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7/31/12

Smartphone use can mean a never-ending workday - by Paul Sakuma

There was a time when the workday ended after leaving the office, but a new survey suggests the arrival of smartphones has meant many workers are putting in as much as a full day of unpaid overtime each week – answering work emails at the dinner table, on family outings and even from bed.

The benefits and flexibility of going mobile clearly come at a price, indicates the May poll of 1,000 working American adults that was conducted by Good Technology, a California company that makes software allowing people to work on their smartphones away from the office.

For instance, 80 per cent of those polled said they used mobile technology to continue working after office hours.

Half of respondents admitted to checking work emails in bed, starting at 7:09 a.m., on average. Fifteen hours later, the story was much the same, as 40 per cent said they were checking work emails after 10 p.m. and more than two-thirds saying they wouldn't go to sleep without checking in.

All this adds up to an average of seven extra hours each week — almost a full day of unpaid overtime.

Read more: Smartphone use can mean a never-ending workday - Business - CBC News

US Presidential elections: After Gaffe-Filled Foreign Tour, Europe Asks: “Is Mitt Romney a Loser?” - by Bruce Crumley

Mitt Romney’s trip to Europe and Israel may not have been a complete disaster. Yet it was close enough to a risible calamity that the presumptive Republican candidate has to be glad it’s over—and dreaming of returning to American turf and topics less likely to blow up in his face like a loaded cigar.

How bad was it? Washington Post editorialist Eugene Robinson called the voyage the “Romney Tour ’12—Gaffepalooza”. French newsweekly Nouvel Observateur described it as having lurched “from failures to polemics.” Outraged over his second-guessing of London’s Olympic preparations, UK tabloid The Sun dubbed Romney “Mitt the Twit.” And French daily le Figaro—a militantly partisan supporter of conservatives no matter where they hail from—ran the headline question Tuesday,  “Is Mitt Romney A Loser?”

Given all that, it’s probably fair to say the journey didn’t quite fulfill Romney’s hopes of solidifying his bone fides as an international statesman. Instead, it seemed no one wanted to miss out on the Kick-A-Mitt media action taking place as his tour wound up Tuesday. In fact, all that was missing from that coverage was another entertaining Gail Collins question about whether Romney’s dog might have been strapped to the roof of his airplane.

Read more: After Gaffe-Filled Foreign Tour, Europe Asks: “Is Mitt Romney a Loser?” | World | TIME.com

Italy and France affirm euro support amid crisis

Italian Premier Mario Monti says European leaders can not "allow their attention to wander for even a minute" away from the currency union.

French President Francois Hollande said there was significant progress toward strengthening the euro zone in recent weeks.

This is a sign that the 17 countries that use the euro continue to want "a currency capable of giving Europe a coherent plan."

Read more: Italy and France affirm euro support amid crisis - RTÉ News

ECB's Draghi interrogated by EU ombudsman

Eurozone central banker Mario Draghi has been asked to justify his membership of an elite international financial forum by the EU after transparency campaigners claimed a conflict of interest, the bloc's watchdog said Tuesday.

European Central Bank president Draghi, at the center of the debt storm stalking the recession-hit single currency for the last three years, stands accused of breaching European Union statutes governing "impartiality, independence and objectivity".

The complaint argues that the ECB chief's place in the "Group of 30", which describes itself on its website as a "nonprofit, international body" gathering figures from private and public sectors and academia, "is incompatible with the independence, reputation and integrity of the ECB".

Read more: ECB's Draghi dragged before EU ombudsman

Eastport Maine A Profitable US East Coast Sea Link To Europe - by RM

Eastport a pittoresque Maine coastal town
What first started as a small experimental shipment of 500 pregnant cows from Maine to Turkey has now grown into an important source of income for Eastport, a pittoresque New England coastal town just across from the Canadian Province of New Brunswick.

On of the reason's for this success is that Eastport's location makes it the closest port on the US East Coast to Europe.

Initial facility expansions in 1998 allowed the Eastport Port Authority to enter into a series of record breaking years for its cargo operations. Recently the Port completed a further $8 million modernization and expansion program. Today the Port of Eastport is seen as one of the fastest growing cargo ports in all of New England.

Eastport's modern automated Port facilities
Following years of handling largely pulp and pulp-related products from local mills, livestock exports have emerged as a major growth market not only as a result of its proximity to Europe, but  importantly, Maine’s clean bill of health with regard to certain livestock diseases.

The Cattle for export via Eastport comes from Maine and other New England and US states,

Animal friendly, ventilated, climate-controlled livestock containers
The port’s dominant livestock customer has been a Texas company called Sexing Technologies that uses technology to sort bull semen for farmers that specifically want either male or female calves.

Following their arrival in Eastport Heifers (young cows) impregnated with semen from Sexing Technologies’ system are then loaded onto the ship in animal friendly, ventilated, climate-controlled livestock containers for their trip overseas. Usually to the port of Izmir in Turkey.

Izmir Port, Turkey
The positive results of this niche market are quite evident.

Since the beginning of the year some 17,000 cattle have passed through this Washington County community (also known for its commercial fisheries) on their way to Europe.

Chris Gardner, executive director of the Eastport Port Authority, who is also a Maine Washington County commissioner, says the livestock exports have opened a huge new international market for local and US farmers and has had a significant economic impact on the Port and the town of Eastport in the form of new businesses and jobs.

EU-Digest

Eurozone: Global Port Tracker report calls for significant 2012 export and import declines - by Jeff Berman

The ongoing economic malaise in Eurozone nations is not likely to see any meaningful signs of improvement in the near future. That was the main message in the most recent edition of the Global Port Tracker report from Hackett Associates and the Bremen Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics.

Ports surveyed in this report include the six major container reports in North Europe: le Havre, Antwerp, Zeebrugge, Rotterdam, Bremen/Bremerhaven, and Hamburg.

“Trade volumes remain on the decline,” said Ben Hackett, president of Hackett Associates, in a statement. “North European import growth rates are sliding towards flat to negative territory and exports have been flat for some months. The latest news from the industrial heartland of Germany suggests that we shall see exports declining in the coming six months.”

Read more: Global Port Tracker report calls for significant 2012 export and import declines - Article from Logistics Management

7/30/12

Dutch Flower Exports Climb 6% in First Half on Germany and U.K. - by Rudy Ruitenberg

The Netherlands’ flower and plant exports, the world’s biggest, rose 6 percent in the first half as increased shipments to Germany and the U.K. more than made up for falling sales to France, Italy and Spain.

Exports climbed to 3.1 billion euros ($3.79 billion) from 2.92 billion euros in the first half of 2011, the Aalsmeer, Netherlands-based Dutch Agricultural Wholesale Board for Flowers and Plants wrote in a report on its website today.

Flower sales to southern Europe are sliding on the back of falling consumer confidence there, with shoppers cutting the budget for blooms at weddings, funerals and birthdays, the board said.

Consumers in Germany, the U.K. and the Nordic countries all bought more greenery and flowers.

“Flowers and plants are products with a large emotional value and that could also be an advantage in this time of economic headwind,” the board wrote. In southern Europe, “there is no sign of improving confidence for the time being,” it said.

Germany, Europe’s largest economy, is the biggest market for flowers from the Netherlands. Flower and plant exports to the country rose 7.1 percent in the first half to 995 million euros. Shipments to the U.K., the second-biggest customer for Dutch flora, increased 12 percent to 437 million euros.

Read more: Dutch Flower Exports Climb 6% in First Half on Germany and U.K. - Bloomberg

France eyes new Syria push at UN Security Council

French President Francois Hollande
France plans to seek an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss Syria's crisis.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has told RTL radio that Paris will probably request a minister-level meeting of the council "both to try to stop the massacres and at the same time prepare the political transition."   Fabius did not specify a date for the proposed meeting.

