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9/30/12

Middle East: Turkey, Egypt to boost alliance

Dozens of ministers from Turkey and Egypt will gather in Cairo in November in a bid to boost their alliance, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday.

"Accompanied by 13 ministers, I will be in Cairo in early November," for the meeting of a high-level strategic council established between the two countries to bolster ties, Erdogan told a news conference with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in Ankara. "I am fully confident that the meeting ... will bring about very important results," said Erdogan.

Morsi praised Turkey for standing by the Egyptian people during and after the revolution that toppled president Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in February 2011, and said Cairo would never hesitate to establish a partnership with Ankara.

Read more: Turkey, Egypt to boost alliance | Radio Netherlands Worldwide

EU Working to Resolve Difference on Bank Plan, Rehn Says - by Kasper Viita

European Union Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said he’s working to resolve disputes in how the bloc’s crisis fund can be used to recapitalize struggling banks in the region.

“It seems there have been different interpretations about the June decision,” he said in an interview yesterday in Haemeenlinna, Finland. “Already this week the member states have begun to discuss with the help of the European Commission on what exact rules could be implemented in bank recapitalization. This work proceeds in parallel to the work on the banking supervisor.”

Disagreement erupted after finance chiefs from Germany, the Netherlands and Finland signaled a retreat from a June agreement among European leaders allowing the euro area’s bailout fund to recapitalize banks. The Sept. 25 statement by Wolfgang Schaeuble, Jutta Urpilainen and Jan Kees de Jager excluded “legacy assets” from the region’s rescue facility.

Finland wants to confine direct recapitalization by the rescue fund to cover bank bailouts that occur after a single financial supervisor is created, Urpilainen said. While it was possible that some states had “differing expectations,” there was “no conflict because the possibility of direct bank recapitalization is explicitly tied to the existence of a single bank supervisor,” she said.

Read more: EU Working to Resolve Difference on Bank Plan, Rehn Says - Bloomberg

Ex-Curacao PM claims creation of interim gov't 3 weeks before elections is unconstitutional - by David McFadden

Curacao's former leader was holed up Sunday inside what used to be his official offices, accusing the acting governor of overstepping her constitutional powers by forming an interim government three weeks before general elections on the Dutch Caribbean island.

But the Dutch government said in a statement that former Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte's administration was legally replaced and urged the interim government to make sure the run up to the Oct. 19 election and the vote itself run smoothly.

Schotte dissolved parliament and called elections after his government lost its legislative majority on Aug. 3. Then Acting Governor Adeel van der Pluijm-Vrede swore in a new administration to replace Schotte's on Saturday, something he called a bloodless "coup." Schotte insisted there should have been no changes until the election in which he plans to run again as leader of the Curacao Future Movement.

Read more: Ex-Curacao PM claims creation of interim gov't 3 weeks before elections is unconstitutional

Germany, France pitch Tobin tax on financial transactions to curb short term speculators

Germany's Finance Ministry says Berlin and Paris have jointly appealed to the European Union's executive to prepare the introduction of a tax on financial transactions.

Germany's Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and France's Pierre Moscovici are urging EU nations to agree to "enhanced cooperation" on the proposal and urged their European counterparts to appeal to the European Commission to implement the idea.

Named after Nobel Prize winning economist James Tobin, Tobin taxes are aimed at removing speculation from markets by imposing a microscopic tax whenever money is transferred between two parties.

The specifics of the current plan call for a tax of 0.1 per cent tax on stock and bond trades, and 0.01 per cent on other transactions such as currency conversions. The move would act as a curb on short-term speculators and give European regulators a way of raising billions and building an emergency fund to help fix any future financial disasters.

It's an idea that has come up in the past and has been repeatedly rejected by politicians, most recently last year when Britain killed a similar proposal because of displeasure with what the tax would do to "The City's" financial industry.

The plan is unlikely to secure a majority within the 27-nation EU. But Germany and France are pressing for its introduction by the legal detour of so-called enhanced co-operation, which would let it pass if one third (in this case nine) countries.

The proposal by Germany and France is an excellent mechanism to curb short term speculators and other financial con-artists and would  benefit European taxpayers.

EU-Digest

US Presidential Elections: Fraud - More suspicious voter forms found in Fla. - by Lizette Alvarez

The number of Florida counties reporting suspicious voter registration forms connected to Strategic Allied Consulting, the firm hired by the state Republican Party to sign up new voters, has grown to 10, officials said, as local election supervisors continue to search their forms for questionable signatures, addresses or other identifiers.

After reports of suspicious forms surfaced in Florida, the company — owned by Nathan Sproul, who has been involved in voter registration efforts since at least the 2004 presidential election — was fired last week by the state Republican Party and the Republican National Committee. The party had hired it to conduct drives in Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia.

In Colorado, a young woman employed by Strategic Allied was shown on a video outside a store in Colorado Springs recently telling a potential voter that she wanted to register only Republicans and that she worked for the county clerk’s office. The woman was fired, said Ryan Call, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party.

The Florida Division of Elections has forwarded the reports of possible fraud to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for investigation. Prosecutors in some affected counties are also investigating. It is unclear how many forms have been forwarded, in all: in Palm Beach County, the election supervisor found 106 suspicious forms, but the number in several other counties is far lower.

Read more: NYT: More suspicious voter forms found in Fla. - politics - The New York Times | NBC News

9/29/12

Wind energy blowing away nuclear power

Wind energy supplies 3 percent of global electricity needs and will soon supply more electricity than nuclear power. In 2011, some 50 billion euros were invested in wind, leading some to say it's cheap and creates jobs.

Wind energy is booming and it is gaining in significance worldwide. It supplies some 20 percent of electricity in Spain and Denmark as well as about 10 percent in Germany. By 2020, the share of wind energy will have risen to between 20 percent and 25 percent in Germany, according to estimates.

Last year, new wind power plants with a total capacity of some 40 gigawatts (GW) were installed worldwide, according to the World Wind Energy Association (WWEA). This puts wind energy's global capacity at 237 GW by the end of 2011- the equivalent of what some 280 nuclear power plants generate. Currently, there are some 380 nuclear power plants producing electricity worldwide.

Read more: Wind energy blowing away nuclear power | Environment | DW.DE | 22.04.2012

British Austerity is a Myth, Despite What the Keynesians Say - by Matthew Feeney

The protests in Spain and Greece have highlighted the push for “austerity” being made in the Mediterranean. Although much attention has been put on the PIIGS and their attempts to overcome the euro-crisis recently, many other European countries, such as the UK, who are in a comparably better position have been attempting their own version of “austerity”. That some European countries have decided to cut spending in response to the financial crisis has irked Keynesians like Paul Krugman, who takes particular pleasure in pointing out the failures of supposed austerity. Despite what many would have you think there has been no serious reduction in spending in the UK and taxes have increased.

Over at the London-based freemarket think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs, Philip Booth outlines the absurdity of the “austerity” rhetoric which has somehow dominated British political discourse. According to the British government’s own budget (on page 86) from 2011-2012 to 2016-2017 public sector expenditure will increase from £647.3 billion to £708.6 billion. It is only thanks to inflation that the public sector will see a growth rate of less than -1 percent. These are hardly the “savage cuts” that the left in the UK keep referring to, which is a shame considering that the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, realized that such measures would be needed in 2009. When entering government the Tory-led coalition ring fenced the NHS and international aid from cuts, hardly a policy decision that could be attributed to fans of austerity. If you look at a visual representation of the Britsh budget it is immediately apparent that any proponents of austerity would target the NHS and welfare spending.

