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10/31/12

Germany Says Europe Will Pursue Talks on Turkey - by M. Eddy and C. Cottrell

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany met with Turkey’s prime minister here on Wednesday and pledged that the European Union would continue to pursue talks “in good faith” over Turkey’s accession to the bloc, despite disagreements that have proved challenging for both sides.

“The E.U. is an honest negotiating partner,” Ms. Merkel said. “These negotiations will continue irrespective of the questions that we have to clarify.” 

Her pledge came after the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, warned that the European Union stood in danger of losing Turkey if it was not granted membership by 2023. 

“No other country has been kept waiting, knocking on the door of the E.U., for such a long time,” Mr. Erdogan told a gathering in Berlin late Tuesday, hours after he opened his country’s new embassy to Germany. An ever stronger economic and political force in the region, Turkey has been in negotiations to join the bloc since 1995, and some analysts have worried that a frustrated Turkey might shift from its Western focus to building stronger ties with Moscow and Tehran.

Read more: Germany Says Europe Will Pursue Talks on Turkey - NYTimes.com

Insurance Industry - Hurricane Sandy: Insurers prepare for impact of Hurricane - by Ben Berkowitz

Aftermath of Sandy hurricane
Insurers say they are making the usual preparations for a hurricane - activating claims teams, staging adjusters near the locations most likely to be affected and generally getting ready to pay for a potentially huge volume of losses.

"We plan for weather events such as this, so we feel well prepared with resources strategically positioned to quickly assist customers who may be impacted," Travelers spokesman Matthew Bordonaro said in an early Sunday e-mail.

Travelers is the third-largest insurer in New York for both personal home and auto and commercial lines of insurance, and the second-largest in Connecticut.

Bordonaro said the company had also activated continuity plans for its own employees, so it can sustain operations despite having staff clustered in New York and Hartford.

Had Sandy hit in 2011, it may have been more of a problem for the insurance industry, which dealt with record-breaking losses around the world last year, mostly from U.S. tornadoes and Asia-Pacific earthquakes.

But in 2012, most insurers' disaster losses are down substantially, leaving them with more capacity to absorb the billions of dollars in costs some expect from Hurricane Sandy.

Read more: Insurers prepare for impact of Hurricane Sandy - Chicago Tribune

EU funds to support Romania's economic growth of 2.5 percent in 2013, says President Basescu

Romanian President Traian Basescu said during an official meeting with the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, the domestic economy may grow next year by 2.5 percent of GDP, based on the absorption of EU funds.

President Martin Schulz also spoke on Wednesday in the Parliament, as part of his first official visit in Romania.

For this year, the government revised down the economic output to 1 percent of GDP, while the EBRD put it at 0.5 percent in its latest estimate. Economists at BCR, the largest bank in Romania, said the economy will grow by 0.7 percent due to a poor agricultural harvest and the Euro zone woes.

Read more: EU funds to support Romania's economic growth of 2.5 percent in 2013, says President Basescu - Business Review

European Airline Industry -Germany: Lufthansa profits beat estimates despite strike

A Lufthansa Airbus 380 escorted by Eurofighters
German airline Lufthansa said profits jumped 30 percent in the third quarter despite a strike and higher fuel prices. The company's CEO said it wasn't enough, however, and vowed to intensify cost cutting.

The airline credited cost reductions it has already made for the profit, as well as better earnings from its services businesses such as repairing and catering other companies' planes.

CEO Christoph Franz called the results "respectable" but warned the company would need to be even leaner to deal with multiple challenges to its profitability. Those include higher fuel prices as well as competition from no-frills airlines and state-backed carriers in the Middle East. It must also pay costs imposed by governments, such as a German air traffic tax levied on every departure and the purchase of emissions trading certificates under a European Union program aimed at reducing global warming.
"We are making progress on the costs within our control. However that is not enough to earn adequate margins," he said, referring to profit margins, or the amount by which revenues exceed costs.

Net income rose to (EURO)642 million ($832 million) from (EURO)494 million in the year-ago quarter, beating analyst estimates for (EURO)225 million. Revenue rose 6.2 percent to (EURO)8.31 billion. Strikes by flight attendants between Aug. 31 and Sept. 7 cost the company (EURO)33 million.

Read more: FRANKFURT, Germany: Lufthansa profits beat estimates despite strike | National Business News | The Bellingham Herald

European Health Care Systems: Mistrust puts pharmaceutical industry in the spotlight

The European healthcare system is struggling to cope with low levels of transparency and trust in the pharmaceutical sector, according to 97% of doctors, industry professionals and policymakers attending a workshop at the Gastein Health Forum yesterday (4 October).

"North Korea would be proud of you!" said workshop moderator John Bowis, a former MEP and president of stakeholder group Health First Europe, after conducting the straw poll in a session addressing transparency between the public, health professionals and industry in the Austrian resort.
Thomas Heynisch, an official with the EU executive's enterprise department, told delegates that the Commission would publish new corporate social responsibility guidelines in early 2013 to tackle issues of trust and ethics in the pharmaceutical sector, and access to medicines in Europe.

This was prompted because the EU executive believed there was "a level of mistrust, particularly between public authorities and the pharma industry. "The Commission wants to move beyond codes of conduct, but not to introduce new legislation, rather we want guiding principles which can be a source of inspiration for those working within and beyond the pharma industry," Heynisch said, explaining that enforcement of the new guidelines will be carried out at national level.

Read more: Mistrust puts pharmaceutical industry in the spotlight | EurActiv

10/30/12

New Netherlands government to cut budget by16 billion euro,will continue strict immigration laws and ditches proposed controls on 'weed' use

Amsterdam Marijuana Tourism Alive and Well
The two parties forming the new Dutch Government including the center-right Liberal party of Mark Rutte and the center-left Labor party, led by Diederik Samsom have reached a coalition agreement that will pursue pro-European policies with an emphasis on austerity – stated it will cut 16 billion euro in government spending in the health care, social security and educational sectors.

As to the Netherlands immigration policies, including the 2007 treaties that govern Bulgarian and Romanian accession to the EU, which provided for a seven-year transition period before nationals of those countries would obtain full access to the labor markets of other EU member states, the new Dutch Government said it will remain among those EU states that plan to maintain the restrictions for the entire 7 year transition period which ends in 2014.

The incoming new Dutch government has also ditched plans by the previous government for a national "weed pass" that would have been available only to Dutch residents and that would have effectively banned tourists from Amsterdam's and many other cities in the Netherlands with marijuana cafes.

However, under a provisional governing pact unveiled this week, cities can still bar foreigners and tourists from weed shops but only if they so choose.

The pact says that it wants only Dutch residents to have access to marijuana cafes, but leaves final enforcement up to local cities governing bodies. Amsterdam which has a very lucrative red-light district with large numbers of marijuana cafes, or coffee shops as they are called in Holland, opposes any ban which would hurt the Amsterdam tourist industry..

Some cafe owners said Tuesday that they are satisfied Dutch weed policy will remain unchanged, while others criticized the lack of clarity.

Marijuana trafficking is technically illegal in the Netherlands, but people can't be prosecuted for possession of small amounts and the drug is sold openly in designated and licensed coffee shops.

EU-Digest

European stocks rebound on positive earnings, UBS jub cuts

While Wall Street remained closed and likely also to remain closed tomorrow European stock markets and the euro rebounded on Tuesday as investors cheered positive company earnings and reacted to news of thousands of job cuts at Swiss bank UBS, despite a lull in trading caused by the monster US storm Sandy.

London's FTSE 100 index of top companies rose by 0.77 percent to stand at 5,839.53 points in afternoon deals.

Frankfurt's DAX 30 won 0.91 percent to 7,268.50 points and in Paris the CAC 40 gained 1.31 percent to 3,453.58.

Madrid's IBEX 35 jumped 1.18 percent to 7,819.9 points despite data showing that the Spanish economy contracted by 0.3 percent in the third quarter.


Read more: European stocks rebound on positive earnings, UBS jub cuts

US Presidential Campaign: Romney Continues Campaign of Lies say opponents



Back in July, David Axelrod, senior campaign adviser for the Obama campaign, called Mitt Romney "the most secretive candidate we've seen probably since Richard Nixon."  

At an event in Defiance, Ohio Thursday evening, Mitt Romney got his Halloween on early by playing the Grim Reaper of jobs when he told a complete falsehood about Chrysler moving Jeep to China and taking Americans job with them. 