The Syrian regime's crackdown on opposition forces since March 2011 has, according to rights activists, killed more than 19,000 people.

France takes over the rotating Security Council presidency Wednesday as French President Francois Hollande noted Monday that attempts at past Security Council resolutions have faced opposition from Russia, a steadfast Syria ally.

Hollande, in London for the Olympics, said: "My job is to continue this pressure" for a resolution.

Read more: France eyes new Syria push at UN Security Council - WSET.com - ABC13

Poland's Solidarity Union Rebukes Romney Upon Former Leader's Endorsement - Dave Jamieson

 Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney may have earned an apparent endorsement from former Polish president Lech Walesa on Monday, but no such kind words were coming from Poland's storied Solidarnosc (Solidarity) trade union, which Walesa and others founded in 1980.

Upon Romney's visit to the Gdansk shipyards, the site of historic Polish worker strikes during the Soviet era, Solidarnosc issued a press release saying it is "in no way involved" in the Romney meeting with Walesa and had no "initiative" to invite the American candidate to Poland.

The union expressed dismay at Romney's anti-union stances in the U.S., saying it would stand alongside the AFL-CIO, the American labor federation that has endorsed Obama and remains highly critical of Romney.

"Regretfully, we have learned from our friends in the American trade union central AFL-CIO representing over 12 million workers about Mitt Romney's support for the attacks against trade unions and labor rights," Andrzej Adamczyk, the head of the union's international department, wrote. "In this respect, I wish to express... our solidarity with American workers and trade unions. [Solidarity] will always support the AFL-CIO in their struggle for the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively."

Read more: Poland's Solidarity Union Rebukes Romney Upon Former Leader's Endorsement

US Presidential Campaign: Romney Unprecedented Fund-Raising Breakfast in Israel to Bar News Media - by Ashley Parker

Mitt Romney’s high-dollar breakfast with donors at the King David Hotel here on Monday morning will be closed to the news media, his campaign decided Saturday, a change from the norm for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

The trip to Israel holds opportunity and peril for Mr. Romney, and his campaign aides have spent weeks preparing him for the fine diplomatic line he must walk while abroad. His relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, which dates to their days as young consultants in Boston, is being scrutinized for signs of warmth or cooling, and everything said — and unsaid — will be carefully parsed. 

The fund-raiser may be an especially delicate situation for Mr. Romney because of the attendance of Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino magnate who has pledged to spend some $100 million this election to help defeat President Obama, as well as elect Republicans. Though Mr. Adelson first supported Newt Gingrich during the early nominating contests because of his strong support for Israel, he has since thrown his support behind Mr. Romney. Mr. Adelson and his wife recently gave $5 million to a pro-Romney “super PAC.”

Read more: Romney Fund-Raising Breakfast in Israel to Bar News Media - NYTimes.com

Libor reveals a rotten financial system - by Elizabeth Warren

The Libor scandal is more than just the latest financial deception to come to light. It exposes a fraud that runs to the heart of our financial system.

Libor, the London interbank offered rate, is a benchmark for a range of interest rates, and the misdeeds making headlines have to do with how those rates are set. If insiders can manipulate the basic measurement of a loan — the interest rate — there is rot at the core of the financial system.

Read more: Libor reveals a rotten financial system - Philly.com

7/29/12

Global Crisis: the Convergence of Marx, Orwell and Kafka - by Charles Hugh Smith

The global crisis is best understood as the convergence of the modern trends identified by Marx, Orwell and Kafka.

Let's start with Franz Kafka, the writer (1883-1924) who most eloquently captured the systemic injustices of all powerful bureaucracies--the alienation experienced by the hapless citizen enmeshed in the bureaucratic web, petty officialdom's mindless persecutions of the innocent, and the intrinsic absurdity of the centralized State best expressed in this phrase: "We expect errors, not justice."  \

The entire global financial system is Kafkaesque: the bureaucracies of the Central State have two intertwined goals: protect the financial Elites from the consequences of their parasitic predation, and protect their own power and perquisites. 

The convergence boils down to this: it would be impossible to loot this much wealth if the State didn't exist to enforce the "rules" of parasitic predation. In China, the Elite's looting proceeds along somewhat different rules from the looting of Europe and the U.S., but the end result is the same in all financialized, centrally managed economies: an expansive kleptocracy best understood as the convergence of Marx, Orwell and Kafka.

Read more: Global Crisis: the Convergence of Marx, Orwell and Kafka - Business Insider

Middle East - Human Rights: Islam absent in Saudi political system says Research Analyst

“Saudi Arabia is using the name of Islam to prolong its nefarious designs in supporting, defending and safeguarding the Western interests and the Israeli interests,” Dr. Syed Ali Wasif, the president of the Society for International Reforms Research, said in an interview with Press TV.

“It has nothing to do with Islam. Just because it has Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, it does not mean that it follows Islam.”

In Saudi Arabia, one family regime has been ruling over the country for the last 70 years “unhindered and without any accountability,” leading to rampant corruption and the widespread abolition of human rights, he added. “In this case of Saudi Arabia, we do not see any kind of popular support to the Saudi regime or people’s representatives sitting in the assemblies or in the parliament. So it is totally in contravention with the Islamic norms.”

Wasif further criticized the international community, human rights organizations, the United Nations Security Council, the Red Cross and the Red Crescent and other international bodies for “totally ignoring” the arbitrary detention of tens of thousands of Saudi citizens over the last decade.

Read more: PressTV - Islam absent in Saudi political system: Analyst

US presidential elections: Most Voters Don't Want To Learn More About Romney, Obama: Poll - by Ariel Edwards-Levy

Most voters say they already know everything they need to about President Obama and Mitt Romney, but some questions still linger about Romney's political and business record, according to a Pew Research Center poll released Tuesday.

Nine in 10 registered voters said they "already pretty much know what they need to know about" Obama, while 69 percent said the same of Romney.

Republicans were most likely overall to have questions about Romney, with 34 percent saying they needed to learn more about him, compared to 29 percent of independents and 21 percent of Democrats. But Democrats were far more interested than Republicans in Romney's taxes, by a 56-to-18 percent margin, and were more interested in his wealth and record at Bain, by 17 and 15 points respectively. Independents fell somewhere in the middle, with about a third wanting to hear more about Romney's Bain record and taxes, and a fifth wanting to know more about his wealth.

Read more: Most Voters Don't Want To Learn More About Romney, Obama: Poll

EU institutions are hindering crisis resolution, says Hungary Prime Minister

European Union (EU) officials are wasting time on toys for pigs and the mood of geese when hundreds of thousands are losing their jobs and the single currency is collapsing, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said today in a scathing attack on EU institutions.

Orban, who has often been at loggerheads with Brussels over issues like the independence of the National Bank of Hungary and the judiciary, said the 27-member bloc’s institutions were hindering crisis-hit nations’ ability to solve their problems.
Speaking in the Romanian town of Baile Tusnad at an annual students’ gathering, Orban said western Europe, where the 17-member Eurozone is mired in a debt crisis, was trapped in a vicious circle by the lack of accountability and failing institutions.
“Brussels spends precious days and weeks setting the size of hen cages. They prescribe that pigs should be given toys to play with, and the mood of geese is an important European issue,” Orban said in a nearly hour-long speech carried by Hungarian private broadcaster HirTV.

Read more: EU institutions are hindering crisis resolution, says Hungary Prime Minister | GulfNews.com

Cellular Phones: Galaxy S3 vs One X vs Xperia S vs iPhone 4S: Camera Fight!