Indeed the size of the government as a percent of the economy has increased in comparison to Labour governments. As Ruth Porter, also of the IEA, explained, public spending in the UK is forty seven percent of GDP. At the beginning of Tony Blair’s premiership public spending was thirty-eight percent of GDP. If the British government wants to really practice “austerity” the least it could do is aim for spending to be lower than it was at the dawn of a socialist government.

Read more: British Austerity is a Myth, Despite What the Keynesians Say - Hit & Run : Reason.com

Virgin Galactic Tourist Spaceship will blast off in 2013

Virgin chief Richard Branson has put a calculate frame on his plan to launch tourists into interval, claiming he and his family will burn a trail for hundreds of fare-paying passengers by blasting off in December 2013.

Branson also announced with the intention of Virgin Galactic, his fledgling money-making space company, was expanding to contain a satellite-launching service with the intention of would use a low-cost rocket logic to propel payloads into orbit.

The British industrialist said his adult children, Holly and Sam, would accompany him on enter the SpaceShipTwo on its pioneering two-hour trek into sub-orbital space.

Read more: Tourist spaceship will blast off in 2013 | Travel Digest

The Vatican: Pope's butler goes on trial in 'Vatileaks' scandal

A once loyal servant who said he grew disgusted by the "evil and corruption" he witnessed, Gabriele told investigators he was acting as an "agent" of the Holy Spirit to help the pope put a weary Catholic Church back on track.

Gabriele faces up to four years in prison for aggravated theft in a trial that is unprecedented in the modern history of the world's smallest state.

Using the codename "Maria", he is accused of meeting investigative reporter Gianluigi Nuzzi earlier this year and passing him copies of secret papers.

The trial will unfold in a 19th-century courtroom tucked away behind the apse of St Peter's basilica in a corner of the city state that is strictly off-limits to the millions of visitors who visit the Vatican every year.

Television cameras are banned and only 10 journalists are allowed to attend.

The Vatican has said the 85-year-old German pope is deeply hurt by the betrayal of confidence by someone he "knew, loved and respected". Gabriele has confessed and has written a letter begging the pope for forgiveness.

Many commentators have said they expect the pope to pardon Gabriele.

But many also question whether he really acted alone or as part of a wider group of disgruntled Vatican employees who could even include high-placed prelates. An investigation into the "Vatileaks" scandal is ongoing.     Click here to see the EU-Digest special report on Religion

Read more: Pope's butler goes on trial in 'Vatileaks' scandal | Radio Netherlands Worldwide

9/28/12

Golf: Friday's Ryder Cup updates from Medinah

Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson blitzed Medinah Country Club with 10 birdies in just 14 Ryder Cup holes, pushing the United States to a 3-2 lead as the rest of this afternoon’s four-ball matches hit the homestretch.

Scotland’s Paul Lawrie and Sweden’s Peter Hanson never had a chance to settle into the afternoon’s opening match, watching Simpson birdie No.1 and the Americans combine for six straight birdies from Nos. 3-8.

The final score was 5&4, the biggest romp yet in this week’s trans-Atlantic clash.

Read more: Friday's Ryder Cup updates from Medinah

The Wired Cars of the 2012 Paris Motor Show - by Damon Lavrinc

There's a bipolar vibe at the biennial Paris Motor Show. Automakers are putting on a strong face as they roll out a combination of ambitious concepts and tepid compacts while the European car market erodes beneath their feet.

The mood in Europe is much like it was in Detroit a few years ago, when the Big Three were threatening to become the Medium Two and automakers went hat in hand to Washington looking for help. Nearly every automaker at the show is feeling the pain. Overall, European sales dropped 8.5 percent last month, the 11th consecutive monthly decline with no end in sight.

The combination of labor unrest, plant closures, deep discounts, and massive operating losses are all conspiring against an industry that was plagued with plunging demand to begin with. Ford is projecting a $1 billion loss in Europe this year alone, but that pales in comparison to the $16.8 billion in losses General Motors has racked up with its Opel and Vauxhall brands since 1999. There's even talk of bailouts for some of the smaller companies.

Read More: The Wired Cars of the 2012 Paris Motor Show | Autopia | Wired.com

US weapon sales top $66 billion -78 per cent of all global arms sales

War, Destruction and Death
If the United States shared its record revenue from international weapon sales in 2011 with the world, every person on the planet would get about $9.50.

Weapons sales by the US tripled to a record high of $66.3 billion, pumped up by $33.4 billion in sales to Saudi Arabia, according to an annual report prepared for Congress by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

The sales by the US accounted for nearly 78 per cent of all global arms sales, which rose to $85.3 billion in 2011, the highest level seen since 2004, the report said.

Keeping in mind the United States is expected to reach a $16.4 trillion government debt by the end of the year, what does the figure of $66.3 billion in arms revenue represent?

- Earnings from weapons sales are expected to top spending on housing and urban development in the 2012 fiscal year ($49 billion), or homeland security ($47 billion), or energy ($43 billion) or justice ($33 billion).
- Those earnings are $4.7 billion shy of the government's spending on education ($71 billion).
- It is about one eleventh of US defense spending ($766 billion).
- It is more than eight times what the government set aside for foreign assistance in the 2012 fiscal year under its global health initiative, which focuses on the health of women and families and on innovation ($8.17 billion).
- It is over 400 times the amount set aside for clean energy under the government's global climate change initiative ($160 million).
- It is 484 times the amount set aside for sustainable landscapes - which are activities that reduce gas emissions using the land - under the same program ($137 million).

Note EU-Digest: Commenting on the US weapon sales report, Dr. James Jay Carafano, a director with the conservative US Heritage Foundation  "think-tank" noted, "the  angst over American arms sales is more than just misplaced. The “Blame America” campaign is part of cheerleading for a treaty that is the wrong answer for how to keep weapons out of the hands of bad people".


Read more: US weapon sales top $66 billion (that's $9.50 for everyone on the planet)

Obama cites national security to block Chinese purchase of wind farm - Europe also cautious about Chinese Government influence in trade

Today President Barack Obama took the unusual step Friday of citing national security grounds to block a Chinese-owned company from owning or building four wind farm projects in Oregon — acting little more than a month before an election in which he and Mitt Romney have traded accusations of going soft on China.

It was the first time in 22 years that a U.S. president has blocked such a foreign business deal, The Associated Press reported.

The Treasury Department said in a statement that Obama’s order was a matter of national security, citing the wind farms’ location “within or in the vicinity of restricted air space at Naval Weapons Systems Training Facility Boardman in Oregon.”

The European Commission during a recent visit of the Chinese PM Wen said China still needs to show less government influence over its businesses, including those in the financial sector, and to adopt transparent laws on corporate governance, property and bankruptcy to be eligible for market economy status.

There are also serious irritants about the E.U for Beijing, including the ban on arms exports to China, and the reluctance of Europe to classify China as a modern, open economy, which would clear the way for advantages on tariffs. 

The EU bloc is certainly attractive to Chinese investors with a market of 500 million consumers, a highly educated labour force and the most innovative economy in the world.

It is predicted that China will make between €800 billion and €1.6 trillion worth of new investments abroad between 2010 and 2020.

EU-Digest

Syria rebels launch broadest push yet for top city

Rebels on Friday pressed their broadest assault yet to drive President Bashar Assad's forces out of Syria's largest city, activists said, with fierce fighting erupting in an Aleppo neighborhood that is home to Kurds, an ethnic minority that has mostly stayed out of the civil war.

In Washington, U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said intelligence suggests Assad has moved some of Syria's chemical weapons to better secure them. Panetta said the main sites are believed to be secure, though his comments indicated that there are lingering questions about what happened to some of the weapons.