Chrysler said that a “careful and unbiased” understanding “would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments.” That’s our Mitt.

The truth is that Chrysler is not moving its Jeep production from America to China. As Chrysler said today, “Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China.” 

Romney took “a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats” Thursday when he said, “I saw a story today, that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China. I will fight for every good job in America, I’m going to fight to make sure trade is fair, and if it’s fair, America will win.”

Did you catch that? He saw a “story” alright, and just like Fox, he figured he’d “some people” reality by not bothering with it at all.

Romney charged in the second presidential debate that "it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror." Obama denied it, urging Romney to "Get the transcript."
FactCheck.org observed. "The transcript does show that Obama said in a Rose Garden speech on Sept. 12: 'No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.'"

In the same debate, Romney said a gallon of gasoline in Nassau County, N.Y. was $1.86 when Obama took office. It's now "4 bucks a gallon."

As fact checkers for USA Today stated, "Gas prices were going through a period of exceptional volatility when Obama took office – largely because, as Obama noted, gas prices plummeted as the recession took hold and people drove less...But gas prices are still 34 cents below their all-time high during the Bush administration. In the summer of 2008, the national average hit $4.05 a gallon."
FactCheck.org noted, "Mitt Romney falsely claims in a series of TV ads that President Obama 'will raise taxes on the middle class by $4,000.' That's nonsense. The ads cite a conservative group's study, but even the group itself doesn't say Obama will raise taxes on middle-income taxpayers. It says his budget could result in a 'potentially higher tax burden' over the next 10 years.

"In fact, the group's study considered two other budget scenarios – current law (allowing the Bush-era tax cuts to expire as scheduled at the end of this year) and current policy (extending current policies into 2013, including extending the Bush-era tax cuts) – and determined that Obama's budget 'provides a middle ground between these two extremes.'"

Romney said during a Republican debate on Feb 22: "I said today that we're going to cut taxes on everyone across the country by 20 percent, including the top 1 percent." However, during a debate with Obama, he said, "I'm not looking to cut taxes for wealthy people."

Read more: Romney Continues Campaign of Lies

Electric Cars: Best Selling EV in Europe This Year May Be Utility Van

Much has been said already about the sales of the Nissan LEAF falling short of expectations. Europe and the U.S. are pretty equal, and sales for this full year should be well below 10,000 cars here or there. The difference in Europe is that there are several other EVs on the market, with one of them so successful that it may see more sales than the Japanese car. This is the Renault Kangoo Z.E. and it's not a passenger car. It's a utility, a compact van, and its success may not be a good signal for the electric car.

A few companies or public utilities, the largest being the French postal service, have bought many electric Kangoos. It's certainly a positive move to put many EVs in the streets, but the negative sign is that those EVs have been bought by people who will never drive them. Some business managers have a green motivation though. They want a cleaner fleet because they are concerned with climate change, reducing CO2 emissions and all that. They want to act and they do, but others have bought a few EVs only because it's good PR. There may be more hope with the employees. Those who now drive EVs daily because it's their job might be enticed to buy an EV for their personal needs, but it's too early to say for sure.

On the other hand, utility vehicles may be the biggest chance the electric car has ever seen because it is the opportunity for EVs to financially prove themselves. Companies want vehicles that are cheap to run, and business managers are very familiar with the idea of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). This is precisely where the electric car is known to shine.

Read more: Best Selling EV in Europe This Year May Be Utility Van | PluginCars.com

Twenty two groups call for EU ban on Israeli settler products

Twenty two religious groups and charities have called on the European Union to ban products made by Israeli settlers in the occupied territories, saying a boycott would undercut their economic reason for staying there.

The 22 NGOs included Christian Aid, Ireland's Trocaire, the Methodist Church in Britain, the Church of Sweden, France's Terre Solidaire and Germany's medico international. Other religious NGOs in Finland, Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium and Switzerland also took part.

The EU is Israel's biggest trading partner but imports 15 times more from West Bank-based Israeli settlers than from Palestinians, a group of 22 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) said on Tuesday.

"European consumers are unwittingly supporting the settlements and the attendant violations of human rights," the groups said in a report that called for a ban or, at the very least, strict labeling rules.

The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem and say settlements deny them a joined-up viable territory. About 311,000 Israeli settlers and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank.

The EU says settlements Israel has built on land it captured in the 1967 Middle East war are illegal under international law.

Read more: Twenty two groups call for EU ban on Israeli settler products - World Updates | The Star Online

USA Hurricane Sandy: Obama declares major disaster as Breezy Point fire rages

As people across central and eastern Canada hunker down to face powerful winds and a deluge of rain as superstorm Sandy approaches, President Barack Obama has declared a major disaster in the hard-hit New York and Long Island region.

The declaration makes federal funding available to people in the area. It bore the brunt of the sea surge from a superstorm that hit the East Coast on Monday.

A massive six-alarm fire has destroyed at least 50 homes in the flooded New York neighbourhood of Breezy Point in the borough of Queens, which sits on the Rockaway peninsula jutting into the Atlantic Ocean.

Read more and view pictures and video's: Hurricane Sandy: Obama declares major disaster as Breezy Point fire rages | News | National Post

Hurricane Sandy grounds thousands of flights to US from Europe

Hurricane Sandy grounded thousands of flights in the U.S. northeast Monday and upended travel plans across the globe, stranding passengers from Hong Kong to Europe. The massive storm threatens to bring a near halt to air travel for at least two days in a key region for both domestic and international flights.

Major carriers such as American Airlines, United and Delta cancelled all flights into and out of three area airports in New York, the nation's busiest airspace. According to the flight-tracking service FlightAware, nearly 10,000 flights had been canceled for Monday and Tuesday, almost all related to the storm.

Delays rippled across the U.S., affecting travelers in cities such as San Francisco to Chicago. Disruptions spread to Europe and Asia, where airlines canceled or delayed flights to New York and Washington from cities that are major travel hubs including Amsterdam, London, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

Read more: Hurricane Sandy grounds thousands of flights | Deseret News

USA Monster Storm Sandy: 13 Dead, Millions Without Power as East Coast Awakes to Massive Hurricane Damage

Power outages impacted the most amount of people. News outlets report that 7.6 million suffered from power outages as a result of the powerful hurricane. New Jersey was the state hit hardest, as 1.2 million residents lost power. Some residents of Rhode Island, South Carolina and Kentucky also had to endure a lack of power.

New York and New Jersey residents woke up to flooded streets in some neighborhoods. In Lower Manhattan, “the East River rose over South Street and flooded into Wall Street, where cars were inundated — and some appeared to be floating,” The New York Times reports this morning. “North and east, Avenue C was flooded with water pouring in from the East River. Cars could be seen floating south,” while Red Hook in Brooklyn suffered through flooding as well.

The storm also took the lives of 13 people across the U.S., with 5 of the dead from New York City. This is in addition to the 51 dead in Haiti as a result of Hurricane Sandy. One person also died in Canada. Meanwhile, a hospital at New York University had to be evacuated due to the failure of a power generator that was running in place of regular electricity. “About 200 patients, roughly 45 of whom are critical care patients, were moved out of NYU via private ambulance with the assistance of the New York Fire Department, city officials said,” according to ABC News. And firefighters in Breezy Point, Queens were battling a massive fire that destroyed 50 homes, while a building facade and a crane collapsed in two separate instances earlier in the day.

The subway system in New York City was hit hard, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) was busy getting ready for the massive work ahead to restore service. “The New York City subway system is 108 years old, but it has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night. Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on our entire transportation system, in every borough and county of the region,” said MTA president Joseph J. Lhota in a statement posted on the MTA’s website. “ It has brought down trees, ripped out power and inundated tunnels, rail yards and bus depots.” Thousands of flights have been canceled, and the four major area airports were shuttered.

Read more: 13 Dead, Millions Without Power as East Coast Awakes to Massive Hurricane Sandy Damage | Alternet

10/29/12

France's Hollande signals possible EU deficit debate

Eager to forge his fiscal credibility, Hollande has promised EU partners that France will cut its public deficit to 3 percent of national output next year from an estimated 4.5 percent this year despite stagnating growth.

Many economists consider the target will be difficult to reach without further measures, judging as too optimistic the Socialist government's 2013 growth forecast of 0.8 percent on which it based next year's budget.

"For the moment we don't have any reason to think that our targets, which we set in the budget law, will not be reached," Hollande told journalists after meeting leaders of the IMF, OECD other international economic organization in Paris.