With the Samsung Galaxy S3, HTC One X, the iPhone 4S, and the Sony Xperia S being packed with features, it’s not surprising that it is quite difficult to crown any of the smartphone cameras as the best. Each has its strengths and weaknesses in different scenarios, and as always, it boils down to personal preference. But, it does look like the 12.1MP Sony Xperia S is the least impressive of the four devices, even with its megapixel superiority. The poorer quality can possibly be attributed to its lower cost and hence, cheaper hardware, so that the next high-end Sony smartphone with a 12/13MP camera could stand strong against its competition.

Read more: Galaxy S3 vs One X vs Xperia S vs iPhone 4S: Camera Fight!

Cellular Phones - The blame Game: Apple blames rumor, speculation and Europeans for iPhone sales dip -by Chris Davies

The specter of the iPhone 5 scuppered Apple smartphone sales in Q3 2012, CEO Tim Cook has suggested, though those pesky Europeans have to share some of the blame for the missed targets too. Speaking on the company’s financial results call today, Cook blamed “rumor and speculation regarding new products” for sales of the iPhone dipping to 26m units, with sales in Europe particularly flat. 

However, the Apple CEO also said he doesn’t plan to spend any energy trying to actively prevent pre-launch whispers.

Of the various geographies, iPhone sales were apparently “very strong” in the US and strong in Japan. Greater China was up considerably, with Mainland China up more than 100-percent. However, European sales were basically flat, holding back Apple’s overall results for the three month period.

Read more: Apple blames rumor, speculation and Europeans for iPhone sales dip - SlashGear

Europe Still Wants to Start From Somewhere Else - by Clive Crook

The European Union seems stuck in an endless loop of the old joke about an Irishman (aptly enough) giving directions: "I wouldn't start from here."

ECB president Mario Draghi caused a surge of optimism, or let's say diminished pessimism, earlier this week with his assurance to an audience in London that the central bank would do "whatever it takes" to preserve the single currency: "Believe me," he said, "it will be enough." Good news, you think: That would have to include buying Spanish and Italian bonds, since that's what it will take. But hadn't he previously said, to loud affirmation from Germany and elsewhere, that the ECB lacked the authority to do this? Not quite, in fact. The question of authority turns on a distinction which seems to be important to Mr Draghi but that many others fail to understand. As the FT reports, he repeated this delicate point this week.

So once again, Europe can't quite start from here. Unless it can stipulate, of course, that it has moved to a different place without anybody noticing. Reforms are in place! Our preconditions have been met and our firm resolve rewarded! Mr Draghi, go ahead!

We'll see. Financial markets pushed Spanish and Italian bond yields a bit lower today. They're calculating that Draghi, at least, is coming round. I hope they're right. In the end, Europe's future is likely to come down to him.

Note EU-Digest: why  must pessimism about Europe always come from the other side of the Atlantic? 

 Read more: Europe Still Wants to Start From Somewhere Else - Clive Crook - The Atlantic

7/28/12

Austria Faith Leaders Defend Circumcision

As the debate on religious circumcision is raging in Germany, Austria’s faith leaders united on Friday, July 27, to condemn calls from two provincial leaders to limit the practice as an attack on religion.

"We are concerned about all attempts to exploit the debate that has been triggered by the Cologne verdict to promote a hostile attitude in Austria towards Judaism, Islam or religion in general," Peter Schipka, general secretary of the Roman Catholic Austrian Bishops' Conference, told journalists on Friday, Reuters reported.

The meeting was attended by leaders representing Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim faiths in Austria.

Read more: Austria Faith Leaders Defend Circumcision - Europe - News - OnIslam.net

Olympics Opening Ceremony A Hit Around Globe - by Jonathan Samuels

For some it was the end of a long night, for others a very early start, but for Olympic fans watching the opening ceremony on a big screen in a Sydney sports bar it was the next best thing to being in London.

An Australian TV commentator described the show as "brilliant but bonkers" and that pretty much summed up how the city's residents viewed it.

Shrouded in secrecy in the run-up to the Games, few knew what to expect from film director Danny Boyle's epic showpiece but around the world opinions have been largely positive.

For more: Olympics Opening Ceremony A Hit Around Globe

7/27/12

US Presidential elections: Mitt Romney Stumbles During Campaign Trip to London - by Sebastian Fischer

Mitt Romney was hoping to start off his European tour with a bang: a meeting with conservative British Prime Minister David Cameron, the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on Friday and a couple of lucrative fundraising events. The idea was to show the presumed Republican presidential candidate from his best side. After all, he himself successfully managed the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The plan, in short, was a good one, and London is to be followed by quick stops in Poland and Israel. Unfortunately, it didn't take long for Romney to make the kind of negative headlines he had been hoping to avoid. And it has cast a dark cloud over his entire trip.

It all began with an anonymous Romney "adviser" and the special relationship between the US and Great Britain. "We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he (Romney) feels that the special relationship is special," the adviser told the British daily Telegraph. "The White House didn't fully appreciate the shared history we have."

Perhaps the comment hadn't been adequately vetted. But the Telegraph teased it out for its readers. The remarks, the paper wrote, "may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity" given that Obama's father, after all, was neither white nor Anglo-Saxon. US Vice President Joe Biden reacted strongly by calling the comments "disturbing" and saying the assertion was "beneath a presidential campaign." Obama adviser David Axelrod said that the comment on shared heritage was "stunningly offensive."

As if that weren't enough, Romney also seemed to take aim at the British people. "Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment? That is something which we only find out once the Games actually begin."

Not surprisingly, the British press jumped on the comments. As did British leaders. During a rally to celebrate the end of the torch relay in Hyde Park, London Mayor Boris Johnson said to the gathered crowd: "There's this guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we are ready."

And Prime Minister Cameron also chided the Republican candidate. "We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world," he said. "Of course it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere."

Chagrined, Romney quickly did something that Americans have become used to from him: He flip-flopped. In comments to the press afterward, he conceded that it is "impossible for absolutely no mistakes to occur."

Mitt Romney Stumbles During Campaign Trip to London - SPIEGEL ONLINE

The Greek Military Budget Offers Plenty of Room for Cuts - by Georgios Christidis

Greece is struggling to achieve the deep cuts demanded by its international creditors. But the country's military budget still offers plenty of room for trimming. Athens, though, has refrained from tackling the primary problem: too many soldiers and too many military bases.

Costly armament purchases are, of course, part of the equation. According to the independent Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Greece has spent much of the 2000s as one of the top five arms importers globally, lavishly spending on new submarines, tanks and fighter jets. Just last year, the country spent €4.6 billion on defense, representing 2.1 percent of its economic output. European NATO members, by contrast, spent an average of 1.6 percent, Germany just 1.4 percent.

In light of the crisis, Defense Minister Panagiotopoulos has pledged to reorganize the Greek military structure, cut operational costs and shut down non-performing bases. But he had also hoped to hire more professional soldiers with the goal of gradually transforming the Greek army into a largely professional force. 

Note EU-Digest: why does Greece need such an elaborate costly army? To protect themselves from what, Turkey? What nonsense.

Read more: The Greek Military Budget Offers Plenty of Room for Cuts - SPIEGEL ONLINE

Immigrants boost German population as births outnumber death first time in eight years

The German population has grown for the first time in eight years, according to the latest estimates from the Federal Statistical Office – but only thanks to an influx of immigrants, mainly from eastern Europe.

The office's latest estimate suggests that the German population grew by 90,000 people last year, with the numbers boosted by around 163,000 Poles, 95,000 Romanians, 51,000 Bulgarians, and 41,000 Hungarians all settling in the country in 2011.