On the diplomatic front, top representatives from Western nations and Middle East allies met Friday at the U.N. to urge Syria's fractured opposition to unite. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the Friends of Syria group that the U.S. would deliver an additional $15 million in non-lethal aid and $30 million in humanitarian support, on top of more than $175 million already given to political opposition.

Diplomacy has been largely sidelined in the 18-month-old Syria conflict because a key tool -- U.N. Security Council action -- has been neutralized by vetoes from Assad allies Russia and China.

Read more: Syria rebels launch broadest push yet for top city | CTV News

Organized Religion: Fakery, Deception and Strive - by RM

Stories relating to religion seem to have captured center stage these days. 

There were the horror stories coming from Australia about sexual abuse in the Catholic church community around Victoria. The Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, said the figures were "horrific” - investors said the number of victims could be as high as 10,000.

News about Catholic priests abusing children is not new because it has been going on for a long time all over the world. But what is alarming about all this is that not much has been done about it, apart from the fact that the police now and then takes some of these pedophiles in custody and eventually to court.

Let us not forget that Catholicism is not only a religion but also is embodied in a country called the Vatican -- but has any government of the countries where these horrors of child abuse have happened dared to warn the Vatican that they would break diplomatic relations with them if they failed to clean up their act? No, they have not. 

Catholics who consider themselves Christians should bear in mind that Jesus said: “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” 

How are we going to make sure that many priests still happily swinging the incense around during Mass are not secretly breaking that command and continue to be a danger to society?

Given that the reputation of Catholics in general is at stake maybe the time has come for Catholic worshipers around the world to take matters in their own hand and start pointing their finger at the Pope and his cohorts at the Vatican for the mismanagement of the Catholic 'corporate' structure.

Staying within the context of religious news - it is also important to focus on the overblown Muslim reactions, which included vandalism and the killing of innocent people, in response to the latest Western video and cartoons about the Prophet Mohammed. 

Let's be honest about it - these reaction really made a 'mountain out of a molehill' and one starts to wonder who could be behind all this.

Instead, Muslims would probably be well advised if they listened more attentively to the advice given to them by more moderate Muslim leaders like Mr. Erdogan of Turkey and Mr. Morsi of Egypt and shown some more restraint and respect for the fact that many nations around the world adhere to the democratic principal of freedom of expression, which does not exclude anyone or anything.

Another Muslim voice advocating moderation was Ahmed Aboutaleb, the Mayor of Rotterdam, the largest city in the Netherlands. He said that Muslims must respect the right to freedom of expression and speech, but should also feel free to use it - without resorting to violence.

On the other hand cartoonists around the Western world would also do well by showing more restraint and respect for the sensitivities of other cultures and religions around the world. Freedom of expression, yes, provocation no.

Possibly a more productive suggestion one could give the Muslim community around the world, given the terrible atrocities taking place in Syria, is to direct some of their efforts to stop Muslims fighting against Muslims in Syria.

Muslims could also focus their attention on the recent Iranian leadership decision to restrict Iranian women from attending certain university courses, simply because they are women. 
 
The above once again underscores beyond any doubt the difference between organized religion and spirituality, religion being man made and spirituality a relationship between a person and God, which others can't see.

By their acts organized religion also shows that it is mainly focused on self interest and consequently has the ability to create strive as a result of conflicting interpretations of religious doctrines and scriptures. On the other hand Spirituality is a source of inner peace. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit said the Lord" (Zechariah).

Unfortunately, as it is written, changing peoples perception about the fakery of 'organized' religion won't be easy. People who have the wisdom and gift to distinguish the difference between religion and spirituality are limited: "not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called." (1 – Corinthians).




Spain's banks 'need 59.3bn euros of eurozone loans'

Spain's banks will need an injection of 59.3bn euros ($76.3bn; £47.3bn) to survive a serious downturn, an independent audit has calculated.

The amount is broadly in line with market expectations of 60bn euros, and follows so-called stress tests of 14 Spanish lenders.

Much of the money is expected to come from the eurozone rescue funds, the current EFSF and the future ESM.

Read more: BBC News - Spain's banks 'need 59.3bn euros of eurozone loans'

9/27/12

Turkey's Erdogan slams Russia, China, Iran over Syria

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Russia, China and Iran on Thursday, saying their stance on the crisis in neighboring Syria was allowing a massacre to go on unabated.

Erdogan has been one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's harshest critics, accusing him of creating a "terrorist state", allowing the Syrian opposition to organize on Turkish soil, and pushing for a foreign-protected safe zone inside Syria.

Washington sees Turkey as the key player in supporting Syria's opposition and planning for the post-Assad era, but Ankara has found itself increasingly isolated and frustrated by a lack of international consensus on how to end the chaos.

"The main source of disappointment is Russia. Let alone raising its voice against Syria, it stands by the massacre," Erdogan said in an interview broadcast live on Turkish television station NTV.

"China stands by Russia, and although (Chinese President) Hu Jintao had told me they wouldn't veto the plan (for a safe zone) for a third time, they did at the U.N. vote," Erdogan said.
 
Read more: Turkey's Erdogan slams Russia, China, Iran over Syria - chicagotribune.com

Europe to Seek Sanctions Against U.S. Over Boeing Subsidies - by Nicola Clark

The European Union inched closer to a trans-Atlantic trade war on Thursday, saying that it would seek to impose up to $12 billion a year in sanctions against the United States in retaliation for U.S. government subsidies to Boeing.

The European Commission, the E.U. executive, said it was seeking the sanctions to compensate for the impact of illegal subsidies to Boeing that it said gave Boeing an unfair advantage over its European archrival, Airbus. The move, which follows a similar trade threat against Europe made by Washington this year, is the latest salvo in a seven-year battle over aircraft subsidies. 

A World Trade Organization appellate body affirmed in March that Boeing had received at least $5 billion in improper subsidies from the U.S. government to develop the 787 Dreamliner and other aircraft. But in a separate case, the organization found that Airbus had benefited from four decades of improper subsidies from European governments. The W.T.O. ordered both sides to end the subsidies.

Read more: Europe to Seek Sanctions Against U.S. Over Boeing Subsidies - NYTimes.com

EU says lack of access in Syria hinders humanitarian aid

Escalating violence in Syria and limited access to civilians in need hinder the distribution of humanitarian aid in the country, the European Union's crisis chief said on Wednesday.

An 18-month uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad's rule has killed approximately 27,000 people, according to Syrian activists. The revolt has escalated into an armed insurgency with sectarian overtones that could drag in regional powers.

The European Union estimates 2.5 million Syrians need humanitarian assistance, compared to 1 million in March. They include 1.2 million people forced from their homes.

"To do more, we need more access in Syria," EU humanitarian affairs commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said after talks on the issue with heads of U.N. and other international aid agencies at the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Spain's economy shrinks further

The Bank of Spain warned Wednesday that the country is in a deep recession, a day after clashes in Madrid between protesters and the police led to 38 people arrested and 64 injured.

The demonstrations on Tuesday evening against the government's austerity drive at a time of mass unemployment put in sharp relief the scale of discontent that's brewing in a country suffering its second recession in three years and an unemployment rate of nearly 25 per cent.

In the wake of the clashes and a warning from the central bank's that the country's economy continues to shrink "significantly," financial markets have grown increasingly nervous.
The main IBEX index in Madrid was down a hefty 2.6 per cent, while Spain's 10-year bond yield edged back up toward six per cent.

Read more: Spain's economy shrinks further - Business - CBC News

Golf: Ryder Cup - can Europe pull it off again?