Read more: France's Hollande signals possible EU deficit debate | Reuters

Turkey: Who Is Fethullah Gulen? - "US should support the movement, not Fethullah Gulen" - by Claire Berlinski

With the American economy in shambles, Europe imploding, and the Middle East in chaos, convincing Americans that they should pay attention to a Turkish preacher named Fethullah Gülen is an exceedingly hard sell. Many Americans have never heard of him, and if they have, he sounds like the least of their worries.

According to his website, he is an “authoritative mainstream Turkish Muslim scholar, thinker, author, poet, opinion leader and educational activist who supports interfaith and intercultural dialogue, science, democracy and spirituality and opposes violence and turning religion into a political ideology.” The website adds that “by some estimates, several hundred educational organizations such as K–12 schools, universities, and language schools have been established around the world inspired by Fethullah Gülen.” The site notes, too, that Gülen was “the first Muslim scholar to publicly condemn the attacks of 9/11.” It also celebrates his modesty.

Yet there is a bit more to the story. Gülen is a powerful business figure in Turkey and—to put it mildly—a controversial one. He is also an increasingly influential businessman globally. There are somewhere between 3 million and 6 million Gülen followers—or, to use the term they prefer, people who are “inspired” by him. Sources vary widely in their estimates of the worth of the institutions “inspired” by Gülen, which exist in every populated continent, but those based on American court records have ranged from $20 billion to $50 billion.

Most interesting, from the American point of view, is that Gülen lives in Pennsylvania, in the Poconos. He is, among other things, a major player in the world of American charter schools—though he claims to have no power over them; they’re just greatly inspired, he says.

Even if it were only for these reasons, you might want to know more about Gülen, especially because the few commentators who do write about him generally mischaracterize him, whether they call him a “radical Islamist” or a “liberal Muslim.” The truth is much more complicated—to the extent that anyone understands it.

To begin to understand Gülen, you must start with the history of the Nurcu movement. Said Nursî (1878–1960), a Sunni Muslim in the Sufi tradition, was one of the great charismatic religious personalities of the late Ottoman Caliphate and early Turkish Republic. His Risale-i Nur, disdained and sometimes banned by the Republic, nevertheless became the basis for the formation of “reading circles”—geographically dispersed communities the size of small towns that gathered to read, discuss, and internalize the text and to duplicate it when it was banned. Nurcus tend to say, roughly, that the Risale-i Nur is distilled from the Koran; non-Nurcus often find the claim inappropriate or arrogant.

The movement, according to researchers such as Yavuz, has three coordinated tiers: businessmen, journalists, and teachers. The first tier, the so-called Anatolian bourgeoisie, provides financial support: it funds private high schools, universities, colleges, dormitories, summer camps, and foundations around the world. The journalists of the second tier own one of the leading Turkish dailies, Zaman; its English-language counterpart, Today’s Zaman (which is often not a faithful translation); the Turkish television station STV; the Cihan news service; many magazines and academic journals; several lesser dailies and TV channels; and many Internet-only news outlets. Finally, teachers operate the schools.

According to researcher Aydin Ozipek, who attended a Gülen school, “the primary objective of the Gülen Movement is to increase its share of power.” That, it seems to me, is the most accurate description of all. The cemaat poses problems not because its members are pious Muslims (that’s probably the most admirable thing about them) but because it’s a power-hungry business that often behaves repulsively—like a mafia, in other words. Gülen does not run “madrassas” in America, as some have suggested; he runs charter schools.

He does not “practice taqiya”; he just dissimulates, like any ordinary politician.According to researcher Aydin Ozipek, who attended a Gülen school, “the primary objective of the Gülen Movement is to increase its share of power.” That, it seems to me, is the most accurate description of all. The cemaat poses problems not because its members are pious Muslims (that’s probably the most admirable thing about them) but because it’s a power-hungry business that often behaves repulsively—like a mafia, in other words. Gülen does not run “madrassas” in America, as some have suggested; he runs charter schools. He does not “practice taqiya”; he just dissimulates, like any ordinary politician.

The US  posture toward the movement as a foreign policy actor, however, to the extent that I can understand it, has been foolish. It is wrong to imagine that Gülen can be some kind of asset to us internationally or to accept or promote him as one. He has not been elected in Turkey—our NATO ally—or anywhere else. We have an interest in seeing Turkey become a full-fledged liberal democracy. That means supporting Gülen’s stated ideals—not him.

Read more: Who Is Fethullah Gulen? by Claire Berlinski, City Journal Autumn 2012

European Budget Airlines: EasyJet chief eyes modest growth; new aircraft

EasyJet (U2) chief Carolyn McCall is aiming for 3%-5% organic growth over the next 3-5 years, as the airline continues to assess a possible aircraft order.

“We will continue to grow modestly, we are quite pragmatic about that, but it is growth,” said McCall, addressing the European Aviation Club in Brussels. “There is still a lot more low-fares airlines can do in the market. EasyJet can continue to grow in markets we are already in, which is much lower risk. We don’t need new markets to grow.”

McCall identifies France and Portugal as possible targets for this growth. “We see Portugal, despite its economic position, as an opportunity,” she said. Also, in France, low-cost carriers have just 24% penetration compared with 40% in other European counties, giving scope for expansion.

U2 carries 60 million passengers a year, more than Air France-KLM, and one of its growth areas is business travelers which represent around a sixth of its 60 million passengers, growing to 40% on some routes.

Read more: EasyJet chief eyes modest growth; new aircraft | ATWOnline

USA - Hurricane Sandy: the latest from the National US Hurricane Center

 SANDY MOVING QUICKLY TOWARD SOUTHERN NEW JERSEY AND DELAWARE... ...LANDFALL EXPECTED EARLY THIS EVENING ACCOMPANIED BY LIFE-THREATENING STORM SURGE AND HURRICANE-FORCE WINDS

Read more: National Hurricane Center

Netherlands: Dutch Parties Reach Deal to Form Government - by Maarten van Tartwijk

The two Dutch political parties that secured the most votes in last month's election have reached a deal to form a government, which is expected to continue its austerity drive to fix the country's public finances.

The Liberal Party of Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the leftist Labor Party of Diederik Samsom reached a deal over the weekend, the parties said late Sunday evening. The agreement will be discussed with the parties' lawmakers Monday morning before being presented to the public.

The deal follows a relatively short period of coalition talks after the Sept. 12 general election. Messrs. Rutte and Samsom had vowed to reach a deal quickly in light of the euro-zone debt crisis and the challenges facing the Dutch economy.

Mr. Rutte is expected to head the new government, while Mr. Samsom has said he would remain a member of parliament. The two leaders are expected to outline their plans in a news conference later Monday. The new government will likely be installed next week.

Earlier this month the leaders struck a deal on a 2013 austerity budget in order to bring the national deficit below the European Union limit of 3% of gross domestic product.

Read more: Dutch Parties Reach Deal to Form Government - WSJ.com

Religion: Why Europe supports President Obama, not Mitt Romney - by Robert Bennett

This is being written in Paris, where I have been attending an academic conference dedicated to an analysis of the 2012 presidential election. If they could vote, Europeans would solidly support President Obama, with France leading the way. Some polls show that Obama would draw more than 90 percent of the vote here; across the entire continent, he runs above 70 percent.

Those attending the conference told me that this is not because Europeans particularly dislike Mitt Romney. They simply don't know anything about him, with one exception — they know he is a Mormon.

But most don't know what that means. One European panelist, who spoke just after I did, spent his entire time talking about Mormons, portraying them as crazed zealots who comprise a truly sinister force in American life. In addition to the specifics of Mormonism that he considered ludicrous, he also made it clear that anyone who believed in Jesus as a divine being was laughably deluded. It was such a stunning diatribe that the moderator of the panel, an American, interrupted the pattern of the presentations to give me time to respond. I was pleased that my statement received a very respectful hearing from the audience, who thought the other speaker had gone too far. He later apologized to me, saying, "I didn't know you were a Mormon."

The reason the religion issue has not gone away in Europe is that all religions are now considered suspect here. The European conviction that Romney's beliefs must be an issue stems as much from the fact that he holds them as from their specifics. No European politician can afford to be seen as devout; the panelist's statements suggested that religious devotion in a candidate demonstrates that he is not a serious person. That is one of the reasons why Europeans were as dubious as they were about George W. Bush.