But despite this positive development, authorities still believe that the population will continue to decline in coming decades, because Germans are not having enough babies.

The office says that there would need to be an average of 2.1 children per woman in order to sustain the current population level – but the current birth-rate is well below that at 1.4. Even the current rate of immigration to Germany is not enough to make up the deficit.

Immigrants boost German population - The Local

US Economy: Housing Headwinds: US Birthrate Lowest in 25 Years as Twenty-Somethings Postpone Having Babies

Boomer demographics and postponement of marriage on account of student debt and poor finances are two of the key reasons that I long-ago stated the housing recovery would be slow for a decade.

As the economy tanked, the average number of births per woman fell 12% from a peak of 2.12 in 2007. Demographic Intelligence projects the rate to hit 1.87 this year and 1.86 next year — the lowest since 1987.

The less-educated and Hispanics have experienced the biggest birthrate decline while the share of U.S. births to college-educated, non-Hispanic whites and Asian Americans has grown.

The effect of this economic slump on birthrates has been more rapid and long-lasting than any downturn since the Great Depression.

Read more: Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis

Middle East: Syria rebels brace for 'mother of all battles'

Waves of troop reinforcements have been pouring into the northern city of Aleppo -- Syria's commercial capital -- and a security source told AFP the offensive feared by the rebels could come as early as Friday.

"The special forces were deployed on Wednesday and Thursday on the edges of the city, and more troops have arrived to take part in a generalised counter-offensive on Friday or Saturday," the security source said.

Early Friday, helicopter gunships strafed a string of rebel neighbourhoods in the southwest of the city. Clashes also broke out in the Jamiliya district, adjacent to Aleppo's historic old quarter, a human rights watchdog said.

Three people were killed in shelling of the southern Fardoss district and one was shot dead in the Maysaloon neighbourhood, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

Read more: Syria rebels brace for 'mother of all battles' - Region - World - Ahram Online

Spain unemployment edges up to 24.6% - overall eurozone stands at 11.1 percent

The number of people out of work in Spain shows no sign of dropping, with almost one in four people unemployed, according to the latest government figures.

The recession-hit country's unemployment rate rose 0.19 percentage points in the second quarter on the previous three months to 24.63 per cent, the country's National Statistics Institute said.

The Institute said Friday that 53,500 people more joined the ranks of the unemployed between April and June, making for a total of 5.69 million people out of work.

The rate is the highest among the 17 nations using the euro currency. 

Note EU-Digest: Eurostat, the EU's statistics office, said unemployment rose to 11.1 per cent in May from 11 per cent the previous month. May's rate was the highest since the euro was launched in 1999 and adds further urgency to the eurozone countries' plan to create economic growth and cut excessive government debt.

Read more: Spain unemployment edges up to 24.6% - World - CBC News

England: Olympic Games opening ceremony to escape the rain

London Olympics starting today
The opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics is set to escape a band of heavy showers that are predicted in the capital today, according to forecasters.


Following a week of sunshine and scorching temperatures, a spell of rainy and possibly thundery weather is expected to hit the South East later as the countdown to the official start of the London Games reaches fever pitch.

London will be most at at risk during the morning and early afternoon, but experts said the showers should have cleared by 9pm when the eagerly awaited £27 million showpiece gets under way.

Temperatures are also expected to remain warm for tens of thousands of spectators making their way to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, east London.  Claire Austin, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: "We are expecting some heavy showers around today in central and south-eastern parts of England. "They should have mostly died away by 7-8pm, so hopefully it should be dry from then onwards."

Read more: Olympic Games opening ceremony to escape the rain - Home News - UK - The Independent

The Netherlands: Dutch lender Rabobank fires 4 employees over Libor rigging

Dutch lender Rabobank has fired four employees between 2008 and last year over the manipulation of interbank lending rates, a scandal which has now engulfed a dozen or more major banks around the world, a Dutch newspaper reported on Friday.

The Dutch agricultural cooperative bank is a member of the panel that sets the London Interbank Offered Rate ( Libor), a benchmark for the rate at which banks lend to each other and which underlies financial contracts from mortgages to complex derivatives worth trillions of dollars.

Two of the employees were dismissed in 2008 following an internal investigation by Rabobank, and the other two late last year, Het Financieele Dagblad reported, citing sources in the financial sector.


Note EU-Digest: the solution is not in firing individual employees but in fixing a malfunctioning and corrupt global banking industry.

Read more: Dutch lender Rabobank fires 4 employees over Libor rigging - The Economic Times

7/26/12

Food Industry: Beware: Fresh look of vegetables could be due to hazardous chemicals

The soft, shiny red exterior of tomatoes or the lush, green texture of peas and leafy veggies might tempt one’s taste buds and their “freshness” might appeal to the eyes, but there lies something sinister beneath – a toxic concoction of hazardous chemicals.

Says Utpal Raychaudhuri, a senior scientist at the Department of Food Technology, Jadavpur University: “The consumption of raw fruits and vegetables has become a paradox. The rampant use of chemicals contravenes their nutritional benefits.”

Chemicals such as copper sulfate, rhodamine oxide, malachite green and the deadly carbide are the ones most commonly used to accentuate coloration and freshness.

“These are neurotoxic (affecting the brain) causing Alzheimer’s and dementia and are also carcinogenic. In addition, they speed up the ageing process,” Raychaudhuri said.

The vibrant green exterior of green peas and chilies are a result of the unscrupulous use of malachite green, a textile dye, a well-known carcinogen.

Other green vegetables such as lady’s finger, bitter gourd and the other gourd varieties are given a facelift by being washed in copper sulfate, commonly known as blue vitriol.

Read more: Beware: Fresh look of vegetables could be due to hazardous chemicals | Firstpost

France on green ‘offensive’ to save auto industry

An Electric Renault Town Car
With France’s biggest car manufacturer, PSA Peugeot Citroen, cutting jobs and posting record losses, the French government responded to the crisis in the auto sector Wednesday by unveiling a raft of measures aimed at promoting green cars.

The French government went on the offensive to restore its crisis-hit auto industry Wednesday with a raft of measures aimed at supporting the production of environmentally friendly cars.

With France’s biggest car manufacturer unveiling a record first-half loss of €819 million the same day, the new measures could not come at a better time.

PSA Peugeot Citroen, which is also Europe’s second largest carmaker, has already announced some 8,000 job cuts in France as part of a much-criticized cost-reduction plan worth €1.5 billion over the next three years.

Read more: France on green ‘offensive’ to save auto industry - FRANCE - FRANCE 24

EU regulators seek global concessions from Google - by FOO YUN CHEE

European Union regulators are seeking concessions from Google which could be applied worldwide to resolve concerns about its business practices, the EU’s antitrust chief said on Wednesday, raising the stakes in forthcoming settlement talks.

Google, whose search engine is used for around four-fifths of Internet searches in Europe, has been accused by rivals of abusing its dominant market position, and the European Commission said in May it was concerned about its alleged anti-competitive behaviour.

The Commission typically looks for concessions that would benefit European consumers, but has on occasions asked for remedies with a broader scope.

“We will look for worldwide solutions, it will not be very useful to get European-wide solutions,” EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told a news conference.

The Google case is a critical one for Mr. Almunia, and his demand for globally applicable solutions – which might see an EU decision serving as a template for worldwide regulators – shows another way in which he is trying to stamp his mark on EU competition policy.

Read more: EU regulators seek global concessions from Google - The Globe and Mail

European Central Bank Chief Draghi pledges to do ‘whatever it takes’ to save euro

Financial markets rose Thursday after European Central Bank head Mario Draghi raised expectations it might step in and buy the bonds of debt-burdened eurozone members.