The U.S. won 12 times and tied once from 1959 through '83. Europe is 8-4-1 since then, including victories in four of the past five Ryder Cups. This year's European team features four of the top five players in the world ranking (McIlroy, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Justin Rose).

Granted, the American team includes 11 of the top 17 players in this week's ranking. The wider point: The U.S. didn't invent golf, it's hardly the only country to play at a high level and, based on recent history, it really shouldn't be favored in the matches at Medinah, outside Chicago (starting Friday)

In trying to identify reasons for the U.S. struggles, it's logical to start with Woods. He has played on only one triumphant Ryder Cup team in his career, in 1999 - he was recovering from knee surgery when the Americans won in 2008 - and his overall record is a pedestrian 13-14-2.

The most compelling reason to pick Europe this week: Some of Woods' teammates bring even worse track records. Most notably, Phil Mickelson (11-17-6) and Jim Furyk (8-15-4) need to reverse their Ryder Cup history if captain Davis Love III wants to walk away a winner.  Love made a salient point in his news conference Wednesday, suggesting Europe's surge the past 30 years really saved this event. It barely registered in the consciousness of U.S. sports fans in the '60s and '70s, in part because their team always won.

Then, thanks mostly to the abundant skill and abiding passion of Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer, the Europeans started winning - and creating good theater every two years.

Read more: U.S. now chasing Europe in Ryder Cup - SFGate

9/26/12

Climate Change Deaths Could Total 100 Million By 2030 If World Fails To Act

More than 100 million people will die and global economic growth will be cut by 3.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030 if the world fails to tackle climate change, a report commissioned by 20 governments said on Wednesday.

As global average temperatures rise due to greenhouse gas emissions, the effects on the planet, such as melting ice caps, extreme weather, drought and rising sea levels, will threaten populations and livelihoods, said the report conducted by humanitarian organization DARA.

It calculated that five million deaths occur each year from air pollution, hunger and disease as a result of climate change and carbon-intensive economies, and that toll would likely rise to six million a year by 2030 if current patterns of fossil fuel use continue.

More than 90 percent of those deaths will occur in developing countries, said the report that calculated the human and economic impact of climate change on 184 countries in 2010 and 2030. It was commissioned by the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a partnership of 20 developing countries threatened by climate change.

Read more: Climate Change Deaths Could Total 100 Million By 2030 If World Fails To Act

Why Pragmatism Should Beat Capitalism and Consumerism Every Time - by Swami Grover

The other day, I lamented that in the upcoming Presidential Election, neither party was seriously talking about ways to work less. And yet the evidence keeps piling up that we work too hard.

In my post, I suggested that talking about working less, sharing more, or generally reprioritizing our relationship with money does not necessarily have to be an anti-capitalist stance. And it doesn't.
So long as we are talking about capitalism with a small "c".

But it does mean taking on the notion of Capitalism as a be-all-and-end-all of human wellbeing. In fact, it means taking on Socialism while we are at it. And Consumerism too. Which leaves us simply with one "ism" worth keeping—pragmatism.

We need to refocus our attention not on what ideology we wish to follow—but rather what solutions work best. And that means we need to stop making a false distinction between "the economy" and that thing we call "life".

Read more: Why Pragmatism Should Beat Capitalism and Consumerism Every Time : TreeHugger

Does the Eurozone need its own parliament?

What is Europe? There is a geographic sense of Europe that would include Russia and Iceland. There is a cultural sense of Europe that would include Georgia, New Zealand and Cape Verde. And there is a political sense of the word. Politically ‘Europe’ meant the ‘EU’ composed of all its members – until the sovereignty debt crisis, that is. Since then ‘Europe’ more often means the Eurozone of 17 nations rather than the European Union of 27 states. Now, this new meaning of ‘Europe’ is to receive political representation.

Herman Van Rompuy’s  ‘’Issue Paper on Completing the Economic and Monetary Union”[1] published on the European Council website on 12 September 2012 posits the idea that a fiscal union should have its  own budget. This would be an important step forward in building of a true ‘economic’ union. This fiscal union and its budget would in turn necessitate the creation of a treasury office, also excercising budgetary control over national budgets. Hence, there is talk of some sort of a European super-finance minister. The democratic accountability of such a position remains a sensitive issue. Herman Van Rompuy asks the question: ‘’Would a more integrated economic policy framework require dedicated accountability structures specific to the euro area?” In other words, does the Eurozone need its own parliament?

On 17 September a group of foreign ministers led by the German minister Guido Westerwelle brought out a report[2] in which the group stressed the importance of democratic legitimacy and the central role in this process of the European Parliament. Yet they recognised that,  ‘’...if a decision applies only to the Euro area plus other ‘pre-in’ member states who wish to participate, ways should be explored to involve the MEPs from these countries...”. In other words, the Eurozone will borrow democratic oversight from the existing European Parliament to codecide (or, to be consulted) on Eurozone-related issues, in the same way that for over a year the Eurozone has already borrowed its democratic oversight from the European Council. Why? Because the Eurozone-related issues are of much more concern to the Eurozone governments,  and MEPs are already elected from the Eurozone states. (When the situation falls outside of the EU competences, the national parliaments need to be consulted, too.)

Hence the following scenario: if Mr. Van Rompuy is right, the Eurozone will get its own budget administered by the European treasury. Its democractic accountability (Westerwelle group) would be provided by the Eurozone-elected MEPs. Potentially they would even elect the head of the new institution, ‘’the European Treasurer.” This powerful position would a) administer the Eurozone budget; b) control the national budgets of the countries in the fiscal union; c) chair the Eurogroup finance ministers meetings (currently the role played by the Luxembergish PM Juncker); and d) be fully accountable to the Eurozone MEPs and the national parliamentarians.

Thus is multi-speed Europe born. In its core is a ‘’political union” based on fiscal union, macroeconomic cooperation and budgetary control mechanisms matched with democratic legitimacy. With time, the dichotomy of EU competences vs. national competences in economic affairs will have to be overcome; hence the call for a new European Convention ( an idea promoted most recently also by the Commission President Barroso[3]) to solve this problem. The core institutions of the ‘’political union” include the summits of Eurozone heads of states and governments, the European Treasury, and Eurozone-elected MEPs. The group could even be equipped with a European army (Westerwelle group).

Read more: Does the Eurozone need its own parliament? | openDemocracy

Gulf Co-operation Council reinsurance market worth over $5 billion

Market sentiment remains upbeat among reinsurers and brokers operating in the countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC).

According to the 3rd GCC Reinsurance Barometer, a survey released on behalf of the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Authority yesterday in Doha, the impact of last year’s near-record burden of global catastrophe losses, the aftermath of the Arab Spring and growing primary insurance markets will translate into an improved pricing and profitability outlook.

The annual study, which is now in its third year, is based on in-depth interviews conducted with 33 reinsurance and brokerage executives, representing the majority of the region’s players in the sector.

Akshay Randeva, Director Strategic Development of the Qatar Financial Centre Authority said: “The GCC reinsurance market is worth more than $5 billion and poised to expand briskly. As a world-class regional financial centre, it is our ambition to continue to support future market growth by attracting talent and expertise and by enhancing the transparency of the marketplace through additional benchmarks for decision-making. The 3rd GCC Reinsurance Barometer contributes to this objective.”

Read more: GCC reinsurance market worth over $5 billion | Oman Observer

Alternative energy: Electric cars shine at French Paris motor show

The Paris Motor Show, which is held every alternate year, will open its doors tomorrow with more than 100 new models expected to be revealed by the 103 manufacturers from 23 countries attending the event.

Show organisers are expecting about 1.4 million people to visit the Porte de Versailles Expo halls during the 18 days of the show.