My own idea as to why there is such a different view of religion between America and Europe turns on the question of separation of church and state. Historically, European countries have had state Churches: the Roman Catholic Church in Italy, the Church of England in Great Britain, the Lutheran Church in Germany and so on. Supported both financially and structurally by their governments, these churches held dominant positions in their countries for centuries. As they lost their privileged positions after the Second World War, religion itself lost its hold on people's loyalties.

Europeans can't vote, so a discussion of their views on religion in politics is academic, but it helps us understand why they view American politics differently than we do. I suspect that American presidents will continue to embrace religion and Europeans will continue to be amazed by that.

 Read more: Robert Bennett: Why Europe supports President Obama, not Mitt Romney | Deseret News

10/28/12

Outer Space Research: Europe seeks funding for mini robotic space plane

the ESA ISV
A European-built robot space plane could be soaring in orbit before the end of the decade if the program to develop it gains funding approval next month. 

The Innovative Space Vehicle (ISV) would be Europe's civilian equivalent of the U.S. Air Force's unmanned X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, a robotic miniature space shuttle that has flown on two missions since 2010. The unmanned space plane would be much smaller than the Air Force vehicle, however.

Its fate rests with the European Space Agency’s ministers, who are scheduled to meet Nov. 20-21 in Italy.

The ESA ministerial meeting is conducted every three years to decide programs and funding for the period until the next meeting. PRIDE (the Program for Reusable In-orbit Demonstrator in Europe) will be seeking funding there for the ISV, which would be a follow-up to its Intermediate Experimental Vehicle (or IXV), currently being built after months of delays.

Read more: Europe seeks mini robotic space plane - Technology & science - Space - Space.com | NBC News

France's president opens Elysee garden to public

Hundreds of Parisians and tourists lined up Sunday to get a rare chance to visit the gardens of France's presidential palace.

Visitors were taking advantage of a new policy inaugurated by President Francois Hollande to open the 18th-century Elysee Palace gardens to the public every last Sunday of the month. In the past, the palace and gardens were only open to the public once a year on France's Heritage Days weekend in September.

Access to the gardens is just off the Champs Elysee avenue via an ornate wrought-iron gate topped with gilt rooster, the French national symbol.

Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2012/10/28/2498714/frances-president-opens-elysee.html#storylink=cpy

Read more: PARIS - France's president opens Elysee garden to public - World - TheState.com

Recycling: Sweden Wants Your Trash - by Sophia Jones

Move over Abba, Sweden has found new fame. The small Nordic country is breaking records — in waste. Sweden's program of generating energy from garbage is wildly successful, but recently its success has also generated a surprising issue: There is simply not enough trash.

Only 4 percent of Swedish garbage ends up in a landfill, according to Swedish Waste Management. Due to its efficiency in converting waste to renewable energy, Sweden has recently begun importing around 800,000 tons of trash annually from other countries.

Norway is now paying Sweden to take its garbage. Swedish sights are also set on Bulgaria, Romania and Italy as future trash exporters, as Catarina Ostlund, a senior advisor for the country's environmental protection agency, told PRI. Those countries rely heavily on landfills – a highly inefficient and environmentally degrading system.

Sweden is leading the way in waste management, but it is one of few. We live in a world where nearly 70 percent of deep sea Arctic creatures are in contact with human trash like plastic bags and beer bottles. In the United States, where the EPA says 250 million tons of trash was generated in 2010 alone, only about 34 percent was recycled.

Sweden creates energy for around 250,000 homes and powers one-fifth of the district heating system, Swedish Waste Managements says. Its incineration plants offer a look into the future where countries could potentially make money off of their trash — and not just dump it in the ocean or bury it in mass landfills.

Read more: Sweden Wants Your Trash : The Two-Way : NPR

Switzerland: UBS, Credit Suisse banks plan some 7000 job cuts

Switzerland's biggest banks, UBS AG and Credit Suisse Group AG  plan to announce major job cuts in the weeks ahead, Swiss weekly Sonntag reported, without citing sources.

UBS plans to cut 3,000 to 5,000 jobs, while Credit Suisse will eliminate between 1,000 and 2,000 positions, the newspaper said.

Read more: UBS, Credit Suisse plan big Job cuts: report - MarketWatch

US Presidential Election: Why Most Votes Don’t Count - by Jilly Gagnon

At this point in the election, there are only two reasonable explanations for being “undecided:”
1.) You’re an idiot.
2.) You find both options on offer so profoundly distasteful that you can’t bring yourself to support either one.

Anyone who’s spent much time reading up on the state of the U.S. public education system knows there’s not much we can do about #1.

Hell, anyone who’s seen even a few seconds of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” knows there’s no hope for the #1s.

After all, who’s going to spend the time educating themselves about the minutiae of the political process and/or the candidates when you can rubberneck at train wrecks 24 hours a day without ever leaving your couch?

If you think I’m a cynic for saying so, let me just remind you that in a recent poll 15% of Ohio Republicans voiced their belief that Mitt Romney was primarily responsible for killing Osama Bin Laden, and another 47% had no clue who killed the guy. It’s almost enough to make you think back wistfully to the days of voter tests.

But fixing #2 is a snarlier beast. It doesn’t take Canadian (or British, or any other Parliamentarian democracy-ish) citizenship to wonder why in God’s name we’re still stuck with a two-party system down here (and therefore only two options on offer every four years).

Just ask Ron Paul fans, or all those annoying folks clogging my twitter feed with demands to “let Gary Johnson debate!”  As my editor so artfully put it this week, “why, in a country that has literally thousands of cola options, is politics an either/or for you guys?”

The worst part of it is that voters of all stripes agree: the Electoral College is outdated, impedes democracy, and is generally unnecessary. But since it’s written into our constitution (which requires 75% of states to agree to any changes therein), it’s never going away. The Electoral College gives undue weight to states with relatively small populations (because no matter what, they have at least 3 electoral votes), meaning candidates can’t totally ignore those states’ specific needs if they want to win the presidency, which means that those states will probably always band together to block any effort to move to a direct-election process for the presidency.

So we’re facing yet another election cycle where not only are there only 2 viable candidates, it’s a realistic possibility that one – Romney – could win the popular vote, but not the presidency. Which leads to more entrenched legislative gridlock, which leads to very little ever getting done.
Now THAT’S democracy in action.

Read more: US Presidential Election: Why Most Votes Don’t Count | canada.com

Europe turns back clocks one hour to welcome winter

Summer time comes to an official close on Saturday night for Europe as  citizens turn the clocks back one hour to welcome the darker days of the winter months.

Turning the clocks back an hour on Sunday morning, from 3am to 2am, is a return to what is considered to be normal time after the interlude of summer.

EU-Digest 

Dutch government to give law agencies powers to hack foreign computers - by Lucian Constantin

The Dutch government wants to give law enforcement authorities the power to hack into computers, including those located in other countries, for the purpose of discovering and gathering evidence during cybercrime investigations.

In a letter that was sent to the lower house of the Dutch parliament last week, the Dutch Minister of Security and Justice Ivo Opstelten outlined the government's plan to draft a bill in upcoming months that would provide law enforcement authorities with new investigative powers on the internet.

According to the letter, the new legislation would allow cybercrime investigators to remotely infiltrate computers in order to install monitoring software or to search them for evidence. Investigators would also be allowed to destroy illegal content, like child pornography, found during such searches.

Read more: Dutch government to give law agencies powers to hack foreign computers - Techworld.com

10/27/12

Dutch DJs are becoming increasingly popular around the world

Over 1700 artists from all around the world are gathering in Amsterdam to take part in the Amsterdam Dance Event. ADC, which begins this evening, has grown into the world’s biggest club festival. Over 200.000 clubbers are expected to attend the 300 performances over the next five days.

Some of the top Dutch DJs, including Armin van Buuren and Headhunterz, will also be performing. Dutch DJs are among the most popular in the world, but why? 

Read more: Dutch DJs are becoming increasingly popular | Radio Netherlands Worldwide

World has nearly as many cellphone subscriptions as people, UN says

The world now has nearly as many cellphone subscriptions as inhabitants.

The UN telecom agency says there were about 6 billion subscriptions by the end of 2011 — roughly one for 86 of every 100 people.

In a report Thursday, the International Telecommunication Union said China alone accounted for 1 billion subscriptions, and India is expected to hit the 1-billion mark this year.

The Geneva-based agency says 2.3 billion people — or about one in three of the world’s 7 billion inhabitants — were Internet users by the end of 2011, but there’s a strong disparity between rich and developing countries.

