown they can comply with budget rules.

In the run-up to another European Union summit, Merkel is facing mounting pressure to soften Germany's fierce resistance to jointly issued eurobonds or other forms of debt pooling.

Though eurobonds could reduce borrowing costs for eurozone strugglers, like Spain and Italy, they could increase them for Germany and some others.

Berlin worries about being liable for other countries' debts without being able to ensure that they push through economic reforms.

Note EU-Digest: Mrs. Merkel is absolutely right. You can't have your cake and eat it too !

 Read more: Merkel says eurobonds 'economically wrong' - World - CBC News

THE MIDDLE EAST: Enlightenment or Armageddon? - by RM

Probably one of the US Administration's major foreign policy changes under President Obama has been its policy vis-a-vis the Middle East. Even though the thought behind this new policy is not new and has been in the making for quite some time, it is now actively being put into practice. Overall, based on results, the new doctrine is still considered quite ambiguous in its application and maybe for the moment at least it should be called a “work in progress”.

Among some of the new policies featured in this policy is that it aims to show the US supports the so-called Middle East Democracy Movement, which intends to overthrow military and theocratic dictatorships in the Middle East, and replace them with democratic and freely elected governments.

On the other hand the US has also been quite adamant as to which countries they consider "untouchables" within this new Middle East policy. These are Saudi Arabia and a few other Arabian Gulf oil producing states. Apart from being major oil suppliers to the US and European petroleum industry they are also major buyers of US and European arms. On December 29 last year, the White House announced that it was sending nearly $30 billion worth of F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, as part of a $60 billion package—the largest arms deal in US history. Towards the beginning of 2007 Saudi Arabia also bought 72 Eurofighters for some euro 7.5 billion from BEA systems, a European military aircraft consortium.

Moderate Islam – the Gülen movement

Another part of the “revised” US Middle East policy has been the support for what some US policymakers describe as, “moderate Islamic” governments. These are Islamic oriented Governments which have been democratically elected by a majority of the population, but who are in general friendly in relation to the US and their allies foreign policies.

Closely associated with this “new” policy and actively involved in the creation of a palatable “Islam Lite” has been Turkey's Gülen movement, which promotes service for the common good, and which today probably has grown into the world's largest Muslim network. From Kazakhstan to Brazil and Indonesia, this new Islamic network is attracting millions of followers - and billions of dollars.

The Gülen movement was created and inspired by Fethullah Gülen, a previously little-known Turkish Iman, who today is not only very well known in Muslim circles around the world, but also considered quite controversial by his critics. Mr. Gülen presently lives under the protection of the US on a country estate in Pennsylvania. Today the Gülen movement is linked to more than 1,000 schools in 130 countries as well as think-tanks, newspapers, TV and radio stations, universities - and even a bank. This massive network is unlike anything else. It has no formal structure, no visible organization and no official membership.

In his writings and oral addresses, Gülen prefers the term hoshgoru (literally means, “good view”) as opposed to “tolerance.” Conceptually, the former term indicates actions of the heart and the mind that include empathy, inquisitiveness, reflection, consideration of the dialog partner’s culture, and respect for their positions. The term “tolerance” which is often applied in Europe and specially in the Netherlands does not capture the notion of “hoshgoru” according to the Gülen movement. Elsewhere, Gülen finds even the concept of hoshgoru insufficient, and employs terms with more depth in interfaith relations, such as respect and an appreciation of the positions of dialog partners of another faith.

The resources Gülen references in the context of dialog and empathic acceptance include the Qur’an, the prophetic tradition, especially lives of the companions of the Prophet, the works of great Muslim scholars and Sufi masters, and finally, the history of Islamic civilization. Among his Qur’anic references, Gülen alludes to verses that tell the believers to represent humility, peace and security, trustworthiness, compassion, and forgiveness (The Qur’an, 25:63, 25:72, 28:55, 45:14, 17:84), to avoid armed conflicts and prefer peace (4:128), to maintain cordial relationships with the “people of the book,” and to avoid argumentation (29:46). But perhaps the most important references of Gülen with respect to interfaith relations are his readings of those verses that allow Muslims to fight others. Gülen positions these verses in historical context to point out one by one that their applicability is conditioned upon active hostility. In other words, in Gülen’s view, nowhere in the Qur’an does God allow fighting based on differences of faith.

Turkey

Present day Turkey is the major link for this new US “Islam Lite” Gülen political strategy. Other countries successful electoral platforms based on the“Islam Lite” theory were advanced by “Ennahda" in Tunisia and the "Parti de la Justice et du Développement" (PJD) in Morocco. Both represent manifestations of this moderate Muslim trend, inaugurated by the AKP through Gülen in Turkey, and now even controversially followed by Hamas in Palestine. A similar form of this "Islam Lite" style of Government was also established in Libya, following the overthrow of the Gaddafi family dictatorship.

Egypt

Egypt, which has just recently chosen its first Democratically elected President will be another country to watch in this new line-up of "moderate Islamic Nations". Here the "Islamic Brotherhood" is in the drivers seat. In the past this group has made its goals, certainly not as moderate as the Gülen movement, known. Among them; to develop an Islamic state dictated by Shariah Law. Many critics, including some in the Egyptian military believe that the newly elected President will oversee a slow ebbing away of religious freedoms in Egypt, by giving more license to the Muslim Brotherhood to institute conservative Islamist policies in the country, and that this would eventually make life more restrictive and discriminatory toward the Coptic Christian minority. Reality is that the people who removed Hosni Mubarak from power can and will also do the same with their new President Morsi if he steps away from the Democratic course for which they elected him.

Israel

Looking at a new dawn of democracy in the Middle East one can not overlook Israel. Where does Israel fit into this picture ? Contrary to popular belief Israel is probably not seen by the new Middle East Democratic movement as a negative force. To the contrary, Israel is the only country in the Middle East with a true and functional Democratic parliamentary system and the Institutional structure to go with it. In this capacity it could be of great benefit as a model and partner for the new democratically elected Middle Eastern governments. Israel certainly has the capability to play a major role in a changed Middle East and Arabs and Jews should not fear to jump over their own shadows to get this cooperation started.  It would certainly give them far more flexibility if this could avoid having the US, the EU or the Russians looking over their shoulders.