And once again we can expect the supercar manufacturers to steal the limelight.

There will also be a raft of new technology, with most of the major manufacturers expected to use the show to release details of new electric and hybrid vehicles.

Read more: Electric cars shine at French show - The West Australian

9/25/12

2014 Winter Olympics: Russia celebrates 500 days until Sochi Games - by Max Seddon

Russia celebrated the 500-day countdown to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on Tuesday with a series of nationwide events and the launch of a new slogan — “Hot. Cool. Yours.”

Sochi organizing committee head Dmitry Chernyshenko said infrastructure in the Black Sea resort is now 70 per cent complete and that preparations are on schedule for Russia’s first Winter Games. “Sochi will be the showcase for Russia for the world to see,” he told The Associated Press.

Across Russia, volunteers took part in 500-metre relay races mimicking all 22 Winter Olympic events.  Racers in Moscow imitated ice hockey by rollerblading and taking penalty shots on the track.

Bobsledders in the southwestern city of Novocherkassk slalomed past obstacles on longboards. More than 12,000 people in 15 cities formed giant human figures representing all Winter Olympic sports by moving coloured shields in co-ordinated displays.

Organizers introduced the new slogan, “Zharkiye. Zimniye. Tvoyi” in the original Russian.
“Hot” refers to Sochi’s climate, unusually warm for a Winter Olympic venue, and the passion for the games. “Cool” stands for the winter sports played and the cold weather commonly associated with Russia. “Yours” indicates organizers’ wish that the event be all-inclusive.

President Vladimir Putin has made the Sochi Games a cornerstone of his third term. He views it as a key project for improving Russia’s international image.

Read more: 2014 Winter Olympics: Russia celebrates 500 days until Sochi Games - thestar.com

Why Europe's bank supervisor is hamstrung - by Daniel Gros & Dirk Schoenmaker

The European Commission has now presented its legislative proposal for a banking union whose key element is a ‘Single Supervisory Mechanism’ to be headed by the ECB, but it says nothing about deposit insurance at the national level. Is that viable?

The best way to avoid these potential conflicts and provide the new eurozone supervisor with proper incentives is to gradually move deposit insurance and resolution to the eurozone level as well, thus ensuring eventually the needed alignment of responsibilities. A gradual introduction would ensure that both national and EU-level authorities have ‘a skin in the game’ during the transition.
 
In the US, a two-tier system emerged with banks chartered at the state or federal level. In the end the smaller, state-chartered banks became less and less important. This analogy suggests a compromise: groups of smaller banks with their own mutual guarantee system (e.g. savings or mutual banks) might not fall under the direct supervision of the ECB, with national supervisors, who have a better local knowledge, remaining responsible for the day-to-day supervision of these banks.
 
However, a large group of small banks with a similar business model can also represent a danger for systemic stability. This implies that, the national supervisors would remain responsible towards the ECB for the systemic stability of these groups of banks and that the ECB should be given the right to require all the information required to assess the stability of these groups.

The debate about Banking Union is running into the typical chicken-and-egg problem; Most academic observers agree that deposit guarantee and resolution should be organised at the same level as supervision. But at present only the creation of a ‘Single Supervisory Mechanism’ to be headed by the ECB is being discussed; with deposit insurance and resolution to be considered only later when this SSM has shown its effectiveness.
We argue that the SSM is unlikely to be working well unless a European Deposit Insurance and Resolution Agency is introduced gradually at the same time.

Read more: Why Europe's bank supervisor is hamstrung | Daniel Gros & Dirk Schoenmaker, VoxEU | Commentary | Business Spectator

EU may delay tough new capital rules for insurers - by Angelika Stricker

The European Union may have to postpone strict new capital rules for insurers because of wrangling between member countries over the final shape of the new regulations, the official in charge of the project acknowledged on Wednesday.

Michel Barnier, the European Union commissioner responsible for regulation, on Tuesday proposed delaying the so-called Solvency II regime by one year, a source involved in talks over the rules told Reuters.

A spokesman for Barnier said the commissioner had suggested a final agreement should wait until tests to gauge the impact of the rules are completed in March 2013, but added that it was too early to say whether the January 2014 start date would have to be put back as a result.

"That is something that we will have to clarify with parliament and council over the weeks to come. The commissioner put one scenario on the table because he thinks it's a useful... avenue to unblock the negotiations," the spokesman said at a press conference.

A delay would prolong uncertainty over the industry's future capital requirements, though leading European insurers said that it would be better to postpone the new rules than push through measures that might have to be amended later.

Read more: EU may delay tough new capital rules for insurers - Chicago Tribune

Ocean Freight: Christmas Cargo Boosts U.S. Rates as Europe Slumps

MaerskB the world’s biggest container line, is among carriers raising rates on Asia-U.S. routes as three-month-high consumer confidence and job growth at the quickest pace in five months tempt retailers to stock up ahead of the holiday-shopping rush. By contrast, shipping lines are cutting capacity to Europe.

“Christmas will come to America, but probably not to Europe,” Soeren Skou, chief executive officer of A.P. Moeller- Maersk’s container-shipping arm, said in an interview.

On Asia-Europe routes, Copenhagen-based Maersk and other lines are paring services as economic confidence at a three-year low and record euro-area unemployment damp demand. The slowdown has hit European retailers including Marks & Spencer Group Plc (MKS) and Carrefour SA (CA), while U.S. chains including Macy’s Inc. (M), Target Corp. (TGT) and Victoria’s Secrets’ parent Limited Brands Inc. (LTD) are predicting higher sales.

The decline has prompted the G6 Alliance, whose members include Neptune Orient Lines Ltd. (NOL)’s APL Ltd. and Orient Overseas International Ltd. (316), to halt one of six weekly Asia-Europe services next month. The CKYH alliance will also cut of one of its five Asia-Europe services starting mid-October. Its members include China Cosco and Hanjin Shipping Co.
Shipping lines had idled 216 ships, with a capacity of 467,000 containers, by the end of July, four times more than a year earlier as demand on Asia-Europe routes wanes, according to Alphaliner, a shipping-industry data provider. “Europe is still very uncertain,” said Stanley Shen, a spokesman at Hong Kong-based Orient Overseas. “People are not spending money.”

Read more: Christmas Cargo Boosts U.S. Rates as Europe Slumps: Freight - Bloomberg

Troubling tensions cloud United Nations - by Campbell Clark

This is the week of speeches, at a time when words can be fatal.

Rarely have so many crucial issues in the Middle East – including the region’s relationship with the United States and other Western Liberal democracies – been so dangerously balanced just as leaders make their annual New York trek.

Syria is in a civil war and President Bashar al-Assad’s air force is bombing Aleppo. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is making the case for military strikes – soon – to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

Also troubling is the ignitable tension between the West and much of the Muslim world, sparked by a few provocateurs, but killing at least 51. The protests over a low-budget anti-Islam video showed how easily the words of a few individuals in the West can stoke violent anger in the streets of the Middle East – and a new set of provocative caricatures published by a French magazine made Western nations fear they might be only a few words away from becoming targets. It’s a clash between freedom of expression and outrage at insults to religious convictions.

The new Middle East, the one that rose from the hopes of the Arab Spring, has struggled with the conundrum of how to respond. Egypt’s leaders, for example, have promised to protect foreigners, but prosecutors there have also issued arrest warrants for people allegedly involved in the video. Now Egypt’s democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, will make his global-stage debut at the UN.

Read more: Troubling tensions cloud United Nations - The Globe and Mail

France: Facebook denies leak of users' private messages

A Facebook spokesperson is denying reports that private messages sent by users on the social networking site have become public.