ITU says 70 per cent of people who use the Internet live in wealthier, industrialized countries, compared with 24 per cent who live in poorer, developing nations.

Read more: World has nearly as many cellphone subscriptions as people, UN says - The Globe and Mail

A Romney victory could spook the US markets - by Liam Halligan

Republican challenger Mitt Romney, meanwhile, is the choice of most men – or at least those who intend to vote. The outcome of this titanic struggle really is in the balance, not least in the likes of Ohio and Florida, the all-important “swing states”.

The normal assumption among financial analysts is that a Republican victory leads to a rally on America’s equity markets.
Right-wingers tend to be fans of lower taxation, particularly on businesses, and less inclined to regulate.
Of course the normal assumptions are far less likely to hold these days as we’re not living in normal times.

Were Romney to win, paradoxically, the US stock market could tumble. That’s because the former Massachusetts governor would be most unlikely to extend the tenure of Democrat-appointee Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve when his current second term expires in January 2014. That political reality would then cast doubt on Bernanke’s recently-issued pledge that the Fed won’t raise interest rates until well into 2015. 

Read more: A Romney victory could spook the US markets - Telegraph

Norway's Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide talks about Arctic Drilling

September 16, 2012 was a historic date. According to the statistics of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in the US, Arctic sea ice shrank to cover an area of just 3.41 million square kilometers (1.32 million square miles) on that day. It was the lowest coverage measured since the beginning of satellite observations in 1979 -- some 760,000 square kilometers lower than the previous record minimum in 2007. The extent of the shrinkage indicates that the Arctic is changing at a breathtaking pace; a new ocean is opening up.

At the same time, interest in both shorter shipping routes through the far north and Arctic mineral deposits is growing. Norway is one of the five countries bordering the Arctic that can benefit from their proximity to the region's presumed riches. The decades-long exploitation of oil and natural gas in waters further south has made the country extremely wealthy -- and hungry for more. At the same time, polar countries like Norway have to deal with increasing pressure from politicians and environmental groups, which complain about the risks of resource extraction and would like to see them remain untapped.

In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, Norway's new Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide talks about the politics of resource extraction in the region.

Read more: Interview: Norway's Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide on Arctic Drilling - SPIEGEL ONLINE

Spain anti-austerity protests draw thousands

Several thousand people marched to Spain's parliament in an anti-austerity protest Saturday, but were held back from surrounding the building by metal rail barricades and a large police presence.

The "Surround parliament" protest group had called on people to gather at Plaza de Espana and march on the legislature to express their opposition to spending cuts and tax hikes introduced by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government.

Police on horseback and with dogs had earlier arrived at Neptuno fountain next to parliament in preparation for crowd control duties as the protesters marched 2.3 kilometers (1.4 miles) from the muster point.

Protesters were accompanied along the route of the march by a strong police escort, including vans with reinforced windows.

Read more: Spain anti-austerity protests draw thousands : Madisondotcom

Russia detains top opposition leaders in Moscow - by Maria Antonova

Russian police detained several opposition leaders, including Alexei Navalny and Sergei Udaltsov, during a protest held in Moscow Saturday against the latest wave of arrests of political activists.

Police claimed the detained activists violated public order after about 200 people gathered around the headquarters of the Federal Security Service (FSB) with signs protesting political repression against the opposition, including allegations of torture by one activist.

Anti-corruption campaigner Navalny, Left Front movement leader Udaltsov, and fellow opposition leader Ilya Yashin tweeted from the police station, where they were taken together with several other protesters.

"I was walking on the sidewalk. They detained me without any explanation," Udaltsov, one of the prominent organisers of mass protests against President Vladimir Putin, said on his Twitter account.
"Alexei Navalny has been detained," Navalny's spokeswoman Anna Veduta said on Twitter. "People have blocked the road shouting 'SHAME'."

Read more: AFP: Russia detains top opposition leaders in Moscow

Britain: Wealth, Capital and Power -"The Rich Don’t Get Richer" - by John Rentoul

I once wrote a book called The Rich Get Richer, which was about a period, the 1980s, when it was true.

Since then, I have spent much of my time trying to point out that, despite what everybody knows, the degree of inequality in Britain has stayed about the same since the sharp increase during the Great Thatcher Divisiveness. In particular, I have pointed out that it was a remarkable achievement for the New Labour governments to have avoided any significant increase in inequality in an open economy such as Britain’s.

One problem with this defence of Labour’s record is that, while information on the distribution of incomes is of high quality, the only consistent and comprehensive data series on the distribution of wealth was abandoned in 2003 because officials at HM Revenue & Customs decided it was “not suitable” for estimating the distribution of wealth. I reported this at the time.*

The reasons are explained more fully in the HMRC’s UK Personal Wealth Statistics 2008-10, which refers us instead to the Office for National Statistics’ Wealth and Assets Survey, the first of which was conducted in 2006-08. I had ignored it because, as the first survey of its kind, it did not tell us anything about trends over time.

However, in July this year the results of the second wave of the Wealth and Assets Survey were published, covering 2008-10. A summary is here, but the interesting bit is Chapter 2, which includes this table:

ATT00001 The Rich Dont Get Richer

Read more: The Rich Don’t Get Richer | John Rentoul | Independent Eagle Eye Blogs

European Bank Socialism - "Banks must be allowed to go bankrupt" - by Wieslaw Jurezenko

[This article published in August 2012 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.blaetter.de/archiv/jahrgaenge/2012/august/europaeischer-bankensozialismus.]

Up to today, a reliable regulation of the inflated and out-of-control financial sector has been lacking. Instead of seeking a permanent solution of the crisis, the EU states abandon principles at summit after summit that they had previously repeated like mantras – and contribute to aggravating the situation.

At the beginning of the crisis, stabilizing so-called system-relevant banks was central so the financial system wou9ld not collapse with a great bang. This limitation changed into its opposite after the last summit. The newly created European Stability Mechanism was designed to supply every bank with sufficient capital. There should not be special conditions concerning investment banking.

The motto “Too Big to Fail” frees the financial sector from all chains. In the future, the banks will not have to assume any liability for taking irrational risks. Instead they can commit fraud without limit – in a system that already leads us to the brink and creates millions of unemployed in Europe alone. In return, the banks can pay out subsidized bonuses that are often in inverse proportionality to the performance of the enriched.

The planned European bank oversight that should monitor all institutes in the EU will not accomplish much against this boundless fraud. This European Banking Authority launched at the beginning of 2011 and outfitted with an annual budget of 20 billion euro will not have its headquarters in London.

Instead Angela Merkel prevailed that the already overstrained European Central Bank in Frankfurt will take over this new function. How the EU will establish an effective bank oversight there by the end of 2012 is still completely unclear.

The risks will not be banished even if the bank oversight monitors the transactions of the money-systems more strictly. The intention of the Brussels resolutions is to prevent all bankruptcies. The summit decisions may lead to the exact opposite, to a dangerous snowball system that can trigger a bankruptcy avalanche at any time burying everything.

The unrestricted re-capitalization of all banks is necessary since these have a growing write-off need on account of the collapse of EU bonds. For this reason, they need more money which also must be refinanced.

The Brussels resolutions also bring a slight gain of time without a recovery of the financial sector and the state budget. Instead the snowball system threatens to bring even more state- and bank-bankruptcies at the end. The sums now necessary to bailout the stricken banks would eat up 45 percent of ESM capital.

Cyprian banks alone need 23 billion euro. The hook is that neither system-relevant banks nor corporate headquarters of the Global Players that could destabilize the world financial system are in Cyprus. Rather there are presumably more mail-box firms and accounts of Russian magnates than inhabitants on the Mediterranean island. Russia has long been engaged in Cyprus to a greater extent than the EU – even if the Russian government first set Cyprus on the blacklist of tax havens in 2008 while the OECD sees everything there in the green.


The bank debts in the EU are much greater than the state debts. According to calculations of the IFO-Institute, these debts amount to 9.2 trillion euro in the crisis countries. [3] This sum will be added to the past obligations of the ESM according to the latest resolutions in Brussels. Assets of investors, hedge funds, insurances and banks – that are now governmentally protected – face these bank debts. The taxpayer is liable instead of politics insisting these assets be made liable. The public treasuries support property assets whose owners didn’t have their headquarters in the EU and not only dubious investment banking. This means European taxpayers are responsible for those who don’t pay their taxes in a member country of the Union.