Draghi said in London that the ECB would "do whatever it takes to preserve the euro" and added, "believe me, it will be enough."

He discussed the high borrowing costs being imposed on some countries' bonds, saying that "they come within our mandate" — but only if those costs are stopping the ECB's interest rate policies from being implemented throughout the 17-country eurozone.

Read more: Draghi pledges to do ‘whatever it takes’ to save euro - Business - CBC News

US Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney's Europe Trip Far From Smooth

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney caused a stir in Britain by questioning whether the country is prepared to host the Olympic Games without a hitch and scheduling a fundraiser with the former head of a troubled bank.

The former Massachusetts governor visited with British political leaders as part of a larger effort to show he has what it takes to represent the US on the world stage. But instead of highlighting ties with the America's staunchest ally, Romney may have embarrassed the Brits instead.

British Prime Minister David Cameron offered a blunt retort to Romney and other doubters, saying they will "see beyond doubt that Britain can deliver".

Read more: Mitt Romney's Europe Trip Far From Smooth | Stuff.co.nz

US Political Scene: : Florida in danger of purging democracy - by Charlie Crist

For better or worse, the central principle behind the unlimited contributions to super PACs that will dominate this election cycle is simple: Money is speech, and we cannot limit speech. Yet many who hold this freedom as an article of faith are all too willing to limit an equally precious form of speech: voting.

If we don’t speak out against these abuses, we may soon learn the hard way the danger of that double standard. And a dozen years after the 2000 recount that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, my state of Florida threatens to be ground zero one more time.

As Florida’s attorney general from 2003 to 2007, I strongly enforced the laws against illegal voting. I did so out of respect for our democracy — voting is a precious right reserved for U.S. citizens — but I’m concerned that zealots overreacting to contrived threats of voter fraud by significantly narrowing the voting pool are doing so with disrespect and disregard for our greatest traditions.

As a result of insidious political maneuvers and a lack of respect for voters, the courts and the Justice Department have been required to step in this summer to protect the integrity of the voting process against a sweeping purge that the Florida Department of State undertook under the guise of removing non-U.S. citizens from the voter rolls. Among those caught up in this shameless purging was 91-year-old World War II veteran Bill Internicola, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

read more: Commentary: Florida in danger of purging democracy | www.palmbeachpost.com

7/25/12

Syria rushes reinforcements to its largest city - by Elizabeth A. Kennedy

 Syrian troops rushed dozens of tanks and reinforcements Wednesday toward Aleppo, the country's strategically vital commercial capital, in a bid to crush a rebel advance that has spread to wide swaths of the sprawling city.

As five days of fighting in Aleppo intensified, and with rumors swirling of a final showdown in that city, neighboring Turkey tightened its borders but said refugees will be allowed through.

"We are expecting a big attack on Aleppo," Mohammed Saeed, an activist based in Aleppo, told The Associated Press. "People are worried they might face random shelling while fleeing."

Syria rushes reinforcements to its largest city - Businessweek

New Eurofighter App Launched

Eurofighters
Eurofighter has just released a brand new application for the iPad and Android tablets, offering fans of Eurofighter Typhoon a comprehensive, interactive guide to the aircraft. The new app brings you the latest news on the programme, squadron details, videos and images of the Eurofighter Typhoon as well as details of current and future capabilities, which we hope will allow fans to further develop their passion for the Eurofighter Typhoon.

The application also gives an insight into the history of the aircraft and provides links to our social media pages and Eurofighter World magazine, with additional unseen features about the world’s most advanced swing-role aircraft.

The Eurofighter Typhoon app can be downloaded from the Apple store or Android Market as of  today.

EU-Digest

Gun Control: U.S. gun sales surge after Colorado theatre massacre

Firearms sales are surging in the U.S. after last week's Colorado theatre massacre as buyers fear that politicians may use the shootings to seek new restrictions on owning weapons.

In Colorado, where Friday's shooting killed 12 and injured dozens, gun sales jumped in the three days that followed. The state approved background checks for 2,887 people who wanted to purchase a firearm — 25 per cent more than the average Friday to Sunday period in 2012 and 43 per cent more than the same interval the week prior.

Dick Rutan, owner of Gunners Den in Arvada, Colo., said requests for concealed-weapon training certification "are off the hook." His four-hour course in gun safety, required for certification for a concealed-weapons permit in Colorado, has drawn double the interest since Friday.

Read more: U.S. gun sales surge after Colorado theatre massacre - World - CBC News

The best countries in the world to raise kids

If you have children or are thinking of starting a family, you may want to move to either Japan or Europe.

According to a new report by Save the Children, Japan is the best place in the world to be a kid.

Overall, however,  Europe dominates the Index, taking all but four of the top 20 positions. This is of little surprise: it is culturally and politically accepted in Europe that the government will assume a significant role in delivering preschool education. Investment stretches back decades, helping ensure good availability and affordability, with typically high quality.

In second place is Spain, followed by Germany, Italy and France. Canada comes in at No. 6, ahead of Switzerland, Norway, U.K. and the Netherlands. The USA ended up in the 19th place.

EU-Digest

Tim Geithner warns on Europe, fiscal cliff - by Jonathan Allen

The U.S. financial system has regained its footing since the crisis of a few years ago but is still threatened by instability in Europe and uncertainty about taxes and spending at home, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will tell a House committee on Wednesday.

In offering his takeaway from the annual Financial Stability Oversight Council report, Geithner will highlight falling debt among financial companies and individual citizens, according to a copy POLITICO obtained of his prepared remarks for a House Financial Services Committee hearing. And he will challenge Congress to make policy choices sooner rather than later to give the financial sector a greater sense of stability.

But it is Geithner’s response to questions on Libor, the London interest rate benchmark, that will have Wall Street bankers and congressional overseers on the edge of their seats.
Rep. Randy Neugebauer, who sits on the panel, wrote a letter on Monday to Willam Dudley to ask what the New York Federal Reserve Bank did in 2008 about evidence that international banks were manipulating rates. Dudley is the New York Fed’s current president, and Geithner was its chief at the time.

Note EU-Digest : Mr. Geithner should look at how and why the economic problems in the US  caused the Global financial  meltdown before warning Europe or meddling in their business.

Read more: Tim Geithner warns on Europe, fiscal cliff - Jonathan Allen - POLITICO.com

7/24/12

"Lie-flat seats" coming to domestic cross-country routes on new A321 American Airlines flights

American airlines new Airbus A321
American Airlines will add lie-flat seats to its new Airbus A321 jets that will fly transcontinental routes between New York and California.

"We intend to be the only airline to offer a three-class service and the first to offer fully lie-flat First and Business Class seats on transcontinental flights with our Airbus A321 transcontinental aircraft," Virsab Vahidi, AA's Chief Commercial Officer, says in a release.

The Airbus A321s will join American's fleet as part of previously announced orders for 460 jets. As part of those orders, which included deals with both Boeing and Airbus.

AA plans to take delivery of 130 current generation Airbus aircraft from the A321 and A319 variants and up to 100 Boeing 737-800s through 2017.

Read more: AA: Lie-flat seats coming to domestic cross-country routes - USATODAY.com

British Labor leader, France's Hollande agree on growth

Britain's opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband on Tuesday become the first senior British politician to be received in Paris by the newly elected Socialist President Francois Hollande.

The visit came after Britain's Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron apparently snubbed Hollande when he made an election campaign visit to London in February.

Miliband, who earlier met with French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, told reporters after his talks with Hollande that they had discussed the crisis in the eurozone and agreed that Europe urgently needed economic growth.

"Since he took office, President Hollande has been seeking to move this debate in Europe, and the debate internationally, towards a Europe... that is growing again," he said. 