Israel also occupies a historic place in the region. Its location was and still is strategically important as a doorway to the Middle East in every respect. In the past Israel was periodically invaded and occupied by the Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. These diverse cultures helped shape the development of two major religions to come out of Israel - Judaism and Christianity and indirectly also played a major part in the creation of Islam.

Islam

When Mohammed married a widow named Khadijah, who owned several trading caravans, he often had to interact with an Arab tribe known as the Hanefites. These were Arabs who had rejected idol worship and were searching for the true "one God religion". They specifically looked to the religions of the Jews and Christians, which they considered very close to their own beliefs. To avoid persecution they often also retreated to the caves of Mecca for meditation and prayer and Mohammed given his business relation with the Hanefites frequently joined them in these prayers.

In the year 610 AD after many years of meditation together with the Hanefites Mohammed had his first super natural vision. He was in a cave on Mt. Hera and at first thought he was demon possessed. He immediately went to his wife Khadijah and told her about the event. She consulted with her uncle Waraca, a Hanefite who had converted to Christianity, and he assured them that Mohammed's vision was from God. Waraca than declared to the Arab people that Mohammed was a prophet ….and the rest is history.

Judeo-Christian

Obviously another major component of this Middle East religious mosaic are the Christians.

The Hoover Institute Press at Stanford University in the US published a short booklet by Dr. Malik that probably should be required reading for anyone concerned with the fate of ancient Christian communities throughout the Middle East, including the Holy Land, Islamism and the Future of the Christians of the Middle East that can be read in one sitting. Its brevity is an advantage: a concise mind and an accomplished pen distilling a vast amount of knowledge and experience into only 68 pages. George Weigel a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., with even greater brevity, highlighted several of the book’s key points.

1) Middle East Christians today have had two distinct historical experiences. One is an experience of freedom. The other is an experience of being a dhimmi, a second-class citizen existing on the sufferance of the Muslim majority in an Islamic state.

2) Ninety percent of Christian Arabs live in conditions of dhimmitude today, including the Copts in Egypt, the Chaldeans and Assyrians in Iraq, and the Greek Orthodox and Melkites in Syria, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority. These are the Christians at the greatest risk from Islamism and jihadism.

3) Christians who have been subjugated for generations have, over time, “lost all sense of what it meant to experience a life of true liberty.” Thus they have developed a variety of survival strategies which, having been thoroughly internalized, now seem natural: kowtowing to authority; accepting benefactions from dictators like Saddam Hussein in Iraq or the Assad dynasty in Syria; remaining silent in the face of atrocities committed against Christians by Islamists and other Muslims; blaming the current problems of Christians in the Middle East on that great bugbear, the State of Israel.

4) Christian communities in the Middle East are also under tremendous pressure because their numbers are shrinking while Muslim populations are growing. Emigration (to escape persecution or to seek prosperity) has played a considerable role here; so has contraception.

5) Both free Christian communities and dhimmi Christian communities suffer from a paucity of
indigenous leadership. (Dr. Malik doesn’t say it, but Weigel thinks he means both political
leadership and religious leadership.) This has created another comparative disadvantage forChristian communities in the Middle East. For their Muslim neighbors, having rejected various secular ideologies, have increasingly turned to more stringent (and thus more intolerant) forms of Islam in recent decades—and have done so at a time when few Christian leaders, clerical or lay, have been defending Christians’ rights, much less proposing Christianity as an attractive alternative to secular ideologies.

6) Western indifference to the fate of Arab and other Middle Eastern Christians has also contributed to their decline and their present peril. This blindness has also imperiled the West. Vibrant Christian communities can be a check on radical Islamism and jihadism by promoting Islamic moderation and openness. In Malik’s own words:

“Such moderation is sure to be strengthened when Muslims interact daily with confident fellow-native adherents to a creed that does not condone suicide bombers, respects women, is not out for religious domination, upholds the principle of religious pluralism, is compatible with liberal
democracy, defends personal and group rights, emphasizes the centrality of education, and is not
uncomfortable with many features of modern secular living. Whenever local Christians have felt relatively unmolested, they have acted as catalysts for positive change and as conduits for some of
the West’s finest and most enduring universal values, and this in turn has advanced Islamic tolerance and moderation.”

The defense of religious freedom for persecuted Christians in the Middle East is a moral obligation. It is also a strategic imperative. Middle East Christians who share a historical experience of freedom, or who can shake off the psychological shackles of dhimmitude, are a strategic asset, not the headache the US State Department usually imagines them to be".

It seems the world-wide Christian community which has been relatively successful in spreading the Gospel to most if not all countries around the world has stepped away from actively supporting, funding and evangelizing with and for the Christian communities in the Middle East.

With the new democratically elected Arab leaders proclaiming they want to include all their citizens in this democratization process there probably is no better time than now for the Christian community to seek involvement and to actively participate in this process.

For those who are willing to see the light and accept the truth it is clear that there has always been an historical and cultural link between Islam and Judeo-Christian values and that coming to peaceful solutions on issues of importance to both sides is far more important and productive than human conflict. Specially at this point and time in history. The link between the people of the Arab world, which includes Jews and Christians must be reestablished based on mutual respect, human rights and democracy.

Conclusion

Hypothetically speaking, looking at the saying, "if the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and all roads lead to Rome, then either Rome is hell, or hell is on the way to Rome" ...it becomes quite clear that despite all the so-called good intentions, the Middle East, based on the different political, religious and strategic positions taken internally and externally by the major world powers has become a powder keg which can ignite at any moment.

Armageddon, believe it or not, is not just a horrific biblical story, it is also a  reality which could happen in an instant when someone somewhere happens to press a button and unleash a barrage of nuclear tipped rockets on another nation.

Therefore, to avoid Armageddon in the world and to create a favorable environment for all democratic processes to take place, the world's major political and economic powers including; Brazil, China, the EU, India, Russia and the USA need to agree on taking two basic steps in relation to the Middle East, with no exceptions for any country there. One dealing with weapons and military capability/delivery and the other with oil reserves. This could probably best be done under the auspices of the United Nations. Important would be that these steps, when not adhered to, must be made enforceable by the UN through economic sanctions, or in the worst case scenario by military force.