The close interlocking of banks with the shadow-banking system whose order of magnitude surpasses many times over the visible banking system makes the game with debts and assistance more dangerous than all numbers known to the public. However European politicians counter possible loss-risks with the appeasement that ESM guarantees are guarantees and so-called possible obligations, not direct payments. The possible sums are staggering. The state debts of the five crisis-candidates Italy, Ireland, Spain, Greece and Portugal amount to around 3.3 trillion euro.

Thus enormous sums could come to the creditors that would increase proportionately if several states and a series of banks went bankrupt… With such a breakdown, all the calculations presented up to now would be rubbish in one blow.

In short, the ESM only functions as long as none of the participants throws in the towel. That is a feature of snowball systems. Snowball systems last until too many parties want to see their share. In such a case, the system collapses all of a sudden.

The European governments persistently evaded all these questions in the last years. Instead they wore themselves out in trivialities and distributed tranquilizers - like introduction of a financial transactions tax. While it may be socially commanded, this instrument hardly makes today’s financial sector more secure. Firstly, the banks will hardly be dissuaded from their risky transactions on account of the comparatively trifling additional costs. Secondly, the volume of financial transactions may not decrease to a great extent if the proceeds of a financial transactions tax are cancelled.

An enclosure of speculative transactions is an urgent necessity as a fundamental structural reform of the financial sector. The present bank socialism must be ended as quickly as possible. The problem of the ESM is that the water will reach its neck – with a breakdown of one or several debtor states. No other creditor can leap in the breach as a so-called lender of last resort.


There is only one way out of the misery. To solve the continuing financial crisis, banks must be allowed to go bankrupt – instead of being supported with public funds when they commit fraud. Otherwise the vicious circle of indebtedness which presently keeps the European Union on its toes will not be broken. Only in this way can we win the end-game around the euro. Otherwise the motto is: Save yourself if you can!




Read more: European Bank Socialism : Indybay

Ukraine's choice: between East and West - by Jacek Saryusz-Wolski

The EU understands the approach that Ukraine is taking with it. Ukraine needs to find a new strategy and make a fundamental choice. 
Ukraine's parliamentary elections on Sunday (28 October) and its presidential elections in 2015 will have a defining impact on the choice of the road that Ukraine will take and whether that road leads to deeper integration into Europe.

Opposition leaders need to understand that the upcoming election offers a historic opportunity to reach a consensus among all actors of the democratic opposition. They have seen one of the leaders of the Orange Revolution, Viktor Yushchenko, first poisoned during the revolution and now politically sidelined, following his presidency (2005-10); the other, Yulia Tymoshenko, is now in prison. If, despite this, they fail to reach an agreement, they will not be able to counter the worst: a constitutional majority of the Party of the Regions in Verkhovna Rada.

Ukraine, the biggest country within the EU's Eastern Partnership, appears not to be taking into consideration that its choices – now and in 2015 – will have an impact on the geopolitics of the entire region, from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. The region's future, its stability (both geostrategic and civilisational), and its long-term pro-EU choice depends to a large extent on the choices made by Ukraine.

Ukraine is tempted to play it both ways. A balancing act between east and west, between the Eurasian Union and the European Union, has not only been considered but also put into practice. Contorted tactics and the absence of a uniform strategy: these are characteristics of the way that the Ukrainian authorities work. They are based on four principles, all of them well understood by EU officials.

The first principle is promise Europe and Russia everything that they want to hear.

The second is in return, demand concessions, licences and market access, financial aid and advantageous gas prices.

Thirdly, cash in licences but do not rush to fulfil your commitments.

Fourthly, if Russia or the EU raise concerns, blackmail them by threatening to tighten relations with the other one.

This is the classic pattern of Ukraine's two-vector policy, a policy that amounts to toying with her suitors. These tactics worked for some time. But that time is long gone – and will never return. Because of the meandering course that it has taken, Ukraine has lost its credibility in the eyes of the EU.

Read more: Ukraine's choice: between East and West | European Voice

10/26/12

Aircraft Industry: Singapore Airlines places orders for 5 Airbus A-380s

Airbus A380
Singapore Airlines (SIA) today announced orders for five additional superjumbo Airbus A-380s  and another 20 A-350s for additional capacity growth and fleet renewal. It also announced stopping of non-stop flights on Singapore-Los Angeles and Singapore-Newark sectors, as it would remove from service five A-340-500s by next year-end.

Today's firm order commitments are valued at US Dollar 7.5 billion based on Airbus' published list prices. Deliveries are due to begin in 2017, an airline spokesperson said. SIA now operates 19 A380-800 superjumbos and has already placed firm orders for 20 A-350s for delivery from 2015. The latest A-350-900 variant, which has been selected for the 20 additional aircraft order, would be used on medium and long-haul routes, the spokesperson said.

"As part of the deal, Airbus has agreed to acquire SIA's five A340-500s, which will be removed from service in the fourth quarter of the 2013 calendar year, in line with the Airline's policy to maintain a young fleet. "This will result in the cessation of non-stop flights between Singapore and Los Angeles and between Singapore and Newark, in the absence of replacement aircraft in SIA fleet with sufficient range and operating economics," she said.

Read more: Singapore Airlines places orders for 5 Airbus A-380s - PTI

Italy: Silvio Berlusconi given four years' jail for tax fraud, cut to one year

Italy's media tycoon and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was briefly sentenced to four years in prison for tax fraud connected to his Mediaset empire and banned from holding public office for five years by a Milan court.

But the court immediately cut the sentence to one year under an amnesty law approved by the then center-left government in 2006 to reduce the overcrowding of Italian prisons.

Berlusconi condemned as "unreal" his tax fraud conviction and said it was the result of "politicised" judges who have made Italy unlivable and no longer a democracy.

Berlusconi spoke to his Mediaset television station after a Milan court convicted him of tax fraud concerning the purchase of rights to broadcast U.S. movies on his private TV networks. He was sentenced to four years in prison though he remains free until all appeals are exhausted.

Read more: Silvio Berlusconi given four years' jail for tax fraud, cut to one year | The Australian

Syria Eid al-Adha ceasefire marred by clashes

Syrian activists have reported a series of clashes in violation of a ceasefire to mark a four-day Islamic holiday. 

Violence appeared to have died down as the ceasefire period began on Friday morning, before reports of fighting in several cities.  Both rebels and the army had said they would only observe the truce if the other side held their fire.

The truce was proposed by UN and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who hopes it will lead to a peace process.

Previous attempts at ceasefires in Syria have collapsed.

The BBC's James Reynolds, on the Turkish-Syrian border, heard repeated explosions and automatic weapons fire coming from the Syrian town of Harin, and saw smoke rising from buildings. 

Read more: BBC News - Syria Eid al-Adha ceasefire marred by clashes

Muslims around the world celebrate first day of Eid al-Adha

Muslim worshipers around the world gather at mosques to mark the beginning of the four-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha on Friday.

Eid al-Adha -- the Feast of Sacrifice -- is one of the most important holidays in the Muslim Calendar. It includes the pilgrimage to holy city of Mecca, known as “Haj”, which is one of the five pillars of Islam and is supposed to be undertaken by every Muslim who can afford to do so.

The holiday commemorates Prophet Abraham’s willingness to obey God’s command to sacrifice his son Ismael.

Muslims worldwide traditionally slaughter a four legged animal in commemoration. The meat is then distributed amongst the family and neighbors as well as the poor and needy.

Read more: Muslims around the world celebrate first day of Eid al-Adha

Russia: Economy Is Focal Point for Putin's Foreign Expert Club


President Vladimir Putin
President Vladimir Putin acknowledged Thursday that he had to make a difficult choice when he approved the purchase of TNK-BP by state behemoth Rosneft, as the decision contradicts the government's policy to reduce its presence in the economy.

But he made it clear that the government had to intervene after numerous requests from BP to help resolve a long-lasting dispute between the shareholders of the Russian-British joint venture.

"Both the government and I had mixed feelings when the idea of this project appeared," Putin said at a meeting with the members of the international Valdai Discussion Club, referring to the intention by BP to sell its stake in the joint venture.

A move by a state-controlled company to increase its market presence "at the cost of its foreign partner" raised doubts, Putin said, adding that at the time there were concerns that Rosneft might subsequently take over the second part of TNK-BP, owned by the AAR consortium. "This, in general, is not in line with our trend to reduce the growth of the state sector," he said.