"And I think that is a clear point of agreement between us," said Miliband.


Read more: British Labour leader, France's Hollande agree on growth < French news | Expatica France

Bracing for another US recession - by Peter Morici

The US economy is teetering on the brink of another recession. The bad news is that if it goes down again, there won’t be much we can do to save ourselves. Like a weary heavyweight, if the economy hits the mat again, it’s down for good.

The expansion has been terribly disappointing – growth is hardly 2 per cent and jobs creation barely keeps unemployment steady at 8.2.

Manufacturing and exports powered the recovery but are now weakening. Consumer spending and existing home sales are flagging, because policymakers failed to aid underwater homeowners as generously as the banks.

President Obama is doubling down on slow growth policies – new restrictions on offshore oil and CO2 emissions, and pushing forward with financial regulations that haven’t stopped Wall Street banks from trading recklessly and rigging markets as indicated by the Libor scandal.

Governor Romney has reverted to shop-worn Republican prescriptions – tax cuts, free trade and deregulation.

With the federal government spending 50 per cent more than it takes in, no sane economist could endorse big rate cuts, beyond renewing the Bush tax cuts.

China, by manipulating its currency and shutting out western products, helped cause the Great Recession and is now constraining recovery in the United States and Europe. More free trade agreements won’t fix that.

Read more: Bracing for another US recession | Peter Morici | Commentary | Business Spectator

Consequences of the Fall of the Syrian Regime - by George Friedman

We have entered the endgame in Syria. That doesn't mean that we have reached the end by any means, but it does mean that the precondition has been met for the fall of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. We have argued that so long as the military and security apparatus remain intact and effective, the regime could endure. Although they continue to function, neither appears intact any longer; their control of key areas such as Damascus and Aleppo is in doubt, and the reliability of their personnel, given defections, is no longer certain. We had thought that there was a reasonable chance of the al Assad regime surviving completely. That is no longer the case. At a certain point -- in our view, after the defection of a Syrian pilot June 21 and then the defection of the Tlass clan -- key members of the regime began to recalculate the probability of survival and their interests. The regime has not unraveled, but it is unraveling.

The speculation over al Assad's whereabouts and heavy fighting in Damascus is simply part of the regime's problems. Rumors, whether true or not, create uncertainty that the regime cannot afford right now. The outcome is unclear. On the one hand, a new regime might emerge that could exercise control. On the other hand, Syria could collapse into a Lebanon situation in which it disintegrates into regions held by various factions, with no effective central government.

From the American point of view, al Assad's decline opens two opportunities. First, its policy of no direct military intervention but unremitting political and, to a lesser extent, economic pressure appears to be working in this instance. More precisely, even if it had no effect, it will appear that it did, which will enhance the ability of the United States to influence events in other countries without actually having to intervene.

Second, the current situation opens the door for a genuine balance of power in the region that does not require constant American intervention. One of the consequences of the events in Syria is that Turkey has had to reconsider its policy toward countries on its periphery. In the case of Iraq, Turkey has an interest in suppressing the Kurdistan Workers' Party militants who have taken refuge there and defending oil and other economic interests. Turkey's strategy is moving from avoiding all confrontations to avoiding major military commitments while pursuing its political interests. In the end, that means that Turkey will begin moving into a position of balancing Iran for its own interests in Iraq.

This relieves the United States of the burden of containing Iran. We continue to regard the Iranian sphere of influence as a greater threat to American and regional interests than Iran's nuclear program. The decline of al Assad solves the major problem. It also increases the sense of vulnerability in Iran. Depending on how close they are to creating a deliverable nuclear weapon -- and our view is that they are not close -- the Iranians may feel it necessary to moderate their position.

A major loser in this is Israel. Israel had maintained a clear understanding with the al Assad regime. If the al Assad regime restrained Hezbollah, Israel would have no objection to al Assad's dominating Lebanon. That agreement has frayed since the United States pushed al Assad's influence out of Lebanon in 2006.

Nevertheless, the Israelis preferred al Assad to the Sunnis -- until it appeared that the Iranians would dominate Syria. But the possibility of either an Islamist regime in Damascus or, more likely, Lebanese-style instability cannot please the Israelis. They are already experiencing jihadist threats in Sinai. The idea of having similar problems in Syria, where the other side of the border is the Galilee rather than the Negev, must make them nervous.

But perhaps the most important losers will be Russia and China. Russia, like Iran, has suffered a significant setback in its foreign policy that will have psychological consequences.

Read more: Consequences of the Fall of the Syrian Regime | Stratfo

What is the motivation behind these negative economic reports? re: "Global economic troubles spread from US and Europe to China, India and Brazil - by Paul Wiseman"

Mounting fears about Spain's financial health help illustrate why the global economy is in its worst shape since 2009.

Six of the 17 countries that use the euro currency are in recession. The U.S. economy is struggling again. And the economic superstars of the developing world — China, India and Brazil — are in no position to come to the rescue. They're slowing, too.

The lengthening shadow over the world's economy illustrates one of the consequences of globalization: There's nowhere to hide.

Investors drove up Spain's borrowing rates Monday over concern that the government's debts might force it to seek a bailout. The interest rate on Spain's 10-year bond touched 7.56 per cent — the highest since the euro began in 1999. Stocks around the world tumbled in response.

Worries about Spain intensified after its central bank said the economy shrank 0.4 per cent in the second quarter. The government predicts the economy will keep contracting next year as tax hikes and spending cuts hurt consumers and businesses.

Note EU-Digest: some of the above gloom and doom is also motivated and spread by conservative political circles, their allies in the financial sector and the press because they realize that if their liberal opponents political influence (Obama-USA) continues it could mean the eventual end of their uncontrolled and lucrative reign over global capital markets.   

Nowhere to hide: Global economic troubles spread from US and Europe to China, India and Brazil - Winnipeg Free Press

More than euro 17 trillion (US 21 trillion) stashed in offshore havens - exceeding combined GDP of the US and Japan

Offshore funds presently exceed the combined GDP of the USA and Japan.

Wealthy tax evaders, aided by private banks have exploited loopholes in tax legislation and stashed over $21 trillion in offshore funds, says a report. The capital drained from some developing countries since 1970 would be enough to pay off national debts.

­The findings show the gap between the haves and the have-nots is much larger than previously thought.

The document, entitled The Price of Offshore Revisited, was commissioned by The Tax Justice Network campaign group and leaked to the Guardian. The report provides the most detailed valuation of the offshore economy to date.

"The problem here is that the assets of these countries are held by a small number of wealthy individuals while the debts are shouldered by the ordinary people of these countries through their governments," wrote James Henry, expert on tax havens and former chief economist at consultancy McKinsey in his report.

The document cites the world’s leading private banks as cherry-picking from the ranks of the uber-rich and siphoning their fortunes into tax-free havens such as Switzerland, the Cayman Islands and other off-shore banking areas. Also the City of London and the state of Delaware are mentioned as major conduits for these tax evasions.

Henry points the finger at the world’s top ten private banks, including Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley SSB, JPMorgan Chase, UBS, Credit Suisse, Wells Fargo, BNP Paribas, HSBC, Deutsche Bank, for aiding wealthy clients to dodge taxes.  According to Henry’s figures, the top financial leaders processed more than $6 trillion in funds in 2010, more than double the previous year.

The world’s premier multilateral financial institutions have paid almost no attention to this ‘black hole’ in the global economy.  It has been left to groups such as TJN to support the painstaking factual analysis underlying this report.

The G20 has repeatedly made calls to end tax-free havens since the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008, but these plans have still not yet come to fruition while the global banking system remains rotten to the core.