The purported glitch began generating attention Monday after French newspaper Metro reported that private messages dating from 2007 to 2009 had become accessible to friends and acquaintances on their profile pages. Other newspapers across the country began reporting similar incidences, citing reports from the site's users.

The issue may be related to Facebook moving to its Timeline layout worldwide. France was the most recent country in which users were made to switch over to Timeline, a spokesperson for the company told technology website TechCrunch.

Still, users in a number of other countries were also adamant that their accounts had been affected. Some users said messages written as recently as last year have appeared in their public Facebook feed.

Read more: Facebook denies leak of users' private messages - Business - CBC News

Golf Ryder Cup: Europe's captain Olazabal arrives at Medinah with Ryder Cup - by Dour Ferguson

Jose Maria Olazabal stepped off the plane carrying the Ryder Cup, a familiar sight considering that Europe has won six of the past eight times.

It was who followed the captain off the plane that showed how much the dynamics of this event have changed over the years.

Olazabal flew over from London with only three of his 12 players — Paul Lawrie, Francesco Molinari and Ryder Cup rookie Nicolas Colsaerts. Everyone else was already here.

Five of the Europeans — Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Peter Hanson, Graeme McDowell and Sergio Garcia — have homes at Lake Nona in Orlando, Fla.

Read more: Europe's captain Olazabal arrives at Medinah with Ryder Cup | savannahnow.com

9/24/12

Sneak peek: Thai Airways Airbus A380 first & business class seats

Thai A380 Airbus
Thai Airways will take delivery of its first Airbus A380 this week, ahead of commercial flights commencing next month.

It's the first of six superjumbos for Thailand's national airline, with initial 'bedding-in' flights between Bangkok, Hong Kong and Singapore before the big birds move onto daily flights to Frankfurt, Tokyo and Paris.

Australian Business Traveller is jetting to Airbus HQ at Toulouse, France with Thai Airways to take part in the delivery flight, which is currently slated to leave Toulouse on Friday September 28, and we'll bring you a full photo-tour and review of the new seats and cabins across all three classes from tip to tail.

Read more: Sneak peek: Thai Airways Airbus A380 first & business class seats - Flights | hotels | frequent flyer | business class - Australian Business Traveller

Rift With I.M.F. Adds to Greece's Tensions in Pivotal Week - by Liz Alderman and Landon Thomas Jr.

As Greece enters a pivotal, potentially chaotic week in its economic crisis, tensions between Athens and the country’s international lenders have reached a boiling point. The government is resisting a push by the International Monetary Fund to impose harsh austerity measures that Greek leaders fear could destabilize the shaky coalition government.

Although those talks are expected to resume later this week, they have been suspended since an angry exchange last week between the Greek finance minister and the I.M.F.’s top negotiator for Greece.
The impasse has elevated tensions here, as Greece braces for a nationwide general strike planned for Wednesday that threatens to bring public services grinding to a halt. The Greek people are increasingly angry over the prospect that public salaries and pensions will be slashed anew in a last-ditch bid to secure a new loan installment of €31.5 billion, or $40.7 billion, from Greece’s creditors. 

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras plans to address the nation this week to bolster support for the austerity package. He has already publicly warned his center-right party, New Democracy, that he will oust lawmakers from the party if they fail to back the package once it comes up for a vote, probably in early October.

Rift With I.M.F. Adds to Greece's Tensions in Pivotal Week - NYTimes.com

The Netherlands: Riot ensues after Dutch teen mistakenly invites 30,000 to birthday on Facebook

A Dutch teenager forgets to mark her birthday party 'private' on Facebook, leading to 30,000 being invited and a riot, local media says.

Read more: Video: Riot ensues after Dutch teen mistakenly invites 30,000 to birthday on Facebook - The Globe and Mail


Economy: Planning for a world without economic growth

In the wake of the financial crisis, kick-starting growth has been at the forefront of political economics. Governments have leveraged massive amounts of capital to prop up their economies, hoping that expanding markets will help them overcome fiscal and social problems.

But does our faith in a growing economy blind us about its limitations?

The idea of an end to growth is not new. Thomas Malthus predicted it back in the 1790s, as did the Club of Rome during the 1970s. Their basic argument was that growth is inherently coupled to resource consumption, we live on a finite planet, and therefore our economies will have to stop growing at some point.

A few important statistics show our proximity to this limit. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, agriculture accounts for 30 per cent of the Earth’s land surface area, and uses almost all available arable land. Food production uses 70 per cent of all water withdrawn from aquifers, streams, and lakes. Furthermore, global agricultural output will have to increase by 70 per cent over the next 40 years to keep up with our population, all while our heavily cultivated soil suffers up to 75 times the erosion rates of natural areas.

There may be plenty of oil to go around, but our costs for extracting it from unconventional sources is going up, leading to what Jeff Rubin calls peak prices of oil. An often quoted but admittedly shaky statistic is that a $10 increase in the price of a barrel of oil shaves about a half per cent off of Gross Domestic Product over two years. You get the picture.

We probably aren’t on the verge of a doomsday, but it is prudent policy-making to consider how our economies fit within larger natural and physical systems. As the world economy struggles to continue expanding, we should remember that growth is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

Read more: Planning for a world without economic growth | therecord

IMF says Europe, US must deliver on promises to improve global economy

The head of the International Monetary Fund says Europe and the U.S. must deliver on commitments to achieve a decisive turn in a global economy fraught with uncertainty.

Christine Lagarde says what is needed is a sustained recovery, not a bounce. To achieve that objective, she says, decision makers must be real action-takers and deliver on their promises to carry out programs to get their economies back on track.

Lagarde said in a speech Monday that the most urgent action was needed in Europe, the epicenter of the crisis.

But she also said the United States must avoid plunging off a fiscal cliff of deep government spending cuts and tax increases that could cause another recession and harm the global economy.

Read more: IMF says Europe, US must deliver on promises to improve global economy | CanadianBusiness.com

Belarus - one of the last dictatorships in Europe

Not a single opposition politician won a seat in Belarus' parliament in a weekend vote that has been condemned by international observers and looks set to deepen the former Soviet nation's diplomatic isolation.

Critics also said the 74.3 percent turnout reported by the Central Elections Commission chairman on Monday was way too high and indicated widespread fraud.

The main opposition parties, which were ignored by state-run media, boycotted the election to protest the detention of political prisoners and ample opportunities for election fraud.

Read more: In Europe's sketchiest election, Belarus votes in entirely pro-government parliament (+video) - CSMonitor.com

The mad science of the US presidential election

The technology used in presidential campaigns has changed enormously in the modern era. The first televised debate in 1960 between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon was a bellwether; listeners tuning in via radio considered the debate a draw or even a slight win for Nixon. But the 65 million who tuned in by TV saw something very different. Kennedy appeared vigorous yet relaxed, while Nixon looked pale and nervous.

According to observers, sweat appeared on Nixon's brow and cheeks, and his lips seemed at times to form a disoriented smile unrelated to his words. Those viewing the debate on television judged Kennedy as the clear winner. This prompted New York Times columnist Russell Baker to later write, "That night, television replaced newspapers as the most important communications medium in American politics". 

Things have moved on since then, particularly in recent years with the advent of the internet. The internet has been a democratising technology to some degree, but other technologies have dramatically undermined the public discourse. Powerful methods adapted from the commercial world to the political have turned politicians into brand names and products. Playwright Arthur Miller, who in his illustrious career dealt with his share of actors and staged drama, in 2001 pithily observed that political leaders have become actors who now understand "that to govern they must learn how to act".