Rosneft announced earlier this week that it would acquire 100 percent in TNK-BP from BP and AAR in two separate deals totaling $61 billion.

When TNK-BP was founded in 2003, the Russian authorities weren't opposed to BP's holding a controlling stake, Putin said, adding that he warned that the 50-50 joint venture wouldn't function properly.

He recalled that the shareholders had promised at the time to settle possible issues peacefully, but they ended up being involved in continuous struggles that eventually turned into "hand-to-hand" fighting.

The Novo-Ogaryovo international Valdai Discussion Club meeting was the final part of a four-day forum in which about 100 members of the club participated, having gathered in St. Petersburg on Sunday to discuss possible scenarios for Russia's development over the next two decades.

Among the issues discussed by the club this week were the creation of a favorable business climate, development of competition in Russia, stimulation of domestic investment and the fight against corruption.

The participants also  touched on issues of Russia's integration into Europe and the development of alternative industries to oil and gas production.

Members prepared a report containing recommendations for the government on how to proceed with reforming the country based on the pace of Russia's current economic growth and the prospects for its economic development.

Read more: Economy Is Focal Point for Putin's Foreign Expert Club | Business | The Moscow Times

Auto Industry: GM, PSA Peugeot Citroen To Co-Develop Four New Models

General Motors Europe and PSA, owners of the Peugeot and Citroen automobile brands, have announced a plan to explore four new model projects as part of the growing cooperation between the two companies.

The announcement is the result of an analysis of the market coverage for the Opel, Peugeot and Citroen brands, and the identification of areas in which there is potential for profitable cooperation.
A further announcement adding detail to the plan is expected before the end of the year.

The projects include a joint program to develop medium-size cars, another to develop a new low-emissions city car platform for Europe and other regions, a joint project to produce a multipurpose van for Opel and a compact crossover for Peugeot and another that will develop small MPVs for Opel and Citroen.

Read more: GM, PSA Peugeot Citroen To Co-Develop Four New Models

Insurance Industry: Drivers should spend a year as learners, insurers in Britain say

The Association of British Insurers says a minimum 12-month learning period would enable young drivers to gain more supervised practice.

Novice drivers should be subject to restrictions on night time driving and a reduced drink driving limit, according to the Association of British Insurers.

It also recommended learners spend at least a year displaying their L-plates before being allowed to take a driving test, although young people could start learning six months earlier than the current age limit of 17.

The minimum 12-month learning period would allow young drivers to gain more supervised practice, the ABI said, as it called for graduated driver licensing for the first six months after passing a driving test.

This would include restrictions on the number of young passengers that can be carried by a newly qualified driver, restrictions on driving between 11pm and 4am, and no blood alcohol content.

Read more: Drivers should spend a year as learners, insurers in Britain say | Money | guardian.co.uk

India, Spain sign pact for cooperation in road infrastructure

India has signed a preliminary agreement with Spain for enhancing cooperation in the area of road infrastructure development.

"The MoU is aimed at promoting efficient and environmentally sustainable transport systems and to institutionalise a technical and scientific cooperation in the fields of road infrastructure, construction, maintenance and management of roads," an official statement said.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed during the Spanish King Juan Carlos' visit here.

According to the agreement, government officials and specialists of the Highway Departments from both the countries will regularly exchange information, among other things.

Read more: India, Spain sign pact for cooperation in road infrastructure - The Economic Times

10/25/12

European Insurance Industry: E.U. weighs two-year delay for insurer capital rules

European Union officials have entertained the idea of a two-year delay in the implementation of strict new capital rules for the bloc's insurers, an internal document shows.

The Solvency II rules, proposed by the European Commission and aimed at making insurers hold capital in strict proportion to their liabilities, have already been delayed by persistent disagreements over their final shape, angering the industry and undermining their intended status as a benchmark for regulators worldwide.

The E.U. document, seen by Reuters, looks at the option of holding tests to gauge the impact of Solvency II after governments agree the new rules in principle, and concludes that this would push the new regime's start date out to 2016.

However, the document, which was prepared by the Commission for discussion by E.U. lawmakers and member states, expresses a preference for holding the tests first because this would allow the rules to take effect in 2015, just one year beyond the official 2014 deadline.

Read more: E.U. weighs two-year delay for insurer capital rules | Business Insurance

Ford will close three European plants at a cost of $1.5 billion - by Jerry Hirsch

Ford Kia
Ford Motor Corporation has launched a broad restructuring of its European operations, a move that will shutter plants in England and Belgium, cost  about 6,000 workers their jobs and will incur a $1.5-billion loss for its business in the region this year.

“The challenges facing the European car industry have become more structural than cyclical in nature and require decisive action. The actions we are proposing come after extensive review and consideration,” said Stephen Odell, chief executive of Ford of Europe.

The automaker said its business in the U.S. and elsewhere is strong enough to offset the money it is bleeding in Europe. Excluding one-time items, its third-quarter 2012 pre-tax profit and earnings per share will top this year’s second quarter “despite the substantial loss in Europe,” Ford announced.

Previously, Ford said it expected to lose about $1 billion in Europe this year. Ford will release its full third-quarter financial results on Oct. 30.


Read more: Ford will close three European plants at a cost of $1.5 billion - latimes.com

The U.S. is catching up to Europe on gender equality-by Max Fisher

Western European countries have long led the world on gender equality, but the latest annual Gender Gap Report, just issued by the World Economic Forum, shows that the U.S. is making significant gains in an area where it has often lagged the Western world.

The annual WEF report grades countries on five metrics to measure the degree of gender equality or inequality: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. Countries are scored between 0.0 for most unequal, meaning that women have zero access, or 1.0 for fully equal.

The 2012 report ranks the U.S. 22nd in the world. The only non-Western nations that rank higher than the U.S., meaning their societies are more equal for women, are South Africa, Cuba, Lesotho, Nicaragua, and the Philippines.

Read more: The U.S. is catching up to Europe on gender equality

Italian air force stands up new Eurofighter unit

Eurofighter Italian Airforce
The Eurofighter combat aircraft has entered service with the Italian air force's 18 Sqn at Trapani-Birgi air base in Sicily, with the unit having been reformed following the phasing-out of its last Lockheed Martin F-16s in May.

Part of the air force's 37th Wing, 18 Sqn will be responsible for defending Italy's national airspace, alongside the service's 4th Wing at Grosseto and 36th Wing at Gioia del Colle.

The service says the unit was stood up on 18 October, with other sources saying that it has received at least eight aircraft, including four from each of its previously established Eurofighter wings.
Pilots from the reformed squadron have already participated with the other units crews during training activities, including at a German electronic warfare range during September.

Read more: Italian air force stands up new Eurofighter unit

US Presidential Elections: Gullible Media Hype Romney 'Momentum'—Which No Longer Exists

Nate Silver in his daily analysis at The New York Times today points out that President Obama gained in five of the six leading national tracking polls yesterday and had reached his highest point for chances of winning (in the dreaded Electoral College) on Election Day, at 71 percent, since October 9. Even Rasmussen today has Obama gaining a point. And five new polls out of Ohio gave Obama the lead there, one by 5 percent.

So much for the “Mittmentum” you’ve been hearing about non-stop all week.
Along with many others, I have mocked in recent days the pundit and reporter claim—falling for blatant and concerted Romney camp hype—that Mitt was now in the lead and had the “momentum.”

This came even though half a dozen respected polls showed Obama won the third debate, mainly by very wide margins, and some polls showing some movement in his direction afterward.
Also: no electoral map outside Karl Rove’s has ever showed Romney in the lead. From the media coverage, you’d think my wish had been granted and the Electoral College disbanded this week. Oh, and Obama has been leading in Ohio in virtually every poll for months.

Some in the media have weakly replied, Look at the Romney gains in polls—since early October. No one disputes that, following Obama’s epic flop in the first debate. The point that critics on the left have made in recent days was directed at the hype this week, clearly after Romney had peaked (and based, clearly, on Romney pushing that line to gullible reporters and pundits).

Read more: Gullible Media Hype Romney 'Momentum'—Which No Longer Exists | The Nation

Massive EU savings seen in carbon-free fuel switch

A green revolution to make EU energy almost totally carbon-free by 2050 would generate 3 trillion euros ($3.7 trillion) in fuel savings, a report commissioned by environmental campaigners said.

The energy shift would already create around half a million extra jobs by 2020, researchers from German aerospace centre DLR, which also specialises in energy and transport, found.