A) Middle East a non-military zone

  1. dismantle all nuclear weapons in the region
  2. stop all enrichment of nuclear fuel which can lead to the production of atomic weapons
  3. stop all weapons sales and the local production of these weapons, including the military delivery systems of those weapons
  4. dismantle all foreign military bases
  5. cut down the military forces of every Middle Eastern country to not more than one division or less per country

B) Middle East Fair Trade Energy Supply System

  1. under the administration of OPEC develop an open oil market supply system which would operate under similar parameters as the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme or CPRS
Unfortunately, unless a miracle happens, and mind you they happen sometimes, the likelihood that the political and economic forces presently controlling our destiny on the planet could get such a peaceful process underway is extremely remote. For courage and vision are certainly not one of their assets. Consequently the bottom-line seems to favor Armageddon before enlightenment.

Another possible scenario would be that the different players in the Middle East mentioned before in this report would start working together based on their common, not foreign interests, by taking matters directly in their own hands. It would be a  different approach from what people called the Middle East Revolution before, in the sense that it would start a peace process from the bottom up and without any outside influences.

Again, the chances for success for such a scenario are also pretty doubtful. Influential and often also negative internal and external forces would probably again be extremely difficult to contain in this case.

Taking everything into consideration, maybe a miracle is still the best we can hope for? That at least is certainly worth the prayers of Muslims, Jews and Christians.

THE MIDDLE EAST: Enlightenment or Armageddon?  - by RM
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6/26/12

EU paper outlines closer union ahead of summit

The report, drawn up by the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, the head of the eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission Jose-Manuel Barroso, and the President of the ECB Mario Draghi.

The document is being presented as a way of reassuring financial markets that there is the political will to stand behind the single currency.

But many of the changes are far-reaching and will be politically controversial.
Ms Creighton conceded that the changes being canvassed will require fresh treaty change, but she said the document ensures that the idea of eurobonds - mutualising euro zone debt - is now enshrined as part of the debate.

Read more: EU paper outlines closer union ahead of summit - RTÉ News

Turkey tells Syria to beware of ‘wrath’

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told Syria to beware the wrath of Turkey after the shooting down of a warplane and said he had ordered the armed forces to react to any military threat from Syria near the two countries’ border.

Erdogan’s warning to Syria reflected increased tensions not only on the Mediterranean coast, where the aircraft was shot down last Friday, but on a long common land border criss-crossed by rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria said on Sunday it had killed several “terrorists“ infiltrating from Turkey.
In Syria itself, Damascus suburbs were gripped by the worst fighting in the capital since the uprising against Assad began 16 months ago. The city had long been seen as a bastion of support for the president.

Read more: Turkey tells Syria to beware of ‘wrath’ | World | News | Toronto Sun

Facebook's email switch riles users

Most of Facebook's 900 million members probably haven't noticed yet, but over the weekend the social networking giant changed the default email address of every one of its members' profiles to an @Facebook.com address that the vast majority of users didn't even know they had.

What that means is that the email address you had listed as your main contact address (such as a Hotmail, Gmail or Sympatico address) is now hidden to friends who visit your profile page.
In its place, users have been assigned an @Facebook.com address that routes email directly to Facebook Messages.

Read more: Facebook's email switch riles users - Business - CBC News

France’s EDF Buys Into Falkland Oil Wells Amid Dispute

A unit of France’s state-controlled power company bought a stake in exploration wells planned by Falkland Oil & Gas Ltd. (FOGL), undeterred by Argentina’s claim to sovereignty over the South Atlantic islands.

Read more: France’s EDF Buys Into Falkland Oil Wells Amid Dispute - Bloomberg

6/25/12

Artificial Intelligence: The road to intelligent infrastructure

The convergence of technology that has brought together what we now call information and communications technologies (ICT) has transformed our lives. Smart phones and tablets are now a common, almost essential, part of the accoutrements we carry around on a daily basis. Our cars are also getting smarter, with more on board computing power than was used in the 1960s Moon landings.

However, the emergence of smart systems empowered by ICT is now becoming an increasingly important part of our infrastructure. For example, road infrastructure is already being designed to contain ICT systems that will enhance monitoring and control as well as safety. According to the European Union’s New Road Construction Concepts (NR2C) discussion paper issued in 2008, the future use of smart road systems is already well developed.

In a CISCO White Paper authored by Andreas Mai and Dirk Schlesinger and published last year, the future of the motor car was examined. According to this analysis the younger generation of consumers are more attached to their smart phones than they are to their cars. In response motor vehicle manufacturers are moving to integrate smart phones and tablets into their vehicles.

Read more: The road to intelligent infrastructure | Technology Spectator

Syria shot at second plane, Turkey says

Turkey says Syria fired on one of its planes that was taking part in a rescue operation for a warplane shot down by Syrian forces last Friday.

Turkey's deputy PM said the CASA search and rescue plane, looking for the F-4 Phantom jet, was not brought down.

He vowed Syria would "not go unpunished" but that Turkey had "no intention" of going to war.
Nato will discuss the downing of the jet on Tuesday at a meeting called by Turkey, a member state.

Read more: BBC News - Syria shot at second plane, Turkey says

Cyprus seeks EU bailout for banks, budget

Cyprus said on Monday it was applying to Brussels for a bailout, both for its banking sector hit by exposure to Greece and for its budget deficit, making it the fifth euro zonecountry to turn to the bloc’s rescue funds for help.

Tiny Cyprus has just four days left to raise at least 1.8 billion euros – equivalent to about 10 percent of its domestic output – to meet a deadline set by European regulators to recapitalise Cyprus Popular Bank, its second largest lender which saw its balance sheet hurt by bad Greek debt.

Finance Minister Vassos Shiarly said the country would also seek enough money to help with its budget deficit. The full amount would be decided over the course of weeks.

Read more: Channels Television - Nigeria's Award Winning Television Station

France facing EUR7-10bn budget shortfall

France must find up to 10 billion euros to cut its public deficit to 4.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said on Monday.

Moscovici told iTele television that the new socialist government was looking for seven to 10 billion euros ($12.5 billion), and added: "We are somewhere in the middle I imagine, but I am waiting to see the official figures".

The numbers given were slightly lower than the government's previous estimate of about 10 billion euros.

In 2011, France posted a public deficit, which includes state and social services spending such as the public health system, of 5.2 percent of GDP, and in March the former government cut its 2012 target to 4.4 percent.