Institutions like the World Bank, the IMF, the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, and the Bank for International Settlements have ready access not only to the analytic resources, but also to much of the raw data needed to more precisely quantify the dimensions of this problem.

Why have they turned a blind eye so far?

EU-Digest

7/23/12

Saudi Arabia: Shiite cleric calls for calm after protesters clash with Saudi force

Saudi Arabia has promised harsh retribution after 11 members of the security forces were attacked and injured during unrest in an eastern Shiite villag in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi security forces were fired at from side streets after they stopped a small demonstration in Awwamiya, the interior ministry spokesman, Maj Gen Mansour Al Turki, said. "It wasn't a confrontation between the police and the people," he said. "I don't expect this to be repeated. It was an isolated incident."

Saudi's interior ministry blamed the unrest on a "foreign country", according to a statement released by the kingdom's official news agency. Shiite activists in Gulf countries are regularly accused of having links with their co-religionists in rival Iran.

Tension in the village grew on Monday when Saudi police arrested two men, both in their 70s, in a bid to force their sons, accused of taking part in Shiite-led protests, to surrender, an activist said.

Forbes magazine recently wrote about Saudi Arabia: " Saudi Arabia, despite it’s recent embrace of the cause of democracy and freedom in Syria, is and has been for the past 80 odd years one of the most violently repressive and backwards societies in the world: an absolute dictatorship replete with “morality police” and various other kinds of religious totalitarians.* Saudi Arabia not only violently represses and persecutes its small Shiite minority**, it militarily intervened in neighboring Bahrain to help that country’s authoritarian political elite  viciously and cruelly repress a popular uprising by the majority Shiites."

Read more: Shiite cleric calls for calm after protesters clash with Saudi force - The National

Futurists see the world changing, from food to technology - by Amanda Kwan

What is a futurist? Not a fortune teller, oracle or prophet. Futurists are simply people who take foresight seriously, applying past and emerging trends to envision how our lifestyles and industries will develop in the years ahead.

But the future isn’t what it used to be: What was once a field dominated by experts such as Future Shock author Alvin Toffler or artificial-intelligence guru Ray Kurzweil is now becoming one that involves more amateurs, as large-scale information and the processing power to analyze it become more accessible. And that’s a welcome development to most of the pros.

“Really, anybody who has a prefrontal cortex is a futurist,” says Patrick Tucker, communications director of the World Future Society. “We spend the vast majority of our time thinking about the future. This is where we plan, where we create actions we are going to commit ourselves to.”

Next weekend, Toronto will host the World Future Conference, bringing together people from disparate fields to discuss how the world is changing – and how it ought to.

Read more: Four ways futurists see the world changing, from food to technology - The Globe and Mail

Global Economy in Worst Shape Since 2009 - by Paul Wiseman

Mounting fears about Spain's financial health help illustrate why the global economy is in its worst shape since 2009.

Six of the 17 countries that use the euro currency are in recession. The U.S. economy is struggling again. And the economic superstars of the developing world — China, India and Brazil — are in no position to come to the rescue. They're slowing, too.

The lengthening shadow over the world's economy illustrates one of the consequences of globalization: There's nowhere to hide.

Read more: Global Economy in Worst Shape Since 2009 - US News and World Report

China’s CNOOC to buy Calgary oil giant Nexen for $15B

Calgary-based oil and gas firm Nexen Inc. has agreed to be acquired by China National Offshore Oil Company in a $15.1 billion US cash deal.

State-owned CNOOC Ltd. will pay $27.50 per Nexen share. That price makes the deal the largest foreign transaction that Beijing has ever attempted.

Although Nexen's board is recommending the deal, the takeover must be approved by shareholders and various regulatory bodies. In particular, the deal will require the federal government's sign-off in Ottawa under the Investment Canada Act, which requires some foreign takeovers of Canadian companies to pass the "net benefit test" of being deemed a useful contribution to Canada's economy.

Note EU-Digest: this might not be such a good thing  for Canada to do for a variety of reasons, regardless of the short term financial benefits. 

Read more: China’s CNOOC to buy Calgary oil giant Nexen for $15B - Business - CBC News

EU under Pressure to Delay Solvency II Insurer Capital Rules - by Myles Neligan

The European Union may be forced to put back the January 2014 start date for its Solvency II capital regime for insurers after talks to agree a final draft of the strict new rules collapsed, Europe’s top insurance sector lobby said on Friday.

Thursday’s failed talks between EU officials and lawmakers meant there will now be no deal until after the EU Parliament returns from its summer break, squeezing an already tight legislative timetable and making a delay more likely.

Note EU-Digest: for the sake of the consumers it hopefully will not be delayed.

Read more: EU under Pressure to Delay Solvency II Insurer Capital Rules

Socialist party (SP) now the largest party in the Netherlands says poll

Emile Roemer leader of the SP
According to the latest poll by the Maurice de Hond polling center the SP ( Dutch Socialist Party) would be getting most of the votes in the upcoming September national elections in the Netherlands. It would consequently become the largest party in parliament with 32 seats, one more than the present ruling  conservative VVD. The SP gained this seat, at the expense of the PvdA (Labor Party), which now would have 18 seats.

The shift of one seat from the Labor Party to the SP is the only change from last week's poll.  Other parties listed are Geert Wilders PVV (19),  Christian Democrats CDA (14), Democratic Party D66 (15), Greens party (5), Christian Union (7),   Christian SGP (3) and the Party for Animals (3) remain the same.

Read more: PowNed : SP weer de grootste

The Gods Are Dying - by Frederick Buechner

"The gods are dying. The gods of this world are sick unto death… Which gods? The gods that we worship. Their sacred names? There is science for one: he who would redeem the world from poverty and disease; on whose shoulders mankind was to be borne onward and upward toward the high stars.

Or democracy, that gentler god with his gospel of freedom for all peoples, including those peoples who after centuries of exploitation and neglect at the hands of older democracies can be set free now only to flounder in danger of falling prey to new exploiters.

There is communism, that holy one so terrible in his predilection for blood sacrifice but so magnificent in his promise of the messianic age: from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

And we must not leave out from this role of the dying what often passes for the god of the church: the god who sanctifies foreign policy and our business methods, our political views and our racial prejudices. The god who, bless him, asks so little and promises so much: peace of mind, the end of our inferiority complexes. Go to church and feel better. The family that prays together stays together. Not everybody can afford a psychiatrist or two weeks of solid rest in the country, but anybody can afford this god. He comes cheap."

EU-Digest

7/22/12

Tour de France: Wiggins wins Britain’s first Tour de France

Bradley Wiggins
Bradley Wiggins has become the first Briton to win the Tour de France, as the 99th installment of the legendary cycle race finished at the Champs Elysees in Paris.

­Wiggins won just two stages during the event, but showed the most consistency among the riders.

The finish in the middle of the pack on the 20th stage, which was won by his compatriot and Sky teammate Mark Cavendish, was enough for the 32-year-old to hold on to his yellow jersey.

"It's been a magical couple of weeks for the team and for British cycling,"
Wiggins told reporters. "Some dreams come true. My mother over there, she's now – her son has won the Tour de France."
But the winner would have little time to celebrate his success, with the Olympics at home less than a week away.

"Tonight I go home," he said. "Everything turns to the Olympics and I'll be out on the bike tomorrow and I've got an Olympic time trial to try and win. So that's a higher priority than anything else.” 

Another Sky man, Chris Froome, took second place in the overall standings, with Vincenzo Nibali completing the podium.