The European Union has legislated to ensure that 20 per cent of the energy mix is green by 2020, as part of a set of three main environmental goals.

But it has yet to achieve agreement on binding targets beyond 2020, even though non-binding roadmaps have laid out the need for a virtually carbon-free electricity mix by 2050.

Commissioned by Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC), the 2012 Energy evolution report lays out steps towards almost carbon-free energy. They include curbing energy demand through greater efficiency, increasing investment in wind and solar power and phasing out subsidies for carbon-intensive energy, such as coal.

Another benefit is job-creation. The report finds almost totally green energy would lead to half a million extra jobs compared with business as usual, as renewable energy initially demands more workers than carrying on with fossil fuel.

Read more: Massive EU savings seen in carbon-free fuel switch

The Balkanization of Europe? - "Nationalism and Religion the nails in the coffin of political and economic stability" - by Paul Ames

Europe's rising tide of nationalism swept over Belgium on Sunday when separatists seeking independence for the country's Dutch-speaking north surged in local elections to take power in city halls across the region.

"This is a point of no return in our history," Bart De Wever, leader of the New Flemish Alliance, told cheering supporters after his election as mayor in this historic seaport. "The Flemish have chosen change and we are going to continue on that path."

Separatists also made news in Scotland, where the first minister signed an agreement on Monday setting up a referendum on breaking away from British rule. And in Spain, the president of the Catalonia region vowed to push for the right to hold a similar vote on independence.

Supporters say citizens of historic nations are finally asserting their right to self-rule, but the resurgent separatism, combined with growing political extremism in some countries, is underscoring concerns about European stability as the continent struggles to pull out of its deepest economic crisis in decades.

Note EU-Digest: Nationalism and Religion are the nails in the coffin of political and economic stability.

Read more: The Balkanization of Europe? | GlobalPost

Mid-sized companies: Why doesn’t France have a Mittelstand?

The word Mittelstand has no exact equivalent in French but has a clear enough meaning: as the euro crisis eats away at the confidence and success of France’s big national champions, emulating Germany’s medium-sized, mostly family-owned businesses is seen as the way to boost French growth, jobs and exports. The Mittelstand has become an ambition. What is not clear is how far the French can achieve it.

This week they unveiled their big effort to do so. François Hollande’s government announced a new bank, merging various bodies set up by the previous administration to steer finance (public and private) into middling firms. The new Banque Publique d’Investissement (BPI) looks very like Germany’s venerable KFW (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau), the reconstruction bank set up after 1945.

Characteristically, the French in their centralising way are latching on to the only bit of the German system that has anything to do with the federal government. The heart of the Mittelstand miracle lies not in Berlin but under the rolling fields of the German Länder (states).

By sticking to their knitting and improving efficiency, the French believe, German firms have prospered in specialized markets, earning good margins which finance more innovation and produce a virtuous circle. In contrast, despite their strength in consumer industries such as fashion, food and drink and in high-tech nuclear and aerospace, France’s large companies have been left behind since 2000.

Ludwig Erhard, the economics minister who crafted West Germany’s post-war revival, the Mittelstand was never just about numbers. “It is more an expression of a state of mind and a specific attitude,” he wrote in 1956.

France went in the opposite direction. Private firms left basic industries and capital goods to Germany and competed with Italy in consumer goods, while the state built up national champions in then-emerging sectors such as nuclear power and aerospace. This history helps explain the different roles of the state.

Guy Maugis, chairman of the Franco-German chamber of commerce, points out that when France wants to do something to improve competitiveness it starts with top-down decisions in Paris; the new bank is a case in point.

EU-Digest: bottom line: when it comes down to economics we got to go back to basics

Read more: Mid-sized companies: Why doesn’t France have a Mittelstand? | The Economist

Building the entrepreneurial state - by Mariana Mazzucato

There is no point in talking about innovation, if economic policies focused on austerity prevent key investments which can increase productivity and human capital. There are five strategies that could drive a visionary industrial growth policy.

1. Do something different

As Keynes wrote in 1926 in The End of Laissez Faire, "The important thing for government is not to do things which individuals are doing already, and to do them a little better or a little worse; but to do those things which at present are not done at all."

His key insight was that private business investment is volatile and pro-cyclical: too much during booms and too little during busts. To avoid recessions turning into depressions, government needs to focus on counter-cyclical policies -- the opposite of what is happening today. But the focus on "doing something different" is not just about counter-cyclical measures. It is also about the need for government to focus on policies that cause types of economic activity that would not have happened otherwise. Industrial policy is about making this happen in the areas of productivity enhancing investments that lead to growth and innovation.

2. Transform animal spirits into investment

Since investment is driven by "animal spirits" (the gut expectations that investors have on the future state of the economy), a key role of government is to get that investment moving. Large reductions in corporate tax rates did not increase investment in the 80s nor will they today (they simply change income distribution). Government-led investments that open up new technological and market opportunities will. This includes not only properly funding education and research infrastructures but also providing early financing for innovative firms, and new key technologies, which private venture capital has proven too risk averse to fund. Without the state there would have been no internet revolution, biotech revolution or nanotech revolution. Without the state, the green-tech revolution is still-born.

One of the failures of current UK policy is the assumption that firms want to grow, and all they need is a "nudge" in the right direction. While the Green Investment Bank is surely a positive development, it assumes that the willingness to invest is there and all that is needed is some co-financing. But "green" investment is currently confined to incremental areas, and the government is not stepping in to fill the gap. The UK's investment of £12.6 billion in this area in 2009/10 is, according to PIRC, "under 1 per cent of UK Gross Domestic Product; half of what South Korea currently invests in green technologies annually; and less than what the UK presently spend on furniture in a year".

3. Market making not market fixing

What I have called the "entrepreneurial state" is not about fixing markets but creating them. The state has acted in the past as catalyst, lead investor and creator (not just facilitator) of the knowledge economy. This requires far-sighted investments in technologies that are too risky for the private sector, such as offshore wind and carbon capture and storage. It also involves the creation of clear policy signals that increase business confidence in areas that are otherwise seen to be too high risk, such as feed-in tariffs for solar energy (recently cancelled in the UK causing even more uncertainty and less investment).

A more entrepreneurial role for government extends beyond procuring innovative products to making them directly in public labs when the private sector is reluctant to step in. Indeed, 75 per cent of the New Molecular Entities with priority rating in the pharmaceutical industry have originated in public sector labs, because private pharma is more interested in the low risk "me too" drugs. It is the large amounts of US public funds for life-sciences research (via the National Institutes of Health) that has enticed Pfizer and GSK to leave the UK for the US. From 1978 through 2004, NIH spending on life sciences research totaled $365 billion.

4. Rebalancing indicators of performance

Creating markets is also about shaping the indicators that are used to measure economic performance so they reward rather than penalise the most innovative companies. In this sense, "rebalancing" is not necessarily about sectors. It is more about redirecting "indicators of performance" away from short run financial towards long run "real economy" measures. Firms investing in expensive R&D and human capital will have a higher risk profile, since innovation is so costly and uncertain. The most innovative companies have suffered the largest increases in the cost of credit.

Furthermore, the focus on boosting stock prices through share buybacks (Fortune 500 companies have spent $3 trillion on buybacks over the last decade) has been shown to be directly related to lower investments of these companies in human capital and R&D. These are tradeoffs which industrial policy must combat.

Battling against these problems includes devising policies that nurture "patient capital" that can protect the flow of credit to the most innovative companies. In Germany this occurs through the state-backed investment bank - KfW, which works alongside the regional Landesbanken as well as the large network of savings banks. Innovation in Brazil, which has surpassed the UK as the world's fifth largest economy, has been directly funded by the Brazilian Development Bank. In the UK, a National Investment Bank could today be formed relatively quickly out of the nationalised RBS (an idea included in Cable's leaked letter). Selling it off would be a wasted opportunity.

5. Being first matters

China recently announced that it is spending $1.5 trillion over the next five years in seven new key industries (including environmentally friendly technologies and new generation IT). Its industrial policy is its growth policy -- its economic strategy. Similarly, after the crisis hit in 2008, Germany increased its government funded RandD spending by 10 per cent, while the UK has since cut it by the same amount, signalling very different visions of what will drive post-crisis recovery.

Note EU-Digest: Mariana Mazzucato is Professor of Economics and RM Phillips Chair in Science and Technology Policy at the University of Sussex. She is the author of The Entrepreneurial State.

EU-Digest