Read more: France facing EUR7-10bn budget shortfall - FRANCE - ECONOMY - FRANCE 24

Internet: Beware the ‘responsiveness trap’ of e-mail - by Harvey Schachter

A few years ago, it was common to hear about people who only responded to e-mail once or twice a day. Journalist Sarah Green was like that, with a three-times-a-day strategy, but now, like so many of us, she feels pressured to answer messages as soon as they arrive.

On Harvard Business Review’s Editors Blog, she notes that e-mail used to be seen as beneficial because it was asynchronous – you could communicate without having to connect at the exact same time with a correspondent. No longer.

“We’re essentially communicating in something like real time, without any of the benefits of actually communicating in actual real time. Instead of talking with one person and getting something done, we’re carrying on simultaneous conversations with hundreds of people and struggling to get anything done. When I look at my inbox, I hear a cacophony of voices all shouting for my attention,” she writes.

Read more: Beware the ‘responsiveness trap’ of e-mail - The Globe and Mail

Global Warming: Coming Soon: A World without Penguins

The threat of extinction hangs over penguins. Care2 bloggers have written about the precipitous drop among the Adélie and African penguins. While the film “March of the Penguins” was popular, a lot of attention focused on the 13 species of penguins (out of 18) that are threatened or endangered.

In the last week researchers have raised the specter of global warming as the culprit responsible for the precipitous decline of two species of Antarctic penguins: the Emperor and the Chinstrap.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) biologist Stephanie Jenouvrier has been studying the Emperor penguin and reports the Dion Islets colony dropped from 150 breeding pairs in 1948 to none in 2009. She and her colleagues warn that if global temperatures continue to rise, the Terre Adélie penguins may also disappear.

The species relies on sea ice for breeding and raising their chicks. Disappearing ice increases the already high mortality among Emperor chicks. It also robs them of their food source, in a chain of losses that starts with plankton that grows beneath the ice and moves through the krill, squid and fish that feed on the plankton.

The Netherlands - House prices fell more sharply in May

House prices fell 5.5% in May, compared with a year ago, meaning the price drop is accelerating, the national statistics office CBS said on Thursday.

In April, house prices were down 5.2% and in March 4.7%, the CBS said.
The price drop affected all parts of the country and all housing types.

The lower prices may be encouraging more people to take the plunge. Earlier this week, land registry office figures showed 2.7% more homes changed hands in May compared with a year ago.

Read more: DutchNews.nl - House prices fell more sharply in May

6/24/12

China: Hu Urges Fair, Orderly World Financial System

Hu Jintao General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party
Chinese President Hu Jintao said in Los Cabos Tuesday that establishing a fair, just, inclusive and orderly international financial system is conducive to the long-term sound and steady growth of the world economy and meets the common interests of the world.

All countries should make concerted efforts to bring about more achievements in international financial system reform and make the system provide better services and boost the real economy's growth, Hu said in a speech at the Group of 20 (G20) summit.

Hu also said that all countries should work together to push reform of international financial governance and increase the representation and powers of emerging economies and developing countries; to improve the international reserve currency system so as to establish a system that embraces stable currencies, orderly supplies and an adjustable aggregate amount.

Read more: Hu Urges Fair, Orderly World Financial System

Photography: Photo-overload: Everyone’s taking pics, but is anyone really looking? - by Erin Anderssen

Last year, one billion mobile phones with cameras were sold around the world; it’s estimated that more than one-third of the earth’s population owns a digital camera. Every two minutes, they snap as many photos as the whole of humanity took in the 1800s, according to calculations by the photo storing site "1000memories". All the pictures ever taken add up to about 3.5 trillion shots, endless digital slideshows of cooing babies and fluffy kittens, to say nothing of the cute top someone saw at "Forever 21" and wanted to get their Facebook friends’ opinions about.

And that math was done way back in September, 2011, which might as well be 1884 in internet years. Facebook’s own most recent stats say that 300 million photos were uploaded per day to the social-media site in the three months ending on March 31, even before June’s prime picture season of proms, dance recitals, graduation ceremonies (kindergarten to university), post-exam parties and weddings. (Also, the tech analyst company, Infotrends, estimates that the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations would produce an additional 1.3 billion photos.)

That’s not counting the many billions of images hosted by Flickr or tweeted on Twitter, with the unspoken understanding that a picture of three human beings in stock pose (heads together, arms looped, smiles synchronized) will bounce from one digital space to another, until its context fades like an old print in a shoebox. But not for long: Facebook this week announced the purchase of facial-recognition software. Soon no goofy grin shall go unnamed.

So if the good people of 1884 New York thought they had a camera epidemic on their hands, the modern world has shown them – and ourselves, in pixelized glory – a billion times over.

Read more: Photo-overload: Everyone’s taking pics, but is anyone really looking? - The Globe and Mail

Egypt: Mohammed Morsi, New Egyptian President, Says He Wants Unity, Peace, in conciliatory speech

Egypt's newly elected President Mohammed Morsi has called for unity and said he carries "a message of peace" to the world.

In his first televised speech on state TV, Morsi pledged Sunday to preserve Egypt's international accords, a reference to the peace deal with Israel.

He paid tribute to nearly 900 protesters killed in last year's uprising, saying without the "blood of the martyrs," he would not have made it to the presidency.

In a non-confrontational speech, he did not mention the last-minute power grab by the ruling military that stripped the president of most of his major powers.

Read more: Mohammed Morsi, New Egyptian President, Says He Wants Unity, Peace

Soccer Euro - 2012: "Ciao England" .... as Italy beats England 4-2 on penalties - by Jack Bezants

Alessandro Diamanti scored the decisive penalty kick Sunday to send Italy through to the European Championship semifinals with a 4-2 win in the shootout following a 0-0 tie with England and Ashley Young hit the crossbar with England's third, and Ashley Cole's attempt was saved by Gianluigi Buffon.

Italy will next play Germany in the semifinals on Thursday in Warsaw, Poland.

Italy dominated the match, which ended 0-0 after 120 minutes of play. The Italians twice hit the post, but were also let down by poor composure in front of goal. Diamanti clipped the post with a curling cross in the 101st minute, and swept a clear shot wide.

The first scoreless match at Euro 2012 was neither dull nor lacking good soccer.

Italy's attacking desire and creativity under coach Cesare Prandelli had playmaker Andrea Pirlo at its heart. Italy had 35 shots, compared to only nine for England.