So when you get excited over a Presidential candidates speech, remember: the mad scientists who work for him are really good at figuring out what you want to hear. And Obama, just like Bill Clinton and George W Bush, is really talented at reading the Teleprompter.
 
Read more: The mad science of the US presidential election - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

9/23/12

Future of Europe Group plans closer EU integration

Closer integration
Eleven EU countries have drawn up a plan to strengthen the 27-nation bloc and make it a bigger global player.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle headed the "Future of Europe Group", which met in Poland's capital Warsaw on Monday.

The group, which does not include the UK, says the eurozone crisis has caused a "crisis of confidence" in the EU.

It says the European Commission - the EU's executive arm - must be stronger and its head could be directly elected.

The Commission has already acquired more powers of oversight in the crisis, scrutinising national budgets to ensure compliance with EU targets. The new controls are considered necessary to prevent any reckless accumulation of debt in future.

Besides Mr Westerwelle, the Warsaw meeting brought together the foreign ministers of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain.

Read more: BBC News - Future of Europe Group plans closer EU integration

Greece: French PM supports giving Greece more time on deficit

Greece should be allowed more time to meet deficit targets set by international lenders provided it is sincere about reforming its economy, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Sunday.

Near-bankrupt Greece needs the European Union and International Monetary Fund's blessing on spending cuts worth nearly 12 billion euros ($16 billion) to unlock its next tranche of aid, without which it faces default and a potential exit from the euro zone.

"The answer must not be a Greek exit from the euro zone," Ayrault said in an interview with news website Mediapart. "We can already offer it more time...on the condition that Greece is sincere in its commitment to reform, especially fiscal reform."


Read more: French PM supports giving Greece more time on deficit | Reuters

Auto Industry: Italy on tenterhooks ahead of talks with crisis-hit Fiat

Italians waited with bated breath for talks between Prime Minister Mario Monti and Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne on the future of a troubled car giant that once symbolised Italy's boom.

Marchionne has repeatedly warned he may be forced to shut down one of Fiat's five massive Italian plants, which are all producing way below capacity because of a slump in European car sales that has hit Italy particularly hard.

The subject is an emotive one in Italy - where Fiat is the biggest employer in the private sector and the company's 113-year history is closely bound up with the ups and downs of the Italian economy and the trade union movement.

Marchionne laid out his cards on Friday, saying he hoped the Italian government had taken note that Fiat's recent successes in Brazil had been helped by "financing and tax breaks" given to auto sector investors there.

Read more: Italy on tenterhooks ahead of talks with crisis-hit Fiat

Spain braced for further austerity as Madrid prepares for bailout - by Giles Tremlett

Recession-hit Spaniards will this week be told to swallow yet more austerity as the government prepares a fresh round of reforms and another budget filled with spending cuts and tax increases that will allow it to seek a bailout from eurozone partners.

Pension freezes are also expected to form part of a raft measures to prepare the way for the European Central Bank (ECB) to give Spain support to control borrowing costs that will eat up a large chunk of next year's budget.

The budget is to be announced on Thursday, alongside the reform programme. Neither seemed likely to contain measures to immediately ease Spain's chronic 25% unemployment, which some analysts expect will rise to 26.5% next year.

On Friday Spaniards will learn just how big the hole in their banks really is, with an official report expected to say these must find an extra €60bn to cover damage wreaked by toxic real estate loans.

Read more: Spain braced for further austerity as Madrid prepares for bailout | World news | The Guardian

German, French leaders say stronger Europe needed

The leaders of France and Germany both stressed Saturday that Europe must further deepen its political and economic integration to ensure peace and continuous prosperity across the continent.

French President Francois Hollande met Chancellor Angela Merkel in the southwestern German city of Ludwigsburg to celebrate an important anniversary of their countries' reconciliation following the end of World War II.

"France and Germany have a very special responsibility, we form the heart of Europe," said Hollande, adding that the European Union's status quo can only be seen as the starting point for a deeper integration.

"Stopping would mean falling back. We don't have a choice, but to march toward the destiny that is ours, march toward a unified Europe," he added.

Europe's 17-nation currency zone is experiencing a deep crisis, Hollande said, therefore urging Germany and other nations to help "create instruments that make us stronger: the budgetary union, the banking union, the social union, a political union."
Merkel said both countries will and must work together closely to strengthen Europe to weather those new challenges.

"However great the economic challenges may be. It remains and will remain valid: We Europeans are united in the pursuit of our happiness," she said.

Read more: German, French leaders say stronger Europe needed - Las Vegas Sun News

9/22/12

Croatia ready to solve banking row with Slovenia says FM

Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic said on Saturday her country was ready to solve a bank savings row with Slovenia that threatens to stall Zagreb's accession to the European Union.

"We will solve this problem and we are ready to solve it," Pusic said quoted by HINA news agency.
She was responding to Slovenia's recent threat that it would not ratify Croatia's accession to the EU unless a deal was reached over the banking row between the two former Yugoslav republics.

While Croatia is due to join the European Union on July 1, 2013, it still requires all 27 member states to ratify the accession treaty.

More than 130,000 Croatians claim they deposited 160 million euros ($207 million) in savings in Slovenia's Ljubljanska Banka before Yugoslavia fell apart in 1991.

Read more: AFP: Croatia ready to solve banking row with Slovenia: FM

Cellular Phones: Bytes of Apple starting to taste a little off - Don Pittis

Remember when Apple was the cool dude and Microsoft's PC was the pudgy guy stuck in the box? It was way back in 2006 and it was so easy to laugh. That series of ads comparing the distinctly uncool PC in glasses, tie and polyester suit with the slim and youthful Apple character helped to create the company's current image.

Apple was an upstart smart Alec, anything but establishment. Besides the products and the Steve Jobs lore, those ads were brilliant in their own right in creating the Apple reputation. You didn't have to be forced to watch them. People collected them on the internet to be viewed as stand-alone cool recreation.

It is easy to forget that some 20 years before, Microsoft had started off as an underdog. Skinny kid Bill Gates tricked the reigning tech giant, IBM by hanging onto rights for software that he realized was more important than the computers that ran it.

Obviously it is too early to write Apple off. The biggest company in the world is not going anywhere fast. Microsoft is still around. And so is IBM, rediscovering itself in ways that may once again bring it to the forefront.

Apple is still riding high, but for the first time, the company feels like a real apple that has reached its peak of crisp perfection; its fragrance contains the first sweet whiff of decay.


 

Read more: Bytes of Apple starting to taste a little off - Business - CBC News

Facebook switches off facial recognition tool in Europe

FACEBOOK said it had switched off the facial-recognition tool that prompts users to "tag" photographs.

The feature was identified by EU  regulators as one of the main privacy threats posed by the social networking site.

Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner (DPC), Billy Hawkes, who launched the probe because Facebook's European operations are based in Ireland, said he was happy that the site had agreed to remove the tool in Europe by October 15.

Read more: Facebook switches off facial recognition tool in Europe | News.com.au

9/21/12

Denmark: Anholt windpark produces first power

Dong Energy has produced first power from the under-construction 400MW Anholt wind farm off Denmark.

The company said today that the intial Siemens 3.6MW turbine (pictured) had exported electricity just three weeks after installation on 3 September.

"We are keeping to schedule and now delivering the first green power to Danes. This effective project management is one of the reasons that we are leading the market in offshore wind," said senior vice president Christina Grumstrup Sorensen.  "Wind power is at the very core of Dong Energy’s strategy and I am delighted that by achieving first power today we are providing a sound contribution towards maintaining Denmark’s leadership position in offshore wind,” she added.

The 111-turbine Anholt is due to be fully online next year. It is located off the northeast coast of Jutland in the Kattegat.