Read more: Wiggins wins Britain’s first Tour de France — RT

"Saudi Arabia's Human Rights Record is a complete farce" - by Mark Adomanis

If you want to find proof of the rank hypocrisy and double standards that underlie international relations in general and the argument over Syria in particular, you could do an awful lot worse than to examine the recent spat between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Saudi Arabia, despite it’s recent embrace of the cause of democracy and freedom in Syria, is and has been for the past 80 odd years one of the most violently repressive and backwards societies in the world: an absolute dictatorship replete with “morality police” and various other kinds of religious totalitarians.* Saudi Arabia not only violently represses and persecutes its small Shiite minority**, it militarily intervened in neighboring Bahrain to help that country’s authoritarian political elite  viciously and cruelly repress a popular uprising by the majority Shiites.

The Saudi troops that went to Bahrain to fight democracy and to advance the cause of authoritarianism, monarchy, and repression were not only using Western weapons, they were actually trained by Western militaries (there have, of course, been no calls for the US to cut off its massive and growing arms trade with Saudi Arabia, a relationship that is several orders of magnitude larger than Russia’s arms trade with Syria). In addition to intervening in its neighbor Bahrain’s “internal affairs” Saudi Arabia has been a leading voice for intervention in Syria and has repeatedly argued that the Syrian rebels must been armed and equipped. The Saudi government is even considering the drastic step of paying the salaries of rebel soldiers in an attempt to force additional defections from the Syrian army.

This background (Saudi Arabia neither respects “sovereignty” nor cares a whit about democracy)  is what makes the following all the more entertaining and hilarious. The Russians, partially because many of the countries loudly arguing for intervention in Syria are themselves blood-spattered dictatorships, think that what’s going on in Syria is not in any way a question of “human rights” or “democracy.” Instead they tend to see it for what it is: a nasty, bloody, destabilizing and extraordinarily dangerous proxy struggle between the Saudi-led Sunnis and Iran-led Shiites.
Read more: Hilarity Ensues as Russia Criticizes Saudi Arabia's Human Rights Record - Forbes

Sectarianism bites into Syria's rebels - by Robert Fisk

The stories coming out of Syria now are of suspicion, chaos and death. President Bashar al-Assad's personal jet left Damascus on Wednesday night for the coastal town of Lattakia. Was Bashar fleeing his capital? No. It transpired the plane was carrying the body of his murdered brother-in-law, Assaf Shawkat, for burial near his native city of Tartous. In Lebanon, Sunni Muslims were already wildly celebrating his death. For it is Shawkat – his name actually appeared in a UN report that was later censored – who is widely believed to have planned and ordered the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, whose convoy was bombed in Beirut on 14 February 2005.

Hariri, a Sunni, had fallen out with Assad over Syria's role in Lebanon. Shawkat was the hatchet-man. Now the bomber had been bombed to death himself.

Sectarianism is biting into the Syrian revolution. At the end of last week, one Syrian told me that "they are bayoneting people in the villages around Damascus". Women, they say, have been raped outside the city of Homs – one estimate puts the number of victims as high as 200 – and the rapists are on both sides.

Read more: Robert Fisk: Sectarianism bites into Syria's rebels - Robert Fisk - Commentators - The Independent

Euro nations seal euro 100 billion bail-out deal for Spanish banks

The eurozone nations have sealed a deal to provide rescue loans up to 100 billion euro ($122 billion) to Spain’s ailing banks amid speculation that debt-laden Spanish government may also eventually seek a bail-out. 

Finance Ministers of the 17-nation euro group finalised the details of financial support for Spanish banks in a video conference on Friday, a day after the German parliament endorsed the rescue plan with a large majority. 

They shared the view that “providing a loan to Spain for the purpose of recapitalisation of financial institutions is warranted to safeguard the stability of the euro area as a whole,” Luxembourg’s Prime Minister and president of the euro group Jean-Claude Juncker said after their conference. The Spanish government “will undertake full guarantee for the financial assistance”, he said in a statement.

Read more: The Hindu : Business / Economy : Euro nations seal euro 100 B ($122 billion) bail-out deal for Spanish banks

Aircraft Industry: Airbus planes to have onboard system to scare away birds

With bird strikes costing the aviation industry millions of dollars, plane manufacturers are now working on a system that will be installed in the aircraft to scare off the avians.

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus is developing a system under its Bird Impact Repellent and Deterrent sYstem (BIRDY) programme that will scare away almost every species of birds.

"Challenge is to develop a system that is effective for large number of species of birds found across the globe," Nathalie Papin, an expert with Airbus Industrie, said in New Delhi.

According to an Airbus study, in the incident of a bird- hit, 41 per cent chances are that an aircraft's engine or its nose, radome and windshield is damaged. While chances of fuselage or wings being damaged is just seven per cent, the same stands at three per cent for landing gears and one per cent for tail.

Under the BIRDY programme, an acoustic and visual system is being developed that would scare the birds when they come near an aircraft, Papin, who was here for a seminar organised by Aeronautical Society of India, said.

Currently, airports are using a system that emits electronic sounds, distress and alarm calls and predator attack cries to keep birds away from their vicinity, but it proves ineffective when aircraft gains height and moves away from airport.

Read: Planes to have onboard system to scare away birds - India News - IBNLive

Outer space exploration: Watch for Mars landing this summer, featuring Canadian technology - by Bob McDonald

Curiosity, the largest NASA robot ever sent to Mars, will land on August 5 with a scheduled mission to roam the surface for years, looking for signs of life - and it carries a Canadian instrument.

The six-wheeled rover, about the size of a Mini and weighing more than a metric tonne, must execute the most complicated powered landing, in the roughest area, that a robotic lander has ever attempted on Mars. 

For the final descent to the surface of Mars, a set of rocket motors attached to a rig above the lander will fire. Then a cable system will lower Curiosity from the rig like a sky crane and gently bring it to the ground. As soon as wheels touch down, the cables are cut, the sky crane flies off and crashes at a safe distance, and Curiosity opens its eyes on an alien world. (Watch a video simulation of the landing here.)

Curiosity will begin by exploring the lower slopes of the mountain, named Mt. Sharp after a NASA geologist. It will spend two years climbing its lower slopes, looking for signs of ancient water activity and possible Martian life.

One of the instruments that will analyze the chemical composition of the Martian rocks is Canadian, an Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer, with Dr.Ralf Gellert from the University of Guelph as the principle investigator.



Read more: Watch for Mars landing this summer, featuring Canadian technology - Quirks and Quarks

All roads lead to Berlin - by Doug Saunders

Berlin is now the seat of European power, the only place that can possibly unravel the crisis. And Berlin will be the construction site for another stage of European power, for, as Ms. Merkel said a few days ago, only a more powerful continent will prevent a further financial slide.

“We need more Europe,” she said. “We need not just a currency union; we also need a so-called fiscal union, more common budget policies. And we need above all a political union.”

This may be right, but Germans don’t understand how this sounds when it comes from Berlin – for Berlin still does not really believe it wields the power.

Until the crisis became terminal, German leaders had assumed that theirs could become the world’s second-largest export nation, turning the lesser nations of Europe into economic colonies entirely dependent on Germany’s finances – without taking on the great responsibilities that come with great power.

I spend a lot of time, in writing for North Americans, clarifying the difference between the euro zone (monetary, 17 countries), the European Economic Area (trade, 30 countries), the European Union (political, 27 countries), the Council of Europe (legal, 47 countries) and the border-free Schengen Area (26 countries) – all of which, by the way, were mainly created by conservative governments and generally opposed by the left.

Only the first of these is in crisis. The rest remain robust. The free movement of trade and people between borders, the pooling of legal and administrative standards – these are functioning better than ever and, as Ms. Merkel noted, will have to become even more substantial if the currency crisis is to be resolved.

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