EU-Digest

Virgin to deploy redesigned Airbus A330 on Del-Lon route

Buoyed by 15% growth in its business class passengers on the New Delhi-London sector last year, British carrier Virgin Atlantic plans to deploy a redesigned Airbus A330 with in-plane mobile connectivity on the route from next month.

The redesigned upper class cabin, which is a part of the airline's 100 million pound investment plan, would have the longest bed in the business class, Virgin Atlantic said here.

"Having seen over 15% growth in business class last year out of New Delhi, I am confident the new business class cabin will help us attract even more customers," airline chief executive Steve Ridgway said. The cabin, which has taken four and a half years to design and build, will also feature the new suite with Virgin Atlantic's most sophisticated and comfortable bed yet, it said.

Read more: Virgin to deploy redesigned Airbus A330 on Del-Lon route - PTI -

Market Failure at the Rio+20 Earth Summit - by Patrick Bond

Given the worsening world economic crisis, the turn to “Green Economy” rhetoric looms as a potential saviour for footloose financial capital, and is also enormously welcome to those corporations panicking at market chaos in the topsy turvy fossil-fuel, water, infrastructure construction, technology and agriculture sectors.


On the other hand, for everyone else, the Rio+20 Earth Summit underway this week in Brazil, devoted to advancing Green Economy policies and projects, appears as an overall disaster zone for the people and planet.

Meanwhile in Mexico, the G20 meeting of the real powerbrokers this week included a Green Economy session. But more serious distractions for the elites include ongoing southern European revulsion at harmful public policies cooked up by bankers, and potential war in the Middle East.


It’s critical to pose the Green Economy from this class-analytic and eco-centric standpoint, especially because inside the official Rio Centro, negotiations on a bland pro-market text continue through to June 23. There, progressive civil society strategies to insulate basic human and natural rights – e.g. to water – are being foiled by negotiators and by the host neoliberal Brazilian government, which is channelling reactionary positions from global North negotiators, especially from Washington, Ottawa, Tokyo and Tel Aviv, the main saboteur-regimes when it comes to water justice.


Read more: Market Failure at the Rio+20 Earth Summit » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

Middle East: Israel vows tough action on Gaza if truce fails

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israeli troops had responded “forcefully” to rocket fire from Gaza and could step up their response if a fragile truce failed to hold.

“Regarding the situation in the south, the Israeli army acted forcefully against those who try to attack us and, if necessary, the army will act more forcefully still,” Netanyahu warned at the start of a cabinet meeting.

“Our policy is to use force to restore security and calm to the residents of the south,” he added.

Netanyahu spoke as a fragile second attempt at a truce between Israel and armed groups in Gaza wobbled, with the Israeli military saying three rockets fired from the Palestinian territory landed in the southern Eshkol region.

Read more: Israel vows tough action on Gaza if truce fails

Egypt: Mursi declared Egypt's first civilian president

After a week of tension and widespread speculation over the outcome, Egypt, finally, has a civilian head of state, the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Mursi.

Mohamed Morsi, 60, educated in Southern California, USA, was declared president Sunday after he took 52% of the vote to 48% for former Hosni Mubarak official Ahmed Shafik.

During the historic campaign for president, Morsi said he would support democracy, women's rights and peaceful relations with Israel if he won.

Morsi was arrested several times "due to his constantly firm stance against the repressive measures and oppressive practices of the overthrown regime," the party said.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been part of the political scene in Egypt for more than 80 years. It was formed there by Hassan al-Banna in 1928.  It  is also and foremost a religious and political group founded on the belief that Islam is not simply a religion, but a way of life. It advocates a move away from secularism, and a return to the rules of the Quran as a basis for healthy families, communities, and states.

The movement officially rejects the use of violent means to secure its goals. However, offshoots of the group have been linked to attacks in the past, and critics blame the Brotherhood for sparking troubles elsewhere in the Middle East. Many consider it the forerunner of modern militant Islamism.


6/23/12

Syria: downing of Turkish plane not a hostile act

Syria said Saturday that it shot down a Turkish military jet because the aircraft had violated its airspace, but Turkey threatened retaliatory action as it searched for its two missing pilots.

Both sides signaled they do not want to escalate an incident that has the potential to explode into a regional conflict, but the downing of the Turkish reconnaissance plane on Friday was a dramatic sign that the violence gripping Syria increasingly is spreading outside its borders.

Tensions already were high between Syria and NATO-member Turkey. The neighbors used to be allies before the Syrian revolt began in March 2011, but Turkey has become one of the strongest critics of the Syrian regime's brutal response to the country's uprising and is playing host to civilian and military Syrian opposition groups.

Germany and Iraq urged Turkey and Syria to remain calm and not let the unrest in Syria become a wider conflict in the area.

In a telephone interview with Turkish TV news channel A Haber on Saturday, Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said the downing of Turkey's F-4 plane was an "accident, not an attack."

Read more: THE DAILY STAR :: News :: Middle East :: Syria: downing of Turkish plane not a hostile act

France: ‘Hollande Spring’ in Turkish-EU relations

 FM Davutoğlu hails a thaw in Turkey-EU ties as the bloc pledges to ease Turks’ visa procedures while Ankara ends sanctions against France.

Turkey has ended sanctions against France thanks to newly elected French President François Hollande’s positive approach toward Turkey in a restoration of ties that had deteriorated under the rule of ex-French leader Nicholas Sarkozy.

The decision to end eight measures – mostly military – was given by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after his meeting with Hollande in Brazil late June 20, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said.


Read more: ‘Hollande Spring’ in Turkish-EU relations, 22 June 2012 Friday 11:43

Spain beats France 2-0 to reach semifinals

Xabi Alonso scored two goals in his 100th international appearance Saturday, leading Spain to a 2-0 win over France and a spot in the European Championship semifinals.

Alonso first scored with a thumping downward header in the 19th minute and then converted a penalty in injury time.

"We knew this was the most important match and we played very well,'' Alonso said. "Scoring the early goal really made things easier, so I must say we're happy.''

The win was Spain's first ever over France in a competitive match in seven attempts. Spain will next face Portugal on Wednesday in Donetsk in the semifinals as it bids to win a third straight major title.