For more: reNews Europe: Offshore Wind

Wrestling with the future: Smart systems and global chaos - by Jon Tullett

The world is moving towards a data economy, but the evolution will not be smooth. The global financial crisis is just one example of a data-driven industry fighting for survival. Across the world, companies, and even nations, are wrestling with the future.

Glen Hiemstra, well-known futurist and founder of futurist.com, spoke at SAS Institute's executive forum in Johannesburg, and set out a vision of the next generation of technology, finance and more.

The pace of technology change has continued to accelerate, even throughout the economic downturn.“'Really smart' is on the way,” Hiemstra says, pointing to IBM's Watson and Apple's Siri as early forerunners of tomorrow's smart systems. “We're really just dipping our toes into it right now, but really smart computers are going to make what we're doing right now look like child's play. Look at the computing device on your desk, and realize that you're looking at a Model T.

If today's economy runs on oil, Hiemstra believes the next generation will run on data. “If you're an oil company, you know two things for sure today. First, you know you're making lots of money. And you know that someday it's going to come to an end. Some day the oil will run out. If you're a miner of big data, you know two things for sure today. First, you're just beginning to figure out how to make money. The second thing you know is that tomorrow there's going to be more, and the next day there's going to be even more. 100 years from now there's going to be an unlimited supply. That's exactly the opposite business proposition to oil.”

Big data, effectively measured, means more accurate prediction, Hiemstra points out. “Data is capable of being analysed in ways that let us see where things are going, in ways we couldn't before. For example, MasterCard can predict, based on your buying patterns, when you're likely to get divorced.”

 Read more: Smart systems and global chaos | ITWeb

Medical Research: Compound found in marijuana shown to 'turn off' cancer - by Greta McClain

Researchers at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco found that a marijuana compound known as cannabidiol can stop metastasis in many types of aggressive cancers.

Sean McAllister, one of the researchers at California Pacific, was studying the effects of Cannabidiol (CDB). Cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive chemical compound in the cannabis plant. Pierre Desprez, a molecular biologist researcher, began studying ID-1, the gene that causes cancer to spread, about 20 years ago. The two combined their research and introduced CDB to cancer cells containing ID-1 in a petri dish. They found that CDB stopped the metastasis of the cancer cells.

Sean McAllister, one of the researchers at California Pacific, was studying the effects of Cannabidiol (CDB). Cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive chemical compound in the cannabis plant. Pierre Desprez, a molecular biologist researcher, began studying ID-1, the gene that causes cancer to spread, about 20 years ago. The two combined their research and introduced CDB to cancer cells containing ID-1 in a petri dish. They found that CDB stopped the metastasis of the cancer cells. Metastasis is the spread of disease from one organ or part to another non-adjacent organ or part.

Read more: Compound found in marijuana shown to 'turn off' cancer

International Shipping: Port of Halifax signs MOU with Panama Canal Authority

The Port of Halifax and Panama Canal Authority have jointly announced the signing of the first Canadian port MOU with the Panama Canal Authority.

With the Panama expansion well underway, ports are raising awareness of their ability to handle the “big ships” after the Canal expands.

The Port of Halifax said the MOU “serves to raise awareness in the industry that Halifax is ready when the widening project is complete in 2015.”

The Halifax Port Authority began working with the Panama Canal Authority in 2010 when officials visited the Canal to view the expansion progress.

“Work together can now continue in a more formalized way ensuring global awareness of Halifax’s connections via the Panama Canal,” said a Port release.

The purpose of the Memorandum of Understanding is to identify business opportunities, increase awareness of the ports, exchange information, and undertake joint marketing initiatives.

The Port of Halifax also has several MU's with Ports in Europe. It is the closest major North American port to Europe, in close proximity to the Great Circle Route – one full day faster to Europe than other North American east coast container port 


Read more: Port of Halifax signs MOU with Panama Canal Authority | Canadian Transportation and Logistics

Israel: California passes resolution defining criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism -by Tom Carter

Last month, the California State Assembly passed a resolution urging state educational institutions to more aggressively crack down on criticism of the State of Israel on campuses, which the resolution defines as “anti-Semitism.” The anti-democratic resolution is the latest step in the broader campaign to stifle and suppress dissent on California’s increasingly volatile campuses.

The California State Assembly is the lower house of the state legislature, consisting of 80 members. The resolution—H.R. 35: “Relative to anti-Semitism”—was passed by a vote of 66 to 80, including a majority of both Republicans and Democrats in the Assembly.

The resolution was drafted by Republican Linda Halderman and passed without public discussion. The vote on the resolution came when most students were between semesters and away from their campuses.

A number of new initiatives to curtail freedom of speech by conflating opposition to Israeli crimes with anti-Semitism are underway in the United States and Canada.

The Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) issued a report in early July recommending the adoption of strict new standards defining anti-Semitism and the types of speech and campus activities that would violate them. Its report urged the Canadian government to adopt the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia’s definition of anti-Semitism (“Report on the Inquiry Panel,” 7 July 2011 [PDF]).

That definition suggests that any questioning of whether Israel has the right to exist as a state that privileges Jews over people of other religions or ethnic backgrounds amounts to anti-Semitism.

Though the Canadian group is not linked to the Ottawa government, it has 22 parliamentarians as members. Activities it deems as anti-Semitic and, therefore, calls to be banned, include events such as the Israeli Apartheid Week that was founded in Toronto and now takes place on college campuses internationally every March.

Read more: California passes resolution defining criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism | Global Research

Joaquín Almunia on Europe's Tough Terms for Approving Universal-EMI Deal

The most important man in music at the moment is not a hit-spotting executive in New York or London, but, rather, a diminutive Spanish bureaucrat whose decisions about the breakup of EMI will largely determine the shape of the industry for years to come.

Joaquín Almunia, the European Commission’s vice president for competition, has been the driving figure in the negotiations in Brussels over the future of EMI. In June, the commission approved a $2.2 billion sale of EMI’s music publishing business to a group led by Sony, with a relatively small number of concessions.

On Friday, the commission signed off on the Universal Music Group’s $1.9 billion bid for EMI’s record labels, but only after months of talks and an extensive divestment package that requires selling off the rights to some of EMI’s most prominent labels and artists. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission is reviewing the deal.

On Thursday, while in New York for a conference at Fordham Law School, Mr. Almunia spoke with The Times about his efforts to preserve competition and cultural diversity in the music business.

Read more: Joaquín Almunia on Europe's Tough Terms for Approving Universal-EMI Deal - NYTimes.com

Merkel turns to former mentor Kohl to sell Europe to Germans - by Madeline Chambers

Angela Merkel is seeking help from her estranged, former mentor Helmut Kohl, architect of the euro, to restore voter faith in the European project before next year's election.

Realising her own future is tied to that of the EU, Merkel has in the last month softened her rhetoric towards the most indebted euro zone states. Next week she will make a rare joint appearance with former Christian Democrat (CDU) chancellor Kohl.

The German leader's tough approach to the euro debt crisis has boosted her popularity in the last two years and polls show she is in a strong position to win the September 2013 vote.

But she needs to ensure traditional conservatives in her own party maintain discipline in the run-up to the vote after some were angered by her defence of European Central Bank President Mario Draghi's bond-buying plan for stricken euro states - a scheme the German Bundesbank opposes.

Merkel must also convince the broader electorate of the need for closer EU integration, seen as crucial to the currency's long-term survival. A poll this week showed almost two thirds of Germans would prefer to live without the euro and 49 percent without the EU.

Read more: Madeline Chambers: Merkel turns to former mentor Kohl to sell Europe to Germans - Comment, Opinion - Independent.ie