Read more: Spain beats France 2-0 to reach semifinals - - SI.com

Turkey vows 'necessary' action against Syria

Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Saturday his country would take "necessary" action against Syria for the downing of a Turkish military jet, but suggested that the aircraft may have unintentionally violated the Syrian airspace.

Syria said Friday its forces had shot down a Turkish military plane that entered its air space. The plane, an unarmed F-4, went down in the Mediterranean Sea about 8 miles (13 kilometers) away from the Syrian town of Latakia, Turkey said.

The incident further escalated tensions between Syria and NATO-member Turkey. The two neighbors used to be allies before the Syrian revolt began in March 2011 but Turkey has become one of the strongest critics of the Syrian regime's brutal response to the country's uprising and is playing host to civilian and military Syrian opposition groups.

Gul said that Turkey was still trying to establish the exact circumstances of the incident but said it was "routine" for jets flying in high-speeds to violate other countries' air spaces for short periods of time.

Read more: Turkey vows 'necessary' action against Syria | oregonlive.com

6/22/12

C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Rebels - by Eric Schmitt

 A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers.

The weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons, are being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the officials said.

The C.I.A. officers have been in southern Turkey for several weeks, in part to help keep weapons out of the hands of fighters allied with Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, one senior American official said. The Obama administration has said it is not providing arms to the rebels, but it has also acknowledged that Syria’s neighbors would do so.

Read more: C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Rebels - NYTimes.com

'America's Greece,' California dreams of raising taxes - by Keith Boag

Asking whether California is America's Greece seems like a fair question to more and more people. It's in financial crisis and, like Greece, has teetered on the brink of bankruptcy.

(With a GDP of about $1.9 trillion it also has an economy that is nearly six times that of Greece, so California's too-big-to-fail impact on the global economy is not inconsiderable either.)

And once again this election year California voters are poised to make an even bigger mess of things through their devotion to direct democracy: the ballot initiative, which has made a mess of their tax system.

Read more: 'America's Greece,' California dreams of raising taxes - World - CBC News

Killer Flu: Bird flu pandemic in humans just 'three mutations' away

The world has yet to see a form of the deadly bird flu virus that could spread easily between people and cause a global outbreak - but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen, scientists said on Thursday.

After studying 15 years of data on bird flu viruses in the wild, researchers said some strains were already part way along the road to acquiring a handful of mutations needed to change into a form that could cause a devastating human pandemic.
“The remaining... mutations could evolve in a single human host, making a virus evolving in nature a potentially serious threat,” Derek Smith of Britain’s University of Cambridge, who led the research, told reporters.
Currently, bird flu, or H5N1 avian flu, can be transmitted from birds to birds, and birds to humans, but not from humans to humans. When it does pass from birds to humans, it is usually fatal.

Read more: Bird flu pandemic in humans just 'three mutations' away - HEALTH - FRANCE 24

European Soccer Cup 2012: Germany rip Greece 4-2 to reach semifinals

Germany's new-look line-up blasted past Greece 4-2 on Friday to reach the last four in Euro 2012. They'll face the winner of Sunday's England-Italy match. 

Goals from Philipp Lahm, Sami Khedira and tournament starting line-up newcomers Miroslav Klose and Marco Reus were enough to see off a determined Greece as Germany booked their place in the Euro 2012 semifinals.

Greece had scored with a goal by Giorgos Samaras in the 55th minute and a penalty by Dimitris Salpingidis in the 89th.

Read more: Germany rip Greece to reach semifinals | News | DW.DE | 22.06.2012

Eurozone big four vow billions to boost growth

The leaders of the eurozone's four biggest economies on Friday vowed measures worth up to 130 billion euros ($163 billion) to tackle the bloc's relentless debt crisis, AFP informs.

Meeting for talks in Rome ahead of a crucial EU summit in Brussels next week, the leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Spain looked to soothe global worries with promises to kickstart growth in the bloc's floundering economies.

French President Francois Hollande said the leaders had agreed to mobilise "one percent of European GDP, that is 120 to 130 billion euros, to support growth" -- a move Germany's Angela Merkel hailed as "an important signal".

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said the four leaders had agreed that boosting growth in the eurozone was key to restoring confidence.

"The first objective we agree on is to relaunch growth, investments and to create jobs," Monti said at a press conference after the talks.

"The euro is here to stay and we all mean it," he added calling the single currency "irreversible."

Read more: Eurozone big four vow billions to boost growth - FOCUS Information Agency

Turkey confirms Syria shot down F-4 military jet, search for pilots ongoing

Turkish F4 jet fighter
Syria shot down a Turkish military fighter jet in the eastern Mediterranean on Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s office said in a statement, amid earlier ambiguity over whether the plane had been downed by Syrian defense forces or had crashed.

“As a result of information obtained from the evaluation of our concerned institutions and from within the joint search and rescue operations with Syria, it is understood that our plane was brought down by Syria,” Erdogan’s office said.

Turkey would decide on its response to the incident once all of the details became clear, it said in the statement, issued after a two-hour meeting between Erdogan, members of his cabinet and the military.

Read more: Turkey confirms Syria shot down F-4 military jet, search for pilots ongoing

Russia urges Syria to implement Annan peace plan

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that he had urged Syria's government to "do a lot more" to implement envoy Kofi Annan's U.N.-backed peace plan, but that foreign countries must also press rebels to stop the violence.

After talks with Syria's foreign minister, Lavrov said Syria's government was prepared to withdraw forces from cities and towns simultaneously with rebels and suggested Moscow would seek support for such an agreement among other nations.

His remarks appeared aimed to indicate that Moscow is putting pressure on President Bashar al-Assad's government while at the same time making clear his opponents share the blame for persistent violence.

Read more: Russia urges Syria to implement Annan peace plan | Reuters

Saint Petersburg: Airbus sells A380 jets to Russia in historic deal

Transaero has become the first former Soviet carrier to order A380 jets from Airbus. The deal could mark the beginning of a lucrative partnership for the European manufacturer. 

Russia's second-largest airline agreed on Thursday to buy four of the jumbo jets in a deal worth $1.7 billion (1.34 billion euros).

In the historic agreement, the contract was signed by Transaero General Director Olga Pleshakova and Airbus Executive Vice President Christopher Buckley at the annual Saint Petersburg Economic Forum.

Read more: Airbus sells A380 jets to Russia in historic deal | Business | DW.DE | 21.06.2012

The 10 Worst Airport Terminals Slideshow at Frommer's

 Most airports are awful. Some are lovely, like the 10 prettiest airport terminals profiled last week. But most are at best joyless econoboxes, at worst purgatorial warehouses of stalled lives.

Some airports deserve special condemnation, though. In some cases, they deserve to be literally condemned. Assembling this top 10 list of misfits I scanned professional surveys and delay statistics and asked my frequent-traveler friends to come up with the ten airports where you'd least like to spend an extra hour.

Maybe you'll find your own least-favorite airport left off this list. What about Atlanta's immigration delays, Washington Dulles's absurd midfield terminal, or Heathrow Terminal 5's baggage indigestion problems? There are too many frustrating airports in the world to include here -- these are just my bottom 10 picks.

Read more: The 10 Worst Airport Terminals Slideshow at Frommer's

Leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Spain to discuss proposals to ease debt crisis

The leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Spain gathered in Rome on Friday to seek agreement on ways to pull Europe out of its crippling debt crisis.

Germany's Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande of France, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and host Mario Monti of Italy will get together to push for consensus to give momentum to a crucial summit of European Union leaders in Brussels on June 28 and 29.

Monti has warned of severe consequences for the 17 countries that use the euro and the world economy if next week's summit fails.

Read more: Leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Spain to discuss proposals to ease debt crisis

6/21/12

European Soccer Cup: Ronaldo's goal sends Portugal to semifinals

After his fine footwork failed to find the target, Cristiano Ronaldo knocked in the only goal Thursday with a thrusting header, sending Portugal into the European Championship semifinals with a 1-0 victory over the Czech Republic.

After Ronaldo twice hit the post, he finally darted in from behind his marker in the 79th minute with all the instincts of an all out striker and headed a cross from Joao Moutinho straight at the ground and up past the flailing hands of Czech Republic goalkeeper Petr Cech.

"I remember in the last game I hit the post twice, too," said Ronaldo, who scored his third goal in the last two matches. "But the most important thing is I managed to score this time, we won and are in the semifinals. Now it is big smiles and good music."

Read more: Ronaldo's goal sends Portugal to semifinals

Bad news spurs global market plunge - by David Berman

The latest economic measures paint a picture of a global recovery that has slowed to an alarming degree, and raise fears that commodity prices have further to fall, setting the stage for more volatility ahead – particularly for Canada’s commodity-sensitive benchmark index.

Investors fled from stocks and commodities Thursday amid disappointing reports from virtually every corner of the globe, testing the confidence of the markets at a time when the health of the world economy is already threatened.

In the troubled euro zone, a manufacturing report fell to its lowest level in three years and included a weak outlook for employment. “With labour components continuing to deteriorate, it becomes even more painful for politicians to put in place these austerity measures,” said Stéfane Marion, chief economist and strategist at National Bank Financial.

Along with the weak economic reports, two analysts from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. recommended that investors sell short the S&P 500 – or bet that the U.S. benchmark index will fall – adding one more reason to shy away from stocks.

Read more: Bad news spurs global market plunge - The Globe and Mail

Despite Its Troubles, the Euro Area Is Making Progress - by by Jacob Funk Kirkegaard

Yes, the headlines from the euro area are discouraging. The region’s Purchasing of Managers Index (PMI) is falling again—to 45.9 in May, with even German levels down. The European stock markets are down. The euro has slid to 1.25 vs. the dollar, accelerating preparations for a Greek euro exit.

No resolutions of the political crisis came from an acrimonious if informal EU Council meeting. To paraphrase Charles Dickens’s famous comment about America’s propensity to declare doom, it seems as if the global media, financial markets, and pundits are to be believed, the euro area is always depressed, always stagnated, and always in an alarming crisis—and never was otherwise.

The future of Europe, however, will not be determined by the poor 2012 euro area second quarter economic performance. The drop in the euro’s value is good for external demand, and the likelihood of an actual Greek exit from the euro is much overblown.1 The “informal EU Council” was never expected to produce “deliverables.” In other words, as usual, the euro gloom is exaggerated. In fact, the last week brought several encouraging developments.

Read more: RealTime Economic Issues Watch | Despite Its Troubles, the Euro Area Is Making Progress

Financial World: elected officials still feel compelled to protect powerful financial interests.

The long shot big hope for Wall Street reformers Wednesday was that JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon would trip up before the Senate banking committee and expose the need for tighter rules governing big banks. His firm, after all, recently lost billions making risky bets with depositor funds on the line.

Instead, with some notable exceptions, the senators themselves turned the cross-examination into a coronation, and exposed the extent to which elected officials still feel compelled to genuflect to powerful financial interests.

For reformers, that adds up to an opportunity missed. But that came as no surprise to one of the Democrats with a stake in strong financial oversight – Volcker rule author Jeff Merkley (D-OR).
"I think that if Dimon came in and surprised everyone … if he came in and said there are systemic issues that have been raised here, that I think do need to be addressed, it would change the conversation to have a champion among one of the major banks," Merkley told TPM this week in advance of Dimon's appearance before the committee. "I would be very surprised if we saw that testimony."

Read more: Senators fawn over Jamie Dimon despite JP Morgan trading fiasco | Brian Beutler | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

US: 3 000 American soldiers to serve in Africa next year as US expands shadow war, sets up air bases

The United States will have 3 000 soldiers serving in Africa next year as it scales up its presence on the continent in the face of a growing number of threats, including al Qaeda and al Shabaab. It has also established a dozen air bases on the continent since 2007, mainly for surveillance purposes.

The US Army last month announced it would deploy a brigade to Africa in 2013 as part of a pilot programme that assigns brigades on a rotational basis to regions around the globe. At least 3 000 soldiers will serve tours across the continent next year, training foreign militaries and aiding locals.

As part of a “regionally aligned force concept,” soldiers will live and work among Africans in safe communities approved by the US government, Major General David R. Hogg, head of U.S. Army Africa, told Army Times.

Africa has emerged as a greater priority for the US government because terrorist groups there have become an increasing threat to US and regional security. At the moment there are more than 1 200 soldiers currently stationed at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.

Read more: 3 000 American soldiers to serve in Africa next year as US expands shadow war, sets up air bases | DefenceWeb

Canada: RBC, 14 other banks, downgraded by Moody's

Ratings agency Moody's Investor Service Thursday downgraded the credit ratings of Canada's biggest bank, the Royal Bank of Canada, and 14 other banks with global operations.

Moody's cut RBC's long-term deposit rating by two notches to Aa3, saying it faces a high probability of needing government support because of the exposure of its global investment banking operations to a possible financial crisis.

A downgrade usually means that it becomes more costly for banks to raise money by selling debt. Investors demand higher interest for riskier debt, which is what the downgrades represent.

Read more: RBC, 14 other banks, downgraded by Moody's - Business - CBC News

Europe crisis gets a respite as Greece swears in a new government

Greece swore in conservative politician Antonis Samaras as prime minister on Wednesday, ending a six-week government crisis and offering a rare respite for the nation and the beleaguered euro currency zone – even if it didn’t address the underlying causes of Europe’s economic slide.

Samaras, a 61-year-old American-educated economist, took office at the head of an uneasy coalition that groups his center-right New Democracy party with its historic rival, the Socialist PASOK, and the Democratic Left, a small reformist party.

Looking determined and grim, Samaras lowered expectations in his first remarks as prime minister. “We will have to work hard to give our people tangible hope,” he said on emerging from the office of Greek President Karolos Papoulias.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/06/20/2859267/new-government-announced-in-greece.html#storylink=cpy

Read more: Europe crisis gets a respite as Greece swears in a new government - World Wires - MiamiHerald.com

6/20/12

Greece stays in the Euro family - New Greek government formed

A conservative-led government has taken power in Greece promising to negotiate softer terms on its harsh international bailout, help the people regain their dignity and steer the country through its biggest crisis for four decades.

The swearing-in of Antonis Samaras as prime minister after elections last Sunday ended weeks of uncertainty that rattled financial markets and threatened to push near-bankrupt Greece out of the euro zone.

Samaras, a Harvard-educated economist from a prominent Greek family, will head an alliance of his New Democracy party and Socialist PASOK rivals - the same discredited establishment parties which have dominated politics since 1974.

Read more: New Greek government formed - europe - world | Stuff.co.nz

WikiLeaks' Julian Assange faces arrest, seeks asylum at Ecuador embassy

 British police stood poised Wednesday to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should he step out of Ecuador's London embassy — but authorities conceded he is beyond their grasp as long as he stays inside.

Assange, who faces questioning about alleged sex crimes in Sweden, says he is seeking political asylum at the South American nation's diplomatic mission.

Police said that he had violated the terms of his bail, which include an overnight curfew, and "is now subject to arrest." Police officers were stationed outside the Edwardian apartment block in the tony Knightsbridge district that houses the embassy, along with a small group of pro-Assange protesters waving "Free Assange" placards.

Read more: WikiLeaks' Julian Assange faces arrest, seeks asylum at Ecuador embassy

Syria: Dutch help block weapons delivery to Syria

The Dutch navy was involved in the international effort to stop a potential weapons delivery to Syria, according to caretaker Minister of Foreign Affairs Uri Rosenthal.

The British Minister of Foreign Affairs William Hague says the ship in question, the MV Alaed, is on its way back to Russia. There are indications that the ship is loaded with weapons, including attack helicopters. It does not appear that the MV Alaed sailed into Dutch waters but Minister Rosenthal says the Netherlands played its role in the EU weapons embargo against the Syrian regime.

The MV Alaed is registered on Curaçao, one of the countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Via authorities on Curaçao, an attempt was made to inspect the ship. The crew did not submit to the request for inspection and the MV Alaed subsequently disappeared from radar, after the signaling system was turned off. “This led the insurance company to revoke the ship’s coverage,” according to Rosenthal.

There is no international weapons embargo against the Syrian regime, which means Russia is allowed to sell weapons to Syria. But the EU has implemented a weapons embargo, which prohibits insurance companies from providing coverage for ships carrying weapons to Syria. Uninsured ships are not allowed to enter most ports, which means they must either continue sailing in international waters or return to the port from which they departed.

Read more: Dutch help block weapons delivery to Syria | Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Netherlands Launches Tax Twittering Service - by Ulrika Lomas

The Dutch finance ministry has announced plans to make available to individuals from this summer a twittering service for enquiries to the country’s tax and customs administrations.

According to the finance ministry, from this summer entrepreneurs will be able to direct enquiries and queries to the Dutch tax administration via twitter, while holidaymakers will be able to gain relevant travel information from the customs department. This service will enable holidaymakers for example to more quickly ascertain from their holiday destination what they can and cannot take back into the Netherlands.

Dutch State Secretary for Finance Frans Weekers has launched two pilot schemes, operational from June 18 to September 28, to enable queries to be put to the country’s tax authorities in this way, the finance ministry revealed.

Championing the latest service, Weekers highlighted the fact that many entrepreneurs are now active in social media, and insisted that it is therefore logical for the tax office to be able to answer questions via twitter and entrepreneurial forums. The same is true for holidaymakers, who will be able to receive a swift response from a tweet or from a message on facebook, Weekers said.

Read more: Netherlands Launches Tax Twittering Service

UEFA Euro 2012: Instant Replay Is Not A Luxury Anymore It's A Necessity

With England at a one goal advantage and the Ukraine needing a win to remain alive in Euro 2012 tournament play, the Ukraine found themselves with an opportunity to equalize in the 62nd minute. At 61:40, an attempted score appeared to fully cross the goal line before being kicked out by English defender John Terry.

Had goal opportunities been subject to instant replay review, there is little doubt video evidence would have overturned this call. Nonetheless, the goal line official positioned several yards from the near post ruled the ball never fully crossed the goal line, preserving England's 1-0 lead.

Conversely, the sideline assistant referee failed to call a proper offside against Ukraine several seconds earlier, raising the total to two missed calls on the attack, one adversely affecting either squad.

As for UEFA, FIFA and other sports governing bodies looking to get the call right, perhaps England-Ukraine is yet another nail in the proverbial coffin in keeping overt video technology out of the world's game.

In 2010, it was opted to fix the problem by adding a fourth and fifth referee. Obviously the results show this has not worked.

In all fairness UEFA and FIFA not only should, but must follow baseball, basketball, American football and hockey in authorizing certain plays, such as scoring chances, to undergo instant replay analysis and review. It is not only a more modern but also more accurate way to referee a game.

EU-Digest